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The 7 Finest Vans for Van Dwelling

In the event you’re excited by getting began with van life and undecided tips on how to discover the very best vans for van dwelling, we’ll break down all the pieces you should learn about selecting the very best residence on the highway on this put up!

After we first began researching the very best van for van life we felt utterly overwhelmed. We primarily noticed a number of several types of vans out on the highway and the extra we started speaking with van house owners and touring completely different vans the extra confused we turned about which van could be proper for us.

Selecting which van you need is a very powerful choice of your burgeoning van life to this point. It’s one factor to consider taking the plunge to start dwelling in a van, however when you hand somebody you met on Craigslist a wad of money and drive away with their previous van, there isn’t any backing out.

Or, perhaps you decide to purchase new and really feel much more strain as a result of something you don’t find yourself liking in regards to the van is 100% your fault for making that choose. Perhaps you must have gone with the extra spacious possibility or the one with a “boxier” match as a substitute of the primary one accessible on the Fb market.

Selecting the very best vans for van life is like purchasing for a home and a automobile on the identical time. Until you’re a carpenter and a mechanic, you’re going to need to take lots of people’s phrase in regards to the high quality of your buy.

Whereas we will’t let you know whether or not or not the van of your desires has a defective transmission, we will set you in the precise path by taking a look at a variety of the very best vans nomads have to select from. Earlier than you begin planning the structure and loading up on the entire van life necessities you need to discover the very best van that meets a variety of standards.

The choices we’ll cowl under are all conversion cargo vans that account for the first DIY favorites in addition to most fashionable Class B RVs professionally outfitted. All the massive names together with Airstream, Westfalia, Winnebago and Coachman use these vans as the idea for his or her luxurious Class B RVs.

Among the greatest vans for van life wound up right here accidentally. It doesn’t matter if these vans’ first objective was cargo supply, the mountaintop or soccer observe. All of them have discovered a second residence within the van life.

We’ve spent years driving round and poking our heads contained in the neighbor’s camper vans to get some inspiration. We will spot a roof vent from 3 blocks away and we’ve seen all types of buses, vans, vehicles, and vans transformed into second properties.

Courageous novice engineers and van life start-ups are doing extra with much less. And in the event you select the precise van, you possibly can discover a life on the highway extra luxurious than most school flats. But it surely gained’t be simple!

These vans aren’t simply homes and so they’re not simply vehicles. When so many variables are at play, it may be exhausting to type out the contenders from the pretenders. Everyone knows about Mercedes Sprinter vans, however what else is on the market?

We’ll cowl some basic names and shock contenders head to toe to color an image of the very best vans for van life regardless of the finances. And in the event you need assistance making a buying choice, try this put up on shopping for a campervan.

Finest Vans for Van Dwelling

The vast majority of vans being constructed out post-2020 fall underneath one of many “Large 3” manufacturers: Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Promaster and Ford Transit. All three of those camper vans are universally acknowledged as the very best within the enterprise.

Every one has just a few strengths and weaknesses, so let’s take a more in-depth look. And in the event you’re wanting particularly for the very best van for camper conversion, we now have a put up that lays out a bit extra detailed info on what to search for when making such a giant choice.

Mercedes Sprinter

Sprinter Van Parked By Trees

The Mercedes Sprinter is the best of all time. Sprinter vans have been the primary conversion vans to hit mainstream success with a diesel engine and loads of inside house.

That engine units this cell residence other than the competitors. You may anticipate Mercedes Sprinter vans to final for 300,000 miles on the naked minimal.

There is just one catch. This quintessential van is without doubt one of the costliest conversion vans to restore. You may’t limp into any small city and look forward to finding somebody who is aware of tips on how to work on these difficult engines.

The excellent news is, these vans have been round for many years and have confirmed to be dependable and a extremely, actually good time.

The large used market is a testomony to Sprinter’s success. Twenty-year-old cargo vans with 150,000 miles on them nonetheless appeal to a excessive value, particularly in the event that they’re four-wheel drive.

