Van Life: Bids and Consultations

Not realizing that I needed the van prior to selecting a builder, I had already completed a decent amount of due diligence on the options available to me.  I preferred someone local as opposed to out of state and stumbled upon this helpful article. But after purchasing the van, I went through a more detailed process.

After sifting through these options and bouncing around on Google and Instagram, I finally decided on Rossmonster.  Their website was easy to understand, they pictured a layout with an L shaped bench which I really liked, and they are based in Longmont, just north of Denver.  What could be better?

 

L shaped bench layout I like
The L shaped layout I like. Photocred: Rossmonster

Rossmonster

I actually went to Longmont to see their work and met with Sam who patiently went through all the details with me.  First, we discussed how often I would want shore power versus being off the grid.  I expected half and half.  Then we considered which way I would sleep…sideways.

Systems

With that, we went over all the systems and general needs such as windows, batteries, inverters, fans, A/C, heat, water, solar power and more.  I expected to discuss the layout first, but it was everything else that they wanted to know so that the van could be wired correctly, and water tanks and power banks could be placed in the appropriate locations.  The rest would be built around that.

Appliances

Next, we talked about appliances including stoves, refrigerators, sinks, and toilets.  Nowadays they make dry flush toilets.  They are like a diaper genie and with a push of a button, waste is sealed in a bag and shoved to the bottom of the toilet!  After 18 flushes, you just throw away the large bag which holds it all.  Hello!  I was sold on that.

I recognize it creates more trash and the price per flush is high, but I don’t even like picking up dog poo, so dumping waste doesn’t rank high on the list.  To me, the $600 toilet is worth every penny!

Van Build Estimate

Finally, we got to the outside editions to the van like ladders, nerf bars, roof racks, and canopies.  It is amazing how much can be added and how much all these items cost!  After the hour plus initial consult, Sam said he get me an estimate at the beginning of the following week.

If I accepted it, I would put $2,000 down and pay half the cost six months prior to the build in order to purchase parts.  Yes, six months in advance of the year long wait that Rossmonster has.  While I didn’t really want to wait that long, their carpentry and finish out is superb.  I was ready to sign right away, to secure my spot, and get ahead of the five others waiting on an estimate from him. 

He, however, suggested I wait until I received the estimate early the next week.  Sam assured me that not everyone would sign on with Rossmonster, and that most people do the consult over the phone!  I was miffed, as I looked at all sorts of options, and I didn’t see why everyone wouldn’t go with them!  Regardless, I waited.

Van Expo

As with all other things related to this process thus far, the estimate was late.  An entire week late.  It’s amazing what a difference a week makes!  During this time, my friends Brad and Angela alerted me to a camper van expo over the weekend in Dillon.

camper van expo
The Expo

I expected the expo to be larger and to feature many exhibitors with items for camper vans like compact appliances, pots and pans, and all kinds of other travel related items.  On the contrary, the small expo featured van builder companies, and companies that sell windows and cabinets and such.

Wanderful Wheels

Fortunately for me, I stumbled across Wanderful Wheels, a company based out of Durango.  Though still in Colorado, they seemed a bit far away in case I needed to see something during the build in person.  That said, these companies really know what they are doing.  It is just me that doesn’t. And their van on display looked great!

They had a great van on display, and as I was walking off I asked, “Do you do custom builds?”

To which Colleen answered, “Yes.” 

Then with little hope, I asked, “So what is your wait time?”  She said, “December.”

“WHAAATTT?!?  Of this year, 2020?” I asked in surprise.

“Yes.”

“OK, how do I get a bid?”

“Just email me,” Colleen responded.

Signed Contract

That was a Saturday.  Monday, I had a bid.  Colleen and I went through the details, and by the end of the week with Brad’s help, I had a contract signed that would save me close to $17,000, and I’d have my van nine months sooner!  Twist my arm.  I couldn’t believe I had to call Rossmonster and tell them no!  Everything happens for a reason.

Over the next week, I will continue to work on insurance.  More on that extended process in my next post. And over the next month, I will be ordering some outside parts that my friend Brad is going to put on the vehicle.  He likes to build vans, and it will save me money, so it is a win/win.

In addition, I will be working with Wanderful Wheels to finalize all the details of the layout so that they may order parts two months in advance of the build.  So exciting!  To be continued…ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

7 thoughts on “Van Life: Bids and Consultations

  1. OH wow! Love the simple toilet! Who knew there was so much to this decision!! So exciting that you can get it before the end of the year!! Hoorayt

    1. Well it goes to the builder in December. I get it back in March. But still awesome that it is not too long!!

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