Buying a base van for your conversion is a big investment. It’s an exciting time, and should be an enjoyable and relatively straight forward experience, but it may also feel a bit daunting.
At Cambee we have many years of experience working on and helping to buy used vehicles, so we’ve put together the following checklist to help guide you through the process, and get you the best donor vehicle for your campervan.
As part of our service we are very happy to help source used or new donor vehicles but if you do feel like going it alone, here are some useful pointers.
There are many commercial vehicles on the market that could be converted but which is the best van for a camper conversion? It’s important to get it right, and to help you we have compiled this guide – Best Van For A Camper Conversion.
Choosing the right VW Transporter: Even when you’ve narrowed the field to a VW Transporter, the number of choices can seem overwhelming. Should you choose a T5 or a T6? We’ve laid out the options in these guides: –
Bodywork: Have a good look around the van checking for scratches and dents. Look for uneven gaps between panels as this could indicate damage from a previous accident, or bad repairs. Look for differences in the colour of the paint and particularly if there are any bumps and bubbles in it – this could indicate rust beginning.
Tyres: Check the tyres for sufficient tread, and that the front tyres have equal amounts of wear. Also make sure the wear is even across each tyre, if this is uneven it could be an indicator of suspension problems.
Van interior: Take your time having a look inside the van. Check the amount of wear on the seats, pedals and carpets match the mileage. Adjust the seats, and make sure the seatbelts pull out and retract smoothly. Check the ventilation works (hot and cold) and there aren’t any strange noises. Check all the electrics – windows, mirrors, satnav, central locking, sound system and steering wheel controls (if fitted).
Still not sure? No sweat. We’re here to help with this in-depth guide to Finding A Good Base Vehicle.
Dealership: This could be considered the safest place to buy a used vehicle because you will be protected by the Consumer Rights Act and receive a warranty.
Private Seller: Although you don’t receive the same protection as with a dealer, you will still be covered by the Misrepresentation Act, and the vehicle offered must match the description and what the seller has told you.
V5C (Log Book): Always check the vehicle registration plates (VRM) match the V5C. You should also check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) matches the registration document. This can be found at the bottom of the windscreen on the passenger side. The registered address of the vehicle should also match the V5C.
Important Note: The V5C registration document should come with a watermark and contains important information about the vehicle. If it doesn’t have a watermark, or looks like it’s been tampered with, then you should walk away.
MOT Certificate: Make sure the van has a valid MOT certificate and the correct mileage – you can do this online gov.uk/check-mot-history.
Service History: With most commercial ex-lease vehicles, there won’t be a book full of dealer stamps! Generally servicing will have been done in house, under VW guidelines and should conform to VW’s warranty requirements. If unsure, contact VW to confirm that the warranty for the vehicle is valid.
Ask to see the service history printout or invoices for work carried out on the van by the previous owner.
Vehicle Check: It’s a good idea to consider using a Vehicle Check service provided by some companies online. For a one-off fee they will check with the DVLA, police national computer and Association of British Insurers to see if the vehicle has been stolen, written off or has outstanding finance.
Note: A finance company retains legal ownership of any vehicle until the purchase loan has been paid off, so if the van has outstanding finance, it’s important to negotiate to settle this directly with company and pay the seller the balance of the sale price.
Insurance: If you’re thinking of test driving a vehicle, you should check with your insurance vehicle that you will be covered. Dealers usually have special cover in place but be sure to check beforehand. And if you decide to go ahead and buy, then make sure you add the vehicle to your policy before driving it home.
Start from cold: Make sure that the engine is cold before you start. Feeling the bonnet is a good way to do this. Listen to the engine, it should start smoothly and run quietly without any rattles or other noises. Also take a look to see if any excessive smoke comes out on ignition.
Whilst driving: Steering, gears and brakes should all work smoothly and be responsive. Try to test the van at different speeds, and on different types of road.
Note: If you’re buying from a private seller, test drive from their home – don’t let them meet you half way.
Deposit: If you agree to pay a deposit, then don’t pay more than you are willing to lose and check that the seller will refund the deposit if you don’t want to go ahead and purchase the van.
Payment options: Thoroughly research the different options available to choose the best way to finance your purchase. Buying a van using savings, Hire Purchase and PCP are all options to consider.
– Never buy a van without seeing it.
– Always test drive the vehicle before agreeing to buy it.
– Always check the market value.
– If the price seems too good to be true – it probably is!
Compare the pros and cons of the VW Transporter features; short and long wheel base, tailgate or barn doors, Startline or Highline van
From known faults to low or high mileage, get the lowdown on sourcing a good camper base vehicle