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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 18-01-2021, 10:26 Thread Starter
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Getting a cheap motorhome - my thoughts and ideas

My hubby and I do a lot of tent camping in Scotland, so we've decided to buy an inexpensive bus and adapt it for short or long trips. We were already thinking about this year, but due to our adventures with the pandemic, our budget has become a bit tight, so we will aim for next year.

I know that converting a bus to a camper costs so much that it's better to buy a decent camper, but the thing is that I can't afford a decent camper, and instead of saving for it for the next 10 years, I prefer to explore the world - even in an old junker.

At around 3000 pounds there are already reasonable cars on the market. For campers, at this price, you can find either a 20 Romahome with a Citroen C15 or a Daihatsu Hijet, or a 30-year-old Talbot.

Financially I will rather go for vans because if for the same money I can have a 30-year-old vehicle with high mileage and a 10-year-old vehicle with high mileage, it is probably better to avoid those old campers. And now it is known that at this price and age, these cars from transport companies will have mileage like from here to the moon. Therefore, I have to look for something unusual.

There are some interesting options on the market for buses to transport people with disabilities, which have the advantage of being insulated and with a night heater and usually come from the NHS, which is known for caring about the technical condition of vehicles. More and more on the market, there are also so-called Welfare vans, or buses, whose only function is to serve as a canteen for road workers. These buses are actually an interesting option because they have a kitchen, table, chairs, heating, electrical system with an additional battery and behind the back door is a toilet and often a shower.

The disadvantage is that there are no beds in them, but if the length between the back of the driver's seat and the wall dividing the interior from the toilet is 200 cm, maybe it would be possible to replace the set of chairs and table with e.g. a set of seats and table took out from some old caravan which could be converted into a bed or even an American folding couch and a folding table?

Also "mobile banking" vehicles look interesting - that is, touring bank branches that drive around beautiful natural settings. Their disadvantage, however, is that they are armored, so converting such a thing would be a nightmare, and I have neither the money nor the conditions (and skills) to do it myself.

Therefore, if I would not be able to take out something from the above, I will just aim at some vans.

And if I manage to take out such a bus, then you know, it will cost a bit.

That's why I was thinking not to go crazy just:
- replace the sliding door with one with a window
- insulate
- To meet the legal requirements for a camper van, apart from a minimum of one window, there must be a bed, a place to sit, a table (all of the above can be folded and unfolded, of course), a two-burner stove or microwave and water. At a minimum, I would see there a folding bed + folding table set (maybe even some cheap home furniture from Ikea found on Gumtree) and at the back on some cupboard or chest providing space for luggage even an ordinary tourist stove and a small sink with water flowing by gravity from a can under the ceiling. You can sometimes find such a cupboard with a sink and a used stove from some camper.

And this would meet the legal requirements for recognition by the DVLA of a car as a camper. There is still the question of lighting - and since I don't want to mess around with cables or anything, I would just settle for battery-powered LED lights.

Then there is the question of heating. I must admit that here I have a bit of a dilemma if there is any cheap and safe option. Webasto, even used is a few hundred pounds minimum with the installation. Gas stoves are a risk. Electric heating - even if I had a leisure battery would that be enough to last all night?

Many people in Scotland have such small wood stoves in their buses and caravans - it is surprising how people do not pay attention to such things until they become interested. Now, every time we go on a trip somewhere, I see that there is smoke coming from some parked camper. There is a big market for such small stoves in the UK because they are standard equipment on canal barges, and I like the idea more and more.
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 18-01-2021, 10:33
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Just a thought Phoebe.
I have seen hail damaged vans being offered for sale in Germany at great discounts. Usually the roof and one side are dimpled and might be being unloaded by insurance companies. Take a look at ebay.de

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 18-01-2021, 11:40
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I would say a welfare van would be your first option other than they are a bit short but can be done with minimal skills.

This is not the best forum for self builders try these, cut and paste your entire post into these forums.


https://www.diymotorhome.co.uk/

https://motorhomebuilder.com/

other links in my signature too.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 18-01-2021, 11:44
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Buying ex local authority large company etc can be a bad move, they all have planned maintenance, but they stop this a good while before selling and then sell them off when problems arise.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 18-01-2021, 12:02
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I know a guy who has converted an ex library type vehicle to a motorhome. He is regularly pulled over for Ministry checks.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 18-01-2021, 12:33
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TOTALLY FORGET 12V HEATING!

You can only take 50% of charge from a battery before it is dead. A 100Ah battery will therefore supply you with 50 x 12 Wh = 600Wh ie slightly more than half a kilowatt for 1 hour.

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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 18-01-2021, 17:06
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Donít forget the driving licence trap!

If you passed your test before 1st Jan 1997 you will be ok to drive any vehicle up to 7500kg, but if you didnít pass it until after that date you are limited to an absolute maximum of 3500kg without taking a further test. Donít forget that is the maximum weight of any vehicle so takes in the additions you will be making. 3500 kg will severely limit the options you will have for any vehicle to convert. Some of the larger mobile library vehicles are pretty heavy before you start adding anything to them.

Also donít lose sight of the physical size of any vehicle. Think where you are likely to want to go with it and where you could park it. A lot of campsites wonít to willing and/or able to take a larger vehicle.

All things to bear in mind prior to making any decisions. Good luck with your project, it sounds fun.
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It's who you share the journey with (even if like me, itís in a caravan!)
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 19-01-2021, 08:47
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Do keep your eye out for so called "barn finds" they are vehicles that have, for whatever reason, been abandoned. Yes, they will be a project but you are prepared for that anyway. We sold our old Hymer B544 for £2,000. Much below its value as it stood but just because my husband is a soft touch and does not value any possession that he has. It had stood a while but was dry. The mice had been in and chewed stuff. It looked very sad. The buyer was a chap who was passing on his way to a job in our area. He just wanted it for fishing trips. I am not saying you will get any such bargain again as my husband is a rare find for bargain hunters!
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 19-01-2021, 09:53
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Not quite a barn find but I did buy an 'unloved' 36ft. RV that because the owner had trouble driving it around they parked it in a field with their horses and only used it as a changing room for about five years.
By the time I got my hands on it mice had burrowed through all the insulation, birds nesting in bumpers and gas openings, leaking roof had rotted the floor, drive belts cracked as tyres, brakes corroded and the tanks solid with solids.!!!!

But it was a fun learning experience renovating it almost back to pristine.

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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 19-01-2021, 11:03
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Sounds like an interesting project. I think a diesel heater would be the way to go for heating. I recently saw the so called Ikea tiny home that was basically a mid size trailer house. The interesting thing is that all the interior was done using Ikea products. That might be a way to fit out a self build on a budget.
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