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Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Benefits of a campervan
The benefits will very much depend on the type of campervan you get - particularly in terms of features and storage capacity. Based on a 2.4-litre Ford Transit based chassis, I would suggest the benefits are:
1. Low touring costs - low cost of transport, accommodation and food (eat in option)
2. Flexible location - you have a choice about where you stay (within a security constraint), and these can be attractive beach locations or mountain peaks. Its incredibly easy to pull off a main road an just park where there is housing for security. But just for one night, otherwise people ask questions. You need to move on the next day and be sure to park elsewhere (>3km) away the next day. Park in non-residential areas from 7AM-9PM, and residential areas from 9PM to 7AM.
3. Lifestyle advantages: Campervans give you alot of freedom, relaxation. They dont offer the asset appreciation of a holiday house, but they are alot more flexible in terms of travel destinations.
Disadvantages of a campervan
The disadvantages of a campervan are:
1. Storage constraint vs mobility/flexibility: You can't have a large storage capacity if you want an offroad vehicle. You can't have a city vehicle if you want to carry alot of extras, such as bicycles, microwaves, air conditioners, etc.
2. Security issues: You need to be concerned about where you park and the risk of property theft/damage. There is no neighbourhood watch with campervans, in fact you might get kids of residents scratching your vehicle because they consider you impinging on their 'million dollar' view. If you impinge where others have, you might cope the rebutal.
3. Livability concerns: Its hard to imagine staying in a campervan for long periods of time. You cant easily relax at night without going to a club or pub. It would be too confining to stay in a campervan for long periods, but in many countries there are options. eg. Public libraries, sports clubs, public swimming pools. Some of these are open for extended hours, and offer free/subsidised member services. Another issue is personal hygiene. Can you live in a campervan without a toilet or shower. Having these options reduces road flexibility, but there are public and commercial facilities if you know where they are. eg. Clubs, sports clubs, public swimming pools, beaches, etc.
4. Mobility: This is a concern if you would like to stay in a specific location for a protracted period. Neighbours and locals start to notice you, and you attract negative attention. Its less personal in tourist locations abnd large urban areas. There is also the pressure of having to worry with where you will stay at night though I have never found this a big concern, and increasingly GPS devices are allowing people to share locations, but revisiting a location can actually be a curse, as you attract negative attention.
Does a campervan meet my requirements?
The types of questions I would be looking to ask are:
1. What type of conditions will I be using my campervan?
If you are a retired person with health limitations you might have no great sense of adventure compelling you to get off-road, so you might be willing to sacrifice off-road capability to retain the home comforts of a larger campervan. If you intend to take your vehicle off-road, you might want to consider a high clearance, short wheel-base model with low roof to avoid trees. Longer vehicles are also difficult to park in urban areas, particularly if you intend to attach a trailer, so this should be addressed if you plan to tour in densely populated areas. In these areas, you might prefer a more discrete mode of living so you dont attract the attention of vandals, delinquents or drunks.
2. How reliable does the vehicle need to be?
If you have health issues you might prefer a newer vehicle from a reputable manufacturer.
3. How much can I afford, or should I spend?
A campervan can save you alot of money on travelling, and maybe the cost of living if you intend to live in it for a protracted period. Otherwise a campervan is a depreciating asset with a poor re-sale value for the premium-priced, factory-made vehicles offered in the market. It might be prudent to consider custom-building your own campervan by buying a chasis and fitting it out. Depending on your handyman skills, it might not look so good, but it will be flexible and low-cost.
4. How reasonable are my expectations of campervanning?
Unless you actually do some campervanning for more than a week I think its difficult to gauge how you will enjoy the lifestyle. You also need to consider the loneliness, or if you intend to take a partner, you need to consider how they will cope. Aside from using a campervan, you can plan your typical day and ponder whether you can tolerate the conditions, or find ways around it. eg. If its a very hot day, do you have a strategy for working. What will you do at night time? Can you run enough batteries to power your electricity demands? How long can you go without a shower? Are the campervan or ancillary amenities good enough? Are you worried about security whilst you are touring?
5. What will I do if I don't like campervanning, or if I don't like the vehicle, or my lifestyle changes?
A campervan is a significant investment. The typical vehicle ranges from $US20,ooo to $100,000. If you are unsure whether you will enjoy the life, or you have doubts about whether you will be using the vehicle long term, whether because you might settle down, have children, travel, etc, then you might be better off opting for a more flexible 'weekender' style vehicle, or a lower cost (perhaps older) vehicle.
6. How much flexibility does the vehicle need to display?
Its best to look for some flexibility when purchasing a campervan. I personally would prefer a van that offers some off-road capacity, but which also has adequate storage & feature space for long distance touring. This gives you the choice of using the vehicle for weekend trips or longer trips. It occurred to me that people living in the country might welcome the opportunity to use a campervan for the occasional city visit. They might use it to go to the theatre in the city, staying in the vehicle for a night or two.
7. What is my budget for operating costs?
One of the most compelling reasons for buying a campervan is the cot savings from travelling, but that benefit is lost if you live at home as well (thus sacrifice rent), or you dont use the vehicle, or if you use the vehicle, but end up compromising the benefits by staying in caravan parks for $30-50/night. You should be able to make savings on food, accommodation and transport particularly if you have your own group to socialise with. But its easy to forget about the loss of home comforts if you compromise too much on storage space. Another issue is the engine size. Consideration should be given to getting a 1.6-1.8-litre engine to reduce fuel costs.
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