Camper vans can seem like the perfect recreational vehicles. On paper, they pair many of the amenities one would find in a full-blown RV with the maneuverability of a passenger vehicle. Remote work is easier. And it’s pleasant to hop on Instagram and fantasize about an unfettered life enjoying nature. And that fantasy can become your reality — if money is no object.
In reality, investing in a new camper van can easily stretch into the six figures — past the price of a swanky three-row luxury SUV. And even if you have that money to spend, there are some compelling reasons why now is not the time to buy.
Camper vans will probably never be more expensive, relatively.
The camper van business is booming. Buying one was never cheap. And recent factors have conspired to make it even more expensive. The pandemic reduced the appeal of traditional travel options and ignited an already burgeoning camper van segment. Buyers who would be in that market ended up with a large amount of cash during the pandemic. Demand has seen recreational vehicle sales soar to record highs, with around 540,000 sold.
Combine that with supply chain issues and fuel prices dramatically increasing the costs of vehicle components and raw materials. It’s not a time where you’re likely to score a great deal on a camper van — or fuel and maintain one on the cheap.
No one knows how much resale value camper vans will have.
The motoring world is going electric and, in some segments, also increasingly autonomous. The 2020s will witness the most remarkable transportation and energy revolution since cars replaced horses. Potential resale values for combustion vehicles in 10-15 years when the world goes EV are — to put it mildly — uncertain. That may be especially true for gas or diesel-guzzling vans. Cleaner and more future-proof options are coming. Vehicle battery technology will improve markedly over the next decade. It may be more prudent to wait.
Camper vans are impractical when you’re not using them...
Camper vans are useful for one thing: camping. Most don’t transition to everyday life at all. And you can’t call them expensive garage ornaments because they don’t fit in a typical garage. You’ll probably end up paying to store a camper van for the other 50 weeks per year. Towing a camping trailer may be annoying. But you can stash smaller ones in a garage and use the SUV or truck you used to tow it as a family car.
and also when you are.
Even while camping, camper vans can still be inconvenient. Forget something at the store? You need to pack up and potentially lose your entire campsite. There will never be enough space to store belongings and yourself comfortably at once. And that romantic mobile domicile you’re dreaming of could also become a tiny hotel room you can’t leave with less than private toilet accommodations.
You can rent a camper van instead.
We still haven’t talked you out of that #vanlife? Fine. But renting is a much cheaper, more accessible and potentially more enjoyable way to enter it. There are national marketplaces like RVShare and Outdoorsy where you can find cool custom camper vans to rent. And there are a host of local retailers and van builders that offer custom van rentals. The upfront cost is relatively minimal. There’s no maintenance, upkeep or storage to pay for.
Notably, there’s no long-term commitment when you’re renting. You aren’t constrained by location if you want to switch it up and take that epic van trip to Europe or New Zealand. And you won’t have to feel guilty if you just want to spend one vacation recharging in a beach chair (we’re not here to judge).