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Discussion Starter #1
First time poster in the planning stages! Looking to build a versatile comfort-cruiser.

Origin:
I am currently in-recovery from cancer surgery (small kidney tumor removed). The cancer was caught very early and the surgery was excellent so the long-term prognosis is great. My wife and I were previously (pre-Covid) relatively active and traveled as we could but this recent health scare has encouraged us to prioritize family time over always planning for the future. Some of the best times my wife and I have had have been camping and traveling and our kids are just getting old enough to start this up again. They are 3-1/2 years old and 11 month.

Travel types:
1. My wife's family lives in Rapid City SD and we like in the Twin Cities (MN) so we frequently make the 650 mile drive across the state.
2. Ski trips to Colorado and Montana. As an avid skier I still get out west at least once per year. Usually I drive with my dad (also a skier) or friends to Colorado or Montana. We have done some family ski with my parents and our kids but it is tough to find something that comfortably fits everyone (kids at least in car-seats).
3. Travel to a major city. Spending a long weekend exploring a nearby major city has been great fun (Kansas City, Chicago...). We are fine staying in a hotel once we get somewhere, just want to make the travel there comfortable.

Current travel vehicle:
2014 Audi A6 TDI.
Honestly this has been my favorite car of all time. I purchased it used 3 years ago and the combination of comfort, power, size and fuel economy have been unbelievable. Regularly get 40-42 MPG on long trips. The adaptive cruise control makes cruising across the states even at 85 mph relaxing and comfortable. The down-sides are starting to show however. Even on short trips with 2 kids, a dog and anything else in the vehicle can get crowded. I do have Thule load bars and can transport my mountain bike or my ski box. Being that we need to drive and then find a place to sleep, this setup of a car forces us to travel as-fast-as possible and I end up driving most of the time. The hope with a van would be to travel at a leisurely pace and be able to sleep when we want.
142708


Needs:
  • Looking to spend < $30,000 on the initial vehicle.
  • Ability to seat and belted 4.
  • Ability to sleep 4.
  • Long camping / overlanding not needed.
Current thoughts:
I am thinking a used 2017-2019 mid-roof, LWB passenger would be the best platform to start with. The interior would already be "finished" enough to make some long drives however not fully insulated. I would remove all the seats behind the second row. With the leftover space, I would have room for a removeable bed, cooler and gear storage. If we were traveling with 6 people, adding the third row back in should be easy.

Looking for any input from the community.

Thanks

MnEngineer
 

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hi! I'm in a very similar situation as you (2 young kids, like to do lots of outdoor stuff, want to seat 4 / sleep 4, looking for overnight camping, but not multiple weeks). I ended up ordering an AWD, LWB, High Roof Crew.

Here's why:
1. I like crew, because i get factory seat rails and second row airbags, but get max space behind that. I'm having an upfitter put in rails for a 3rd row seat to bring the grandparents if needed. It's super cheap to buy seats (lots of folks selling them).
2. Crew has more space than passenger because the back of it is unfinished. more flexibility to build it out as I want it / add insulation etc. You could take out the paneling in the back, which I suppose is an option if you're buying used and no crew's are available.
3. I like LWB (vs. EWB) because I want easier parking, and easier access to national parks etc. (lots of places restrict parking >20ft vehicles)
4. I went High Roof because I want to be able to stand (I'm 5'10") and with the kids, we need the space if they're going to sleep. I'm going to build bunk beds up high for them (above the passenger seating row)
5. AWD because snow. I grew up in MN, feels like you might want it. I suppose you could just get snow tires, but you should look hard at AWD.

doing all that for <30k will be tough, but just wanted to share my decision making process. Think about how/where the kids will sleep. It was obvious to me that the kids need separate beds (and they don't sleep with us), so that ended up driving the decision to go high-roof.
 

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What about going with a CrewVan?
I'm looking for a van for my family with 2 kids as well.

The lack of available power sliding door is what kills the crew van config for me. One of my kids is going to chop off their arm lugging the heavy sliding door shut.
 

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@MnEngineer, Get a high roof, you won't regret it.
 

