It’s no surprise choosing the right van is an essential part of making conversion plans. It’s a huge decision. Making the wrong choice could potentially make or break your project, but we’re not here to tell you which van you should buy. Instead, we’ll cover everything you’ll want to consider when making a choice that’s right for you.
The Obvious – Mileage, FSH, Condition, Year
We’ll hold our hands up and say we’re not experts on the mechanical side of things. However, you don’t need to be a mechanical expert to know that these are things you should look for when buying any pre-owned vehicle:
Full Service History
Always look out for a FSH. A vehicle that’s been serviced regularly could save you a heap of cash in the long run. Even if the mileage is a little higher than you were looking for.
It’s no surprise some manufacturers are more reliable than others. Depending on what you’re looking for you’ll want to do your research carefully. This way you don’t end up buying something that’s reaching the end of its life.
Unlike rust – which is a huge problem with pre-owned vans – many problems aren’t visible to the untrained eye. If you know someone whose in-the-know when it comes to mechanical stuff ask them to come along with you when you’re viewing potential buys.
Newer vehicles tend to be more economical, reliable and in better condition overall. Nevertheless, if you’re buying a classic – or not too fussy about the year – then consider all of the above carefully.
How big is too big?
Size is an important factor in choosing a van that’s right for you. In order to determine your ideal van size you should first consider what exactly you plan on using the van for.
If you’ll be spending extended periods of time in your van all that extra internal space could potentially mean extra storage, facilities and generally a higher level of comfort. However, if you’re planning on using the van on weekends or as a commuter vehicle, size can be your worst enemy. Especially when it comes to parking or navigating narrow streets and areas with heavy traffic.
Where will your adventures take you?
Many Vanlifers – both long-term and short-term – enjoy the freedom of having no plans. However, we think if you’re on a tight budget it’s a good idea to have a rough idea of where you’ll be heading.
If you think you might end up spending time in areas with high toll fees or ferry fees you’ll want to consider curb weight and the size (as mentioned above) of your van. Also, if you’ll be faced with winding roads, ice, snow or off-road terrain you could be better off with a vehicle with four-wheel drive.
Choosing a manufacturer
There’s tons of reputable manufacturers out there churning out vans just waiting to be turned into Pinterest perfect conversions.
However, it’s vital you take some time to look into the potential cost and availability of garages/parts to fix any mechanical problems. Everyone loves a good Sprinter van conversion, but be warned. Sprinter repairs can come with a hefty price tag. With garages rumoured to be few and far between in some parts.
The Stealth Element
Let’s face it. We all love a vintage Westfalia, but these days is a ubiquitous panel van a more practical option? With added freedom of where you spend the night it’s no wonder the popularity of the stealth van is growing exponentially. We’ve even discussed some of the perks in our post Practical Advice For Anyone Considering Van Life.
When choosing the right van consider whether you value stealth over style. Not only does stealth mean there’s potentially less chance of you being moved on. This can also come with added safety and comfort, especially for lone female travellers.
If you know Van Life is just one of many travel/life goals you’re probably hoping you can sell your van without making a huge loss. If this is the case you’ll want to consider something that will still have some life left in it.
Again, this means you’ll need to have a rough idea of where you’ll be going and for how long. If you know you’ll be covering 10-20k miles a year, over 3 years or more take this into account when looking at the year and mileage of potential buys.
Also – a little off topic – but a FSH can sometimes make all the difference to buyers so make sure to get your van serviced regularly and keep hold of any receipts.
Ready to get on the road?
The great leap into van life starts with buying your campervan. Whether you’re looking to become a weekend warrior, take a long-term trip or make a full-time commitment many people feel this is something completely unattainable. That’s why quite often when we tell people we’re converting our own off-grid camper the most common response is ‘I wish I could afford to do something like that’. Well we’re going to tell you that you totally can!
We’ve been forced to deal with a ton of mechanical disasters. So – although we know some of these are no brainers – we’ve decided to share with you everything we’ve learned.
An early morning yoga session, deeply inhaling the fragrant scent of fresh pine followed by a short hike over earthy, volcanic terrain. A late afternoon swim in sun warmed pristine, glacial fed lakes accompanied by a campfire dinner as the sun sets over great snow topped ridges.
Got a question? Want to contribute something? Think we’ve got something wrong? Are you in-the-know when it comes to the mechanical stuff?
Let us know in the comments below or get in touch if you think we’ve missed something.
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