13 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Vintage Camper & What to Do about it!

If you own a vintage camper you realize how popular they are by how many stares you receive, and how many times you are stopped by people asking questions about your camper. If you are thinking about getting one here are a few things to consider before you get your hands on one. Sure they can be a lot easier on the wallet to get your hands on one, but vintage campers can be costly and could consume plenty of your time and money. If you ever wondered what a vintage can cost check out this article here. 

So if you are thinking about buying one you need to know what you are getting yourself into. There are many things to consider and to be prepared before you start doling out the money. Having owned two vintage campers, I am going to list in detail, 15 things that you need to know before buying your own vintage camper, based on my experience. 

They are Old!

Vintage campers are old, and all campers will inevitably need repairs and maintenance. Upgrades and maintenance is just part of owning an older camper.  Even if the camper has been renovated or has been well taken care of, things will break down. Sure you maybe got a great deal price when you got your camper, but it has been around for a while and maybe wear and tear has taken its toll on the unit.  

The Solution:

Since vintage campers are old and will need some kind of maintenance and upgrades, it is best to set a budget to take care of those things that break down, and that you may want to upgrade.

Do you Have the Skills or Will you pay Someone?

Sure you might have the funds to fund the repairs and maintenance, but skills are also necessary unless you want to pay someone to do the repairs for you, which of course then increases the price of your RV. For the Do it yourself model will need you to be knowledgeable about plumbing, electrical, heating, propane, welding, woodwork, and fiberglass just to mention a few things. So where can you get the skills to figure things out for all these areas?

The Solution:

Believe it or not YouTube, is probably the cheapest and quickest way to get educated on these things. The next step might be to take a course in person or online on understanding how to fix the various parts. Sometimes it is just best to pay someone for the one part that is beyond your skill level or needing the specialized equipment.

Do you Have the Time to complete the renovations

Ok, you have the skills, but do you have the time to put into sourcing the parts, installing parts, and researching. These things takes much longer than expected. The removal of the parts, is the easy part, but sourcing and installing can take the majority of the time in renovating

The Solution:

Take the time to sit down and work out how much time you will have to spend to get the major thing repaired to get your Camper roadworthy and functional Then also decide what things are nice to have completed and can be completed at a later date. You could spend plenty of time doing repairs and upgrades and never enjoying your camper, but deciding what is necessary at this time is critical. 

Do you have the Budget?

So you got a good deal on this Vintage Camper. Then the money just keeps pouring into repairing one thing after another and the list just keeps going. Then before you know it, thousands upon thousands, have been dumped into this vintage camper that was supposed to be cheaper then buying something newer. Oops. Not what you expected. 

The Solution:

Before deciding on putting any money down to buy any vintage camper, inspect it thoroughly and find out what needs to be repaired and what might need to be replaced in the coming years. Determine how much each item will cost, and decide if this is something that you can tackle to repair, or needs to be hired out, plus cost to repair. Add it all up and decide if this is still worth buying. Plus also create an emergency budget in case anything unexpectedly breaks down. 

The Surprise breakdown

Old things in general tend to break down sooner, than something new. Surprise breakdowns is not uncommon with Vintage RV’s, such as broken furnaces, stoves, electrical shorts or mechanical. Even things that are in the planned replacement plan may come sooner than expected. It usually happens when you are out camping in the middle of nowhere or on your way miles from the nearest place. 

The Solution:

There are a few things to consider to reduce the impact of a surprise breakdown. None of these things will prevent the breakdown but having a plan to pay for or having the tools to fix can save a bad situation. 

  1. Get roadside assistance if possible for your camper.
  2. Carry a full tool set.
  3. Carry spare tires, camp stove, generator and heater.
  4. Have extra cash on hand & have a credit card with extra space

Where to work on your Camper?

You might be thinking that you could just park your camper on the street and do the repairs and renovations as necessary, until you get a visit from the city telling you that you cannot refinish the exterior of your camper on the street blowing dust all over your neighbors lawn and smelling up the neighborhood. Many communities will have bylaws about parking campers on residential and city streets and what you can and cannot do to your camper.

The Solution:

Do some research and find out what you can and cannot do on the street, and maybe find a garage you can rent or some commercial space for a short term lease to park your camper while you complete the renovations. A commercial bay or garage could allow you to work on your camper during extended hours beyond daylight, not to mention the banging noises or grinding noises that might disturb your neighbors. You might even ask your friends or family if they have space you can rent from them.

Decide how long you will own it?

When your ideal vintage camper the last thing that might be crossing your mind is how long you will want to own it. All you can think of all those days imagining yourself out camping in your new trailer. You are probably thinking you will own it forever, but forever is not really realistic as the cost to repair and upgrade will continue and the cost will dramatically increase the longer you keep the RV.

The Solution:

Let’s be pragmatic, there is a lifetime in which you will own your vintage camper. Either you outgrow the camper or the costs become prohibitive as everything starts to breakdown. So it is better to determine to some degree how many years you might own it. This is not something that is fixed in stone but a flexible target of when to sell your unit. 

Your Vintage did not go down as much as you expected

When you bought your Vintage camper you might have been fully expecting that you would lose money on owning it as it gets older. Which is typical of owning most things. The older it gets the less it costs, and that might be the reason you chose to buy a vintage, because of the price point. The loss is typically lessened in relation to the amount of renovations and upgrades completed to the Vintage RV.

