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Considering converting cargo trailer to RV - need advice

PDX1953
Explorer
Explorer
I have a 2010 Ford Flex FWD non-Eco Boost V6 which will allow me to tow a maximum of 4500#. Since I'm single and don't need/want a huge travel trailer I've been looking at (approx size) 7' x 14' cargo trailers that have been converted to fully functional units for camping.

I'm retired & have a physical disability that affects my ability to walk a lot on uneven terrain. This issue will be improved dramatically because I've purchased a Segway-based wheelchair that goes almost anywhere able bodied people walk. It won't climb rocks but uneven ground, decent hiking trails and other types of terrain are no problem. It's being built in Greece and should be here by the end of this month. I have an electric lift in the back of my Flex so I should be able to load it easily.

I'm not looking for a "stealth" RV but want a non V-nose trailer so I can build an enclosed box/carrier for my new chair where the V would normally be. This is so I wouldn't need to unhitch the trailer every time I wanted to use my chair at WalMart, etc. I also want barn doors because I want a portion of the trailer to hold tools, supplies and some of my firearms. The RV will have a single Murphy bed that runs lengthwise which should allow for a desk / work area when the bed is folded. I'll need potable water/ grey water and possible black water tanks. I'm planning on using a remote controlled Maxxair vent because I can't lift my arms high enough to reach the knob, etc. I'm also looking at a small A/C unit, either a 12V/24V semi truck sleeper unit or a portable 120v unit that can be left in a cabinet & vented through the wall as needed.

To power this trailer I'm planning on using as many high-wattage solar panels with associated batteries, inverters & controllers.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what I'm trying to achieve on a budget of around $10,000. Much of the work will be farmed out to my brother who's an excellent builder/finish carpenter and I'll be able to help with some of it. An alternative is to purchase a unit that's already converted but so far I haven't found any forums or sites that have them for sale.

I've watched a butt-load-o-videos on YouTube about these conversions and while some are very well done (wiring/plumbing run neatly) too many of them look like an electrician's and plumber's nightmare. If you have any experience with this type of conversion I'd like to get your advice. Please don't respond with "buy a travel trailer" because what I've seen for $10,000 is either an old unit with who knows what problems or some cheaply built **** that won't hold together.

I live in Oregon, about 40 miles west of Portland so if you've converted a cargo trailer, are interested in helping build one or know anyone who has one for sale anywhere west of the Mississippi please contact me via PM.
34 REPLIES 34

catkins
Explorer
Explorer
Have a friend who has converted her camper shell to a small living space that is fine for her. Trouble is, she is now finding lots of park will not allow her to stay there as she is not self-contained. She can sometimes stay in a tent area but would like to stay where she can have electricity to watch her TV. Struggling to figure out what she can and cannot do. Just be aware of possible restrictions on converted trailers/vans/trucks in many parks.

JaxDad
Explorer III
Explorer III
PDX1953 wrote:
JaxDad wrote:
PDX1953 wrote:
There area lot of very active retirees with high quality woodworking, plumbing and electrical experience so I'll try to find one locally. If not there are cargo trailer companies who have preconfigured packages available.


Just be aware that as soon as you install 120 volt electrical, propane for cooking or heating or city water plumbing you get into legal issues and may well be refused a place to park it.

More and more people are getting fussy about certifications these days.


I notice you're In Canada (unless that's Ontario CA) and I know in my area we wouldn't have any issues. I'm not in a HOA & even have a long shared driveway where I could store it. My Neighbor stores his travel trailer (probably 25') next his house & behind a fence. I'd put mine in a local storage facility or if it'd be a lot less expensive somewhere I could drive to in 6 - 8 hours. I might be able to store it at my friends place - he has 160 acres in the middle of nowhere & nobody gets on his property unnoticed.


Sorry, I didn’t see your reply until now.

You misunderstood me, I didn’t mean “park” as in where you keep it. I meant where you park it to camp in it.

Anybody can convert a cargo trailer into a camper or toy hauler / camper, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily legal.

Unless it’s certified as to propane, 120 volt power and plumbing, you might just have a problem into c/g’s, private or public.

ppine
Explorer II
Explorer II
valhalla went right to it. If you have a disability make it easy on yourself and just buy a toyhauler already made up. Easy access. Light and easy to haul.

