In the last decade, minivans have moved far beyond the “soccer mom” and into the eyes of camping and outdoor enthusiasts. Camper vans come in many shapes and sizes, and in some cases, they can be a pretty penny up front. However, compared to an RV or even most trucks, new age minivans have taken over the world of car camping. They have better fuel efficiency, excellent cargo space, and plenty of space for sleeping.
There are plenty of van conversion companies out there now too. So, if you buy a minivan, you can often find someone to build it out. Whichever route you choose, there are plenty of options. In this article, I’ll break down eight of the most popular minivans for camping, their pros and cons, and stand out features that make them an excellent pick for camping.
The 8 Best minivans for camping:
1. Chrysler Pacifica
If you aren’t buying a brand new minivan but are looking for a Chrysler Pacifica, you’re likely familiar with their Town and Country design. The Pacifica is what replaced the older Town and Country, and many of the features overlap.
One of the best features the Chrysler Pacifica offers is that their passenger seats fold down into the floor. This makes for a flat and even surface to pack your gear onto or put a removable platform for a bed. When the seats aren’t folded down, then you have extra storage in the floor as well.
Because the floor of the Pacifica is so deep to hold the passenger seats, there is a removable false bottom near the rear of the van. This is the perfect space to store camping equipment or other gear.
The newest models of the Pacifica also stepped up their game to appeal to campers and families alike. A surprisingly handy addition is the built-in shop vacuum. This is great if you have kids, but also if you go on frequent camping trips.
- Plenty of storage space
- Flush floor when seats are stowed
- Dual sliding doors
- Great for weekend warriors and families
- Customizable seat layout and additional design features when buying new
- Small gas tank (holds 19 gallons)
- Not the best fuel efficiency either
More info at: chrysler.com
2. Mercedes-Benz Metris
Mercedes-Benz is well known for its Sprinter vans, especially as #vanlife has exploded online. Sprinters are wildly popular because they are a tall cargo van style that allows enough headspace to stand up inside.
Well, if you aren’t willing to fork out the cash for a Sprinter or you just aren’t comfortable with driving a cargo van, the Mercedes-Benz Metris is a good middle ground. It provides more room than most standard minivans but isn’t as boxy and huge as a Sprinter.
Depending on the specific design you choose, buying a new Metris van is quite affordable. Compared to most other minivan styles, the Metris has a much higher payload capacity and more cargo space because of the shape. It also can tow 5,000 pounds, which is hard to come by with other vans.
- High payload and towing capacity
- Customizable designs
- Large cargo space for extended camping trips
- The boxy design makes it easy to build-out
- Small fuel tank (18.5 gallons)
- Low MPG (19 city / 23 highway)
More info at: mbvans.com
3. RAM ProMaster City
A similar look and build to that of the Mercedes-Benz Metris, the RAM ProMaster City provides a taller, somewhat box-shaped van style. If you are looking for a van specifically to build-out as a camper van, the RAM ProMaster is a reasonable price. It also provides near vertical interior walls for easy customization.
Unlike most other vans, the ProMaster does not have a rear hatch to access the back. They use two doors split down the middle that open to 180 degrees. This door design makes it even easier to access camping equipment or add a camper cooking box to the van build.
- Box-shaped, vertical wall design makes it easy to customize and build-out as a camper van
- Dual sliding doors and split back doors instead of a hatch
- Multiple model designs to choose from
- Unique interior storage options
- Low enough to easily have a roof rack and better accessibility to gear
- A bit shorter in length than other van options, limiting extended storage and cargo space
More info at: ramtrucks.com
4. Kia Sedona
If you’re shopping for a minivan for camping to fit a family, the Kia Sedona has one of the largest cargo options available. With such a large cargo area, it does make the van rather large to drive and park, especially in a city. So, it may take some getting used to transitioning from a small commuter car to a Kia Sedona van.
With so much interior space, it is unlikely you’ll need more storage, but the flat roof makes it easy to add a cargo carrier on top. The only major downside is that the seats don’t fold down flat. Depending on your use, you may need to remove the seats completely to get a flat surface.
The middle seats do fold down completely to make it easy to sleep on them, so that can be an excellent overnight option for car camping.
