How to Choose the Right Camper Van for Your Needs

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How to Choose the Right Camper Van for Your Needs

A camper van is a relatively small vehicle, when compared to a full-sized motorhome, that can double as accommodation. This type of vehicle is generally built on a large car chassis; a motorhome is usually built on a bus chassis. Camper vans act as a home away from home. Drivers and passengers pack what they need and are relatively independent while on holiday. Additionally, this provides more flexible travel and holiday arrangements; the vehicle can be parked in a safe, designated space for an overnight stay.

There are a number of factors to consider when buying a camper van. First, decide on the size of the vehicle, taking driver's licence restrictions and driving comfort into account. Know the types of camper vans available to simplify the buying decision. Choose the most suitable layout and features. Before getting started, decide where and how often the camper van will be used. Use this information to inform the buying decision. Camper vans are available new and used from caravan and vehicle dealers or from private seller listings on eBay.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Camper Van

The bigger the camper van, the more comfortable the living quarters. However, bigger vehicles are more difficult to park and manoeuvre.

Driver's Licence

In addition, the size of the vehicle dictates the driver's licensing requirements. Those that obtained their licences before 1 January 1997 are permitted to drive a camper van up to 7.5 tonnes in weight. Those that obtained their licenses after this date are only permitted to drive a camper up to 3.5 tonnes. These weights include the vehicle and its load. For more information, visit the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) website.

Road Conditions

A further size consideration relates to where the camper van will be used. UK roads are more accessible for large vehicles. If the vehicle is to be used in other parts of Europe, take the road conditions and the cost of ferry crossings into account. Road conditions in Germany and France tend to allow for comfortable driving, but conditions are trickier from Italy towards the east.

Parking

Bear in mind that the vehicle has to be parked somewhere when not in use. If buyers have driveway space, this is not a problem. However, if not, remember to take storage costs at a specialist facility into account.

Comfort

Finally, choose a camper van that is comfortable enough to enjoy a holiday. Take the amount of time the holidaymakers plan to spend in the vehicle into account and remember to allow for rainy days. There should be enough storage space for everything the party needs to take along and enough living space for passengers and pets. Finding a balance between storage and accommodation space and the size of the vehicle can be tricky. Evaluate the needs of everyone on the trip, distinguishing between how often they would like to use the vehicle and how often it is likely to be used, when making this decision.

Types of Camper Van

Camper vans come in a variety of designs. Most models fall into one of three categories: conversion, coachbuilt, or dismountable.

Conversion Camper Vans

Conversion camper vans are adapted from cars or small vans. They usually come with fixed or elevating roofs.

Fixed Roof Camper Vans

Fixed roof camper vans tend to have lower overall heights, making it easier to pass under low overhead structures. They are also usually the least expensive option and can be converted to the elevating roof design at a later stage. The biggest drawbacks of this design are that there is no standing room in the vehicle and space is usually limited to two berths, or beds. This makes this type of camper van unsuitable for accommodating more than two people.

Elevating Roof Camper Vans

Elevating roof conversion camper vans have the same layout as fixed roof models, but as the roof can be raised when the vehicle is stationary, there is standing room inside. As the roof is lowered while travelling, this design can also fit under more low structures. Some models offer additional sleeping quarters in the roof section, which is ideal for children's bunks.

High Top Camper Vans

High top conversion camper vans have permanently raised roofs. They tend to be more luxurious, but more expensive.

Coachbuilt Camper Vans

Coachbuilt camper vans are built on commercial vehicle chassis. They one of the larger options available.

Over Cab Camper Vans

Over cab coachbuilt camper vans, also known as Lutons, have bodies that extend over the driver area, offering additional sleeping space. They tend to have more caravan-like features, such as a built-in washroom, and can generally sleep up to six people.

Low Profile Camper Vans

Low profile coachbuilt camper vans are similar to the over cab design, but the space over the cab is used for storage rather than additional berths. They tend to offer better fuel consumption and handle more comfortably. A-class coachbuilt camper vans are high-end vehicles that can be customised and closely resemble American recreational vehicles (RVs). Compact designs are similar to larger van conversions, but are more luxurious and have better layouts.

