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View Poll Results: HDT or Conversion
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Old 07-01-2015, 09:52 PM   #1
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Hi all,
I've been lurking for a while, and really like what I see here.

I'm the "Daddy" in a young-ish family of 4 (34, 25, almost-6, and due any day) full-time ministers/Servants of the Most High that live full-time in an RV. *Whew* that was a mouthful!

Our first RV was a 32' bumper-pull TT that I built from an old Terry trailer frame. I didn't know to give the frame a thorough inspection, so due to weakened metal it bent like crazy while on my first trip (from VA to IL). We were pulling it with a '89 Chevy G20 conversion van (way underpowered), which tore up that transmission and rear end. In fact, we didn't make it quite to IL; we had to get someone else to tow the camper and we limped the last 100 miles in the van stuck in 2nd.

I currently have a '89 Winnebago Chieftain 33' (35.5 actual) Class A 454 Gasser. I've done a lot of work, but have only spent about $2500-$3000 on it in total so far ($1500 cash up front, the rest for materials). The problem is that I'm sure we're close to the weight limits (15k GVWR), and we don't have everything in it that we need. We don't have a sound system yet, nor do we have lights. I know the suspension is pretty much shot. And it can only tow 3500lbs! We don't have a car yet.

Still, it's been a pleasure to drive. Even with the 5-6 bounces after every bridge, the harsh ride, etc, I love love loved driving it. Something about being higher up, in a bigger vehicle, with good mirrors makes this much better to drive than a car. Plus, it's my house - so I could stop to grab something out of the fridge.

Even with all that taken into consideration, the motorhome's been feeling a little small, so I've been window shopping for a 5er. 'Course, by the time I find one that's big enough for my family, it seems like it's 20k+ lbs GVWR, which means I'd pretty much need to plop down $60k-$80k on a 1-ton dually diesel crew cab. If I'm going to do that, I might as well get an HDT, where I could still have comfy seats, the (mini)fridge, and possibly even a toilet if the sleeper's done right.

I'm now based out of Illinois. With that in mind, here come the questions.
1. In IL, how difficult is it to get it retitled and insured?

2. For the LEO's out there (I know I've seen at least one posting on here): would I have to get a CDL? We call ourselves "Team Jesus", and have business cards, but aren't registered as a non-profit. It's just our family - we aren't being sent by some organization or anything. We don't make any money except for a small amount of donations (so far it's been about $300 total over the past few years), but even so I've been doing IT work to pay for most everything. I'd like to stop doing IT work, but people would really have to start donating first. So at what point does our travelling to preach the Gospel, teach bible studies, and help everyone we can become considered "commercial" instead of "personal"?

3. HDT or Conversion? HDT could pull a 5-er, and possibly have a deck to haul a car as well. Or we might fit a car in a garage of a toy hauler 5-er. Conversion could pull an enclosed trailer, but has the longer wheelbase. If I'm going to pull a trailer, I'd rather the shortest wheelbase possible. Price would likely be the factor here: even if we get enough donations to buy something more expensive, we'd rather use the "extra" money to feed the homeless. Am I correct in assuming that a conversion would likely be much more expensive than a HDT-retitled-as-a-motorhome?

4. How difficult for a guy with a lot of mechanical aptitude but no experience (I watch Youtube videos, read articles, then go figure it out, and have been fairly successful), and no welding skills (yet) to do the work necessary to a truck to serve our purposes? If we go the HDT route, I'm thinking taking out the dinette from the sleeper, putting a toilet/sink on one side, then two conversion van seats on the other if possible, putting a vehicle on the bed like this:



and pulling a 5-er either with a hitch on the bed or a automated safety hitch like you see in that picture. And how long of a wheelbase would a rig like that have? Is there an inexpensive way to put the vehicle (probably a small or midsized sedan - we don't have a vehicle yet) on the back like that? With how far back the hitch would have to go, would the tail wag the dog due to crosswinds (I really had that problem towing the TT)?

5. If we go the conversion route, how difficult would it be to put a drop garage in with a kid's playroom/bedroom over it? The Little Ones are still pretty little (one still in her mommy for at least a few more hours if not days), so I'm not as worried about vertical space, and if I could get the garage to be about 18" or so off the ground, I could have 48-52" in the play room and still come in around 13' total (18" + 6' + 6" floor + 52" playroom + 6" ceiling= 12'10"). That would mean around 15-20' behind the rear axles, though, which would need to be quite strong frame extensions. Otherwise, how long could I expect to get and keep my wheelbase close to 200" so that I'd feel more comfortable pulling a trailer?

