Ive been a proud campervan owner for a couple of years now, and I must say I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. There are days when I look at it and just smile. Other times, the lack of practicality makes me question the purchase. So I thought Id write down some of my insights on what its like to own a campervan (conversion van).
In this article, Ill be focusing on campervans/conversion vans only. So this does not include pop up campers, RVs or tent camping. Lets start with the Pros!
Comfort is probably the number one reason people start to think about buying a campervan. The bed tends to be larger and softer than sleeping in a tent. In addition, since you are off the ground you stay warmer on cold nights. And if it gets really cold you can always start the car.
NO SET UP:
I’ve always hated packing and unpacking camping gear, just to tear it all down in a day or two. So the concept of having everything easily accessible in a single vehicle was a huge selling point for me. With campervans, you just need to park and open up the doors!
You don’t need reservations, campsites or even nature. That’s the real beauty of these things. You can even park them on a residential street and sleep them if you really want. Yes, it might creep out the neighbors but its not illegal.
TONS OF COOL POINTS:
In addition, campervans are just plane fun!..and there’s something iconic about them. Whether your thinking of the 1960’s style VW buses or the 1970’s style panel vans, you cant go wrong.
This is probably the biggest factor in the decision to buy a campervan. If you look on Craigslist you’ll find vans that run the gamut in terms of price. If you decide to go big you can get a nice, new, fully decked out van for a price tag of around 30K and up. These could be the traditional VW Buses or something newer like the Mercedes Sprinter Van. If you go this route, you’ll have an amazing camping machine and be the envy of everyone who crosses your path. But who has that kind of money to drop on a weekend toy.
On the other end of the price spectrum, you can find a ton of converted vans online for a few thousand dollars. I personally bought mine for $1,500 here in Los Angeles (I have a 1999 Dodge Ram Van 1500). But with that cheap price tag, you run a big risk! Remember you may be purchasing a 20 year old vehicle for a few thousand dollars that you plan on taking out on long road trips. The last thing you want is to break down in the middle of the desert. So you may find a lot of repairs that come with that low price tag. So far, Ive been lucky….knock on wood!
Something we always forget to account for when making an auto purchase is the fees. Remember you’re going to have to pay Taxes, Registration Fees, Smog Check and Insurance. These can add up…especially if you’ve bought an expensive camper/conversion van.
Here in Los Angeles, on a $1,500 van, I paid about $300 in Tax and Registration fees when I purchased it. A Smog Check might be $30. And liability coverage is about $500 per year.
This one might stop you dead in your tracks. Campervans are big so you need a place to park one. If you live in an apartment you probably don’t have an extra parking spot for a big van, unless you’re trying to street-park it, which seems like a big hassle to me.
Maybe the VW buses or the Mercedes Sprinter Vans are better on gas, but my 1999 Dodge Ram Van is complete shit. These things are bricks on wheels. Im not exactly sure what I get, but I expect it hovers somewhere around 15mpg. When I fill up, its about $80. So this can add up fast.
This is something that I don’t think people think about. Yes, a campervan can seat maybe seven people, BUT it can only sleep two comfortably. So essentially its a two-person set up. Its great for couples and singles, but not great for families. Its also not great for camping trips with your buddies unless they all have campervans too. Either you’ll be sharing a small bed with your buddy, or you’ll be in a van while everyone else is in tents. Kinda awkward either way.
These things are BIG! The VW and Sprinters are easier to maneuver but these large (cheaper) Dodge, Chevey and Ford vans are freakin huge and hard to park. They are difficult to drive in dense cities and hard to park unless you have a lot of space available. They also arent great on trails, so you kinda have to stick to paved roads.
This is another one that will stop a lot of people from buying a campervan, but it only applies to vans with a horizontal bed set up. If you are looking at a campervan/conversion van that has a built in conversion bed in the back, they likely have you lay the width of the van. So it just wont be enough leg room for tall people. Im 5’7 and I just barely fit. Any taller and Id have to lay cross-ways or convert the bed to run vertically along the length of the van.
So I guess I have more Cons that Pros, but that wasn’t intentional. I actually love having a campervan, but it does come with some headaches. Since mine was purchased for a measly $1,500 I don’t expect it to last too long, but I plan to do as many road trips as I can until it dies on me.