Pre-owned Motorhome vs Conversion

This guide takes you through all the options


Buying New, Pre-owned or Ex-rental


Buying a brand new KEA motorhome certainly has a lot of advantages. Possibly, the biggest difference is that we have a huge amount of experience over time in building motorhomes and campervans to the highest quality standards. KEA Motorhomes is part of the thl group, the world's largest operator of RV rental experiences. This gives us access to global expertise and innovation that is second to none. thl brings over 75 years of experience to crafting KEA vehicles.

Buying New, Pre-owned or Ex-rental. 

Buying a brand new KEA motorhome certainly has a lot of advantages. Possibly, the biggest difference is that we have a huge amount of experience over time in building motorhomes and campervans to the highest quality standards. KEA Motorhomes is part of the thl group, the world’s largest operator of RV rental experiences. This gives us access to global expertise and innovation that is second to none. thl brings over 75 years of experience to crafting KEA vehicles. Our quality is so trusted, that we are the manufacturer of choice for St John Ambulance.

1. Our motorhomes are made in Australia and New Zealand, for local weather and road conditions. We design, make and maintain every KEA motorhome for our unique Australian conditions

2. Built tough and designed to last the distance with our KEA promise of quality in every detail

3. All options are possible with our great range of vehicle models, ages and price points; from pre-owned two berths through to brand new six berths

4. We can personalise your motorhome to suit your travel style by adding on accessories such as an awning or a variation that creates more lounge space. It’s up to you.

5. Every KEA motorhome is manufacturer approved and carefully maintained through our Australia-wide network of accredited dealers. Wherever you travel, we’ve got you covered

6. We have a package of comprehensive warranty options

You also have the option of buying a pre-owned/ex rental motorhome. This can be a great way to get into a motorhome. They’re more affordable, which appeals to many first-time buyers and all of the ex-rental vehicles we sell come from well-known brands under the thl banner such as Britz and Maui. We offer trade-ins, finance and insurance and servicing for any KEA motorhome, new or pre-owned.

For some, carrying out your own bus conversion looks like an option worth considering.  Perhaps you’ve got some skills that you can bring to the task, you can visualise the end result and do it exactly the way you want it. It ought to be fun. And then, there’s the cost: by doing all the work, it could be an affordable exercise.

We’re not here to burst anyone’s bubble and we’re great believers in supplying quality information and helping others who are into the motorhome lifestyle. Realistically though, there’s a lot to it. Here are three key areas to think about in terms of tackling your project.

 

1. Hidden costs:

While motorhome conversions may seem to be a cheap way to create your own motorhome, our experience is that the final cost can be close to (and sometimes even more than) buying a new vehicle.

For example, it’s worth remembering that you may need to purchase all the internal components such as cabinetry and appliances yourself at retail prices. Whereas a big supplier like KEA is able to package these together to give you substantial savings.

Some of the areas where higher costs can typically mount up are: 

Engine Issues:

High mileage, high wear or low maintenance engines can be expensive to repair. Has the vehicle been sitting for a while? Are there any service records? Do you have a mechanic that can help you make any repairs where needed?

Mechanical Issues:

How are the brakes and suspension? Does the vehicle need a wheel alignment? Is the exhaust system in good working order or needing to be replaced? Do the tyres have plenty of life in them? Will the vehicle pass a roadworthy test?

Body Issues:

Has the vehicle been in an accident or been modified? Is there any frame damage?  Is there rust or water damage? Are there cracks or holes in the panels or roof? 

Electrical:

Is the wiring in good order, reliable and safe? Electrical gremlins can be particularly time-consuming to track down and repair.

Existing Fitouts:

If there’s an existing fitout, is the cabinetry in good shape or will it need attention? What about soft furnishings like mattress and couches? Do they need cleaning or replacing?

Are all the windows, vents and skylights in good working order? Are the fly screens intact? How about the appliances? Fridge, stove, microwave, aircon unit, heating systems all in working order? 

 

2. Your Time and Skills:

To save money, you’ll need to rely on an abundance of your available time and skills to bring the project to fruition. No doubt you’ll need some good mechanical and DIY building skills as well as a suitable set of tools and the space to do the work. Plus, some expert assistance for the things you’re unable to do or that require professional qualifications.

As with any rebuilding or renovation project, it’s likely to take longer and cost more than you initially budgeted. Even though there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ motorhome or campervan conversion,  the path to completion might look a little like this:

    • Find a suitable base vehicle. Some of the more popular candidates for motorhome conversions in Australia are used Mercedes-Benz Sprinter models, VW Crafters, Toyota Hiaces and occasionally, old school buses
    • Perform a complete vehicle ‘health check’ as above.
    • Determine the best layout for your campervan interior (Where does the bed go? Will you be able to incorporate a shower / toilet, or will you choose the ‘dry camping’ option? Storage options? Fridge and sink?)
    • Work out your heating and cooling needs
    • Wiring and electrical
    • Weigh your vehicle and weigh everything that will be going into it

 

3. A Few Words About Regulations, Registration and Safety

The biggest difficulties in any DIY conversion inevitably occur with regulations for gas and electricity. Because this is a safety issue, it’s best tackled by a specialist with the necessary qualifications and licenses. Regulations vary from state to state, so please check with your local governing body. Generally though, when the work is completed, the installer must issue a compliance certificate for the installation work performed.

In addition, there can be issues with registration and insurances, as the converted unit may not have a second stage compliance. This will also affect the resale value as the unit is only registered as a van rather than a camper. The conversion of an existing motor vehicle to a motor home is a modification and must be carried out in accordance with state guidelines. An Approval Certificate is required for the registration or change of description of a vehicle converted to a mobile home.

You’ll need to make sure you have the right insurances in place for your self-built motorhome, complete the necessary roadworthy inspection and pay the fees as per your state’s legislation, get the vehicle registered and make any updates to your driving licence to account for the revised gross vehicle weight.

Alternatively, there is a middle ground where we have had success with keen DIY-ers. You could purchase one of our pre-loved campers or motorhomes and customise the vehicle yourself or at KEA’s manufacturing line in Braybrook, Victoria.  

That way, you know with certainty that all the tricky regulations and compliance issues have been adhered to and you have a campervan or motorhome that can be registered and insured in any state and it will have the necessary second stage compliance plate.

Because we deal with these issues on a daily basis, we have done all the homework, making sure any of our campervans and motorhomes meet the legislated regulations in every state of Australia.

That’s a quick snapshot of the pros and cons of buying or converting vans and motorhomes. Everyone’s journey is different, but if it’s anything to do with motorhomes, we love it, we live it and we hope to see you out there somewhere on the highways and bush tracks of our big, wide, wonderful country.