The Beginning of a Huge Project

All of this started with a crazy idea. Last Christmas, I spent a nice afternoon with my mother and my sister. We prepared the decoration for a cake and we talked about different things. One topic was the purchase of a car. I never had a car and even when I turned 18 and made my driving license, I don’t wanted an own car even though my parents offered me. I didn’t see the need for my own since my parents have two and I was always allowed to take one. Within the next years, I sometimes thought about getting a car, but never realized it. I’m living in a city with a good local transportation system and the tickets were already covered by the university’s semester fee.

Something changed when my sister moved to Bavaria with her husband, because I had to take a 6-7 hours train to go there and she had to pick me up by car. Otherwise, it would have been much longer to go there by bus. But it was still okay.

After my nephew was born, I started visiting her more often and since I got my dog Voxel, it was a bit more complicated to go there by train. First, it was stressful for the dog, even though she was always protected in her box and she usually slept the whole time…7 hours by train is exhausting for humans and animals, especially because of the toilet situation. And second, I had much more luggage that was not very handy!

So I started again to think about a car, but this time, I really had a reason to get one. So, I asked my father who works as a car mechanic, how much money I would need and what features of a car are important. So far, so good.

On the said afternoon, we three were talking about everything and for some reason, we started about my car plans and how complicated it is to find something I like that fits my needs. My sister asked me, ‘Ẁhy do you need the car?’ and I answered her that it is much more comfortable to go home or visit her by car and that I would like to drive out of the city to find new and nicer spots for hikes and dog walks…and at some point I said, ‘And after all, I can go with Voxel on short week-end trips, driving somewhere..and…stay there over night in the car or so’. We laughed about it, but after I while, I said, ‘That’s not a bad idea, I mean, it’s possible but more effortful to find a hotel/hostel or something like that where I can take Voxel with me. And with a camping car, I can just sleep wherever I want with Voxel or stay at a campsite’. We all agreed on that.

Later, I had a walk with my father and I just asked him, how much one of those nice Volkswagen minibus’ costs and my dreams disappeared. But, he also started thinking about and that’s how everything started.

Briefly: My new plan was to buy a car and transform it into something I can also sleep in. I wanted to create a camping car with a bed inside and a place for Voxel.
After we searched for cars that would be possible, we started to look for used cars and due to my rather limited budget, the outcome was rather low. Anyway, we called some people. Most of them did not answer at all and writing messages was completely without any response. Some people told us that their car was already sold. Some told us that the car is not driving or has some severe issues, so we were not interested anymore.
3 weeks ago, we had our first inspection of a car and we were confident. However, my father did a great job inspecting it and found out that there was a severe problem with the car and we decided to leave it.

At some point, we were all stressed and exhausted. We called every evening, checking new cars and deciding whether it is worth a try or not. In most cases, it was not. What I learned from all of this, if you want to buy a used car:

  • photos are a must! and they should have a good quality (daylight, close photos), show all sides of the car; photos taken by a mobile phone are not very good!
  • rust is normal, but check the wheel cases and sills, they should still be okay, because they are hard to rework
  • dents and scratches are to some degree normal when you look for used cars in a certain price area
  • instead of looking for a nice surface, prioritize the month left before the next MOT as well as mileage
  • be careful when the description of the car is without any blemishes, but the price is rather low
  • make a “rule” how far you want to drive for a car inspection and be clear in your mind that you probably don’t take the car with you and you might spent a whole day in the train or bus or car without taking this car with you
  • due to my experiences: merchants are not very honest 🙂 they want to sell the car and lie to beat the band
  • check and compare other used cars to somehow get a feeling how much the car you are interested in is worth
  • take a friend or someone who has some more knowledge about cars with you
  • don’t be shy during the inspection and keep in mind: they want to sell to you and you have every right to check the car completely
  • check the underbody of the car and keep in mind: flash rust is normal, depending on the age of the car
  • take a flash light with you to have a better look at the underbody and the engine bay
  • a test drive is a requirement and I highly recommend to do this
    • drive with low and higher speed,
    • use the brake softly and more intense (check for some strange behaviors, but keep in mind: usually those cars haven’t been moved for a while and flash rust can occur which will go away after using the break)
    • try every gear and listen to the sound of the engine (usually, everyone hears when a car makes some weird noises)
    • when you make a turn: do it slowly/normal as well as a little bit faster and with gusto…this tests  the impetus of the car and a repeated beating noise can indicate either a damages impetus or gearbox
    • park the car somewhere and have a quite and intense look at the car, check the interior, radio, and the engine bay after driving a bit (check for oil and substances that shouldn’t be there)
    • when you check the interior, keep in mind: a used car is used and it’s normal that the seats have some signs of usage, BUT: the person you buy it from wants to sell it and therefore, the car should be clean, otherwise it might be a hint of a rather rough usage
    • also check the smelling of the car, meaning: does the car create a lot of waste gases
  • ask how much former owner the car had
  • ask, why the car is on sale and go into it, whenever you have the feeling that something is covered
  • whenever you bargain, start lower than you are willing to pay

This list is not exhausting, but those are the things I learned and I wanted to share.

Finally, we found a car and due to the fact that my father is a car mechanic, we decided for a car that has some issues and overheats after a while. However, we bargained a really nice price and now, I can not wait to work on the car! Even though, I can not help a lot with the severe things, I have some plans with the upgrading:
Together with my father, we found some videos and reports on how people upgraded their car to a camping version, and now, we have some more plans:

  • There won’t be a fixed bed, instead, I can expand a bed during the night and use the car normally during the day (with 3 seats in the back).
  • We wan to install a tiny camping cooker with one flame, hidden in a case.
  • We want to integrate a sink with fresh water and sewage, using pumps and canister.
  • The trunk will be lined with laminate to ensure easy cleaning.
  • We want to include a cupboard or something to store things.
  • We need to upgrade the windows in the trunk to protect from heat and glances.
  • We want to install light (LED lamps) and maybe use one of those mobile solar cases.
  • and so on…

I’m so excited and I can’t wait to start, but for now, I have to wait for a wrecker to get the car home and then, we start to measure and make a layout, check things and upgrade it.

I want to take you with me through this nice project and hopefully, you have some advices for me and give us some hints on how to get things done and how to use the space as efficient as possible.

I hope, I can post some progress soon and I will definitively keep you updated!




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