In previous posts we’ve mentioned how we were debating between traveling Europe by train, car, or camper. A rail pass would make for relatively hassle-free traveling, but the problem is we can’t easily get out into the countryside. Plus, we’d alway have to be schlepping our bags from train stations to hostels. Not to mention the eternal search for a nice hostel to stay in. We traveled by car in New Zealand and that allowed us to go where we wanted, but living out of a tent makes it a little hard to pick up and move to a new place. There’s a lot of packing and unpacking involved, and sitting out rainstorms in a small tent is no fun. So, we finally decided that we’d try traveling Europe in a small RV or campervan. Renting a camper is expensive, so we’ll see if we can buy one for about the same cost as renting one, and we might recover about half of that expense when we re-sell it.
After much internet research we settled on a small company in Utrecht, Netherlands called Dutch Camper Vans. On Tuesday morning after the long Easter weekend we took a short train ride from Amsterdam to Utrecht. Donna is the one-woman show behind Dutch Camper Vans and we arrived at her small, cluttered house to discuss our options. Donna didn’t have any campers available in her small inventory, so we drove with her to a nearby used car dealer to look at a couple used campers they had. One smelled like a smoker owned it, and the other was a heavy-duty rig, more suited to driving across Africa than Europe. That evening we looked over a lot of internet ads and worried if we would find a decent camper.
On Wednesday, we decided we needed to rent a car rather than rely on Donna driving us around to look at campers. After getting a car we drove out of Utrecht to a couple nearby places with used campers. The first place had a couple very affordable, but very crappy campers. They could have been free, but we wouldn’t have wanted to live in them for a few months. The next dealership had a large inventory of camper vans and small RVs. After looking in the vans we made up our mind that they would be too small for us to be comfortable in. They did have a couple small RVs that interested us and looked to be in good shape. One was about 8000 euros, the other was almost 14,000. That’s much more than we had hoped to spend, but it was the nicest camper we’ve looked at so far. It was the end of the day, so we headed back to our hotel to again look over internet ads.
First thing Thursday we made the long drive to a dealer we didn’t have time for yesterday. They had one RV in our price range and we were surprised how clean it was inside compared to other campers we’d looked at. The upholstery is a little dated, but the cabinets are in surprisingly good shape for a 1994 camper. The dealer also had lots of maintenance records for the RV, which was encouraging. We spent some time looking over the camper from top to bottom, then we took it for a test drive. I was a little nervous about getting behind the wheel that first time. It’s a small RV, but the roads in Europe can be very small as well. The dealer directed me as we took it for a spin down the highway and through some smaller streets near the dealership. It was a little squeaky inside, but it seemed to drive just fine. We told him we had to look at one more camper in the next town and we’d be in touch. As it turned out, we could never find that last dealership we wanted to see, so after a lunch discussion we decided to buy the camper we had looked at earlier in the day.
This was the point where Donna really earned her keep. She helped us arrange the sale and registration and insurance so we’d be all legal while we’re driving around Europe. We do have a contract with her, but we also have to trust that she won’t screw us out of the camper when we are done with it. After all, she basically owns it on our behalf. We got some good recommendations about her from past customers, so we’re pretty sure she won’t rob us blind. And even if she did, that’s why we picked a camper for under 8000 euros instead of one that cost twice as much. Now we just have to wait several days for the dealer to get the camper ready to go.