BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Bikes, trikes, personal mobility and getting to/from the event - this is the place to discuss general transportation issues.
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Fade Monkey
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BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by Fade Monkey » Sun Jul 05, 2015 5:15 pm

Our camp has some structures that take about 12-14' of horizontal or vertical space to get to BM. In years past, we've 1) Rented a U-Haul (UGH oh God no), 2) Rented an RV (Shoot me in the head), and 3) Violated our rental agreement with Rent-A-Wreck and drove a cargo van out to the Playa. Out of these three choices, everyone agreed that despite blowing a tire on the way home and having to get it replaced near Crow's Landing on the 5 ... the Rent-A-Wreck was absolutely the best of the three solutions.

1) The U-Haul terms of service and the amount of time on playa make the rental nearly as costly as an RV.
2) The RV cost a bloody fortune and cleaning it / keeping it clean / paying the "Burning Man surcharges" etc... was pretty suck. Also, hauling our stuff in a place meant to be "lived in" wasn't all that wonderful.
3) The Rent-A-Wreck cargo van was definitely the best of the bunch even though Rent-a-Wreck insisted that we couldn't take it more than 100 miles from its home base.

So, my friends and I had an idea: A few of us have pretty darn good credit - and we could BUY a USED cargo van or a small box truck with an auto loan. If we buy it in the next three weeks, we should be able to get it "permanently" plated and insured by the time the playa opens. Anyone have any experience with this sort of idea? Did it work for you? Are we crazy?

Nerp

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motskyroonmatick
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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by motskyroonmatick » Sun Jul 05, 2015 7:06 pm

I bought a diesel Isuzu box truck 2 weeks before the burn in 07. Still have it. Runs great and gets all my stuff and my trailer to the burn and back fine. Think about buying something and keeping it unless the camp dynamic is too changing to make that work. Keep in mind higher GVW trucks are harder to break than lower GVW trucks when it comes to loading them down like burners do. Standard transmissions are less prone to failure than automatic transmissions. Try to get something that is a truck. Not a van turned in to a box truck IMHO. I bought my truck from a reseller that deals in lease return trucks. I paid a premium but got a good truck with good maintenance and tires with under 160k miles. When test driving the truck weigh it and do the math GVW(on a tag or sticker on the door frame or in the cab of truck) - truck weight =carrying capacity(how much weight you can safely and in some cases legally cary in it). Some low GVW trucks with large cargo boxes have a low carrying capacity. Those are trucks to avoid.

Buying the truck with an unsecured loan will allow you to get the title in hand which will make it much easier to sell once you get back from the burn. If several of you are going in on this together make sure you have a written plan and agree to buy out options and time frame if someone falls in love with the truck and wants to keep it. Good luck!!!!
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DoctorIknow
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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by DoctorIknow » Sun Jul 05, 2015 7:35 pm

Specifically for Burning Man, I bought a '91 Ford Econoline E250 in 2005 for $600 in Sacramento and it has been a real warhorse going to the playa for 8 years now with no major issues at all, knock on wood. A new back catalytic converter (the cheaper one), bypassing the heater as there was a leak (replacement cost would be just a little less than the vehicle!) helper springs (a GREAT way to never worry about the load, and less than $200 installed) and a few batteries (it is in storage 10 months of the year. I do have a smog test coming up (every two years in CA for that year vehicle) and I'm always nervous about it, as it has come close to fail twice. I did find a garage that runs it really hot and then immediately tests it, which has done the trick after it failed at another Smog station.

I wanted the Econoline (thanks, Craigslist) as I'd been borrowing the same model Econoline for burns from 1999 to 2004, and the owner sold it. That van also had no problems.

I see many old Econolines on the playa. I have no idea if Ford has made them less reliable in the process of going from analog to digital everything, and perhaps even micro-engineering the strength of the frame/roof (gotta walk on the roof!) so they can get better mileage results, but it's something to think about and research before buying. By now, there may be some data in that past a certain year they suck.

I've noticed quite a few newer vans have no rain gutter, or whatever they are called. An obvious way to save money making the vehicle (the reason Detroit scrapped the ever so useful "butterfly windows": one piece of glass cheaper than two with the additional metalwork separating the two). My rain gutters are super strong and the racks I use have a LOT of weight on them. Yes, I'm top heavy, and drive very slowly when the wind can pick up on the road from I-80 to Gerlach.

