by Dave Boyer
In the previous posts, I went over what I was looking for in an off road camper van. I discussed making the commitment to purchase a vehicle, and a few details on ordering my 4×4. When I first decided on a Sportsmobile, I was looking at spending no more than 90K, give or take a thousand. Whether a curse or blessing, buying a Sportsmobile can be a fluid adventure while dealing with all the options and what these “extras” end up costing you. When you’re being bombarded with so many features to choose from, without some insight or previous experience, it can become a difficult task to figure out what you really want or actually need. In turn it affects your pocketbook. How you configure your rig can become an extension of one’s self. This made it a little difficult for me because I ordered things that I wanted but could have lived without. In my “newbie” world, the Sportsmobile site led me to thinking I could drive one off the lot for about 85K. Well I was looking at the wrong picture. I wanted that big gnarly rig the web site shows climbing over canyon walls.
(Picture from the Sportsmobile.com web site)
85,000 bucks? Maybe, but forget a large portion of all the extra goodies I saw on many of the vans in production. Now before going on further, I should also mention one alternative that I haven’t touched on. There might be great deals on some pre-owned vans out there, I can’t leave that out. Sportsmobile itself has a used vehicle section on their web site (see Links, below) as well as the Yahoo SMB forum group.
Buying a used vehicle might be right up your alley. From what I read in NY Times article (see link, above), a used vehicle was a good choice. The purchase of a vehicle that is pre-fabricated or used is fine for many RV buyers, but it seems most SMB owners prefer to set it up their way.
Well, after another visit to Fresno, things in my world started to change a bit. Looking at what others were putting on their rigs skewed me toward adding items. I sat at home looking over all the options, adding it up and then deleting stuff to make my target price. As I started checking out the archives on the Sportsmobile owners group, more and more optional equipment was ending up on my order sheet. I came to the conclusion that 90K wouldn’t cut it to purchase my 4X4 vehicle. I did the math and figured I could afford more. Priorities are important especially if you have a family, but if you can afford a slightly higher payment, think about it. My boss at work made a comment that stuck with me, “if you are going to spend 100K on a vehicle, why not spend an extra 10 or 15 thousand and get what you want”. Although there is no reason to get a divorce over an RV, he knew I wasn’t paying cash and his statement started to make sense to me. Order it the way you want. Besides, it would make for a better resale when time came to let it go. OK… that made a good argument at the time. So I compared what different loan rates would be and soon talked myself in to a slightly higher payment. My vehicle looks good and more important, I didn’t have to sacrifice any of the items that deal with the off road performance. I get complements daily when I’m on the road, but at times it can actually become a pain in the butt. I have had guys on top of, and under the vehicle without my permission which is somewhat upsetting. A comment from one lady made me laugh, “Looks like solid testosterone.” Some people even give me dirty looks thinking I’m some sort of an uppity jerk or maybe they have issues with 4×4 vehicles in general. These vans don’t look like fuel saving eco vehicles, that’s for sure. The worst look was by two guys pointing at the van while at a stop sign. Paying attention to my van and not the road, they pulled out and T-boned a Chevy Tahoe that was traveling at high speed on the highway. I almost ended up in that wreck myself.
As I stated earlier, there are a bunch of preferences that many folks (me included) could live without, but I deleted a few items that I shouldn’t have. As I stated in part one of this article, sometimes options you think you don’t need come back and haunt you later. This leaves you wondering “why didn’t I order that.” Of course, it can go the other way too, “that was a mistake, what was I thinking!” But even though my vehicle was different than many rolling off the line in Fresno, I got what I wanted for the most part. I will say that a large chunk of money came out of my pocket to make the van look the way I wanted. In the up coming posts, I will discuss in depth how my order ended up. I will also go over some of the additional changes that have been made to date. This will be the most highly opinionated portion of this entire article. The “option adding game” hasn’t stopped yet, and I wonder if it ever will, but I enjoy my rig and welcome every outing. I must say that a lot of people buying a Sportsmobile don’t feel they need some of the expensive changes such as the bumpers, locking differentials or a winch. That’s a reasonable decision and OK with me. It will save money and maybe they don’t like or need these features. I have met several folks that feel 2 wheel drive is enough. So be it. Order it the way you want. I refuse to put down what others order. Degrading someone’s idea or making a statement like “that’s ugly” or “what possessed you to buy that” is just rude! You should be proud of your rig and others should respect this. On the other hand you might be sorry if you don’t do a lot of research. Get on line and ask. If you see an owner at the factory with a van that looks like something you would like to own, ask them. Just don’t use what you see or read as the only template deciding on your vehicle. Give some thought about ordering it the way you want.