Safety

Van = daily-driver = kids = factory-installed seats = airbags

Reliability

We won’t be able to travel if the van is in the shop. If something does happen on the road, we want to be able to get repairs made quickly without breaking the bank.

Cost

Ideally, we would like to keep the purchase price under $30,000.

Availability

Our wish list includes things like a tow built-in tow package and a color other than white, so we’re looking for something with lots of used inventory.

Fuel Economy

One of the things dissuading us from going down the truck/trailer route was the abysmal fuel economy expectation paired with the low speeds and long drive-times. We’d like for something in the neighborhood of 18-20 mpg to at least be possible if not always attainable.

Maneuverability

We live in the suburbs. We have a driveway. We shop at lots of big-box stores. We aren’t trying to squeeze into overcrowded parking garages. Still, all things being equal, the more options for parking, the better.

Interior Space

There are 5 people in our family, and a dog. We need space for everyone to sit and sleep. The seating part is easy. The sleeping part will be a challenge.

Exterior Styling

Our crew is the opposite of discreet. Stealth camping is not an option.  However, given that there will almost certainly be some literal screaming involved wherever we go, we don’t necessarily need help announcing our presence from our vehicle.

The Long and the Short of It

Our requirements above have given us the make and model. We are looking for a Ford Transit. Our decision really comes down to choosing between two trims: 1) medium roof (MR), long wheelbase (LWB), not extended or 2) high roof (HR), long wheelbase (LWB), dual rear wheels (DRW) extended (EXT).

Right now, we are leaning towards option 1:  it will be less expensive, we’ll have more choices, it will get better gas mileage, be easier to park and (slightly) less conspicuous. The biggest drawback is that it will have less interior space. Figuring out how to get space for 5 people and a dog to sleep at night will be a serious challenge, and even if we can come up with a layout where everyone can actually lay flat, it’s going to be cramped.

And then there is also a little part of me that scoffs at the idea of taking half-measures. That part of me says go big or stay home. The desire to do things differently is the motivating force behind this entire scheme, and a HR/LWB/DRW/EXT van is definitely different. It’s a little part of me, but it knows how to project its voice. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see who carries the day.