Dismountable Camper Vans

As the name suggests, a dismountable camper van can be taken off the vehicle on which it is installed when it is not in use. These fit onto the back of a pick-up truck and can be removed once holidaymakers reach a campsite, allowing for comfortable use of the vehicle during the stay. However, putting the caravan section onto and taking it off the truck is not easy, so this option is not for the faint-hearted. In addition, living quarters are cramped and space is extremely limited.

Layout of a Camper Van

A camper van's interior should be big enough to be comfortable, with enough storage space that is easy to access. Consider the size of the berths, the width and height of the seats, and how many berths and seats are required. Choose a model with seat belts in the back, where possible. Make a list of the items usually packed when going away for a weekend. Include sporting equipment and larger items and remember to include bedding, towels, and clothing. Use this as a guide when evaluating storage space.

Features of a Camper Van

Camper vans come with a range of built-in features, from cookers to toilets. Choosing the right features can make all the difference. The table below lists and describes common camper van features.

Feature

Description

Cooker

Usually gas, with two rings and a grill

Can include an oven

Consider adding a compact microwave

Fridge

Requires a lot of power

Three way versions work on 12V and 240V electricity, and gas

Sink

Tends to be too small for washing dishes

Can be used to wash hands and face, and brush teeth

Toilet

Standalone chemical toilets require fresh and waste water tanks

Cartridge type built in and emptied externally

Electrical system

Powered by a leisure battery

Battery is charged when driving or through mains power

Check the number of power points

Awnings

Added to create more space

Protects against sun and rain

Freestanding is more flexible than a fixed version

Cushions and curtains

Cushions double as bed mattresses

Must be comfortable for sitting and sleeping

Check for removable, washable covers

Lined curtains keep the summer sun out

Good tiebacks ensure that the driver can see out of the windows

For gas appliances, consider using two smaller cylinders instead of one large one. This allows drivers to swap to a full cylinder when one is empty and to refill it as soon as possible. If drivers run out of gas when using one large cylinder, refilling may be awkward.

Buying the Right Camper Van for Your Needs on eBay

Finding the perfect camper van on eBay is easy. Simply type a phrase, such as "Volkswagen camper van", into the search field, which can be accessed from every page, to see the listings available. Refine your search by choosing the most appropriate category and vehicle specifications. For more control over your search, use the advanced search option.

Before Buying on eBay

Evaluate the item and the seller before buying on eBay. Read the full item description, which can be viewed on the item listing page by clicking an individual product, and check the photographs included carefully. When buying a vehicle, always inspect and test drive it before committing to a purchase. Look for local sellers to facilitate the inspection and collection processes. If you would like to ask the seller a question about a listing, click the "Ask a question" link.

Always get to know the seller before buying. Click on the number next to the seller's username to view his or her seller feedback. This shows you what previous buyers though of the seller's products and customer service and gives you an idea of what to expect from a specific seller.

Conclusion

Buying a camper van is an excellent idea for those that enjoy flexibility while they travel; with home comforts included. The size of the vehicle, both inside and out, is one of the most important factors to take into account. Before starting the buying process, evaluate your needs as this provides a clear indication of what to look for. Remember to take the vehicle's weight into consideration as it affects the driver's licensing requirements. In addition, the vehicle must be comfortable to drive and suitable for the types of roads most often travelled.

Consider the layout of the interior, especially storage, seating, and sleeping capacity. Some camper vans offer comfortable space for two people, with smaller berths that are perfect for children. Take note of the size of the beds; some are too cramped for the average adult. Berths and storage space should be accessible and seating should be safe while travelling.

List the features that you want in order of importance, bearing in mind that more features mean more space is taken up inside. For example, a cooker and fridge may be essential, but a microwave could take up space unnecessarily. Similarly, the design of the toilet, if one is included, can save or waste space. The same applies to fresh and waste water tanks. eBay is the perfect place to shop for the right camper van for your needs, with a wide variety of vehicles available at competitive prices.

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