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Having spent the best part of a month with our eyes glued to internet search engines we feel that we are well versed in the attributes of various brands of camper and as is always the case we want to share our new found knowledge with you.

Travelling by camper should be considered for those looking to explore Australia on a budget.

If you are planning a trip of more than a few weeks then buying a campervan is more affordable than renting, as long as you have the initial capital available. With rental costs not even worth considering for a ten month journey we knew our only option was to try and find the best deal possible on the camper of our dreams.

Most of the tips below can be applied to purchasing a camper all over the world, however be sure to check local registration requirements and vehicle compliance laws.

PRE PURCHASE CONSIDERATIONS

  • Go and inspect the vehicle during the hours of daylight – Trying to determine the health of an engine by torchlight is not a smart idea.
  • Inspect each element of the camper and ask the owner to demonstrate that it is in working order.
  • Fridge – It should be a two or three way (240v/12v/gas) A three way fridge is preferable as when free camping electrical power is at a premium so switching to gas enables you to camp without 240 power for longer.
  • Cooker/Hob – We found a four ring hob to be quite sufficient, some campers do have an oven installed but they are a drain on power/gas and are inefficient.
  • Hot water system – Check to make sure the system has been serviced and the pilot light ignites.
  • Water pump system – Check for signs of any leakage and that the pump is in good working order.
  • Grey water and fresh water tanks – Ensure you have a fresh water holding tank at the minimum, remember many national parks will not allow you to camp unless you have the capacity to store your grey water.
  • Toilet and dump procedure – Cassette toilets are a bonus but you can always invest in a port a potty if the vehicle is without one.
  • Batteries – Ensure the camper has a deep cycle battery that holds it’s charge. Car cranking batteries are not suitable for use in a camper.

ELECTRICAL & MECHANICAL CHECKS

  • There should be both a crank and a deep cycle house battery, ensure they are in good working order and holding their charge.
  • Find out how you can change the 12v from the house battery into 240v to charge your appliances. The easiest way is to use an inverter but each camper is different and may use a different set up.
  • If you are not a mechanic take the vehicle to a reputable garage and ask them to give it a full mechanical inspection. Explain that you are considering buying the vehicle and you should get an honest opinion.

PRE SALE CHECKS

  • Check the VIN number with the local authorities, enquire about the vehicles history and all look over all available paperwork regarding recent mechanical work and new parts.
  • Is the seller also the named owner? If not, ask ‘why not?’
  • Consider the age of the vehicle and the availability/cost of new parts. Remember the further out into the bush you get the harder it will be to find parts for obscure makes and models.
  • Contact some insurance companies to get a rough idea of coverage costs, remember you will need to add this to the sale price of the vehicle when considering your budget. Find out if you will have any excesses to pay and if the cost includes contents insurance, we had all our electrical items, laptops, phones etc covered within our policy agreement.

REGO

  • How much longer is left on the rego and what will the cost be to renew.
  • Was the previous owner on a concession fee, if so you will have an additional fee to pay when you register the vehicle in your name.
  • In which state is the vehicle registered. Note there are different requirements in each state when buying, selling and renewing rego on a vehicle.
  • Note that to register the vehicle in your name in the same or any other state you must have a rental receipt as proof of residency in that state. (We used a camp site receipt)

AFTER THE SALE

  • A fee of 3% of the sale value will be payable to the wonderful government when you transfer into your name at the RTA. Consider this extra cost when agreeing a price.
  • Always get a written receipt signed by the seller, if possible write ‘paid in full subject to mechanical inspection’ to cover yourself if the result of the inspection are not as expected.

READ // Wanderlust Guide: Selling a Vehicle

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Happy Camping to all – If you have any further tips or advice on camping and camper-vans we would love to hear from you.

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8 Responses

  1. Dani

    These are great tips for buying in campervan in New Zealand – something we’re looking to do at some point. Bookmarked this article and will definitely use it when we finally make it to NZ. Thanks for such a thorough guide – also hope that you’ll extend your NZ city guides before we travel there; your Auckland City Guide is fantastic!

    Reply
    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      Hi Hannah, yes buying only really applies when you’re in the country for longer than a few months. When are you popping over here to New Zealand? I’ll keep a look out for deals for you.

      Reply
  2. Adam | SitDownDisco

    Fair advice. When it comes to buying a typical backpacker van things are a little different. Same general principles apply, but the mechanical reliability of the thing is the biggest issue as people are so cheap that they don’t bother to maintain them. I’d go so far to say that it is almost impossible to find a $3000 van without issues of some sort.

    Reply
    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      Adam, I completely agree. We started looking at traditional ‘backpacker’ vans as we wanted a true road tripping experience however as you rightly point out for less than $3k/$4k you’re just buying a heap of junk. For a fully working van you’re looking at between $7k/$10k depending on the overall aesthetic condition.

      In the end we widened our search and came across Winifred for an unbelievable price. The owner needed to get rid of her asap so we were in a strong position to barter. It was a lot more than we wanted to spend but we knew we’d get all our initial investment back and possibly even a small return.

      The main element we look for when buying a vehicle overseas is whether we see our initial investment returned. That way your overall costs are drastically reduced.

      Reply