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5 Safety Features to Consider Before Buying a Campervan

So you want to buy a used campervan? Maybe you're looking for a beachy aesthetic. Or perhaps you prefer the rugged mountain look.




 

 

By Kiera Cudmore

roameo safetyfeatures acampervanone

So you want to buy a used campervan? Maybe you're looking for a beachy aesthetic. Or perhaps you prefer the rugged mountain look. What amenities do you want it to have? Indoor or outdoor shower? Price is obviously a consideration. 

 

With so many options available, finding the right campervan for you can be challenging and time consuming. One way to narrow your search is to build a checklist of safety features that will help you avoid unnecessary costs and give you peace of mind on the road.

Campervan Safety Feature Checklist: A Van Builder’s Perspective

In our guide below, I’ve outlined 5 things to inspect when buying a campervan:

  1. Electrical System
  2. Cabinetry Mounting Method
  3. System Accessibility & Maintenance
  4. After-Market Seating
  5. Detectors & Ventilation

 

  1. Electrical System

Whether buying your used campervan from a professional conversion company or a backyard van builder, the electrical system is important to the functionality and safety of the vehicle. Be sure to check:  

  • The Overall System: First, ensure all of the appliances are working properly by turning them on one by one.

  • Sizing & Spacing: Look for properly sized cables and fuses, ventilation, and quality of connection (more on this below).
  • Auxiliary Battery Setup: These are batteries used to power the conversion, which are separate from the batteries the vehicle comes with. Look for battery temperature sensors and ventilation between and around the batteries. Batteries should never be touching each other, and ideally have somewhere around an inch between them and on the sides. This airflow is necessary for the batteries to cool down during use and to vent out the hydrogen gas buildup (depending on the type of battery). If not properly ventilated, batteries may sustain damage or could even explode. 
  • Fuses: Fuses play an important safety role to protect the system if wires encounter a power surge. It is far better to have a fuse that's too small for the system it protects than one that’s too large. A small fuse will blow to protect the system from damage, while one that’s too big is harder to blow–and might blow only after damage is already done to other components. If a system isn't functioning properly, higher rated fuses can sometimes disguise what would otherwise be blown fuses. 

roameo safetyfeatures oneofafuse

For reference, the largest fuse in the breaker box of our vans is a 25 amp fuse. 

It is good to check all of the fuses in the van after running the different appliances. Simply pull each one out to read the rating and confirm they aren't blown (the little wire inside the fuse should be one piece if the fuse is still intact). 

  • Breakers: Similar to fuses, breakers also need to be properly sized. Check the owner’s manual for each product for further information on the proper size.
  • Grounding: Make sure to check that the electrical system is grounded correctly to bare metal, not a painted surface. This grounding is often directly to the OEM body of the vehicle. A proper grounding is important because it protects people and the components from high voltage danger.
  • Wire Gauge: It is also critical that the build uses the correct wire gauge for the current running through the wires. Using the correct wire gauge protects the system from fires that could result from a current that's too high running through an undersized wire. Check each electrical component in the build to determine how much power it draws to determine the correct wire gauge.
  • Quality of Connections: This may seem obvious, but also check around for any loose connections, especially at battery terminals. Test for loose connections by wiggling wires around and checking that all nuts and bolts used for ring terminal connections are tight. Loose connections are unsafe and could cause malfunctions in the system if not dealt with. 
  • Inverter: The inverter size depends on the amp hours (ah) and number of batteries in the system. 2000 and 3000 watt inverters are the most common option in the van world. Most of our vans have a 2000 watt inverter with two 100 ah batteries. The vans we have built with 3000 watt inverters require adding an additional battery for a total of three 100 ah batteries. 
  • Appliance Power Draw: This is tied closely to the size of the inverter and number of amp hours of the van’s auxiliary batteries. 

roameo safetyfeatures appliancepowerdraw

In our Roameo suites, the hot water heater draws around 1800 watts. Our microwave also draws around 1800 watts. Since we only use a 2000 watt inverter in most of our rental suites (plenty for this application), both of these appliances cannot be run at the same time. 

