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Old 12-08-2012, 07:34 AM   #1
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used van ownership Q's

I am need of a cheap van for hauling the dirtbikes out to the desert and camping for the weekend. Problem is I need a van that cost about $2000 -$3500 and this leaves me with vans that are getting old or lots of mileage on them. I need some help in narrowing down what models I should be looking at Ford or Chevy, what models and the peculiarities with those models to look for when viewing the used vans.

Towing is not a concern so I could even get away with a E-150 if i need but a E350 extended would be better.

I see vehicles with 195K miles and that scares me. Is my fear justified or can these things go 300K without rebuilds?

Gimme your tales of woe, advice, scary stories, words of wisdom or harrasment on how to choose the vehicle and your experiences. Thanks All.

Edit: I'm coming to California for 4 months and need the van in California and not Thailand.
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:22 AM   #2
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Hm.

Well, if it were ME, I'd ponder residual value to offset the cost of buying something with a bit lower mileage rather than a 'well it's dead, let's start walking' type of machine.

But that's just me.

Most cargo vans in the USA see brutal use by non-owner drivers so you can see where that's going, although it's possible you might find a used fleet that was well cared for.

Do you need a van for security or for camping?
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Old 12-08-2012, 03:22 PM   #3
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We've owned Ford and Chevy and prefer the Chevy.

The 250 series vans have relatively expensive tires and brakes so check those before you buy.

We sold our old Ford, running well with good brakes and rubber for 165,000 miles for $1,800. Depending on maintenance they can easily last 250,000 miles.

The biggest problem with those vehicles is poor mpg.
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Old 12-08-2012, 03:33 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by garandman View Post
We've owned Ford and Chevy and prefer the Chevy.

The 250 series vans have relatively expensive tires and brakes so check those before you buy.

We sold our old Ford, running well with good brakes and rubber for 165,000 miles for $1,800. Depending on maintenance they can easily last 250,000 miles.

The biggest problem with those vehicles is poor mpg.
if you're planning to be a low mileage user buy a high milage van or vice versa if you're planning high milage. That gives you a starting point.
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Old 12-08-2012, 04:11 PM   #5
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Are you going to sell the van when you leave? If so I'd look for the cheapest van that looks like it would live another four months then dump it for cheap when you leave.
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Old 12-08-2012, 06:44 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manuel Garcia O'Kely View Post
Hm.

Well, if it were ME, I'd ponder residual value to offset the cost of buying something with a bit lower mileage rather than a 'well it's dead, let's start walking' type of machine.

But that's just me.

Most cargo vans in the USA see brutal use by non-owner drivers so you can see where that's going, although it's possible you might find a used fleet that was well cared for.

Do you need a van for security or for camping?
Great questions.

I come back to the states every year for a couple months so I will not be dumping it after this, just park it and use it the next year when I'm back. Residual value is not a huge concern to me.

I'll use the van for camping out of in the desert. Security is not a huge concern as once back in the city It'll be empy. I'd love to find an insulated and paneled van with a bed that folds down but those are not common.
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Old 12-08-2012, 06:51 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by garandman View Post
We've owned Ford and Chevy and prefer the Chevy.

The 250 series vans have relatively expensive tires and brakes so check those before you buy.

We sold our old Ford, running well with good brakes and rubber for 165,000 miles for $1,800. Depending on maintenance they can easily last 250,000 miles.

The biggest problem with those vehicles is poor mpg.
Those tidbits is the info I need. "Brakes and tires on the Ford are expensive", so its not just a couple of hundred for pads and disks at Autozone?

The poor MPG is not as large of a concern since I won't be putting tons of miles on the thing.

Are there any years to stay away from or concentrate on?
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Old 12-08-2012, 06:59 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by catweasel67 View Post
if you're planning to be a low mileage user buy a high milage van or vice versa if you're planning high milage. That gives you a starting point.

Thats gives me starting point. Thank you. Now how much is considered too much? Not an easy question I know.

Does anyone have a checklsit of what to examine on vans? I mean other than looking for obvious things like stoved in frames, fluid leaks and no smoke on start-up how else to weed the wheat from the chaff??? Hoe about questions to ask the seller over the phone to narrow down the field?

