Are you looking to buy a new Volkswagon Campervan? Are you wondering if it is best to pay a premium for a new one, try and find a bargain-priced used VW campervan or convert a VW campervan to your own layout and style? Our ‘frequently asked questions' will help you in your decision making.
Our guide will explain how to buy a VW campervan for the first time.
This guide to buying a VW campervan is for those who are completely new to the world of VW campervans. You may have wondered about getting one for years and nows the time you want to start to do your research and start your search for your dream van.
We will review buying a new VW, how to find the right conversion company, choosing the layout which is hugely important (especially if you want to campervan with kids), as well as what type of bed and roof to look for, so you get the best VW campervan for you (and your family).
A VW California 6.1 with a 2ltr TDI 4MOTION 7sp DSG engine and a few optional extras can quickly become a £75,000 to £80,000 purchase. Let’s be honest though, if you can afford a new VW campervan at around the £80,000 price tag, you may well do some research on older models, however, we both know that you will end up buying a new one and why not. A new campervan will be to your exact specification and you will be the first and only person to own and use it. And why not!
For most people, your considerations will be between a new VW campervan, a nearly new conversion or buying a van second-hand and converting it yourself, or getting a conversion specialist to do it for you.
VW Camper Vans are often seen as easier to buy new compared to used campervans. Or are they? In the case of a new campervan conversion, you have the peace of mind that it comes with a manufacturer's or converter's warranty, however, the issue is very different from that of the conversion itself. Choosing from the 100’s of options available to you!
If you are using a reputable and expert VW conversion company like AP Autocare, you have the option of buying one of their recently converted vans or working with them on a new conversion to get the layout you want and the equipment that you need when you are using it. AP Autocare care has years of experience in campervan conversions and will ensure you get the best option for you, offering you ideas and suggestions along the way.
Like all major purchases, your first consideration will be how much you have to spend. What can you afford, what is your budget or even, how much are you willing to spend?
This can be broken down into either a lump-sum payment for your new or used campervan, monthly finance fees or a combination of both. Most reputable conversion companies will have an agreement in place with a trusted finance company and this gives you more options to consider. It may also mean you can spend slightly more on your conversion to get what you really want and need. As an experienced and reputable garage, AP Autocare can offer you finance options if this is something you want to consider.
When you’ve decided on a budget you will need to work out how much flexibility you have in what you are willing to pay (in case you see something that is perfect for you but a little above your budget) or decide on the compromises you are willing to make when it comes to age, layout and equipment to keep within your budget.
If you’re buying second-hand from a dealer or company that carries out the conversion get a feel for them. Do they really know their stuff? Are they passionate about the VW conversion? A company that is proud and passionate about the campervans they have converted are a company that won’t cut corners and they won’t have a “that will do” attitude.
Question why they fit certain features. For example, at AP Autocare, we fit Skyline Aurora roofs to our conversions which are a little extra on the build cost, however, they are a more streamlined roof and have a more secure latching down system, rather than the more common strap systems. When asked about it, we passionately answer and tell our customers about the benefits, style and peace of mind of the roofing system and why it is worth the extra budget.
Always get a gut feel about the conversion company and trust your instincts when it comes to choosing the right one for you.
As well as your budget, you should also think about your campervan gearbox requirements and this is another important decision. You will drive lots of miles in your VW campervan and mainly for pleasure, so you want to be comfortable with the type of gearbox you have. VW campers typically come with one of three types of gearbox; manual, automatic and a DSG gearbox. This will be a personal choice, however, one that can rarely be compromised on for budget. As well as the sleeping layout, the gearbox you choose will make or break your camper driving experience and campervan life.
Although some people will only use their campervan as a day van, it is best to ensure the basic equipment is included in your conversion. Even if you don’t plan to use it yourself, the residual value of the van will be higher and the more features it has, the easier it will be to sell.
The basic features and equipment are:
Bed - double and pull out are best. In campervans, a seat that converts into a bed is called a “rock n roll bed” and you will have a great night's sleep in your campervan with one of these. Purchasing a rock n roll bed not only allows you to sleep comfortably but also allows you to sit comfortably in the day and evenings as well. There are lots of different options when it comes to beds and styles and at AP Autocare we can let you know the benefits and disadvantages of them to help you with your decision.
Hob - I know you have dreams of eating fish and chips looking out at the sea, however, when hunger strikes in the middle of nowhere and the only food on board is a tin of beans, you will be grateful for a hob to warm them on. Electric hobs are okay, however, you always need to be connected to an electrical supply to use them. Most campervans have a double gas hob. These can be used whilst you’re out and about as long as you have a gas cylinder with you. This makes them great for overnight stays and for pull-ups in the countryside or at the seaside for the day, even if all you want is a cup of tea. If you decide on gas then it’s a good idea to buy a van with or have a gas propane tank that fitted under your van which makes it cheaper to refill compared to a separate gas cylinder.
