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Why Are Camper Vans So Expensive?

A white camper van parked in a parking lot

If you’re considering buying a new camper van, you might have a bit of sticker shock when you see the prices. Purchasing a brand-new camper van is not a low-cost investment. With countless amenities designed to improve your camping experience, these vehicles seem to increase in price every year.

So, why are camper vans so expensive? Most camper vans use the base model of a company’s cargo van and then add beds, refrigerators, stoves, electrical, and more. Since the average cargo van is relatively expensive, it’s easy to see how quickly the costs can increase by adding more customization.

Throughout this post, you’ll also learn the following:

  • Several reasons why camper vans are so expensive
  • How to save money
  • Converted vs. manufactured camper vans
  • The costs to expect when maintaining and owning a camper van

10 Reasons Camper Vans Are So Expensive

Camper vans are expensive; there’s no denying it. It’s not uncommon to see high-end makes and models selling for well over $100,000, some of which exceed $150,000. These prices are no joke, but there are plenty of reasons why companies keep charging so high, and why people keep paying for them.

Here are the ten reasons that camper vans are so expensive:

The base price of the van is nearly the same amount as a regular cargo van. But when it’s combined with lots of new conveniences, the price increases accordingly. As mentioned above, these amenities include kitchen appliances, bedding, and more. The cabinetry is expensive as well.

The labor costs of buying a camper van are also higher. Almost all of the components need to be fitted and installed by hand. It costs a lot for companies to have employees, so you have to factor in the labor costs of the workers who do the specialized work. That means you’re paying for hours of labor and installation costs.

Camper vans are often much larger than conventional vehicles. Paying for more cargo space adds several thousands of dollars to the price tag. For this reason, some people choose to buy camper vans with lower roofs or shorter lengths. Remember that less room means fewer people who can camp inside.

If you request customization, you can expect to pay quite a bit more. Some people prefer hardwood instead of carpet, solar panels on the roof, backdrop tiling in the kitchen and bathroom, and larger bed frames. If you want all of these luxuries, you’ll definitely be paying for them.

Not surprisingly, supply and demand is another determining factor in the price. When more people want to purchase a camper van, the asking price remains higher. For example, the price is usually lower at the end of the camping season than at the beginning. Often, some of the best camper van deals occur during the off-season when demand is lower.

Much like with other vehicles, there are camper van manufacturers that go the extra mile, providing more options in the base model. The options are of higher quality, and there are more add-ons available than on some of the more budget-friendly options that are out there. These top-of-the-line camper vans are naturally going to cost more.

Creating motorhomes costs more money than other vehicles. Companies are required to abide by federal as well as state laws and regulations, which means they need electricians, plumbers, and other workers who aren’t necessary with conventional vehicles. Not only does this add to the labor costs as mentioned above, but it also takes more time and money to produce.

The percentage of profit that companies make from producing camper vans needs to be enough to continue production. Since they’re so expensive to make, they need to charge even more money to keep making more. Not only that, but there may be occasional lemons that have warranty problems, which the company must repair or replace while the vehicle is under warranty.

The market for recreational vehicles is nowhere near as big as the rest of the automotive industry. It’s safe to say that most people don’t own camper vans, which means every company has to charge more to ensure that their workers are paid, as well as the bills for manufacturing. Rather than selling multiple units to make a profit, camper van manufacturers sell fewer at high prices.

Some camper vans are heavy-duty, which means they need more durable tires, larger engines, heavier suspension, and more. It’s reasonable to assume heavy-duty parts require more money. If you want to go off-road and enjoy every aspect of the outdoors with your new camper van, you will pay more money to enjoy such luxuries.

We have a post on “Are Camper Vans Expensive to Run? Let’s Break it Down” check it out here.

How to Save Money When Buying a Camper Van

Fortunately, there’s no need to buy the most expensive camper van on the market. You can follow the tips found throughout this section to cut costs and get the best deal possible. However, some of them might not be available in your local market, but remember that you can travel out of state to purchase recreational vehicles.

Here are a handful of suggestions to save money when you’re buying a camper van:

Considering purchasing a used camper van. You can buy one that’s between two or three years old. Many people prefer buying camper vans at this age because they’ve already gone through all of the manufacturer defects. You’ll get a like-new vehicle for a much lower price.

