advice re buying an ambulance

Welcome to UKHIppy2764@2x.png

UKHippy is a long running online community and of likeminded people exploring all interpretations on what it means to be living an alternative lifestyle -- we welcome discussions on everything related to sustainability, the environment, alternative spirituality, music, festivals, politics and more -- membership of this website is free but supported by the community.

  • hi guys i'm disabled and use a mobility scooter so thinking of getting a ambulance like :-

    Volkswagen Crafter 2.5TDi

    IVECO DAILY 50C18 3.0HPI


    the pros that i can see are their under £5000, their serviced every three months, they have all the electrics sorted inside, they have a heater, loads of cupboards, parking Sensors, power steering, air con, lighting sorted, so no having to fit out much and most important a ramp and steps..... sooooooo what i want to know is what are the cons of the above vehicle

    thanks guys mrvanman xxxxxxx

  • Depends on what sort of ambulance youre buying....Patient transport service/ welfare ambulance or ex front line dont say in your OP.Both have minor negative points

    PTS/welfare ambulances are usually minibus vehicles with acres of glass ,minimally insulated(or not at all) floors with wheelchair and seat tracking and lots of seats.Mostly underslung wheelchairl ifts which can be a nuisance if you want to tow anything.The onboard stowed ones are better but then they encroach on the space.

    Former emergency ambulances have well insulated bodies good heating minimal windows but come with acres of very functional plastc walls and cupboards sealed floors and walls that can be hosed or steam clesned out and anchor points for various kit and unless you wsnt to live in something that looks like a cramped operating theatre its all got to come out and theres possibly holes in the dash where electronics were mounted....and all the defunct beacon light mounts and many come in the battenburg colour scheme which in some cases is decals that peel off but some are sprsyed and youre stuck with it until you paint them

    The 2.9 sprinter engine is better than thec2.7.The 2.9 or 2.8 ? Krafter better than the 2.5 The Iveco 3.0 is a good engine.If youre buying a big custom built emergency ambulance the bigger engines are better beariin g in mind the weight of them,most are near 4 tons....but theyll all be higher mileage than PTS or welfare buses generslly because theyre very expensive new and services like to get the maximum use from them for the outlay.

    All of a muchness though really as whatever you buy to convert means lots of work and there advantages and disadvantages with all of them as there are with all vehicles. The big advantage with either PTS or emergency ambulances is the maintenance regime especially so with ex emergency vehicles and I know that to be true because ive spent a large part of my working life in them..Plus emergency vehicle custom bodies are a mix of aluminium fibreglass and plastic so theres not such a high corrosion issue except in with the cab area.

    Best thing is go to the main auction clearing companies who deal i those vehicles and have a look round them before you buy one at all so youve some idea of what they are and whats potentially involved to convert them.

  • I used to have a converted Renault master ex ambulance. The walls were fully carpeted but it had no insulation so got too cold/hot depending on the weather. There were too many Windows as well..

    A fair point. With mine I had to rip out all the carpet and the ply roof liner (behind yet more carpet). then insulate, it was a fir old job.
    Also the rear heaters are often just an extension of the front heater, which is fine when the engine is running, but not so practical for night heating. Some of them do have blown air diesel heaters but don't assume they all do.

  • When I was looking at buying a ambulance I visited the ambulance service garage and spoke to those who had worked on the vehicles in question. Onething I learned was that if a vehicle kept having reaccuring problems, like gearbox etc, the vehicle stock would get 3 strikes on that particular componant/part and it would then be sent to auction to be sold on. Bear in mind that if a vehicle encountered several problems, or a worn/faulty part that was known that would be nearing its replacement, it could force other required repairs/replacements to be put on hold or just differed until sale.
    Meaning you could buy a vehicle with a tired gearbox that also needs a replacement exhaust.

    Reconditioned Engine replacement cost inc fitting estimate = 3 x grand on a Mercedes. Gearbox = a grand, cat = a grand. Buying fleet vehicles is always a gamble so if you can get some sort of warranty all the better, until you get to know the vehicle and any of its faults.
    You would be wise to take someone who knows their way around that oerticular make/model of vehicle, preferably a mechanic.