There’s no such factor as an inexpensive rig with 4X4, and mixing higher gasoline economic system and off-roading prowess with a diesel engine is the most secure wager available on the market for getting your cash’s price.

Dodge Promaster

Dodge Ram Promaster Van Life

Vanlifers who depend each sq. inch rapidly level out that the Dodge Ram Promaster’s distinctive cargo space makes it the widest conversion van available on the market.

The sq. form extends the headspace and offers extra room for actions. It’s just a few inches wider than the competitors, however anybody who has lived in a automobile earlier than is aware of what a distinction of three inches can do when it’s time to go to mattress.

How necessary? It’s the one conversion van vast sufficient to suit a full-size mattress side-to-side.

Throughout the board, this van is constructed extra for consolation than energy. The Promaster has the smallest engine of the three major gamers and no four-wheel drive choices.

This, sadly, disqualifies the van from many adventures, however anybody who doesn’t plan to spend a lot time on forest roads gained’t want these talents and can cherish the nice fuel mileage.

Ford Transit

The Ford Transit easy van conversion is our choose for the very best middle-class cargo van on the market. It might not have the long-lasting diesel engine of Mercedes or the inside consolation of the Promaster, nevertheless it’s way more cheap to repair a Ford than different vans.

We hate restore prices, and regardless of which van you select, you’ll spend your justifiable share of time beneath the hood. Ford vehicles are so simple as they arrive and thus turn into among the greatest vans to reside in.

You gained’t want to go to the store to vary a headlight, and in the event you do need to maintain one thing main, any home mechanic within the continental U.S. can maintain Ford Transit van engines and brake programs.

Ford Transits are American-made vans, so just a few issues collapse rapidly, and you may’t anticipate the fuel mileage to compete with worldwide competitors. Ford vehicles are infamous for churning via brake pads, and the Ford Transits simply barely have the worst fuel mileage of the massive three.

As a substitute of gasoline economic system, designers centered on a strong engine constructed to tow as much as 7,500 lbs. The reasonably priced value leaves loads of house within the finances for just a few repairs, and Ford Transit vans are reliable models that may hearth up it doesn’t matter what.

Newer fashions of the Ford Transit Join have AWD and digital stability management options built-in that make sure the van is off-road worthy and even embrace side-wind stabilization.

Nissan NV

Nissan Nv Van On Bridge

We’re large followers of this environment friendly unit that may be the smallest attainable camper van conversion on the market that also has standing room. Nissan gave this van a snub-nose design like a typical truck and raised the roof.

You’ll seemingly acknowledge the Nissan NV as a contractor particular due to the additional little bit of cupboard space above the entrance cabs.

With a little bit of woodworking, you’ll be able to convert that shelf into an entire residence kitchen cupboard, bookshelf, or leisure heart and maximize the inside cargo house. It’s important to benefit from each inch inside this Nissan, because the van doesn’t have a great deal of additional room.

In the event you’re keen to reside in a cramped house, you’ll be rewarded with first rate gasoline economic system and one of many least expensive vans to transform available on the market.

There is no such thing as a such factor as low cost conversion vans anymore. However the Nissan NV hasn’t fairly reached the recognition ranges wanted to artificially inflate the worth like most newer van choices.

This relative obscurity additionally offers the Nissan NV cargo van just a few additional stealth factors. Nobody associates these working-class specialists as among the best vans to reside in, which can permit you to sneak underneath just a few extra radars.

Price range van lifers able to construct a house from scratch can discover nice offers on these vans.

Chevy Astro

Good luck getting your palms on considered one of these nonetheless in excellent situation. Anybody sensible sufficient to carry onto their Astro all these years ain’t promoting for reasonable now.

They don’t make them like this anymore. A basic boxy physique makes an excellent tiny residence inside a chassis that tow heavyweight and drives off-road.

The Astro could appear to be one thing primed for retirement, however this unassuming van stays among the best AWD vans available on the market.

Chevrolet hasn’t constructed an Astro since 2005, however early two-thousand variations of those vans are nonetheless roaming via seashores, forest roads, and backcountry campgrounds 15 years later. You may take the Astro wherever you possibly can drive a Sprinter van, and the beast will get 22 mpg freeway.

