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Author Topic: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice  (Read 1196 times)

Primus Palus

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Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« on: January 20, 2018, 04:57:17 PM »
So long story short... I'm going into business for myself and had initially decided I would steer away from using a trailer... to a shuttle bus. Unfortunately they're so few and far between around here that I would need to travel to multiple states to even look let alone buy. So, I decided I would instead go the RV route. Basically, I'm going to gut the inside and turn it into a mobile gaming theater. Very similar to what this guy did here:

https://rvarcade.com/

That said... I have a few questions mostly regarding the electrical side of things. I had planned to buy an Onan 7.0kW generator for the shuttle bus. I was going to mount it in the back or in a storage compartment. As most RV's come with generators... if I can score one with a 7.0 Onan (which a couple I'm looking at have)... will it be able to do what I need it to do? Can I expect to run the generator straight for 1-3 hours (the party, events, and charity lengths) and not run into problems?

In another thread people talked about CO2 problems. Would the generator being mounted on the underside and essentially outside, not negate any possibility that CO would make it into the interior? I don't think (?) that the vehicles batteries would be able to support the amount of power needed to run the lights, 5 televisions, consoles, and other things like heating/AC. But in every build for these MGT's, they all use the same 7.0kW generator.

Thoughts?

donn

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2018, 05:42:25 PM »
How big are you going?  There are usually lots of used shuttle busses near major airports that might be a good fit.  Typically TTs are not built as sturdy as you might want, so please reconsider your ideas.

Primus Palus

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2018, 05:58:25 PM »
I'm looking at 30'+ Class A's. There are no decent sales of shuttle buses here even though we have an international airport. Most dealers or even craigslist ads are much too expensive ($50,000+) for a comparable interior size. I can get a decent Class A in my area for $25,000-$35,000. I define decent as good looking exterior (little to no damage), good mechanical working order, and low mileage (< 70,000). Out of state I can score an equal priced and sized limo bus... but the travel is ridiculous to look at them and purchase. I would need to visit at least three states to look at what I can find online. Not to mention the $5,000 price for just the generator purchase alone.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2018, 06:02:05 PM by Primus Palus »

Lou Schneider

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2018, 06:12:54 PM »
7 Kw equals 58 amps of AC power at 120 volts.  The circuits you run to your gaming machines will be 15 or 20 amps per group of games.  I'll bet you can plug at least a half dozen game consoles into a single 20 amp circuit without any problems.

RV generators run for hours at a time when they're parked in a campground, often running high draw air conditioners along with the rest of the RV's loads.  So you shouldn't have any problem running your gaming machines.

Take note of what kind of fuel the built in generator uses.  The generator can be gas, diesel or propane.  Gas and diesel draw from the vehicle's tank, with a built-in shutoff if the tank drops below about 1/4 full.  This is so they can't strand you without a way to drive the RV to a filling station.

Propane generators draw fuel from a propane tank, the same one that feeds the propane stove, water heater and gas furnace.  They create the cleanest exhaust, but you have to refill the propane tank on a regular basis.

Figure on using between 1/2 and 1 gallon per hour of fuel, with diesel being the most efficient, gasoline being in the middle and propane coming up last (using the most fuel per HP).

As far as the exhaust goes, most generators just exhaust them down low adjacent to the wall of the RV.  This can create carbon monoxide problems inside if the wind is blowing just right, so CO detectors inside the van to alert to CO buildup are a must.

You can minimize exhaust buildup by extending the generator's tailpipe up and beyond the roofline, so convection can carry the hot exhaust gasses up and away.  You can permanently plumb the exhaust this way when you do the remodeling, or purchase an aftermarket exhaust stack called a Genturi that clamps onto the generator tailpipe and the RV's wall.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2018, 06:20:09 PM by Lou Schneider »

Primus Palus

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2018, 06:17:53 PM »
Perfect. Thanks for all that. That's extremely helpful. I originally did not plan on diesel at all thinking cost effectiveness and how much cheaper gas is here compared to diesel (about 30 cents difference). But... if I'm likely to get more out of the diesel (and most of these bigger RV's seem to all be diesel based)... I might go that route.

How loud are these diesel generators in the RV's? If you were inside. I did a bunch of research on the gas generators for the bus and planned on creating a sound dampening box but don't see that working here.

Lou Schneider

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2018, 06:27:37 PM »
A properly mounted generator of any type will be surrounded by a steel box creating a firewall between it and the inside of the RV.  You can glue sound deadening floormats to the outside of the box, with this the interior noise should be about the same as idling the RV's main engine.

Diesel generators designed for RVs will be inherently low noise.  There are some aftermarket generators designed for other uses (home emergency power or use on a construction site) that are much noisier.

Primus Palus

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2018, 06:32:58 PM »
Appreciate the reply. Thanks for that. This is all helpful.