  • I have a Sprinter ambulance, it was a lot more than 5 grand, you'll get what you pay for same as anything else. I wouldn't specifically go for an ambulance i think the disadvantages balance out any advantages so all you're doing is limiting your purchasing choices.

    just look for a good van of about the right size at a decent price and see what turns up, i had some specific requirements (4x4 and not stupidly bad MPG) so my choices were really restricted and it cost me cash money.

    The way to find a bargain is to be really flexible AND have ready cash you can wave at someone.

  • My own prefence would be 4x4 van as mine is useless on wetgrass and.mud and ive got new chunky pattern tyres. Theres sime nice sprinter 4x4 psnel vans on ebay but non are cheap.
    My own choice would be a big volume lwb panel van with twin wheel rear end and that would have to be Merc Iveco.or Ford Id 9nly look at ambulances if there was something special about them notably very low mileage or the modular body.offered some interesting features for a conversion.
    Theres a.lot of good ex police and local authority vans around well maintained and done nothing mileage wise.

  • I would have preferred a sprinter panel van myself, choices very limited as i also wanted a 416 and (as per the ebay thread) the panel van I looked at not as good and would have cost more than the ambulance but the ambulance WAS worth the money to me and should last well beyond what i want to do with it.

  • The big advantage with modular bodied ambulances is theyre square like Lutons and essy to dedign a decent interior for. s d well insulated akready..I like all the external lockers and on some the hydraulic stretcher lift which is ideal for getting heavy stuff like gas cylinders on board etc...I think it makes more sense to decide exactly what you want a vehivle for snd what youd like the interior to be like and buy a vehicle thats easiest to.accomplish those needs rather thsn buy a set type of vehicle and try snd fit your plans to it.

  • I think it makes more sense to decide exactly what you want a vehivle for snd what youd like the interior to be like and buy a vehicle thats easiest to.accomplish those needs rather thsn buy a set type of vehicle and try snd fit your plans to it.

    That often depends on your finances and how urgent things are though, I agree its the best way but if you want good deal often the best way is to just take what is the best deal at the time and adapt your plans to fit that. I waited for what i wanted and it cost loads but i'm still happy. lol

  • True ,I went looking all over uk for the van I wanted -an iveco 59 - and ended up with an ex post office LDV Convoy that was a quarter the price with 36k on the clock that was sitting on a sales pitch next to a petrol station I just dropped into while driving through Birminghsm...Sometimes chance intervenes.

  • Definitely worth finding out about the insulation.

    Having owned an ex patient transport ambulance can confirm that moistness and rot was an issue and the floor tracking stuff can be a hinderence. Air suspension was a nice ride but gave me endless problems and I didn't need the ramp.

    Good news is you are in the market for a newer vehicle and might appreciate the floor tracking and ramp and lowering air suspension might be worth potential extra expense to you.....further good news is that those you are considering are likely insulated (PLEASE CHECK ) and a diesel heater should come with it (mine never worked).


    0 road tax for an ambulance.....I somehow got through an MOT and police inspection with only one rear seat and neither batted an eyelid.

  • Our amb service had no end of issues with air suspension and lowering rear ends. Better off i think buying a normally sprung van,by the time its kitted out most of the harsh ride disappears with the extra weight.And buy one with a ratcliffe or similar tailift. if one needs one rather than a ramp.The ones that stow inside the rear doors rather than underneath are easier to get to if things jam up.

