Parking in a "commercial" vehicle or RV

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Apr 9, 2017
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I'm concerned about parking during the day as well as overnight.

I'm hoping to purchase a vehicle over the next couple weeks. When I get it, I intend to insure it for personal use and maybe register it as a RV if that's possible where I live. I'm not looking for a huge vehicle, I'd like one with an exterior length of around 20'-22' or under. I really like step vans but am also considering box trucks, Promasters,/Sprinters/Transits, Nissan Nv, cargo van with high-top (a wheelchair van or something similar) and shuttle buses. Basically, anything with at least a 6' celling height.

Now that I'm getting serious about making a purchase, it dawned on me that my city (a suburb of a large metropolitan area) doesn't allow the parking of commercial vehicles (I don't think they allow rv's either). Even during the day, commercial vehicles aren't allowed unless doing some sort of commercial activity, then once the job is over, you have to leave. I believe most suburbs around me has similar laws and I imagine may other cities around the country are the same.

Since, even during the day, many suburbs, smaller cities, townships, the countryside etc. may have laws against commercial vehicles, does that mean, if I get a commercial vehicle, a lot of the country is off limits? What if I'm traveling the freeway and want to pull off in some random town, go to a city park to grill up some lunch or go for a bike ride? When I traveled across the country a couple years ago, I spent a lot of time in city parks during the day and found it to be a great way to explore the different parts of the country I was traveling through. Is that generally off limits in a commercial vehicle (even if it's insured as a personal vehicle)? What if I drive by a cool restaurant or coffee house in a smaller suburb and have to park on the street in a mixed-use area or residential area for a few hours, or want to park in the parking lot, if I'm in a commercial vehicle, does that mean I may get a ticket or even get towed?

For daytime parking in smaller cities, townships, suburbs the countryside etc. what types of vehicles may run into problems and what type of vehicles are generally allowed? Should I look for a vehicle under a certain exterior length, or under a certain weight, or a vehicle with a single rear tire and not a dully? I've never owned a commercial vehicle, but it seems like Promasters/Sprinters/Transits, Nissan Nv's and cargo van's would likely have the least number of problems parking during the day. Maybe step vans and box truck will run into issues? Has anyone been ticked, towed or kicked out of a daytime parking spot only because you were in a rv or commercial vehicle?

In addition to daytime parking, does owning a commercial vehicle limit the number of available spots you can park over night? It seems like most cities that allow overnight parking on the street, generally have a designed part of the city where commercial vehicles are expected to go but is that always the case? Are there any common issues a commercial vehicle would face overnight parking on the street even in a city that allows for overnight parking?

Thanks for any help, I appreciate it!
The issue for parking in towns is the width and the length. A lot of the box trucks are over 80” wide. They are also longer than a standard parallel parking spot. So the business districts feel they interfere with their customers finding parking.

For neighborhoods that typically have narrower streets than business districts the commercial wide vehicles present an obstacle to normal traffic flow. This is most especially true for delivery vehicles and for ambulances and fire trucks as there is not enough room to get through if the street has parallel parking for standard size passenger cars and pickup trucks on both sides and not enough width in the center for wider vehicles such as senior shuttle buses, ambulances and fire trucks if there is a wide, commercial vehicle parked along one or more sides. Understanding the underlying the essential logic reasoning for the regulations is useful, it prevents going down the path of resentful thinking of its them versus the urban boon dockers who want free parking for bigger living quarters.

If you are going to urban boondock in a commercial vehicle you will be forced into parking in industrial zoned areas with wide streets meant for parking commercial sized vehicles.

So choose wisely if you are going to want to do urban boondocking in all areas of all towns by avoiding the purchase of a long and wider commercial vehicle. Stick to a standard sized van width and length and register it as a passenger vehicle.
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I believe some parks do not allow commercial vehicles on certain scenic routes or in the park, you might want to search YouTube as that was probably saw it.
^^^true for some of the back country roads in the National parks due to the width of those vehicles compared to the width of the road.
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Here's the dimensions on my F350 Ambo registerd/insured/tagged as a mororhome with no Ambo markings. It's back for sale as my health isn't going to let me use it. It would fit in most any area or street IMHO. It was registered as a "cutaway" when I bought it which is just the cab & chassis & could have been made into an ambo or class C MH. I did tell the sec of state it was an ambo when I switched it to a MH.
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The larger, and more RV or commercial, your vehicle is, the more restricted stealth camping in urban areas will be, in my experience.

