Searching for first Camper...so many boxes to tick!

Discussion in 'The Beginner' started by Powdermill, Jul 4, 2011.

  1. Powdermill

    Powdermill Read Only Funster

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    Hi there,

    I've just posted a 'hello' over in the introductions forum. My family and I are searching for our first campervan. We're a gang of 5, my wife and I and our 13, 6 and 5 year olds. We love camping - or at least most of it. With 5 of us, a huge tent, a kitchen and countless amounts of gear to schlep around, set up, tear down and repack, we seem to spend most of our time handling the logistics and less and less time relaxing as a family. We also like to do day trips to the coast or elsewhere, and would like to have a base to relax in, have something to eat and get out of the cold.

    So with this in mind, we've started looking for a used campervan. We love what we're seeing, but we've got a lot of priorities, or boxes to tick, and we're going round in circles - one van has this, but not this, etc. I hoped to search the forum for some similar questions, but this isn't available to me as a non-paying user. (One day soon I hope.)

    So could I possibly ask for some advice? I suppose the main thing I'd want to know is which bodies might give us what we need.

    Here's a list of priorities:

    Budget - it's £5000 on the road. Not a great deal I know, but we're not snobs about things like worn interiors or cosmetic bodywork issues. My wife's turned a few neglected houses into warm/cosy homes and I'm sure we can do this with a van as well. And I've realised looking around that high-mileage is not always a bad thing.

    5 safe seats - ideally this is 5 seats with 3-point belts. We'd settle for a lap belt in the back, but we refuse to put the kids in a lap belt, so this would mean my wife would have to sit in the back - which isn't great, as time spent driving together is one of our rare chances to talk.

    3/4 Berths - we'll never try to cram the whole family in for sleeping. Most likely we'll use an awning with a room for the grown ups. But we want to make the most of the camper's bed space (I'm so tired of inflating beds!) We looked at a T25 the other day, which had a medium hi-top, but we weren't sure the kids would sleep up there. It was just a little too tight. Do these get higher?

    Driveable - I'm fairly comfortable driving large cars/vans, but my wife isn't and she needs to be able to drive the van. I think this rules out anything coachbuilt or larger, and probably a bed over cab as well. Also a tricky gearbox (such as an old Talbott?) might put her off driving it. VWs, Transits and the like are fine. But we're not sure which one can do the above.

    Not a mechanics nightmare - my mechanical skills only stretch to oil changes. And while I'd like to improve on this I can't take the kids off to Europe knowing a breakdown is likely. We know good mechanics and I'm happy to send the van in for regular work - or even spend a bit on purchase making sure things are in order, but I don't think me spending many hours frowning into the engine well is what my wife considers a holiday.

    Not a stealth van - for a few reasons these turn us off. But the main issue is that we want to be welcome at the campsites we'd normally take our tent to, and I know that some of them frown on the windowless vans. No offence to anyone who likes these, though. I can see their benefits.

    Things that don't bother us that much:

    Old - if it's been loved, we can love it too. And my wife is on a sewing kick - so some new cushions may come easily!

    Small engine - I'd like to avoid the seriously underpowered vans, but I don't mind a little time in the climbing lane.

    There's probably something I'm missing, but I think I'm already asking a lot. I'd really appreciate any suggestions. But in particular I think we need to answer the big questions: can it be done? Which body? Where to do some comparing? Etc.

    Thanks for looking in and see you out there,

    W
     
  2. Wildman

    Wildman Read Only Funster

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    can be done, high mileage is very unusual in a motorhome but not in a commercial vehicle conversion.
    check out preloved, and Ebay for vans within your budget. The biggest stumbling block to a smaller van is the number of belted seats. Good luck with your search.:thumb:
     
  3. Powdermill

    Powdermill Read Only Funster

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    Thanks Wildman. By the way, Ilfracombe would definitely be one of my first camping destinations. Great beach!

    W
     
  4. Reallyretired

    Reallyretired Funster

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    I think you will have two difficult bits.

    1. 5 belted seats - very few have that many. Ours has 4 but it is a 4 berth, and far larger than you would consider. A van within your budget would be quite old and those rarely had any seatbelts in the back.