It’s not fairly tall sufficient to face inside, so weekend warriors could higher go well with this van as a part-time dwelling house fairly than your new residence. However Beggars can’t be choosers.

In the event you’ve bought to look for an inexpensive minivan and you should begin your van life in a rush, the V6 engine, insane towing capability, and all-wheel drive choices make the Astro one of many 2000s greatest van life choices.

Ford E-series or Chevy Categorical

Ford E-Series Van For Van Life

The underside line that defines our van search is our finances. For a few of us, meaning wanting in the direction of previous, previous vans to avoid wasting a couple of dollars. If the one vans you’ll be able to afford are from earlier than the yr two-thousand, a Ford Econoline van is your greatest wager (adopted carefully by the Chevy Categorical for comparable causes).

The Ford E-series van is synonymous with Class B RV from the ’90s. However this van type isn’t only a retro mannequin. The Econoline collection is as previous because the VW bus, and the fuel engine has ranked as among the best vans for van life yearly for many years.

This has flushed the used van market with a long time of dependable, albeit gas-guzzling, Ford Econoline cargo van choices. The engines fluctuate in energy, from slime E-250 cargo vans as much as E-550 super-duty vans. Every step up in energy has extra towing and hauling capability and worse fuel mileage.

Yow will discover a great deal of used Class B RV’s utilizing the physique of those front-wheel-drive powerhouses.

Class B RV

Class B Camper Van

Do you’ve got a concrete thought of what you need out of your van? And might you make it occur? If the reply to that query is sure, you’re prepared to decide on conversion vans.

Van lifers who’re in a time crunch or aren’t very assured with their palms be cautious. Changing a cargo van just isn’t enjoyable work. Even skilled contractors fumble with wires and spend weekends agonizing over insulation settings and flooring varieties.

In the event you’re comfy spending just a few months procuring round for the precise deal, you’ll find a used Class B RV with most of the identical facilities you have been planning on constructing into cargo vans, able to roll by the weekend.

Take a look at on-line marketplaces and be affected person. Finally, you’ll discover somebody clearing out their father or mother’s stuff who doesn’t know the worth of basic vans, and you possibly can discover a steal. Or, you possibly can get conned right into a lemon that requires extra hassle than it’s price. The gamble is all a part of the enjoyable.

Previous Class B RV engines are sometimes in nice form, however we haven’t seen many fridges or authentic air con models from the Nineteen Nineties nonetheless working. The troubles with previous vans typically contain the home equipment.

No salesperson shall be utterly sincere about their Class B RV, so selecting a used Class B RV is unlikely to utterly excuse you from just a few weeks of exhausting work fixing up your dwelling house.

Notable Exceptions

VW buses such because the VW Vanagon didn’t make the lower for our listing just because they’re distinctive vans that supply almost fully completely different standards as a consequence of their age in comparison with newer van choices. Discovering considered one of these fashions requires an entire completely different technique so on this put up, we’re focusing simply on newer fashions.

We additionally aren’t addressing the concept of procuring via a van conversion firm on this put up. There are a number of nice choices that can convert most newer cargo van fashions from Ford Transits to Sprinters into livable vans. We’ll cowl these firms in one other put up.

Volkswagon Bus Driving Through Red Rocks
A VW Bus is a basic – however not for everybody!

Prime Issues When Selecting the Finest Van for Van Life

Earlier than you get into the literal nuts and bolts of planning your personal van construct you’ll wish to think about a number of key elements in regards to the van itself. Every cargo van that made our listing has the capability to incorporate the varied facilities it’s possible you’ll or might want contained in the van – rest room, mattress setup, bathe and so forth.

However the actual elements you could think about start by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of every sort of van when it comes to its general performance when it rolls out of the manufacturing plant.

We’ve interviewed dozens of van dwellers who constructed their very own conversion vans and all agree that there isn’t any single excellent van for van life. However they’ll say that one, if not all, of the next issues, have been a very powerful issue for them.

