Van life posts on Instagram and Pinterest are great at showing off all of the benefits of owning a campervan.
Unfortunately, these posts often leave out some of the problems of owning and traveling with a campervan.
In this post, we’ll talk about the 10 most-common campervan problems:
1. Campervans Don’t Offer Much Space
A campervan usually ranges in lengths between 17’ and 19’ and widths of about 7’.
These dimensions include the engine compartment as well as the driving area. This doesn’t leave much room to live in.
As a result, you generally won’t be able to sleep more than two people inside of a campervan. Because of this, large families will generally be better off with a larger motorhome.
This being said, I do know people who supplement their campervan’s living area with a large tent.
The campervan provides a kitchen, a bathroom, and sleeping for two, while the tent offers additional sleeping areas for everyone else.
2. A Campervan Doesn’t Have As Many Amenities
Many campervan companies have been able to fit a stove, microwave, and mini-fridge into their motorhomes.
These amenities make camping a lot more comfortable and meal-time a lot more convenient compared to traditional camping.
This being said, a campervan often lacks many of the amenities that larger motorhomes and travel trailers have. For example, you will not find a dishwasher, a washing machine, or even a full-size refrigerator and freezer combination in a campervan.
In many instances, you aren’t even going to find a kitchen with a large enough kitchen sink to wash dishes in comfortably.
This makes a campervan a vehicle that people live “out of” rather than “inside.”
3. Campervan Kitchens Are Difficult To Work In
As mentioned in the last section, you’ll find that many of the kitchen items are just too small to be useful.
The kitchen sinks in campervans are usually too small to wash large dishes; the countertops are too small to prepare food on, and the microwaves are too weak to be convenient.
After-all, what is the point in using a microwave that doesn’t cook food any faster than a camping stove?
Another issue with campervan kitchens is that you’ll never be able to have two people in them at the same time. This means couples will have to rotate cooking and meal prep.
You can get around this by having one person prep outside while the other person cooks inside, but this isn’t very practical in bad weather.
4. Campervans Cost More Than Travel Trailers
A short vehicle and a travel trailer are often just as compact as a large campervan.
However, an economy car and a small travel trailer will cost you less than half of what you’ll pay for a campervan.
This price difference becomes even more apparent to people who already own a vehicle capable of towing a small travel trailer.
While a small travel trailer will often cost you less than $10,000.00, a campervan might cost you $70,000.00 to $80,000.00.
5. Campervans Cost More Per Square Foot
A campervan costs more per square foot than any other type of RV.
Most larger Class C campers, class A campers, fifth wheels, and travel trailers will be much less expensive to buy than a class B campervan.
On the other hand, one does have to recognize that a campervan can fulfill the role of both a camper and a daily driver.
This means that a person with a campervan might not have to buy a separate vehicle, so they’ll save money in that respect.
6. Wet Baths
If a campervan has a full bathroom at all, it is almost always a wet bath.
A wet bath is a bathroom where the toilet and the sink sit directly inside of the shower. This can end up creating a few different problems.
For starters, your entire bathroom gets wet when you shower. After showering, you may end up having to wipe down your toilet, your sink, and even the walls of your bathroom to get them dry.
On the plus side, you’ll always have a clean toilet. On the downside, you’ll have to clean your toilet every single day.
Another issue with wet baths is the fact that they aren’t huge. Some wet baths are so small that you can’t shower standing up. Instead, you’ll have to sit on your toilet seat when you shower.
On top of all of this, your partner can’t slip in to use the toilet while you’re showering and vice versa.
This isn’t the most monumental disadvantage, but it is something to think about before buying a campervan.
7. Condensation Develops Quickly
I mentioned that you’d need to wipe down your bathroom each time you use it because condensation can develop very quickly inside a campervan.
In fact, many people opt not to use their campervan’s shower for this very reason.
Condensation can make the climate uncomfortable in an RV. On top of this, it can cause some genuine damage to the RV as well.
For instance, your insulation, your walls, and even your bed could develop mold.
