No size fits all
Before sharing our thought process to choose our vehicle it is important to say that we believe that there is no size fits all. Every person, couple or family to overland vast distances over long periods of time will have their own priorities and wishes which should be taken into account when choosing the vehicle. Specifics such as route, terrain, altitude, season, offer of fuel, services and safety play an important role. Besides that, whatever one chooses must fit the budget, which must be set not only considering the purchase and after market modification costs, but focus on the total cost of ownership, taking into account consumables, spares, service, and resell value (if selling at the end of the trip is something in the cards). Other aspects to take into account and often underestimated relate to practical aspects such as how to deal with the red tape when registering, insuring overseas, and shipping between continents or gaps. Whilst it may sound too much to look into, as long as you like the planing process you will certainly find enjoying as JP did.
Choosing our IVECO Daily 4x4 55S18W:
When we started thinking about the Panamerican JP wanted to do it on a motorbike. Being our first expedition and considering JP's limited motorcycle experience we decided that a 4x4 vehicle would be more appropriate. Then we thought about buying a Land Cruiser 76 series available in Dubai, installing a pop up camper on the top. When we realized the environmental tax costs of registering a new Euro ZERO vehicle in Romania in 2016, we gave up of the idea. Further consideration was given to the limited space of the lands with a pop up so we decided to look for further alternatives.
The Düsseldorf Caravan Salon is the largest RV show in Europe so we decided to check it out. There we could check regular 4x2 RVs and a number of 4x4 expedition trucks on display. The expedition trucks were certainly above our budget. The delivery time between 9 to 12 months were an issue. Whilst Ioana liked the homey feeling of the comfortable 4x2 European RVs JP had his mind set on a more robust and capable vehicle. Then there was space. Ioana wanted some space so we decided for a 4x4 expedition truck. We started looking at former military Mercedes and MAN trucks, and Unimogs with Zeppelin or equivalent living cells.
Back to Square 0
After traveling through Europe inspecting a number of large units JP realized that heavy units would not be a great fit for us. The units at good price required major modifications and revamps and the ones ready to go exceeded our budget. Besides the high cost, the modifications would require approximately 6 months whilst we had just about 3 to get it all ready to roll. When we factored the high fuel consumption, driving comfort, EU environmental restrictions, and resell considerations we decided to look at a different direction.
Back to square zero we realized quickly that we could not afford a new vehicle from established companies made from a Sprinter or IVECO Daily. Besides, buying a new vehicle would require after market upgrades such as solar, water filtration system, as well as all the camping gear, etc. So we looked for a second hand with low mileage and all those wanted after market items already installed.
On mobile.de we have found our current vehicle. It was ready to go and fitted our budget: an IVECO Daily 55S18W 4x4 that we love. The living cell was assembled in The Netherlands by a specialized company called Twiga Travel Cars using sturdy materials. It has all camping gear custom made. The truck was designed for long expeditions, practically self-sufficient, and with just 47,000 km it was almost brand new.
The truck proved to be a perfect fit for us and for this trip.
4X4 in the Americas?
Now that we are on the road I can tell you that in North America a 4x2 vehicle would do well 95% of the time. However, we enjoy our freedom to go wherever we want, including steep hills to reach those nice beachfront spots or wild camping spots that often require 4x4. This gives us the flexibility to sleep overnight anywhere. We are not too worried if the road to reach the camping spot is too rugged, remote or offroad. On top of this if you really want to reach the Arctic Ocean from Fairbanks, Alaska on Dalton Highway we recommend a 4x4.