Shop for camper vans when the next year’s models are released. For example, buy a 2020 model at the end of the year when 2021 models are released. Most companies offer discounts to get the older models off of the lot. You might even be lucky enough to find a year-old brand-new camper van for a fantastic price.

Request to view base/stock models. If you don’t need all of the luxuries mentioned earlier, then you can enjoy a brand-new camper van for much less. Manufacturers cater to people looking for more budget-friendly alternatives.

These camper vans will offer fewer options on their base models, which allows people working with a limited budget to be still able to enjoy all the rewards that van camping offers.

As long as you’re okay with having carpeted floors, basic curtains, and other items that might need replacing within a couple of years, then you’ll be good to go.

If you’re buying a used camper van, don’t forget to haggle. Keep an eye out for scratches, old tires, and outdated appliances. Even if you’re okay with using them, mention to the seller that you might need to replace them soon. This conversation should give you an edge.

Remember, you have the home-court advantage. There are numerous places to buy camper vans, and sellers may not have a broad range of buyers. So, they want to make a sale, and you want their vehicle. But if you can’t agree on a price, don’t be hesitant to leave and go elsewhere. However, leave your phone number; you might just get a call back with a reasonable offer.

You see, there are many ways to save money when you’re buying a camper van. They’re undoubtedly expensive, but if you play your cards right, you’ll get a sweet deal that’s too good to pass up. In the next section, we’ll take a look at the price difference between converted and manufactured camper vans.

Other Posts of Interest

Interior of a camper van with table and chairs

Is It Cheaper to Convert a Van Rather Than Buy a Brand-New Model?

In a time when everyone is starting to travel and live a mobile lifestyle, there seems to be an endless amount of people converting old vans into new DIY camper vans. Rather than spending $100,000, you can pay $10,000 on a used van and convert it to make it just as good as an expensive one.

Remember that buying a used van comes with a handful of problems. For example, you’ll have to deal with future repair costs. All camper vans come with warranties when they’re brand-new, so you wouldn’t have to worry about paying for anything. With a used cargo or passenger van, the warranty period is usually over.

Also, consider it may be hard to find professionals who can convert a cargo van for you. If you’re not mechanically inclined, it’s doubtful that you’ll get the conversion that you had envisioned when you purchased the vehicle. Make sure that any professional help you need is available before buying a used van.

On the other hand, if you know that you’re more than capable of performing the changes and renovations without needing to rely on someone else, then the savings can be shocking. There is an endless amount of examples across the internet of people spending around $20,000 for their conversion, while others have paid as little as $10,000 or less, while others have pushed the limits and spend $75,000 or more. It all comes down to the about of conveniences you want to install.

Check out our post “How To Convert A Transit Van Into A Camper: The Ultimate Guide” for information here.

In short, manufactured camper vans are undeniably more expensive than the bulk of conversion vans. However, you can quickly go over budget by trying to fit high-quality amenities and comfortable flooring or insulation throughout the vehicle. Find the essentials, make a budget, and don’t stray from it.

The total cost of a conversion is hard to pinpoint since everyone prefers different amenities. If you’re traveling long-term, you might consider investing in solar power, a comfortable bed, some sort of storage solution, and a 12V DC refrigerator. These renovations can cost over $1000 to $2000, but they’re more than worth it.

What Are the Repairs and Maintenance for a Camper Van?

Hidden costs and fees tend to creep up on unsuspecting camper vans owners. These costs typically happen to people who haven’t owned a recreational vehicle in the past. Unfortunately, just because you only use it three times a year doesn’t mean that you won’t have to keep up on maintenance.

Usually, older camper vans are likely to have more maintenance problems. However, new camper vans that are beyond their warranty period can have expensive repairs as well. You simply shouldn’t have to deal with issues as often as with an older, used vehicle.

Some of the most common problems with camper vans include:

Tire replacements or repairs. Since camper vans are heavier than average vehicles (due to appliances, cabinets, etc.), they have tire problems a bit more often. Expect rotations, repairs, or replacements about once every three years. Always keep a spare tire, and learn how to replace it. If you need to change on the roadside, know how to do so safely.

Fluid replacement and flushing are both standard maintenance procedures on all vehicles, but you’ll have to do them just as often, even if you don’t drive it a lot. Recreational vehicles that sit and gather rust are more at danger to need repairs than well-driven vehicles. Move the fluids, tires, and the engine.

