Camper vans

Looking for one like the old VW campers. With good mileage and low maintenance and affordable price. Any suggestions as to which type and model?

thanks a bunch!


Have you driven a Westfalia? Make sure you’re happy with the sloooooow performance. And ‘low maintenance’ is incorrect. Not expensive, but it needs frequent maintenance.

I have not driven one. And I probably am not using the right words. By low maintenance I meant it isn’t broken down all the time. I expect to change all the fluids and filters on a regular schedule. And I am not sure what you mean by slow performance. Like it just doesn’t leap onto the highway? I meant by performance probably the same thing as maintenance, just that it performs without falling apart all the time. You will please excuse my ignorance. Do you like the Westfalia?

It could be a great match for you IF you’re happy with the performance (you must try one out, they are MUCH slower than any car you can buy today). And by maintenance, I mean tune ups and valve adjustments, not just fluids, along with the normal RV stuff. If you either can find a good old VW mechanic, or do it yourself, then great. If not, not.

There is absolutely no such thing as a low-maintenance RV. You’re putting a house on a vehicle that probably wasn’t designed to have a house dropped on it and driving it around. Either something will go wrong with the vehicle, or (more often) something will go wrong with the house. It’s inevitable.

There is also no such thing as a low-cost RV. Get an RV because you like the RVing experience, not because you think you’re going to save money. If you want to save money, get a tent :wink:

All that said, if you want a newer option than the VW’s, look at some used Roadtreks. They’re incredibly well-thought out class-B (van-sized) RV’s that are designed to minimize (but certainly not eliminate) the chores you have to do to keep them shipshape.

The VW campers are really well-designed campers, but really pretty poor vehicles. I don’t know what vintage VW you’re talking about, but frankly good mileage is the only point I would maybe give you (although after about 1972, the mileage was not that much better than domestic V8-powered vans). Definitely not low maintenance (the vanagons in particular are spectacularly unreliable) nor particularly affordable these days.

Domestic van-based campers don’t have the funky European charm of the VW’s, but they’re cheaper to buy, cheaper to fix, more reliable, get only marginally lower mileage (if not better in some cases) and have much better power. Plus if you break down in middle-America somewhere it’s not a 200-mile tow to the nearest VW mechanic. The only real drawback is that they’re harder to find, but they are out there.

Another option if you’re looking at newish campers is a Dodge Sprinter based one. These are really turbodiesel powered Mercedes vans and, while maintenance and repairs are a little pricey, they get incredible mileage for such large vehicles and there are some really excellent campers based on them.

Does the Dodge Sprinter use a Cummins diesel and if not what kind. I have a one ton dodge dually and I love the cummins, I love that truck! 1998.

It is a Mercedes Benz and uses a Daimler Benz diesel.

I would recommend against the Sprinter. I’ve dealt with several over the years through my job, as have many colleagues I talk to, and we all hate them. They’re maintenance nightmares. The crankshaft pulley falls out on just about every one I’ve heard of, and it’s not at all uncommon to pop the turbos in them. It’s a shame, because they’d be great otherwise, but the reliability is just garbage.

Thanks for that word of caution! What else is out there? My husband mentioned something ford makes, I need to get the name of it.

oh! I forgot to ask…What about this Toyota Hiace or Pop Up?(?) Or any toyota thing. Would like to stay American or has Toyota joined up with one of the big three now? Please pardon all this ignorance.

I don’t think they ever sold the Hiace here. They sold some smaller vans for a few years in the 80’s, but I’ve never seen a camper based one one. Too bad, since they were mechanically based on the excellent old Toyota pickup (including some which were 4x4’s-- a camper van that was also a very competent 4-wheeler would have been pretty cool).

There were some other RV’s that were based on Toyota pickups which were pretty nice, but they make those little trucks do a lot of work, especially back before you could get a V6! I don’t know why they quit making these, since nowadays Toyota trucks have tons of power and would be ideal base vehicles.

For my money, I’d say sticking with a big-three full-size van or pickup based camper is still the way to go. The trouble is that there’s no real one dominant company that does the conversions, especially the camper vans, and so it’s sort of hard to recommend one to look for. It’s just sort of whatever you can find. Even some home-made camper vans are pretty nice and could be worth a look.

Ford makes the chassis for all sorts of RV’s, from Roadtrek class B’s to 30 foot Winnebago class C’s.

What you might want to do is to google “class B motor home.” That’ll give you a whole bunch of van-sized RV’s.

A reliable VW camper (any model) is an oxymoron. They are just about the most unreliable and maintenance intensive vehicles known with 4 wheels.

Several of our friends have owned these, and the all travelled with tools, spare parts, AAA cards and ready accesss to cash.

I would look for a normal van or truck conversion such as Starcraft and many others. At least they are as reliable as the base vehicle.