- Extensive cargo space — perfect for a family or extended camping trips
- Dual sliding doors
- Plenty of window space for airflow and gorgeous views
- Flat roof for roof rack addition
- Not the best, but also not the smallest fuel tank size (21.1 gallons)
- Can be cumbersome to drive due to length
- Low MPG (18 city / 24 highway)
More info at: kia.com
5. Ford Transit Connect
Similar to the style of RAM ProMaster and Mercedes-Benz Metris, the Ford Transit Connect is another ideal cargo van for camping. It fits the bill on having plenty of cargo space, plus it affords a bit more headroom than standard minivans. It still isn’t tall enough to stand up inside, but that makes it easier to drive and a bit more discrete to travel in.
The sheer size of the back and the fuel economy make this a popular choice for many full-time van lifers. Even when you’re buying a brand new model, the price is far lower than many of the counterparts.
When choosing between the different style options, if you are only looking for a minivan for camping, there is a cargo version. This eliminates having to deal with removing or reinstalling passenger seats. However, that does limit the functionality of the vehicle if you don’t intend on only using it for camping.
- Affordable price
- Decent MPG (24 city / 29 highway)
- Large interior space
- More headroom than the average minivan
- The choice between split rear doors or hatch
- Shorter in length than other minivans, making it harder to install a longer bed
- 4-cylinder engine
More info at: ford.com
6. Toyota Sienna
As far as reliability goes, the Toyota Sienna is going to be the best minivan for camping. Even if you buy an older model, you can bet it will still outlast many other similar competitors. Toyota also gave the Sienna a leg up on other minivans by giving it AWD capabilities. While it still isn’t quite as good as 4WD, it does provide some added security in winter and on less-traveled roads.
The only downside to the design is that the vehicle clearance isn’t the best. It sits low to give it more room to fit in small garages or parking areas, limiting your accessibility on dirt and gravel roads.
Not all of the seats have this feature, but the third-row seating does offer a stowaway option. To make the most of the cargo space for a build-out, the second-row passenger seating would still need to be removed, but for short trips, the stowaway third-row adds plenty of space.
- Available with All Wheel Drive
- Stowaway third-row seats
- Decent fuel economy
- Flat roof for extra cargo or solar panel additions
- Removable chair mounts
- Low clearance
- Somewhat limited additional features
More info at: toyota.com
7. Honda Odyssey
Another of the most reliable minivans for travel and camping is the Honda Odyssey. Not only is reliable but because of the sheer popularity of this model, if you’re on the road and need a mechanic, parts are easy to find and quite affordable.
The interior space is also perfect for setting up a sleep system or platform. You will have to remove the seats if you want to build out this van entirely, though. The good news is that they are easy to take in and remount after you’ve returned home.
- Plenty of storage space and extended length
- Long-lasting and reliable
- Easy to fix and maintain
- Multiple design options and additional features
- Seats don’t stowaway, you have to remove them
- Fuel economy is average at best
More info at: honda.com
8. Dodge Grand Caravan
The tough, rugged nature of the Dodge Grand Caravan paired with the astounding amount of cargo room makes this another American classic. Even if you don’t buy the newest model, you’re sure to find high-quality, affordable buys that may be over a decade old. Like the Honda Odyssey, the Dodge Grand Caravan has the advantage of being a popular model.
This makes it easy to maintain and find parts if something does go wrong. If you’re looking for a van to live out of fulltime or one that can function as your weekend family camper. This van can do double duty to transport kids and as a weekend escape. It has a decent-sized gas tank, but the MPG does leave something to be desired.
The newer versions of the Dodge Grand Caravan utilize the stow-n-go seating. This is one of the best features to look out for if you’re looking for a van that you can use day-to-day and as a camper.
- Stow-n-Go seats
- Long interior and plenty of storage space
- Reliable and easy to maintain
- Large hatchback and large storage space even with all the seats in use
- A choice between 4 and 6-cylinder engines
- Often in high demand, making it difficult to always buy a new model
- Fuel economy isn’t ideal (17 city / 25 highway)
More info at: dodge.com
My Closing Thoughts…
Choosing the best minivan for camping is a very personal experience. The perfect campervan for me will look a lot different to you. One of the main deciding factors is how you intend to use your van.
Are you looking for a van that makes weekend car camping excursions a breeze? Are you planning to live out of it full-time? Do you have a family, or is it just you and your trusted pup sharing the space?
All of these questions and more will impact your choice of van.
Of the vans on our list, my favorite is the RAM ProMaster City. For my lifestyle and interests, the size is perfect. They make it easy to build out for full-time use, and it is not as long as most minivans, making it easier to maneuver for frequent travel.
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