Answering the 4th question on the van-life video challenge:
What you purchased & why
- My experience with creepy sellers
- How I organized my research (my van-hunting spreadsheet)
- What I was looking for vs what I ended up buying
- Why I was looking for a van in the first place
- Prices of Campervans in Australia
- Pre-van planning and how that didn’t help in the end
- My ‘wanted’ ad on Gumtree
- Photos of what it looked like when I purchased and the progress of new flooring & creating the bed
When I was first looking for a van, I got extremely frustrated that there was nothing in my affordability and the more I searched, the more I wanted. In Australia the price of vans is much higher than what I’ve noticed in the USA. Here, you can get an ex-backpacker bomb-of-a-van for around $2,500 and not expect it to last or have a lot of trouble. An average very old van will-need-work van costs around $5,000. You can get a cheap van between $5-$7k – but most of the good 2nd-hand vehicles are over $10k, and more leaning towards the 12-15k. But the ones I started looking at and drooling over were around $250,000 – they were huge, had everything – bathroom, shower, toilet, full kitchen, they looked amazing – better than houses. But then I came back to reality. I drive an automatic, so what I was looking for was an automatic that had done less than 200,000 kms, was high enough to standup in, long enough to sleep in, and was not a complete dud – something that could actually get me to my destination.
I wanted something on gas or diesel rather than petrol to try and save on money but that didn’t end up happening.
So I wanted a van that I can stand up in (I’m 5’4″). I draw some chalk on the ground to get an idea on sizing and decided that I wanted the length to be at least 2.4 metres. It had to be less than 10k because that’s the maximum loan I was willing to get being that my income is quite low right now.
I created a spreadsheet for research. I wrote the brand, model, year, price, milage, location, fuel, when the registration would run out, whether the price included a roadworthy, important notes about it, and the link.
I’ll upload my spreadsheet somewhere for you to download if anyone is interested in using that as a baseline but what I ended up doing was going against all my research when I fell in love with HomeR.
With the spreadsheet, I was able to compare what people were selling by comparing the same models and seeing the differences in pricing, which I thought might help me negotiate a bit better when the time came.
I spent at least 8 weeks doing research, and then when I got my shortlist down, started to try and meet and test out the vans to see if it was what I want.
That had it’s own dramas. I had one guy who kept making the price of his awesome campervan lower.. and then I found out he was lonely and needed “company”. So basically… he knew I couldn’t afford his van but was willing to discount it if I did him some personal favours.
After that, I was a lot more sceptical and less-trusting about visiting vans by myself, although I still did.
I posted up ads on Gumtree with the exact specifications I was looking for and I highly recommend doing this too if you would rather buyers come to you rather than do all the research yourself – because you can lose yourself in research… I spent day and night pouring over boring auction ads, ebay, gumtree, and car-sales sites. As exciting as it was knowing I was shopping for my future van.. the tedious task of sorting through all the vehicles was painstaking and frustrating. The ad brought in lots of people who were willing to negotiate and match my price budget because they resonated with my plight.
So how did I find HomeR? I found him on eBay. I had looked at a similar size vehicle in the previous month when I was still fussy about all the things I wanted the van to have, and had decided it wasn’t worth the drive to go and look, but when the new ad went up for this one, I was getting kinda restless and excited – I wanted a van and the one that I was currently negotiating with was never available. So I went for a drive and once I saw him.. I went inside, and I must’ve spent 40 minutes there, taking photos and imagining what life would be like living in the van. I also took a test drive – as a passenger because that area of the city was scary for me and I wasn’t used to driving a tall vehicle.
Even though it was so much smaller than all the other vans I was looking at… it was still big compared to anything I have had in the past.
The thought of downsizing my life even more was both exhilarating and scary. I went back home kinda already knowing that this was the one but still full of doubts because of how small it was. The plusses were that because it was an ex-ambulance, it already had a lot of the things I would’ve had to install on the other vehicles that I was looking at. So it already had lighting installed, shelving, a benchseat, storage, heating, air conditioning (although both the heater and the aircondioner in the back are very confusing to me and I haven’t been able to work out how to turn off the heater or get the air con to work), it had a 2nd battery already installed as well. And I was purchasing from an actual mechanic – so presumably, it was going to be mechanically sound or at the very least, better than the average joe that I might purchase from and hopefully available to answer questions that I might have. So many plusses.
I posted my dilemma on Facebook and this question helped me make the decision.
What would I feel like if someone else bought the van first?
That pretty much made the decision for me. I decided to buy it and gave them a call, made my deposit and made the commitment. I had to wait another week to pick it up because it was unregistered and needed to go through all the things that our laws make us do first, like it get it checked-over by Vicroads, roadworthy certificate and so on. The other plus about buying from a mechanic is that he did all of that for me so that I didn’t have to go through the drama of purchasing and taking it elsewhere and perhaps risking having something wrong that might cost me more than I had to fix.
All in all the process went very smoothly – the people I bought it from were fantastic, they even purchased and setup an inverter for me, water, sink tap, gas stove and cans, and put in some other touches that they thought I would need such as the side board on the van to hold more storage, and a little table to hold up the stove. And they called me to make sure I was happy with the purchase and to let me know that they were available for any questions.
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