What to Look For When Buying a Used Van

camper van


Picking out the vehicle you will convert is not a process you want to cut corners on, but it can be easier said than done sometimes!

There are some specific things that we would suggest you make sure to look at before signing off on your vehicle purchase.

The first thing you’ll want to do is find out why the owner of the van has chosen to sell it.

Take note of any damage you see in the sales listing photos, go over the history of the vehicle if that has been provided (if not, definitely ask!), and whatever you do, don’t give the seller ANY money until you have seen the van in person and are happy with the condition of it.

You should check for any outstanding finances, write-offs, or anything of that sort. You can also look up downloadable apps like Vehicle Smart that can tell you if there’s specific issues with your vehicle model to look out for. Check for service history, and if anything needs to be looked at that hasn’t been serviced in some time.


camper van

Once you’ve gone through those initial steps, you should take a look at the physical condition of it as far as you can access. Here’s some questions you’ll want to ask yourself and take note of anything you find;

Pop the Hood:

  • Take off the oil filler cap – is there white gunk in there? If there is, it can mean there is moisture in the engine. If you see that, it could mean the head gasket was blown. You don’t want to be footing that kind of repair bill right out of the gate!
  • Is there oil on the dipstick, or any other debris that might show carbon buildup?
  • Is there either blue or pink fluid inside the coolant expansion tank? Check if it looks dirty or black inside, and take the cap off (MAKE SURE the engine is COLD and not running, otherwise you could get burned!). Is there oil mixed in the tank? If there is, this could also mean a blown head gasket.
  • Start the engine – is it making any odd noises? Listen for any crunching or loud knocking sounds – this could mean there’s something wrong.
  • Start the van a few times, is the starter motor running properly? If the seller has the vehicle running when you show up to view the van, this could mean they’re trying to hide an issue with the vehicle.
  • Is there any excessive smoke coming out of the exhaust? Check for blue tinge (the van is burning excessive oil), black smoke (incomplete combustion, leaking injectors), or white smoke (burning water from a headgasket issue, or the engine is just cold meaning there is condensation in the exhaust)

camper van


If Insured, Go for a Test Drive

  • Do you hear any strange noises when you go around corners or over bumps?
  • Do you feel like the steering wheel pulls to one side?
  • Does the van switch gears smoothly?
  • What condition is your windshield in? Are there any cracks or chips?
  • Are there any lights on the dashboard lit up for check engine?
  • Does the van have a difficult time going up hills?


Haggle for a Better Price

Take note of the price the seller or trader is asking for, and what you’ve found during your inspection of the vehicle. Are they willing to lower the price for you based on anything they might have not mentioned in the description? Often times, sellers and traders will list vehicles a bit higher than they would accept for it.

It can sometimes feel overwhelming, but staying aware of these points we've mentioned can really help you when you're looking for your perfect adventure van!