Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Must-See Micro-RV!

   As someone who, for the past 7 years, has been living in an RV (That in itself, is a long and for many, rather interesting story of how that came to be - perhaps another time;), I was intrigued by the possibilities of this camper-on-a-scooter (scooter-camper? scamper?:).  Having become an RV-dweller by necessity, rather than a love of the Great Outdoors and Travel, I tend to view this little vehicle, almost automatically, in an entirely different way than most folks.  The average Joe - one who has never experienced homelessness nor the looming prospect thereof, might look at this "scamper", and come away with a bemused, even baffled look on his face, a shrug, some head scratching, perhaps a "WTF?", followed by a sneer and dismissal.  The average Jane, on the other hand, might think it's "cute", while greenies and ecocampers might go gaga over it.  A homeless person, however, pushing a shopping cart in the rain with his worldly belongings, would likely quickly recognize the immediate benefits of such a vehicle:

1) It would provide shelter (and get him out of the rain)

2) It could hold his belongings (he could ditch the shopping cart)

3) It's a vehicle, with a tiny engine. That you drive. (he wouldn't need to walk everywhere, anymore)

  There's more, of course, (at least, in THEORY <---<<  more on that, later-on), but my point is, sometimes the view from the bottom, the perspective you get lying flat on your back, the insight you gain when sitting on the balls of your ass, is often the clearest.  Having personally spent some time in those positions, I feel I have gained a new, and quite possibly *permanent* perspective on things, which I hope to add to what otherwise would be just another blogger adding to the buzz about this little camper.  This post is about the camper, and while I didn't set out to wax philosophical here, from an economic survival standpoint, I'd be remiss if I didn't offer my views and insights on it.  That being said, here it is:

  Introducing the Bufalino compact camper (based on the Piaggio APE 50 3-wheeled light transporter)

  Note the person sleeping in it, the storage cabinets, the place for hanging clothes, and the laptop nook;-)

                                          Bed folds up for driver's seat and seat back

                                               Catching rays on the roof :-)

                    Hmmm,...this thing could double as a vending cart or flea market vehicle

                            The built-in "clothes dryer" (or T-shirt vendor display rack;-)

   Note the laptop station - great for indigent bloggers, freelance writers, web-designers or independent journalists.  It's even got a windshield wiper and proper headlights. Not sure where, how, if it'd be street-legal?  Moped-rules, maybe?  Not sure.

   It has a one-burner stove, a small fridge, and a sink  You might need a gym membership for what's missing.

   Pretty neat! But there's some cons:  the biggest being, this is only a CONCEPT vehicle at this time.  It's not in production.  But that could change, as this thing has been getting quite a bit of buzz on the `Net - maybe that will help influence whether this thing ever sees the light of day or not.  The other thing is cost - how much is this puppy gonna run?  I could be wrong, but I wouldn't be surprised if the sticker price is somewhere in the $7k range or higher.  I don't think this camper would ever be a big seller, but rather, a niche vehicle for a small market of greenies, yuppies and eco-tourism type places.  With a small production numbers, you don't have the economy of scale that mass-production can bring, thus, look for this to be a rather pricey toy if and when it ever comes out.  And while there are millions of homeless that could certainly benefit from this camper, how many could afford one?  How many could afford or by relied upon to make payments, were special "homeless financing" to be offered by the manufacturer?  And then, there's the issue of licencing and registration - I'd be VERY surprised if no licence was required to operate it - which raised the question of how many homeless have, or would be able to obtain driver's licences?  And in what States?  And would ALL States allow such a vehicle to be registered, or only some?  Insurance requirements? Inspection? Registration and title fees?

