/ Camper van base vehicle

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Siward on 09 Feb 2014
I'm finally going to get myself a van to convert into a happy camper.

For the base vehicle I'm looking to spend no more than 4K. Obviously, once bought, I'll keep it going as long as I can.

I started looking at Sprinters- yes they are expensive but supposedly v. reliable and in the long run cheaper and there are some bargains to be had. Rust appears to be a big problem though.

Then started looking at Renault Masters. Fewer rust problems maybe and not as bulletproof as a sprinter, but its a camper not a multi drop delivery vehicle and I like the front wheel drive.

Not so keen on the ol' transit.


Obviously its a minefield and evry van has its pros and cons. but would anyone here care to share their personal experience?
squirrel00 - on 09 Feb 2014
In reply to Siward:

try vauxhall vivaro/renault traffic lot of van for not too many pennies and quite bullet proof(and cheaper to repair than merc/vw)
woolsack - on 09 Feb 2014
In reply to Siward:

How about this beauty. http://www.mod-sales.com/auction/vehicle/related/62427/Renault_Master_2.5_DCI_Ambulance.htm

Insulated, bags of space, lots of cupboards and after a few hours with the hot air gun most of the fluorescent stickers will be off
peebles boy - on 09 Feb 2014
In reply to Siward:

Moved up in the world this year from a SWB low roof Transit to a SWB mid roof Transit. Cannot emphasise enough how much nicer it is to be able to stand up!!! Definitely take height into consideration when buying!

photo album of my conversion here if you're interested:


Things learnt between last van and current van:

Keep it simple. If you can make things modular/easy to move/fix/replace, you're saving yourself heartache down the line. Guess this depends how "pro" you want the finished product to look. I bought a £4,500 van and spent £600 doing it up. Have spent 2.5 months in France over the summer and it's been fine, no "hardwired" electrics or water.
Get a friend to help when doing your conversion, you'll be amazed how often you wish you had three hands.
Set a budget and stick to it - far to easy to spend too much at the start and then be over budget by the end. Do your research and planning before buying anything!!
Damp proofing - lots of different thoeries out there on this, but I think it' a no brainer - if the warm/moist air can be kept away from the cold metal skin as much as possible, less condensation issues all round.
There's probably lots more, but need to pack bag for tomorrow. Good luck whatever you decide to buy, and however you decide to convert!!

Siward on 14 Feb 2014
In reply to peebles boy:
Anyone driven a 311 Sprinter? Enough power do you say? Have my eye on one...

Gordon that's a nice conversion by the way. Are there any cooking/ heating facilities?
Post edited at 14:42
Duncan Disorderly - on 14 Feb 2014
In reply to Siward:

The obvious choice is a VW no? The issue is your budget... You could probably get a T4 for that sort of money (especially an older one - watch out if you live in London though as the low emmission stuff will hammer you) and I've a mate who got a T5 for just over 5K and kitted it out himself for pennies so it could be possible if there's any stretch to your budget.

Only issue with transporters is that when you rock up at a crag or beach every f*cker's got one ;-) (oh and they're a bit pricey)

Andrew Holden on 14 Feb 2014
In reply to Siward:

Sprinter all day long. Mine has 420,000 on the clock and still making regular trips to the french alps. Sprintertastic
butteredfrog - on 14 Feb 2014
In reply to Siward:

Merc Sprinter = V. Reliable and fast, 2000 - 2005 can be a bit "scabby"
VW Crafter = Sprinter with a crap engine
Renault Master = OK to a point, turning circle of a supertanker
Vauxhall Movano = Renault Master
Renault Traffic = God help you if the starter motor packs up and you haven't got a ramp and a big box full of tools.
Vauxhall Vivaro = As above
Merc Vito = E Class with a van body, possibly a bit small
VW T5 = Overpriced You buy the lifestyle not the van (complete with Lei garland hung from the mirror)
Ford Transit = Better than they used to be, but, agricultural and will have been nicked by pikeys, before you finish reading this!
Iveco (various numbers) = Strong but fragile, brittle would be a better word, surprisingly nice to drive.

All commercial vehicles get the wheels "driven off" them. Everyone knows the fastest thing on the road is the firm's van. A van is only as good as its service history, look for regular oil changes and plenty of bills.

Cheers Adam (Ex commercial vehicle mechanic)

Siward on 14 Feb 2014
In reply to Oldinio:

What version? Quite keen on those 313s but if the 311s are up to the job they are definitely cheaper.

Butteredfrog, is a 55 sprinter, say, really a worse buy than a 56 or later?
gribble - on 14 Feb 2014
In reply to Siward:
We're converting a MWB Renault master high roof minibus at the moment. We got it for £1300 already boarded and insulated, with windows all round a roof vent. Bodywork very good, 133k miles and full service history, used as disabled transport, so gentle miles. The turning circle is great! Way better than our cars. I can recommend one like this if you can find it.

Our budget for converting though is around £2,000 on top of the purchase price, as we want it built well (all home built). So far, so good. Sleeps 3 easily, equipped with all stuff (except toilet obviously - why do people do that?) and about 4 months to build.

Definitely get a van you can stand up in, and if you can sleep sideways in it, all the better. The budget can be tiny or huge, depends what you want as a finished project. Although a walnut floor is lovely, it is heavy and rather pricey. And lovely. VWs are overpriced and not that practical as campervans, but they do make good vans though. You would be well advised to avoid the advertising gumpf with VWs as you'll struggle to find a beach you can get a van on, it'll be a mission to drive it off the sand afterwards and it's too bloody cold to surf in the UK anyway!
Post edited at 17:17
butteredfrog - on 14 Feb 2014
In reply to Siward:
The 55 is a good van IMO, the 56 is basically a restyle with a few engine differences. I am informed they are indestructable and "do not go wrong" (my Ex boss). It all depends on service history, if the 55 looks tidy and has plenty of history go with that one.

3 stands for 3 Tonne, 11,13,16 etc is horsepower. The only difference between the 311 and 313 is the electronics, you can chip the 311 up to 316 performance if you want. (By chip I mean remap, not crappy £10 off ebay fool the air temp sensor chip)

A friend runs a 56 plate 311 as a race van, its pretty much at full loaded weight all the time. He had it chipped about 6 months ago and the difference in performance is noticeable. He says it still does the same to the gallon as well (about 25mpg loaded)

Cheers Adam
Post edited at 17:22
interdit - on 14 Feb 2014
In reply to Siward:

> What version? Quite keen on those 313s but if the 311s are up to the job they are definitely cheaper.

Depends how light your internal build is going to be.
I have a 2005 313 and I made everything really light - We have to be careful not to get hit by the speed cameras and it's definitely not us holding everyone up as we ascend cols!
A 311 would be fine unless you filled it with heavy furniture such as cut down Ikea cabinets.

Pre 2006 definitely had rustitis. I viewed many before I found one that had bodywork I could fix with ease - ie spots on panel or door edges,but not along the front of the windscreen (very common fault due to drainage design issue).
Keep on top of the bodywork - The steel is crappy and the paint is very thin.

The Sprinter has a stickshift on the dash (allowing you to easily go from the cab to the rear) and a decent engine, which means it beat the VW version for me.

Wife's album here:

And blog here:

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