Your first camper van – things to consider before you buy

You desperately want to buy a camper van for your adventures. You tell yourself that there won’t be any need to look for a restaurant with a kitchen on hand. There’s no longer a reason to stay at motels that aren’t worth a bar of soap. Was it the lure of a camper van image posted on Instagram? Looking for a change of pace? Regardless of the motivation behind you wanting to buy your first camper van, here are some important questions to consider.

Are you okay start out with the basics?

This is a hard one to resist, because like most things we don’t have, we tend to want. Sure, your friend might have a tempurpedic mattress, bamboo countertops, and solar power. But it’s wise to start simple with your first camper van. Why not play around with a cheaper and more simple van for a year or two before upgrading (or rent one first if you must). Figure out if you’ll be spending weekends or months in the thing.

What will you do with your camper van?

Will you be hauling along all of your gear so that you’re ready for every adventure under the sun in a moment’s notice? You’ll realize after some time which gear, you’ll actually use or not. You might determine that you prefer to forego the clutter and take a more minimalist in the end. Perhaps you’ll learn to make do with a pair of hiking shoes and some good books.

How many people will sleep inside?

This is easy for one person, pretty comfortable for two, but figuring out a sleeping layout for more can be a challenge. Will a third person tag along? How about kids?

Is a bathroom a necessity for you?

While I might prefer to be on the road for an extended period of time with a bathroom, you might not care so much. Despite any upsides to having your own bathroom, they take up a lot of valuable space inside the van that could be used for other purposes. It’s a critical decision that you’ll have to make. Full wet baths with a shower and toilet are available to install, as well as portable toilet options, and outside shower.

Consider what the weather will be like?

Keep in mind that cold-weather climates will necessitate good insulation. Thin metal walls aren’t enough to keep you from shivering profusely when temperatures plummet down in the 30s or below. You may want to add a diesel heater and good tires for inclement conditions. Obviously, this isn’t so much of an issue for those living in warmer areas.

Do you prefer a high-roof or low-roof?

Low roofs have a lower profile and might fit in some garages. High roofs give you more overhead and standing room, but don’t expect clearance into any parking garages.

Do you want a pop-top roof or not?

After you’ve decided upon a high or low roof, the next logical question is asking yourself if you want a pop-top roof? Pop-top campers create well-ventilated spaces that are more comfortable for sleeping. The drawback of a pop-top is it can be a cold air source in cold weather – so you’ll need to figure out a solution, like a cover. Also, people will know you’re sleeping inside with a popped top and might blow your camping cover in some places.

Do you want a new or used van?

Used vans are obviously cheaper but come with more wear and tear, while new vans are a sheer delight, but with a higher price. You also need to decide if you will DIY, go for something custom, or the easy manufactured van option.

How do you plan on powering your van?

Will you need to plug-in your van or do you prefer being entirely off-the-grid? Camping in RV and motorhome parks permit you to have devices like air conditioners and TVs. But if you’ll be overnighting in open spaces, get a good set of batteries, an inverter, and solar power option.