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Which Choice Would you make?

  • Used + Better Build

    Votes: 4 19.0%
  • New + Lesser Build

    Votes: 17 81.0%
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This is the zamp kit for a long term on road build.

I am not criticizing it in any way, but it is an example of how easy it is to miss the effect of getting tied into a proprietary setup that seems inexpensive when you start but the add on items really add up vs the ability to open source panels, etc.

Yikes! that is pricey. It would be pretty easy to build that same capacity with 3 200W NewPowa panels and Victron MPPT for less than 1/2 of that .
 

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Yikes! that is pricey. It would be pretty easy to build that same capacity with 3 200W NewPowa panels and Victron MPPT for less than 1/2 of that .
Yes, so the pricing models are similar to buying a printer.

Are you buying the printer at the real cost of the printer - or buying it at a subsidized price based on paying for a lot of expensive ink in the future ?

Both business models are viable.

In the end, both paths for a purchased van electrical system are going to get you to roughly the same place.

For example this 2 x XBP system has all of the electronics including the solar charge controller, battery to battery charger, and inverter built in.

Just put 4 batteries anywhere in your van that you like and you are good to go.

Use off the shelf solar panels vs proprietary ones.

The price reflects the real cost of what is involved, not a subsidized price and band aids to make it work.

 

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For a 130"WB low roof maybe. Most overlanders chose the 148" WB MR , LSD, Dual Alt Dual Batt - not going get that for much under $45K OTD
I was talking new - 2020 - zero miles - from the dealer. It goes without saying used vehicles will cost a lot less than new or new old models.
FWIW, we bought our new 2019 148" MR Transit (granted, with a single battery/alternator, HD tow pkg., cruise, 150W inverter, Magnetic Metallic color) for $12K less than that out the door. I'm not sure if you're referring to a 2WD or AWD model, though.
 

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Maybe prices are way different now but that is what i paid out the door brand new zero miles from Courtesy Ford in Dec 2018 for a 2018 model. I just double checked an old photo of my contract with the dealer because I was starting to think i was crazy and the exact price was 30,833.

My only point is there are a lot of roads in between the two options

I was talking new - 2020 - zero miles - from the dealer. It goes without saying used vehicles will cost a lot less than new or new old models.
 

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why would you get this bug net:

and not this one?

it's like, twice the price?

for me there were two must-have options that forced me to go new:
AWD and adaptive cruise. If you don't need those, go used IMO.
 

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Yes, so the pricing models are similar to buying a printer.

Are you buying the printer at the real cost of the printer - or buying it at a subsidized price based on paying for a lot of expensive ink in the future ?

Both business models are viable.

In the end, both paths for a purchased van electrical system are going to get you to roughly the same place.

For example this 2 x XBP system has all of the electronics including the solar charge controller, battery to battery charger, and inverter built in.

Just put 4 batteries anywhere in your van that you like and you are good to go.

Use off the shelf solar panels vs proprietary ones.

The price reflects the real cost of what is involved, not a subsidized price and band aids to make it work.

I am not sure if I understand the printer ink subsidy parallel - I have built 5 vans with off-the-shelf solar, specified the MPPT charger based on total wattage and they were all plug-and-play on the vehicle bus - all 5 are still producing 400+ watts and total cost (minus the racks which tend to cost as much as the solar components ) were about $1200. Victron energy greatly simplifies solar and they also have inverters and B2B charging systems that plug and play with each other. I am not against higher end electronics or installs or turn-key systems - at all - if they come with higher end features like built in remote management, failover redundancy , etc. Some installs warrant that - but we mostly use that kind of thing in larger setups that have the roof space. A 4-panel array w/4 batteries even on the largest Transit or Sprinter - can be done - but it leaves little if any room for anything else.

The latest project we have going is a 3-season Transit - I want to say our total investment in electronics - including a 100A MPPT, 1000W Inverter, NOCO Genius 2-station trickle charger , Sterling B2B charger, and 400W Solar panels barely hit the $2K mark.

We design our electrical systems on a per user basis - using 100% common parts that can be purchased anywhere - so again - the printer ink analogy puzzles me - if anything, the less expensive systems I refer to are a LOT easier to maintain or replace failed components on - fortunately - we've never seen a failure yet - probably luck there but so far, so good. Victron is bomb proof, at least it has been for us. We also build the electrical system "into" the van - each one completely different than the other working with the available space. Here is our latest panel (below).

I looked into the system you mentioned - it is very high end and pretty cool. Always good to have options.