Fixing appliances, such as a fridge or water pump, is very common in old camper vans. The good news is that it’s not always a problem in newer models. They’re all relatively cheap repairs unless you have to replace the appliances completely.

Some of the lesser-known, rare problems that you might encounter include:

Stove, microwave, and refrigerator replacements. As mentioned above, these repairs can be quite expensive when you have to replace them altogether. It could add up to a large amount of money in some cases. It depends on the model that you own and what your replacement options are.

Water leaks can be a huge problem. They’re uncommon, but old camper vans are much more prone than new ones. Do your best to maintain the caulking sealant every other year to prevent leaks from happening. They can completely ruin the structural integrity of the vehicle, short circuit electrical components, and cause interior deterioration.

Low-Cost and Most Expensive Camper Vans to Buy

Camper vans are all over the place when it comes to their price tags. You can find a $200,000 top-notch camper at a dealership that also sells a used $12,000 camper van from the ’90s. If you want to save money or view your available options, it’s essential to know the most affordable and most expensive models.

The Low-Cost Makes and Models

Converted camper vans are the most affordable choice if you want something that’s new, reliable, and functional. The most popular cargo and passenger vans to convert include the Ram ProMaster, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and the Ford Transit. But you’re not limited to just those three; there are other great models available to consider.

The Winnebago Solis is more affordable compared to other models from the company. It might be quite pricey compared to converted vans, but it’s not too bad in terms of manufactured camper vans. At around $75,000, it’s lower-cost than the company’s Revel; it’s the perfect mix between luxury, camping comfort, and affordability.

Finally, the Volkswagen Grand California took the world by storm with dozens of luxurious amenities, a futuristic interior, and beautiful lighting throughout the vehicle. Starting around a $75,000 price tag was far below any predictions. Unfortunately, this vehicle won’t be available in the USA any time soon.

Expensive Makes and Models

The Winnebago Revel 4×4 is a tank of a camper van. Loaded with offroad capabilities, a luxurious interior, and a Mercedes-Benz base, this vehicle costs around $160,000 brand-new. If you have the money, owners seem to have a unanimous agreement that this camper van will outlast the competition.

Some converted vans can cost the same as a brand-new camper van. Many campers prefer to spend the same price by buying a brand-new cargo van and converting it themselves. This decision allows them to choose every last material, and it also grants the freedom of knowing what’s inside.

Finally, the 2020 Pleasure Way Plateau FL is another high-end camper van that sits around $165,000 for a brand-new model. Used models still run around $120,000, unless you buy one that’s rather old. Nonetheless, these camper vans provide some of the best amenities and warranties on the market.

Are Camper Vans Worth Buying?

Yes! If you’re someone who loves the outdoors while enjoying similar creature comforts of relaxing at home, the camper vans are a fantastic investment. Whether you choose an inexpensive conversion van or a $200,000 mega-van, you’ll love the experience from start to finish.

The only thing that you need to be aware of is the consistent upkeep. Camper vans aren’t something that you can purchase and let sit for months or years on end. They require insurance, registration, monthly payments, and repairs. As long as you have the extra money set aside for emergencies, you shouldn’t run into any problems.

Read our post, “Do Camper Vans Hold Their Value?” here.

Summing it Up

Camper vans are expensive because they’re loaded with amenities to provide you with a better camping setup. However, if you’re worried about spending too much, you have the option of building your own conversion van. You could save yourself thousands of dollars with the added benefit of making the perfect customization.

Throughout this post, you should’ve learned all of the reasons that camper vans are so expensive. Here are a few additional takeaways to answer the question:

  • Lower-cost camper vans from the manufacturer range between $60,000 to $100,000.
  • Expensive camper vans can cost anywhere from $120,000 to $200,000 or more.
  • Don’t forget to haggle or wait for discounts on your favorite models.
  • Customization such as unique appliances and hardwood floors raise the value.
  • Perform regular maintenance to prevent extensive repairs and other problems.
  • After you buy a camper van, learn the safe procedure on how to change a tire.
  • Consider doing renovations and repairs yourself to save money on professional labor costs.
  • Don’t rush a decision; Always look around the market to find the best deal.
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The western part of the country draws me with its mountains, deserts, and red rock vistas. Still, there are numerous other wonders I'm ready to explore., from Maine's rugged coast to California's Big Sur cliffs and everywhere between.