Choosing a van is a daunting prospect. For me, apart from hiring a Belingo once when moving house I had no experience of driving let alone owning a van so i had absolutely no idea where to start. I devoured online conversion videos and scoured the web for blogs detailing other peoples journey into vanlife but still felt at a loss.
My budget was incredibly tight so i had to prioritise my needs over my wants. My criteria: small enough to use in place of a car, enough room to sleep one /two adults, a decent engine and priced under £1000.
With this in mind, I trailed through ads on Gumtree, Autotrader and Ebay until i found a smart little VW Caddy with a 2003 reg and 107,000 miles on the clock. I was able to haggle the price and ended up getting my soon to be micro camper for the bargain price of £690.
Working on my van has given me so much more insight into things that i would never of considered before so i would like to share with you some tips when you start looking
1. Be realistic
If you're on a budget you have to be willing to comprise. Make a list of your wants then whittle it down to all your needs. When i was first thinking about buying a van, my list had everything from long wheel base & high roof to parking sensors and windows in the back. I soon realised that my budget wouldn't allow me to get all i wanted to i focussed on the essentials instead. Catergorising your options as either essential or luxury will help.
2. Age of Vehicle
This isn't just about rust or wear and tear, the parts for some older vans have been discontinued so getting replacements can be really tricky. I learnt this the hard way when the clutch pedal went on my van and was informed by the garage that they couldn't get hold of a replacement. In fact, Greta is still sitting in the garage three weeks later as we still haven't found the part she needs. **update - i took Greta to a different garage who able to weld the pedal rather than replace it
3. Watch out for curves
I remember watching conversions on youtube and scoffing at them for complaining about curved walls in the interior of their van. I mean, how much of a difference can it really make? Simple answer, it makes a huge difference! Greta is a mark 2 VW Caddy so every wall and even the ceiling in the cargo area is at an angle and as she's so small, I couldn't just box up the shape as I coudln't afford to lose any space. It's not impossible to insulate and clad but it makes everything ten more difficult. Look out for the corners where the roof meets the walls to see what you'll be working with.