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How to buy a used campervan in 2023

From checking your potential purchase inside and out, to taking it for a proper test drive, these are the essential things you should do before buying a used campervan...

Mercedes V-Class Marco Polo 2021 front

Whether you want to travel to festivals, take the family to the beach or just feel like taking your holidays in the UK for the coming years, a campervan provides you with a home on wheels, and the best are good to drive, comfortable and spacious for you, your family and all of your luggage. 

While supply chain shortages mean you'll be waiting a long time for a brand new campervan, though, the same is not true of the used market. And, of course, you'll pay less than you would for a brand new campervan.

How do you separate the best from the rest, though? And what do you have to consider when buying a used campervan in 2022? Well, these are our top things to consider before you put your money down.

What are you going to use it for, and how often?

It pays to take some time to work out what you plan to use your campervan for, and how often you’re going to be on the road.

For example, if you plan to spend a couple of weeks exploring the forgotten B-roads of Britain, you really should be looking at something a lot smaller than a full-sized A-class motorhome, which will simply feel intimidating and cumbersome.

Likewise, if you plan to spend three weeks luxuriating in the Peak District, a small motorhome or day van isn’t going to cut it.

So, have a good think about what you’d like to do in your motorhome, and write down a list of what’s important to you and what you’re not worried about. 

Are you bothered about having full washing facilities? How much cooking do you plan to do? Do you need space to store a hang glider? These will all inform your eventual choice, and will dictate the size of the campervan you eventually buy.

Ford Transit Nugget 2021 rear, roof deployed

What is your budget?

The process to follow here is exactly the same as when you buy a new or used car; you need to work out a budget and stick to it, and decide how you plan to pay for your purchase. 

Are you intending to pay for the campervan outright, or will you be using finance or a bank loan? Remember that, if you’re using finance, you don’t need to use the company recommended by the company selling you the motorhome. Shop around and find out what’s the best deal for you.

There’s also the option to lease a campervan, and that will work the same way as it does with a car. You'll be locked into an agreement and you have to stick to a mileage limit, but if something goes wrong with the campervan, you can just go to the leasing company and they’ll sort it out. This also has the benefit of fixed costs throughout the agreement period. But remember, you won’t own the van, and you’ll need to adhere to conditions regarding the its condition throughout.

Inspect the inside thoroughly

Just as you would when buy any used vehicle, go over the campervan's interior with a fine-toothed comb. 

First and foremost, check the roof, walls and all nooks and crannies using a moisture meter, which will give you an early warning of any damp problems.

Then just have a really good look around – and when we say ‘around’ we mean ‘everywhere’. Look in every single cupboard to ensure shelves are intact, make sure cupboard doors open and shut as they should, and take out each and every drawer to make sure that not only is the interior intact, but that it isn’t hiding anything sinister behind.

Remember to move cushions and to lift beds out of the way to see that everything below them is present and correct, and check the cushions themselves for any kind of damage, be it splits or stains.

Campervan interior

Have a habitation test done

Most conscientious owners will pay for an annual habitation test, which checks out the pumps and filters, the gas and water systems, various seals and ventilation outlets. Supplementary kit such as fire extinguishers and blankets are also covered, and the check also ensures that electrical and gas equipment, such as the cooker and refrigerator, is certified.

If you’re buying privately, we’d advise negotiating with the seller to have this done, and if you’re buying from a dealer, you should insist it’s done.

Pop the roof/check for leaks

If the campervan you’re looking at has a pop-up roof, make sure you raise it, to make sure any mechanism works properly and that there are no hidden damp issues.

At the same time, it’s a good idea to check all windows to ensure that there’s no damage to seals or evidence of leaks.

Campervan roof

Check the electrics

Campervans tend to have quite a lot of electrical equipment in them, and it pays to make sure it all works. So, go through the entire vehicle from front to back, making sure that each and every system works the way its maker intended. 

This check will entail all the usual switches and buttons on the dashboard, plus the lights, sockets, pumps, electrical equipment, and even the pop-up roof if it’s electrically operated.

Go for a drive

A test drive will provide you with lots of important information. For a start, you’ll find out how comfortable you are driving it, both in terms of dealing with its dimensions and the fit of the driving position.

Make sure you drive the campervan on various roads, from a motorway to a B-road or an urban road, and you’ll quickly get a sense of whether or not you’re intimidated by the vehicle, and whether or not you can see out of it comfortably.

You’ll also find out how noisy it is likely to be on a long journey, how much storage there is for vital long-journey stuff such as water bottles, sunglasses and sweets, and how well it accelerates.

This drive will also give you the opportunity to see if there are any untoward clunks, squeaks or bangs, and whether or not it drives in a straight line, without pulling to either side. Don’t forget to do a reasonably brisk stop (where safe to do so), in order to make sure the campervan doesn’t pull to one side under braking.

Motorhome driver training

Check the mechanical bits

Pop the bonnet, and if you have some mechanical knowledge, have a good poke around. 

Make sure that all the fluid levels are topped up as they should be, including the coolant expansion tank, the oil dipstick, the brake and clutch fluid and the power-steering fluid. Each reservoir should have a MAX and MIN level on the side to make this easier, but the power steering fluid may require you to unscrew the cap and check a dipstick.

Next, get underneath the van to ensure that the exhaust system is in good condition, free from damage and is being held up by the appropriate mounts. 

Also, have a look at any springs and shock absorbers, to ensure there are no breaks or leaks. And while you’re down there, check that all the tyres are in good condition.

However, if you’re not confident in your ability to check these things, it’s well worth paying for an inspection by a qualified mechanic. You could employ your local mechanic or organisations such as the AA can provide this service for a fee.

Study the paperwork

As you would with any used vehicle, you’ll want to see an extensive history file. A conscientious owner will have had all the maintenance carried out according to the service schedule, and should have had any repairs carried out promptly, and there’s no excuse for them not having the appropriate paperwork to back it all up.

So, there should be extensive records relating to the mechanical side of the van, and a similarly comprehensive history of what’s been done to the interior of the campervan, including habitation checks or repairs for general wear and tear. 

Ford Transit Nugget 2021 kitchen area


There’s no denying that a campervan is a significant investment, and one that could cause both financial heartbreak as well as the irritation of a spoiled holiday if you get it wrong. But there really is no need to worry, as long as you take real care over every aspect of the buying process, from checking that the fridge isn't mouldy to ensuring that the last service covered the handbrake. 

Be forensic when choosing your vehicle, and it should provide you with years of happy service.

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