I’ll say now that I’m no automotive expert, infact I don’t even know much about cars. I don’t even like driving and avoid it at all costs. However, what I did do is purchase a camper van in Melbourne, live in it for 6 months whilst travelling the east coast of Australia, then sell it again at a profit. Therefore, whilst I’m not going to lay claim to knowing everything there is to know, I do know a few snippets which van-owners-to-be may find useful.
Where to buy a Campervan
There’s one really obvious place where everyone shops for campers – Gumtree. This is great when looking for cheap vans that will be priced to sell. There’s always a good range on here so it’s easy to get a good idea of what you will get for your money. Also, unlike garages that will tell you the previous owners ‘really took good care of it’ you can meet the previous owners and really pick their brains.
If you have plenty to spend and want more security, visiting van rental firms and purchasing a used van could be worth a look. These vans will come with Roadworthy Certificates, Rego and will have had regular servicing, but be aware that the km’s on an ex-rental will be very high.
Petrol v’s Gas v’s Diesel
When purchasing a van it’s worth thinking about what engine type you would prefer. The majority of vans are of course petrol, but a large number have duel fuel, so unleaded and gas. The best thing about gas is the price, there’s no doubt about it, you will save money if travelling fairly populated areas the majority of the time. The down side of a duel fuel system is that it is more complicated to fix should anything go wrong.
The main thing I wanted from the van was reliability, and as diesel engines can outlast them all, that was the engine of choice from the start. Diesel is sometimes slightly more expensive than ULP, but I also found it cheaper in many places, especially on common truckie routes.
Price and Practicality
When viewing campers, try to imagine living in it; sleeping in it, cooking in it, hanging out in it. Space to stand up makes everyday life far more comfortable, and space to sleep comfortably will keep you from burning out within the first few weeks. So many vans I saw on route were simply a big car with a mattress in the back and a pull out cooker, which is fine for a few weeks (or until you have to cook in a downpour), but if planning a longer trip making life as comfortable as possible will save your sanity.
If you are bringing all your belongings with you, make sure there is enough storage space for shoes, clothes, camping gear, food, and anything else you may have and that the storage is all relatively accessible. There is nothing more irritating than overhauling the whole van every time you want a teaspoon.
Rental companies generally say that if planning a trip of over six weeks it could be better to buy than rent. Having a think about how long you can realistically cope in such a small space could save you the effort of purchasing a van. Also think about who you are travelling with as squeezing 4 into a 2 person van probably isn’t going to work long-term.
Always be careful of purchasing a van without a Roadworthy Certificate as these are needed to transfer the vehicle into your name in Victoria. There are so many little things that can fail a vehicle, it can be a real headache to fix and cost $$$.
My advice would be to spend as much as possible on a camper van and try to think reliability and long-term comfort. As cool as paint jobs and surf board racks are, after a few weeks all you really want is a decent cooker and a comfortable place to lay your head at night.
Find the right van and you’ll never want to part with it, I still miss Anthony and would buy him back in a heart beat.
- Camper van styles (matakanaherewecome.wordpress.com)