What to Lookout for When Buying a Used Campervan

See what you need to check when buying a used camper

Indeed, a campervan costs a significant amount of money. Therefore, if you plan on buying one, you must be extra cautious before agreeing to pay anything. Unfortunately, you cannot trust all sellers; you must do more than inspect the vehicle for noticeable signs of damage.

In addition, you need to be alert to other concerns like rust, missing logbooks, and leaks while also keeping in mind the type of campervan that features what you are looking for. We want you to experience an exciting time on the open road by helping you make informed decisions when buying a used campervan.

When buying a used campervan, here are the two main rules to remember:

#1. Remain open-minded all the time. Nonetheless, you must respect your budget and know the type of campervan you are seeking. At the same time, the goal is to look for a vehicle in excellent condition and buy it at a bargain price.

#2. Trust your instincts. You have been working on your instincts for a reason – to save your life. And so, if you feel that a particular offer or seller is not genuine, avoid them altogether. Do not allow yourself to be bullied or coerced into purchasing a vehicle you do not like.

Have a Budget

You will find campervans of varying sizes and designs. However, one common trait in all second-hand campervans is that they retain value better compared to cars and have a slow depreciation rate over time. The recommended minimum spend for anyone on a tight budget is at least €20,000. If you buy your campervan through a reliable dealer, this amount is enough to buy you a fully inspected motorhome, in working order, with a warranty that will suit your needs.

If you have a bigger budget, you can buy a one-year-old motorhome. This purchase option looks new, affordable, with modern features, and is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. In addition, there is a high likelihood this campervan will have additional accessories like aerials and bike racks already installed. Between the budget scales, you can find a worthwhile option to buy that will retain its value for a long duration.

Due Diligence

Some people get carried away by the excitement of buying a campervan and get caught up imagining themselves driving through the scenic views in their lovely and comfortable motorhome. However, remember to do your research well. Look for Rvers keen on sharing their success stories and advice with you. You can also get the advice you need from popular websites and online platforms where RV lovers interact, exchange ideas and advice on purchasing and using RVs. 

campervan checklist

Also, you can make the most of a countrywide directory of local RV shows, clubs, and rallies about rv-club such as associations of owners of certain RV brands. Through such clubs, you can learn more about the model and make of the RV you are interested in buying. If you have yet to experience RVing, consider hiring one for a week or more to understand what to expect from such a vehicle or lifestyle.

Number of People It Can Accommodate

When buying your campervan, selecting a motorhome with your preferred layout is the most significant factor. Specifically, it is crucial to consider the number of people the motorhome can accommodate before committing to anything. For example, ask yourself how many people can comfortably use the campervan at a go and at least 80% of the time the vehicle is in use. 

Consider this factor as you look for a suitable motorhome to purchase. If only two people are likely to be using the motorhome most of the time, then it makes no sense to buy a five or six-berth campervan with an unsuitable layout for you.

Couples can consider buying a 2, 3 or 4-berth campervan, depending on what is more ideal for their circumstances. Also, consider the number of seatbelts you are looking for. A family of seven can go for a motorhome with seven seatbelts as fitted in the vehicle’s factory. Also, a family with fewer kids has a broader selection of layouts to choose from. Nonetheless, the age of the children must be taken into account. Kids will require more privacy as they age, while bunk bed layouts may be an excellent idea. Finally, look for a motorhome with a layout that has functional living space where adults can relax and unwind as the kid sleeps in a bed.

Number of Beds And Layout

Motorhomes have varying bed configurations, such as high-fixed beds, low-fixed beds, lounge layouts, etc. We recommend that you inspect the various layouts available to ensure you have assessed all your options before choosing the one you want to buy. Since it is a considerable investment, you must buy a motorhome that provides you with long-term utility.

Ask Your Question As You Test The RV

Start by asking the owner or the motorhome dealer about the condition of the campervan, its title, history, repair and maintenance records, warranties, and why it is on sale. Use a reliable site like frugal-rv-travel that offers a user-friendly checklist of vital questions to ask before making such an investment. When scheduling when to test-drive the motorhome, request the seller to prepare all its mechanical pasts and keep them charged and completely operational before you come for the test drive. 

When test-driving the motorhome, request the seller to accompany you to give you the necessary answers. In addition, request the seller to drive the vehicle to enable you to assess how it moves from the passenger’s seat. Be on the lookout for noise or other issues that may not be obvious as you drive and operate the vehicle.

Try driving the motorhome on varying roadways and at top speed on a clear highway. Also, look for a vacant parking lot to test how the vehicle backs up and performs in small spaces.