    2. Restricting your size to less than a coachbuilt.

    There are still quite a few Autohome Camelots around which have 4 belted seats but limited berths (2 narrow singles and an alleged double in the roof which is extremely claustrophobic). The problem would be the 5th seat. These are now very old and thus cheap but watch out for rust. I would suggest taking a test drive in something larger to see how you get on. They are much easier to drive than you might expect, most dealers will let you have a test drive, even if its way outside your budget (as long as they don't know that of course:Laughing:)

    Some years back when haunting a dealer I found a quite elderly coachbuilt, only about 20ft which had been modified to sleep 12 :Eek!: Can't remember how many seats though but must have been quite a few.
     
  5. rainbow chasers

    rainbow chasers Read Only Funster

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    I think as already said, 5 belted seats will be nigh on impossible to find -at least five properly belted seats! Side seats should never have belts anyway, as belts do not work sideways, and will only cause injury. a Rearward facing seat does not require a belt, as the occupant would be forced into the seat, rather than out of.

    You can pick up models for 5k, but you are firmly in the dodgy zone! Check for rust, water ingress, smells and other safety aspects such as servicing of gas etc.

    Size wise, a van conversion will be cramped! Your 13 year old will be at the age where they are getting longer, faster - and the others will soon follow. It might be worth hiring a c-class and training the wife to drive one, rather than buying within her current comfort zone - there are extras that you can buy, such as reversing sensors/cameras etc to help her along.

    Don't forget you have five lots of bedding/clothes/odds and ends to store too!

    Training her top drive a larger vehicle would be cheaper than having to pay extra pitch fees for awning rooms/tents. Remember many c-classes are only around 20 foot in length...similar to an large estate car/people carrier, though they do look longer! In fact a LWB van convesion would porbably be the same length!

    Best thing you can do is have a good look, and do not buy in haste or just because it is in budget! A well converted self build may be better value.
     
  6. SmellyFeet

    SmellyFeet Read Only Funster

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    We go away with our two in a rimor katamarano which has two bunks in the back and we sleep above the cab, not as bad as it sounds. The dining table can also be converted into a bed.

    With four in it, it can be a squeeze, wouldn't consider 5, the great outdoors gets a lot smaller when it pees down.

    Seatbelts are the biggest constraint you will find, the kids have to have proper seatbelts, I do not know the age limit, but there is a legal requirement, lap belts do not comply for kids.

    Payload is the second biggest factor when considering a family. Ours is a continental design van, which was designed with families in mind. Everything is basic and light. It has a 1000Kg payload, this is very rare in the world of motorhomes. Take one biggish bloke, smaller wife and two kids you have 250kg, 100 litres water = 100kg. 70 litres of diesel = 65 kg (guess), dog = 30Kg, four bikes, gas cylinders, clothes, food, beer, bedding, awning, towels, toys, books etc. A van with 500 kg payload wouldn't be anywhere enough for us.

    My wife has recently taken to driving ours and has been surprised at how easy it is. 23' X 7. Even if you split the driving between main roads and everything else it makes life a lot easier than just one driver. You may also be a hundred miles from home and not be able to drive due to illness, it pays to have a back up.

    Engine size, you don't neccesarily save the planet by going smaller, our 2.8 diesel turbo returns better MPG than my wifes car. The right power to weight ratio is what's important, too small an engine may cost you more to run and kill more dolphins.

    Best thing we did was to visit the shows and look at as many vans as poss., when we thought we had seen the perfect layout, we looked around to find one of that layout that we could afford.

    To be honest, I think you may struggle with 5000 as a budget, purely on seatbelts and corresponding vehicle age, but good luck. Ours is great fun, it doesn't turn any heads, it doesn't have a cocktail cabinet, but it gets used and gets us out and about when otherwise we would stay at home or go to work.

    Give it a go.

    Dave
     
  7. Powdermill

    Powdermill Read Only Funster

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    Hi, I just wanted to say a quick thanks to everyone who's answered today. You've given us a lot of info to chew through. Thanks for the advice, and I'll be back soon with more questions.

    W
     
  8. Jim

    Jim Ringleader

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    Hi Powdermill,

    If you have never bought a motorhome before then you really should read Motorhome Buyers Guide. Paying £6.88 now could literally save you £thousands. :thumb:
     
  9. rainbow chasers

    rainbow chasers Read Only Funster

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    ^^^^ Wise advice! You can end up with a whole lot of heartache if you get it wrong!

    We have lots of friendly experienced people on here to help you along the way, and even with any problems once you have purchased. Well worth the membership fee - just for the advice, not to mention the Fun!:thumb:
     
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