Keep in mind, van life is about offering YOU the flexibility to reside the best way YOU need. So whereas some individuals opted for the Sprinter van due to its hardy diesel engine, others noticed that as a legal responsibility due to the expense concerned in sustaining a Sprinter van.

Listed below are the highest issues you must think about when sorting via the very best vans for van life.

Roof Top

Roof top could or is probably not an necessary issue to you relying on whether or not you might be 6’4″ (as I’m!) or a bit extra “common” in top. A lot of the vans on our listing provide high-roof choices.

However the extra choices you add to your van alternative the costlier it will likely be new (or tougher to seek out when purchasing for a used van). In case you are notably mechanically inclined or have the additional money to spend, you’ll be able to nearly all the time add a pop-up roof so as to add more room.

However positively think about roof top when deciding which van is greatest for you. The Ford Transit and Sprinter Van have the best roof out of the manufacturing unit.

Ford Transit Van With Guy Standing On Roof Deck
Ford Transit Camper Vans have the best roof top choices

Wheelbase (size)

The wheelbase is the space between your entrance and rear axle. This distance will, for essentially the most half, decide the quantity of dwelling house you’ve got contained in the van. It would additionally decide whether or not or not you’ll be able to slot in a typical parking spot or make it via a giant dip within the highway.

Some individuals want a shorter wheelbase each for the decrease price and the practicality of with the ability to match in additional locations. Different individuals need the longer wheelbase to account for including extra luxuries to the camper van conversion. You’ll be hard-pressed to suit a bathe and bathroom in a shorter wheelbase van.

Gas Sort

Selecting between gasoline engines and diesel engines actually solely guidelines in/out the Mercedes Sprinter as it’s the solely diesel van on our listing. Diesel engines are recognized for higher gasoline economic system, including an additional 1-3 mpg on common. Additionally they have extra torque, which helps with steep terrain.

However fuel engines work simply in addition to diesel. And the price of diesel gasoline normally greater than offsets the mpg distinction. You additionally don’t have to fret about including diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) or threat the engine shutting down in distant locations.

Until you might be useless set on the Mercedes Sprinter, the entire different choices on our listing have gasoline engines.

Sprinter Van Pulling Boat From Water
The Sprinter is the one diesel possibility available on the market

Entrance, Rear, All-Wheel or 4-Wheel Drive

An element typically missed, the drive setup performs a giant half in an informed choice about selecting the very best vans to reside in. Entrance-wheel drive vans don’t are likely to deal with nicely in rain, snow or ice primarily based on the very fact the load of the engine is immediately over the entrance axle.

And rear-wheel drive vans could have decrease fuel mileage and fewer house beneath the van because of the further heavy drive shaft. Additionally they don’t deal with as nicely in steep terrain as they “push” fairly than “pull” and are extra inclined to get caught in gentle sand or snow.

Then there are all-wheel drive vans that maximize the facility of 4 wheels however are likely to scale back gasoline economic system by 1-2 mpg. The extra elements required will even add to the general price of the van as nicely.

Lastly, the a lot sought-after enchantment of the 4-wheel drive van, just like the all-wheel-drive van comes with lowered gasoline mileage and better price. However clearly, they’ll enable you the peace of thoughts to have the ability to go off-roading to locations the place different vans with front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive won’t be able to take you.

Though many individuals say they need 4WD for off-roading, many of the van dwellers we interviewed associated to us that they very hardly ever discovered themselves in conditions the place having 4WD was mandatory. If something, having nice restoration gear akin to traction pads and a shovel, will go additional for a lot lower than the price of including 4WD to your van.

Ford Transit Van With Guys On Roof Deck With View Of The Ocean
The Ford Transit Join comes with all-wheel drive


Clearance refers to how excessive the van chassis sits above the bottom. That is typically extra necessary than whether or not you’ve got 4WD or not as a result of many roads van dwellers prefer to journey embrace ruts and rocks that you will want to clear as you drive.

There may be nothing extra unnerving than the sound, and creativeness, of grinding rocks beneath your car! You may all the time add an after-market elevate to any van so as to add further clearance.