145429
 

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@harryn
@6ixgun
Would you be willing to opine on what brands of the "minor" components in your experience have a good value/quality ratio. Such as: switches, buss bars, connectors, breakers, fuse panels, fuses, wire. I don't want to sacrifice electrical safety or reliability, but don't want to incur unnecessary costs either.
Thanks
 

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@harryn
@6ixgun
Would you be willing to opine on what brands of the "minor" components in your experience have a good value/quality ratio. Such as: switches, buss bars, connectors, breakers, fuse panels, fuses, wire. I don't want to sacrifice electrical safety or reliability, but don't want to incur unnecessary costs either.
Thanks
I use marine grade items only - with few exceptions - Blue Sea Systems makes legit products if you search that brand on Amazon most of their products show up. Ditto for wiring - I only use SAE / marine grade PVC jacketed wiring - it is orders of magnitude more durable than (cheaper) silicone jacketed wire. I order the wire from Del City (delcity.net).

Blue Sea Systems - buss bars, circuit breakers, terminals, junction blocks, batt cutoff switches

Bay Marine Supply - battery terminal fuses, other connectors

MGI Speedware - junction posts (i.e. single junction buss connectors, mostly used for grounds)

As you infer - component quality can make a HUGE impact on safety and reliability - and all componentry is not created equal. Wiring especially. Sure, you will pay a premium, but you'll have the peace of mind knowing this infrastructure will last the life of the vehicle. I've seen many a roadside or campsite emergency due to poor electrical work - no sense cheating here - ever. Avoid the no-name or cheap chinese brands like the plague. Granted, most stuff is MADE in China anyway, but something to be said about QC amongst the brands.


Core Electronics :
Solar Charger - Victron MPPT (sized on wattage - price varies) this is the ONLY brand we'll use, it is awesome.
B2B - Victron Orion Tr-Smart DC - DC converter 30A or Sterling Power BB1230 recommend the latter for Li chemistry but setup is arduous. We always use Victron in our AGM installs.

Inverter - GoPower GP-ISW1000-12 1000W Pure sine inverter - amazing inverter for the $.

I do not have recommendations for batteries or solar panels - we've used every brand depending on budget and all performed well. We in fact, have seen NO difference in durability and output between brands and so have no preference.

AGM vs. Li - there are pros and cons. Each install is different. I love Li for many reasons - but I have AGM installed in my personal van - a lot to be said about simplicity and availability.

There are more expensive options when it comes to electronics , but we've tested these above extensively and have exceptional performance with them and ZERO failures.

Hope this helps.
 

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Hope this helps.
Thanks. It's a big help. Blue Sea seems to be the go to brand and I'd figure that you get what you pay for with the generic stuff. Just trying for due diligence rather than just go with the masses.
Core Electronics:
Since you mentioned it 😇
I do not plan to have solar, but would like to charge a 12V LiFPO4 bank at 100a from the vehicle. The bank will be 200-400ah. I am still trying to decide between B2B and the vehicle powered inverter>house inverter/charger approach. Since I plan to have house inverter/charger any way for shore charging, the cost of a 120A B2B or 2 parallel 50-60A B2B's or additional vehicle inverter is pretty much the same. I have figured out my head the pro's and cons each approach for my situation, but I haven't been able to wrap my head around if the dual inverter approach will be capable of charging at 100A.

On the charger end, the efficiency of the inverter charger I am considering is 98% (need to challenge that with the vendor). Beyond this marginal efficiency loss, I assume that input amperage will need to be factored up by the ratio of charge voltage (~14.4) over the input voltage supplied by the vehicle inverter (TBD).

Where I get hung up is trying to figure out how much power vehicle inverter will output depending on the operating parameters of the vehicle and what will happen in this system when that is less then the charger requires. I am not very good with electrical theory and have no experience with inverters. It seems inverters have a specified low voltage cut off parameter (presumably because they are assumed to be running off of a battery which is not current limited?) Assuming the vehicle voltage is greater that vehicle inverter low voltage shut off what will happen to both the vehicle inverter and the inverter/charger if the vehicle is not able to provide the power required to support the charging load. If I understood how the interplay of the devices then I could figure out what would be possible based on some assumptions about the vehicle. If you could provide some input help me understand this I would REALLY appreciate it.

As an aside, I am considering the Xantrex Freedom X low frequency inverter and inverter charger if I go with the dual inverter approach. They are highly configurable, including power and charging output, which really helpful for this application. They also allow for an ignition interrupt signal which is good for the vehicle inverter, and the charger to inverter sizing is higher than most.
 