I use inexpensive but VERY strong Quick n' Easy racks with black plumbing pipe as the rack. The first year at BM my neighbor came over introducing himself as the owner of the company. Glad to see they are still in business.
quick and e-z car rack.JPG
quick n easy.JPG
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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by Meat Hunter » Sun Jul 05, 2015 7:49 pm

WOW. Those gutter clamps bring back long lost and forgotten memories of my irresponsible young adult years. I did not know that you could still purchased those gutter clamps.

I used that brand of gutter clamp in the early 1970's to transport two 15' aluminum canoes on top of my VW bug. Although some said that it looked more like two canoes fighting over which one was going to carrying off the VW and I would not have faulted them for saying that.

Those are some super strong gutter clamps.
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Fade Monkey
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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by Fade Monkey » Sun Jul 05, 2015 11:46 pm

Great thoughts and suggestions folks! I especially appreciate the "what to look for" post @motskyroonmatik! While I suppose I'm worried >somewhat< about weight issues, I'm more concerned that the engine, tires, and tranny all get to the playa and off the playa in one piece and without excessive drama.

I *can* say that when I picked up the Rent-a-Wreck last year, I was almost in tears because I had NO IDEA how crazy f-ed up those rentals really are. The whole van smelled like homeless feet; the driver's seat was basically a piece of un-upholstered foam with a coil or two sticking up for good measure; and, there was no stereo/speakers/entertainment at ALL anywhere on that barren dashboard. Somehow, though, we made it up and back even though it blew a tire on the way home. I would like to avoid that drama this year!

We're actually thinking that now if we can come in under $10K, we can get the whole thing for cash and sell it for close to what we bought it for. This would mean no loan fees, no sale hassle, and no worries cause we'll have the pink slip. Once we get back, we'll decide if we should keep it or sell it .. but honestly, it would just be going back and forth from LA to the Playa about every other year, so I'm not sure it would be worth keeping because of storage costs.

Nerp

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Doctor VonBacon
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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by Doctor VonBacon » Mon Jul 06, 2015 8:23 am

How much weight are you looking to transport?

A $10k budget gives you many options.

Ever think of pricing a used school bus and removing the seats?

Cheap (a relative term) , and plenty of room for cargo. And it should be a lot less than $10k.
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Bemerritt
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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by Bemerritt » Mon Jul 06, 2015 9:14 am

I recently bought a 1998 E350 Cargo van to convert as a camping van and to bring it to burning man. 125k miles, 7.3 liter diesel for under $7k. The thing is a tank and should be able to haul whatever I throw a it.

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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by trilobyte » Mon Jul 06, 2015 9:50 am

Tons of people get vehicles for Burning Man. So long as you have or are able to find a place to put it when you're not using it for the playa, and you guys get it maintained, I think it's a great idea.

The used cargo van my gf and I have was largely a Burning Man purchase. A friend was selling, and we were considering building a mutant vehicle that year (as well as considering the yearly cost of renting a van), and it made a lot of sense for us. Owning also gave us the freedom to fuck it up as part of turning it into a mutant vehicle (I ended up making/welding a custom steel rack to the frame), but the van's paid for itself in the savings on rentals alone. We live in SF and don't really do much driving, so finding a place to put it and keeping it maintained has been a bit of a chore (we pay for a parking sticker in our neighborhood and do the twice weekly 'street cleaning dance'), but we also have something we can use to haul supplies and materials around when we're gearing up for the event. Unless you have year-round plans for the thing, though, I'd recommend making a schedule for starting it up and doing a bit of driving/checking, as well as getting the maintenance stuff done (oil changes and stuff). That way you guys won't get blindsided by dryrot or gunked up engines or whatever.

Good luck!

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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by Just_Joe » Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:04 am

nerp wrote:...I'm more concerned that the engine, tires, and tranny all get to the playa and off the playa in one piece and without excessive drama.
After giving it a lot of thought, I ended up buying a used 14' tandem axle cargo trailer instead of a vehicle. Mechanically speaking, all I need to be concerned with are tires, bearings and brakes. Registration is dirt cheap and I now have a "shed" in the backyard for storage.
Of course, the challenge is to have someone in the camp with a vehicle able to pull it......

