Updated: Feb 25, 2020
At Combe Valley Campers we know buying a campervan can be an overwhelming task! The options are endless, from starting with an empty panel van at a few hundred pounds. To a luxury motorhome costing tens of thousands. There is something for everyone, if you are thinking what campervan is for you and what you want and need from a campervan then this blog is for you. We will address some important factors which will ultimately decide what type of campervan you buy.
This may ultimately be the main factor when buying a campervan. It is always important to have a budget in mind whether you are buying a brand new or second-hand campervan. When buying a second-hand van you need to be aware that there may be faults that occur both mechanically and wear and tear which will cost time and money to repair.
If you’re looking for a project van then always do your research. Make sure you make a list of everything you need to do and look up how much these items will cost. If you're working on a budget it is good to be thorough at this point and try not to miss out costs like extra tools you will need and also the price of screws, glue and other fasteners as these all do add up!
It may seem obvious but once you’ve bought a van you will need to tax and insure it. If this is part of your budget make sure to check the tax and get some insurance quotes beforehand. Specialist Campervan insurance is always worth looking at. They will be used to customers modifying their vehicles which a lot of standard insurance companies will not like and in result will bump up the price.
Mechanical interest and ability
Now, of course, you don’t need to be a mechanic to buy or even build a campervan but it is very important to consider this. Buying a van with a short MOT or a serious fault will bring the price down but will require resolving before you can start the 'van life'. So if you’re not going to do the work yourself then garage rates will need to be taken into consideration.
High mileage vans shouldn’t always be avoided, a well looked after high miler can serve you well but parts will ultimately need replacing so will be worth doing your research and checking the vehicle history.
The make, model and age of the van will make a difference regarding reliability doing an internet search of the van looking at owner reviews and professional reviews of the vehicle will be of benefit.
Building your dream van can be a very rewarding process but isn’t for everyone if you’re looking for a project then an empty van is a great way to start. If the build isn’t for you then narrowing your search for already converted vans. This will mean you won’t spend your weekends building but getting out and enjoying your dream campervan!
These aren’t the only options, many campervans on the market require a bit of TLC, buying a van with an interior already that needs work can be a great place to start it is a lot easier to build yourself a brand new interior when you have a previous one as a template. Do be careful as it is very easy to discover hidden surprises and you could end up having to do more work than you anticipated.
If you’re looking to do a DIY build then there are many tools out there for free to help you, check out our handy how-to guides on YouTube to assist you with your build.
Whether you want a quiet retreat on your own or are looking for a new way to meet new people owning a van will deliver. When deciding what van you want to buy you might want to take a look at the social media groups. Have a look at what events you like the look of and what van best suits.
Campervans come in many shapes and sizes. Points you need to consider are how many people are using the van at once, what driving licence you have and how much you need to carry in the campervan.
Awnings are very popular to create a tent-like space on the outside of the van. If you need more space still Pop-top roofs are great for creating space above the vehicle usually doubling its sleeping capacity. These can all vary in cost and will be an add on if they aren't already fitted when purchased. So again best to check pricing and compatibility before committing to what van you buy.
Your driver’s license will affect what van you can drive. A standard drivers licence acquired after 1997 allows you to drive vehicles up to 3500kg now most small and medium vans are well within this, for example, a VW t4 weighs in at 2600kg. If you’re looking to go for a larger Vehicle then you will need to take at least a c1 or category C licence (class 1). Now with lessons and tests, this would cost between £700-£1100. So check the weight of the van and its loading capacity compared to your licence before purchase.
When buying a campervan it is important to work out where you want to go and what you will encounter when there. If you’re planning on staying in the UK then there will be no extreme temperature changes and although we often complain of potholes, the UK roads are in relatively good condition.
If you’re looking to go to the extremes of weather then make sure that your campervan will function, heaters and pumps all have minimum and maximum temperatures they will work in so upgrades may be needed.
For those feeling a little more adventurous then a 4x4 campervan might be a better option, taking you to more remote destinations. If your off-roading is very moderate then a lifting kit and some off-road tires on a two-wheel-drive van will increase your vehicles off-road capabilities at a fraction of the cost.
Planning on taking your van abroad frequently? Make sure to check the shipping costs of your van before purchase. Typically the larger the vehicle the larger the cost so having a more compact campervan could save you hundreds if not thousands when it comes to setting off on your travels.
A daily driver or an occasional holiday
What you use your campervan for most will impact the layout. A daily driver which will commute you to work and ferry the family around may need more seats than the standard 2 or 3 that are factory. Deciding this early on is important as it will be the foundation of the interior and will decide how much room you have remaining for storage and facilities. Removable kitchen pods are great for turning a day van into the occasional camper. The removable pods can be stored out of the van when they aren't needed freeing up space for passengers or any goods you are transporting.
Driving Noise And Comfort
If you’re only going to drive your campervan a few times a year this might not be important to you but when buying a campervan for a daily drive rattling, loud road noise and poor suspension will soon wear thin. This again can be found out from owners reviews or when you take a van out for a test drive. (When taking the van on a test drive be sure to use varied roads.)
These are soon becoming low emission areas which for most campervan holidays this probably won’t affect you at all. Driving into the centre of London usually costs between £10 and £20 but some larger vehicles could cost up to £100 so if a city centre is your daily destination then check your new camper vans charge before purchase.
Hot and cold – heaters and fridges
Heaters and fridges will be one of the biggest expenses in your campervan so do you need one?
If you’re planning on using your campervan for the occasional summer weekend in the UK then there may not be a need to spend out on a heater and fridge. A well-insulated van won’t leave you freezing at night and a cool box with some ice packs or connected to your 12v leisure battery system will keep food fresh.
These two items will make a difference when using your van regularly. A new good quality diesel heater will keep your campervan warm on those colder out of season nights and new 12v compressor fridge will with a good leisure battery keep food cool even in the height of summer. These two items together will set you back around £1000.
We do not recommend gas heaters that can be found in camping stores. These are not safe for several reasons first being a fire risk and secondly carbon monoxide poisoning, these are designed for well-ventilated areas and therefore not good in campervans.
Going off-grid is a great way of getting away but it does require a high number of modifications. When off-grid you also need to think how long you will be planning on going away for. This will determine what washing and storage facilities and also how much battery storage you will need. Main points you will need to consider are;
Power Source- whether it is a solar panel or generator you will need a way of creating power Power
Storage- a good battery system is crucial to making the most of the power that you create
Bathroom Facilities- building a toilet and shower into your van is a must when going off-grid!
Climate Control- you need to be able to adjust to the environment you are staying in keeping the right temperature is crucial for off-grid van living.
Extra Water And Fuel Tanks- Having as much room for these items will be able to keep you off-grid for longer.
Food storage- As well as having enough water storage you need to have the facilities for keeping food fresh, fridges and even freezers can be fitted into an off-grid campervan.
Hopefully, you've now thought of what you will be using your campervan for and what condition you are going to pick it up in, eBay, Auto Trader and the Facebook market place are all great places to start looking for your campervan. A quick google search of campervans will also highlight all the local companies selling both new and used. Remember to always check the vehicle you are buying thoroughly before purchase and to take it for a test drive. If you arent too sure on mechanics then taking a friend who does or even employing a mechanic to view the van with you will take out some of the risks.
For that extra bit of inspiration then check out our build bios on youtube which will take you inside some of the vans we have worked on. Our how-to videos will also show you what you will have to do if you decide to start converting a van. A watch of these just might be what you need to pick up some tools and build your dream campervan.