“We can do (it) fast, good and cheap. But only two at a time.” — Anon / Unknown
This pretty much sums up the process of getting a ride as well as the kind of ride as well. There are plenty of possibilities to motorized travel ranging from a scooter to a Truck / Bus. Since the weather in Western Europe can get pretty ugly I decided against bikes. At least as primary vehicle. It should be possible to stay in the vehicle for a couple of hours/days when it rains and it should have a decent insulation & heating to support travel at winter. Storage & operating range should allow at least a week without resupply. Offroad capabilities are not needed, but it shouldn’t dig in as soon as the tarmac ends (The German description would be “schlechtwegetauglich” which roughly translates as “is able to drive bad roads / good tracks”). These requirements lead to the following “Dimensions” of a travel vehicle which will later become an Axis in a Travel Vehicle Capability Matrix.
One of the few things which is really liberal in Germany is the speed limit. The word Autobahn doesn’t need translation. I’m so used to it that a laughed my ass off when okcupid asked me “Did you ever speed a car beyond 100mp/h (160 kph)?”. Yes I did. In driving school. You actually have to. Whatever.. A fast ride would mean a travel speed (not to be mistaken with maximum speed) of more than 100kph. By law everything heavier than 3.5 tons is only allowed to drive 80 kph with the exception of big mobile homes which are allowed to drive 100km/h on the Autobahn but only 80 (max) everywhere else. (The default speed limit outside towns is 100kp/h (62.5 mph), often 120kph (75mph) is allowed. I’m really curious how driving in the US might feel…)
Cheap in this case means priceworthy. The ride itself should meet my budget, spares should be cheap and available everywhere. I shouldn’t have to put in too much labour and repairs should be easy enough to do them myself. It also should be available on the market since my timewindow for acquisition is limited.
I really like remote places. These are by definition not accessible through perfect roads. So I often end up driving offroad tracks. In my experience a hardcore 4×4 is only needed in rare circumstances. A decent ground clearance, good tires with the right ™ pressure, the right driving technique and maybe a locking differential will bring you quite far.
Things I really hate Germany for: Umweltzonen (Emission controlled cities). A law utterly useless to protect the environment but really useful to sell new cars. Old Diesel engines are not allowed in most of the major cities in Germany anymore. If you are lucky you can equip your Vehicle with a Particlefilter which costs between 700-4000€ depending on your Vehicle. If you are unlucky there is no Filter available for your car. A quick research on mobile.de: Mobile Homes under 12.000€: 1681. Equipped with a green tag: 110. Most of these are either older than 30 years (emission laws don’t apply to classic cars) or petrol engines (the law is about diesel particles so as a rule of thumb every petrol engine without a carburettor get’s the green tag as well).
Fitted for daily use
Driving through the city with a big mobile home isn’t fun, finding a parking spot often impossible. So a car fitted for daily use should fit in a “normal” parking spot which means its not longer than approx. five meters.
In extreme environments a breakdown can kill you. For travelling Europe a breakdown means you have to spend some time and money to fix your ride. It almost certainly will be more expensive than a repair at home will be but that’s it more or less. And it’s a nuisance. But as I’m pride to maintain my own vehicles a major breakdown would really be embarrassing, so I’m planning to leave home with a ride which will need nothing but normal servicing for the next 30000km.
I’m more or less living in the vehicle for half a year so it should be spacious enough ™ to meet my needs. Memo to self: Discover needs…
Everything beyond 3m doesn’t fit though the door of the workshop I’m using. If I can’t squeeze the ride in it’s an devastating disadvantage…
What do I really need / what do I want?
A 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter with a decent mobile home conversion would propably be the best trade-off between all requirements. But the price tag attached is at least twice my budget. I could buy one but than there is no money left to travel which would mean to work for at least another six month which would raise my income tax percentage which would mean to work even more. So I’m forced to take the cheap option. So it’s either small & fast or big and slow.
The capability matrix
Sometimes it is just a question of enthusiasm:
At least he won’t get stuck at the campground….
Before I buy another pointless vehicle I’d repair the Station wagon (perfect for the trip due to its locking diff) or just put new offroad tires on the Transalp (also a decent travel vehicle…). So I got two aces up my sleeve and don’t really need to worry about the acquisition of yet another travel vehicle. Luxury problems they are…