Thanks all.
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Old 12-08-2012, 07:23 PM   #9
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Engine is an engine, brakes are brakes.. look for usual..

cold start, hot start, engine noise, irregular idle, acceleration, cruising.
brakes, brake fade, etc...
suspension..
electrical.. all lights and everyone home? check the horn yo..

nothing wrong with vans.. they are really hard to work on.. so if it was not a service vehicle, it may have not been serviced often... its also slightly more expensive to service a van..
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:10 AM   #10
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Toying occasionally with the idea of getting a van to tow my race car instead of my pickup, I've got a few ideas that may or may not be helpful. A couple of ways to get more van for the money is to buy an older conversion van (the ones with all the windows, lots of velour upholstery and miles of vinyl decals on the outside). People who buy them new usually take decent care of them, because they are expensive, but they are like an outdated luxury car when they are used...very limited market, so the value is depressed. Not sure about CA, but where I live they are titled as station wagons (car tags) so are much, much cheaper to license. The vast majority are half tons. Conversions are usually very poor quality and the materials wear quickly, so this adds to the poor resale value. Buy one, back up to a dumpster, remove all the useless conversion crap (seats, carpet, faux wood paneling) and have yourself a nice van that is maybe a car in the eyes of the state.

The other ones I've found that have horrible resale value are wheelchair vans. They usually have a heavy metal lift mechanism that you can either sell or get scrap value on. These also tend to be window vans and enjoy the same lower license fees (and I have seen these in 3/4 ton versions). Some even have the higher roofs, which can be nice for hauling bikes (no stooping over inside).

Cargo vans typically are used very hard (as noted). Same goes for a lot of extended length passenger vans used by airports and such. Occasionally, you can find one offered by a church group or something that isn't hammered.

Oh, and don't even consider a step-van (bread truck). No creature comforts and usually not geared for highway use.
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:21 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by team ftb View Post
Those tidbits is the info I need. "Brakes and tires on the Ford are expensive", so its not just a couple of hundred for pads and disks at Autozone?/
Brakes and tires on the 250/2500/any other commercial vehicle are going to be expensive. They are D or E load rating tires and nowadays most shops won't put anything else on.

The E150 / Express 1500 have lighter duty components. Hardly anyone drives them as the cost difference is minimal and they don't last for 200K miles.

We insulate ours but at least around here that is uncommon. I ordinarily sleep on a camping pad and would go to a cot rather than a fixed installation as then it will always be in the way.

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Old 12-09-2012, 06:53 AM   #12
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3 or 4 years ago when I was still working for a non-profit housing organization, we bought a Chevy work van in more than decent condition from the state's surplus property unit. $3300, IIRC, and they're still using it daily as a maintenance vehicle. The vehicles are definitely used, but have been maintained, and the listing includes everything they know that's wrong with it at the time.
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Old 12-09-2012, 07:10 PM   #13
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I find myself in this market, too. I have an aging Dodge B150 (1985) with an internal camper setup I really like, but I'm tired of having a major component fail, requiring a tow, once or twice a year like clockwork now. A jump even into the mid 90's, under 100k miles, would be fantastic - and I'd like a 15 pax length for a variety of reasons.

My biggest question, of the makes of that style vehicle, which brand is "best"? Dodge, Ford, does Chevy even make one?
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Old 12-09-2012, 07:17 PM   #14
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Ford, of course... everything else is a Dodge or Chevy war away.
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Old 12-09-2012, 10:23 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by McB View Post
3 or 4 years ago when I was still working for a non-profit housing organization, we bought a Chevy work van in more than decent condition from the state's surplus property unit. $3300, IIRC, and they're still using it daily as a maintenance vehicle. The vehicles are definitely used, but have been maintained, and the listing includes everything they know that's wrong with it at the time.
I was going to say the same thing. Look for something from a public auction - state property, school districts, that sort of thing. Might have high miles, but usually maintained regularly.

One question I would have to ask - you say you're going to be in California. You're going to need something to pass smog testing if you want to title it, aren't you? That could be an issue with older beat up stuff.
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