Any advise for someone who is trying a campervan?

Travel Forums Australia / New Zealand & The Pacific Any advise for someone who is trying a campervan?

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2. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 1034 posts) 17w Star this if you like it!

Quoting Laleh.

How many kilometers should I be looking at?

Rather than just looking at kilometers, consider balancing that with the quality of the vehicle and its individual history. For example:
Quality - Some engines and drivetrains simply last longer than others - kilometers-wise - even among the same makes and models. Some models had a great couple of years, meaning the manufacturer put in quality parts that all worked together in concert, making a very reliable overall vehicle. The next year, the manufacturer used a different series of moving parts here or there and it wasn't as reliable as the previous model(s). In short, some makes/models and their moving parts have good and bad years. If you're geeky enough, find reviews from industry experts regarding the make/model/year of the powertrain - the engine and transmission - of whatever vehicle you have eyes on; plenty of this information is online. Numerous consumer reports are also found online - these highlight trends regarding mechanical problems with a specific model-year and its associated moving parts. Or, make this all easier by asking your mechanic; ask if they've worked on that particular model of engine and/or transmission and see what they have to say about it. Will they tell you it's good, or tell you to run far away from it?
History - Some used vehicles have been driven foolishly and haven't been well-maintained and other used vehicles have been babied, either by the owner, a mechanic or both. If it's a private sale, ask a lot of questions to the owner of the vehicle like how long they've owned it, what work has been done to it, was it ever wrecked or rebuilt and - this is important - why they're getting rid of it. Has it become suddenly possessed by evil spirits intent on making it a doom-ridden heap of junk?

Look at the whole picture, not just numbers on the odometer. :) Having said that, purchasing a vehicle with, say, 400.000 km is something best left to those who are serious about vehicles, like mechanics, hobbyists looking to restore a vehicle, collectors, etc.. Find a nice balance of those three: quality, history and kilometers.
I bought a van with 100.000 mi (160.000 km); the model-year of this van was far superior to the previous model-year, simply due to the transmission the manufacturer put in. I used this van for 15 years as my day-to-day vehicle at home and it was a champ. After that we hit the road, lived in it and traveled internationally with it for over two years. I bought a quality used vehicle at the time, one with good guts and high mileage. I sold it while we were on the road quite easily; the buyer knew - by the model and its year - that it was still a great van aside from all the miles and use we put it through over the years.

Quoting Laleh.

Can I buy one with a 15k budget?

You mention travel in Australia; I'll assume you'll be buying there, with AUD?
I don't know about the market for campervans there - I can only guess. There are loads of other forums and groups dealing with campervans/schoolies/vanlifers specific to that country which will give you a much better idea of how far your budget will go. Many of these forums and groups have marketplaces where members are selling their vehicles.
Again, I can only guess what your budget gets you in Australia - an older vehicle, perhaps 15 years or older with high kilometers. It might need some work to get some or all of the living quarters working properly, in addition to any engine/body work. There's the issue of class, or size of the van, and the overall condition of it (see History above).

Quoting Laleh.

Any specific and important hint for inspecting a campervan?

Again, consider your mechanic if you have one. If you aren't too comfy with inspecting it yourself, ask your mechanic to come along in order to see a prospective campervan with you.
Your mechanic would look at the following and if you're comfortable with inspecting it yourself, look out for these too - many are the same things to look out for with almost any used vehicle.
1.) Puddles of fluids, like oil, and coolant under the engine/transmission. Do this before and after test-driving it and while the engine is running.
2.) Check the condition of engine hoses and belts - they should be supple and not dried or cracked.
3.) Look at the tires - is there uneven wear on one side? This indicates a bunch of problems with the steering and/or and suspension system. These may or may not be serious problems.
4.) Start the engine, step outside the vehicle and listen - do you hear clicking, whining, scratching noises? These can indicate a host of issues, like a bad bearing in a pulley or emission system sensors going bad, or a hundred other things. Of course, engines make all sorts of noises - some indicate problems, most don't. While you're there, look under the engine while its running (see #1).
5.) Flip all the switches on the dashboard and make sure each function works. This goes for anything in the living quarters too. Does the bed fold-away? Well, fold it up and pull it out - several times. Make sure all of this stuff easily works. If so equipped, make sure everything in the kitchen is clean and properly functioning.
6.) Does it have an awning? Unfurl it and look for rips and tears. Look at the exterior of the van for major or minor cosmetic damage. Are there hook-up spots or connections - are they in good nick?
7.) Look underneath the vehicle again - do you see any rust? If so, is it just superficial? Do you see any holes that have been filled and patched-over?
8.) Look for water damage inside the vehicle - all sorts of holes have been drilled and cut-outs made into the van in order to kit it out and sometimes these may develop leaks through the years. Having said that, does the van have a musty smell? Sometimes that water damage isn't so visible as it leaks down into the floor; if its carpeted it can smell musty.
9.) Ask yourself how it feels to drive it? Is it nimble? Does starting the engine make you feel like you've just unleashed a panther ready to pounce? () Or does it feel unwieldy? Is it this big noisy mess that barely rumbles down the road?

