Where Can I Buy A Camper Van?

Are you on the lookout for your first Camper Van? Have you already spent hours scrolling through hundreds of pages on the internet and driving around all the local dealerships?

If this is you and you’re still asking yourself “Where can I buy a Camper Van that is good quality, reliable and not get ripped off”? Then this post might be just what you are looking for.

What Are My Choices When It Comes To Where To Buy A Camper Van From?

Where Can I Buy A Camper Van - How To Choose

There are numerous places that you can pick up a Camper Van. The sale of Camper Vans and Motorhomes, both in new and used versions has become big business, especially with the rise of Covid and with so many people not flying abroad for their vacations and holidaying at home instead.

It seems like everyone is getting in on the act of buying and selling Camper Vans, so let’s have a look at who the main players are, and some of the possibly not so obvious places that you might be able to pick up your new holiday home on wheels.

When you are looking to buy a Camper Van you have to opportunity to:

  • Buy direct from the Manufacturer or Coachbuilder
  • Buy from a Main Dealership
  • Buy a Trade In from a General Car or Van Dealership
  • Buy at a Car or Specialist Camper Van Auction
  • Buy from an Online Auction Site or a Classified Ad either Printed or Online (Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace)
  • Buy from an Individual by word of mouth or from a sign spotted in a Camper Van Window

Each of these places where you could buy your Camper Van come with pro’s and con’s, so let’s have a look at them in more detail to maybe help you decide which is the best option for you.

When we say the Manufacturer in this context it doesn’t have to be to buy a Camper Van direct from VW for instance. A coachbuilder may buy a batch of VW Vans and convert them into Camper Vans on their own production lines. I would still class this as buying direct from the Manufacturer, so I will.

Why Buy A Camper Van Direct From The Manufacturer?

Where Can I Buy A Camper Van - Coachbuilders and Manufacturers

There are a whole host of Coachbuilders or Camper Van Manufacturing Companies that specialise in making professional and simply stunning Conversions.

There are several Companies with great reputations for providing quality builds and conversions such as:

These are some of the big players in the UK and they will all sell you a fully converted, top spec’ and of course brand new Camper Van.

The pro’s to buying a Camper Van from a Manufacturer or Coachbuilder would be:

  • You could choose a bespoke design or at least have features that you want added during the build
  • A full manufacturers warranty and guarantee is available
  • The build will be done by experts in the field, so it won’t be someone’s leaky DIY project
  • Top specification appliances
  • You get a brand new or newly converted Camper Van
  • You may get a discount for buying direct and missing out the middle man

The Con’s to consider could be:

  • There will probably be a wait time for it to be built to your spec’s
  • The inevitable drop in value as you drive it off the forecourt that all new vehicles experience
  • You will probably have to put down a hefty, non-refundable deposit before the build starts and could wait a long time before seeing your Camper Van for the first time
  • You may have to pay for a warranty that you don’t want or need as part of the contract

There pro’s and con’s are not implied to be connected with any of the companies named above, they are just general points to consider before taking the plunge and having a Camper Van made for you by a Manufacturer or Coachbuilder.

Why Buy A Camper Van From A Main Dealership?

Where Can I Buy A Camper Van - Main Dealerships

If you decide that you are going to do what I do, and spend your days climbing around Camper Vans and Motorhomes in Dealerships at the weekends gawping at some of the fantastic innovative ideas, you are probably going to end up buying a Camper Van at a Main Camper Van Dealership.

I have a dealership called Tyne Valley Motorhomes just up the road from me, and I love to go up there and look at all the fabulous Camper Vans that I can’t afford. It does give me some great ideas as to what we need, want and what we can afford too.

However, if you are going to take the plunge and buy from a Main Dealership, here are some pro’s and con’s associated with it:

The pro’s to buying a Camper Van from a Main Dealership would be:

  • You get to look at multiple Camper Vans together in one place and compare them to your needs
  • The staff can offer you expert advice
  • Finance will probably be available if you require it
  • Guarantees, Warranty and Service Packages could be available
  • Trade in may be available, if you are trading up or downsizing

The con’s to consider could be:

  • You are going to pay a premium price over a private sale
  • There will be no choice of build or spec’ changes as you are buying something that is already fully built
  • If you finance you could end up paying multiple times the value of the Camper Van by the time it is paid off
  • You may have to pay for a warranty that you don’t want or need as part of the contract

Why Buy A Trade In Camper Van From A General Car Dealership?

Where Can I Buy A Camper Van - General Car Dealerships

Every now and then a local Car Dealership will take a Camper Van in, either as a “Trade In” or they might pick one up at a deceased sale or an auction.

These General Car Dealerships that have the odd Camper Van can be places where you can pick up a bargain. The dealership would have been hoping to sell it on as a quick turnaround for a profit, but may end up stuck with it taking up a lot of space on their vehicle lot.

If you can pick up a Camper Van from a Car Dealership, you will still get most of the benefits that you would if you were buying from a Main Camper Van Dealership, but you may also be able to negotiate a lower price due to basically helping them to get rid of it and therefore freeing up some valuable space on their forecourt.

Why Buy A Camper Van At Auction?

Where Can I Buy A Camper Van - Camper Van and Motorhome Auctions

Buying anything at auction comes with risks, but the rewards can greatly outweigh the risks if you get it right and buy something valuable at way below it’s true market price, something that often happens at auctions.

