#VanLife Series: We Bought Us A Van!

Remember last month when I dropped the bomb that we were going to buy a van and start traveling around the country? Well, we did it. But we didn’t just buy any old van. No, Sir. We bought us a 1994 GMC 2500 Vandura. It has a 350 engine and a 400 transmission. Now that means absolutely nothing to me, but it means a whole heck of a lot to people who know about that sort of thing. Apparently, that’s what is referred to as a “golden combo” in the van life community. Yep, and we snagged one!

Our Decision To Start (part-time) #VanLife

I’ve been fascinated with the tiny house movement and RV/Van life for a very long time. Having grown up in a 400 SF trailer (the original tiny house), I have mastered the art of living well in a small space with other people. My childhood home was perfect. Everything had a place and everything was in its place – always. I can’t praise my mom enough for making our trailer feel like a palace.

That said, I actually miss it. But, I know that my husband and daughter would never go for selling our house to move into a trailer or mobile home or manufactured home – whatever it is they’re calling them these days.

So in order to satiate my tiny living/minimalist desires, I joined quite a few FB groups last year that allows me to live vicariously through other people.

I belong to minimalism groups, vintage mobile home groups, tiny living groups, RV groups, and van life groups. All year long I enjoyed watching and commenting on their posts, but I was still left with wanting more. That’s where the proposal comes into play.

The Van Life Proposal

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I ordered this #VanLife sticker before we even bought our van. 🙂

So when Mr. MMM suggested he sell his vehicle so we can truly live as a one-car family, I jumped on the opportunity to suggest we sell his car and purchase a van for emergencies and, well, fun!

To my surprise, he absolutely fell in love with the idea and told me that he has always wanted to travel the country in a van! What?! He’s always wanted to travel the country in a van?! I never knew anything about this dream of his. Apparently, it started when he was in middle school and he never really let it go. He just buried it, like so many adults do with childhood dreams.

Needless to say, we spent an entire weekend talking about it and researching different van styles. Read all about that weekend here!

Buying A Van For Van Life

Now, if you’re not aware, you can’t just go out and purchase a conversion van from any old dealer. In fact, I’m not even sure they’re still being made by most manufacturers. Because of this, most people in the market for such a van are relegated to such online sources as the FB Marketplace and Craigslist.

That’s not to say that’s a bad thing. Doing business privately is sometimes the best way to get a deal. But, you also have to go by what the seller says and determine whether or not you trust them.

And with that, let’s delve into our experiences with these two online sites for our mobile home on the road.

Fb Marketplace And Craigslist

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The van that got away. #reconstructed title

When Mr. MMM and I started our van search, we naturally fired up FB and Craigslist. Not surprisingly, we found a bunch of listings for conversion vans so we started contacting people right away.

We found a great van two hours away. We drove the distance only to find out it was owned by an avid smoker. And since Mr. MMM’s mother passed away from smoking too many cigarettes, this was non-negotiable. The shame of it is that I asked if anyone had smoked in the van before we scheduled an appointment to see it. I was told no, so we drove the distance only to be sorely disappointed. *sigh*

Then, we found what we thought was the perfect van! It was the exact model we were looking for and garage kept for over 20 years. It was immaculate. Oh, except for the whole reconstructed title thing that we only found out after driving 90 minutes to see it.

No matter though, it was so nice we were willing to make a concession. We made an offer on a Sunday only to hear the following day that the owner sold it to someone else for a higher price, even after we asked him to give us a chance to increase our offer before selling it. *sigh*

The van shopping horror stories don’t stop there either, but I’ll give it a break. You get the idea.

Other articles you might enjoy:

Ezman Auto Sales To The Rescue

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Mini proudly displaying a “V” with our new wheels.

Let me just say, after everything we went through with FB and Craigslist, thank goodness we found Ezman Auto Sales in Carbondale, PA!

After reaching the end of our FB/Craigslist adventure, we decided to do a simple Google search for the exact type of van we were looking for. Boom! Within a millisecond, up popped the van we ended up purchasing.

Oh, just in case you were wondering, the exact van we were looking for was a ’90s GMC Vandura 2500 with low miles. Not an easy local find.

Unfortunately, Ezman Auto Sales wasn’t exactly in our backyard. We had to schedule our trip a week in advance in order to have enough time to complete the roundtrip voyage in one day.

Lucky for us, we had another van viewing and friends to visit in between. So even if we hadn’t decided to purchase the van, it was all going to work out either way.

The staff at Ezman Auto Sales were extremely accommodating, friendly, and helpful. They even had the van pulled into one of their garage bays so we wouldn’t have to see it covered in snow. They didn’t hesitate to answer our questions or let us take it for a little spin to kick the tires.

We had a budget we didn’t want to exceed. And that budget was $4,000. After all, the whole point of this is to have frugal fun and go down to basically one vehicle for all of our routine needs.

The van was priced slightly higher than that, but the fine people at Ezman Auto Sales worked with us until we could agree on a price. We happily agreed to a purchase price of $3,800. After the agreement, we excitedly signed the paperwork and graciously accepted the keys! And just like that, we bought a van for van life and were the proud owners of a 1994 GMC 2500 Vandura with only 88,000 miles!

So if you’re ever in the Carbondale, PA area and in need of a pre-owned vehicle, I highly recommend checking out Ezman Auto Sales.

Ooh, and crushed blue velvet interior! Did I mention the crushed blue velvet interior? 

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The actual interior of our van. Be jealous. Be very jealous 🙂

Our Van Has A Name!

After much debate and agonizing over what to call our van, we finally decided on a fitting name!

Introducing…Van Halen!