I've actually got lots more questions, but this is turning out to be way longer of a post than I'd like, so I'll leave it there for now.

Thanks!
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Old 07-05-2015, 11:00 PM   #2
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A 5'er will be less cost than a truck conversion, even including buying a used HDT to pull it; assuming approx equal used comparison. Most 5'er toy haulers are not set up for a car, they don't have the load capacity or garage length. Good for couple motorcycles or a UTV or golf cart and some misc supplies. Even the big 3 axle are not intended for full car. They don't have the load and they don't have the ramp capacity.

HDT has sufficient load to haul a car and the tongue weight on the truck. That pic you showed is likely just because of length, not hitch load. Look over on rv.net and they have a HDT section that has people with better experience with the HDT pulling a large 5'er. A simple solution for the car is just have your wife drive it following behind. Then you can use a shorter single axle HDT truck.

No clue on what IL rules are. Knowing how IL seems to be on most other stuff, I am sure it will be bureaucratic process at it's finest.

Any conversion you build yourself for a car length garage will most likely need a frame extension to get the wheelbase required, unless you find a long one by luck. I doubt you could build one for less than you could buy used, even not factoring in your labor as any cost.

Overall, you are talking a huge cost increase either way you go vs your current class C. I think you will have significant sticker shock, but understand that a bigger living quarters would be nice for the family and your ability for full timing.
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Old 07-06-2015, 09:29 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 38Chevy454 View Post
A simple solution for the car is just have your wife drive it following behind.
Only problem with that is that my wife doesn't drive and refuses to learn. :|

Quote:
Originally Posted by 38Chevy454 View Post
Overall, you are talking a huge cost increase either way you go vs your current class C.
With our current Class A, it's not *just* a matter of living quarters. My current Class A has some custom modifications that I've made, including taking out the dinette and wardrobe to make room for a loft bed for the son with storage underneath for toys, changing 2 twin beds in the back to a queen with a built-in co-sleeper bassinet, taking out the couch to make room for a crib mattress (montessori floor bed-style), taking out several overhead cabinets (we don't need the storage space; too small for sound equipment, too high up for kid's toys, and they were showing significant water damage), and taking out the bathroom sink and the other wardrobe to make a single larger hanging rod closet. But what we don't have is the ability to store enough ministry-related items. I'd prefer if we could find a way to bring stage, sound, and seating equipment with us so we could do "church in the park" type events.

We're going to be starting "congregations", not typical "churches". Our focus will be on house-to-house fellowship, and rarely having a set "church building". Because our events are open to the pubic and free, many local libraries will allow us to use their large meeting rooms for free if we want to have seminars, conferences, or larger worship services. Even if we had to rent space or reserve space in a park, the savings on carrying our sound equipment with us would be astronomical. This site suggests that by the time we rent the equipment about 50-100 times, we'd already have paid enough to buy an HDT, a decent used toy hauler, *and* all the equipment.

But it seems that this is all moot. I believe this wouldn't be considered personal use by DOT officials. My research suggests that the IRS would consider donations that come in "pay received as a member of the clergy", which means that if we *do* carry the instruments of our "trade" in a truck and trailer with a combined weight of 26,001+ lbs, we must have a CDL. This means that a large 20,000lb toy hauler being towed by any truck big enough to tow it bumps us into Class A CDL territory, and then the savings go out the window with commercial insurance (since I don't even have a CDL now, so I'd be a rookie and thus subject to higher rates). *sigh*
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Old 07-06-2015, 11:08 PM   #4
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38Chevy454, I'm pretty sure you must have meant rvnetwork.com, the Escapees forums. I have tried to see why rv.net doesn't have any chassis section for hdt's and truck conversions and have been beaten down by those idiots. They have a Super C section under the C section. They told me that covers it. Hogwash.
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Old 07-07-2015, 03:26 PM   #5
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Choosing between the HDT/trailer vs. Truck Conversion. It will be less expensive, like 38Chev said, to get the HDT/trailer. For us the Truck Conversion is the only way to go. It's so much better for us because driving in the living quarters. We often have friends/family travel with us. To pile everybody into the truck would just not be the same experience. I think you should make that decision if you want to all be together in the truck for the drive or not.
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