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Happy Birthday Campervan - were you a good buy?

Our campervan had its second birthday this month. It was a big purchase, so I thought I'd reflect on whether, after two years, I'm happy that it was a good buy.


First, I'll outline why a campervan was in my sights in the first place. It started around 10 years back, watching a TV programme called Going RV which showed big American RVs and fifth-wheel caravans, so nothing remotely like the campervan that we eventually bought. But an interest was triggered.


Next came #vanlife on YouTube. While I scoff at reality TV shows and wouldn't be seen dead watching Big Brother, The Kardashians or Love Island, I was hooked on YouTube vanlifers, devouring each video put out by the likes of Eamon & Bec, Trent & Allie and Max & Lee. Yes, I do see my reality TV versus reality YouTube hypocrisy! Anyway, these vanlife guys seem to be living the life - new places, exciting adventures, all done in a smallish van that they converted themselves. Plus, they're confident, young and good looking too!


Why wouldn't I want to be like them? So, I figured, if we bought a van and converted it into a camper (after all, Sally likes DIY), that would be an adventure in itself. Then we'd hit the open road, head off into the sunset, visit those new places, have exciting adventures and, the pièce de résistance, I'd become young and good looking too!


It was a great idea if I ignore that Sally didn't want to live life on the open road for months at a time and didn't want to convert a van. She also made the good points that even if she had wanted to do the conversion, we had nowhere to do it nor anywhere to park it once done.


I assumed my campervan dream was over, but still watched my vanlife YouTube "friends". Eventually, I sat down with Sally and told her that the idea was still in my head and I had to either do something about it or I must try harder to consign it to the bin. Obviously, given our campervan is having its second birthday, it wasn't the bin.


What we didn't do, and what we did

Sally was telling the truth when she said she didn't want to do the conversion, that we had nowhere to do it and nowhere to park the finished article. So, we didn't buy a Mercedes Sprinter, Fiat Ducato or Ford Transit and convert it ourselves. We weren't like my YouTube vanlife idols in that way.


Instead, we bought a smaller van, a Volkswagon Transporter 6.1 that would fit into the underground parking of our apartment. And instead of converting it ourselves, a campervan conversion company did that.


We also spent a lot of money buying it - €78,594, which at today's exchange rates is £67,500 or US$85,800. Eek! I talk a bit more about the cost in my June 2021 costs post in case you want some more detail. By the way, we bought it in Covid times, and campervan prices, both new and used, were crazy.


And if you want to see a bit more about what we bought, have a look at the we got our campervan post.


Was it a good buy? Why I'd say yes...

  1. We've been away more often than we would have done if we didn't have it and we've been to some places that we wouldn't have otherwise gone to.

  2. I had a dream and we made it come true. I like that I won't therefore look back in future years and wonder if I should have done it, because I did do it.


Was it a good buy? Why I'm not so sure...

  1. Unfortunately, while the YouTube vanlifers are often young and good looking, buying a campervan hasn't turned me into an Adonis, I just can't understand what went wrong😞

  2. I spent 23 nights in it during 2022 and in the first six months of 2023 I'm at 22 nights. That's not as much as I expected, although I'm certain it is more trips more places than if we'd not had the campervan. However, I'm not convinced we're using it enough to warrant the cost.

  3. I struggle with the environmental aspect of having a diesel campervan. I try to be environmentally conscientious, and the campervan doesn't seem to tick the box on this.


So, has the campervan been a good buy?

  1. My head leans towards no. It says we don't use it enough and I should be making a better environmental choice, so it's not been a good buy.

  2. But, my heart says yes. It likes that I've gone for it, that we have been to more places and seen more things, and I won't be looking back and saying "what if?". On that measure, it's been a good buy.

  3. In any case, whether a good buy or not, I'm glad we did it. I had my idea and made it happen. That's how I'd like to lead my life (even though I don't always manage it) - my little version of trying to live without regret and not looking back and saying "I wish".


I do wonder if we should sell it, buy an electric car and a tent, although I suspect the tent idea would send Sally into a tailspin and wouldn't get used much. But at other times, I think we should keep the camper and keep on trying to have adventures. These really are first world, early retirement dilemmas that I'm very lucky to have.

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12 kommenttia


tony.oz
tony.oz
01. heinäk. 2023

If you have a keen interest and you are in a stable position then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make the decisions you have. It’s part of the dream of being financially independent. We did the same thing (just) pre-covid and spent more than we liked (like you, because we could). We‘ve done a self assessment since too and have found it to be a good buy but it was a shared interest. Sounds like yours is not so 50/50?


