Amelia and Connor of Living Large Camping took a twenty-year-old Lance 815 and transformed it into a modern mobile living space. Add a basic Ram 3500 Tradesman and we have an affordable and fully functional truck and camper that looks fantastic.
Perhaps the biggest long-term threat to the truck camping marketplace and community is affordability. Over the past twenty years, the price of entry-level trucks and campers has gone from attainable to off-the-charts. We’re reminded of this every year when we update our Truck Camper Buyers Guide and the prices have – once more – climbed considerably.
One solution is the used market. Back in 2005, Angela and I bought a used Lance 1030 with all the features and specifications we needed at the time, and then some. Today, many camper dealers are full of late-model used campers that were purchased during Covid, barely used, and brought back to sell. If those units are still too expensive, look for an older unit from a good brand. Just be sure to inspect the living daylights out of it using the recommendations in our articles, How To Inspect A Used Truck Camper, and 6 Tips For Buying Used Campers.
Another solution is to purchase a basic work truck. Our first truck was a 2005 Chevy 3500 dually work truck with a gas engine and two-wheel drive. Despite the lack of luxury features, it was way more truck than we needed and fit our budget. Work trucks are often plentiful on dealer lots because they’re popular with contractors and are easy to sell for the same reason. Of course, you need to be focused on the truck and camper matching process before you purchase a truck. We have detailed that process in our must-read article, How To Match A Truck Camper.
$1,000 Full Camper Renovation
If an older camper has you holding your nose, we have an inspiring story for you.
Amelia and Connor of Living Large Camping bought a Lance 815 and – with careful planning and two months of elbow grease – turned this two-decade-old unit into a beautiful camper. Staying on topic, they did the renovation for $1,000 using their own time and effort, and lots of paint, fabric, stick-on tiles, vinyl plank, textures, and clever mods stem-to-stern.
The result is a lighter, brighter, and more modern truck camper interior that some may even prefer to what’s offered in brand-new campers today. We have long wondered why more camper companies don’t go for this lighter, brighter, and more modern aesthetic that everyone who renovates a camper turns to with fantastic results. Well done, Amelia and Connor. Your camper looks incredible!
Details and Perspectives
Amelia and Connor removed their house batteries and electrical system and replaced them with a Goal Zero 3000X portable lithium power station. This is a logical solution for a camper that has an outdated electrical system and old batteries. With the Goal Zero, you get a lithium battery, 12-volt and 110-volt power, and a solar controller, all in one.
Twenty years after its birthday, the Lance 815 is no longer necessarily an entry-level camper. On today’s market, campers with wet baths and holding tanks compete with dozens of models that lack these once-basic amenities. To get something new that competes with what the 815 offers, you would probably start in the $30K range, and up.
In their video, Amelia and Connor talk about how long their capacities last. This is exactly how real-life truck camping works. You learn how long your fresh, grey, and black tanks last until you need a dump station. You learn how long your refrigerator capacity lasts until you need a supermarket. You learn how long your propane can go off-grid in the cold until you need a refill. Then you upgrade (if needed, if possible) the weakest links to improve your off-the-grid time.
They talk about how they found water damage in the front nose of their vintage camper. I’m afraid that should almost be expected. If a camper has been kept outside, it’s likely to have some water intrusion that will need tending to. This is why it’s so important to maintain your camper roof and side seals, and thoroughly inspect any used camper you consider for purchase. If there’s one pitfall to buying a used camper, it’s finding extensive water damage after the purchase. Read our used camper advice, and be careful.
Angela and I painted the inside of our camper last year and would caution anyone considering a similar transformation from thinking it’s easy. It’s not exactly hard, but the process of painting a camper interior and cabinetry requires considerable prep work and at least two coats of paint (we did three on our cabinets). The results are worth it.
58 More Affordable Truck Camper Rigs
If anyone out there is struggling to afford their first camper, we recommend following Amelia and Connor’s example. Find a used camper in good condition, check it out thoroughly, and then renovate it. The result will not only provide all the freedom and adventure truck campers can provide but should also hold its value if you continue to care for it.
We have 58 more examples of fellow truck campers who – using all kinds of new, used, and homemade approaches – assembled affordable truck camper rigs in two articles; 39 Affordable Hard Side Truck Camper Rigs, and 19 Affordable Pop-Up Truck Camper Rigs.