Once this mold develops, it can be almost impossible to get rid of it without tearing your entire campervan apart.
8. Permanent Beds Can Be Hard to Find
Most campervans do not have permanent beds built into them.
Instead, a campervan might have a dinette that turns into a bed or even a classic rock-n-roll bed like the ones you see in VW campers.
While these convertible beds are great at saving space, they aren’t very comfortable. Instead of sleeping on a nice bed, you’ll end up sleeping on a set of seat cushions.
Not only this, but convertible beds are inconvenient. When your bed is also your living area as well as your dining area, you’ll end up having to take the bed down and put it up each day.
This can become tiresome, and many people end up leaving their beds down all of the time.
As a result, they don’t have a living space or a dining space inside their campervan.
9. Setting Up A Basecamp Is Difficult
A person with a travel trailer or truck camper can drive into camp, drop their camper off, and establish a nice base camp that they can launch their adventures from.
This makes it easy to drive into town, to go sightseeing, and to pick up supplies.
People with campervans generally don’t have this advantage. Instead, a person in a campervan will need to disconnect everything before they can drive out from their campsite.
When they’re done with their trip, they’ll have to re-level their camper, hook up the sewer, hook up the water, and hook up the electric all over again.
This is true whether they are headed to a nearby town for the day or just running out to grab some coffee.
10. Maintenance and Upkeep Can Be More Expensive
A campervan is like a car in that it needs to be inspected and insured.
It also has all of the same vehicular components, and they’ll need to be maintained as well.
In most cases, these components will be easy to work on, but this isn’t always the case. Many higher-end campervans are built on Mercedes platforms, and they may need to be taken to a Mercedes dealer.
All motorhomes will have this problem, but travel trailers, fifth wheels, and truck campers will not.
Sure, you may have to get new tires and brakes every once in a while, but you’ll never have to replace the transmission or the engine on a travel trailer.
General Pros and Cons Of Campervans
While campervans may have their problems, they also provide many benefits.
Here are the pros of campervans:
They’re Easy to Drive and Park
Campervans aren’t much larger than everyday vehicles.
In fact, some of them are just as short as the average truck or SUV
As a result, they’re incredibly easy to drive and easy to park. They’ll also fit in a standard-sized parking space, which makes finding a spot to park a lot easier.
Getting gas, merging into traffic, and even getting out of a home’s driveway can often be stressful to the large Class A owner or even a travel trailer owner. An owner of a campervan doesn’t have these problems.
Fortunately, driving a campervan isn’t any more stressful than driving a truck, SUV, or car.
Campervans Don’t Require Special Licenses
Many states do not require people to get special drivers’ licenses to drive a large class A or class C motorhome.
However, some states do have this requirement, and other states may eventually follow suit.
This isn’t the case with a campervan. Campervans are so similar to other standard vehicles that it just wouldn’t make any sense to make people get special licenses to operate them.
Not only does this fact make owning a campervan easier, but it makes renting a campervan out easier too.
When you’re not using your campervan, you’ll be able to easily rent it out as anybody with a driver’s license will be qualified to rent from you.
Less Expensive Overall Price
While a campervan might cost more per square foot, it is generally cheaper than a larger class A or class C motorhome.
An expensive campervan might cost you $150,000.00, while a large motorhome could cost you well over a million.
This drastic price gap may even make owning a class A motorhome unattainable for more modest wage earners.
Boondocking and Off-Gridding Is Easy
One of the top benefits of owning a campervan is that you can go places that other campers can’t.
Many large motorhomes and travel trailers won’t fit into some of the more remote campsites. They also won’t travel down some of the more rugged and remote roads as a campervan can.
Even if you don’t want to go into remote areas, you’ll still find boondocking easier in a campervan. This is because campervans can often blend in anywhere.
As a result, you’ll be able to stealth camp in parking lots and on residential streets where a larger motorhome might be shunned.
Towing Is Easy
A large class A or class C motorhome can often tow a lot more weight than a campervan can.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always comfortable or practical to do this. For instance, a 45’ motorhome pulling a 20’ trailer or vehicle is going to make your rig 65’ long.