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Fade Monkey
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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by Fade Monkey » Mon Jul 06, 2015 11:49 am

Just_Joe wrote:...I ended up buying a used 14' tandem axle cargo trailer instead of a vehicle.
Yeah - that would be ideal for us as well. However, no one has a vehicle rated to tow ANYTHING ... so, of course my first thought was "I need a new car -- this Jeep looks cool ... and it can TOW THINGS." But, then I floated down to reality and thought - it's pretty unlikely that I would want to drive a gas guzzler every day just so I can tow things to Burning Man every other year. So, that's when we started thinking about a "one time purpose" vehicle.

Nerp

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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by Fade Monkey » Mon Jul 06, 2015 11:51 am

Bemerritt wrote:... 1998 E350 Cargo van.
The Rent-A-Wreck we had was an E350 - and it really was perfect for all our stuff. We had some extra crap in a couple of cars, but really, it worked out quite well. Good to know they are pretty darn reliable.

Terry

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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by SnowBlind » Mon Jul 06, 2015 3:09 pm

For those of you who bought an older cargo van or truck, how do you go about ensuring reliability?

I think I *really* would prefer to not break down on my way to or from the burn. Bring it on the other fifty weeks of the year, but not when I'm loaded to the gills with my whole camp.

Obviously you can do a lot of preventative maintenance, but you can only fix what you know is broken. What's been your experience with trying to run a 20 year old cargo van to the playa and back?

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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by pink » Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:04 pm

I have an '89 Dodge Ram 350 van conversion in 2005. Built on an extended wheelbase cargo van. The conversion parts are rotting, but the van runs great. It has only 73k miles on it and has the mopar 318 engine which is a little underpowered for the weight of the thing, but definitely adequate and the engine is a workhorse. Best v8 Chrysler has ever produced.

I've run it for 10 years now and did have the muffler & tailpipe drop of on my way back from a music festival a few years ago (playa is corrosive) bought a lot of tires, but it smogs just fine. Trick is to drive the gunk out of the engine before you smog it after it's been in storage all winter.
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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by Captain Goddammit » Tue Jul 07, 2015 8:12 pm

pink wrote: Best v8 Chrysler has ever produced.
In fact, the Chrysler 318 is the lowest warranty-return engine ever, period. It's arguably the best, depending on your criteria.

To answer the question, the two biggies are the transmission and the cooling system. If it were me, and I've done this a few times on a few trucks I've used to get to BM over the years, I'd get the transmission freshly rebuilt and put a fresh radiator in. You can't really tell for sure what shape either of those two are in by looking at them, and they are the two most likely things to go wrong in an old rig under a heavy load.
The radiator isn't horribly expensive. The transmission is gonna cost... but if it's an automatic with over 100,000 miles on it, there's no way in hell I'd head out to nowhere loaded heavy over mountains with it.
Regardless of whether you can squeeze the cash for the trans, absolutely install the best add-on transmission cooler you can find. Heat kills automatic transmissions, and going up hills heavy generates tons of heat.
An add-on electric fan is a good idea for the radiator too. Going uphill slowly while heavy generates tons of heat and you're not moving fast enough to get enough breeze.

Reliabilty under heavy load conditions is all about cooling.
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Re: BM Transport - Buying a truck?

Post by oly14 » Wed Jul 08, 2015 9:27 pm

nerp wrote:So, my friends and I had an idea: A few of us have pretty darn good credit - and we could BUY a USED cargo van or a small box truck with an auto loan. If we buy it in the next three weeks, we should be able to get it "permanently" plated and insured by the time the playa opens. Anyone have any experience with this sort of idea? Did it work for you? Are we crazy?
BM makes many of us do 'crazy' things, I bought a 14' box truck ('97 GMC Savana) before last year's burn. I built a bed platform inside, built a back wall (with door, window and swamp cooler opening) and stairs so I wouldn't have to open the roll-up door on the playa, and had a friend's son that is an art student 'decorate' the box. It's come in handy for a few people that have moved over the last year but it has otherwise been parked in a warehouse at a friend's business. That parking arrangement has made keeping it easier. For me, it's worked.

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