Buying a New Camper Van

Introduce Yourself…

Hey! I’m Kyle.

I am looking to buy a cargo van to convert to a camper van and am wondering what people look for in mileage and how much I should expect to spend? I would like to keep it under $15,000 for something that will last at least a few years, hoping to be 10+ years though.

Greetings & Welcome!

Why a cargo van? While the promoters love them, most campers hate them, they’re not stealthy, and cost considerably more to convert.

Passenger vans come with factory finished floor, walls, ceiling, and have opening windows. That can immediately save you a ton of money & work. With opening windows, you also won’t need expensive roof vents, or the leaks that come along with them.

You didn’t mention where you’re located, and options can vary due to location. Personally, I think a small, cheap, move in ready, older motorhome is the best choice for newbies. With patience you can find really nice, and really reliable ones for $5k & under. If you use them as they were designed, and keep them original, you can own them for many years and they’ll still be worth as much or more than you paid for them.

I’ve lived in vans, buses of all sizes, motorhomes of all sizes, and boats. For the last 10+ years I’ve been living happily in a 1973 Dodge high top camper van, but only because at the time, there were no acceptable motorhomes in the area, and I needed something quickly. It had been gutted, so I needed to rebuild the interior, but it was cheap, and with many years of experience I knew I could make it livable for several hundred dollars. It cost me $700 for the van, and under $300 to make it a very comfortable full featured home on wheels. I’ve put over 300k trouble free miles on it since I bought it, and it just turned 500k miles.

A small motorhome with a generator will give you all the amenities of an apartment except on wheels. No gym memberships, public showers, or toilets for me. Very very few of the DIY camper vans would meet my standards of comfortable, affordable living, while many motorhomes do. I’ve had many motorhomes that will still fit in a standard parking space.

#Vanlife doesn’t require a van, any home on wheels should qualify. I’m a firm believer that going cheap, risking as little as possible, while getting the best bang for your bucks, is the best way to get started. You can always upgrade later when you have more experience, and a better understanding of your wants & needs.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller

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Thanks for all the info!

We are currently in Hawaii and moving to the Denver area, but we plan to travel to get a van on our way to Denver, so the van’s location isn’t as big of a deal. If it’s in the contiguous 48 states, we will fly there, buy it and drive it to where we need it.

We have only thought about doing a van conversion because that’s all we knew. Where do you find things that cheap? I have seen vans for 20-30k or much more for lesser mileage. However, I just stumbled upon a site called Smart RV Guide with some for less than 10000 but not great pictures of the vans/motorhomes.

Is there a place you would recommend starting to search for a good camper van or motorhome?


I use Craigslist a lot, and recently started perusing the facebook marketplace too. RVtrader is another good resource.

Sometimes I’ll just google “cheap xxx for sale” too.

I do try to avoid anything from the rust belt.

Good luck & keep us posted.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller