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A campervan is a big investment, so if you’re buying second hand you need to be extra vigilant before committing. Sadly, sellers aren’t always honest, so once you’ve checked for any obvious signs of damage, your inspection is by no means complete.

You should look for red flags such as rust, oil leaks and missing logbooks, and visualise what sort of campervan would suit your specific needs.

Once you’ve found your perfect pick, it’s essential to cover it with a specialist policy. Motorhome Protect can help you find reliable campervan insurance, so your vehicle will be covered against risks such as damage and theft.

We know how much fun life on the open road can be, so take a look at our guide to purchasing a used campervan and buy with confidence!


The essentials

Before you do anything else, ask the seller to provide you with the campervan’s registration number, MOT test number, model and make, checking these details match those recorded by the DVLA.

Find out if the campervan has any outstanding finance and make sure the MOT history and status fit with the information you’ve been given – the vehicle should have been regularly serviced.

Ask the seller to show you the V5C vehicle registration certificate – also referred to as the ‘logbook’.

The government advises potential buyers to check for a ‘DVL’ watermark and look at the serial number: if it’s not between BG8229501-BG9999030 or BI2305501-BI2800000, the logbook could have been stolen.

The engine number, vehicle identification number and any other details you’ve been given relating to the campervan should match the details provided in the logbook.

You should also keep your eyes peeled for any physical clues that the campervan has been stolen. Take a close look at the windows and locks on the doors, checking for any signs of a break in.

A motorhome parked at the side of the road with its side door open

How do I inspect a campervan’s engine?

Engines aren’t cheap to fix, so it’s important to look out for any symptoms of poor engine health when shopping for a used campervan.

When you take the vehicle for a test drive, listen out for any abnormal noises coming from the engine.

An engine’s cam belt or timing belt can cause incredibly expensive repairs should it break, and most need switching over once they hit the 60,000-mile mark.

You should be able to find the date upon which the belt was previously changed in the logbook; if its renewal date is coming around soon, factor the price of this into your offer.

Examine the radiator, which should look well kept and in good shape – an unhealthy radiator will show signs of wear at the rear end.

Oil leaks are a real red flag. Inspect the ground beneath the engine, where the campervan is parked, searching the area for oily leaks.

An engine bay that is dusty with no oily residue is a sign that the engine is in good nick.

You should also watch out for a blown head gasket – they’re also costly to fix. Signs can include:

  • White residue inside the engine head or on the oil dipstick
  • The exhaust belching out steam, not smoke, once the engine has properly warmed up
  • The radiator’s water level seriously depleting during your test drive

If the dipstick’s oil level is low, this is an indicator of poor engine care. It lets you know that the seller has not cared well for the engine, so the campervan is likely a bad investment.

Every pipe and hose should be clean – metal pipes should be rust-free and rubber hoses should have zero cracks.

A car battery in an engine bay

How do I inspect a campervan’s bodywork?

While it takes considerable time and effort to do so, it’s well worth inspecting the entire campervan for any presence of rust.

Rust can lead to eye-wateringly expensive repairs, particularly in the case of older campervans such as VWs, so it’s not advisable to invest in a rust-afflicted campervan.

Look for rust in the following places:

  • Beneath the floor’s edges
  • On the roof
  • Around the edges and hinges of every door and window
  • The interior of the wheel arches
  • The paintwork

Given that the chassis is one of the hardest areas to reach, you really need to get down low, gently disturbing any hidden rust with an approved implement – if you notice anything crumbling, this points to a serious rust problem.

You should also check the bodywork for any dents.


How do I check for signs of damp in a campervan?

It’s essential to search for signs of damp inside a used campervan, as, like rust, water ingress can cause costly repairs.

Most campervans travel considerable distances and are exposed to a variety of weather conditions, so over time damp can creep in.

It’s worth getting a campervan assessed professionally or using a damp meter to check for water ingress, paying attention to vulnerable spots such as:

  • The corners of the campervan
  • The front windows
  • TV aerials
  • The roof lights

A blue campervan parked outside on a sunny day

What else should I look for in a used campervan?

  • Test the lights, locking system and brakes.
  • Make sure there are no oil leaks coming from the gearbox. Whilst every gearbox is prone to leaking a small amount of oil over time, a fresh, black dripping oil leak is a no-no.
  • Inspect the CV joints, making sure they’re in working condition, with zero splits.
  • Find out when the tyres were last changed – even if they’ve got good tread, they still need replacing after 4-5 years have passed. Check for any cracks, as these could cause a sudden blowout.
  • Consider the practicality of the campervan in question. Is it for long holidays? If so, you’ll probably want plenty of storage. Storing your campervan at home? Make sure you have enough room to park it.


Securing campervan insurance

A campervan is more than a vehicle: it’s a home from home, enabling you and your loved ones to enjoy adventures and new experiences.

Motorhome Protect can help you secure dependable campervan insurance, including benefits such as cover for up to 365 days a year and up to £3,500 cover for your camping personal effects.

Have fun on the road headache-free: get a quote today.