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why would you get this bug net:

and not this one?

it's like, twice the price?

for me there were two must-have options that forced me to go new:
AWD and adaptive cruise. If you don't need those, go used IMO.
Didn't even know it existed! Thanks! I just ordered it ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #32 (Edited)
Update: I did have a 1 hour consult with a builder today and while it wasn't a detailed bid, he said my build would run between $30K and $40, which would include full "4 seasons" insulation, interior wood siding, sleeping for two, rooftop solar, 400ah lithium batteries that charge from solar, alternator or shore power, kitchenette with sink, hot water, induction cooktop, fridge, pull-out/concealed compost toilet, some windows (TBD per final plan), face to face dinette for 4 (converts to bed), small lift for better offroad clearance, and some other stuff I can't remember. But essentially everything I need for me.

Edit: Remembered, onboard gas heat tapped into fuel tank. Ceiling vent fans, the automated kind with rain sensor.

I'm fielding two additional bids. But if I can keep it close to $30K and get a new van OTD for $45-$50, I would have a pretty nice rig for around $80K.
 

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In principal, new van, “minimalist” build.

We all define minimalist personally. How you travel, what you do with the van influences your definition too.

If someone else is doing the work, you may be underestimating the labor bill, unless you are letting them build what they have built for other vans. These projects tend to eat up a lot of time.

We travel in our “minimalist” camper as long as 4 months at a a time, but supplement boondocking with state/national/county parks and hotels, where we use showers, laundry, wait out extreme weather, etc. We rarely stay in a single camp more than 3 nights, but when we do, it is usually for 2 weeks (maximum allowed). These camps are at the beach, with facilities.

Our outfit is our 4th RV, so we have refined the camp to suit our needs. We went from backpacks to car camping, to pickup camper, to massive travel trailer, to midsized Class C, to a van with a galley with ice chest, microwave, butane and electric burner, propane and electric heaters, 5 gallon bucket potty, 100 amp battery, lots of storage for the scooters, SUPs, canoe, gifts for the family. And yes, insulated to the gills, even all doors, headliner, floor, etc.

I use this van to haul when at home, so it breaks down to walls and floor and goes to work.

The new build will be similar with 200 amps of battery and an inverter- very posh for us.
 

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Given the structure of your question, I agree this is really two separate transactions governed by an overall project budget. My recommendation would be to optimize each separately or full turn-key solutions as others have suggested only. Looking at van transaction, it is an mass produced asset with YoY depreciation. Given your end goal is a buildout and you don't assign any goodwill value to features only available in the newer model, definitely purchase used. Regarding the build-out, if you're paying someone to do the work this really comes down to perceived value (design, finish, layout, workmanship) probably even more then the features as defined themselves. I'd spend / allocate as much of your budget as possible here as it will create the most differentiation / value overall. The rest is just a Ford Transit. My $0.02...
 

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I've found that many Blue Sea breakers/fuses are rebranded Bussman which can be cheaper and easier to find. I did also end up using solid copper bar instead of traditional bus bars.

Thanks. It's a big help. Blue Sea seems to be the go to brand and I'd figure that you get what you pay for with the generic stuff.
 

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I've found that many Blue Sea breakers/fuses are rebranded Bussman which can be cheaper and easier to find. I did also end up using solid copper bar instead of traditional bus bars.
Thanks. (y)(y)
Quick search - current Amazon prices for 100a breaker for example (of course Amazon prices can swing wildly)
Bussman $25.57
Blue Sea $37.23
Checked the Eaton catalog, identical numbering except Bussman is series with black switch and Blue Sea is series with yellow switch. For some reason I prefer the "look" of black. :)
 

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@harryn
@6ixgun
Would you be willing to opine on what brands of the "minor" components in your experience have a good value/quality ratio. Such as: switches, buss bars, connectors, breakers, fuse panels, fuses, wire. I don't want to sacrifice electrical safety or reliability, but don't want to incur unnecessary costs either.
Thanks
Hi, so far, 100% of the Transit owners that I have worked with have all picked this unit to have installed.



The aspect that seems particularly interesting to them is that it allows them to put the batteries anywhere in the van that the like and the battery pack to system wire distance is largely irrelevant.
 

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I get that they give you more room and allow you to sleep sideways, but I just find that the price for these is way higher than can be justified by the amount of materials involved. What am I missing?
Low volume item, so unit costs are high to begin with. I believe they are laid up by hand. Also since it is a specialty item and there is no competition cost an price will have no relationship. Price will be set to maximize the value of the equation: total profit = unit profit x unit sales. If there is a capacity constraint, that will put further upward pressure on price. People are presumably willing to pay the high price based on utility value and/or the cost is not significant to them.
 
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