We’re already busy retrofitting the interior and planning our first big 3-week road trip this summer. Look for more details in an upcoming post. Open Road, here we come!

Would you consider full-time or part-time RV/Van Life?

25 comments… add one
  • MarLeigh Jan 9, 2018, 10:45 am

    Congrats. Love the interior plush velvet. Everybody loves to talk about long trips but no one addresses the fact that if the seats aren’t plush and cozy, you will not be comfortable after hour 3 into a 36-hour trip. I could sleep forever on those seats. You guys are going to have so much fun. Enjoy!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 9, 2018, 2:58 pm

      Haha…we love the seats too. They’re even more comfortable than they look! 🙂

  • Sean @ FrugalMoneyMan Jan 8, 2018, 2:58 pm

    That van looks AWESOME!

    One of my goals with my fiancée in the near future is to take a month off and road trip across the entire country and visit every state!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 8, 2018, 3:46 pm

      Thanks! We can’t wait to start our adventures. I’m hoping it’s as much fun as it sounds. Haha. You and your wife should definitely go for it!

  • Live Your Wage Jan 8, 2018, 1:31 am

    Congrats on bringing VanHalen home!

    I can only imagine the awesome stories your kid will share about his adventures growing up with such cool parents.

    Can’t wait to read about the final modifications. Happy vanning!

    • Live Your Wage Jan 8, 2018, 1:32 am

      Correction: Her awesome adventures!

      • Mad Money Monster Jan 8, 2018, 10:28 am

        Haha…thanks! We cannot wait to hit the road. VanHalen is in the shop today getting an oil leak repaired. After this last fix, it should be ready to roll!

  • Steveark Jan 6, 2018, 8:57 pm

    That looks amazing and what a great price! You guys are going to have so much fun and pretty cool you were both thinking the same way and didn’t know it.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 7, 2018, 4:56 pm

      Thanks! Yeah, we got a really good deal. I can’t wait to share all of our adventures on the site. 🙂

  • CashflowKat Jan 6, 2018, 4:10 pm

    OMG, the interior of that van looks so plush and cozy! I am jealous! I would love to go riding around in that thing! I used to get an invitation from my best friend in MS to travel in a conversion van every summer to stay at Disney’s Camp Wilderness. She was an only child and they just folded me into the mix (or onto a sleeping mat under a table or something, haha)! All I remember though was how much fun I had! What a great gift for your family – hope you enjoy it!!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 7, 2018, 4:55 pm

      Thanks so much! It is unbelievably comfy. It sounds like you had a great time growing up! We’re hoping to give our daughter similar memories. 🙂

  • @luxthrift Jan 5, 2018, 2:59 pm

    Congratulations! I’m a wee bit envious. I’ve been looking at sales of campervans (as we call them in the UK) and was horrified to find that the stuff I was interested in was around £20,000! Will follow the retrofitting journey with you and hopefully someday within the next 5 years I’ll achieve my goal of living in a van and travelling through Europe

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 5, 2018, 3:12 pm

      WooHoo! Can’t wait to see what you decide to do in the next few years!

  • FullTimeFinance Jan 5, 2018, 1:18 pm

    Love the name and look forward to the write up on the remodel.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 5, 2018, 3:11 pm

      Thanks! We’re having fun with it.

  • Mike Jan 5, 2018, 11:28 am

    This is awesome! I’m looking forward to seeing your adventures. Congratulations on the great find.

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 5, 2018, 12:45 pm

      Thanks so much! We’re super excited to share our adventures. 🙂

  • brian @ singledadmoney Jan 5, 2018, 11:01 am

    MMM Fam,

    Congrats on the purchase and sweet van. I too have been looking into part-timing in a van or something I can weekend out of. The vans around here, especially the camper vans, having been crazy high priced so I upped my search for class B and C RV’s too. I ended up finding a great deal on a 30′ Class A on December 30th, and went ahead and brought her home. It’ll fit all our needs (and then some). I can’t wait to get out in it and experience the small space living again, and travel again.


    • Mad Money Monster Jan 5, 2018, 12:45 pm

      That is so awesome. Congrats on your purchase and I look forward to hearing about your adventures!

  • Kim from Philadelphia Jan 5, 2018, 9:26 am

    OMG I love this!! May your family have many happy, safe mikes together!!

    Question- conversion means the back seat folds into 1 large bed?
    Where can you store stuff?
    When you are travellibgvwill you just stay in an RV park to use showers?
    You can’t cook in it, correct?
    (Can you tell I’m totally fascinated/ interested?) hehe!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 5, 2018, 12:44 pm

      Haha…I love that you love it! The back seat does fold down but the bed is pretty much worthless. We plan to remove it altogether and build a platform bed.

      We also plan to remove one of the captains chairs in the back to make room for storage. We’ll have to keep one chair in place for our little Mini. 🙂

      We’ll be carrying a travel cooker with us and probably (mostly) stay at campsites for showers and safety. We love the idea of parking on side streets and avoiding all costs for “lodging” but we just don’t feel safe doing that, especially with our 8-yr-old in tow.

      I’ll be sure to post many updates!

  • Mrs. Farmhouse Finance Jan 5, 2018, 8:00 am

    So cool! I’d love to buy a van and spend summer breaks (we’re teachers) traveling around the country. It looks like you guys got a great ride!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 5, 2018, 8:01 am

      Thanks! We can’t wait to get started. We took it out for a day trip last week and couldn’t have been more pleased. 🙂

  • Mrs. Adventure Rich Jan 5, 2018, 6:57 am

    haha- I love it! What an awesome van to start your VanLife journey! I look forward to following along 🙂

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 5, 2018, 7:17 am

      Thanks. We’re super excited! 🙂

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