Budget camper van or similar - bazza

Well I'm 58 next birthday and am thinking of retiring/semi retirng, had enough of the corporate jungle and companies taking the mickey. Anyway, we're not rich but if we're frugal, we can get by & enjoy some time to ourselves. One thing I've always wanted to do is a sort of minimalist touring in Europe, having spent many a great holiday in Spain/France. I've seen many folk over there on campsites with a budget /minimalist van conversion. This really appeals to me, the sort of thing I'm thinking of is a Berlingo/Partner/Kangoo size thing. The VW Transporter seems to be the default choice, nice size but a bit pricy. This project would need to be cheap, that's the whole point. I'm quite handy and could do a basic conversion myself, seen some interesting Berlingo bed/table conversions on line. Don't need a built in cooker or bog, just something that can sleep two and be used as cover in inclement weather, plus lots of load space.

Has anyone dabbled with this and if so, any ideas?. Reliability and simplicity very important, as would be price and running costs. Modern diesel might be out on reliability grounds, not sure. This would be a 3rd car /van, so overall low cost important. Cheers all

Budget camper van or similar - expat

Back in the 60's there were lots of old VW vans going overland to Afghanistan and India. They were usually ex Belgian post office or had lettering on the side for Dupont Boulanger or something. They mostly seemed to make it although there was a graveyard of dead ones between the Iranian and Afghan borders. Maybe you could pick up an old van cheap in Belgium or Germany with the controls on the left side. Have a look on websites like Lonely Planet to see what the young backpackers are doing for wheels these days. They will know what the score is.

Budget camper van or similar - badbusdriver

If you are on a budget, then you don't really have any options other than make it yourself, as proper campers are ludicrously expensive.

My Dad made one years ago out of an old VW van, air cooled and rear engined, the one after the 'bay window', I forget the name. Him and Mum had some great camping trips with it, never going that far afield though, generally to the West coast of Scotland.

There are plenty of stuff available, from rock and roll beds (with or without seat belts), to universal cooker/sink/fridge units, to lifting roofs. If I were you I'd be looking at a lwb Renault kangoo. The 1.5 Renault turbo diesel is one of the few current diesel engines not warned against by other forum members (more knowledgeable than me) regarding dpf and emissions issues. The lwb version of the kangoo has usefully more length and space inside than the standard van, but isn't long enough to be a bind in tighter spaces. Ideally you would need a raising roof (no vans in that category have enough space to stand up in, even the high roof versions of the Fiat doblo/vauxhall combo), but there are universal kits available from about a grand, maybe just under. Another option with the same engine is the Nissan NV200, which is much more spacious than it 1st appears, having a very low floor. It is also the narrowest van in its class by at least 10cm, which may or may not be of interest.

The Peugeot partner/citroen berlingo are good vans from a design point of view, but both use the PSA 1.6 diesel, usually referred to on this forum as the 'diesel of doom'!, i.e, it has a reputation for reliability problems.

But whatever you end up going for, my one piece of advice when making it is, make sure you insulate it properly!, this can make the difference between a good trip and a bad trip. Even warm countries can be cold at night!.

Budget camper van or similar - gordonbennet

Berlingo type shape would be an ideal base for a roof tent, popular in Australia on top of 4x4's, some extend into awnings at rear and to the side when opened up, but fold back up flat onto the roof maybe only a foot high.

If a Berly feels a liitle wobbly with a bed on top it wouldn't take much genius to strap a couple of extra aluminium adjustable height supports to the thing which could be used as additional stablisers during windy nights when you're up top.

Beauty of these is can be easily transferred to any other estate or MPV or 4x4 with a squarish back end when you change vehicle.


Budget camper van or similar - SLO76
Good points raised by bbd and I agree the Renault 1.5 dci is actually quite a robust wee engine but sadly the rest of the Kangoo is murder for electrical problems, steering rack failures and other general quality issues.

For our family business we've run a series of Renault vans, starting with a 4 which rusted to bits in 5yrs but was utterly reliable, then an Extra which was a brilliant wee van for the 14yrs we ran it but the 1.9 diesel Kangoo which replaced it was a terrible thing that was plagued with problems for the 6yrs I ran it then rather stupidly (figuring it was a one off) I bought another with the 1.5 dci. The engine was brilliant but it had three steering racks and front suspension rebuilds while the dealer tried to solve a nasty clunk plus several irritating electrical faults. This one was offloaded before it hit three years.

Next up was a non-turbo VW Caddy SDi which I ran until I sold the business. It never coughed once and I sold it for top money to a chap who intended on using it to commute from Glasgow to Wales! If you want a small van to last and one that will sell on easily then find either a normally asperated 2.0 SDi (slow but able to keep up with traffic flow) or a 1.9 TDi. High mileage isn't a worry if you can find one that has been maintained properly but they do need a timing belt every 4yrs according to VW. I stretched this to 5yrs as my mileage wasn't high. But almost any you look at will be overdue.
Budget camper van or similar - Wackyracer

I've often thought about this and I always end up looking at C15 Romahomes, good bulletproof mechanics that you should be able to fix on the spot with basic tools in the event of a breakdown.

Van conversion can quite often be more expensive that buying a ready built campervan that is just a little bit older and factory built campervans tend to be well cared for in contrast to vans which are usually neglected.

I have a friend who is embarking on van conversion. I can't ever see it coming to fruition. As nice a chap as he is, he is useless when it comes to DIY.

