So the time has come for you to buy a campervan in Australia. You’ve saved up your dollars, planned your road trip and are ready to get hunting on market place for that perfect van. Before you jump into anything, we advise you to read on and learn some lessons from our mistakes. 

You can find yourself spending even more money on your van than you would ever imagine if you’re not careful. However, by following these steps, along with following our complete guide to buying a campervan in Australia, you will be on your way to one hell of an epic road trip. 

These are some of the lessons we learned in Australia for what NOT to do when buying a campervan. If we had learned them first, we may have saved over $1000!


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What NOT to do When Buying a Campervan in Australia

Now that you have decided to go ahead and live your dream of van life, having read and researched all that you need to know about living in a motorhome, it is time to take the leap and buy. Before you do that, however, there are a number of lessons to be learnt from our mistakes when we did the same.


Don’t go Alone

When it comes to going to view the van, our advice would be to not go alone. By taking someone with you, you have a second opinion and you are less likely to feel pressured to make the purchase. If no one is available to go with you for your first viewing but you think this van could be the one, take someone along with you for a second look as soon as they are free to do so.



Don’t Forget to Check the Van Over

When you meet the owner of the van for a viewing, don’t feel bad for checking out every single nook and cranny in the van. Even when it comes to additional items included with the price of the van, if there is something you are expecting to be included, make sure you check it is there and in good condition. 

A list of areas to be extra cautious of are:

  • under the wheel arches for rust
  • Tyres for the tread
  • The exhaust for black residue (burning oil)
  • Condition of extra items (battery, solar panel, cutlery and plates, etc.)
  • Logbook for services and parts
  • Reason for selling


streaky bay campsite
Our humble campsite for the night. Sunsets and whispering waves.


Also read – Backpacking Australia – What Shocked Us About Australia!


Don’t Rush your Checks

When we say check the van, we mean literally check everything you can think of. That includes the windscreen washer. This was something we didn’t think to check and after a trip to the garage we found out the pump was broken. We paid to have this fixed and then when it got to the end it stopped working again.

If you have driven in Australia, you will understand how necessary it is to be able to clean your windows, especially when driving in the outback. 


Another check we should have done in more detail was the leisure battery. The owner showed us that it was working as the fridge was turned on. Little did we know, this was because the sun was hitting off the solar panel at the time and directly running the fridge. The battery was as dead as the dodo and we would need to fork out $800 for a proper setup. 



Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”

If you don’t think the van is for you, don’t be afraid to say “no”. You will be spending a lot of money on this baby, so you want to make sure you have picked the right one. Don’t feel like you have wasted someone’s time by arranging a viewing and then saying you are not interested. 

We were nearly convinced on a van.. and I think the owners had hope that we would take it. They even tried to guilt us by saying their flight was leaving later that week. Unfortunately, when we drove the van and struggled with the lack of power steering we realised it was not the van for us.

We felt bad, however, when you are spending a lot of money, you want it to feel right.


duck lagoon campground
The camping area at Duck Lagoon Campground on Kangaroo Island.


Also read – Work and Travel in Australia – Working Holiday Visa 417 Complete Guide


Don’t Rush into Buying it

Don’t rush into it. This may be your most expensive purchase of the year so make sure you take your time looking at everything in the van. We would even recommend looking through the paperwork and reading about the history of the van. Find out how many owners it has had and the work it has had done to it. 

You may be pressured into making a quick decision by other buyers making a move on it, however, remember that this is Australia and that campervans are a dime a dozen over here. The power is well and truly in the hands of the buyer!


Before you head off on your campervan road trip, make sure you have all your camping essentials packed.


Don’t be Afraid to Barter

Don’t be afraid to barter the price down to something you find acceptable. This was something that we felt too guilty to do and it ended up with us paying out a lot more money. We had originally asked the seller to pay for some improvements before buying, such as changing a tyre and repairing the lock on the door, to which the seller had gladly agreed. 

When we next met, however, we were told that the lock would take a couple of days to fix and we hastily said it didn’t matter and that we would fix it. Our mistake here was not asking for a price reduction in the place of this lack of fixing, paying full price for a faulty piece of equipment. 

This ended up costing us around $200 to get fixed when we eventually got sick of climbing over the passenger door every time we wanted into the van. Another expensive lesson from us!


greenly picnic sunset
Our setup for the night by Greenly Beach, one of our favourite spots on the Eyre Peninsula.


Also read – Our Campervan Roxy – What We’ve Learnt from Vanlife in Australia


Don’t Pay in Cash 

It may seem an obvious one, but you would be surprised. Don’t pay for your purchase in cash.

There are a few different reasons for this, the main one being you are going to have to approach a total stranger with thousands of dollars in cash. This is obviously not a good idea. 

Another reason for paying b either bank transfer or third-party services like PayPal is that a bank statement or receipt with your transaction on it makes your purchase traceable. This, combined with a bill of sale, will help you prove that you rightfully own the van and will also prevent you from being ripped off by a faulty machine.



Don’t Buy the First Van You See

Even if you think the first van you have seen is perfect, go and check out another one. You are excited and giddy at the thought of the adventures that lie ahead, but you still need to take your time, sleep on it and view another one (or two) vans for reference. 

This will bring your head out of the clouds, back down to reality, and make sure that the “perfect” van you have just views really does have everything that you want. 

We fell in love with the first van we viewed, however, we just kept seeing more and more cracks in the lines. We viewed the van twice and after the engine not wanting to start on both occasions we felt a sneaky suspicion that this could be something more than the battery dying from the lights being left on overnight.


Luckily, after viewing another two vans, we decided that the last one we viewed was perfect and it was all thanks to the wide range of vans we had viewed.


kangaroo island brown beach
Setting up for some lunch by Browns Beach on Kangaroo Island.


Also read – Easy Camping Food List and Cooking Hacks


Don’t Forget to Keep the Sellers Contact Details

Don’t be afraid to keep the contact details of the owner of the van after you have made your purchase. There may be problems with the van itself or the documentation of the van and you will need to either contact the seller or provide details to the relevant authorities.


Four months down the line, we found ourselves with toll fines sent from when the previous owner didn’t pay a toll 7 months earlier. We contacted the Victorian government with the proof that we didn’t own the van then, however, they were little to no help and insisted that it was our job to pass the fine on (???).

Thankfully the previous owner was kind enough to support us through the process of getting the fines changed over into their name. There was absolutely no reason for them to do this, however, as they were out of the country and could have easily ignored us.

We got lucky, but you might not so be sure to get ALL of their details prior to purchase.


talia caves campsite stars
Camping beneath the stars in South Australia.



So there you have it, our most important lessons from buying a campervan in Australia and points that you should consider too. Have you ever road tripped in Australia or is it something you would consider doing? Where would you go? Let us know! We love posting about our van life adventures on social media, the good and the bad, so follow us on Instagram for more epic adventures.

If you found this article useful be sure to share it with your family and friends to inspire them to take a vanlife adventure of their own. Sharing is caring and we really appreciate your support. If you have any questions, comments or #vanlife lessons of your own, let us know in the comments section below. We love to chat!

If you want to read more stories about our time in Australia or see what other Camping Hacks we have for you, check out these sections on our website. Catch up with us on social media to see where we currently are and tag us in your vanlife photos so we can share them with our community.



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