Choosing the Best Van for Your Camper Conversion

Are you dreaming of embarking on the ultimate adventure, where the open road is your home, and every sunrise is a new opportunity? The allure of camper van living is undeniable, but before you set off on your journey, you need to answer a crucial question: What is the best van for your camper conversion?

Choosing the Best Van for Your Camper Conversion

Choosing the Best Van for Your Camper Conversion

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the key considerations and help you pick the perfect van for your camper conversion project. Whether you plan to live in your van full-time or embark on weekend getaways, we’ve got you covered.

Key Considerations

Choosing the best van for a camper conversion begins with a deep dive into your needs and preferences. Here are some essential questions to consider:

1. Length of Your Trips

  • How long do you plan on traveling in your van? Weekend getaways or full-time living?

2. Activities and Storage

  • What activities will you pursue while on the road? Do you need ample storage for sports gear, outdoor equipment, or hobbies?

3. Number of Travelers

  • How many people will be using the van? Are you traveling solo, with a partner, or with family and friends?

4. Must-Have Features

  • What are your prerequisites for your camper van? Do you need a shower, toilet, or a spacious seating area?

Answering these questions will help you determine the size of the van that suits your needs. If you find it challenging to decide, don’t worry; we’ve created an online van layout configurator to assist you. Just answer a few questions, and it will suggest a layout based on your requirements.

Best Vans for Each Size Camper

Large Vans

Large vans are ideal for full-time van dwellers who desire comfort and ample space. Our top pick for large vans is the Mercedes Sprinter. With a Long Wheelbase (LWB) configuration offering internal dimensions of 1.7m x 4.3m, it provides room for a fixed double bed, a shower, a toilet, and storage for outdoor gear. Sprinters are known for their reliability, making them an excellent choice for long-term conversion projects. Additionally, many people can stand up inside a Sprinter, making it suitable for extended stays.

Another option worth considering is the VW Crafter, which is quite similar to the Sprinter in terms of body but comes with a slightly different engine. It is also known for its reliability.

If you prefer even more space, the Iveco Daily is one of the largest vans available, with the LWB version boasting internal load area dimensions of 1.8m x 4.5m. It’s well-made and reliable, making it a favorite among long-haul couriers.

Other alternatives for large vans include the XLWB Citroen Relay, XLWB Fiat Ducato, and XLWB Peugeot Boxer, which are slightly smaller than the Sprinter but offer more width.

Medium Vans

Medium vans strike a balance between space and maneuverability. The Ford Transit is a classic choice for a medium van. It’s dependable, reasonably priced, and comes in Medium Wheelbase (MWB) and LWB configurations with internal dimensions of 1.6m x 3m and 1.6m x 3.4m, respectively.

Other common medium-sized vans include the Renault Master, Vauxhall Movano, Citroen Relay, Fiat Ducato, and Peugeot Boxer, available in both MWB and LWB versions.

If you’re looking for something unique with plenty of natural light, consider the LDV Convoy minibus. It offers internal dimensions of approximately 1.7m x 3.2m. Keep in mind that vans with extensive windows may have challenges with insulation in cold weather.

For those in the US, the RAM Promaster is a popular choice for a medium-sized build.

Small Vans

Small vans are perfect for weekend warriors who need space for essentials like a surfboard, a bike, and a bed. The iconic VW Transporter is a popular small van choice, offering internal dimensions of 1.7m x 2.7m. However, vintage-style Transporters (T1, T2, T3) are older and may require more maintenance.

If you desire a bit more room in your small van, you can install a pop-top for additional space. Many Transporters come with a pop-top as standard.

Alternatively, consider the Renault Trafic, Peugeot Expert, and Ford Transit Custom, which offer more space while maintaining maneuverability.

Extra Small Vans

For budget-conscious travelers or those who want a compact sleeping space, extra small vans like the VW Caddy and Citroen Berlingo are suitable options. These vans are smaller than most and have internal dimensions of 1.5m x 1.8m. Keep in mind that these vans are primarily for sleeping and minimal living space.

Mileage and Age Considerations

Once you’ve chosen the van size that suits your needs, you’ll need to consider mileage and age.

Van Mileage

Vans typically have higher lifetime mileage than cars. While a car with over 100,000 miles may be considered old, a van with the same mileage can still have plenty of life left. Diesel vans, in particular, often have 30% longer lifetime mileage than petrol cars.

Van Age

Older vans are more prone to complications and rust issues due to a lack of protective measures like galvanization. Newer vehicles tend to have longer lifetime mileage and better rust resistance. If possible, consider a Euro 6 van, which adheres to emission standards and offers improved fuel economy.

Electric Vehicles

Electric vans are gaining popularity, but they may not be suitable for long-distance travel due to limited range and longer charging times.

Setting Your Budget

Determining how much to spend on your van is crucial. Generally, allocate about 60% of your total budget to the base vehicle, ensuring it aligns with your conversion goals. A higher budget allows for a newer van with lower mileage, while a smaller budget may require you to compromise on age and mileage.


Choosing the best van for your camper conversion is a crucial step in your journey to van life. By considering your needs, the size of the van, mileage, age, and budget, you can make an informed decision that sets you up for a successful conversion project. Whether you opt for a spacious Mercedes Sprinter or a compact VW Transporter, your adventure awaits on the open road. Happy van conversion!

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Written by doc cotton

Meet Doc Cotton, your go-to founder of NowShack and a goto for all things adventurous and outdoorsy. With an unwavering passion for van life and a deep connection to the great outdoors, Doc is your trusted guide to exploring the world off the beaten path.

Doc's journey began with a fascination for the freedom and simplicity that van life offers. From there, it was a natural progression to spend countless hours prepping and converting vans into cozy, mobile homes on wheels. Whether it's turning an old van into a comfortable living space or sharing tips on the best gear for outdoor adventures, Doc has you covered.

But Doc Cotton is not just about life on the road; he's also a dedicated student of survival skills. Always eager to learn and share, Doc's insights into wilderness survival and bushcraft are invaluable for anyone looking to connect with nature on a deeper level.