How old does a camper have to be to be vintage? (11+ models we like)

In this blog post, we will discuss: How old does a camper have to be to be vintage? We will discuss the pros and cons of owning an older camper, and share with you 12 inspirational pictures of vintage campers that absolutely stole our heart!

How old does a camper have to be to be vintage?

A vintage camper is one that is at least 25 years old, and whose aesthetic and design value is recognized or representative of its decade of creation. Vintage refers to a piece, whose aesthetic and design value is representative of its decade of creation.

Currently, it is understood that buying items dating from 1940 to 1970 is considered vintage. Even clothing, jewellery and decorative objects made in the eighties and nineties can be considered vintage pieces.

However, there are debates as to the term. Although this is usually associated with the creations of famous designers and, therefore, its value has multiplied in the present, there are also second-hand pieces whose design defined the aesthetic style of the period from the fifties to the eighties.

It is worth mentioning the term is sometimes confused with retro. However, this last word refers to a contemporary piece or environment, inspired by an artistic style or current form – exaggerating – a couple of decades ago.

How can you tell how old a camper is?

There are two ways to tell how old a caravan is, depending on the year of manufacture of the caravan:

  • If the caravan was manufactured before 1991 – you can tell how old your caravan is by the first two digits of the VIN number (e.g. 89SG6578 = 1989);
  • If the caravan was manufactured after 1991 – to tell how old the caravan is, you will have to decipher the VIN number. This is a rather simple procedure if you are using the symbols in the two tables below. 

VIN number: Manufacturer codes

EXExplorer Group
SWSwift Group

VIN number: Year codes


Is buying a vintage camper a good idea?

Some (often young people) turn to old campers. By that, we mean: from before 1995. These motorhomes, which lie somewhere between the user and the vintage vehicle, are both attractive and easier to repair. But taking into account the anti-pollution controls, consumption and comfort (driving in particular), the debate deserved to be launched. That’s what we did.

Do you know what a young-timer is? An old vehicle. Not old enough for a collector’s item (neither Ford T nor Citroën DS), nor recent enough for an ordinary second-hand vehicle. A few examples: a Volkswagen Golf or a Peugeot 104 in good condition is a young-timer. What about motorhomes? Let’s say a split combi is a collector’s item, and a nasturtium from the 1990s falls into the young-timer category.

And in fact, we are seeing more and more examples on the internet of young vanlifers, who rather than embarking on the development of a van (like so many others), prefer to buy a young-timer motorhome. Class A or campers of at least 25 years of age.

The fifteen-year-old motorhomes, which can be described as the “new generation”, have relatively modern technologies. Their upkeep is accessible to everyone, although they still require some attention. Obviously, there is an annual maintenance cost to keep your vehicle in good condition. 

Motorhomes over twenty years old are now intended for DIY enthusiasts and other jacks-of-all-trades because parts are more difficult to find and small repairs more frequent.

If you are very resourceful, vehicles dating from the 90s are still very good products for small budgets and for the first acquisitions of motorhomes today. Note, however, that manufacturers guarantee the availability of spare parts only 20 years after the marketing of their vehicles. Beyond that, it will be necessary to search on the internet or in the scrapyards.

Buying a vintage camper: what to know

A 15 to 20-year-old motorhome can generally be bought for less than $10,000, as repairs and maintenance must be regular.

Regarding the technical characteristics and accessories, it is interesting to note some differences between the current models and those of the last thirty years. Obviously, you have to be prepared to find some drawbacks to buying an old used motorhome. 

We advise you to look at the high-end vehicles of the time which correspond to a mid-priced motorhome today, a used low profile or integral from the Hymer or Burstner brand can be an interesting deal.

Older used motorhomes are generally noisier and less comfortable in terms of space. Most vehicles do not have air conditioning, and the rear seats may not have seat belts. You also won’t find a queen-size bed and fuel consumption will be high. Also, note that the fridges have limited capacities compared to today’s models.

We advise you to avoid old vehicles with low mileage. This is because a low-rolling motorhome wears out faster and sellers tend to use this as an excuse to increase the selling price. It is also important to check the condition of the tires, battery and timing belt which should be changed approximately every five years. It is also recommended to look for a used motorhome that has a full-service book and invoices.

Finally, the water-tightness of the cabin plays a central role in the condition of used motorhomes. This will often be a black spot in an ad so make sure you know how to do the repairs yourself or budget for them to be professionally done beforehand.

The best vintage campers 

Every day we can see in reports and magazines the most incredible campers in the world. There are more and more technological advances and in less space, we can have more comforts and services, many never imagined.

This allows us on the one hand that we increasingly appreciate what we have and how the world of caravanning has progressed and on the other, that a part of us is filled with nostalgia. How many of us have travelled in a camper without comforts, but full of happiness with our family? No showers or bathrooms or other services, just nature!

To reconnect even more with this aura that permeates our first memories of travelling, we wanted to compile a gallery with some vintage campers that we have been able to find on the net.

Some have recognizable models and others house small shops or street food stalls, but all have an old and careful flavour that completely fascinates us. What makes you want to travel in time?

Final thoughts

If you plan on buying or selling a second-hand camper, its condition will speak more than the year of manufacture. In most cases, older campers are usually in good condition since the owners tend to take care of them (as you may very well do when you buy yours). 

The reasons for putting them up for sale, logically, vary depending on each case; people who bought it to try this world, economic reasons, they hardly use it, in exchange for a motorhome, etc.

Which vintage camper has inspired you the most? Let us know in the comments section below!

FAQ on  How old does a camper have to be to be vintage?

What is the lifespan of a camper?

The average lifespan of a camper is 14 years. A model that is between 5 and 7 years old represents the best price-performance ratio. However, it is not that uncommon to see people driving 30 and 40 years old campers. 

When’s the best time to buy a camper?

The best time to buy a camper is when manufacturing companies launch their new designs with renewed features and styles. This means that there will also be massive sales, in order to get rid of their “old” stock.

How can you tell how old a motorhome is?

You can tell how old a motorhome is by its VIN number. 


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