Our Van

Minicamper

Up until September 2023, we used our beloved Ford Tourneo Connect as our Minicamper. The size was perfect for a mixture between a normal car and a camper and because it was already about 10 years old, we did not really worry too much about dirt, mud, smaller damages etc, so we really could take it out for adventures. Literally, we drove it up to some mountains with questionable roads in Greece and through dense forests in Spain. All of this, for having the perfect camping spot, but also some privacy. Since 2021, we don’t have a fix flat and were moving between apartments and hotels all the time, our Minicamper was the most “base” we had. However, with the time, we realised that we are just expecting too much from such a small Camper. We could not work inside, when it was raining it was pretty uncomfortable and after Covid the prices for Short-term Apartment rentals rose extremely. So, we started to look for a bigger camper.

↓ In this video, you can make yourself an idea how we “lived” and traveled in our Minicamper. ↓

New Van

How did we get the Van?

For more than a year, we dreamed of owning a bigger campervan. We attended fairs and constantly checked websites and apps like “Kleinanzeigen” and “Wallapop” to get ideas for our perfect “home on wheels.” Anyone who has looked for a camper or even a secondhand vehicle in the past three years can imagine how difficult it was to find a suitable one. Due to COVID-19, closed borders, and production shortages, vehicle prices skyrocketed. Additionally, traveling during this time was very challenging, which made the trend of traveling in your own van even more popular. In Germany, the number of registered RVs almost doubled from 2019 to 2020 (Source: https://rvbusiness.com/germany-sets-new-record-with-over-100000-rvs-registered/). This leads us to our next issue. The price. Although, we could save some money throughout the years, it was definitely not enough to buy a new camper. So, we delayed this dream further and further back and planned our Big Asia Trip for 2024

Then suddenly in September 2023, Vero saw a post in Instagram of a Spanish company that builds campers and she fell in love with the design immediately. She asked for the price and the dimensions and from there, nothing could stop her. We already planned to drive back to Spain from Germany in the following week, but now we had a fix date. Li and everyone else was sceptical about the van, the company, the professionalism etc. But Vero just kept on pushing. The day came and we saw the Van. It was emotional and exciting and at the same time we needed to keep a clear head, because we were about to make the biggest investment of our lives so far. Everything felt so unreal. The interior was just beautiful with the perfect combination of bamboo, wood and white furniture. The car itself was almost six years old and had 61k kilometers on the clock. So, in general these factors would make a really great car. BUT, you could see that during this time, they haven’t treated the van very well. Big damages were repaired, the plastics show signs of usage, the doors were not closing correctly… 

What would you do as a smart person thinking reasonably? Probably not buying it.

BUT what did Vero (Foca)? – She made up her mind already. She tried to not see the issues that came with it and convinced Li, her family and herself that this is a good decision. Are there other impulsive women out there who understand this? I do think so 😁 I really hope that when it comes to buying a house, she can think more reasonably. 

So, we ended up buying it and after some maintenance, like adding suspension, getting new wheels new breaks, repairing the doors, it seems like a really great Campervan 🧡

Different Options: Serial Camper Vans vs. Self-Built vs. Conversion Company Builds

Serial Camper Vans

For us to be able to live full-time or at least most of the time in a van, we needed to be as self-sufficient as possible, with a layout where we could eat, sleep, live, and work. Most standard vans from common brands like Knaus, Pössl, or Challenger are made for shorter or longer trips, but not for actually “living” inside. Additionally, we never got the feeling of “being home” when looking at these vans. They do have definite advantages, such as quality assurance, professionalism, and warranty. These companies have been building vans and RVs for many decades, so it definitely makes sense to check them out when considering a purchase. Li was strongly in favor of getting a van from these brands, but I (Vero) wanted something more “cozy.” Also, when it came to the specifics of the build, these vans didn’t really convince us due to features like AGM batteries, smaller water tanks, no or small solar panels, small sinks, etc. We felt that, technologically, these vans are not up-to-date. However, for people planning to mostly go to campsites with bathrooms and electricity, it might still be interesting to check these out.

 

Self-Built

Nowadays, there is a clear trend toward building your own van. Of course, we also considered this option because you can customize the van exactly to your preferred layout, save costs, learn a completely new skill, and know exactly where everything is located and how to fix it afterward. We believe the last part is the biggest advantage. However, in our situation, it just did not make a lot of sense. After checking several van builds and the process on YouTube and Instagram (e.g., Travelventure), we felt that this was not the right thing for us at the moment. Feel free to check them out as their Van is beautiful and they created very helpful content.

Why is it not right for us?

We wanted a ready-to-go van as soon as possible, and most of the van builders said that it takes more time than you expect. You should estimate about 6-12 months, depending on your skills and knowledge, and that’s with doing it full-time. If you want to do it alongside your job, you can add another few months on top of that. We would have literally needed to leave our jobs to get it done, which would have changed our financial calculations significantly. 

Just consider the amount of money you could earn in your job while building the van. Besides, you will spend several months of your life building “your” perfect van, creating a strong emotional bond with an object. This means you might not be able to make financially smart decisions afterward, like selling the van when the market is good and you don’t use it anymore. Therefore, for now, we have decided not to build our own van, which does not mean we will never consider it in the future.

 

Conversion Company Builds

After going through all of the options, we thought, and still think, that choosing the conversion company was the right decision for our situation. Of course, we are lucky that there are many amazing van conversion companies in Spain that are still somewhat affordable. In Germany, for example, the man-hour has become very expensive in the last few years, making it impossible for us to buy a converted van from a professional company. If we could do it all over again, we would probably buy the vehicle on our own, come up with the layout we want, and then talk to different companies to ask for cost estimates. This way, you know where the vehicle is coming from, how it was treated, and how it has been used in the past. But, as I already mentioned, we did not have the time to do all this. Besides, it was really hard to find vans for sale at affordable prices during post-COVID times.

Disadvantages of company builds: Usually, there will be no quality control like with serial vans. For example, we already had issues with one of our skylights during heavy rains. When we got it fixed, we were told that it was not properly sealed. Besides this, we also found some smaller imperfections in the details that probably would not have happened if you build it yourself or if it is a standard van. However, in ANY CASE, we would recommend buying from a professional company and not from someone who claims they can convert it for you. There are just too many problems to be expected. We have heard everything, like someone using a normal house fridge that ran on 230V instead of 12V and drained the battery extremely, or using old technology like AGM batteries, using furniture that is not appropriate for a “moving” vehicle, building the van “too heavy,” etc.

Layout

If you have a campervan, you are looking to buy one or are planning to do your own van-built, there is one thing you should really need to put a lot of research and time into. And this is the Van Layout. One thing that we have learned throughout the time is, that there is NO PERFECT LAYOUT as well as there is NO PERFECT VAN. In the end, you need to fit your kitchen, your bathroom, your dining room and your bedroom into a vehicle that is between 5,40m to 6,40m long. If you buy an RV that is longer, than you have more space inside, but it is harder to park it and drive it. So, there is no general right or wrong. Everyone has to pick the layout that works for him/her/them. 

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