Go with smaller rather than larger, and if you’re planning to travel the country you should have no problem finding places to park for the day or overnight.

If you are planning on moving into your vehicle full time, staying primarily in your current location and surrounding area, sounds like parking may be difficult.
Should be able to park it anywhere basically means you can’t park it everywhere. What matters is the what the actual zoning regulations say. That is not difficult to find out, they are posted on the official city or town website.

Figure out where you want to do your urban boondocking and do the research for where you can legally, overnight, park and sleep in an oversized vehicle.
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Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Seems like there's a lot to consider when purchasing a commercial vehicle or RV. Initially I wanted to purchase a larger vehicle this week and begin working on it. But after thinking about over the weekend, I'm going to continue my research and just use my minivan for now. I have a trip I'd like to take soon, and a minivan would be suitable for the time being. I eventually plan on getting a larger rig, maybe even find one while I'm on the road in the minivan.

My biggest concern is finding a vehicle I can stand up in and can still park most places a normal vehicle could. A ceiling that is at least 6' tall and an inside area at least 10' in length. I'm also hoping to get 6+ solar panels on the roof.

I was thinking the best options would be (listed favorite to least favorite):
1) A Stepan of some sort that can still fit in a regular parking space (any suggestions would be helpful)
2) A smaller box truck with a box the same width as the cab (the type of box truck Adventure Van Man on youtube has)
3) One of the smallest model Promaster/Transit/Sprinter vans
4) A smaller Nisson NV (similar to a Promaster/Transit/Sprinter)
5) A regular white cargo van with a high-top

Out of the 5 options above, which do you think is the best for parking in most places a regular vehicle can? Are there any other vehicles that I'm forgetting? Even though the "commercial" vehicles listed above are smaller, would they still be forced to park in the industrial parts of town and be forced to move if in the residential/mixed use areas? I'm wondering if my requirement of needing to stand up in the back will be the biggest limiting factor where I can park. If so, I was thinking a regular white cargo van without a high-top or something like a lower roof transit (similar to Static Campervan on youtube). Any help or advice is appreciated!
Just a wild idea I had since I first saw a front wheel drive vehicle years ago. Since cabinets are usually mounted against the side walls, standing room is usually limited to the 3’ down the center. There are lots of pop top and high top vans out there, why not a drop section in the floor for when you are parked? Surely exhaust and fuel lines could be mounted on two outside frame rails leaving the entire center section inside the wheel wells to drop down while parked to allow for standing room. Might even be more stealthy!
Just a wild idea I had since I first saw a front wheel drive vehicle years ago. Since cabinets are usually mounted against the side walls, standing room is usually limited to the 3’ down the center. There are lots of pop top and high top vans out there, why not a drop section in the floor for when you are parked? Surely exhaust and fuel lines could be mounted on two outside frame rails leaving the entire center section inside the wheel wells to drop down while parked to allow for standing room. Might even be more stealthy!
That's an awesome idea! Could give you the ability to stand in a lot of vans. Unfortunately, my minivan is only 5'8" tall on the outside, so even if I cut out the floor, I wouldn't be able to stand. I did a quick google search and looks like a standard non-high-top cargo van is about 7' tall (does that sound about right?) so it would work in one of those.

Preferably, I'd like to get a high-top and be able to walk around the whole thing but, I don't need the whole van to be standing room, so cutting out a small section would work for my needs. If I do end up getting a standard cargo van that's something to consider.

Does anyone know of a stock van that would allow you to easily cut a section with an angle grinder, somewhere underneath, around 2'x4' or so, without having to move or rewire anything?
If you want to spend time in specific cities do a Google search for oversize parking regulations. They're usually very detailed.

We've been living and traveling in a 25' RV for many years and rarely run into problems parking in cities for the day but sometimes it requires research beforehand such as scoping out parking lots and street parking signs on Google street view or parking fairly far away from where we want to go and walking there.

We do not stay overnight on the street but look for Walmarts that allow overnight parking, Home Depot lots, casino lots, Cracker Barrels, inexpensive or free city campgrounds, etc.

We visit city parks a lot for shade when it's really hot,or to walk trails, cook dinner, and visit attractions. We rarely have a problem parking. We don't see many large RVs in the parks but we do see vans of all types including Sprinters, Transits, and Promasters that have been converted into RVs - self-built and professionally built. Never been questioned or even got a second look.

