Here are the tips for buying a cheap camper van:
- Re-examine why you need a camper van
- Only get what you need for where you’ll take your van
- Choose an affordable base van for conversion
- Pick a van size that fits your traveling plans
- Go for a simple interior design and layout
- Focus on essential features only
- Buy a used camper van
As a potential camper van owner, you could take several routes to buy your gorgeous home on wheels, ranging from ordering a cheap custom build to buying a reliable pre-owned camper.
And while your options are endless, so is the possible price tag. For example, Advanced RV’s $400K+ camper van that’s based on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter could give you a huge sticker shock.
That’s why I’ll give you cool tips and tricks so you too can join the #VanLife community without breaking your bank or feeling like you’re buying another small home.
Just buckle up, and let’s take a beautiful tour.
While most camper vans could have you coughing up your life’s savings, you can get your hands on a cheaper one within a reasonable price range.
Just so we wrap our heads around how cheap a camper van can be, let’s have a glimpse of the average prices.
According to Classic Vans, the price range of a new or used camper van will vary greatly, stretching from $10,000 for older pre-owned models to $200K or more for newer, advanced rigs.
Curiously, even the segment of camper vans with lower starting prices can get pricy once options stack up.
Your dream $35,000 camper could easily jump close to or above $50K. While the same principle applies to higher-end models, it’s more dramatic, and we won’t look into those.
This is how you buy a cheap camper van:
1. Re-examine Why You Need a Camper Van
By establishing the reason why you need a camper van, you’ll figure out the options and everything you need.
Clarifying the reason why you need a camper van comes in handy because a custom build could potentially amount to over $150K.
That said, the huge ticket price might be worth it only if you plan on using your camper regularly, or for extended periods of time. Just be patient with yourself, research deeply, and get comfortable doing so.
For example, if you plan to live full-time and off-grid in your van, you’ll do well with solar panels, a large battery pack, and an inverter.
But if you’re eyeing the weekend warrior style of adventure and will only be having fun from Friday through Sunday, you’ve no use for large battery packs or huge water tanks.
2. Decide Where You’ll Take Your Van
Your van should only have upfit features according to where you’ll travel to. Things like fans and air conditioning may be necessary if you intend to visit warmer places, as opposed to heaters and extra insulation.
You can also think of an awning if you’ll be lounging outside your van in the shade. Assuming you’ll be trekking through rugged terrains, you might work with exterior protective gear like a grille bar.
You’ll also do great with systems that beef up your camper’s offroad capabilities, such as a better suspension lift kit.
3. Choose a Company that Understands Your Budget
If you only have a few thousand bucks in your budget, you might want to buy a cheap conversion kit and do some DIY camper van conversion.
But if you want a full conversion that won’t leave a huge dent in your wallet, there’s an in-between option.
Several companies offer affordable conversions by using a cookie-cutter approach for their designs, which streamlines their production and drives down the overall conversion price.
For example, the approximate price of a van from one of Wayfarer’s dealerships is $46,000. Conversion could then set you back an additional $10,750 for a Ford Transit, or between $11,750 and $12,750 for a Ram ProMaster.
That depends on factors like your preferred floor plan and wheel-base. Here is a highlight of other companies that offer affordable conversions:
Pro Tip: Choose a company that compliments your vision, sticks to your budget, and communicates well with you.
4. Choose an Affordable Van Base for Conversion
There are loads of good options, and I have put my top picks lower down this article.
5. Pick a Van Size That Fits Your Traveling Plans
Your choice of camper van size depends on whether you’ll be traveling solo, as a couple, or as an entire family.
The more people you’ll be taking outdoors, the more (or larger) beds you’ll need, the bigger the van you’ll need, and the prices will easily add up.
For example, the Ford Transit crew van is smaller, and its MSRP is $35,270, while its XLT passenger version starts at $43,785.
While more space means greater comfort, there’s a trade-off with mobility. A bigger van won’t easily navigate tight spaces in small villages and narrow roads in old towns.
Conversely, a smaller van allows you to move easily through the city and other narrow spaces while letting you park close to the attractions you enjoy.
6. Economize on the Interior Design & Layout
If you’ve settled your heart on a custom build and conversion, be clear on how you envision the camper’s interior, so you pick a conversion company that best reflects this.
Otherwise, most companies can create everything from scratch, possibly complicating things and taking a toll on your wallet.
In choosing your layout options, be keen on the length of bed that suits you, as well as the seating area. Floor plans with massive beds will inflate prices, as will extensive seats.