Budget camper van or similar - movilogo

I was recently thinking in same line although I admit I don't have much DIY skill :-)

With seats folded, 2 normal sized adults would be able to sleep in any conventional MPVs or even estate cars!
So just for sleeping, you might be able to have it without modifying anything at all. If you get a van, you can just put an Ikea sofa-bed on one side and some other stuff on other side.

As you don't need k******, that would provide you enough space for storage. A camping stove is a small item. Even a portable loo does not take much space.

Apart from VW Caravelle, there are many small van options like Mazda Bongo, Toyota Hiace, Nissan NV200 or bit larger vans like Vauxhall Vivaro/Renault Trafic etc.

DIY conversions are easy for summer usage only. For serious winter usage, some professional installation may be required. Try to lie down inside each candidate car/van and see how much space you can get inside.

Please report back how you are proceeding.

Budget camper van or similar - NARU

The Mazda Bongo is a popular base. You can even get them with four wheel drive. Also sold as a Ford Friendee.

Budget camper van or similar - daveyjp
I would rent a very small van for a couple of weeks and see how you get on with the practicalities of small van living. Not being able to stand and spending hours in one when its grim weather being two aspects to consider.
Budget camper van or similar - John Boy
I would rent a very small van for a couple of weeks and see how you get on with the practicalities of small van living. Not being able to stand and spending hours in one when its grim weather being two aspects to consider.

I was about to say exactly that. We've slept in an estate car, with the hatchback opening into an attached tent where we could stand up and keep all the paraphenalia which you need on a trip. That worked okay, but the idea of doing it all inside a Berlingo campervan doesn't seem very attractive to me.

Budget camper van or similar - movilogo

If you are considering spending an extended period of time inside the camper van, then better to go for high roof version where you can stand inside. You'd also need a loo and at least a microwave or camper stove or similar + fridge.

Renting is a good idea and recommended. Some people find it claustrophobic. I am fine with it but my wife hates the idea. So consult SWMBO too :-)

Budget camper van or similar - Bromptonaut

If you are considering spending an extended period of time inside the camper van, then better to go for high roof version where you can stand inside. You'd also need a loo and at least a microwave or camper stove or similar + fridge.

Once you've got all that stuff then next question is whether you want a campervan or whether a proper caravan, with all that stuff integrated, would do job better.

We thought through the motor caravan route before buying our (vary small) caravan. Two issues clinched it. Firstly the inconvenience of needing to pack everything away before going out for the day, or even leaving others preparing breakfast on a French campsite while one goes for bread. Secondly, in our case it would also be the second car so inconvenience of height restricted car parks etc came into play.

Could see campervan's attraction in ability to stop at roadside in say NW Scotland but that would be an occasional thing better done as fly/rent.

Budget camper van or similar - Ethan Edwards

My vote too. Rent one go use it and see if the lifestyle is for you.

It's a shed load of hard work imo and totally not worth it.

I know someone who bought one for 30k tried it hated it and sold it on for 26k all in three months.

Unless you have space to store it the just keeping it when not being used costs loads.

I like it to owning a full sized pet elephant. Lots of fun on the surface but a pita in the end.

Statics for me.

Budget camper van or similar - badbusdriver

The Mazda Bongo is a popular base. You can even get them with four wheel drive. Also sold as a Ford Friendee.

There are plenty out there, most of which have already been converted to campers. But be careful, they are not without reliability (overheating) issues, and due to age, rust. Also, your engine choice is 2.5 diesel, or 2.0 and 2.5 petrol, most likely with automatic gearbox. None of them are very efficient if you plan to do some long European tours.

The C15 romahome is a good call, one of the few proper campers which are 'affordable'. Reliable and good mpg, but you wont need to be in a hurry, not with 60bhp!.

To be honest, unless there is a specific reason you need a small van, if it was me, i'd be looking at the next size up. A swb version of a standard, transit sized van, something front wheel drive (as this will have a lower rear floor than rear drive). Not specifically a transit mind you, as they do hold their value pretty well, something like the citroen relay/fiat ducato/peugeot boxer triplets, or a renault master/vauxhall movano. I hired a swb renault master not that long ago, and i can confirm that if, like me, you are not particularly tall (5'9"), you will be able to stand up in the back of a standard, low roof van (with your head very slightly tilted forward). The standard transit does not have som much height in the back, but you do also get high roof versions. Same with the vauxhall vivaro/nissan primastar/renault traffic, but they have well known gearbox issues if the van has been driven 'unsympathetically'.You say you don't need a toilet, and that may well be true, but (no offence!) you are not that young anymore and if you are anything like me (at the ripe old age of 45!), getting up 2 or 3 times during the night to go to a campsite toilet could become wearing!. Even worse, if you get some stomach bug while abroad, having a small loo could be a life saver. A wee toilet cubicle could easily be worked into a transit sized van. Having that bit extra room of the bigger van could come in very handy if you happen to be unlucky with weather and have to spend more time 'indoors'!.

Budget camper van or similar - Manatee

The Mazda Bongo is a popular base. You can even get them with four wheel drive. Also sold as a Ford Friendee.

Bongo Friendee is the MPV; also sold as Ford Freda.

But they are big thirsty things, nearly all automatic. Mostly pretty old now although there seems to be a steady supply from Japan still.

Edited by Manatee on 13/08/2017 at 21:44


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