   So you can see, even if this camper were available tomorrow - and let's be optimistic and say, for $5k, with special "homeless financing" - full insurance coverage would be a requirement for financing, and the vehicles would be equipped with  GPS transceivers that could disable the vehicle remotely, as well as transmit it's location - (some used car dealers already do this to help insure their high-risk customers, whos' vehicles the dealer themselves finance, make timely payments;), there are still many other costs and barriers for most homeless folks to have to overcome, to acquire one.  I mention this mainly because some folks on the interwebs first reaction to seeing pics of the camper, was that it would be great for homeless folks.  It WOULD be, but due to the issues I mentioned above, I don't really see that as a viable option.  Lastly, it doesn't have a porta-potty or shower, but I suppose you could get by with public restrooms, and/or getting one of those inexpensive monthly gym memberships at a 24-hour gym, if you want to take a proper shower.

   So, who might benefit from purchasing this camper?  By that I mean, *other* than yuppies, greenies, and others with money to spare.  My answer would be different if you could pick up one of these, used, for say, $2k(which, BTW, is what I paid for my 19' Class C motor home back in 2003, and it sleeps 6, has a bathroom w/shower, fridge, furnace for heat, hot water heater, oven and 3 burner stove, a couch, a dinette, a closet, and tons of storage - it even has a wine cellar.  68k original miles.  Runs great, but guzzles gas like there's no tomorrow), but assuming it's somewhere in the neighborhood of $7k?  Not that many, I'm afraid. 

   First off, if you HAVE $7k or can finance $7k, you can buy a home outright in many parts of the country, so if you`re buying this thing *solely* to keep your butt off the streets and out of the shelters, you may want to reconsider.  An old, full-size $500 station wagon would provide much the same service, and like the camper, would double as transportation(and much faster transportation at that), albeit not as economical.  Spring for $1500 or so, upgrade to a full-size van, and you'll have quite a bit more room and a more livable situation. Spend $5k-7k, and you can get a full-size motor home with all the amenities.  It CAN, of course, serve as transportation as well, but keep in mind these suckers EAT - and keep in mind that RV insurance, while cheap, is restrictive - you cannot use your RV to go to work unless you purchase commercial RV insurance, but you cannot stay FT in your RV without FT insurance, and there is no such thing as FT commercial RV insurance. (I know, I TRIED! LORD I tried!).  I was also informed by a (regular)car insurance company rep, that it is illegal to live in your (non-RV) vehicle, as far as they are concerned.  Good luck enforcing this, I suppose, but I want to make my readers aware of it.   But once again, I'm digressing.

   Again, the (probable) purchase price, and what you get in return vs the same amount of money spent on:

1) a fixer-upper home in a low tax area of the country - even if just an older mobile home on it;s own land.

2) a $500 station wagon or a $1500 van, both of which could serve the same purpose as the scamper, get you around a lot faster(although less economically), but save you a LOT of cash, not only initially, but also by lack of depreciation

3) a used motor home for the same amount as the scamper - bad on gas, possible insurance conflicts, but a veritable PALACE by comparison

4) take that $500 station wagon, add a suitable trailer-hitch(if it doesn't already have one) and a used $1000 camping trailer, and you can get by in relative comfort, retain your mobility options, AND get around that pesky, kafka-esque insurance conundrum, as you don't need to insure the trailer - just register it and get a safety inspection(if required).  Your regular car insurance should already cover anything you tow without needing to modify your policy.  Just double-check that it does.

all serve to reinforce the notion that this scamper - as cute, neat and functional as it is, is, for most folks, not a bargain, nor a very attractive alternative to similarly or even much lower-priced alternatives. The very people for whom this would be a "step up", and who could most benefit from having this little scamper, cannot afford it.  After all, if our example soggy wet shopping cart pusher can't even get $500 together over time to buy himself an old station wagon, then obviously, a $5k micro-camper is out of the question - it may as well be $50k.  Furthermore, if a person doesn't have or can't get a driver's license, even the $500 station wagon is no longer an option.

   This micro-scamper is, IMHO, not going to save anyone from a life on the streets.  Short of mass production, coupled with heavy gov't subsidies to make it more affordable to the homeless, you're not going to be seeing your local bums using it to haul deposit bottles and cans back to the store for refunds, anytime soon.  For this to be a viable initiative, the State govts would probably also have to issue a boatload of "hardship"-type driver's licenses, specific to this vehicle, to the many that don't have one, and possibly either exempt the vehicle from an insurance requirement(Bad Idea, IMO) or subsidize that as well.

   For a few certain individuals, this scamper may make some sense, but in almost no cases at all, financial sense, and again, in almost no cases at all, for fulfilling a *need*.  It's a nice (and probably pricey) toy for those that can afford it and just want to have one for whatever reason, but I see little if anything this vehicle could do or provide, that a larger and cheaper alternative couldn't provide even better.  It;s a hands down winner in fuel economy, cheap insurance and registration fees, to be sure, but for most individuals, too large an investment in too small an asset.  It's a very clever design, and I DO like it,personally, but anyone buying this is NOT "on the balls of their ass", or if they ARE, have another problem: they're crazy, as well.  I mean, if you're down to your last $7k on earth, losing your home, and don't want to just go and rent a room because you lost your nearby job, and will have to look out of town or even out of State for another one, would you buy this micro-RV for $7k, or buy a decent van for $2k, and not only have real transportation, but a place to keep your tools and clothes, still have room for a comfortable bed,  AND the option to add a travel trailer later?  To me, it's a no-brainer.

  Now, for *certain* individuals, I could see investing in this little scamper.  Some examples come to mind:

1) You regularly sell stuff like say, T-shirts, at nearby flea markets.  Not only is this an economical vehicle to go back and forth to the market, it's also a unique, eye-catching and attention-grabbing vehicle.  Add some wild custom graphics to the outside, maybe make a few modifications to the inside, and VIOLA!  The perfect flea market vehicle!

2) In a twist on the above, you might be able to modify the inside to where you could get it certified and licensed by the Dept of Health, and sell hotdogs and knishes, ect out of it at events

3) You do computer work (Think Geek Squad), and have built up a local clientele.  Add custom graphics to the outside of the scamper that advertise and promote your business, and use it as both a billboard and economical transportation to go around servicing your clients.

   THAT sort of thing.  This micro-scamper would be a good fit for certain businesses as well.  For example:

1) You own a pizzeria, sandwich shop, Chinese take-out place, et al, and you want to offer your customers home delivery.  The scamper should be cheap to insure, very good on gas, and could be spiffed up with custom graphics that advertise your business and phone number.  You'd have no problem finding good people to do your deliveries, and because they are using your vehicle and your gas, you could, in good conscience, pay them a little less, because you don't have to subsidize the gas, wear and tear and added insurance costs on their personal vehicles.

2) You own a B&B, gas station, motel, a general store, or any of a host of other businesses for that matter, near a National Park, large campground area or near a bunch of vineyards and wineries. Ideally, you'd also be fairly close to a popular airport, train or bus terminal.  You rent out the scampers.  Advertise on the `Net, hook up with a hotel to offer packages. Pick your clients up at the airport or bus/train station.  Cross-promote with your partner businesses.  Hook up with a winery - they get your scamper-rental customers` business, and allow them to camp overnight on their property. You both win. You get the idea.

  So, in closing, there ARE some potential good uses and potentially good customers for the scamper, but in niche markets.  As-is, it is too specialized for general use, but if a blank-template, "design-your-own" option were available from the manufacturer to change and customize the interior layout and features, it might have wider appeal.   And at 50cc, while economical, it will be too slow and limited to local, secondary roads, or the shoulders of higher speed limit roads, so in this regard, the SMART car is in no danger of being displaced by the scamper, IMHO.  Perhaps if there was an option for a larger engine - even 100cc would be an improvement, while a 250cc power plant would ensure the scamper could keep up with traffic on most highways(and probably pull a wheelie on command;)


Note: all pics in this post not mine - I glommed them from another blog, who in turn, glommed them from another blog, ect, ect. (Hey, at least I'm honest about stealing them, and am classy enough not to hot-link;)
The view looking forward from the back

1 comment:

  1. Its just incredible, but this vehicle for only one member... Most probably no person go to camping as a single. so make change to 2 members efficiency.