I know this is a loaded question but for anyone reading keeping in mind my goals here... should I be looking for anything specific when buying my RV? Obviously I want low mileage, I want it to run well and well maintained. I am looking early 2000's and saw mention of the roof needing to be redone. What should I want to see with these Class A's? When I'm buying, or maybe when you bought yours... how much bartering was involved? I've purchased a bunch of vehicles and only had about $1,000 off the list price... are RV prices more flexible given the supply and demand? People and dealers willing to flex more?

Any particular models, engines, etc that I should steer clear of?

Isaac-1

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2018, 11:32:02 PM »
You should steer clear of anything with roof issues, they are almost always beyond economical repair and the damage (rot) will be far more extensive than expected.

On a side point where is here, it seems like shuttle buses are available for sale everywhere, I know of 2 of them that are for sale within 5 miles of my house, one of which has been for sale for several months and I live in middle of nowhere western Louisiana.

p.s. you might also consider used school buses, some of them even have generators and air conditioning (often ones used for taking football teams to games, etc.)
2002 Safari Trek 2830

Primus Palus

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2018, 11:45:00 PM »
Trust me when I say... there are 0 shuttles that fit the length I need at the price I need. But if I travel to Las Vegas I can find a bunch as well as California. There are about 6 or 8 here and all $50,000+.

I did look at school buses. They're nice because they're all big and standard and cheap too (you can get them between $5,000-$20,000 here with most of them not even needing any mechanical work). The problem with buses comes the registration, CDL requirements, and insurance. Which because of how it'll end up being registered, will cost a lot. If it goes over a certain weight, I need a CDL. With RV's, they're exempt from that and insurance shouldn't be as bad as a bus. Insurance apparently thinks a school bus is the same as a transit bus too and when CDL stuff is involved they get to tack on a bunch of extra cash. Even though it wont be driven that much and transporting no one but me. My first registration with the RV will be as an RV. It'll still have all the internals (oven, fridge, bed, etc). Later when I need to re-register I might have to reclassify it when I gut it out.

As for the roof... anything I should be looking for as indicators or is it pretty obvious?

Isaac-1

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2018, 11:59:13 PM »
Water stains, rot, etc.

Over the years I have known a few people that have bought RV's and tried converting them to various business uses, the big problems they ran into were buying insurance, and ending up requiring CDL or at a minimum class D licenses.
2002 Safari Trek 2830

Primus Palus

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2018, 01:44:36 AM »
For Colorado...

You must have a valid CDL to operate:

Any commercial motor vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more
Any commercial vehicle that is designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver
Any vehicle transporting hazardous material and is required to be placarded in accordance with 49 CFR Part 172, Subpart F

So the CDL should be a non issue for the RV. But is problematic for the bus if it's originally designed to be a transport vehicle.

I did some research. :P

Larry N.

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2018, 08:58:53 AM »
For Colorado...

You must have a valid CDL to operate:

Any commercial motor vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more
Any commercial vehicle that is designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver
Any vehicle transporting hazardous material and is required to be placarded in accordance with 49 CFR Part 172, Subpart F

So the CDL should be a non issue for the RV. But is problematic for the bus if it's originally designed to be a transport vehicle.

I did some research. :P

However, you are planning to turn this former RV into a commercial vehicle. Though it's not for transport of passengers or cargo, it's still a commercial enterprise, rather than a private home on wheels. I don't know all the implications, but keep that in mind.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2018, 09:02:18 AM by Larry N. »
Larry and Mary Ann N.
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JosephGrey

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2018, 02:39:26 PM »
Have you already thrown out school buses as an option?  They tend to be very well maintained, available in a variety of lengths.  Usually they are priced very attractively.  Heavy frame for building lots of custom stuff.  I have seen one guy do a roof bump up behind the drivers seat, back to the back of the bus.  It gave him close to eight foot ceiling height.  With the low purchase price of the bus, and a lot of talent on his part, a project like that can be feasible.

--jg
Blogging my Stealth Camper build.  Check out the whole project at http://livingonthestealth.blogspot.com

gravesdiesel

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2018, 02:42:18 PM »
This would be an epic generator for your application.  You could run your two air conditioners and all the gaming accessories easily.
https://www.electricgeneratorsdirect.com/Cummins-Onan-RV-QD-8000/p6601.html?gclid=Cj0KCQiAtJbTBRDkARIsAIA0a5Pgb5WHRN5tRfF-24HLkTPLT9NJpX5ra6LdoTeCjW9htmDuwvbO8AIaAh0gEALw_wcB
2016 KZ Spree 262 RKS
2003 Dodge 3500 4 door flatbed 4x4 diesel, 6 speed
1996 Dodge 3500 extra cab flatbed 4x4 diesel 5 speed
2006 Arctic Cat TRV diesel 4x4 ATV
(2) 1981 Yamaha G1 2 cycle golf carts
Many other diesels on the farm!

Primus Palus

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2018, 07:43:46 PM »
Have you already thrown out school buses as an option?  They tend to be very well maintained, available in a variety of lengths.  Usually they are priced very attractively.  Heavy frame for building lots of custom stuff.  I have seen one guy do a roof bump up behind the drivers seat, back to the back of the bus.  It gave him close to eight foot ceiling height.  With the low purchase price of the bus, and a lot of talent on his part, a project like that can be feasible.

