Buying a used van (Camper or Doner van) can be a bit of a lottery.
We frequently see nightmare vehicles coming into our workshop. The ones where people have rushed into buying based solely on their first impressions of the van… Probably the worst thing you can do.
We call it the “Bling factor”, or “Leather Seats and Big Wheels Syndrome”.
This especially applies to the T5 and T6 market, we all know it feels like you’re paying a VW premium anyway which can contribute towards making it harder to sort the good from the bad in the first place, but we do see it with all makes of van.
You see a van, you fall in love! Typically shoddy workmanship and poor knowledge are hidden behind a set of large shiny wheels and a set of posh-looking leather seats.
Everyone wants their van to look cool we understand, appreciate and agree with that which is why the effort is put into those elements. The wheels especially can transform the outside of a van. In reality, they are an easy thing to change once you have purchased the less attractive but better quality van with standard steel wheels or stock alloys. Oh, and don’t forget, there is value in selling standard VW stock alloys, if they are in good condition, with good tyres this will go a long way towards your new wheels. You tend to get what you pay for, if something is too good to be true it probably is.
Leather seats can hide a multitude of sins. Yes, how they look is important, but ensuring they are safe and suitable for the purpose is more important. Find out the make of the seat and if it has been tested. This will tell you a lot about the quality of the seat if they don’t know, then it’s probably not tested and may not even be fitted correctly.
Newer vehicles should have smart chargers to deal with charging whilst the engine is running, we see new vehicles still being fitted with standard VSR systems because they are considerably cheaper, they look like they work at first glance, but they are not doing the job properly and will cause expensive bills in the long run.
Gas systems should have dropouts and copper pipe running to the appliance and the cylinder should be stored in a Vented metal container sealed to the living space, not just a gas cylinder propped up in a cupboard with no venting. Again these things are done for cost-cutting reasons, surely it’s better to fully research before diving in.
Elevating roofs; well they can vary so much. Noisy, leaky, we see them all, some real nightmares. In reality, they vary so much in price you can see why they are used. A larger price does not mean larger profits for us. In fact, the more expensive the roof the less profit there is for the installer, we make a minimal margin on our SCA roofs to help keep the price of the units as low as possible for the customer. We think they are worth it, Quiet, safe, watertight and fully tested to the highest levels, the quality is there to be seen.
Don’t get us wrong, there are a lot of good vans out there, just do your homework, be careful and don’t jump in. Ensure you are comparing like for like with each part of the van. Keep it relevant; if you’re looking at an older van for reasonable money then you can’t always expect the best components, as long as you are aware you can make an educated decision.