Table - It is possible to get away without a table if the campervan is for single person use or a versatile couple who are happy to eat on their laps. A laptop tray or plate resting on your lap is always an option. Very often though, a small table or swing-out single tables are the preferred option, again it gives you the choice and makes your campervan much more versatile.
Heating - In the warmer summer months you won’t even think about heating, however, having the option to heat your campervan is a must even in spring and Autumn let alone camping in the winter in the UK. You can have electric supply heating installed in your VW conversion but again you will need to be connected to a main electric supply to be able to use it. This cuts out any overnight or more remote stays, or wild camping where there is no electricity. The most common option for conversions is gas heating, if you have a gas hob then you’ll always have gas with you so it’s a no brainer. Again, if you decide on gas then it’s a good idea to buy a van with or have a gas propane tank that fitted under your van which makes it cheaper to refill compared to a separate gas bottle.
Don’t ever think the heating element at the front of the cab will keep you warm at night, it really won’t.
Running water - A campervan conversion can be fitted with different sized water tanks. The larger the water tank the heavier your van will be when it’s full and this can mean it will be more expensive to run. However, a larger tank is good to have as an option if you’re planning to do lots of wild camping for a few days at a time with no access to water. It’s good to have an onboard water tank fitted so you have the option of filling it before you leave for a day or a camping trip. If you’re going somewhere with a water supply then you just wouldn’t fill it up before you left.
Travel Seats - Consider how many people will be travelling in your campervan. If it’s only ever two of you then you will just need the two seats in the front cab to have seatbelts. If there is ever going to be more than two of you then you should consider either 3 seats at the front with seatbelts or the normal 2 and 2 or 3 seatbelted seats at the back. Different seats will offer different levels of comfort, as an example, winged front seats or seats with armrests offer improved driving and passenger comfort. Again our conversion specialists At AP Autocare can give you the options of the different seat types so you can decide which is best for you if we’re converting for you.
Fridge - A fridge which runs off mains and/or solar power (if you have solar panels) is probably a must whether you use it as a day van or a campervan, again having a fridge fitted gives you more versatility and when and if you decide to sell it on will make it more appealing to buyers.
12v sockets - 12v/240v & USB sockets positioned around the van are a great option. They can be powered by solar panels for a certain amount of time and also be connected to mains electricity if you are somewhere with electricity you can plug in to. They can also be controlled by an LED CBE control unit which can also control and show you how much you have left in your onboard water tank and your onboard gas tank that is fitted under the van. This ensures you never run out of water or gas at the most inopportune moments and makes camping life much easier and calm.
Solar Panels - Solar panels are a great option if you are using your campervan as a day van or to use for overnight stays where there is no electricity supply. A 150w solar panel fitted to your campervan roof up to two 100amp leisure batteries and an inverter so that you are able to run 240v without being connected to the mains is a great option for your conversion.
Sat Nav - An integrated sat nav is definitely nice to have as there are lots of other phone options you can use now with a phone mount fitted to your dashboard using GoogleMaps or other apps. It doesn’t look as good but is a much cheaper option, making it very much a nice to have if you have one fitted as part of your conversion.
Phone connectivity - Again, your phone connecting to your sound system and dash is very nice to have but not essential and doesn’t make your journeys any more comfortable or easy.
USB/AUX - This is a great nice to have, there’s nothing worse than your phone running out of charge on a journey, especially if you are using your phone as a sat-nav, this is definitely one to think about.
Reverse camera or rear parking sensors - This is often a must-have for people now as most cars now come with camera’s front and back so we are used to them. Remember you will be driving a different size vehicle, larger than your car so often camera’s will save you money in the long run as they can minimise unnecessary bumps and scrapes.
Adaptive cruise control - If you’re going to be driving long distances in your conversion and you use your cruise control in your car then this is probably one to think about. It’s not essential for most people but it depends on your driving habit and how many miles and motorway miles you plan on doing.
Multi-function steering wheel - A multifunction steering wheel allows you to operate the audio system, navigation system and cruise control without having to take your hands off the wheel. Again a nice to have in your conversion but definitely not a must.
Power fold mirrors - Power fold mirrors can close in to the side of your campervan when you lock and open out when you unlock, they can also be heated if you want them to be.
Front & rear heated windscreens - These will be essential if you are using your campervan as a day van or a campervan and in most UK months apart from the summertime. Not having these will mean a lot of waiting around for your front and back windscreens to clear to ensure you don’t get smeary windows that you can’t see through.
Buying a used camper van - the golden rules
Let us guide you through some things to look out for when buying a used camper van, as well as some helpful tips and advice.
There are lots of different types of campervans and internal configurations so when you are thinking about buying one it is essential that you work out exactly what will work for you. The mechanics of a campervan will be mostly identical to the same panel van, it’s the internal camper fittings like the units, sink, fridge etc that should also be looked at in detail before you buy. Making a bad purchase without thought for the layout and how it will work for you as well as the engine and internal fittings will cost you a lot of money and time.
