Important Features on a Camper Van
Q. Thank you so much for the work you've put into this website! It's absolutely fantastic. My wife and I are going to buy a (used) camper van as soon as possible. We are checking Autotrader and Kijiji almost every day and trying to figure out what we want. We are looking in the $20-$30,000 price range. Are there any must-have features you would recommend? How important is a generator? What about an awning? I was thinking an attached awning would be great so you're not as stuck in the van when it's raining, and to keep out of the sun. We'd appreciate any advice you could give. Thank you.
When shopping for the best used deal, I think you should keep in mind that the "extras" like a generator and awning, can always be added. If they are there, great but, if not and the rest of the camper is a good buy, don't let it influence you. As for a generator - we've never had one. Since we're usually not parked for more than two to four days max before driving, and being mindful of some conservation, we've never really missed having one. I think it would just be extra weight and take up precious space in our small camper van. We like the awning but, when we're south for the winter, find that we don't use it that often down there because the winter sun is almost too low as it crosses the sky for the awning to provide much shade. As for rain - we don't pull it out for that because the wind could pick up unexpectedly and rip it off.
So, what features would we consider important? A bed at the back of the camper so that it doesn't have to come up and down every day (that job becomes tedious). It means having a second small table that you can use aside from the dinnette, which usually involves taking the bed down. A back door (we've seen a few models without one). A good fridge (be sure to check it when running) that runs on propane as well as electric (most are three-way but you can't run a fridge on 12 volt for very long before it kills your battery - however propane is essential if you plan to boondock. We can get by without a water heater - actually disconnect ours because we feel it's more economical to heat water in the kettle as we need it (on demand). We never use our inside shower but I know some do. The furnace is important for us (on chilly mornings). Appliances like a microwave oven or air conditioner will require an electric hookup (or generator) to be used.
Hope this is somewhat helpful. Good luck with your search. It's all so much a matter of personal preference that it's hard for someone esle to know what's important to you. When buying used, you can take a little more risk on not getting it right the first time.