Your guide to buying a second-hand camper
Everything you need to know about this important lifestyle investment
By Ben Howard
Shopping for a caravan is both an exciting and overwhelming experience. The second-hand market is flooded with both low and high-quality vehicles so it is important that you have a how-to guide to ensure you get the most for your money!
Your journey to purchasing a pre-used caravan should be characterised by research - and there is a lot out there! After reading this simple buyer’s guide-you will be a full bottle of knowledge and ready to set off on your next adventure.
Ask yourself the following questions to best determine your ‘dream’ campervan….
- What size campervan do I want?
- How many people does it need to fit?
- How will I haul my camper?
- How much storage space do I need?
As a budget-conscious traveller, you need to ensure you are getting a good quality pre-loved van as many unforeeen pitfalls can arise, thus your initial search process should be guided by these three golden rules.
- Set a realistic budget: ensure you set a realistic budget that factors in for repairs, insurance, tax and variations
- Be patient and don’t rush into any purchase without first gaining the advice of a mechanic or expert before buying. Follow your gut.
- Your trailer must be the appropriate gross trailer mass and ball weight for your vehicle, for more information on this click here.
These are the absolute essentials when purchasing any used vehicle!
When it comes to purchasing your van, there are three different channels you can go through. These include the private seller, dealer, and motor auction. Each channel consists of a different relationship between the buyer and seller.
It is important you pick the best channel based on your level of experience as a buyer to avoid buying a lemon and then being stitched up with a low-quality vehicle that you become stuck with.
Buying from a private seller
This channel is only recommended if the buyer knows what they are doing as private sales come with no warranty. With this in mind, if pursuing this channel, the buyer should always take a witness to oversee the purchase if the van later does prove to be faulty.
Ensure you do the following:
- Review the seller’s credentials - do they match up?
- Save the original advert (legal description)
- Check logbook, engine number, chassis number
- Check vehicle history with services including police and insurance
- Inspect vehicle - take photos
- Get professional inspection undertaken from a mechanic or expert
Buying from a dealer
This channel is recommended to most budget-conscious buyers with little to no experience with campervans.
At most caravan and campervan stores you will be exposed to a large range of used and new vehicles in one place. Here, you will be guided in your purchasing journey by a reputable and experienced dealer.
This opens you up to an array of benefits, including the ability to compare different campervans on the market, giving you a better indication of the varying price ranges and features between the models. This also helps you to stay within your budget range.
Dealers have a duty to customers; they are legally obliged to tell you if the van has any issues and the cost to rectify them.
A private seller has no legal obligation to do this. Dealerships offering consignment will provide you with a certificate of warranty and an up to date roadworthy certificate, giving you peace of mind.
Buying from a motor auction
This channel will ultimately provide you with the cheapest caravan but carries the highest risk. This buying channel is not recommended for inexperienced buyers.
Generally, motor auctions offer buyers the chance to get a bargain as most caravans are being sold in the auction due to their state being sometimes unsellable or unusable. Thus, purchasing here can be tricky unless you are an experienced caravan buyer and are able to spot a bargain.
If you are considering buying a second-hand caravan from a motor auction, follow these rules:
- Find the vehicles you like and stick to them
- Check the details posted on the windscreen - try and confirm them
- If possible inspect the vehicle including all areas and features inside and outside (this may be your only chance)
- Before the vehicle is driven into the auction wait by it and:
- Listen to the sound - is it healthy or unhealthy?
- Look for oil drips and marks from where vehicle was once stationary
- Check the exhaust for steam and smoke
- Watch how it drives - is it driving straight?
- Set your budget and stick to it. Do not bid higher or you may enter an unwanted bidding war
- Remember - buying from an auction entices extra selling fees to be paid on top of the end price. Is this exceeding your budget?
Your final MUST-DO checks
Before purchasing any second-hand campervan from any of the three buying channels you must check the following things as they will be the most expensive to fix both short and long term!
- Engine: radiator, oil level, head gasket
- Bodywork: hoses, and pipes should be clean with visible cracks or rust
- Panels: no visible rust
- Floor: underneath and edges
- Doors: hinges and frame
- Wheels: inside and wheel arches. Check for moisture and rust
- Chassis: check underneath vehicle and front and rear box sections
- Transmission: gearbox, prop shaft - is it loose?
Once you have checked all these areas you will be ready to set off on your next adventure! Enjoy!
Find & book your holiday accommodation with BIG4
Estimating your equipment size
We are looking for an estimate of the size of your Caravan, Motorhome, Camper Trailer, Tent etc. once it has been set up or fully extended (outside to outside)... excluding your vehicle.
Caravans, Motorhomes, Camper Vans, Camper Trailers
Please include your tow/draw bar in the estimate.
Widths are generally around 4 – 5 metres (13.12 – 16.4 feet).
Note: Include annexes of pullouts in width.
|Caravans||4 – 12 metres (13.12 – 39.37 feet)|
|Motorhomes||7 – 14 metres (22.97 – 45.93 feet)|
|Campervans||5 – 7 metres (16.40 – 22.97 feet)|
|Fifth wheelers||7 – 14 metres (22.97 – 45.93 feet)|
|Camper Trailers||5 – 8 metres (16.40 – 26.25 feet)|
Note: Do not include the size of the tent pegs
|1 person||1 × 2.5 metres (3.28 × 8.20 feet)|
|2 person||1.5 × 2.5 metres (4.92 × 8.20 feet)|
|3 person||3 × 2.5 metres (9.84 × 8.20 feet)|
|4 person||4.5 × 2.5 metres (14.76 × 8.20 feet)|
|5 person||6 × 3 metres (19.69 × 9.84 feet)|
|6+ person||7 × 4.5 metres (22.97 × 14.76 feet)|
Please be advised that Site sizes vary from park to park and within each park. Sites will be allocated based on the measurements provided during the booking process and it is the responsibility of the guest to ensure estimates are as close to accurate as possible.
If you are unsure, we would prefer you to overestimate or give us a call on 1300 738 044