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Keep in mind the flooring and ceiling trim significantly reduces the interior height. Didn't see you mention your height, but I'm 5'10" and went with a high roof. In a mid roof cargo van I could stand up straight in between the ceiling reinforcement ribs, but my head would graze the ribs if I stood directly below them. Add in the flooring and insulation of a passenger wagon and I'd be slightly hunched over all the time.

Also hello from a (soon to be) Twin Cities dweller!
 

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I'm looking for a van for my family with 2 kids as well.

The lack of available power sliding door is what kills the crew van config for me. One of my kids is going to chop off their arm lugging the heavy sliding door shut.
a quick skim of the power sliding door thread nixed that option for me...
 

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2020 148" medium roof crew, 3.5L PFDI, 10 spd, 3.73
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At 5'8" I am able to stand up in our mid-height crew, but I just clear the celling. The crew cab comes with a 2" thick "floor" under the back seats to cover the seat rails which only extends about a foot behind the seat. Transits are commercial vehicles so don't expect a ride even close to your Audi, or even modern pickups. Also, as work trucks if the window sticker doesn't mention a feature, it doesn't have it. Normal comforts that are standard in passenger vehicles are usually an extra in Transits... example, if rear seat heating and AC isn't listed, it doesn't have it... and as the Transit is a big empty box, your family will need those "options". It is real easy to increase the cost of a base cargo or crew cab Transit by 50% just to bring it up to the standards of a modern passenger vehicle. This isn't meant to scar you off, but as more of a reality check that I wish I had known before buying our Transit. having said that, for our situation I would have still bought a Transit, but would have shopped around a little longer or special ordered one to get some of the features ours doesn't have.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for all the replies.
First off, I am an honest 5'9". I will have to stand in a couple mid roofs and high roofs to get a feeling.

5. AWD because snow. I grew up in MN, feels like you might want it. I suppose you could just get snow tires, but you should look hard at AWD.
Snow tires and a limited slip rear (I feel comfortable adding if it is not included) will be needed for sure. My driveway is a pretty short but steep uphill to get out.

Also hello from a (soon to be) Twin Cities dweller!
Welcome to the cities! I grew up here, went to college here and now live here so not tool much to compare too but a good mix of major metropolitan and out-state camping and lakes.

Transits are commercial vehicles so don't expect a ride even close to your Audi, or even modern pickups. Also, as work trucks if the window sticker doesn't mention a feature, it doesn't have it.
I understand, I am excited about the raw practicality.
 

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Have you considered a trailer? Many pros, few cons to the two-part solution. The Transit is basically a commercial delivery truck in its Van form and a commercial shuttle in its Passenger form. It's certainly no Audi. The time, effort and cost of upgrading a Transit into a comfortable expedition / overnighter vehicle are considerable. Save yourself...it's too late for us. 😂
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Have you considered a trailer? Many pros, few cons to the two-part solution. The Transit is basically a commercial delivery truck in its Van form and a commercial shuttle in its Passenger form. It's certainly no Audi. The time, effort and cost of upgrading a Transit into a comfortable expedition / overnighter vehicle are considerable. Save yourself...it's too late for us. 😂
My first thought was actually a small teardrop trailer. It would have to be something small like that because of the limits of my tow vehicle (Audi!), more than enough power, weight limited. Even with a quality euro sourced hitch from Westfalia the towing limits are 2500 kg towing and 100 kg tongue weight. The 2500 kg (5511 lbs) is decent but the 100 kg (220 lbs) tongue weight is quite limiting, especially looking for something that can barely sleep 4. Plus a tow vehicle plus trailer makes for a long combo and not great for parking in a metro area, I like the idea of one contained vehicle.

I have come to terms admitting I am quite spoiled driving the Audi and it will be impossible to match the comfort but like everything in life, trade-offs and compromises need to be made.

Thanks for the replies everyone!
 

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hi! I'm in a very similar situation as you (2 young kids, like to do lots of outdoor stuff, want to seat 4 / sleep 4, looking for overnight camping, but not multiple weeks). I ended up ordering an AWD, LWB, High Roof Crew.

