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Old 07-01-2019, 12:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question Good vehicle for a touring band?

Okay so I'm in a band with two other ladies, and we've started thinking about maybe doing a tour in the future. We have gone on like 1-night trips to other states nearby, but may become more ambitious. Our main issue would be what kind of vehicle should we use?

Currently we use a 6-speed manual-transmission 3rd-Generation Mazda 5 which has a 157 hp 2.5 litre four cylinder engine.

We have a lot of gear but we do NOT carry a drum set with us, instead all our percussion are played as back tracks into a PA we bring with us and a pa speaker, so we aren't losing cargo volume to the cylindrical shape of a bunch of drums.

We've removed the rear passenger seats and one of the middle passenger chairs, so there's only 3 chairs for us and the rest of the cargo volume is filled with our equipment.

Considerations:
- Fuel economy in the loaded down Mazda 5 is probably way better than any other possible vehicle
- Our gear is expensive and there is a risk of it being stolen when on tour
- Gear is very heavy and hard to move in and out of wherever we plan to sleep at night
- On a tour we might not have access to a safe place to keep our stuff
- I don't know that any of the 3 of us would be able to sleep in the Mazda 5

We have access to a 2006 F-250 Super Diesel short bed w/ extended cab which could carry more stuff, and I know 1 of my bandmates is able to sleep in there along the back seat in the cab, but we don't have a cover for its back, so rain is an issue.

I guess we have two really hard requirements when on tour:
- All 3 of us need to be able to sleep at night (this means we have to find places to stay or hotels)
- Our equipment has to remain safe from theft

We kinda need a vehicle where one of us can sleep in it overnight along with the equipment in case we don't have access to a safe place at night (hotels are expensive) to bring our stuff inside. And again it's super heavy, so even if we do have a hotel or someone's house that's safe we really still would prefer to leave stuff in the vehicle.

There's only 3 of us, we're all women, I'm an athlete and I'm strong but it is very tiring even for me to move all our stuff. We have 3 guitars, a PA (very heavy electronic equipment rack type metal box), PA speaker cabinet, bass guitar speaker cabinet, large heavy crate with random stuff inside (fog machine, pedal boards, bass amp head, wires, etc), 2x12 combo guitar amp, 4x12 guitar amp cabinet, and an amp head for that cabinet. Also merch and like each of us takes a small bag or backpack for clothes, toothbrush, etc.

Cheapest Option:
- Do nothing, stick with the Mazda 5 minivan

2nd Cheapest Option:
- Get a cap for the bed of the F-250
- Have someone sleep in there

The thing with the F-250 is diesel is expensive and it probably only gets about 11 or 12 miles to the gallon. We could do some mods to it, but at the end of the day the low gearing is not going to ever allow it to be a fuel efficient vehicle.

If we were to get like another old beat up vehicle of some kind does anyone have suggestions as to what we should be looking for? School Buses would work for example, but their fuel economy will still be crap. A used Ford Transit might work but I never see on craig's list one cheap enough to justify.

Anyone have any ideas?

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Old 07-01-2019, 12:06 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Totally not vehicle related, but ideas to reduce your overall size and/or weight...

-Go cabless! Especially if you have a PA system. Pedals like Sansamp and especially Amplifirebox pedals have all come a long ways in terms of sound quality and features. We run these and I (as a bass player) have not turned back. I have my pedal board and my basses, thats' it. Cab volume and weight be damned! My guitarist has the amplifirebox pedal and has since not used his 4x12 cab. Setup is much easier, transport is easier, and my back is happier.

-For your PA system, look into swapping drivers to neodymium and your amps to class-D/T. Those can shave a LOT of weight! Can also look into DIY cabs with quality ply to reduce weight.

OK, this probably won't change your vehicle perspective, but these are a few things I've done myself to make life a little easier for gigs.
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Old 07-01-2019, 12:48 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The F-250 should be getting closer to 18 MPG on diesel. Cargo tops are probably more susceptible to breakin than a car, but I don't know this to be true.

