Simon de Burton

Welcome to the campervan equivalent of AirBnB

Welcome to the campervan equivalent of AirBnB
Karl Moss, co-founder of Just Kampers
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If you've tried to buy a second-hand van any time in the last 12 months, you might have noticed that the popularity of these humble commercial vehicles has travelled from the tradesman's entrance right around to the front door.

The word on the street is that 'pre-loved' vans have become highly sought-after for two principal reasons: firstly, that the Covid-induced spike in on-line shopping has created a thriving jobs market for delivery drivers, and secondly that the 'staycation' trend has led to a surge in DIY camper conversions.

I experienced the population's growing affection for the previously much-mocked 'white van' when I set-out in search of one of Ford Transit-sized proportions last August. The buyer's market that had been awash with sensibly-priced offerings only a few months earlier had turned into an unseemly scramble for vans 'at any price' that made the worst excesses of the Harrods sale seem genteel.

With only hours remaining before I was due to undertake an 'essential' road trip to Greece (and after almost as many hours of searching) I finally found a van on 'Gumtree' that hadn't been snapped-up. It was 70 miles away and being sold by a builder who had owned it for an entire 10 days. Just 15 years old and with a mere 179,000 miles on the clock, all of its dashboard warning lights glowing brightly, a broken engine mount and a price tag of £2,100 - what could possibly go wrong?

In the event, and contrary to what I had been led to expect after reading many 'expert' internet reviews, my plain white Vauxhall Vivaro proved to be more than up to the job, lugging me and a full 'payload' (as we haulage types call it) 2,500 miles to Corfu and back without incident.

But while the Vivaro (affectionately known in this household as 'the Wuss Van' on account of its WU55 registration) is undoubtedly a loyal and thoroughbred workhorse, the thing that I grew to like about it most during our Greek Odyssey was the fact that I could pull-over wherever I pleased, climb in through the side door and bed down for the night - something that proved invaluable last year when the Covid situation made the availability of overnight accommodation decidedly patchy.

Although I have no wish to reduce the Wuss Van's useful payload through the addition of built-in bunks, cookers, fridges, cutlery drawers and other domestic paraphernalia, this minimalist 'home on wheels' certainly made me understand why camper vans have become so popular - and now there's a whole new way of taking to the road in one thanks to the arrival of an outfit called Justkampershire.com.

A VW T2 Bay available for hire

The venture is the brainchild of VW camper fans Mark Reynolds and Karl Moss, the former being the MD of of Hampshire-based VW parts, sales and repair business Just Kampers - which he founded in 1989 - and the latter being a camper-loving entrepreneur with a background in e-commerce. By combining their skills, the pair have developed an on-line platform that enables camper owners to list their vehicles as being available for would-be adventurers to rent, with the aim of bringing the two together in a mutually beneficial arrangement that could be described as the camper van equivalent of Air B 'n' B.

To make the service as easy to use as possible, the Justkampershire.com site allows renters to select the area from which they wish to travel and see nearby vans on offer based on the relevant dates of travel. It's also possible to search by specific van type, and to 'filter' that by price and amenities.

Once the vehicle and location have been settled on, it's a simple matter to fill in the required paperwork online to arrange insurance and to check the hirer's driving licence status and other credentials.

'We've kept everything online to make booking as simple as possible and to give van owners the peace of mind that their vehicle is properly insured and being driven by someone they can trust,' explains Moss. 'We realised that there are many people who like the idea of a camper van holiday but don't necessarily wish to own a van - and there are also plenty of owners who are keen to make some money from their vans when they are not using themselves. Which, in many cases, is for the majority of the year.'

Although the site was inspired by the founders' enthusiasm for the VW marque, any type of camper may be listed from the smallest 'micro' camping car to the most luxuriously-appointed 'RV' at locations from northern Scotland to the tip of Cornwall and anywhere in between (London included).

Justkampershire.com also includes overviews of the UK's different regions giving typical weather patterns, popular tourist sites and places to pitch.

But if you're looking to spend a week in Devon in a white Vauxhall Vivaro with no facilities other than a radio and cd player, I might just consider a private deal for the Wuss Van. I'll even throw-in a camping kettle so you can make your morning coffee....