Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Saturday, April 18, 2020

New Wheels

Announcement: In March, I bought a van. Right now it’s at a local shop to remove the seat rails from the floor, and the headliner from the roof. This is necessary disassembly before I get it ready for camping.
Purchased from Pahrump Chevrolet on March 7, 2020.

Prius’ Future: I will keep my Prius because I really love it and will continue to use it as much as possible. The Prius will be my vacation “cottage” 😊.
Although the van is larger, I hope to maintain a minimalist lifestyle.

Reasons for a Van: I've always considered myself living out of the Prius except to drive, sleep, do personal hygiene, and for storage. Since I started my work with Homes On Wheels Alliance (HOWA), however, I'm inside a lot more to use the computer. So, I find myself not setting up my kitchen to cook, nor standing up and moving about as much. Plus, I have a cargo trailer that I can't tow. (Many thanks to my assistant Phyllis for pulling it when used for HOWA business.)
The headliner will be removed to put on a 16" fiberglass high top from  I'll be able to stand up inside to cook!

The Purchase: For those 3 reasons -- to cook, stand, and tow – I started looking for a van about a year ago. One of my search criteria was to find a van from a private party in NV to avoid dealer prices and sales tax. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find one from a private seller. So, I finally broke down and got a van from the Pahrump Chevrolet dealer. Except for the higher costs, the buying experience was a positive one.
Before we took all of the bench seats out.

Other Pros & Cons: Although I plan to keep my minimalist lifestyle, I will still incur additional costs with the van. Fuel usage will be much greater than the Prius. Plus, I'll need to purchase and install a solar power system to keep devices charged, loosing that benefit of the Prius as well. My insurance and registration costs increase, as does my carbon footprint. But, the van has much higher ground clearance to go further into the back country which I love. And, I now have room for a dog companion when the time is right.
The floor after taking out the bench seats, and before
 the rails (under carpet) are removed. 

The Build: I plan to do a no-build build by using furnishings I already have. I’ll try different configurations until I find the best set-up for me and my needs. Unfortunately, removing the bench seat attachments from the floor, and taking down the headliner with its air bags has been a challenge. Thankfully, I found a local shop to do that prep work for me.

Here are some details:
  • 2016 Chevrolet Express Passenger Van RWD 2500 LT
  • White, Regular Wheelbase, 36000 miles
  • 6.0L V8 Vortec engine, 6-speed heavy-duty automatic transmission for towing
  • Passenger van for windows all around, 6 of the 10 windows open
  • Regular wheelbase for a tighter turning radius than an extended length
  • Purchased with funds from my cashed-out Roth IRA, owned by myself (not HOWA)
  • Plan to:
    • Mount running boards,
    • Install a hitch to tow my 6x10' cargo trailer,
    • Keep all windows unobstructed to retain my view and connection to the outside,
    • Make curtains and screens for privacy and airflow without bugs,
    • Insulate interior plastic panels and trim, as possible,
    • Have a plywood floor put in, secured to van floor, and covered with sheet vinyl,
    • Do a no-build build with items purchased when I tried living in my cargo trailer,
    • Attach furniture and other items to plywood floor for safety,
    • Purchase a Fiberine 16" Aerodynamic High-Top, reinforced for storage, solar & roof vent,
    • Get a 100W solar power system to charge 12v electronics (no fridge or 110v items), and
    • Store my Prius in Pahrump for errands, and for long and/or fun trips.
In Closing:  I’ve camped in lots of different ways. I’ve been mobile living out of my Prius since 2009, full-time since 2017. In addition, I’ve camped under the stars, in tents, a teardrop trailer, Class C motorhome, and a converted cargo trailer. So far nothing has suited me like the Prius. Although well thought out, transitioning into this van still comes with some unknowns. So, I consider this new situation an exploration of possibilities and comfort. My hope is that it’ll be a good fit for me.


  1. I know you'll miss the Prius. But, I think you'll love the van. Congratulations!
    Miss you!

    1. Thanks Cyndi. So good to hear from you. I miss you too. Hugs, Suanne

  2. Congratulations Suanne!
    Hi Cyndi and Stumpy!

  3. Nice job Suanne on the new ride. Glad you are keeping the Prius. Have you thought about a small portable generator for an extra power source? There are some great ones out there that are extremely quiet and efficient.

  4. Thanks for the encouraging words and generator idea bigrin! I use to have a Honda EU1000i; so, am fairly familiar with small "quiet" generators. For some reason, I'm super sensitive to sound and will avoid getting a genny for that reason alone, if at all possible. I also don't want to make room to store it, or the gasoline smell, maintenance tasks, and cost. My electrical needs are so tiny, I'm hoping a small solar power system will be more than sufficient.

    1. And what is your solar power system ? πŸ™‚

    2. I'm borrowing a 100W portable system now. Sorry, I don't recall the name of it. Once Fiberine opens again and I get a high top put on, I'll mount some panels and probably get an AGM battery with a MPPT controller. I want to keep it as simple and as small as possible. Stay tuned as I figure this all out.

  5. Congrats. I have a suggestion. At the time that I built "Vanna White", I installed carpet. There were no 'puzzle-type' rubber mats available then. I wish that I could have installed them as they would be easier to clean. Just thought that I would let you know.

    1. Good idea! And good to hear from you too. Take care.

  6. Yay, congrats on the new home! Can't wait to see it no-build built out down the road :-). Standing up inside to cook is a very good thing, in my world at least.

  7. Good sound points Suanne. I think the Solar solution may be the way to go. Love to see pics of the Van when its done. Keep us informed please.

    1. Moving into the van has been a slow go. Right now I'm borrowing a small portable solar system ... 100W with a small battery pack. I haven't tested it out yet. It's learn as I go right now.


  9. So excited for you! Once again, perfect timing as I am in the process of finishing my van too! THANKS FOR EVERYTHING, SUANNE!

    1. You're very welcome Lisa. Glad you are finding this stuff helpful.

  10. Congrats on buying the van! And thank you for being open about using your own money. When the time comes, what kind of dog would you like to have?

  11. Thanks Phyllis. I'd like a bigger dog 30-50lb ... a golden type personality ... lovable, mellow ... a mut is fine ... when ready, will start looking in the shelters first. Take care!


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