First of all, you need to find the right van for your needs. Is it important to you to be able to stand up in the van? Is the compromise of breaking down a lot worth for you to have an old VW bus? Do you want windows and where? Lots of windows will give you daylight and you save electricity, but the van heats up or cools down more quickly.. Do you want to sleep in urban areas quite often- If your van screams “hippies are living in this van” from the outside you might get more often in trouble with police or nosy neighbours than if your van looks like any other in the street… Do you prefer a smaller van which is easy to park and drive around cities or do you want a big, comfortable living space? How much money are you able and willing to spend?
When you sorted out all these questions you can start the search. A little tip: You will have it much easier if you decide for one specific model (for example VW T3 or Ford Transit) and concentrate on that.
If you buy a van used you can be lucky… or not. To eliminate the risk you can check for these points:
- low mileage
- no rust
- general impression of the van and engine (dirt, mess, etc.)- that will give you an idea of how it has been treated
- full service history from an authorized repair shop
- new MOT or TUV
- does the seller seams to be a genuine person and is he honest about the condition and defects of the van?
This is just a rough guide, in the end it is luck if you have lots of problems with the van or not. The best case would be that somebody who knows about cars comes with you to have a look on it first.
For us it was important that the engine is reliable, because nobody of us knows about car stuff and we probably wouldn’t be able to fix even little things on the way (but who knows, maybe I’ll become a car expert as well one day!). Also very important to us was that we can comfortably stand up in the van when we cook or get dressed as it will be our full-time home. As we wanna have peace of mind when we sleep and probably spend some time in cities, we decided against a colourful and interesting outside and for a stealth, standard white van. This is also really practical to stay cool in the sun. Lastly, windows and daylight were very important to us even though we will have to build some extra insulation bits when it gets cold.
In the end the Mercedes Sprinter would serve our needs the best and we prefer the look of it over the other vans of that class like Ford Transit, Renault Master, Iveco Daily or Citroen Jumper.