2gypsies1
Explorer
Explorer
ktmrfs wrote:
here is a picture of my 7x14 cargo sport converted to TT/toyhauler




fridge, microwave, gas furnace, AC, full shower, 40 gallon grey, 20 gallon fresh, porta potty, 6 gallon HWH, 2 burner suburban cooktop, sink, awning

bed and couch folded up can haul 3 dirt bikes.


Nice conversion. What did you pull it with?
Full-Timed for 16 Years
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bikendan
Explorer
Explorer
YEP, just because it has a tow rating, doesn't mean it can pull a barn door through the air safely.

Vehicles like the Flex are designed as people movers, not for towing.
Unibody, front wheel drive and high gear ratios are all negatives for towing.
Dan- Firefighter, Retired:C, Shawn- Musician/Entrepreneur:W, Zoe- Faithful Golden Retriever(RIP:(), 2014 Ford F150 3.5 EcoboostMax Tow pkg, 2016 PrimeTime TracerAIR 255 w/4pt Equalizer and 5 Mtn. bikes and 2 Road bikes

PDX1953
Explorer
Explorer
If anyone is following this thread it's now a non-discussion. I had Dunesport in Mesa, AZ build me a custom 12' x 7' mini toy hauler. I towed it home to OR with my Ford Flex and it was a horrible experience. I learned that just because Ford says it CAN tow 4500# it doesn't mean you SHOULD.

I fueled up in Sacramento & from there to Mesa averaged 22.5 mpg (2wd, non EB engine) and that included climbing Tehachapi Pass and driving 70+ most of the way. I left Dunesport during rush hour & my first stop was in Surprize, AZ, 40 miles away. My mpg had dropped to 12 mpg but the worst was the climb from Vegas to Tonopah - 200 miles & a 2000' climb. That was 6.2 mpg so I knew the Flex wasn't cut out for it. I found a one-owner 2wd 2005 F-150 XLT extended cab with a 6.5' bed an 59,035 miles on it. It had been maintained faithfully and for some reason the transmission had been completely rebuilt with all HD parts 1400 miles (9 months before I bought it) from the late owner's estate. I paid $10,000, had to spend $1000 on new tires & I had a new audio/nav system installed. I sold the Flex quickly on CL without any issues and the f-150 was what I needed all along. Now my towing anxieties are over.

PDX1953
Explorer
Explorer
JaxDad wrote:
PDX1953 wrote:
There area lot of very active retirees with high quality woodworking, plumbing and electrical experience so I'll try to find one locally. If not there are cargo trailer companies who have preconfigured packages available.


Just be aware that as soon as you install 120 volt electrical, propane for cooking or heating or city water plumbing you get into legal issues and may well be refused a place to park it.

More and more people are getting fussy about certifications these days.


I notice you're In Canada (unless that's Ontario CA) and I know in my area we wouldn't have any issues. I'm not in a HOA & even have a long shared driveway where I could store it. My Neighbor stores his travel trailer (probably 25') next his house & behind a fence. I'd put mine in a local storage facility or if it'd be a lot less expensive somewhere I could drive to in 6 - 8 hours. I might be able to store it at my friends place - he has 160 acres in the middle of nowhere & nobody gets on his property unnoticed.

centerline
Explorer
Explorer
I agree with the previous replies.

I had the same idea at one time.
after owning many older trailers and campers, I finally got tired of the leaks and constant repairs of the components and such in "pre-built" units, AND, I wanted room to haul my atvs also.
so I bought a new 24ft interstate cargo "car" trailer with the specific intent to convert i into a comfortable camping trailer, with the ability to haul 2 quads in...
I succeeded and have gotten many compliments on it.

I built a queen murphy bed and a bulkhead for an enclosed potty area forward with an electric flush portpotti.
it has installed shelving throughout and a mounted microwave oven
for heat, I installed a newport-dickensen marine diesel stove. it keeps the interior temps at 68-70 degrees down to about 17degrees outside (been tested).
it has an insulated roof and floor and is wired for 110vac and 12vdc with an installed charger.
it also has a custom built stainless steel roof deck for hauling a small boat and has an installed roof pod for extra storage.

its warm, dry and extremely low maintenance.... and it is for sale...

the down side to it, it sets too low for tanks to be installed below,
so its conversion capabilities are limited without some expensive modifications or special self contained deck mounted components.

as comfortable and roomy as it is for an "outdoorsmans" camp trailer, with nearly as much space as a 32ft toyhauler, it comes at some expense because its not loaded down with a sink, hot water heater, plumbing, built in furnace or air conditioner, all of which take double flooring or roofing for duct work.
neither does it have a couch or easy chairs, dinette or installed stove or propane system.

we use folding camp tables and chairs that can be stowed when we have the quads loaded and traveling

it is more set up to live cheaply and simply "off the grid", with a small honda genset for charging the batteries and running the microwave oven when necessary.
at one time I planned to mount solar panels to the roof, but I found I didnt need them...
and as life will sometimes lead us in another direction, it has led me in a direction where I no longer use this trailer.