  • thanks guys what i want the van is to go to festivals and events... you see i have a big idea lols ......... ive been part of the animal rights movement and a hunt sab for over twenty five years and also a wildlife medic and a marine mammal medic but eight years ago i was diagnosed with M.E. osteoarthritis and prolapse dics so my world came to an end so after a ending of a relationship im gonna try and redefine myself and do workshops and talks at festivals and events etc so wont be living in the vehicle but need to be able to put my scooter a big class 3 in side and have a cupboards electrics insulation etc already sorted out thats why i was going towards an ambulance like these…id=p2047675.c100005.m1851…d98ca4:g:R00AAOSwjPdZwkCc…d98cb0:g:z6cAAOSwaMhZw5mv…2e5e42:g:Fc0AAOSwiX5Zfifn

  • All of those ambulances could turn out to be a minefield. If you can go to a dealers or a ambulance graveyard you will see what your up against. The merc looks like it's worth keeping alive in the event of a major repair bill. I know nothing of the VW as very few encounters. In these ambulance graveyards you will see tow after row of the same age, same fleet stock. All robbed for parts and as donor vehicles.

    My advice is to just go and sit in one of these vehicles and feel for yourself, just how poorly designed the layout is for accommodation or further adaption. Small cupboards in otherwise useful areas. Pipes and fittings of absolutely no further use. All weight and bulk.
    Sit in one, imagine your scooter in there, your bed. Look at the available space and consider if a van with a good set of batteries, a solar pannal or two, then a standard inverter allowing you to charge your schooter in the van or at the nearest power point on site, all using the charger that comes with the scooter. Your scooter is probably 24 volt? Will you find a 24volt supply in the ambulance you buy? Or will you still need a 12volt inverter to charge your scooter, more ambulance batteries? or even a generator? Like you I started with a high spec wheelchair/disabled adapted Ford Transit mini bus, converted further only by adding curtain rails and curtains. It came with a oowerpoint already fitted at the location of the wheelchair anchor point. Very practical. No fuss. The Radcliffe internal Ramps take up a lot of room and add weight. Two telescopic Aluminium portable ramps are cheap to buy and easy to store away. It does look like you get a lot fir your money when buying a ambulance. You do! Just not practical for residing, in other than the odd night when loaded with toys.

    in the event you transport a largish animal to the vets, how will you restrain them? Will that be any easier than in a small van?

  • I can confirm what AW said.An emergency ambulance interior is completely useless but for the task it was designed for or unless youre going to use it as a mobile trade workshop....even then youre better off ripping out the interior and refitting with racking storage.
    Also unless the sprinters are very low mileage be aware they have some extremely expensive parts on the engine emissions exhaust side to reduce noxious emissions and any one of those seversl components can be 600 to 1000 squid each and generally require replacement every 70 to 80 k miles.Most ex amb service vehicles have done over 150k miles.
    Its one of the reasons why there are ambulance graveyard's AW referred to.Its too costly to repair them so theyre scavenged for spares or sold for export.
    Later VWs like the Krafter will likely be the same as they shsre the same rsnge of engines as the Mercs.Not an isdue if you have an income that can cope with those expenses but no many people wsnt that expense or can afford it.

    Just to illustrste the point even Americans arent impressed with how costly they are to maintain...…z-sprinters-tom-robertson

    You can do everything you propose to do with a cheap lwb standard panel van. by Ford Iveco Peugeot Renault. etc

  • not going to be living in the van just using it when needed and as i said i have M.E. so had to pack everything in so there wont be any animals transported also i wont be charging the scooter threw the van as i'll be using juice supplied on site ;O) when i'm away ;O) mazzer

  • Good luck, I do hope you get a good one and it fulfills your requirement. There's not many modern ex-service ambulances knocking around either on the traveller/festival scene or camper conversion. I think the negatives outway the positives.

    A mate had a early 2000 merc ambulance. Still in livery colours and stripes. Including Blues and two's. He was working security for a British film company and they told him it might be useful left original incase they ever needed a ambulance in shot. He didn't keep it long, although it was Ideal for him and his dog to sleep in. Just not as a ambulance. I can see the attraction though.

  • Go to Merthyr Car Auctions and have a look, its very interesting, there are always ambulances going through, but don't buy one unless you fully understand their bizarre extra charges.

    First you have to pay about 20% "indemnity fee". Whats that for? you ask. Its to protect you against being stolen. Its a f**king ambulance! its still got Devon and Cornwall Ambulance Service written on the side. How is it going to be stolen? But you still have to pay.

