i’m back

It’s been a bit. I took a long and lovely winter holiday. Got to hang out with an old friend from California, smoked a lot of pot, and spent a lot of time thinking about my van build. I have a pretty solid handle now on the basic layout, and I’ll be posting more about that soon.

I actually also just put a down payment on a van. I got a loan from Lightstream (the online lending division of SunTrust Bank). My credit score was up to 720 or so, and they agreed to loan me up to 25000 at 5.29% apr, to be paid back over 60 months. I’m going to pay it off much more aggressively than that (and only plan to borrow 13000). The rate is not great, but the minimum they’ll do for a used vehicle is 3.99%, so this was pretty good, I felt. My credit union offered me a loan at over 10%, which sealed the deal for SunTrust.

I spent a lovely stoned evening number-crunching loan stuff, and if I can pay this loan off inside of two years, the loan itself will end up costing me between 600 and 750 dollars, depending on how aggressively I pay it down. That’s money down the drain, but it’s a damn sight less than I would spend on rent in a year.

Initially I had been thinking I’d only be making payments for a year, that being the first year I’m living in the van. That plan, which was nice because it meant the loan would cost me like 200 dollars, did not account for any build time. I need to buy the van early rather than later so that I can start planning in greater detail and working on the build itself. This means I add the expense of loan payments earlier, and this reduces the amount of cash I have to put into the interior build. So I’ll be making the minimum payments for the first phase…payments begin in March, and I plan on making the minimum payments through August or September, when the build should be done and the next job should start. Then my lease on this apartment will be up, and I’ll start dropping that extra 1000/month (at least) onto the loan.

(I did make sure that this loan has no early repayment fees or penalties.)

My number crunching highlights what a huge difference it makes when you can get the principal on a loan down quickly, early. This is something I’ve heard finance people say before, but this was my first time looking at the numbers and thinking about my own money. After making the minimal payments for the first 8 months or so, it makes relatively little difference whether I then increase my payments to 1 or 2 thousand per month (this is the 600-750 range I gave for total loan cost). If I could pay 2k from day one, the loan would cost roughly 217 dollars total. If I pay minimums for the first 8 months and then aggressively pay 2k/month, it costs me 600, nearly tripling the cost.

But it is what it is. I’ll eat the cost to give myself more time to plan and build, and to go ahead and secure the vehicle itself now.

So I found several possible vehicles on cargurus. All that I’m looking at are Mercedes Sprinters with the 144″ wheelbase and the high top option. I’m mostly interested in the 2500 model, and I’m trying to keep the mileage at or below 150k.

My first choice was 13000$ with about 117k miles, and was in western NY, but some lady in Washington state bought it out from under me the day before I was going to go look at it. I found another in Pittsburgh PA with 153k miles for just under 13000$, and put a down payment on it yesterday. So I’ll be taking a bus over to Pittsburgh overnight Friday after work. (I’m actually going to NYC first and having dinner at a little Italian place I found online, and then from there over to PA.) If it looks good, I’ll be bringing it home on Saturday!

I haven’t posted here in a while so there’s a lot to say. I’ve gone through several different design iterations, and I’ll be posting more about that shortly. I’ll also be restructure this site shortly, so the van design and build process can be featured separately. But regular updates resume now, and these will include further discussion of what’s happened in the last month regarding the process.

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