Our first campervan – A Mercedes From Hell

Denny was not the first van we bought and our mistake was in rushing into something which looked like a great deal but ended up being a nightmare.

The first few vans we really loved moved out of our price range through ebay auctions. There had been a superb Mercedes Sprinter which the guy had lovingly crafted over a period of years. I went to see it and was very impressed with how tidy and skilful his craftsmanship was. We missed his campervan by a whisker, much to our disappointment.

This trend continued; identifying and bidding on vans which we missed out on, got outbid on or ultimately couldn’t afford. There was an American built Toyota which although a proper RV was kind of perfect, but when I discovered it was a 4 litre petrol engine pulling the 5 tons of metal, wood and plastic I shuddered at the fuel bills so we declined the opportunity to bid on it.

And then we came across a red Mercedes bus which had been converted into a campervan. The images on ebay made it look very cosy and it had a terrific amount of space and facilities including a lounge, big kitchen, fixed bed, masses of storage, a wood burner, water heater, water pump, a shower cubicle with working shower and my favourite bit, a solar panel. It was a home on wheels.

I contacted the owner to ask if he’d be prepared to do a deal outside ebay as I’d been in England for far too long and Calypso was stuck in the Spanish countryside without transport of her own making her very twitchy indeed. Time was of the essence.

He agreed to work something out so I went to visit him, look at the van and make the purchase. When I arrived the van was in a worse state than I thought but looking underneath it seemed solid enough. The body work needed attention as there was a lot of rust and the inside needed a damn good clean. Those were things I was prepared for so they didn’t concern me.

The owner had given me a list of things which needed doing and I asked a mechanic friend if they were reasonable. He estimated it would cost about a £1000 to get it fixed up so on his advice I bought the van. I was excited, thrilled even as the engine roared along the M5 and we had our home.

I delivered it to my friend’s garage and after a couple of days he informed that our van was a write-off; there was such deep rotted rust that it was only worth scrapping. It was a danger to all mankind, especially us.

I was devastated and because we’d done the deal outside ebay there was nothing I could do to get our money back. This episode was a huge mistake.

The point I’m making is this: you can’t rush into buying a van. Take a mechanic with you to look at every campervan you’re considering, even if you have to pay them £25 a go. It’s worth it in the long run as you could end up £3000 or more out of pocket very easily. The only plus points from the episode with the red van were that we learned from the experience, we had all those excellent facilities from it to put into our next van and we did make some of the money back by scrapping it. Be careful when buying from ebay and always make sure you don’t deal outside the auction as that way you have some protection if things go wrong.

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