I agree that a manufactured toy hauler would be your best option, but only because it has all that you want, and all the work has been done.... its ready to live in. and it will cost more to do a conversion than it does to buy a nice ready-to-live-in used unit.
the "toy hauler" recommendation only because it has an open floor plan and would allow you to move around easier... and on summer days, its nice to open the back door and enjoy the outdoors for awhile.

the only downside (in my opinion) to a manufactured unit is, there is always the worry of eventual roof or window leaks and the costly repairs of the damage caused by them, and the cost of component repairs, such as troubleshooting and electronic control boards
everything is a trade off...
2007 M-3705 SLC weekend warrior, 5th wheel
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2004 Polaris Sportsman 700
2005 Polaris Sportsman 500 HO
1979 Bayliner 2556 FB Convertible Cruiser
Heavy Equipment Repair & Specialty Welding...

JaxDad
Explorer III
Explorer III
PDX1953 wrote:
There area lot of very active retirees with high quality woodworking, plumbing and electrical experience so I'll try to find one locally. If not there are cargo trailer companies who have preconfigured packages available.


Just be aware that as soon as you install 120 volt electrical, propane for cooking or heating or city water plumbing you get into legal issues and may well be refused a place to park it.

More and more people are getting fussy about certifications these days.

PDX1953
Explorer
Explorer
ppine wrote:
During the last recession a lot of consruction workers started modifying their utility trailers for trips away from home. Most are fairly primitive. Utility trailers are poorly insulated and have few windows. They are hard to heat and cool. They are close to the ground with little room underneath for tanks.

For what it costs to put one together you can find a lot of used trailer for the same money or much less.


Since the recession is long gone and carpenters are in short supply I won't be able to find one there. There area lot of very active retirees with high quality woodworking, plumbing and electrical experience so I'll try to find one locally. If not there are cargo trailer companies who have preconfigured packages available.

I know what I want, have a special need for a couple of items so unless I fall across a used 14' - 16' travel trailer in excellent condition I'll probably build something. I got a quote from a cargo trailer company to build a 7x14 & it didn't even have a number of thing I'd spec'd. Price was $17000 w/o any ability to frame mount tanks under the floor. They won't get any of my money.

ppine
Explorer II
Explorer II
During the last recession a lot of consruction workers started modifying their utility trailers for trips away from home. Most are fairly primitive. Utility trailers are poorly insulated and have few windows. They are hard to heat and cool. They are close to the ground with little room underneath for tanks.

For what it costs to put one together you can find a lot of used trailer for the same money or much less.

PDX1953
Explorer
Explorer
Thanks for the pointers to the Play-Mor site & the Tiny Trailer forum.

I stumbled across a YouTube video for a company in Mesa (Dunesport) & they'll build whatever you want. They built a 12' unit for an old fart like me & it had 3 individual 50 gallon tanks (water, grey & black) which is unusual for something that small. It was pretty well optioned & most likely out of my price range but it's a place to start.

RV America always needs units shuttled from all over the country to their Mesa, AZ refurb facility. My son lives in Sacramento so I can pick one up there on 1/11/18 & drop it off on 1/16/18 and it'd allow me to go to the RTR in Quartzite in January. My total cost for 5 days would be $210 plus gas & the first 1000 miles are free. The issue is the RV door - it's 22" wide & my new Segway based wheelchair is about 29" wide. I can walk on even, flat surface but any type of uneven terrain is a problem so I need the chair. If I remove the tires & fenders (5 minutes) it'll fit through the doorway but it'd require someone on each end to help me load/unload/reload it. Then there's the issue of getting from Mesa back to Sacramento but I can rent a minivan or SUV & use portable aluminum ramps to load the chair. So - I have some figgerin' to do in the meantime.

Keep those ideas coming folks!

wecamp04
Explorer
Explorer
Look on tnttt.com lots of information and how to on teardrops and cargo trailer.

Bipeflier
Explorer
Explorer
Might look at something like this Play-Mor Motosport

They are built locally to me here in Missouri and build a very good trailer. They build the entire trailer, frame and all!
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