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Owning a camper van is amazing! You get to spend time in the great outdoors, add a touch of adventure to your life, but take some of your home comforts along for the ride. Camper vans are excellent for weekends away with friends or family trips. They also make a good choice for solo travellers as they offer more safety than a tent.
Buying a brand new camper van is very exciting. Everything will be brand new, never used before, and it will even have that new camper van smell. But with so many camper vans on offer and new ones being added to the market all the time, how do you choose the right one for you?
The best way to choose a camper van is to do some research, get an idea of what you want from your camper van, then compare some of the top products on the market. That sounds like a lot of work!
So we have reviewed two of the best camper vans available to buy to make it easier for you. We have also put together a guide for how to choose your camper van, and we have answered some common questions about van life.
The two products we will be comparing are the Hymer Aktiv Lift and the Pleasure-Way Tofino. Keep reading to find out more about these great camper vans.
Hymer Aktiv Loft
- Length: 21 Feet Long
- Width: 83 inches
- Class: B
- Price: One of the most expensive Class B Camper vans
- Manufacturer Warranty: 3 years
- Available Colors: Gold, Silver, Black, White
- Towing Capacity: 3200 pounds
- Transmission: 6 Speed Automatic
- Doors: 2 The van has 2 doors on the side of the vehicle
- Wheels: Aluminium
- Air Conditioning: Automatic
- Seats: 4
- Sleeping Capacity: 5
Hymer have been using Fiat and Mercedes chassis to build excellent quality camper vans, motorhomes and agricultural vehicles since 1957. They are well known for their customer service and top notch products, and the Activ Loft is no exception.
The Activ Loft is 21 Feet long which means it may not fit into all parking spaces, as the average parking space in the United States is 18 feet long. However, it is still shorter than the 23 feet size restriction in some national parks. It is 83 inches wide and has a towing capacity of 3200 pounds.
It is more expensive than the Pleasure-Way Tofino, and other camper vans of a similar size. But as soon as you step inside, it’s easy to see where the extra money has been spent. The van is fully equipped with everything you need and has a luxurious feel.
The unique Voltstart feature monitors lithium battery levels, and your use of power within the van for functions like air conditioning. The perfect window placement allows for excellent airflow throughout the camper van, and the privacy window shades provide great coverage and protection from the sun. The windows are power controlled for easy use.
The van sleeps up to 5 people and has a collapsible queen size mattress. It’s super comfortable and is much better than a blow up mattress in a tent! There are 4 leather bucket seats for travel time which have a swivel function and arm rests.
There is a kitchen area, a bathroom and even a small bath. You can relax in front of the flat screen tv with a built in DVD player to watch your favourite movies, or turn on the radio and listen to some music.
The van has 2 doors on the side of the vehicle. If you want some space, this van has a 12 foot long power retractable awning- perfect for when friends or family want to join you for the evening. External power connections allow you to plug in appliances to the van.
The automatic air conditioning will keep you cool, while the smoke detector and carbon monoxide will keep you safe. Nothing is more important than the safety of your family or friends!
Camper vans are not just made for relaxing in – they also need to be driven. The Activ Lift has aluminium wheels and cruise control for a smooth driving experience.
The Hymer Aktiv Loft is the perfect choice if you have a bit more money to spend and you are looking for a camper van that has everything you need already included. You will be able to travel in comfort, relax in style and add a touch of luxury to your campervan adventures. With 4 seats, it’s a great option for families as you can travel together.
- Length: 17 feet 9 inches
- Width: 93 inches
- Class: B
- Price: Quite affordable compared to other Class B Camper vans
- Manufacturer Warranty: 5 years
- Available Colors: Silver, Gray, Red
- Towing Capacity: 2950 pounds
- Transmission: 6 Speed Automatic
- Doors: 1
- Wheels: Steel
- Air Conditioning: Automatic
- Seats: 2
- Sleeping Capacity: 4
Pleasure-Way is a family run business that has been making camper vans since 1986. They are a smaller company with no mass production line, which means they take a lot of care over each individual van.
The Tofino is 17 feet 9 inches long, which means it will fit into most parking spaces. It is 93 inches wide, providing a great space inside.
The Tofino is known for its reliable engine which averages at 16 miles per gallon for highway driving. The transmission is a 6 speed automatic and cruise control allows for a smooth, enjoyable ride.
The steel wheels are durable and won’t rust. TomTom GPS navigation means you won’t get lost as you explore new areas. The built in radio will help to pass the time on long journeys as you can listen to music as you drive.