An example of a good life hack is a bed that folds and transforms into a seat to save space and money. Additionally, you could opt for the driver and passenger seats that swivel to face the interior, so you don’t pay more for extra seats.
If there isn’t enough room for a heating unit, your diesel cooktop could play a double role as a heater to warm the van’s interior.
7. Focus on Essential Features Only
It’s important to figure out which kind of gear you’ll be hauling, so here’s where you make a list of “must-haves” and amenities that you just wish for but aren’t essential.
Remember, vans are pretty small, and fitting items like an enclosed shower unit may pose a huge challenge, both in terms of space and money. A smaller soaking bathtub may be easier and cheaper to fit in.
Your priority list is also likely to have features like a small portable toilet, a sink, an extra battery, and an exterior power socket for charging the battery or plugging in high-power appliances.
8. Buy a Used Camper Van
If you don’t mind a van with a couple of hundred thousand miles on the odometer, a used camper van could be your last option, and it will likely be the cheapest.
Aside from the age and mileage, the final price depends on other factors, like whether the van is already renovated or not.
If you’ve got real DIY skills coursing through your veins, you could buy a cheap but “mechanically sound” van and renovate it yourself to save on labor costs.
Here’s a highlight of the 5 most affordable camper vans:
|Name||Base Van||Starting Price||Conversion Company||Company Address|
|Free Bird||Nissan NV200 Cargo||$39,460||Caravan Outfitter||24325 Hwy 99 Edmonds, WA 98026|
|Boho Tall||Ram ProMaster 2500||$50,000||Boho Camper Vans||1719 W University Dr. Suite 187 Tempe, AZ 85281|
|Glampervan MUV||Ram ProMaster High Roof||$57,250||Glampervan||1960 Mandela Pkwy, Bay 7 Oakland, CA 94607|
|Vandoit Liv & Do||Ford Transit||$64,800||Vandoit||2925 NW State Hwy 7 Blue Springs, MO 64014|
|OGA Rambler||Ram ProMaster||$70,000||Off Grid Adventure||6809 Bowmans Crossing Unit A Frederick, MD 21703|
While many new camper vans cost $50K+ for the base vehicle alone, a high-end conversion can easily rack up tens of thousands more. Savvy van dwellers aren’t parting with that much money, nevertheless.
If you want to buy your dream camper without shelling a ton of money, there’s a new class of companies seeking to deliver the van life experience at a fraction of the cost.
The following companies sell cheap camper vans:
1. Caravan Outfitter
Caravan Outfitter’s Free Bird is arguably the cheapest and smallest camper van, starting at $39,460.
Based on the Nissan NV200 cargo van, it uses a slide-rail system that makes shifting from a camper van to a cargo hauler simple and convenient.
The Free Bird’s ingeniously designed slide-and-glide system allows you to install or remove components in just a couple of minutes.
Its large dinette seating area allows for game nights and meals, and you can still convert it into a true full-size bed.
You can access the kitchen from the rear through a slide-out box, which harbors twin storage drawers and a portable butane stove.
The main cabin is a set of artfully-crafted boxes that hold everything you’ll be hauling for the camp.
A larger storage box behind the two front seats holds a deep cycle backup battery that powers a 31-quart freezer, USB charging ports, and dimmable LED lighting.
2. Boho Camper Vans
Boho Camper Vans has a rich experience working with various types of vans, outfitting them with a sleek look that’s perfect for those unrivaled Instagram shots.
While Boho says the price of the final conversion project could land anywhere between $90-95K, that includes the cost of a brand new van from them.
But if you outsource a cheap van and stick to essential camper features, you may only part with $50-60K in total.
One of Boho’s remarkable creations is the Boho Tall, a camper van based on the Ram ProMaster 2500 High Roof with a 159” wheelbase.
It has a breathtaking wooden interior, and each buildout comes complete with an electric dual-zone fridge, portable toilet, storage cabinets, and 340W solar panels.
There’s also a teeny pull-out table in the sitting area. What’s more, the bed is located in the rear with its own “garage” below so you can keep your bike and other gear you’ll be hauling.
While Boho offers a stock floor plan, you’re free to customize the tile, floor and interior base paint color, bedding, and curtains.
Glampervan seeks to offer clients a multi-use vehicle (MUV) that can take you on a beautiful vacation, work as a mobile office, and still be a monster hauler that rivals most trucks.
The company is keen on maximizing space with a build that’s optimized for two people, based on the 136” wheelbase Ram ProMaster High Roof. The price ranges from $57,250 for a standard build to $80K if you consider deluxe amenities.