See our guide here on how to prep for a summer of touring!

How to Inspect The Motorhome’s Engine

Engines are one of the most expensive car parts to repair. Therefore, check for any signs of a faulty engine when looking for a used campervan. When operating the car during test-driving, be keen on any unusual noises the engine may make.

For example, if the timing belt or engine cam belt breaks, it can cost you substantial money to repair it. You may need to change the belt after the vehicle has covered 60,000 miles.

Therefore, by looking at the logbook, you must know the date when the belt was last replaced with a new one. If the date to renew it is near, include this cost as part of buying the motorhome.

Assess the condition of the radiator, which should be in good shape and well-maintained. Usually, a faulty radiator shows signs of weakness at the back end.

In addition, look out for oil leaks, which can also be an issue. Assess the ground under the engine where the motorhome has been parked and look for signs of oil leaks. If the engine bay appears dusty with no oil stains, the engine is likely to be in good condition.

campervan engine checks

In addition, look out for a blown head gasket, which can be expensive to repair. Some of the signs of a blown head gasket may include the following:

-Presence of a whitish residue in the engine head or on the oil dipstick.

-Steam coming out of the exhaust instead of smoke after the engine has already warmed up.

-The radiator’s water level will likely be depleted significantly during the test drive.

A low dipstick’s oil level indicates poor care and maintenance of the engine. It is a sign that the owner has not been caring for the engine correctly, and buying the campervan may be a wrong investment decision.

Confirm that each pipe and hose is clean – the vehicle’s metal pipes must be rust-free, while the rubber hoses should not have cracks.

How to Inspect A Motorhome’s Bodywork

Admittedly, inspecting the motorhome’s bodywork takes time and effort. However, it is vital to assess the condition of the vehicle’s bodywork to ascertain there is no rust.

Rust can lead to remarkably costly repairs, especially when dealing with older motorhomes like VWs. Therefore, avoid buying a rust-afflicted campervan. Some of the places where rust can be commonly found include:

-Underneath the edges of the vehicle’s floors

-On the vehicle’s roof

-Near the edges and hinges of each door and window

-The internal sides of the wheel arches

-The paintwork

Often, the chassis is one of the most challenging areas to reach. You must get below the vehicle and use an approved implement to disturb concealed rust. If you see any crumbs of rust falling, the vehicle could have a rust problem that needs urgent intervention.

Also, remember to check if the bodywork has any dents.

How to check for dampness in a campervan

It is also vital to confirm the campervan does not have signs of dampness inside. These signs include rust or water ingress and can result in expensive repairs.

Many campervans are naturally exposed to different weather elements when they are on the road and covering long distances, and some dampness can get inside the vehicle.

Consider looking for a professional to assess the campervan for you or use a damp metre to look for any water ingress. Some of the areas commonly affected by water ingress include:

-The corners of the vehicle

-The TV aerials

-The roof lights

-The front windows

Other Factors To Look Out For In A Used Campervan

Confirm the lights, brakes and locking system are working correctly.

Ensure the gearbox is not leaking any oil. Although all gearboxes will occasionally leak a small amount of oil, note that a black dripping oil leak is unacceptable.

Assess the conditions of the CV joints, ensuring they are in good working condition and have no splits.

Determine when the tyres were replaced last. Although the tyres may have good tread, they must be replaced every 4 or 5 years. Look for cracks on the tyres, which can lead to an unexpected blowout.

It is vital to determine why you need the campervan under consideration. Do you need it for the holidays? In such a case, you need a campervan with enough storage area. You will require enough parking space if you plan to keep the campervan on your property.

See the questions you need to ask your insurer about your campervan insurance.

Test Drive The Available Options

Ensure you try driving the available vehicles to test them; vans have developed significantly over the years, and some vans drive better than others. Once you turn on the campervan, allow the engine to warm up and get hot. Then, please switch off the engine and start it again. Keenly listen if any knocks or rattles are coming from the suspension and below the bonnet. Also, check each dashboard light and switch and confirm they are working.

Be on the lookout for clutch slips when operating a manual transmission or any jumpiness when operating an automatic transmission. Van’s mechanicals are designed to last long and resist wear and tear. For this reason, repairing them can be pretty expensive.

Make a Purchase Offer

Prepare yourself with information on the fair market values of the campervans, recent sales of comparable campervans, and a comprehensive list of the concerns you have with the precise vehicle you intend to buy. With such information, you can support an offer to buy the vehicle below the asking price.

In addition, agreeing to make the purchase immediately and pay in cash can sway the negotiations in your favour.

Not sure if a campervan is for you? Our campervan hire Ireland is the choice for you.