Here's why:
1. I like crew, because i get factory seat rails and second row airbags, but get max space behind that. I'm having an upfitter put in rails for a 3rd row seat to bring the grandparents if needed. It's super cheap to buy seats (lots of folks selling them).
2. Crew has more space than passenger because the back of it is unfinished. more flexibility to build it out as I want it / add insulation etc. You could take out the paneling in the back, which I suppose is an option if you're buying used and no crew's are available.
3. I like LWB (vs. EWB) because I want easier parking, and easier access to national parks etc. (lots of places restrict parking >20ft vehicles)
4. I went High Roof because I want to be able to stand (I'm 5'10") and with the kids, we need the space if they're going to sleep. I'm going to build bunk beds up high for them (above the passenger seating row)
5. AWD because snow. I grew up in MN, feels like you might want it. I suppose you could just get snow tires, but you should look hard at AWD.

doing all that for <30k will be tough, but just wanted to share my decision making process. Think about how/where the kids will sleep. It was obvious to me that the kids need separate beds (and they don't sleep with us), so that ended up driving the decision to go high-roof.
I 100% agree with this assessment. And would like to add that a high roof is pretty much a necessity for 4 people if you'd like to maximize bed space in the back.
 

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Needs:
  • Looking to spend < $30,000 on the initial vehicle.
  • Ability to seat and belted 4.
  • Ability to sleep 4.
  • Long camping / overlanding not needed.
Current thoughts:
I am thinking a used 2017-2019 mid-roof, LWB passenger would be the best platform to start with. The interior would already be "finished" enough to make some long drives however not fully insulated. I would remove all the seats behind the second row. With the leftover space, I would have room for a removeable bed, cooler and gear storage. If we were traveling with 6 people, adding the third row back in should be easy.

Looking for any input from the community.
Concur on the Passenger van plan. It's what I chose to order new, though deleted as many of the extra seats since really only needed room for 4 or 5.

I'm 6'1"+ and chose the High Roof. The interior height is 6'4" with the stock floor and ceiling. I had to bend my neck to fit in the Medium Roof and that was unacceptable.

I'd caution that second row is tight for a 6'er, particularly if the front seats are all the way back. My plan is to move the second row back a couple inches so there'd be enough room for a table on a Lagun mount to be useful with the front seats swiveled.

On the regular length body (148WB) that still leaves 6.5'+ behind the second row for a bed ... in the High Roof there's definitely room for it to be a bunk bed, though if your kids are small, search around the forum for a thread that had a kid-sized bunk bed built over the front seats when they were swiveled backwards. I'm thinking for my kids a bed platform (transverse) that fit on the seating area would work as well, but for the kids we'll be fair-weather campers and they can sleep in a tent outside most of the time.

Here's a bunk bed example that might be helpful:

 

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Our current van is a Sprinter 170 Passenger. Basically very similar in size to the largest Transit. We could travel / camp comfortably with four people but never bothered with a solid four-sleeping solution. Maybe we'll try again with the new Transit. But one row in the back and the rest as "camper" worked out fine for a number of trips. Our kids are adults now; so four adults - and two of us in tents at night. We loaned our van to friends with two little kids and they slept on the floor and were comfy; so that's an option - especially in a Passenger. Kinda like the old Dodge passenger we had as kids - but with a bed and galley and stuff.
 

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Welcome to the forum! First off, congratulations on the good prognosis - everything else in life takes a back seat to our health. I lived in Rapid City for 7 years and loved it there.

I would recommend a used high roof passenger van to stay within budget. Remove as many seats as needed to give you living space and a portaloo for the little ones (and adults as needed). May be space for a super simple portable kitchen. Invest in a good set of chains and you are ready to go!
 

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@MN-gineer

Each person has their own requirements but something that helped me choose the mid-roof for our configuration of 4 sleepers was the following. Just food for thought!

1. If you use a permanent bed and have cabinetry, the standing room itself is enough for maybe 1child 1 adult to pass each other. For my plans literally only 7sf.
2. If you're in the standing area, you're liking doing something like using the sink or getting storage. I think the time you'd be back there at full attention is very short.
3. w/ the crewvan unlike other builds, it really forces you to use the seats or outdoor areas. Unlike full (2 seater) camper van builds, it's not a place you can walk around.
4. it's another $3k!

I would say if you needed more storage or were going for a bunk arrangement, w/o a doubt you'll need a high roof. Just know that you will waste the first 6' of space as the airbags will prevent you from building above the second row seating anyway. (w/o some crazy bulkhead/ceiling hanging arrangement)
 
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