If you're looking at the campers for sale by owner market, rather than a larger retailer or vendor, you're basically down to three options. Either the owner is somebody you know and trust, have a mechanic that you can totally rely on to thoroughly check out the vehicle prior to your purchase or have enough mechanic knowledge yourself.
But before you get sucked in the dream of carefree traveling in a used camper van of your choice, its important to take your time and do a lot of research in order to get a realistic idea of what kind of camper you can buy within your budget and the overall condition of the vehicle itself. Because when it comes to toys, men act just as irresponsible as little boys do. Well just admit it, most of us do that including myself.
While the majority of owners honestly takes good care of their toys, there are still certain issues that they can and will hide from you as the future buyer. Newer vehicles with low mileage engines usually don't have larger mechanical problems, but the older models will certainly do, due to material wear and if they were not properly and regularly taken care of. Not that this need to be any larger issues, but do keep you eye wide open...
Keep in mind, that a new engine, transmission and exhaust system will have a huge and unexpected impact on your budget. An overall mechanical check-up before the purchase will save you money and a possible nervous brake-down in the near future.
Do be super careful when considering buying a vintage camper van. While the heartbreaking images portraying carefree traveling around the globe might trigger your mind, the truth is almost always somehow different. Don't get me wrong here, as I continuously see a lot of them on the road and happily traveling around. But these old vans naturally need extra care and attention in order to run on the road. Don't forget that.
Vintage Volkswagen campers for sale by owner and other less known vans are a beautiful sight to see, but under the bright and shiny paint job, there is an old and tired body that will obviously need your attention at some point. There are great companies such as Go Westy or Just Kampers that have just about everything you need to keep your vintage or new Volkswagen camper alive, but these parts do have a certain price tag on them. And it's not cheap!
That said, once you go out to check your vehicle, do pay careful attention to details. Don't get fooled by the seller telling you that the oil leaks and crunchy gear shifting are only the vans characteristics that you will learn to love. And please do walk away if the seller does not agree on a professional check up by your mechanic.
Campers for sale by owner are not that hard to find. Search the net on sites such as Ebay, find and join a few of the many forums or clubs available online, ask questions such as what to be careful about when buying a used camper van and if anybody knows something about the vehicle of your choice. Online information travels fast and it is usually hard to hide any facts.
Once you narrow down your search to a few models, it's time to contact the owners. Some people are confident enough by only talking to the owner from across the country, before shipping the van to them, others want to check out the van by themselves.
And when you do get the chance to check the van, be thorough. Steering, braking and the transmission are vital in order to keep the vehicle safely on the road. Check out for rust spots, especially around the wheel arches, where rust usually appears first.
The living area parts are equally important. Turn on the refrigerator and the heater for about an hour or so. Make sure they perform to your expectations and with no excessive noise or residue. Check out the water system for any possible leaks around it. Does the stove work properly?
As I already mentioned a few times in this article, I would bet my money on mechanical experience before buying any campers for sale by owner. I simply don't have the nerves for a blindfolded purchase and the consequences that would follow. But that's just me talking.