Just what is the perfect van and how do you go about finding it? Let
me tell you a little about our entry into motorcaravanning our first
change of 'van and then our search for a replacement. I'll spare you the
more tedious details and will concentrate on how we worked out what was
best for us in changing circumstances. Not that I'm expecting you to
be exactly the same as us but just to illustrate the process and to get
you thinking about your own needs in the right way - the only sure way to
that perfect motorcaravan!
The first camper: It all started about ten years ago when we
were looking for a second vehicle on a tight budget. We quickly discovered
that we were not going to get a 'decent car' with the cash available so we
decided to look for something utilitarian, multipurpose or even just with
some character. To cut a long story short, we bought an old but fairly
sound Mercedes based campervan, hand-painted in two shades of battleship
grey with a DIY interior - complete with purple curtains and textured
green flock wallpaper! Character? - it had character all right!
Several weeks later we'd finished the re-paint, made the new curtains,
lined the walls with cheap carpet and were suddenly novice
The prime requirements here were that it had to be cheap but on a sound
base vehicle - especially given the age of the cheaper 'vans. We were
impressed that it had a toilet compartment with a possibility to convert
to a shower and that there was a comfortable bed, adequate storage and a
serviceable if rather old cooker. This old Merc served us well for
trips all over Britain and into France too. It even served as 'chuck
wagon' on a couple of photographic trips with over 20 friends - they
christened it the 'Soup Dragon'. In three years we put over 40,000 miles
on the clock and many wonderful memories into our heads. These great
experiences convinced us that we really enjoyed the tremendous freedom
that motorcaravanning offers. It also helped us discover more about
ourselves as motorcaravanners. It turned out that we weren't in
truth 'big site people' nor 'seasiders' nor 'ralliers'; no, what we really
liked was getting away for short breaks at short notice to wild places -
and often out of season too. 'Out of season' even extends to February
snows in Snowdonia so we're definitely all year round campers.
So if it was so good, why haven't we still got it? Well, once we'd settled
into this new way of relaxing we soon realised that we would like a few
more home comforts, a proper shower, a cassette toilet rather than the
porta-potti type, piped hot water, better heating, a on-board waste water
tank, and so on. A van with less than 120,000 miles on the clock and with
a fifth gear would be nice too!
A real conversion: So began a short search for a replacement.
Our requirements seemed clear cut, we wanted a modest size hightop for
easy access to those remote wild places but we wanted the benefits of a
more modern professional conversion - with a proper shower compartment for
example. We also wanted rear seat belts since we do carry passengers
reasonably often and this had always been a problem in the Merc. We
thought initially that we would spend up to about £10K. Almost inevitably
we spent more than that, £12,000 in fact, having been tempted by 'a
bargain' in Leicester.
It was an Autohomes Avalon with just about everything we wanted and with
only 15,000 miles on the clock. The price was really very reasonable - it
was January, they wanted to 'move some metal' to pay the bills and we
could stretch to it, so the deal was done. The Avalon has served us
well too, it has proved to be every bit as manoeuvrable as expected if
heavy on the steering and we've certainly made good use of all those
desirable extras - the shower, electric flush cassette toilet, the large
double bed, blown air heating, the decent 3-way fridge, very good cooker
and good oven, even an awning and bike rack. Once again it's taken us far
and wide, all over Britain including the very farthest point North in
Scotland, back to France and more recently on a winter birding trip to
Holland. So another four+ years of motorcaravanning have passed, another
29,000 miles on the clock and we're itching to change the 'van once again!
Why? - well our needs and expectations have changed once more; life moves
on and you may find that you have to change with it.
If our requirements were clear cut last
time they were anything but this time ... see the
link for the next phase...