How to Get it Right When Buying a Second-Hand Camper Van

Buy Camper Van Barcelona

Once you've decided to buy a van and have a general idea of ​​what van you want to buy, it's time to start the hunt! First, we start with some general tips, and then move on to how to inspect a truck for a living.

Mentally, don't obsess.

The mindset you have when purchasing a van is as important as any other part of the project.

With every aspect to consider, it's good to take a step back and take a look at your overall goals and the big picture. Don't get attached or look for a specific vehicle and stop looking for other options.

As humans, once we focus all our attention on one thing, it begins to control our thoughts and influence our reality.

In our heads, there is a possibility of letting "the one" slip away by not acting soon enough, but when you start your search you are more likely to jump in too quickly.

Additionally, when you are looking for used vehicles from private sellers, you have to realize that there is some reason why they want to sell the vehicle.

I think most people are good, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't protect yourself from people who try to trick you.

The most important thing is not to get discouraged if someone doesn't answer a question or can't meet with you.

Mileage, how many km is too much?

This question has too many “it depends” in my opinion. Mileage is important, but the condition of the vehicle (how it has been cared for) is more important.

A well-maintained van with 300,000 km can be in better condition than one with 100,000 km driven hard and carelessly.

That said, any van up to 200 thousand km is worth taking a look at.

Older vehicles generally require more maintenance and often require entire parts replaced...a fuel pump here, some wheel bearings there, etc...

So, make a budget with all the repairs you will have to make, to avoid surprises and you can start your van trip around the world without worrying.

Without a doubt, if you have mechanical knowledge, you have a great advantage, but if you don't want to deal with maintenance, go to a dealership or camper workshop and choose a van with a warranty.



When you buy a used vehicle, the idea of ​​financing (borrowing money) is not recommended.

Unless there are special circumstances, you might be able to make a decent amount of money traveling, but keep in mind that you will need to get on the road quickly…

It makes more sense to save in an emergency fund before committing to the #vanlife lifestyle, especially if the van is second-hand since buying the van is only the beginning.

If you are thinking about financing, you are probably setting your goals too high.

Renting a van is not a final solution either, since you cannot make major modifications to a vehicle that is not yours.

When looking for vans, consider emergency savings as part of the total budget.

There are several reasons for this, but it is important to have a reserve fund because, when you are traveling on the road, if something breaks, you are many km from home..!

Personally, I like to price it at what a complete engine swap would hypothetically be worth, to get a general idea of ​​how much money saved the particular van will need.

This amount is usually around €2,000-€3,000.

This is different for a Mercedes Sprinter, for example, which is closer to €8,000.

Newer vehicles break down too, so just because you have a new one, doesn't mean you shouldn't have cash for emergency repairs.


Vehicle age

When looking at the age of a van, there are a couple of things to consider.

Newer vehicles are generally safer everywhere.

They withstand impacts better, have more protective air bags, safer braking systems...

Any European vehicle sold from 2000 and newer (2003 if diesel) will have OBD II (a system that diagnoses engine malfunctions), making diagnosis easier.

Older vehicles are easier to repair but break down more and generally have more frequent maintenance intervals.

Try to have the vehicle manual on hand and read it to ensure that you stay up to date with the reviews and changes that need to be made from time to time.


The rust

It can be such a headache that it has its own category. Rust is something to take into account when camperizing a van.

Cleaning rust is always more difficult and takes more time than you imagine.

Rust also makes maintenance more difficult. Waiting for a screw to not break when changing the shock absorbers is an additional hassle that you normally don't imagine when buying a camper van.

Be very careful with rusty vans as it is a problem that cannot be easily solved. Just make sure there is no rust on important parts of the transmission or engine.


Vehicle Specific Issues

When you decide on a van or there is already one that catches your attention, it is good to do a search on the Internet to find particular topics with that vehicle model in the specific year.

Look at what's being said on the forums and how difficult it might be to fix those problems.

For example, the engines in a 1996 Ford are amazing, but in 1997 they switched to the Triton engine which had a tendency to blow out the spark plugs.


Will we resell the van one day?

Should you consider the price the van will have when reselling it when it is camped?

In my opinion, any money you plan to spend, in addition to the purchase of the van, should be considered as an extra and should not be relied on as something that will increase the value of the vehicle as it could affect the engine too much.

For those who just want to live in a van for a year or two, I like to think of the van as a cheap cost for taking an extended vacation.

But, for those who want to live permanently, selling the van should not be an excuse to spend a lot of money on campervanizing the van.


Check the semi-new van

This can be intimidating, especially if you haven't shopped for a used van before.

Remember that, at any part of the process, if you feel uncomfortable with the van you are looking at, it is completely acceptable to comment that you are not interested or that you need time to think about it.



There is an essential test in every vehicle you buy and that is that you should test drive it.

This is not just to see if you have any problems with the vehicle, but if you like driving it in general.

Some types of vans and people don't mix well, so it's good to familiarize yourself with your potential future home on wheels.

Another useful tip is to try to arrange a meeting so that you can hear the van starting from cold, as this can reveal problems that do not appear once it warms up.

ChrisFix has a complete checklist in .pdf format and a series of videos for a visual inspection and test drive of a vehicle that may help you.

Don't be ashamed to bring a friend with mechanical knowledge to look at it with you and help you be more accurate in your decision.


Mechanical inspection

This is highly advisable: most honest people trying to sell their vehicle will allow you to have it inspected by a professional mechanic.

Some are hesitant, but if you make your intention clear from the beginning with them, it is generally more comfortable.

Talk to your mechanic and the seller beforehand.

Typically, a one-hour inspection will cost you between €50 and €100, which is a small price to pay if it saves you a €1,800 repair.

The vehicle inspection also gives you the opportunity to haggle on the price if you still want the vehicle. Many times the owner does not realize that important maintenance is pending and will gladly reduce the price to take it off their hands.



  • Deseara una autocaravana en buen estado gracias

    José pavon
  • Estoy con la idea de camperizar o comprar ya camperizada por eso busco toda la información que pueda.

    Muy bueno
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