How Buying a Campervan in Auckland Turned into a Disaster

Hamilton, here we come (again). If you recall from our last trip to Hamilton, we had a Certificate of Fitness (COF) check on our van to make sure it is still legal to be on the roads. Unsurprisingly, it failed due to a small hole of rust near the driver’s seat and had one light out. Light: easily fixable, but we have an appointment with Phils Panel & Paint today who say fixing the rust should take a day. Meanwhile, we’re going to check out Hamilton Gardens, because Robin has been before and says it’s his favourite thing in Hamilton (and it’s free!)

Op-shop hop in Hamilton

So, without a van for the day, we have to get off our lazy asses and walk! We walk from the industrial estate, Te Papa Road, to the Hamilton Gardens via shopping centres, the main street, Victoria Street, and along the Waikato River Walkway. There’s an op shop (second-hand shop) around every corner of Hamilton! Robin is keen to check out what random boardgames there are for us to play in the campervan. Much to his distress, Laura finds and buys a Harry Potter Quidditch card game for NZ$2.50 that looks hilarious.

Bouncing from op shop to op shop, Robin doesn’t find the perfect boardgame. Too bad. So we make our way on the Waikato River Walkway all the way up to the Hamilton Gardens, taking about 1 hour from the city centre. The walkway, which was started the other day, goes through a mix of parks and along the riverside. However, there are a few sections literally on the side of the highway. Boo!

The moment we received the phone call... Just look at those faces! The moment we received the phone call... Just look at those faces!
The poor campervan The poor campervan
This is what rust looks like. There is a lot of it on our van. This is what rust looks like. There is a lot of it on our van.

A depressing phone call

On the last leg of the walk to the Hamilton Gardens, Robin receives a phone call from the panelbeaters. Our giddy mood turns sour pretty quickly when Phil tells us that we should get back to the workshop. The van is in a much worse state than he thought…

Hamilton Gardens will have to wait another day. We call a taxi back to the workshop and try to brace ourselves for the bad news.

After taking the front of the van chassis off, Phil found that almost all the structure behind the fibreglass panelling at the front of the van has turned to crumbling rust. This is extremely dangerous if we were ever in an accident, and it amazes Phil and his wife/business partner, Sarah, that this van had ever passed a COF only three months ago. What’s more worrying is that not only did VTNZ, who do the vehicle inspections and certify vehicles as safe and roadworthy, let this van pass just under three months ago, but the company who we did the prepurchase inspection with, Truck Stops, also said that despite some minor repairable issues, it was in great condition and recommended us to buy the vehicle. It seems laughable now that Truck Stop’s slogan is “Brands you know – Service you can trust”! We won’t even start on what a sh*tty little crook the seller is…

Tough decisions

We are all shocked that this van ever got this far through so many authorities to be deemed roadworthy. (Sarah is straight on the phone to VTNZ and Truck Stops to get all the evidence we would need to take them to court). We’d done all the right steps in purchasing this van, yet the VTNZ and Truck Stops have failed us by not doing their job. After giving the rest of the van a thorough inspection for rust, Phil and his co-panelbeater decide that the rest of the van is good, it’s just this front chassis that is in a ridiculous condition. It would take about two weeks to fix costing around NZ$3,000. Gah!

Between ourselves, we are thinking about all our options here. We can’t sell this van on in this condition and risk someone else’s life being in danger. We have to get back on the road as soon as possible, as our job and livelihood depend on it. We can open a case against VTNZ and Truck Stops to get some compensation and afford to pay for the repairs, but we just don’t have time to hang around. These things usually take months to sort out. We find our only option is to get the van repaired, pay for it, and hope we can get some money back later by taking it up with the Disputes Tribunal and/or the Commerce Commission. But we have some awesome things planned for the next two weeks that we need transport to get to and from…

Jucy to the rescue

Robin is doing some hustling and bustling. Phone calls are flying everywhere as he is trying to reach someone to help us out with our urgent needs! No one is answering their phone! Finally, he reaches our friends at Jucy who can hook us up with one of their Jucy Condos for our next two weeks of North Island adventures. OHH MERRR GERRRRDDD, we are so relieved. (But fuming about our freakin’ van, obviously). So tomorrow, Robin is going to take a bus to Auckland Airport to pick up the Jucy Condo, while Laura stays in Hamilton to work. Then he will drive back to Hamilton, we’ll transfer our essentials into the Jucy Condo, then drive on to Putaruru. It’s going to be an intense day.

For now, we’ll try and survive the industrial estate in Hamilton overnight in the campervan, while we play the new Harry Potter card game we bought today. Although that lightens the mood a little bit for Laura who is a right Pot-head, Robin concludes this is just the icing on the cake of what has been one painful day.

Laura and Robin

Keeping moral high with a camper card game
Keeping moral high with a camper card game Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

To avoid situations like ours…

As the guys at Phils Paint & Panel told us, we did everything absolutely right in buying the campervan, just a few unlucky choices in garages, COF checkers and seller has left us in a sticky situation. When buying a car or campervan, stick to these three steps:

All is not lost though, because we still have managed to keep the New Zealand good times rolling on Facebook and on HerePin, so check them out!

See you tomorrow for a hectic day of sorting our sh*t out!

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Comments
  1. Arapuni. Backpackers here are you still on for staying here tonight ? What time do you think you will get here, hope you sort things out and look forward to showing you what this area can offer to the traveller
    Regards Steve and Lorraine

    Comment avatar Lorraine Gaunt
    15/06/2016 at 11:05 am
    1. Hi Lorraine,
      I am in the bus to Auckland at this very moment to go pick up our Jucy Camper that we will use for the next 2 weeks. I will then go pick up Laura in Hamilton and load the camper with all our gears. We will hopefully be in Arapuni before 6pm-6:30pm. I will call you if we are arriving any later.
      Thanks again for hosting us!
      PS: I’ll make sure Laura does not force you to play the Quiddich Card Game, it’s AWFUL! haha

      Comment avatar Robin
      15/06/2016 at 11:11 am
  2. Hey there! Great blog 🙂 wondering if I can contact you guys? Maybe an email? Have some questions about a similar experience with vans and wondering what your outcome was with garages/vtnz? Thanks so much x

    Comment avatar Sarah Jamieson
    20/04/2017 at 8:23 pm
    1. Hi Sarah, VTNZ ended up refusing to respond to our emails and Truck Stop (The garage that did the pre-purchase inspection) said that this was not their problem. Long story short, those two brands are to be avoided. You can contact us directly from the contact page all the way at the bottom of the site. Just click on “contact”. Talk soon!

      Comment avatar Robin
      21/04/2017 at 5:40 am
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