It is not so difficult to see why van life is a lifestyle that has been attracting an increasing number of people. It enables you to live off-grid, sustainably, and cheaply. However, if there is something that you can’t do without, it’s a van – and picking the right van can make all the difference.
The best van for campervan conversion includes the classic Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Ram ProMaster. Depending on your lifestyle, how many people live in the van, and the terrain and weather conditions you will encounter, you might pick more reliable, powerful, or spacious models.
There are hundreds of van makes and models on the market that you might consider for your campervan conversion. Here, you will find a collection of our favorites to get started with your van life in no time.
The 5 best vans for campervan conversion:
1. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
When thinking of van life, the first thing that comes to mind is a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. These vans have been on the market since 1995 and are among the most popular light commercial vehicles worldwide. Because of their high reliability and power, they have also conquered the heart of van lifers.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has been produced in Stuttgart, Germany, for years. In the U.S. version, the van’s parts are shipped from Germany and built from CKD (complete knockdown) kits.
However, in 2016, the company finally opened the doors of brand new South Carolina facilities, where Mercedes-Benz has produced its Sprinter vans since 2019.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a suitable alternative to standard campervans and R.V. because it gives you the option of a 4×4 vehicle. Sprinter vans are also extremely versatile and can sustain modifications such as off-road tires and raised suspensions.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van is suitable for looking for a specific van with a particular mileage and a specific price range. Indeed, because it is the most famous van worldwide, you can find an endless range of used models on the market.
- A large number of used models on the market to fit any budget and lifestyle needs
- An advantageous average of 14.5 MPG (and improving!)
- It is among the most popular and reliable makes
- Extremely spacious and streamlined vans, perfect for customization
- Can easily navigate most streets, from cities to off-road paths
- You can pick 4×4 models
- Costs around $42,990, but you can find used models under $20,000
2. Ford Transit
If you have been looking at van models to turn into the ideal mobile home, the chances are that you have met the Ford Transit. This is one of the historical van models, and it has been taking over the market since 1965 when it became the most popular commercial vehicle in the U.K. Since then, over 8 million models have been sold worldwide, making it the third-best-selling van of all time.
Of course, the Ford Transit models that you can find today on the market represent a significant improvement compared to the first ones. However, the core characteristics of this van have not changed. You can always count on high reliability and comfort.
With so many Ford Transit vans on the market, you can always find a used one that suits your budget and needs. However, if you are looking to make your van your only home, you might decide to invest in a newer model.
When making this choice, you can enjoy some unique ultra-modern features such as:
- Cross-Traffic Alert
- Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control
- Electric Power-Assisted Steering
- Blind Spot Information System
- Mechanical Limited Slip Differential
- Park Assistant
- Hill Start Assist
You might also opt to join the future of van life and invest in the newest electric models.
- With over 8m models on the market, you can find the perfect used one
- It is much cheaper than Sprinter vans
- It comes in three power options: 150, 250, and 350
- There are three body sizes: Transit Connect, XL, and XLT trims
- The average mileage per gallon is 45.6mpg
- A new Ford Transit will cost around $34,630, but you can find used models for less than $15,000
3. Ram ProMaster
A Dodge ProMaster, also known as Fiat Ducato in certain regions, entered the market in 1981. Today it is among the most popular commercial vehicles worldwide – also appreciated mainly by the van life community!
Because of its large size and reliability, this van is suitable for most conversions and can help you create the perfect mobile home for your needs. Unlike some of the models seen above, this van’s high-roof is ideal if you think about living full-time in it.
Simultaneously, because of its compact size, you won’t struggle to find parking spots when traveling. And, of course, the low-key profile will allow you to park in rural areas or just out the way of main roads without giving away the real nature of your mobile home!
- High-rise roof for comfortable everyday living
- Average 15-20 mpg
- They are cheaper to buy than a sprinter, especially if you need a newer model
- Repairs and maintenance are cheaper than most models
- The average cost of a new model is $37,870
- Because the ProMaster is widely used by large associations (such as the U.S. postal service), you will be able to find a large variety of used models on the market
4. Chevy Express
The Chevrolet Express is an iconic van that has been on the market since 1995. General Motors created a large variety of options, including cargo and passenger vans. However, when picking the right model for your needs, you should always opt for a Chevy Express already empty.
The Chevy Express has become particularly loved in the van life community because it is truly unique. You won’t find many of them among the hordes of Ford Transits and Sprinters. However, while your mobile home will be unique, you should be prepared to face some additional challenges.
Among these, consider that:
- Parts will be more challenging to find
- The curvy and narrow-body will require you to create an ad hoc design for your home.
You can find some inspiration for your van project here:
At the same time, the incredibly low mileage per gallon and the handy cruise control have made this van a suitable alternative for long journeys and weekend warriors.
- A reliable model on the market since 1995
- Its average mileage per gallon is 17 mpg but can be even lower
- It can be modified to be lifted and mount larger tires
- It provides a unique solution for your mobile home
- It boasts cruise control and 4G LTE Wi-Fi® hotspot
- Some models have been discontinued, so you should check that parts of the van you choose are still available
- The average cost of a new Chevy Express is $37,875, but used models can be bought for much cheaper than other vans
5. Nissan NV
Buying a Nissan NV for your van life is undoubtedly a choice that can pay off. This van only come in one length, but the long front nose and space above the front seats allow you to carve extra storage space in several corners of the van.
Most of the Nissan NV vans boast a rear-wheel drive, making your driving experience more comfortable, but it might make driving in winter more challenging. However, if you are looking for an alternative van for full-time van life, the Nissan NV is a great option that will make you stand out from other van-lifers!
- Because of the alternative look, they are easy to pass for commercial vehicles
- The van’s unique shape offers extra storage space above the two front seats
- You will get a 5-year/60,000 miles warranty to go with your vehicle
- It is tall and spacious enough to support full-time van life
- 24-26 mpg mileage, depending on where you are driving
- This van only comes in one length
- The average cost of a new model is $36,360
When picking the right van for campervan conversion, an endless number of factors come into play. Your lifestyle, budget, and comfort level are undoubtedly important, but you should also consider how you plan to use your van and how many people will live in it.
However, when on the road, safety comes before anything else. Therefore, reliable makes such as Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Dodge ProMaster can help you have a trustworthy vehicle by your side.
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.