The Solution:

Before you buy decide if the model you have acquired is in high demand in the vintage world of RV’s. The most desirable models are typically from Airstream, Aristocrat, Boler, Kenskill and Shasta. That is not to say other models and manufacturers are not in high demand. Then, fix all the needed repairs and do some upgrades that improves the aesthetics of the inside and outside of your vintage. Then sell it for maximum return before it drops further in value from wear and tear. 

How to Find A deal on a Vintage camper

Finding a vintage camper is easy online, from googling ‘for sale by owner’, Craigslist, joining groups or forums, getting the word out through friends and family, or just stopping and asking current vintage camper owners. But finding a deal is going to be much harder. 

The Solution:

As you are looking at Vintage campers and you start to get a feel for what the prices are for them. You will know that you have come upon a deal when you hear a price of a before renovated Vintage RV is too good to be true. With all renovations included in the cost, your after repaired cost is still below what the current market value is for existing renovated Vintage RV’s of that make and model. There is no real fixed formula in knowing what the market value is. It is more of an art or a feel for what the right price is for the renovated model. 

Which model one is right for you?

There are countless styles and makes of vintage campers to choose from, and for maximum enjoyment. There are also plenty of deals out there if you are looking for something you want to renovate, or even ones that are fully renovated. If you fall into the trap of choosing a vintage camper based solely on brand name or “the deal” you might be in for some unexpected surprises. 

The Solution:

Rather than only looking at the brand name or the deal, consider your situation and what you need for your family or the vehicle you have for towing. Consider your entire lifestyle budget, the amount of repairs you can handle, financially, time wise and skill wise. Where you will be storing your RV, once you have it. What about your future needs and changes? These are just some questions. I guess some sole searching will be required to determine what will work. 

Expecting to find the Perfect Vintage Camper Immediately

Vintage campers are not like buying off the lot, where you can almost just determine what you need, tell the salesman and then they will take you to the best model that fits your needs and you buy it, on your way you go camping. Once you have determined what you need it could be a while before you come across the perfect Vintage camper. You could be waiting a long time or maybe you may never find that perfect Vintage camper.

The Solution:

Have patience and be flexible with what you need. Select several models that might fit your situation and have money at hand when they right model appears. You might also have to put in some time to view a few models to determine if this is going to be a fit for you and your family. You might even lose a few perfect models for you.

I Can’t Find a vintage camper locally

I've been looking for months in my local area and asked friends and family to look out for me and I still can’t find any vintage RV’s. I don’t think they have that model in my area. 

The Solution:

It might be that where you are looking might not be wide enough, or focused on what you are looking for. Utilize social media and get they word out to strangers of what you are looking for. So check out Facebook, “RV’s for sale groups”, “for sale by owner groups”. Another place to check out is eBay, where there are auctions or fixed prices on RV’s for sale. When it is a fixed price it does not mean you couldn’t negotiation on the price. Ask for a better price. There are usually way more people online that are looking to trade up what they have or are just getting too old to use their RV’s and are just looking to get rid of them.

The Dealer Does Not Carry The Parts?

Parts for Vintage RV’s are very often not found at the typical RV parts store. May of the parts are not readily available to them. They order parts from the manufacturers for RV's are still in production or are still manufactured by a parts dealer. There are literally thousands of parts that have been used over the years. The older ones are no longer manufactured by the typical manufacturers and moved onto alternate manufacturers if there is any demand.

The Solution:

There are many places where you can find used parts or re-manufactured parts. The first place to look is Ebay. It’s simple just look up the specific parts that you require, but you need to really know what you are looking for. For example the other day, I needed a new lock for my current RV and the best place was on ebay where I could search all over the place. If you can’t find it there, then I would search out groups.

Facebook Groups To Source Through Others

There are quite a few groups on Facebook that discuss vintage campers and there you will find people who have the same make and will know where to find it. It will take a bit of research and connecting to find the parts. 

Classifieds Online For Parts

Another place to find used parts is to check out craigslist and other local online classifieds. Very often people have old campers or motorhomes they want to get rid of and realize that it still has some value in the parts, rather than to toss it in the rv salvage lot. 

Scrap Yards For RV’s For Old Parts

At some point your camper will end up at a RV Salvage lot. There are not a lot of these around, but this is certainly one place to find used parts for any RV. There is probably one in your state or province. The best way to find one is to look it up on Google for a local one. 

Get It Built To Customize Your RV

Pretty much any part could be built for your RV by a local machine shop, glass shop, local woodworking shop, counter top manufacture, or cabinet manufacture. Focus on the smaller ones that can do custom builds. One just needs to be creative in thinking of what you need and how to get it locally. After all someone had originally conceived the idea of your camper and then built it out of aluminum, fiberglass, wood, plastic, or glass. 

Look Into Alternate Markets

Depending on the parts that you are seeking, there are always custom trailer manufacturers, fabricators of food trucks, or truck conversion fabricators. Thinking outside of the box is what is really required. 

Conclusion

A great deal of planning, budgeting, introspection, and time is required by you before you purchase your vintage camper, but once you have all that in place you will be more than ready to begin your search. There are many great resources out there that will further expand on the 15 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Vintage Camper, so please go ahead and conduct further research. Taking a camper savvy friend with you is always a great idea, and never hesitate to ask the seller for maintenance records, or have it taken in for an inspection by a reliable RV repair service or dealer.

Happy camping!


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