Your guide to buying a second-hand camper

Everything you need to know about this important lifestyle investment.

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?
Consider how many people will be using your campervan before you purchase.

Golden Rules

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!


Purchasing Channels

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. 

It's important to sit down and consider the essentials when purchasing a caravan.

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.

Extensively review the seller's credentials and the advert before purchasing through a private seller.

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?
Ensure you thoroughly inspect the caravan before putting in a bid at auction.

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!

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