Finding the perfect adventure-mobile was a process to say the least. And really I’m not sure there is a “perfect” adventure-mobile. There’s a give and take to any vehicle you choose. For the longest time I was hooked on the Ford Econoline 7.3L Diesel 4×4 regular wheel base vans with a sportsmobile conversion. We almost pulled the trigger on a couple, but soon realized they were well over our budget and we did find a few drawbacks. I think the largest one was you couldn’t stand up without raising the penthouse. The second was they really aren’t all that stealth. You know, for urban camping. The 4×4 aspect would of been lovely though. So we moved off of that idea and kept brainstorming. At one point I said “let’s just take the truck.” We love the truck with the Wildernest camper on the back and really enjoyed taking weekend or extended weekend trips in it, but really that’s about as far as that was going to get us. There’s no stealth aspect whatsoever and if there’s inclement weather we’d be confined to the cab. So that option went through the window fairly quickly. However, a part of me still wants to do another trip just with the truck. More adventure, more off-road, more roughin’ it if you will, hahaha.
Obviously we ended up with a fantastic, wonderful Sprinter, Nico. So far we couldn’t be more pleased. We did the build out ourselves with the help of a few friends. I’ll be working hard to get build posts up for the next several months, but for this post I want to talk about more specifics on how we found Nico and what research went into the build.
Finding Nico was hard. I was searching online almost everyday for about 2 months before we found the right van. Granted, my budget and list of desired features were pretty stringent:
- Low miles < 150k
- T1N Sprinter 2005 – 2006 SHC (super high ceiling?)
- The right windows
- Not super beat up (they are cargo vans after all)
To keep my search organized I used my favorite note app, Evernote. It keeps everything synced across all my devices and has tons of great features. If you haven’t used it, I suggest you give it a try. I use it for everything really, maintenance records for vehicles, dog records, meeting notes, recipes and tons of other random stuff that I need to access at anytime. I kept every van I came across in a notebook titled Vans. There’s also a great Evernote browser plugin that will clip any info off web pages you need. That was my basic strategy, scour the web all day and find leads for vans clip them to my notebook and follow up.
There were about 3 – 4 Google searches I ran on the daily. These searches basically searched all of Craigslist for specific words. It’s pretty important to use Google’s search tools so you’re finding relevant, up-to-date ads on Craigslist. Since I was searching everyday on these keywords, I set them to “Past 24 Hours.” Once I found a van lead, I’d clip it right into my Evernote Vans notebook. You can check that link out and see some of the vans I clipped.
I also saved links to searches on Cars.com and Autotrader.com that I would check everyday. A lot of dealers get the older Sprinters in to trade up to the new models of Ford Transits or Ram Promaster, etc., so I would keep tabs on the dealers using those 2 sites. Check out this notebook for those searches.
The last thing I did was set up alerts through sites like Craigslist and Google.com/alerts. Once they were set up I’d receive emails if any of my criteria hit.
Those were the basics of the tools I used to scour the internet and find Nico. The Craigslist search and saved search links for Autotrader.com and Cars.com were the most helpful. I was generally searching so much that I was actually ahead of the alerts, but If you’re more nonchalant with your search, definitely set up the alerts.