If you’re hoping to get into van life, one of the first dilemmas you’ll face is whether to build or buy. A self-build van offers more flexibility and freedom, but often at the expense of extra time and money. That’s where pre-built RVs come into play.
About Chad and Ashley
Ashley and Chad have been on the road for around 15 months, having purchased their van in late 2018. Like many other van-lifers, they initially started looking for a traditional Spinter, Promaster or Transit van. However, they quickly realised that it’s near-impossible to find a decent van with less than 100,000 miles on the clock for less than 10 – 15 thousand dollars. So instead, they settled on a class B 1999 Coachman Starflyte RV. Ultimately their decision came down to cost – for the same amount of money they could get a fully furnished RV or an empty Sprinter.
Opting for an RV therefore saved Ashley and Chad a lot of time and money. Apart from a few cosmetic issues, their RV was pretty much flawless. Their main upgrade came in the form of 3 x 100-watt solar panels, which they fitted onto the roof of the van. These set Ashley and Chad back $4000.
In hindsight, the pair are glad they chose to go for an RV. They really appreciate how much storage the van has. If they were to build their own van, there’s no way they would’ve been able to incorporate so much storage. Their van isn’t perfect, but it serves them well and meets their needs. Ideally, they would like to have more countertop space in the kitchen. It’s fine with the hob is not in use, but when it is they don’t have anywhere to prepare food, which can be frustrating.
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- 1999 Coachman Starflyte RV– It is a class B RV, built on a Ford e350 chassis.
- 6.8 liter v10 engine
- 21 feet long
Kitchen and Appliances
- Vinyl countertops– In a bid to save money, the pair have lined their kitchen countertops with stick-on vinyl flooring. This solution turned out to be much cheaper than replacing the entire countertops. Since the vinyl is designed to go on the floor, they figured that it’s probably really durable… and they weren’t wrong!
- Faucet– For their kitchen tap, Chad and Ashley went with the cheapest option they could find. So far it does the job and they haven’t had any problems.
- Backsplash– One of Ashley’s favourite aspects of the kitchen is the backsplash, which she bought from Home Depot. Much like the countertops and flooring, it’s stick-on vinyl.
- Lift-upcountertop– Their stove is covered by a lift-up countertop, which means they have extra space when the hob is not in use.
- 2-burner stove– Since their generator doesn’t work, they do all of their cooking on the stove. It runs off of propane gas.
- Microwave– Due to the lack of electricity, their microwave is currently out-of-order. Instead, they use it as extra storage space.
- 110v chest fridge– One of the unique features of this RV is the chest fridge. It’s a 100v chest freezer which they run off a 750-watt inverter. To make it run at a lower temperature, Chad added an external thermometer. So instead of it being a chest freezer, it is not a chest fridge. For accessibility purposes, they built it onto a slide-out drawer so it can be easily pulled in and out when needed. Since it’s designed to be a freezer, they find it’s much more insulated than a typical fridge, which in turn makes it a lot more efficient.
- Sofa bed– Chad and Ashley’s bed is slightly smaller than full-size, and it also doubles as a sofa. They’d prefer a permanently fixed bed, so they rarely convert it back to a sofa.
- Shower– Located in the back corner of the RV is a bathroom. It features a shower and toilet, but they only use it for emergencies. In the 15 months they’ve been on-the-road, Chad and Ashley have used the bathroom 4 times. Instead, they mostly use it for storage.
Power and Electrical
- 3 x 100-watt solar panels– Costing approximately 4000 dollars, this was Chad and Ashley’s most expensive upgrade. The solar panels are connected to 4 golf cart batteries, giving them a total of 420 amp-hours of power.
- Generator– Unfortunately this no longer works so they don’t use it. They plan to fix it in the future so they have better electrical capabilities while on the road.
Heating and Cooling
- 6-gallon built-in propane tank
- Blackout blind– Out of all the blinds in the van, Chad and Ashley only had to replace one. In the kitchen area they fitted a grey blackout blind, which does a great job at blocking out both daylight and heat.
- 6-gallon water tank in the bathroom
Cabinetry and Finishes
- Marine vinyl seats– When they first bought the van, everything was a bold teal colour, which they weren’t too fond of. So they’ve since reupholstered most of the van, including the seats. For this they used a neutral coloured marine vinyl. They figured that if it’s meant to be used on a boat it will be sturdy enough for their van.
- Vinyl floor
- Vinyl dining table
- Medicine cabinet
- Chest of drawers
- Shoe storage
- Fruit hammock
- Water hookup– This allows Chad and Ashley to easily connect to an external water supply when they need to refill their tanks.
- 6-inch PVC pipe– The pair added a large pipe to the back of their van to use as extra storage. So far the only thing they’re holding in the pipe is their sewer hose.
- Outdoor shower– This is one of their favourite features of the van, purely because of its practicality. It allows them to quickly and easily wash muddy boots or equipment after a long day out. Plus, it has no impact on their greywater tank.
- Bike rack– For day-to-day use, Chad and Ashely travel around on a scooter, which sits nicely on the back of their van. It only weighs around 220 pounds, but it means they can quickly and easily pop to the shop without taking the entire RV.
For the full tour of Chad and Ashley’s van, check out my YouTube: