Is Restoring A Vintage Camper Worth the Effort? The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Almost nobody is impervious to the vintage charm of old camper models.

The simple, but quaint, design inherent in many of the units crosses generational appeal.

Far from antiques, restored camper models, like cars, should be used and enjoyed.

But is it worth it to undergo a vintage camper restoration?

The answer is a hard maybe, and it depends on a variety of factors. Namely, the types of camper you are buying, how old it is, and what its current state of repair. Camper restoration is hard work, and can potentially cost a lot more than initially planned.

A camper restoration is essential a home remodel and a car repair rolled into one, so it is easy to see how it could get out of hand.

If you are still heart set on restoring a camper, here is some advice for reducing cost.

Potential Issues To Look For When Buying An Old Camper

Caulk Smoothing

If you do not set a strict budget, restoring the camper will quickly become a cash vacuum. Always plan on spending more than you initially thought — unexpected expenses are bound to reveal themselves once you get to work.

The best way to minimize costs is to buy a solid camper, from the very start.

Unfortunately, these are not always readily available.

Due to age and use, many vintage campers for sale are in disrepair.

To reduce future problems before buying, check the following issues on any old camper model.

  • Floor — Check for soft spots throughout, there may be a sign of rot or water damage.
  • Axel — Rust on an axel from poor storage can be extremely expensive to replace. If the camper has been left outside for years, its axel probably needs replacing.
  • Windows — Are there any cracks or broken glass? Do they open and close properly? Is light entering?
  • Electrical system — Test all the electrical systems before purchasing, including the tail lights. If the electronics do not work, it can be a pain to replace them. You will have to remove the wall to access the wiring, which can add up significantly.
  • Tires — Tires are not too expensive to replace, but the costs do pile on when other issues arise.
  • Plumbing — Do the toilets and showers operate correctly? What is the condition of the tank?
  • Appliances and propane — Check inside fridges and cupboards for potential mice or insects. Make sure the propane on the stove works appropriately.
  • Water Damage and bad smells — Both of these problems can be a sign of mold, or worse, infestation.

The more of these areas that need fixing, the more expensive the project will be. Be very cautious when buying an old camper with many of these problems. It will take a lot of money to get it functioning again.

Simple Functional Restoration Or A Complete Makeover?

Renovation or Makeover

While every camper restorer has an idea of the kind of style and design they want, these concerns can sometimes be placed on the backburner with structural and electrical issues arise.

Are some point in the process, you will have to ask the question: will this be a purely practical project, or is appearance just as important.

When doing a full makeover, consider painting the outside color or two.

This color can add life to the shell of the camper and works exceptionally well on slightly rusted metal that will not go away.

A soft white or blue almost always looks good.

Another popular design trend going around is rustic and homey looking on the outside, while the interior is modern and up-to-date.

This method saves restoration costs on the outside and allows you to focus money on repair and decoration.

How To Decorate The Camper

The decoration process is where your camper gets personalized.

This stage is the most creative part of the restoration, so it is essential to take some inspiration from other vintage trailers.

Brainstorm a few ideas for committing yourself.

You can go online and look at pictures.

Or tour one yourself at an old camper show.

These shows can also be a great place to meet fellow enthusiasts who can give you advice and help.

If you are a traditionalist regarding style, you will probably prefer to keep the camper somewhat rustic in feel, whether it be through wood paneling, or old cotton blankets and old fishing pools. This aesthetic captures the nostalgic feel of the camper during its heyday in the 1960s.

Interior Remodel

This style is usually the cheapest too because it puts barebones pragmatism front and center.

If you want to spice it up, there are endless avenues to apply to your design scheme. How about a Mediterranean style camper? Or maybe a 1950s California beach theme?

There are endless possibilities when combining contemporary styles with nostalgic designs of the past.

Many camper restorations these days focus on recreating modern home schemes within the camper. While these styles do look beautiful and comfortable, they take a little bit of the spark out of the unit.

Before you embark on a restoration journey, try and think it over thoroughly.

Campers can be a significant investment, especially for a novice. If you do not have experience in home and car repair, restoring the camper will surely be a painful endeavor.

It might be better for these individuals to buy a new or used camper instead. But, if you persist and restore a vintage, know it will be a labor of love.

Hopefully, the final product is everything that you want.

2 thoughts on “Is Restoring A Vintage Camper Worth the Effort? The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”

  1. I have a 2000 leisure van that I would like to do some updates on replacing the bathroom removing one of the seats and giving it an update look painting the the cab ,the body i is fiberglass. It would need a good buffing Wheeling it out. I would like to know approximately what the cost would be to do this or if your local that I can bring in my motorhome which is a small motorhome and you can give me a price thank you

  2. Restoring a 1983 Apollo 3300 DB. Got it for a great price. Body is solid, motor and transmission is solid as well as the onan gen. Water damage from the skylight/vents. It will take time, money, and sweat. In the end I will enjoy it and keep it or take an offer I cannot refuse. I love the body style though! Lots of work but worth it in the end either way.

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