It is 100% personal preference, budget, time, wants vs needs, and more!
I have done EXTENSIVE research on the custom conversion/build market- almost 4 years worth! When I first wanted a Class b camper van, ONLY hymer aktiv fit a family of 4. And, until fairly recently, most van build companies were on the West coast and we are on the East. Which proved to be very complicated when you have kids and schedules and can’t easily pick up and fly out for stuff. However, I recently have found at least 4 east coast companies that now do custom van conversions! Woot woot! I’ve spoken with all 4 of them prior to getting my pocket and they are ALL truly amazing and have GORGEOUS builds happening.
Why we ended up going with a larger, RV company and a “class b” camper van.
I did not want to pay outright for our van. We could ONLY afford it if we financed it. When you work with a custom build company you can only finance the actual van itself since it comes from a large dealership/company. Some dealerships and van build companies have deals worked out that if you purchase the van from a specific dealer the dealership will it out that you are are to do some of the van build financing through them – but really it isn’t the norm, and none of the east coast companies did it (as it isn’t the norm)
For everything I wanted/needed included it was the same price or more as the winnebago solis 59px. BUT, I had to wait 6-9mns to receive it and I wanted to get out on the road asap! To be honest, the larger, more costly Solis models also had a wait time – but not nearly as long! The Pocket since they are new and making them like crazy I was able to purchase within 3 weeks! If you’re wondering why we went with the Pocket over the other 2 models, Here are 6 reasons why!
This might seem silly but water is a big deal when you’re traveling and generally I have found that custom conversions often have smaller water tanks and their setups for filling, dumping, etc are not as easy to manage as they are in Class B vans. Many of them you need to pull a hose into the van to fill the tank or pull out a full tank to empty it. I just know I would make a big mess or it would be too heavy for me to carry with my back.
Historically, when you go with ANY small, unknown brands, regardless of the industry it is much harder to resell over a big name. Think about a purse. Does an unknown purse company bring as much value as a Prada or Louis Vuitton? Is it just as beautiful or well made, possibly. But, brand names always have an expected perceived value. You feel like you “know what you’re getting”. In addition, if you want or need to trade in your current van vehicle, a dealership almost always will not accept a custom build as a trade over a company made one for the reasons above.
Warranties and brand security
Of course any company can go out of business. However, the likelihood Winnebago is going out of business after 50+ years felt pretty secure to me. Where as a new company, you never know! It’s dang hard to get a company off the ground and successful for the long haul. As a first time van owner that felt a little scary! Also, with a custom van conversion company you might not be getting a warranty, or it might be very limited. I wanted that comfort in my first time around with a van.
On the flipside, here are some pluses to a custom built van.
- you get a different level of customer service. Working WITH the owner and builder can an amazing experience.
- Everything can be customized – to a degree. Different companies offer different build options, and have their own looks but you can choose what you want to add or remove based on your wants and needs and budget.
- You can choose your choice of van. Brand, 4×4 or FWD, used, new, length.
- They look BEAUTIFUL. when you have someone putting in their love like a custom builder does, it will always have a different level of look to it.
Would a custom van be in OUR future…? You never know! I do think when my girls are older it might be something I’d reconsider. But, I really `LOVE the solis models and I will be super interested to see what Winnebago does next and how they continue improve the vans – I have so many ideas for them! So, Winnebago, if you’re reading this… lets chat! 😜❤️