This length makes towing difficult and parking even more difficult.
With a campervan, you’ll have enough power to pull small trailers, and you won’t end up with a rig that’s longer than a tractor-trailer. A 19’ campervan towing a 16’ trailer comes in at just 35’ long.
Also, you probably won’t need to tow a huge trailer with a campervan.
Instead, you can take along a small 4’ x 8’ trailer that houses your toys as you won’t need to bring an extra vehicle on your trip.
Gas Mileage Is Good
A class A motorhome gets around 8 – 10 miles per gallon while a class C motorhome is lucky to get 10 – 15 miles per gallon.
These mileages are in diesel as you won’t find too many class C or class A motorhomes that run on gas.
Campervans can get well over 20 miles per gallon on diesel, and they’ll even get over 15 miles per gallon on gas.
This is great for people looking to save money and for people looking to reduce their impact on the world!
Campervans Are Easier to Maintain
While a campervan might be more challenging to maintain than a travel trailer or truck camper, it is easier to maintain than a large motorhome.
Campervans have smaller components, and a general mechanic can efficiently service many models.
A campervan owner may even find that they can do many of their campervan repairs themselves. This saves money and helps the owner become more self-sufficient.
Larger motorhomes come with large and expensive components, and not everyone is qualified to work on them. In some cases, you may find that the only people that can work on your motorhome are the people who sold it to you.
Storage Is Easy (And Usually Free)
A campervan is small enough that you can usually park it in your driveway or out front of your house.
You may have to store your campervan in some rare cases, but it won’t cost you as much.
This is because storage spaces charge you by the length of your vehicle, and since campervans are often half the length of a class A motorhome, you’ll end up paying half the cost.
Dealing With Bad Weather Is Easier
Large travel trailers and tall truck campers can be challenging to control in high winds.
Big class A and class C motorhomes can be hard to pull over with during heavy rains.
With a campervan, you generally don’t have these problems.
Available In Gas and Diesel Options
Some parts of the country don’t have many diesel stations.
This fact can make getting fuel for a class A or class C motorhome difficult.
Once again, you won’t have this problem with a gas-powered campervan.
We mentioned all of these in detail above, but here is a list of the general cons of campervans so that you can compare it to the list of pros of campervans below:
- Campervans Don’t Offer Much Space
- A Campervan Doesn’t Have As Many Amenities
- Kitchens Are Difficult To Work In
- Campervans Cost More Than Travel Trailers
- They Cost More Per Square Foot
- Wet Baths
- Condensation Develops Quickly
- Permanent Beds Can Be Hard to Find
- Setting Up A Basecamp Is Difficult
- Maintenance and Upkeep Can Be More Expensive
What Do The Reviews Say?
“Whether you’re taking a trip to the mountains or headed for the beach, you feel comfortable driving your motorhome anywhere. “
“Due to their size, a Class B RV has a clear advantage over the Class A and Class C models.”
“People who spend a ton of time inside will find campervans to be tight. You better love each other!”
As you can see from the reviews above, the pros and cons that most people attribute to campervans all revolve around their size.
It seems that their greatest advantage is also their most significant disadvantage.
Whether you’re buying new or buying used, campervans are expensive.
On the one hand, a new campervan can cost you upwards of six figures. On the other hand, a twenty-year-old campervan may cost you less than $10,000.00.
While this might seem like a low resale price, you have to remember that a campervan is just a vehicle with a small living area connected to it.
You really won’t find many other vehicles that are still worth more than 10% of their original purchase price twenty years after they were made.
Here are some examples of campervan resale prices:
|Camper Model||New Price||Price after 3 years||Price after 5 years|
|Leisure Travel Unity||$149,000.00||$129,000.00||$100,000.00|
Campervans have their pros and cons, and it will be up to you to decide whether you want to take advantage of the pros or steer clear of the cons.
If you’re unsure of what to do, I’d recommend you rent one out for a week and give it a try!
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.