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Top tips for buying and converting your own customised van

Post-lockdown New Zealand has caused many Kiwis to change their travel plans from international to domestic, with multiple opting for campervan accommodation. Customised campers especially have seen a surge in popularity as people are wanting to explore the country’s best offerings without being tied to one location.

Campervan hire company Quirky Campers New Zealand is a unique service offering handmade campers from around the country to those eager to travel. Since January, the camper service’s website has jumped more than 1000 percent, with people looking for advice on how to buy or convert their own bach on wheels.

Quirky Campers NZ co-owner, Leanne Edwards, says staycations are becoming a popular option in 2020 and is not surprised that ‘van life’ has attracted significant interest.

“Building or buying your own customised camper can be a really cost-effective way to create a holiday home for yourself. We have noticed a definite uptick in calls from people wanting advice on conversions, along with how to make money from their vans when they’re not exploring New Zealand themselves.”

Leanne and her husband Dan Edwards launched Quirky Campers last year, yet have already gained huge recognition. The family-owned business works alongside a collection of likeminded camper van owners, each with a vehicle that they have created from scratch and want to share with the world.

Quirky Campers’ vans each have their own unique style, tailored to suit every type of traveler. ‘Mahara’ is a Scandi style log cabin on wheels, complete with a wood burner, while ‘Ivan’ is a modern version of a classic wooden camp interior, designed to feel like your very own boutique hotel room.

“The customised vans themselves are a drawcard as they’re so unlike anything else out there,” says Edwards.

“There’s nothing wrong with the factory-fitted vans, but they can lack those homely touches and the element of surprise and delight. Handcrafted vans boast features that you’d expect to find in a well-appointed bach. Think carved wooden cabinets, log burners, double beds, and fully kitted out mini kitchens. It can certainly take your road trip up a notch or two.”

In response to the multiple enquiries, Leanne shares her top tips for buying, converting and hiring out your own customised van.

Go with what rents well. Alongside a desirable aesthetic, it is important to include features that rent well such as automatic vans and ones you can stand up in. Heating is also a massive appeal in the cooler months.

Get the best base vehicle you can afford. Budget about 50 percent of your investment on the base vehicle and leave the rest for the conversion. Look out for vans with good bodywork, service history and the lowest kilometres, that you can afford.

Decide how you want to convert. Find a converter, you can use the directory on the Quirky Campers NZ website, or do it yourself, if you have the skills and confidence. Look out for layout ideas online and make a list of must-haves or nice-to-haves. You must have the customer in mind if you are planning to hire out your van. Choose hardwearing materials and make things relatively easy to use.

Final thoughts on cost & payback. This will vary depending on the age and size of the vehicle. However, for base vehicle and conversion, the investment could be $15k – $80k with a pay-back in rental income of 1 – 5 years respectively. While you have the benefit of your very own bach-on-wheels to use in the meantime.

“It’s a compelling investment. It usually takes a few years to recoup your initial costs but then it’s all profit,” she says.

“You can use your beautiful personalised van to explore your own backyard whenever you want and know that it’s earning money the rest of the time, rather than sitting on the driveway. It’s a win-win.”

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