Bigger van is all I can think of. If you got one big enough, you could fit all your gear and sleep everyone. Camper vans can be rented, though I'm not sure it will save you money compared to a hotel.
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Old 07-01-2019, 12:53 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Mercedes Sprinter T1N.

You can find them in varying configurations and sizes. I got a small 118 inch, low roof model a few years back with 450,000 miles for 1,800 dollars from a dealer auction.

It gets about 25 MPG no matter who is driving. It uses diesel.

We have a platform bed to sleep two with two more sleeping on hammocks.

The Mercedes Sprinters are known as solid workhorses and as fickle rides. But, once certain basic maintenance issues are sorted out, they are able to live up to their solid workhorse reputation.
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Old 07-01-2019, 12:59 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Trailer.

My son is in a band. They travel every summer over several thousand miles. They have tried caravaning, piling into a truck, and renting a trailer.

They are a 4 piece band with a fifth, full time sound/lighting tech who travels with them.

Even with the fuel economy hit, the trailer was the most comfortable and easily the most secure.
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Old 07-01-2019, 01:08 PM   #6 (permalink)
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You could try pulling a pop-up camper: you can crank it up for sleeping at night, and your gear should be able to fit in there when you are driving.
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Old 07-01-2019, 01:24 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Nothing is break in proof, the most secure would be something without windows or with a cage in the back. I've always thought if I made a stealth camper, make it look like a septic service truck. That or something that is common and unmodified on the outside like a minivan or Suburban. I can't imagine your fuel cost on whatever you get really amounting to much of your overall costs, but saving gas is always nice.
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Old 07-01-2019, 01:27 PM   #8 (permalink)
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All band vans need the best theft deterrent system, cheap. I recommend no side or back windows and "Acme Medical Waste Removal" signs on all four sides of the van. Better than locks, or beeping alarms.
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Old 07-01-2019, 02:27 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Hi all, new member and singer/guitarist in Natalija's aformentioned band. As a side, I also own a 2000 Honda Insight (citrus) and the 2002 F250 PowerStroke 7.3L diesel truck mentioned above.

Our bass cabs use Eminence Neo 12s which are surprisingly lightweight and decently loud. That said, replacing all cabinet speakers with lightweight options is ideal, but also probably not very cheap. Also speaker selection for our tube guitar amps is critical for tone. We may lose a few pounds but end up with a tone that doesn't suit our music.

My initial suggestion was a cargo van with zero rear or side windows however one of the other bandmates requested side windows so the ride wouldn't be as dull for those sitting in the back. However even a mostly windowless van could be broken into given enough time and resources.

Another option I've thought about is using an older school bus. Mileage would be almost as bad as my F250 SuperDuty with 7.3L diesel, but many of these older buses use the same engine as my truck. So I'd at least know how to work on it.

Another advantage with a bus is availability of space. There would be plenty of room for gear, however we'd also have room for actual mattresses and living quarters. Since all of us could sleep in the bus, there would be less opportunity for break-in and theft.

Another disadvantage with a bus is parking. Many venues know to expect touring bands with busses and could accommodate. Other venues may be in locations that might allow loading/unloading of gear but we'd have to park further away.

We also half-jokingly toyed with the idea of loading each of our three Honda Insights and traveling via caravan. The risks/disadvantages are numerous however it would be pretty cheap and one of us is already very handy with repairing these cars. Failure points x3 with this option.

Yet another option is finding a box van and converting the storage area for carrying gear as well as serving as a sleeping area. This would not be as comfortable to travel in, but the enclosed box would offer more protection than say a van, and especially a camper shell over a truck bed.

I feel like we will wind up with a custom or cargo type of van which seems what most bands our size end up using for regional tours.

Buses looks awful appealing though, for it serving as relatively comfortable lodging as well as transportation.

Last edited by purplegirl; 07-01-2019 at 03:03 PM..
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Old 07-01-2019, 02:32 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Run away from that 6.0l Ford Diesel. You could stay at Marriott Hotels every night for what it will cost to keep that truck running. Since you have the Mazda try that for now. Theft will be the big problem, cover the load so it is not visible. Tint the windows as dark as you can legally.

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