Good luck on your search - and have a blast on the road!

3. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 3051 posts) 17w Star this if you like it!

I can't give you specifics for Australia.

You don't identify where you presently reside. I am assuming you are living in Australia and not from a different country where they normally drive on the other side of the road.

If you have never driven a vehicle this size - try renting a similar size vehicle and see how you do. (Have good insurance and proper drivers license.)

You have some good advice already.

For mechanical inspection get a mechanic you can rely on even if you must pay for his inspection.

Good luck.

4. Posted by HomerJ (Budding Member 8 posts) 16w Star this if you like it!

Quoting Laleh.

I am trying to buy a campervan to live in for some time and travel around Australia so I need it to be furnished at least with a bed and a minimal kitchen. I have never bought a can so there are a hundred questions in my mind.
1- How many kilometers should I be looking at?
2- Can I buy one with a 15k budget?
3- Any specific and important hint for inspecting a campervan?
Would be wonderful if I can get some advice from experienced people:)
Thank you very much in advance.

Hi Laleh

You will be able to buy a secondhand basic van with a bed and some sort of pull out kitchen for under 15k AUD. There are lots of these for sale on the gumtree website gumtree . Com .au.

They will be older models as commercial vans tend to be quite expensive here, so they retain their value even when old. They are mostly Toyota Hiace, Kia Pregio, Hyundai iLoad, 80’s 90’s VW transporters - stuff like that. You will be buying an older well used vehicle so the kilometres are relatively irrelevant. As a mechanic I would suggest you stick with Toyota as big mileage does not seem to worry them. Steer clear of the VW’s, particularly the early 2000 models, as they have various issues.

Something to be aware of is that Australian Business’ does not support free camping in camper vans. The issue arose a few years ago when a number of Private owned Caravan Parks took local councils to court claiming it damaged their business model (long story but the basic outcome was Councils are required to protect local business). What this means is that you must be prepared to be hunted like a leper at any location that is reasonably popular from a tourist perspective; think Byron Bay, Gold Coast etc. Local councils hand out very hefty fines for non compliance. They fine the vehicle not the driver so in many places the vehicle may end up having its registration cancelled. I am aware of some campers who just don’t pay the fines however I am not sure how that plays out over the long run as some states have the power to cancel licences/registration.

You could get by sleeping in a van that doesnt look in anyway like a camper and parking in more residential but busy streets.

The alternative is to stay in Caravan Parks or National Parks. National Parks are usually a reasonable cost - you buy an annual pass for about $80 AUD and that offsets the charges a bit. You would be looking at between $10 and $30 per night depending on where you stay.

Caravan Parks tend to be outrageously priced, even for non powered sites. To give you an example of how expensive they are, I live in Northern NSW and we had a camping trailer and vehicle to tow it. For the four of us to use caravan parks, it’s actually worked out cheaper to not even bother with it and stay in AirBnB’s or cabins at the parks. Though it sounds counter intuitive I actually spreadsheeted the costs it worked out in favour of no camping. This was for a family of four though, where they add charges per person.

Here are some links to legal campgrounds;

For example - an unpowered site in Byron Bay in the off season, is $250 AUD a week.
A more remote rural area like Jindabyne NSW is $125 for a week.

In many rural towns, the local showground also have cheap spots to stay overnight - $5-$10 AUD.

If you were not going to try and free camp you may well be better off buying a cheap second hand car for under $3k AUD, and fitting a $800 roof top tent to it, with a small kitchen unit in the boot. You can then stay unhassled in dedicated camping areas.

Sorry to paint a bleak picture. If it is bleak, maybe consider an alternative such as hostels etc.

If you do decide to go with the van and are looking for a vehicle near Nth NSW I am happy to take a look at one.


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7. Posted by Bucketlists (Budding Member 22 posts) 16w Star this if you like it!

Just another thought for you, look at x Telstra utes, you may get a 4x4 one, but even 2x4 would do.. look for one that's got the tool box tray fitted to them! They are a specially made to fit with draws,cupboards and sealed boxes, put a roof top tent on that!
If you can't pick up a 5 to 10 year old small 4x4 ute Toyota/Nissan with 150.00 ks for 10gs there is something wrong...
Roof top tent, gas burner, recovery gear etc and you're away... most gov fleet have dc power plugs in the back also, for your fridge ... shite, look hard enough and youll find them with hot and cold water lol the early telsrt had hot water supply lol can't have lines men with cold hands now can we... geeez they had it made, still do!...

But yeah, they're made from alloy and very well made, that's what I'd be looking for! Ex Telstra tool box/maintenance unit.. all the best!