This is a one door vehicle. The manual pop-top roof increases headspace which is great for large groups and families. There is also a power retractable awning for additional space. The van comes with a hitch which allows for towing of up to 2950 pounds- so you can take a trailer or a small boat with you on your adventures.
There are 2 vinyl bucket seats with armrests and the van can sleep up to 4 people. The automatic air conditioning will help to keep you cool. We know that safety is extremely important but this vehicle has you covered with a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide alarm.
The blackout shades help to keep out the sun and keep the van cool. There is a good amount of storage space for all your clothes and personal items. There is a kitchen area but no separate bathroom area.
Whilst a lot of features come as standard with the Tofino, there are some useful optional extras like roof storage and solar panels. Just remember to remove the roof storage before popping up the roof!
The Pleasure-way Tofino is a fantastic option for those with a smaller budget who still want a camper van with lots of great features. It’s not as luxurious or equipped as the Hymer Aktiv Loft, but it provides a great space with the essentials and a few extras.
With 2 travel seats, it’s a great option for couples or solar travellers who like to bring a friend along with them. The driving experience is excellent and the reliable engine makes it ideal for longer distance travelling.
Now that we have taken you through the features of two of the best class B camper vans on the market, how do you go about choosing which one is right for you? We have put together a guide to make the decision making process easier for you.
The first thing we recommend doing is carrying out plenty of thorough research into the products you are choosing between before you go into the showroom. You don’t want to get fooled into buying a camper van with features you don’t need, or choosing a van with things missing that are important to you.
It might be a good idea to make a list of the most important features you want on your van, the ones that you cannot compromise on. Then make another list of the features that would be nice to have but aren’t essential. Keep this in mind when you go to the showroom. And be prepared to compromise on the second list if you have to.
You may need to haggle with the sales representative in the showroom to get the best deal. Camper vans are big ticket items that can be hard to shift and sell. If you are in the market for a camper van then you have the upper hand, but may have to use your negotiation skills to get the best deal.
It is always worth checking if there is wriggle room on the price or if you can get some extras thrown in.
It is important to set a budget and stick to it, but do not reveal your budget to the sales representative in the showroom! They might try to push you further into the next bracket and get you to spend more money. If the sales representative asks you for your budget then we suggest giving them a lower figure.
When considering your budget, remember to think about the yearly cost of maintaining your camper van as well as the purchase price. There is no point owning a top of the range van if you cannot afford the servicing and maintenance to keep it in good working order.
Think about your experience level before you choose a camper van. Have you owned a camper van before? Do you already spend a lot of time outdoors on camping trips? Or are you a beginner just starting out, and still a bit wary of giving up their home comforts? Less experienced camper van owners may do better with a well equipped camper van that comes fitted with everything they could need, though this does come with a higher price tag.
If you have narrowed down your choices to a shortlist of a few products within your budget but are still struggling to choose between them, there is another factor you can consider. If We recommend researching the resale value of the camper vans on your list.
All brand new camper vans will depreciate in value, but it is a much better investment if you choose a van that is more likely to hold its value and sell for a decent price in the future. You can also consider the warranty on the vehicle, as extra peace of mind is important when you are parting with a big sum of money.
Remember to check the conditions of the warranty- sometimes it does not cover after-market modifications.
We would always recommend getting out to a showroom to get a good look at the models of camper van you are considering, even if you want to buy it online. Buying a camper van is a big investment and you will be spending a lot of time in the van- sit in the seats, try out the sofas, get a feel for the space to make sure it is the right one for you.
Planning Your Trip
Once you have chosen your camper van, how do you go about planning your first trip?
Before you take your new camper van on a long distance trip, we recommend driving it around locally to get a feel for the vehicle and how it operates. It can take a while to get used to driving a large vehicle, and this will give you more confidence to hit the open highway and start your adventure.
It might be a good idea to go away in your camper van somewhere nearby, an hour or so drive away, for a night or two. This will give you the chance to get used to the features, how to set up the camper van, and what things you need to bring with you from home. If you forget something important, you are not too far away from home, and you will know for next time before you travel longer distances.
Make a list of essentials and check you have packed everything before you go- we recommend baby wipes, toiletries, bug spray, sunscreen, some cooking utensils and tupperware for any leftover food.
You can even batch cook a few meals to take with you and preheat when you are there, so you can make the most of your break and relax without worrying about cooking. Don’t forget the snacks!
Especially if you are hiking or planning on being active on your travels. There might not be many pit stops so stock up easy, on the go snacks for in between meals.
