Looking for a van but first advice (1 Viewer)

Feb 22, 2023
3
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Devon
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Just getting into it
Hello all. Happy to have found this place.

We're just starting to search around and get an idea of what campervan we want to own. There are a lot of options and its going to be fun trying to find something that ticks all our boxes.

We are a family of four. Mum, Dad, 5 yr old son and 5 month old daughter. We've been saving and we have about £15k to purchase an older van. Possibly a little more if we needed to push the budget for something perfect. I've been looking at VW based autosleeper van's, etc. The thinking being we want something smaller to drive (easier to park) around the Devon roads. We're also hoping to travel further afield and abroad though.
Initially I was looking at pop-top campers or something with a high roof that the kids can sleep in. I'm 6'4" and worry that I'm going to struggle to find a comfortable bed and for height in the van. This has had me considering a two berth camper instead with a better layout and then putting a cabbunk or similar over the front seats. We're thinking we'll have a drive-away awning as well.

Has anyone else found themselves in a similar position? Suggestions of vans to look at around our budget would be great. They're going to need to have 4 belts for all of us but other than that we're interested in solutions other people have found.

Thanks!
 
Apr 6, 2019
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I say the same thing to anyone 'almost' regardless of budget.
Keep 15% of your budget in your pocket as there will be things that need fixing or upgrading on a van sub £20K (that doesn't mean more expensive ones are fault free).

Keeping a chunk of cash back means when you decide that tired old suspension needs replacing or you simply must have solar panels then the cash is there for you.

Hope that makes sense?

I bought a sub £15K MH but then spent £3K on new front suspension, new batteries, solar panels and other assorted odds and ends for the boiler, cooker, fridge etc...

P.S. LAYOUT is priority number one. Get that right and you can live with the MH other faults and features (y)
 
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Riverbankannie

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Mar 11, 2016
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Hi and good luck with you search. When you are looking at vans, consider how you might live in it. Practice eating, sleeping and getting dressed etc. with the ages of your children, you will require bulky child seats and then somewhere to put them when not driving. You need to consider storage for pram and the extra clothing/nappies that children need. A drive away awning could solve this partly but is very bulky to store when on the move especially if wet.
So a small VW van may be easier to drive but may not be the best solution for you. I would go bigger if you can ( although bear in mind overall weight for your driving licence)
 
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suavecarve

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Aug 18, 2009
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Drive away awning sounds like it has more use than for many. You ll find a few on here (used only a few times) in the classified section.
Dependant upon how handy you are, might make you think about building one.
Some great advice above I would agree with.
Remember they will get bigger so an upgrade will come, so keeping value within your camper would be on my agenda.
Owing to being in Devon and driving Devon roads, I get the idea of smaller van, almost a day van with option to kip, then you have to think about toilet, inside van or tent outside.
Too much carrying tent type stuff negates aires abroad and you have to stick to campsites and pay.
Youre in the right place for advice and people making you question your own decisions though (in a nice developmental way hopefully)

Best of luck
 
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Dec 24, 2014
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Ever since lighting was by Calor gas.
Welcome.
Have a read of the guvnor's excellent 'Buyers Guide' in the 'Resources' section.
I'd find four in a 'small VW van' or a pop-top pretty grim and claustrophobic, especially in wet weather.
You'll need sufficient payload for the four of you.
I'm only 5' 7" but at a guess if you're 6' 4" I think you'll be tight for bed length and headroom in most vans.
Be aware that there are many 'too good to be true' scam adverts on internet auction sites.
Check out the MOT history (e.g. chassis/body corrosion, suspension and steering wear and annual mileages) of a prospective purchase by putting the reg'n no. into the DVLA website.
Put a link on here of any likely ones to get some informed opinions.

Older vans can be had within your budget. I bought my 6m long 1995 Compass Navigator on a VW T4 base seven years ago, only tour abroad and it has been faultless. 4 berth ( 1 double and 2 singles) and 4 seats each with laptop and diagonal belts. I paid £13,500 for it from a dealer (Johns Cross Motorhomes, Sussex).

RH side.jpg

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Dec 24, 2014
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I think ive said it before but ….i like your van spriddler👍
It's lovely - an iconic motorhome; I'm a classic vehicle enthusiast.
It's virtually 'as new' inside (only one previous owner) although I'm told the upholstery is a bit dated and more like a tart's boudoir but I don't care about that. The interior sprung seats/mattresses are divinely comfortable.
I only tour abroad but use it as accommodation in the U.K. to attend weekend festivals, classic motorbike events and for visiting distant family and friends.
Overcab double.jpg



Looking to rear.jpg
 
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Dec 7, 2017
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Since 2017. Before had caravan, folding camper and various tents.
It might be heresy on here but have you thought about a caravan? Can be better with small children as you have a vehicle for visiting places without packing up. It's what we did. Camper van/ motorhome much better for couple touring, but we felt caravan better with children visiting fewer places and travelling less.
Hope I'm not in trouble.
 
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ManTheVan

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It might be heresy on here but have you thought about a caravan? Can be better with small children as you have a vehicle for visiting places without packing up. It's what we did. Camper van/ motorhome much better for couple touring, but we felt caravan better with children visiting fewer places and travelling less.
Hope I'm not in trouble.
I’d go so far as to say consider sticking to a tent or trailer tent until the kids are older. That’s what we did. We also live in Devon and our MH has a width of 2.75m with mirrors out (2.3m folded) and it hasn’t been a problem.

