The builders of camper vans acquire completed van bodies and chassis from automakers, revamp the body and install a motorhome interior. The result is a multipurpose vehicle that can take a family on a camping vacation and also be driven around town. Camper vans are not nearly as wide as other motorhomes, which makes them easier to drive and park.
Roadtrek and Pleasure-Way, both built in Canada, are the two largest sellers in the Class B segment of the RV market.
Ted Passic, a manufacturer’s representative for Pleasure-Way, said the size of the camper van and its maneuverability are key attractions for buyers.
Passic said many buyers of camper vans have already owned an RV and are downsizing. Perhaps they have been full-time RVers and no longer want to spend so much time on the road. Or maybe they are just getting older. As couples age, Passic said, “driving become a shared task,” and one or both drivers may become uncomfortable maneuvering a large motorhome or trailer, but still want to enjoy the RV experience so they turn to a camper van.
Jeff Hanemaayer, chairman of the company that builds Roadtrek motorhomes, said many owners use their camper van as a second vehicle; others reserve it for vacations only, and a few say it is their only vehicle. In any case, one of the advantages of the camper van is that it can be parked in the driveway and doesn’t need to be stored like many other motorhomes do.
Hanemaayer said the camper van market is growing. The outlook is especially bright because of the aging of the Baby Boom generation and the impending surge in the 55-70 age group. Hanemaayer said 90 percent of camper van buyers are over 50. At least 25 percent are over 70.
Camper vans are thought of as vacation vehicles, but they make any long driving trip more comfortable with the amenities they offer. Having a bathroom and a place to change clothes is useful on many occasions, such as attending a sporting event or going to the beach.
Passic said a survey of owners of the popular Pleasure-Way Ford Excel model showed that more than two-thirds of them travel in their van at least 30 days a year and 30 per cent travel more than 70 days. These are very high figures for an RV.
Roadtrek, which is manufactured by Home and Park Motorhomes of Kitchener, Ontario, is credited with establishing the basic design for many of today’s camper vans. Jeff Hanemaayer’s father, Jac, created the design in 1980, lowering the floor and putting four forward-facing chairs in the front, a galley and bathroom in the middle, and a large bed in the rear. That basic layout has helped make Roadtrek the sales leader in its category since 1990.
Roadtrek puts its heating and air conditioning unit into a recess in the roof. The sleek aerodynamic appearance enables owners to park at locations where many other motorhomes are prohibited.
Current models range from just under 19 feet to 22 feet in length. Most are built on the Chevy Express chassis, but Roadtrek has just introduced a new model, the RS-Adventurous, that is based on the DaimlerChrysler Sprinter van with a Mercedes-Benz diesel engine. One major selling point is fuel economy, estimated at up to 22 miles per gallon.
The RS-Adventurous is 22 feet long with enough interior room to hold a king-size bed in the rear. The cab is equipped with seats that are adjustable 10 ways and have lumbar supports and headrests. As in other Roadtreks, the cab seats swivel around to a table for a dining area.
Roadtrek builds camper vans with various seating and sleeping configurations. There can be two, three or four seats in the front and beds for up to four people. Models built on the Chevrolet chassis offer all sorts of choices. The largest, the 210 models, are built on the Chevrolet Express extended van and have more headroom, aisle space, and storage room than many other models and the option of a king-size bed or twin beds.
Roadtrek camper vans have traditionally been built with a large temporarily enclosed bathroom and private change area with a stand-up aisle shower that has a wraparound shower curtain and a drain in the floor. The temporary bathroom maximizes the use of living space. But now some models, including the new RS-Adventurous and the 210, also offer a permanent bathroom with a toilet, vanity sink and enclosed shower.
Like Roadtrek, Pleasure-Way, which is based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, builds on the Sprinter chassis with Mercedes-Benz diesel engine and the Chevrolet Express chassis, but also uses a Ford chassis.
Pleasure-Way began building on the Sprinter chassis two years ago and its model is called the Dodge Plateau. It comes with two floor plans. Both offer sleeping quarters in the rear of the coach. One features a dinette by day and a choice of single beds or a king-size bed at night, and the other has a power sofa and two ottomans that can be converted with the push of a button into two single beds or one large bed.
The coach has driver and passenger leather seats and a spacious interior. The Plateau boasts the largest private bathroom in the Pleasure-Way lineup with a toilet, shower and vanity with sink and storage. The kitchen contains a seven-foot long kitchen counter top with a stainless steel sink, two-burner stove, refrigerator and microwave.
Pleasure-Way’s Ford Excel and Chevrolet Lexor models are offered in three floor plans each, giving buyers many choices. The Excel is eight inches wider than the Lexor, providing extra room for a larger bed and a private bathroom with shower. The Lexor includes a bathroom with sink and toilet, and a stand-up aisle shower.
Pleasure-Way insulates the walls, floors and roof of each unit and they all have a recessed rooftop air conditioner. Each motorhome has two sinks, one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom.
Both Pleasure-Way and Roadtrek are sold through dealers. For information about Pleasure-Way, phone (306) 934-6578 or see www.pleasureway.com. For Roadtrek information, call (888) 762-3873 or see www.roadtrek.com.
Roadtrek is available at Holiday Motorhomes, 12620 Highway 99 South, Everett, Washington (phone: 866-423-9595) and at 1623 62nd Avenue East, Fife, Washington (phone: 877-309-1300). The e-mail address is HolidayMotorhomesRV.com.
Roadtrek and Pleasure-Way are available at Guaranty RV, 20 Highway 99, Junction City, Oregon (phone: 866-353-1831or visit www.guaranty.com).
Pleasure-Way is available at Great American RV, 5800 Pacific Highway East, Fife, Washington (phone 888-926-2626 or visit www.greatamericanrv.com)