To enter the van, you walk through a galley kitchen stocked with ample cabinet and storage space. The back of the MUV houses a Murphy bed, which retreats into the wall to create space for hauling gear and supplies during trips.
Overhead cabinets provide extra storage when the bed is in the sleeping position.
Vandoit pulls out gorgeous rigs that are hard to beat, currently offering two unique camper van packages – the Liv and Do.
Both packages include the cost of the van plus options, with the Do package starting at $64,800 while the Liv goes from $76,900.
If you want a van that can double as your primary vehicle and still take you for outdoor adventures, you’ll do great with the Liv package.
Its flexible design allows you to use it as a fully-kitted camper, or drive it in town as a standard 8-passenger van when you’re off the road trip.
Each Liv van comes with a solar power off-grid system, an awning, and roof racks. The company offers other great options, including various cabinets, furnaces, and kitchenettes.
Another remarkable feature of the Vandoit Liv is the hydraulic bed lift. You can adjust the height of the queen-sized bed at the push of a button to create more storage room underneath.
5. Off Grid Adventure Camper Vans
While the $70,000 starting price may seem downright ridiculous, Off Grid Adventure (OGA), offers brand new, environmentally sustainable, and budget-conscious vans compared to other companies.
OGA currently offers four distinct layouts, the most popular of which is the Rambler, and it’s based on the 159” wheelbase Ram ProMaster High Roof.
It features a full-size Murphy bed for two, and it folds up to leave room for two long bench seats, with a removable table in between to make working or dining a cinch.
With the built-in cabinetry and the auxiliary overhead cabinets in the sleeping area, you have ample storage. There’s also a galley kitchen that boasts a built-in stove, a butcher block countertop, and a refrigerator.
The high prices for brand new campers shouldn’t be a deal breaker if you’re interested in those fantastic adventures and road trips.
Here’s where you’ll find affordable used camper vans:
eBay is a great online platform where you can strike a nice deal on a used camper van, especially if there aren’t many people bidding.
While you may not always get someone to perform a full mechanical inspection before buying the van, eBay generally allows you to check if it’s good.
You have a vast resource of up to 58 photos, damage verification, VIN verification, and a feature to check the depth of tire treads.
Still, a seller could let you get a pre-purchase inspection from a real mechanic, so you throw your concerns out the window.
Pro Tip: Try to get a grace period between the payment going through and picking the van so a qualified mechanic can check it.
2. Facebook Marketplace
If you’re on Facebook, try Facebook Marketplace because you’ll find all sorts of used camper vans at incredibly low prices.
Note that Facebook may not offer you any solid purchase protection, so beware of scammers, and it’s good practice to check if a seller has a real account.
Pro Tip: To make your search easier, try keywords like vanlife, used camper van, van conversion, etc. You can also turn on notifications for new listings.
Craigslist is your best bet for landing a good deal on a camper van, much cheaper than what you’d get from a conversion company. Remember, it’s free for the advertiser and pretty simple to get in touch with the seller.
Still, Craiglist bears some risks. For example, the seller may leave out mechanical issues in the van description, or they may not even know they exist. So be sure to get a pre-purchase inspection.
While Craigslist prices tend to be on the lower spectrum, watch out for vans that seem too cheap to be true. If it helps, pay with a cashier’s check or some other means of payment that’s not so instant, once you’re satisfied with the van condition.
Pro Tip: Try searching near your home location first, since you may get an opportunity to first see the van in person.
4. Vanlife Trader
Vanlife Trader is one of the best places to get a cheap camper van, and they also do van rentals and van financing.
The website interface is pretty convenient, asking you specific questions like the vehicle type and make, number of seats, your preferred sleeping capacity, and price range.
Even if you’re unsure of the keywords or filters to use, Vanlife Trader will show you a whole lot of camper van options to choose from.
5. The Vancamper
The Vancamper also offers a bunch of used vans for sale across the US. They also use filters to narrow your search based on your city, budget, preferred mileage, and year among others.
The website boasts an awesome user-friendly platform so both parties can communicate with each other directly, and there are no hidden fees.
What’s more, the Vancamper has a mobile app so you can browse through listings with ease.
You’ll be able to buy a cheaper camper van once you’ve researched adequately and examined your reasons for one, your preferred destinations, and traveling plans.
It’s also a good practice to stick to your budget and get a company that respects that. That said, choose an affordable base van and only go for the features you truly need, insisting on a simple interior design and layout.
Ultimately, you can choose a reliable used van from the various market places we’ve discussed. Just be sure to have the van inspected so you don’t rack up nasty repair costs in the long run.