 

If you are looking to run multiple appliances at the same time or use a multi-burner induction stovetop, make sure that the van’s system is set up for this with a larger inverter and higher Ah (Amp hour) batteries. Request a list of individual components and their power draws, and determine which ones draw the highest wattage. If the builder doesn’t have the power draws, you could also look them up yourself online. Then, determine which components you will be running at the same time. Add up those watts. They should equal less than what the inverter is rated for. If they add up to more, you will either need a different inverter, or you will only be able to run a few components at a time.

  1. Cabinetry Mounting Method

Campervan cabinetry has to be securely attached so it remains in place as the van is driven down the road. There are many different fastening methods with plusnuts, screws and bolts. Although it may not be top of mind, it's crucial that your cabinets are secured so that they won’t come flying at you when you slam on the brakes. 

 

  • Identify Attachment Method:  It might be tricky to identify how the cabinets are attached inside the vehicle by looking at the finished product. If you can't tell how they are attached, ask the seller. Know that in general bolts are sturdier than screws for heavy cabinets or roof mounted cabinets. 
  • Listen for Rattling: As you take the vehicle for a test drive, listen for excessive rattling that might indicate loosely secured cabinetry. 
  • Check Cabinet Assembly: There are a few main fastening methods for assembling cabinets including glue, screws, slot and tab, and pegs. 

 roameo safetyfeatures cabinetassembly

Here at Roameo, we use glue, screws, and slot and tab for most of our campervan components. This makes our cabinetry very strong since there are three different joining methods happening per piece, so if one fails there are two other backups. 

Most DIY conversions use screws and glue since they lack access to a CNC machine that can easily manufacture slot and tab components. This doesn’t mean you should completely avoid DIY cabinets, but it’s something to be aware of. 

  1. System Accessibility + Maintenance

When buying any campervan it’s important to understand the van’s systems and to properly maintain them–just like you would with any other vehicle that needs regular maintenance. 

  • Inquire About Winterization: Vans stored in freezing temperatures should always be properly winterized to prevent damage to the plumbing lines and batteries. 

  • Know the Vehicle’s History & Requirements: Ask about past maintenance on systems. Does it align with the brand’s requirements? Here are a few examples for reference: Espar heaters recommend maintenance once a year to clean out the soot and dust buildup. Fresair evaporative cooling units recommend replacing the pine filter and pumps once a year as well. Other components such as water filters and hot water heaters require occasional maintenance too, depending on frequency of use. It’s a good idea to be aware of what systems might need work sooner rather than later for your own safety.
  • Check Accessibility: It’s important to understand where each of these systems are located to ensure you can access them when needed. 
  1. Aftermarket Seating

Many campervans use aftermarket seating options, often installed by the conversion party, not the vehicle manufacturer. Van builders often opt to change out normal seats for captains chairs so they can swivel the chairs around to face the back of the van. It is also fairly common to see aftermarket seats in converted delivery vans, which come with just a driver’s seat from the factory. 

  • Check the Seats: Confirm aftermarket seats are securely bolted through the floor of the van and that the hardware is appropriately sized. The seat base should not wiggle around when pulled on. It's also worth noting that aftermarket chairs often don’t have airbags installed in them. 

roameo safetyfeatures seats

  1. Detectors & Ventilation

CO detectors and smoke alarms are obvious features in a house, but did you know they should also always be properly installed in campervans? Carbon Monoxide poisoning is very dangerous and you are at higher risk if anything in the van runs on propane. 

  • Check Placement of Detectors: Make sure the smoke detector is mounted to the ceiling and the CO detector is near the floor, so both can properly sense for danger

  • Check Fire Extinguisher Accessibility: A fire extinguisher should be readily accessible in the van build in case of emergency.

 

Keep in mind that you can always install any of these features later on, but seeing them in vans you are looking at can be a great sign that the owner or builder is aware of proper van safety components.

We hope that these safety tips will help make the process of buying your used campervan a little less daunting. 

Happy van hunting! Also, check out our campervans for sale here.