The golden rules of buying a used campervan:
Be open-minded, don’t decide on the exact model and layout you want without considering the compromises you’re willing to take. The perfect van to match your exact requirements will almost never come up and most often the only way to get your exact requirements is for a conversion garage like AP Autocare to convert a van for you which is a great way of doing it.
Trust your instincts and gut feel. Often something that seems too good to be true is, and there will be times when you get a feel for someone and it will turn out you were right.
Don’t buy a campervan unless you are sure it’s right for you and you trust the person or garage you are buying from. Walk away if you’re not sure, there will be others that come up but you often have to be patient. Don’t ever be persuaded to buy something that doesn’t suit you or feel right as you’ll regret it down the line and often it will end up being a costly mistake.
Whether you’re buying privately or from a garage always drive the campervan. At AP Autocare this is a must for us and we won’t sell one of our conversions unless you have driven it. Driving different campervans will give you a feel for what you like and don’t like so it’s always a good idea to make sure you buy the right one for you. Take your time with any test drive and never feel rushed. Let the engine get hot, turn of the engine, leave it for a minute and then start it again. Listen out for any noises, knocks and rattles from the suspension and under the bonnet. Check the dashboard lights and lights switch all work.
Feel any slips from the clutch when it’s a manual gearbox or jerks when it’s changing gear if it’s automatic.
Get a HPI (https://hpicheck.com/) to check there is no outstanding finance on the campervan or it hasn’t been written off at any time before you agree to buy it. All AP Autocare vehicles come with a HP check included.
When purchasing take a look at a comprehensive list of used van buying guides to look for specific mechanical issues relating to the base van you are thinking about. They will give you detailed pointers around what to look for mechanically, body and interior-wise. If you can get someone to come with you that knows what they’re looking for when it comes to campervans, and, or engines then that’s good. Vans.honestjohn.co.uk is a great website for this.
Problems can arise with vans after you buy them. How much legal protection you have if there's a dispute comes down to where you bought it from.
If you bought your van from a dealer, whether that was a franchised or independent outlet, you're covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This states that goods must be ‘of a satisfactory quality', ‘fit for purpose' and ‘as described'.
With a used van, this means it must be in a satisfactory quality for its age and mileage. If you bought the van online, this law still applies and you're also covered by Distance Selling Regulations that give you the right to cancel the sale within seven working days and receive a full refund within 30 days.
Within the first 30 days of buying a used van from a dealer, you have the right to reject it and have a full refund. However, the dealer is also entitled to one opportunity to fix the problem, but if that's not done in a timely and appropriate manner, you can still reject the van and claim your refund. When rejecting a van, you must stop using it completely.
Between 30 days and six months from buying a used van from a dealer, you're entitled to a replacement, repair or refund. After six months, the onus shifts on to the buyer to prove the van had a problem at the time of the sale.
In the event of a problem, the first thing to do is contact the dealer as soon as possible. If they offer to fix the fault, be sure you know who is paying for the work and ask for everything to be put in writing. Do not agree to proceed with any work until it's been agreed in writing.
Should the dealer not put this in writing, you can reject the van. However, you must detail your reasons for rejecting it in writing. The dealer may refuse to accept your rejection, in which case you may need to involve Ombudsman Services Resolver.co.uk For anyone who bought their used camper with a hire purchase agreement, you have extra protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This makes the finance provider jointly and severally responsible for the fault.
In other words, they have to sort it out with the dealer. Using a credit card to pay for some or all of the van's purchase price gives you the same protection.
If you paid for the van with a debit card, you don't enjoy the same level of protection, but the card provider may be able to help through a ‘chargeback' scheme. You'll need to claim within 120 days of buying the van and you may have to wait until the card provider has been paid by the dealer before you receive any money.
When buying a used camper van privately, you have much more limited protection. The seller must have the right to sell it, which means it's not stolen or subject to finance.
They have to ensure the van is accurately described and must not misrepresent it, for instance telling you it hasn't been in a collision when it has. The van also has to be roadworthy unless otherwise stated as it's an offence to sell an unroadworthy vehicle.
The burden is on the buyer to make all necessary checks when buying privately as the seller doesn't have to volunteer extra information. So, make sure you keep a copy of the original advert for the camper and all correspondence between you and the seller as proof of the description of the van.
AP Autocar Conversions are passionate about VW campervans and we take a huge amount of pride in what we do. Our professional and knowledgeable team spend time with you to understand your needs and to ensure you know what is available and possible with your van conversion.
We also sell campervans that we have converted and we are happy to discuss these with you and for you to look around them and test drive them.
All our vehicles are HPI clear, inspected, serviced, and include a warranty, a new MOT as well as 3 months breakdown cover for your peace of mind.
We are open Monday to Friday 8am - 6pm and Saturdays 10am - 4pm. Saturdays are by appointment only and we are closed on Sundays.
Contact us today on 0117 963 8916 and one of our team can help you with any query you may have or book an appointment for you to come and see us.
Published: Monday 27th September 2021