So you're considering a Campervan? Congratulations - you've taken the first step on the path to discovering the freedom, fun and flexibility that come with owning your own little house on wheels.
This section aims to address some of the questions we are often asked, guiding you through the early part of deciding if a campervan is right for you - and if so (and we really hope it is), what are the things you need to think about before making your purchasing decision.
A campervan is a big investment - definitely not just for Christmas, but for the whole year round. We're glad to offer the tips below to anyone considering a campervan from Thistle Rose Leisure.
Is a Campervan right for me?
Only you can answer this but take a look at our test to see
- Do you enjoy holidays that offer you the opportunity for a new location, new sights and new experiences every day?
- Do you enjoy the freedom to travel at your own pace and choose your own route?
- Do you value the ability to just get up and go - no hotel bookings, no advance planning?
- Do you like the idea of camping but not sure you can do the tent thing?
- Do you enjoy lots of long weekends, short breaks and longer holidays throughout the year but don't enjoy the cost of hotels and B&B's?
- Do you like the flexibility to eat, sleep and get-up when it suits you rather than to a hotel schedule?
- Do you want to take your dog along with you?
If you are answering "yes" to 3 or more of the above a campervan is probably exactly right for you.
Campervan or Motorhome - what's the difference?
A Campervan is a conversion of an existing van, such as a VW Transporter, Ford Transit or Fiat Ducato into a mobile living space. Generally the profile of the vehicle remains unchanged - except for additions like elevating roofs.
A Motorhome is the addition of a completely new shell or pod to a vehicle chassis - this then forming the living space. Motorhomes tend to occupy a larger footprint and generally have a greater height.
Although watch this space for our new product launch that will give all the benefits of a campervan but with the space of a motorhome coming soon...
Anyone who is experienced driving a large car will feel comfortable driving a small camper van such as a Volkswagen Transporter or Ford Transit Custom. Motorhomes are typically 18in (450mm) wider than a camper van and are more difficult to drive on restricted roads - remember almost all campsites are 'off the beaten track'. In addition a small campervan can be used practically as a normal car - which makes more economic sense than a more expensive white monster on your drive that only moves three or four times a year.
What do I need?
It's really useful to consider in advance what you want from your Campervan and what you'll be using it for before you decide exactly what the essentials are.
It's perfectly possible to load up your van with every modern convenience - TV, DVD player, Oven, Heating, USB ports, porta-potti....the list goes on - but doing this adds to the cost and weight of your vehicle and also cuts down on the space you'll have for other things.
Asking yourself some questions will help you to narrow down the options to achieve the perfect balance.
- How many people will be going on your holidays? Most camper vans will be advertised with a number of "travelling seats" and "berths" - this simply means the number of passengers the van can legally carry (seats and seatbelts) and the number of people the van can sleep inside. The number of travelling seats may exceed the number of berths, but it would still be possible with the use of a tent to take a full complement on holiday - with the overspill sleeping in the tent next to the van. A standard 4 berth campervan makes use of the elevating roof space to create two beds for children or lightweight adults. If 2 berths and two travelling seats is enough for your needs you will have greater flexibility on the layouts you can choose from, and a more spacious holiday experience.
- Will you be attempting to cook complicated meals whilst on holiday? If cooking is your thing an oven might be the first thing on your list. If not the gas hob that comes as standard in all of our vans will probably be quite adequate. And if you get a sudden hankering for roast beef and Yorkshire pud you can always slip off to the pub to sample the local fayre!
- Is wild camping - being able to stop wherever and whenever you like part of the attraction of a Campervan? If so consider cutting back on equipment that draws electricity (such as TV/DVD)- you'll have a robust rechargeable battery but no mains hook-up when you're parked up for the night on a mountain or moor. All of our conversions minimise battery power consumption by utilising things like all LED lighting and power management systems. If you just need lights and a cool box for example, it's possible to wild camp in our campers for almost a week without recharging or driving!
- Do you plan to stick to well-trodden routes and larger campsites? If so you can probably dispense with the porta-potti in favour of using the excellent facilities available on many purpose-built sites, but electrically powered luxuries such as TVs & DVD players become less of an issue. Mains hook-up means you can watch those box-sets without concerns for your power supply - that is if the view doesn't capture your attention first.
- Will you be using your Campervan for continental touring, or even further afield? If so you will need to consider the type of gas you use for cooking and heating. Calor Gas is most commonly in use in Campervans, and is readily available throughout the UK, however these cylinders may not be exchanged in Europe should you run out mid holiday. If regular overseas travel is part of your plan you may wish to convert your Campervan gas supply to Camping Gaz. Also consider adding a electricity hook-up adaptor for use on continental campsites.
- Will you be a fair-weather camper or will you be extending your camping season to get the most from your Campervan all year round. If the latter you'll definitely be interested in a heating system to keep your van snug and warm even when it's cold outside.
So why should I get a Campervan?
Yes, a Campervan is generally smaller than a Motorhome - small but perfectly formed! A range of ingenious storage solutions, cleverly designed kit and our experience in planning a layout to make the most of every square inch means that you can be every bit as well equipped as you would be in a larger van but with several key benefits.
- Easier to drive and to park - any car driver will find a Campervan a far more familiar vehicle to handle, resulting in reduced stress and potentially fewer bumps and prangs.
- Greater accessibility - narrow roads, steep hills, tight corners - take your Campervan anywhere as you explore every corner of your chosen route.
- Lower fuel bills - a smaller vehicle means better fuel economy.
- Easier to store on a driveway or in a garage.
- Access to parking, with a small Campervan it's still possible to get into restricted height car parks and even some multi-stories
- A practical second vehicle - completely usable as a substitute family car when necessary.
- A safer option - as long as the conversion has been carried out with due regard for the original base vehicle, the inherent structural integrity remains intact.
What "Extras" Could I Include?
As well as the fixtures and fittings inside your van there are number of additional features you could consider - again it depends on how you intend to use your Campervan. Here are just a few ideas of readily available extras.
Drive-Away Awning - a self supporting tent structure that adds a "porch" to your Campervan, giving you additional space, somewhere to keep muddy boots or even somewhere extra to eat or sleep. The advantage of a drive away awning is that you can do just that - drive away - leaving your awning in situ on your camp site pitch ready for your return. Perfect for days out!
Tow Bar - fitting a tow bar to your campervan gives you a range of options, from towing a trailer for additional luggage or bicycles, a horsebox, a boat or even a small trailer tent or caravan for extra accommodation. As with a car the size and weight of what you can tow will depend on the specification of the base vehicle, and also what you feel confident with. Speak to our experts about what's possible and/or advisable.
Bike Rack - if you don't fancy towing a trailer for your bikes, but having a two wheeled means of transport available is a vital part of your holiday plans, consider adding a bike-rack to your purchase.
These are just a few of the questions to consider - only you know how you want to use your Campervan and what your priorities are - but friendly, informed advice is only a phonecall away at Thistle Rose Leisure.
Want to read more? Make sure you explore our blogs on campervans and campervan life - or call us to talk through your thoughts.