The downside for us is that it has become so popular that it’s hard these days to live the carefree “van life” when every tom, dick and harry are on the road and you need to…

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David @iRetiredYoung
David @iRetiredYoung
01. heinäk. 2023
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It sounds like we had similar ideas, but you're right in identifying that I lead the way on this. Sally does enjoy it when we're away though, but I'm sure she wouldn't have gone for it in the first place if it was up to her.


Your experience sounds a little like what I understand is the situation in the UK, which is a shame. Fortunately, on mainland Europe, campervans are not seen in the same light and many towns have facilities to stay for either no or just a little cost. Glad to hear you're perservering though!

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Hi David, good reflections on the van purchase. I am writing this from our van, we are away again, exploring Dorset UK which we’ve never been to except to drive through. For us we use it as an extension of normal life, instead of doing what we do at home we do the same things but somewhere new, I think it helps us that we have a slightly bigger van - Hymer 534 but it is 27 years old so it helps to be mechanically minded. It’s great you are using your van and the Aire system in France is amazing for ease of use.

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David @iRetiredYoung
David @iRetiredYoung
01. heinäk. 2023
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Absolutely, using the campervan is France is pretty easy with many towns providing facilities for free or a relatively low cost. Sally still prefers camp sites with extra facilities though, so the freebies are normally used when I'm by myself.

I like the extension of normal life idea. We haven't quite managed that, our trips are more holiday like. Maybe that's because we have the cats so have to get them looked after which makes our trips feel like a bigger deal, if that makes sense.

I do need to explore the UK, at least on the basis that is where my passport says I'm from!

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Vieras
01. heinäk. 2023

Great sharing as always.

Inspiring as another great example of checking various options after your mutual evaluation and decision making process.

I can totally relate to the “head” thinking and the “heart” thinking that you describe.

Yet, based on your financial background… I wonder why the option of renting a camper van for those relatively short vacations that you experienced is not elevated?

I assume that you will have an opportunity to experience various models


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David @iRetiredYoung
David @iRetiredYoung
01. heinäk. 2023
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I didn't write it in the post, just mentioned a tent, but I had also thought that renting would be an option. In fact, reading your comment, I suspect it is the most logical option for the amount we're using the campervan. I guess there must be a point, a number of nights use, when the rent vs buy equation switches, so perhaps I'll have to give that some thought. The other aspect (maybe particular to me) is that while I could rent, I wonder if I would or, at least, I wonder if I would rent as much?

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Vieras
01. heinäk. 2023

Thanks for the write up.


I think you take a plunge on these things as if not the idea of it doesn't escape your mind. Especially when you are in such a strong financial position.


I think it's a luxury you are able to afford and should enjoy and as long as you enjoy staying in it then I don't see it as a problem. If it feels like a chore then you have had your dopamine hit and you should move it on.


From studying your blog you seem to live comfortably off rental income and haven't touched any investments so are in a brilliant financial position.


I think you are fine to test the water on these things.


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David @iRetiredYoung
David @iRetiredYoung
01. heinäk. 2023
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You're right, it is a luxury that we are able to afford - I constantly remind myself how fortunate I am for that. My musings on the campervan, good buy or not, are very much a first world problem!


What makes it difficult for me is that there are pros and cons, and I'm not quite sure which is the dominant section, the pro or the con list. Luckily I can take my time to think about it - I suspect there won't be any change soon, but I do find it helpful to write these things down as I think them through, and the comments are also good for the thought process...thanks.

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I must have missed the original campervan post, loved the uniqueness of the timber panelling, makes it stand out from the regular materials used by conversion companies. Part of my justification for purchasing our van, other than the additional freedom it gives us, is thinking of it as an investment, especially in these inflationary times, I believe campers are still holding their values and maybe better than some other investments, just a thought.


P.S even if you haven't become an Adonis, I am sure owning a van makes you feel younger😁

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David @iRetiredYoung
David @iRetiredYoung
01. heinäk. 2023
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I always feel younger...well, mostly, or at least sometimes!🤣


For our van, I'm not sure about the investment, and I'm not sure how easy it is to value as it's not an off the peg version that I can find an easy comparison from one that's for sale. In any case, the money isn't really a driver for me in absolute terms, although I do naturally like to get value for money which, in this case, I measure in relation to how much we're using the campervan and that's not as much as I'd imagined.


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