Buying a Camper Van at Auction is no different to buying anything else at auction. Most, if not all Auctions will have a viewing day where you can go and see the lots that are on offer. It is generally held at least a day before the auction itself is planned to take place. This is the part of the auction process which can make or break your transaction.

You simply must view the Camper Van before bidding, and preferably hear it running too. For a purchase as large as this you would be crazy to buy it blind, going only on the auctioneers photo’s.

Another important point to remember is to have a set maximum bid that you are prepared to pay for the Camper Van, keep in mind in your head, and never go over it. It is very easy to get caught up in a bidding war if you really want something. If you do get caught up in the excitement, you will end up paying over the odds for it.

Buying at Auction also comes with associated fess. Auctioneers Fees of over 20% and small Commission Charges are added after the hammer goes down. This sum can become substantial if you are paying £30,000 or more for a good quality second hand Camper Van. Our local auction charges a 22% Buyers Premium + VAT on the premium, and if you are absentee bidding online or on the phone there is another 4% added too.

When you buy something at Auction it is almost always “Sold as seen”. This means that if it has a fault that you didn’t notice, something that is going to be expensive to rectify, the Camper Van isn’t going to be able to be returned, it’s yours. This is why the Pre-Sale Inspection of the lot you are planning to bid on is so important.

With all that being said, you can pick up a real bargain at an Auction and at well below Market Price, if you follow the advice above and buy wisely.

Why Buy A Camper Van From An Online Auction Site or Classified Ad?

Where Can I Buy A Camper Van - Online Auction Sites

There are of course Online Auctions nowadays, the biggest and most popular one being eBay. Pretty much all of the advice mentioned above about physically attending auctions is relevant to online bidding too, but you may find it difficult or impossible to view a Camper Van that is on eBay before you bid due to where it could be located and how eBay auctions work.

I would not personally buy a Camper Van at an eBay Auction due to the risk I would be taking by not viewing it. However, eBay became aware of how off-putting this was many years ago and came up with a Sub Category of eBay for buying and selling Cars, Motorbikes, Camper Vans and Caravans called “eBay Classifieds”.

What is eBay Classifieds?

eBay Classifieds is just like putting an Ad in your Local Newspaper, but you get access to eBay’s massive, countrywide audience too. Here’s what eBay’s Website has to say about eBay Classifieds:

When you list an item through an eBay Classified Ad, you state a price, the buyer contacts you, and together you finalise the transaction outside of the eBay platform.

The Classified Ad format is available for listings in select categories. The fees for your ad will vary depending on the category and duration of the listing.

How to sell with eBay Classified Ads 

Here’s how to create an eBay Classified Ad:

  1. Select Sell at the top of any eBay page.
  2. Enter your item’s details.
  3. In Format, select Classified Ad.
  4. Duration will be set to 28 days automatically.
  5. Select List item.

You can select “Best Offer” on your Classified Ad listing too if you’re willing to listen to offers from potential buyers.

Other Classified Ad’s such as those in your Local Newspaper, Gumtree or even Facebook Marketplace work in the same manner as eBay Classifieds and offer the same benefits over buying blind at an Online Auction too.

Why Buy A Camper Van Direct From An Individual?

Where Can I Buy A Camper Van - Buying From Individuals

There are numerous benefits to buying your Camper Van from an Individual such as the previous owner. Here are the top reasons that I managed to unearth for you, there are probably loads more.

  • More Stock to choose from – Individuals are selling far more Camper Vans than any Dealership could, so you will have more variations to choose from.
  • Physical Viewing, Inspections and Test Drives should be available.
  • You may get a lot of Freebies such as Bikes, Cooking and Dining Utensils, Domestic Appliances, Awnings etc that the previous owner wants to leave on the van as they consider them part of the package, rather than them stripping the van out to clutter up their garage.
  • You have the ability to barter, face to face after you have viewed it. You may be able to knock the price down a bit if you spot an issue that you aren’t particularly happy with and the buyer seems keen to sell, something that you wouldn’t be able to do at an auction sale.

There are obviously negatives of buying from individuals too such as:

  • No Warranty available
  • Little to no comeback if you find a fault later on, whereas you could take it back to a dealership and demand they put it right.
  • Possibly very little or no service history. You won’t know if the vehicle has been taken care of or not
  • You will have to take care of the Transfer and Ownership Documentation yourself rather than the Dealership doing it for you.

Where Can I Buy A Camper Van? – Conclusion

So, as you can see, there are numerous places where you can buy a Camper Van. Prices can vary wildly depending on where you choose to buy a Camper from, and unfortunately so can the quality of what you are buying and the after sales service, if any.

You are going to have to choose between how much risk you are prepared to take on, and how much security and after sales service you are seeking.

It is inevitable that some of you will buy at Auction and get stung, while others will walk away with a bargain. Just like some of you will buy at a Main Dealer or Manufacturer and be delighter with your Camper Van, and others will be disappointed and vow never to go near that place again.

The trick is to know what you want, know what you are prepared to pay, work out your level of risk, search accordingly and be patient. Your dream Camper Van will reveal itself when the time is right.

Where Can I Buy A Camper Van - Van Life