We had the best of times in our tents and then a trailer tent. You have a home from home that literally becomes your holiday home wherever you pitch. You also get used to living together in a very small space and find out whether you’re happy with that, even in lots of rain or a storm or two. You can take it abroad too and enjoy some overseas culture and warmth.

Even in our decently-sized MH, I couldn’t countenance the thought of trying to holiday with an infant and a baby/toddler because there’s so much less room than in a trailer tent, which will have two enormous double beds off the ground plus a capacious indoor area for wet weather fun.

Unless you’re completely set on a pop-top, I’d honestly think seriously about the trailer tent option.

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Dec 24, 2014
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What a bargain.
I wonder how much you would pay for it now?
It was my first 'proper' m/h and I looked at many beforehand. It may seem unbelievable now in view of the subsequent crazy escalation in m/h prices, but £13,500 from a dealer was the going rate in 2015.
In its entire life it has only had two MOT advisories - a cut in a tyre and a light bulb failure, both before I had it.
It's always ready on my drive and I have no reason to change it. It owes me nothing.
 
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ManTheVan

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It was my first 'proper' m/h and I looked at many beforehand. It may seem unbelievable now in view of the subsequent crazy escalation in m/h prices, but £13,500 from a dealer was the going rate in 2015.
It's always ready on my drive and I have no reason to change it. It owes me nothing.
It’s a beautiful van.
 
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Dec 7, 2017
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Sherwood Forest, Notts
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Carthago Compactline
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Since 2017. Before had caravan, folding camper and various tents.
I’d go so far as to say consider sticking to a tent or trailer tent until the kids are older. That’s what we did. We also live in Devon and our MH has a width of 2.75m with mirrors out (2.3m folded) and it hasn’t been a problem.

We had the best of times in our tents and then a trailer tent. You have a home from home that literally becomes your holiday home wherever you pitch. You also get used to living together in a very small space and find out whether you’re happy with that, even in lots of rain or a storm or two. You can take it abroad too and enjoy some overseas culture and warmth.

Even in our decently-sized MH, I couldn’t countenance the thought of trying to holiday with an infant and a baby/toddler because there’s so much less room than in a trailer tent, which will have two enormous double beds off the ground plus a capacious indoor area for wet weather fun.

Unless you’re completely set on a pop-top, I’d honestly think seriously about the trailer tent option.
We did that as well, tents and folding camper (like a trailer tent). Great for kids (and adults).
 
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OP
OP
1
Feb 22, 2023
3
3
Devon
Funster No
94,177
MH
Just-Looking
Exp
Just getting into it
Thankyou all for your well reasoned inputs and advice. I'm taking it all and considering everything.

Spriddler your van is lovely. Something like that could work well for us. I'm a side sleeper so can probably cope with the bed being a little short for me.

Thanks also for the tip about the buyers guide. I'll check it out. (y)

ManTheVan - Its funny you should give that advice. We currently have a trailer tent! We were hoping for a van that we could also just hop in and park up by the seaside and have a cuppa, etc which is something we can't do with the trailer. Maybe we need to wait longer or consider more of a day van. I suppose if we got a smaller pop top van we could use that for the quick trips and tow the trailer tent for the longer stays away.

Pappy - Thanks for the suggestion. I really don't fancy a caravan. I've both lived in them and towed a lot of them. I used to help take tons of caravans up to festivals for a friend of mine who rented them to workers. I prefer being able to see behind me. :LOL:

Everyone else who replied, thankyou for your advice too. I'm coming to the conclusion there may be no right answer and its more down to what we can make work for us. Its crazy when I think of the volume of stuff we take with us already with one child so with two it's going to be a challenge.
 
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May 30, 2021
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Trigano Tribute
I'd be tempted to go a little bigger than a VW. If you stay in a simple panel van conversion - transit, boxer, ducato etc - rather than a full on motorhome, it'll still fit in parking bays and be relatively easy to manoeuvre down lanes. Width wise it won't be much more than a VW, if anything - unlike a coach built, where the habitation area both sticks out and is more fragile if/when it gets clipped.

The massive advantage in going up slightly in van length is you can be self contained. You can have an onboard loo/shower - the loo especially would be good with kids. And you can still move around, cook etc. when the table is set up for meal times, or when it's being used for rainy day boardgames. It's just all a bit less claustrophobic, rather than the table or bed are up so there is zero room to do anything else. Having a vehicle where you can head off to the seaside for the day and go into for a cuppa/warmth/picnic in the dry is great with kids, and a little extra room could make a big difference to usability without loosing much, if anything, in drivability.

You also won't pay the VW premium!

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OP
OP
1
Feb 22, 2023
3
3
Devon
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94,177
MH
Just-Looking
Exp
Just getting into it
Thanks mofurt . Again an interesting position. Part of the factors we're considering is parking. We live on a busy road with cars each side and no driveway. If we were to have a van that replaced my car as a daily driver then we'd need to consider parking. If not then we need to factor in keeping it at the in-laws a few miles away (if they let us) and going to get it when we need it. We're then running three vehicles though. I do like the idea of a larger van for size and layout though.
 
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Dec 24, 2014
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We live on a busy road with cars each side and no driveway. If we were to have a van that replaced my car as a daily driver then we'd need to consider parking.
It seems from other posters on here that insurance companies enhance premiums for m/h's parked on the road, but I guess you may have already suffered that with your cars.
The alternative would be a commercially run secure m/h and caravan storage site but it would be costly and impractical for daily use.
 
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