Guide to buying a used campervan

Written by Grant Ellis on 30th September 2021

The summer season may be over and many travel restrictions are still in place, but there has never been a better time to buy a second-hand campervan. Buying a second-hand campervan gives you freedom and flexibility, guarantees a staycation trip in the sun next year and endless adventures this winter, without the same concerns about cost.

As with any investment, it can be stressful trying to ask the right questions and knowing the things to look out for. Luckily this guide can help you ensure you find the right campervan for you.

Why should you buy a used campervan?

Second-hand campervans are good for the planet and good for your pocket. By getting a good deal on a used campervan, you can be more specific on the exact features you want your campervan to have. If this is your first campervan it can also be a good place to start without running the risk of spending all your money on a unit that isn’t quite right.

What should I look for in a second-hand campervan?

The first thing to look for is the style, space and features of the campervan; is it big enough for yourself, your family and any partners or pets? Create a list of fittings and label them either essential or desirable – how many does the campervan match? 

It is also helpful to know in advance exactly what type of campervan you want, to help narrow down the browsing process; what can you tow? What does your license allow you to drive? Do you want manual or automatic?  

We have a full list of questions to ask before you buy here.

How much does a second-hand campervan cost?

The biggest factor when searching for a campervan is your budget. Remember there will be insurance costs to cover and maintenance costs in the long run too, especially when buying an older, pre-used, vehicle. Include these in your budgeting to ensure the unit isn’t out of your price range. The trade uses a publication called Glass’s Guide to assess pricing, but it is not always consistent. Specialist motorhome publications can be a good place for insight into costs. Do your research to ensure you are getting a good deal!

Things to do when you find a second-hand campervan:

  • You need to check the health of your potential campervan to avoid any unexpected costs down the line. Check the water, gas, lighting, brakes, tyres and oil straight away. If you’re a first-time buyer it may be useful to take someone along with you who is more familiar with campervans.
  • You should also check the layout of the campervan, along with its extra features such as retractable beds, kitchen equipment, sinks, cupboard doors, storage, springy seating and flooring. It is often helpful to take a damp meter as older vehicles sometimes have an issue with damp.
  • Make sure to look at the exterior closely too – are there any cracks in the panels or bodywork? If you notice anything you are not entirely happy with, make sure to negotiate the asking price accordingly. Then, take the campervan for a test drive where possible to see how it feels on the road.

What is good mileage for a used campervan?

High mileage shouldn’t always put you off. If your campervan has a full-service history (FSH) or mainly complete service history (SH) you can be sure the vehicle has been looked after appropriately, even if it has been well-used. Older campervans are often designed to go for up to 100,000 miles but more modern vehicles are designed to go further in their lifetime and can easily reach 200,000 miles. Think about the distances you will be driving the campervan and judge its current mileage accordingly. 

What is the most reliable campervan?

According to Car magazine, the best mid-size campervans on the market are the Volkswagen California and the Ford Transit Custom Nugget. But the most reliable campervans are ones that come with a full service history, warranty, an engineer’s report (if it is not from a known converter), proof of ownership and details of any fitted extras.

Don’t forget to read our guide on ‘Everything you need to know before buying a campervan’ here.

Where can I buy a second-hand campervan from?

It is best to start at your local motorhome dealership. Even if you do not end up buying from the dealership, they can show you several options at once and provide specialist advice to help you narrow down the search. 

Second-hand campervans are also available from private sellers and auctions, but buying from a specialist dealership ensures you have legal rights and can benefit from after-sales service.

Do you need special insurance for a second-hand campervan?

Once you have chosen your campervan, it is essential to have the right “basis of cover” for your insurance. “New for old” cover is often the best option for new or nearly new campervans. If your campervan is older, “market value” will often work as older campervans tend to depreciate more slowly. If you have purchased a vintage, classic or “dealer special” caravan (with fitted added extras) you might choose “agreed value” cover, ensuring you receive the same you paid for your caravan.

The best thing about purchasing a second-hand campervan is that you can use the money you save on the vehicle purchase to kit out the interior exactly as you please. That way you can travel in style for a fraction of the cost. Choosing the right insurance for your second-hand campervan might seem daunting but Shield has a UK-based team of dedicated customer service professionals to ensure you make the right decision. Find out more about where to buy campervan insurance here and if you aren’t sure if second-hand is right for you, read our guide to buying new motorhomes here.

Contact our Shield Total Insurance expert helpline today at 0800 393 966 for all your questions and queries, or connect with us online to find out more about our insurance quotes.

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