Used Camper Buying Checklist

From the inception of the peace and free love movement of the 70s - and the famous Volkswagen Transporter’s conversion into “Flower Power” - campervans have been an excellent way to travel around the country.

The compact design and everyday usability have made them incredibly popular. It reached the point where European van manufacturers continue to produce them, and hundreds of custom shops continue to create their own models. 

New campers can be very expensive due to the base cost of the van, materials, and the sheer number of hours that go into converting the cargo area into a living space. The prices drop significantly over time, allowing you to buy a relatively unused vehicle for a fraction of the cost. 

Picking the right campervan isn’t easy, but a vehicle that satisfies our checklist should be a safe purchase. No matter how great the camper’s condition, always set aside a significant sum of money for unexpected repairs and maintenance. 

Make and Model

The first thing you need to do is create a list of needs and determine the budget for maintaining the camper. The simplicity of the interior will make the upkeep of a camper just slightly higher than a regular van. Because of that, your initial search won’t be for the best camper, but the best van. 

The majority of campers are converted from a European-made van, and for a good reason. German, Italian, and French vans are Europe’s equivalent of pickup trucks. They are incredibly reliable, durable, and relatively inexpensive to maintain, depending on the brand. 

Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen have been dominating the van market for more than fifty years. The production quality and comfort contribute to the high resale value and make it more expensive to maintain. 

People Carrier or Cargo Van

All vans seem to be the same on the surface, but there is a big difference between transporting cargo and people. 

With people carriers, mileage and regular maintenance are the only significant factors. Cargo vans have to endure a lot of abuse, especially if they were a company vehicle. The rear suspension has to be very stiff, which makes it incredibly uncomfortable for driving passengers. 

The easiest way to tell whether you are dealing with a people carrier or a cargo van is the presence of windows on both sides of the vehicle. You can always check the VIN and find out what the vehicle was intended for by the manufacturer. 

People carriers are more practical, but cargo vans are larger and taller, resulting in more living space. When buying a camper conversion, always compare the year of conversion against the manufacturing date. Some sellers take high-mileage vans, clean them up and convert them, then sell them for profit.

Service History

Car sellers still get by without full-service history, but missing entries should be inexcusable when you’re looking to buy a camper with confidence. A responsible owner will always keep logs and receipts of repairs, even if it shows that the van was serviced frequently.


Low mileage is always preferred when you are looking to buy a used vehicle. However, most vans are built to traverse hundreds of miles a day. As long as it has been regularly serviced, a van with 100,000 miles should continue running without any major problems. 

However, if the van was originally a cargo vehicle, the less it was driven in that capacity, the better. For some owners, a camper doubled as a daily commute vehicle. This is not necessarily a problem, but the daily commute is not how you want to rack up your miles on a camper.


The campers aim to provide the middle ground between a recreational and regular vehicle. Whereas an RV isn’t the most exciting vehicle to drive, campers are a bit faster, allowing you to cross greater distances with ease. 

Because of their size, they cannot provide the same levels of comfort in the back, nor include a bathroom. The water supply is also limited, and a refrigerator is rarely present. The kitchen is best used for making coffee and heating food. Still, campers are a great way to travel and have some useful features available at all times.


The front row seats in a camper are usually standard van seats, but some modify the twin-seat configuration into a full-sized single seat. This reduces the passenger limit by one but provides superior comfort in the front.

The back is occupied by a three-seater bench or a mattress. The bench typically operates on a folding system, where the front or backside acts as a bed. The mattress is a better option for sleep comfort, but it reduces the maximum number of passengers by three, so it’s not as practical.

Regardless of the layout, the furniture should be in great condition. Reupholstering the seats or changing the mattress is quite costly, so any tears, stains, or foul odors are cause for concern. On the plus side, these are items that can be replaced with relative ease. If you can get a good deal, the camper may still be worth buying. 


Camper stoves come in many forms and are powered by electricity, gas, or diesel. In some instances, diesel variants also double as a space heater but often take longer to heat up. Make sure the stove works to a level of your satisfaction.

The water faucet uses a small pump to generate pressure. Turn it on and check the storage area underneath for leaks. Follow the hoses towards waste and freshwater buckets, and look for signs of mold and moisture. These 


When the engine is not running, lights and power outlets are supplied electricity by a deep-cycle battery. These can easily set you back $200, so make sure the warranty is still valid. Every outlet should be operational, and you can test them out with a phone charger.


We didn’t go into details of examining the mechanical components, as you are most likely familiar with the process of purchasing cars or trucks. Instead, we focused on the aspects of the van and interior that matter for a camper purchase. We hope you have learned what to look for when buying a used camper, and check out the rest of our articles on recreational vehicles!