I think for comfort and easy parking a Promaster/Transit/Sprinter van would be best but you may still run into height restrictions on some city streets.

Using your minivan now is a great idea. This will give you a chance to check out everything in person. Look for restrictions on street parking signs and pay attention to where other people are parking their vans.
There are lots of pop top and high top vans out there, why not a drop section in the floor for when you are parked?
It could be done... but you might have noticed that the vans are built for commercial use and people who live in them are still a fringe thing. And the fact that most of us are poor, means no companies are getting rich marketing to us!

If you were thinking DIY and cheap, I don't think there is any chance there. It would take a total redesign.
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Does anyone know of a stock van that would allow you to easily cut a section with an angle grinder, somewhere underneath, around 2'x4' or so, without having to move or rewire anything?
Here is a video that shows a Promaster, and there is a lot of empty space except for the frame members that go across.

Yep, it would be a custom build but with front wheel drive components bolted to the forward unibody a square tube frame could be built from the rear of the front cab on the outside walls to mount rear strut towers for the rear wheels all the way to the roof if necessary leaving the entire rear floor unobstructed. The other option would be a trailer type rear axle under a cross way bed with the entire center section unobstructed. At I believe there are a few diy trailers that have used this concept to create dropped floors for standing room for shower areas in teardrops or less than standing height trailers.
Roadtrek (and possibly Pleasureway) lowered the floors on Chevy and Dodge chassis-based Class B's in addition to adding a high top before "tall" vans were a thing. I like the idea, but imagine it would impact ground clearance. I had wondered if it required lowering the gas tank.
I would want it to extend while parked and retract while traveling just for that reason, but most RVs have under floor mounted tanks for water and sewage. If you don’t mount tanks looks like you could lower the floor in those areas possibly. Just saying!
It boils down to balancing two factors: comfort vs planning. The bigger the rig, the more comfortable to live out of. But the bigger the rig, the more planning required (including restrictions) related to parking and driving.

Is it possible to stay in and around an urban area for weeks on end in a 40' class A? Yep, I've done it. The living is easy- its as comfortable as a small apartment. Boondocking is easy with large water tanks and a generator. The mobility is hard- there are parking and driving limitations. I had a Harvest Hosts membership and also parked in industrial areas, warehouse districts, regional malls, and RV dealerships. GPS was essential to ensure driving on thoroughfares, avoiding tree lined streets and overhead passes.

In a van the living is hard- even with the ability to stand, there is little space to move around. Cooking, lounging, and bathroom room activities are all compromised. The mobility is easy- it can be driven everywhere and parked almost anywhere. I don't need to do any planning when traveling in the van. My favorite places to park it are park & ride lots, apartment complexes, small municipal airports, hospitals, and low traffic streets. These are easy enough to find that I choose to avoid Walmart, Cracker Barrel, and strip malls.

Since you are concerned about roof height, here's the van hierarchy: Promaster > Transit > Sprinter. For 2023, Promaster introduced a super high roof model with an 86" interior height. That is taller than the high roof Transit, which is taller than the high roof Sprinter.

In my opinion, layout dictates functionality more than vehicle size. If you spend time determining what your priorities are, you can design a layout that works well by smartly utilizing space based on those needs. For example, a large "garage" or a big bathroom, a permanent bed or seating area for 6, forward facing second row seats or a large kitchenette, overhead storage or open space?
2007 chevy,box van . box is 6x6x12 overall length is about 22 feet its been in many national parks County parks State parks in the last 5 years.
No problems so far


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I would like to read your RequirementsStatement.
This might include:
* souls aboard
* camping experience
* solitude tolerance
* mechanical aptitude
* preferred destinations
* duration of stay/amount of time parked
* amount of time traveling to next destination
* income source(s)
... and reasons for not having a stand-still house ('insanity' is a perfectly valid excuse...).
Although YouTubers create the illusion of a series of carefree festivals and beach bonfires, some 'Van-Livers' are disalussioned dissallusioned desolutioned brought back to reality by Real-World matters such as cooking and hygiene and bathroom duties.
Plus, as you are recognizing, the Significant Issue of perpetually being an outsider to the straights -- business owners, property owners, residents in stand-still houses, parents of vulnerable children -- all with their finger hovering over the '911' button on the telephone.
I think your attempt to live inside a city shows remarkable persistence.
I also think that tenacity may be better used elsewhere.
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