However in the event you plan to spend most of your time on paved roads and conventional campgrounds then clearance is not going to imply an entire lot to you.

Dodge Promaster In Desert At Sunset
You want excessive clearance to get to so many locations

Upkeep Prices

Even if you buy a brand new van you should have common upkeep prices related to maintaining the van in prime form. It’s possible you’ll be shocked to study that you simply can not change your personal oil in newer Sprinter cargo vans!

So fairly than spending $20 on oil and a gasoline filter after which crawling beneath the van to vary your personal oil you’ll have to discover a Mercedes vendor or service heart to do one thing so simple as an oil change. And that’s earlier than one thing breaks and also you want an precise restore!

Many van dwellers go for both the Ford Transit vans or the Dodge Promaster as a result of the engines are fairly frequent and each elements and certified mechanics will be extra readily sourced on the highway.


Some vans on our listing are extra “buildable” than others. Promasters, as an example, are essentially the most “boxy” and permit even essentially the most novice van builder to customise their van with out having to chop spherical edges on cupboards and doorways.

Sprinters are notoriously spherical and require way more thought and a bit extra ability when constructing out alongside the higher parts of the van.

After all, constructing a van of any type shall be difficult and different elements could matter extra to you than buildability. However in the event you’re in search of an out-of-the-box van prepared for insulation, 2x4s and paneling you’ll seemingly want the Dodge Promaster.

Dodge Promaster Boxy Buildout
The Promaster is the “boxiest” possibility

Different Inquiries to Reply When Selecting Your Van

The “Large 3” vans differentiate themselves within the following standards.
1) Roof Top
2) Wheelbase (size)
3) Fuel Engine or Diesel Gas
4) Entrance, Rear, All-Wheel or 4 Wheel Drive
5) Clearance
6) Upkeep Prices
7) Buildability

The proper van doesn’t exist, however you’ll be able to construct out your dream van. To seek out the very best van to your van life, you should ask your self the identical questions your kinfolk ask you after they’re involved about your life-style.

How will you bathe? How do you utilize the toilet? How do you sleep at evening?

These are the three issues in van life that can ship you residence sooner than the rest, and the reply to those questions will level you to an reasonably priced van and your greatest life.

Transformed passenger vans and fleet autos gained’t come geared up with a lot plumbing. Some van lifers don’t thoughts hitting the highway with something greater than a bucket within the again.

However not everybody stepping into this life-style is happy with utilizing the toilet in a bag and child wiping at bathtime. If there isn’t any bathe inside your van, you’ll need to depend on rivers and truck stops. It could get ugly quick, so hold your hygiene on the entrance of your thoughts when procuring.

House-saving propane expertise exists that can pump out piping sizzling out of doors showers with out taking on inside house, however any toilet would require beneficial ft.

Even when it’s simply house for a composting rest room, we consider a rest room is crucial for a great van. Determine for your self how necessary a rest room is to your adventures.

When you can lay pipe in an previous van, you gained’t have the ability to add on more room. In the event you’re purchasing for a passenger van to reside in, we extremely suggest going for an inside you’ll be able to rise up inside.

A weekend camper or the final word stealth van could get away with cramped half-sized interiors. However dwelling in a van full-time means spending just a few wet days inside. Give your self house to stretch out and prepare dinner dinner with out hunching over in case you find yourself trapped indoors.

Whether or not you’re deadset on the Sprinter van’s diesel engines, the reliability of a Ford Transit Join or are keen to take an opportunity on an obscure Nissan NV cargo van, the very best vans to reside in are those you’ll be able to afford and are available.

Purchasing for an older van is a simple means to avoid wasting cash, however nothing used will come with out shock prices. A great rule of thumb for used fashions: the cheaper/older it’s, the extra seemingly you’ll need to restore it. And if a van sounds too good to be true, it in all probability is.

Take your time whereas procuring. Spending an additional month discovering the precise van will give you a long time of freedom. Hopefully, we’ve helped you slender down your choice!

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