By Brad Peterson
Adventure Wagon often gets asked if conversion vans, and specifically vans built with the Adventure Wagon interior system, are considered RVs. This is not a black and white question as RV classification has different meanings for different applications including RV titling, financing and insurance. There are no universal RV standards or processes that apply to every insurance company, finance company, or motor vehicle department, but there are some common concepts for each. To get the most accurate and current information for your situation, you must contact these institutions yourself. So, are Adventure Wagon equipped vans classified as RVs? Short answer: Yes, in some cases by some institutions. Clear as mud…More details below!
TITLING A CONVERSION VAN AS AN RV
What is an RV title?
When a traditional RV is built by one of the major manufacturers (Winnebago, Storyteller, Thor, Airstream, etc.) it will come with a title stating it is an RV. Most of these also come with a certification confirming they are a built to standards dictated by the RV Industry Association (RVIA) and conform to specific National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) safety codes. There are also some smaller van builders who are RVIA members that sell completed vans with the RVIA certification and provide an RV title. If you’re having a van built, and an RV title is important to you, be certain to ask them.
Do I need an RV title for my conversion van?
Having an RV title and RVIA certification is beneficial for many reasons:
RV financing typically requires an RV title and RVIA certification.
Insuring your conversion van as an RV is generally easier (but is not required) if titled as an RV. RV insurance is usually much less expensive than insurance for a cargo or passenger van.
Some campgrounds and RV parks require RVIA certification and do not want the risk of hosting vehicles that are not safety-compliant.
If the above are not important to you, then you do not need to concern yourself with an RV title.
Can an Adventure Wagon equipped conversion van be titled as an RV?
The Winnebago-Adventure Wagon models available through RV dealers across the country are built by Winnebago and come with an RV title and RVIA certification. Adventure Wagon is not an RVIA member and makes no claims about compliance with the necessary codes. If you find an independent, RVIA-member van builder, we are confident that they could use the Adventure Wagon system to build a compliant, RV-titled conversion van just as Winnebago does. (We are not aware of any that have been built in this manner.)
Can a DIY van be titled or re-titled as an RV?
Sometimes a home-built, do-it-yourself conversion van can be titled as an RV. In the State of Oregon, you can self-certify compliance with the appropriate NFPA and other standards when applying for a title or requesting the title be changed to an RV. The required form - https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/Forms/DMV/226fill.pdf - states the following: “If a recreational vehicle, I certify it meets the NFPA 1192, NFPA 501C or ANSI A119.2 standard in effect at the time of manufacture.” Building a van to these codes will require an immense amount of research and builder skill. Attesting to such standards might be something to discuss with your lawyer. Other states may have similar avenues for RV titling, so check with your motor vehicle department.
FINANCING A CONVERSION VAN AS AN RV
RV financing is a great way to help ease the financial impact of purchasing a conversion van since banks allow payment terms up to 20 years. In almost all circumstances, you’ll need an RV title to get RV financing. However, even if you manage to get such a title for your DIY conversion van, you still may not be able to secure an RV loan since the banks won’t have the make and model in their database as ‘approved’ models. Currently, the Winnebago-Adventure Wagon models are the only Adventure Wagon vans that can get RV financing.
INSURING A CONVERSION VAN AS AN RV
Insuring your conversion van as an RV is beneficial due to lower premiums and often the ability to insure it for a value that represents it’s true replacement value. Getting this accomplished, especially for a DIY built van, will differ from insurance company to insurance company. I have personal experience with State Farm and Progressive, both who successfully insured my Adventure Wagon-equipped van as an RV. The process with each company, however, was quite different. In neither case was an RV title needed.
My local State Farm agent was very helpful and knowledgeable, and simply asked for photos of the bed, a stove, water system, and auxiliary battery system. The stove was a portable butane unit in the galley drawer. The sink used a few jugs for fresh and grey water. The battery system was a portable Goal Zero unit. This is a pretty minimalist build and yet still met their requirements. They asked the value I wished to insure it for so I calculated what it would cost to replace it at that time and that’s the dollar they put on the policy. Easy as can be. I later spoke to another State Farm rep who confirmed this is the typical process. If I recall correctly, they did also require I have other cars on my policy.
For various reasons, I had to move my auto policy away from State Farm and went to Progressive. This was a much more difficult process because the broker I was using wasn’t familiar with conversion vans, couldn’t get the computer to accept 2020 Ford Transit as the RV make/model, and was imposing several unnecessary requirements on me. Eventually I spoke directly to Progressive, got a copy of a Progressive document that outlined what equipment a conversion van needs to be insured as an RV, sent them photos and finished the process.
Can an Adventure Wagon equipped conversion van be insured as an RV?
Yes! Perhaps not by every insurance company, and it may take a few extra phone calls, but there are proven options out there to make it happen.