Don’t overpack when it comes to clothes. You will soon wish you hadn’t when your relaxation space is taken up with piles of clothes that you probably won’t wear.
Take some detergent with you so you can hand wash some clothes and your swimsuit in the sink, and get yourself an extendable washing line or a clothes horse so you can dry them off and wear them again.
If you are planning on travelling with a friend or family member, make sure you get on well with them! Camper vans can be quite tight living spaces, and sharing a small space with someone you don’t get on with is very challenging!
For your first few trips, you may want to do some forward planning when it comes to choosing your campsites. Do some research into what facilities they have and how busy they are. It may be best to visit more popular sites initially, so there will be people around if you need any help with your van.
Once you become more familiar with your vehicle and the camper van way of life then you can head to more remote locations.
Allow yourself to embrace the freedom that comes with owning a camper van. You can make a plan, but you don’t have to stick to it! If you see somewhere interesting on the way to your destination that piques your interest then stop, explore, maybe set up camp for the night.
If you get to your intended spot and then hear about another great place the next day, jump back in the driver’s seat and go and check it out!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Benefits Of Travelling In A Group?
Some people love to travel and explore the great outdoors on their own, like a lone wolf. But there are many benefits to travelling in a pack- like with a group of friends or your family. First of all, it is safer to have people around you that you know.
You can keep an eye on the van and on each other’s personal belongings. If you injure yourself on a hike or a boating trip then there will be people around to help you. It can also be more fun to travel in a group!
You can play board games or card games, tell stories around the campfire, take it in turns to cook the meals and pack the picnics, and you could even set up fun sports activities in the wide open space like baseball or soccer.
What Is The Camper Van Community Like?
Travelling around the United States in campervans and motorhomes is a popular pastime, and even a permanent way of life for some people. Whether you are travelling solo or in a group, there will usually be fellow campers nearby who are always happy to lend a hand.
More experienced campervan travelers will probably be handy mechanics with good tips and tricks to keep your motor running smoothly. You can also reach out to the camper van community before you hit the road and ask for advice on which van to purchase.
Can I Take My Pet With Me In My Camper Van?
Campervans and motorhomes allow you to stay away from home for long periods of time by bringing the comfort of home with you on your travels. But what if you have a furry friend waiting for you? Some animals love coming with you on the road- especially dogs!
Make sure they have had all of their vaccinations, as they may be exposed to different animals and risks when heading out into the wild. It is also important to make sure they are well trained, as some remote areas may have dangerous wildlife like bears or Mountain Lions and your dog will need to stay close to you.
Other animals can also be suited for van life, like some cats, but it depends on the personality of your pet. If you are taking an animal with you on the road, be sure to pack enough food for them and remember to keep them hydrated on long journeys.
You may also want to research veterinary surgeries in the area you are travelling to in case of emergencies.
Why Are Campervans Better Than Traditional Camping?
Some people prefer camping to traveling in a camper van, as they feel closer to nature. But there are many benefits to staying in a camper van. When you arrive at your destination, setting up your home from home is quick and easy.
You don’t have to worry about putting up a tent, which is great if it’s a hot day or it’s raining heavily! You are better protected from the elements in a camper van, with a solid roof to keep out the rain, and air conditioning to keep you cool.
You can also keep yourself warm in the colder months with a furnace. Camper vans are safer than tents, as you can lock them to protect your belongings while you are out on a hike. Camper vans are also considered to be much more comfortable than camping, as you can sleep on a proper bed rather than a blow up mattress!
Why Choose A Class B Camper Van?
Camper vans come in various sizes, and they are sorted into different classes based on their length. Class B is a good option as the camper van will fit in most parking spaces in the United States.
They are big enough to provide a good living space whilst still being small enough to drive easily and maneuver around difficult dirt tracks. They are also within the 23 foot requirement that is in place in some national parks.
Is It Better To Buy Or Self-Build A Camper Van?
Some people decide to build and customize their own camper vans, either by buying a second hand motorhome to do up, or buying a standard van and making it into a mobile home. This is a great option as it allows you to choose exactly what you want in the van, and the initial upfront cost is lower.
However, there are some issues with self-building a camper van. You have to be quite handy with DIY and do a lot of research into what is safe to include in your van, and how much weight the vehicle can take.
It can be difficult to stay on budget, as you may run into unexpected difficulties or unforeseen complications. You also need to consider that self-built camper vans are harder to insure, especially if they don’t meet all the required safety standards.