Buyer’s Guide

choosing your conversion company…

As you can imagine, motorhomes must demonstrate a very high level of safety to be registered in the UK. So it may come as a surprise that the same standards are not enforced for converted campervans. Many campers start their lives as commercial vans, which avoids them needing to pass the stringent safety standards demanded of other motorhomes.

All too often, poor workmanship in a conversion can leave a customer disappointed. At the very least, it might mean an uncomfortable night’s sleep on a poorly-designed bed or a fridge that won’t run for more than a few hours. More seriously, it could mean a gas leak. And in the worst cases, it could mean your camper crumples in the event of an accident, or your children’s seats fail to protect them from an impact.

1. What kind of elevating roof is being used?

One of the most common changes made during conversion is the addition of an elevating roof. We were always lead by the customer but predominantly fitted the REIMO roof.

Recently however, we have become aware of a UK elevating roof manufacturer that we believe offer an exciting alternative to REIMO, and so we are now about to also start offering an elevating roof by STORM POPTOPS. As well as STORM POPTOPS elevating roof coming with a 5 year guarantee, looking fantastic and being constructed using using modern, state of the art manufacturing techniques which creates a roof of unparalleled quality, they also offer a range of different coloured and styled canvas which means customers can be creative and add a bit of personal taste to their van if they like.

Obviously we still have great respect for the REIMO roof which is TUV Approved (this is a German approval approval to check and certify the safety, performance, and quality of equipment). The approval covers the roof itself and also the strengthening frame, to show that in the event of accident the vehicle will hold its structural integrity. For this the roof must properly fit the roofline of the vehicle.

A lot of elevating roof camper vans use a roof bed. The REIMO roof bed system has been well polished over time. It is extremely easy to operate using hydraulic rams to lift it, avoiding the need for props. The materials in its construction will take up to 25 stone in weight, unlike most beds which can only be used for small children. Putting it back down is simple – pull it straight down with the mattress already in place.

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2. Will these seats protect my family in an accident?

You wouldn’t want the rear seats in your camper to be any less safe than the seats in the back of your car – and it’s wise to check.

With many customers carrying their most precious cargo in the back of their van, at Vanscape we would only install the Scopema RIB seat/bed system to the conversions we carried out, which meets the full EU regulations. These go beyond UK requirements, meaning you can rest assured your children have the best possible protection, and your van will also meet the rules wherever you decide to take it.

Rock and roll’ seat systems are widely advertised on the internet, in magazines and often used by conversion companies. Some of these seats meet the lower UK standards, while others have not passed any tests at all.

Rock and roll seats commonly offer no upper back and neck protection. Many also do not have sufficient strength to hold its integrity or enough mounts to hold the seat in place in the event of an accident.

However, we would now consider supplying and fitting certain, fully certified to the 76/115/EEC/2005 M1 rating, rock and roll beds that we feel are built well enough so that when they’re fitted properly, they offer a reasonable compromise between price and safety, but these beds would come with a disclaimer from us that states that, although they do meet the lower UK safety rating, we do not recommend them for use as travelling seats.

At the end of the day the seats you choose to fit comes down to how you intend to use your van and your personal views on safety vs cost.

All seats, even RIB seats must be properly installed to offer the full protection – always ask questions of your fitter.

3. That seat looks great to sit on – will it be good to lie on?

Vinyl rock and roll seats often look great, with many striking designs. But remember the bit you see and sit on is the bit you will sleep on, so Vinyl will not be great to sleep on. Also, if it is moulded for comfort, this will also give a lumpy bumpy bed.

The clever operation of the RIB seat allows you to have an ergonomically moulded comfortable and even a leather-faced seat, but still have a fabric flat bed. The multi lock rear section also allows you to set a recline when not sleeping. This means that not only is the RIB the safest, it is also one of the most comfortable seats for travelling, and one of the most comfortable for relaxing as well as a completely flat bed for sleeping.

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4. Is the fitter qualified to fit the gas and electrics?

Gas Electrics

All too often we see vans with unsafe electrics. It isn’t just 240v that needs to be safe as 12v electrics are sometimes dismissed as low-risk simply because the voltage is low and won’t kill – but even 12v electrics could cause a fire if improperly installed.

We have also tested a number of vans with gas systems, which clearly do not meet regulations, to find some that are not even holding pressure (meaning they are leaking gas into the vehicle, even if it’s not enough to noticeably smell!).

At Vanscape we have staff that are trained and certificated in electrical installation with all work being designed, constructed, inspected and tested to BS7671 and BSEN1648. All staff working with LPG gas are certified for installation and testing, so all our vehicles get properly tested before leaving us. Anyone qualified to work with gas will also have a certification photo ID card which you can always ask to see.

5. How long will my furniture last?

Although Vanscape no longer offers furniture, we had painstakingly tuned our high-end furniture range over many years, to a very high standard. It was built to withstand the test both of time, and temperature changes in your vehicle because it was all precision cut, glued and jointed. This specialist work was carried out by our experienced carpenters and cabinet makers.

We would generally advise to watch out for furniture with hammered-on edging and plastic furniture blocks to screw it all together if you are hoping for a very high quality, long lasting finish. It’s also best to avoid furniture kits that have been pre-assembled on a bench for installation without any tailoring to properly fit the individual van unless you are reasonably skilled at making adjustments to enable a good fit to the van.

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