--jg

The problem with a school bus is that it is designed to carry more than 16 passengers, which then becomes a CDL required vehicle. If the bus was to be converted into an RV, and registered... then no CDL would be required. Either if I did that or the previous owner did.

On a side note... has anyone ever removed their slide? As in, had the slide walls removed and the outer wall permanently put in place? In looking at RV's this week, the slide walls are causing some concern for my planned build. I can split the bench seating by the slide wall, but it'll be annoying. I've looked at Class C's but we don't have many in this state let alone ones without slides.

This would be an epic generator for your application.  You could run your two air conditioners and all the gaming accessories easily.
https://www.electricgeneratorsdirect.com/Cummins-Onan-RV-QD-8000/p6601.html?gclid=Cj0KCQiAtJbTBRDkARIsAIA0a5Pgb5WHRN5tRfF-24HLkTPLT9NJpX5ra6LdoTeCjW9htmDuwvbO8AIaAh0gEALw_wcB

I'm looking at an RV with an Onan 7500 tomorrow that I think will be solid. I had planned on the 7000/7kW... but even better with the 7500. 8000 might be overkill.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2018, 08:26:37 PM by Primus Palus »

Lou Schneider

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #15 on: January 24, 2018, 12:03:53 AM »
If you don't want a slideout, I think you'd be better off looking at an older RV (probably pre-2000) without a slide.  Non-slide RVs are much less expensive because most people want the extra interior space offered by the slide.

Can you remove the slide and plug up the hole with a new wall section?  Sure, but it will probably look like you removed the slide. i.e it will be hard to make it blend seamlessly into the exterior wall.

Arch Hoagland

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2018, 12:44:03 AM »
Where are you going to store the RV when you aren't using it?

Also where are you located?
2004 Monaco La Palma 36 DBD
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2000 Lexus RX300, 4020lb
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Primus Palus

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #17 on: January 24, 2018, 10:52:04 AM »
If you don't want a slideout, I think you'd be better off looking at an older RV (probably pre-2000) without a slide.  Non-slide RVs are much less expensive because most people want the extra interior space offered by the slide.

Can you remove the slide and plug up the hole with a new wall section?  Sure, but it will probably look like you removed the slide. i.e it will be hard to make it blend seamlessly into the exterior wall.

The entire exterior will be vinyl wrapped so I would hope it wouldn't be too evident. I have been looking at Class C's too, and focusing on late 90's and early 2000's. They consistently have smaller slides or none at all.

Where are you going to store the RV when you aren't using it?

Also where are you located?

For the time being until I have a business office/garage the RV will be stored at my home. I'm located in Colorado.

jagnweiner

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2018, 11:46:42 AM »
Interesting idea.  I looked at the website you linked to for the other operator.  It looks like he used a late 90's-very early 2000's gas class A without a slide.  Looks to me like it's about 34'.  You could probably get something like that in good condition for $10-15K.  I definitely agree you should look for one without a slide, which is almost impossible after about 2001.  You're going to want to look for low hours on the generator, since you plan to use it a lot, and I would definitely avoid an LP generator if you can due to convenience and fuel cost.

Another thing to be aware of:  Throughout the 2000s and maybe the late 90s, Winnebago and Itasca Class A coaches used a "basement" air conditioning system, where the AC unit is located underneath the coach.  While they have some advantages, when they break they are expensive to repair or replace.  (Don't ask how I know)  On the other hand, standard rooftop systems are pretty easy and relatively inexpensive to replace.

As far as gas vs. diesel, I'm not sure diesel would give you a whole lot of advantage, unless you are planning to travel long distances.  (Or over mountains)  As I understand it, you will drive the coach to the location of an event and it will be stationary while there; you won't use it for passengers. Although diesel would give you greater carrying capacity, I don't think you will have a weight issue since you will be stripping out all original furniture and you won't have water or waste tanks.  I guess one other advantage of a diesel coach would be size and layout.  Almost all are at least 36' and the door is usually in the front so it wouldn't break up your seating.

Final thought:  Leveling.  Think about whether you want a coach with leveling jacks so that if necessary you can level it at the event site.  If you do use leveling jacks, you will want to make plywood bases to put under the jacks so you don't put divots in someone's asphalt.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 11:48:57 AM by jagnweiner »
-Scott
2000 Itasca Horizon 36LD

Arch Hoagland

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Re: Converting an RV For Another Purpose, Need Advice
« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2018, 03:32:47 PM »
What kind of permits and licenses do you have to obtain to run that type of business?

Have you talked to an accountant about tax implications....write offs, depreciation, etc? Sounds like you may be able to write off a lot of the expense including purchase.
2004 Monaco La Palma 36 DBD
W22, 8.1 gas,  Allison 1000 Transmission
7.1 MPG over 90,000 miles

2000 Lexus RX300, 4020lb
U.S. Gear Braking System