    Next you have to pay to have it "decommissioned" that's having the blue lights, sirens etc stripped out. That has already been done before it gets to the auction but you still have to pay it.

    Then they slap VAT on top.

    But Merthyr Auctions are always a very good day out. There is a good selection including some oddball vehicles that could be very interesting like a big command vehicle I saw from the fire brigade. It was a big mobile office on the back of a truck but nobody wanted to buy it so it didn't even get one bid.

  • Plenty of room if you strip them out but then that's work you wouldn't have to do if you just bought a panel van, it also has an anoyying amount of doors, fiuve on mine! It's made of rigid foam with fiberglass sides so its already insulated. Take no notice of what's in it at the moment.

  • bloody ell you've all scared me now lols lols talked to a medic friend and she said what you guys said dont touch one, you see having M.E. and the arthritis theres no way i can kit out a van (had a dodge i kitted out years ago) i just physically cant do it thats why i was going towards an ambulance... i just need something that i can sleep in and be able to get my mobility scooter to the event had a t2 vw 10 years ago but their three times the cash to get a decent one £15.000, i possibly might be able to scrape together the cash for a cheap t4 £5000 but it would be pushing it.... just dont know what to doooooooo

  • bloody ell you've all scared me now lols lols talked to a medic friend and she said what you guys said dont touch one, you see having M.E. and the arthritis theres no way i can kit out a van (had a dodge i kitted out years ago) i just physically cant do it thats why i was going towards an ambulance... i just need something that i can sleep in and be able to get my mobility scooter to the event had a t2 vw 10 years ago but their three times the cash to get a decent one £15.000, i possibly might be able to scrape together the cash for a cheap t4 or t25 £5000 but it would be pushing it.... just dont know what to doooooooo

  • Buy a ex private mobility/disabled bus/van (most are bought on mobility and serviced accordingly) complete with wheelchair lift or ramps. Buy a independent Island/cooker/sink unit off one of the many designers/manufacturers. Buy a secondhand rock and roll bed. A small stack of plastic storage boxes or a small piece of domestic storage furniture, draws/cupboard combination. Fix/strap/fasten this lot to the mobility vehicle chassis. Go for broke.

    If your woried about insulation for winter. Commission someone handy with a sewing machine, to make a removeable thermal skin (thermal filling trapped between outer material of your choice, that is like a 13 Tog sleeping bag) in sections, made to the profile of your van interior, e.g.: one piece for roof, one for each side, one for cabin/drivers seats area (or buy proper thermal screen covers) and don't bother lining out cab area, except for cab under (original roof lining) one for back doors. Attaché them with press stud or Velcro to the vehicle walls/roof/doors. Sell them on if you have no further use or change vehicle.

  • Well youve probably at least a couple of options.
    Buy a cheap low mileage welfare pts ambulance of the kind that has a kneeling rear end and ramp so you can drive.your scooter in.Ramp and kneeling are all done by hydraulics.
    Buy a cheap ordinary van or camper you can work and sleep in and get a small scooter/golf buggy trailer.That would seem the cheaper option and a lot chesper and more for your money than a VW T something( theyre all dear AKA overpriced)
    If you only want accommodation for events id have thought a cheap custom built camper like Ducato or a converted LDV would be good enough with a wee trailer for the buggy..
    Alternatively get a Luton body van with a tail lift.

  • Wouldn't buy a second hand VW camper of any description to be honest, some models are very good vans but they have "scene" tax on them way over and above what they are actually worth just because of the VW badge. It might translate into a better resale value if you can afford one in the first place but that doesn't apply if you are keeping it long term.

    If you can't build your own and you are on a budget best thing to do it just trawl all the for sale ads until you find something within budget that looks like it'll fit your needs rather than looking for anything specific, i would imagine anything with the standard sized van sliding side door could be modded to make room for a scooter, possibly by buying one that has the bed/sofa opposite the door and shortening it just enough that the scooter will fit crossways in the van?