Top Van Models for Camper Conversions
When embarking on a camper conversion project, the vehicle choice is one of the most important decisions. The Van Conversion most commonly considered for camper conversions are the Ford Transit, Dodge ProMaster, Ram ProMaster, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and Chevrolet Express. Each van has its own strengths that make it appealing for building out a living space on wheels.
Ford Transit – Known for its cavernous interior cargo space, the Transit comes in a variety of roof heights and lengths to suit different floor plan needs. With a low step-in height and available all-wheel drive, it is easy to enter, exit, and drive.
Dodge ProMaster – The budget-friendly ProMaster shares parts from Fiat Ducato and offers ample cargo room at a relatively low price tag. It can be outfitted very similarly to the more expensive Sprinter or Transit.
Ram ProMaster – Nearly identical to the Dodge but adds features like an optional rearview camera, more power outlets, and upgraded interior materials. A slightly higher price reflects increased content.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – The luxury class of cargo vans, with the highest maximum payload capacity and tightest turning radius, but also the highest initial purchase price. Extremely durable and customizable.
Chevrolet Express – An affordable workhorse van with proven reliability and a large aftermarket support network to draw from. May require a more creative interior layout due to the squared-off body shape versus Euro counterparts.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Van:
The Ford Transit stands out for its ample interior space, with heights over 6 feet available. This allows for creative floor plans with stand-up rooms. Transit owners praise its driving dynamics – it handles nimbly and gets good mileage of 15-19 MPG depending on the model.
With the largest online communities, there are countless custom-built examples for inspiration. Ford also partnered with Outside Van Conversion Range to offer pre-built camper packages. Its Mazda-based engines are durable, with a timing chain instead of a belt. Repairs are inexpensive since it shares components with popular Ford trucks.
As the most affordable of full-size cargo vans, the Dodge ProMaster is attractive for budgets under $30k. It offers 95 cubic feet of cargo volume, a payload rating of 3,850 lbs, and gets up to 19 MPG highway.
While not as plentiful as Transits online, ProMaster owner forums are growing. The Fiat Ducato’s interior design includes tall ceilings and comfortable seats. Weaknesses include a downgraded alternator and thinner body compared to the European version, but overall reliability is good. Roof variants include low and raised roof options.
The Ram ProMaster is nearly identical mechanically to the Dodge ProMaster but with some upgraded comfort and convenience features. Standard safety tech like blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert increase convenience.
An optional rearview camera and a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto make the cab feel more luxurious. A higher 3,650 lbs payload capacity means more gear can be carried. The Efficient Twin Turbo diesel achieves best-in-class fuel economy of 25 MPG highway.
ProMaster owners appreciate the smooth ride quality and quiet cabin. Increased options over the Dodge make it appeal to those looking for more amenities without sacrificing cargo or engine capabilities. Slightly shorter body variants are also available.
As the largest capacity option, the Mercedes Sprinter typically sees the most complex and elaborate camper setups. Its independent rear suspension easily handles heavy loads. Interiors have higher-end materials and tech-like available all-wheel drive aid adverse weather travel.
As the most economical full-size van on the UK market, the Chevrolet Express appeals to budget-conscious buyers. Efficient 4.3L V6 and V8 gas engines provide smooth power for hauling equipment.
Resale values lag premium Euro alternatives, but repairs cost less with a huge aftermarket. Express owners hosting the largest meetups share maintenance tips online. Common issues are worn wheel bearings, oil leaks, and transmission trouble after 100k miles – extending fluid change intervals addresses this.
Overall quality lags behind Ford and RAM, with thinner sheet metal showing dents more easily. But Express loyalists appreciate straightforward designs requiring less expensive fixes over time. Lower initial investment allows fitting out campers faster.
What are the different cab styles and floor plans?
Popular cab styles include mid-roof, high-roof, and extended-length variations. Common floor plans are:
Back kitchen (stove/sink behind cab seats)
Front kitchen (living space behind cab, kitchen forward)
Side kitchen (sink against side wall)
Rear bath (toilet in rear nook or closet)
Rear lounge (sofa behind cab, kitchen/bed across rear)
What essential interior features should be included?
At minimum – running water, sink/stove, power, bed, storage. Nice additions are a fridge, air conditioning, toilet, indoor/outdoor sound system, good lighting setup, and screen doors/windows for airflow/views. High-end concepts maximize space with Murphy beds, hidden storage, and outdoor areas.
What local regulations apply to living in an RV van?
Regulations vary, but generally, RVs must maintain current tags/registration and cannot be occupied for more than a few weeks per area without moving or paying impact fees. Greywater disposal and electrical/propane hookups must meet the code at overnight stops. National forest/BLM lands often allow longer dispersed “boondocking” stays.
What is the process for safely driving and parking an oversized vehicle?
Practice backing up and maneuvering in empty lots first. On roads, leave extra following distance and pass with caution. Park in designated RV areas if possible. Otherwise choose wide streets and level surfaces, avoiding low branches and tight turns. Chock wheels and level the vehicle for safety. Obtain proper licensing if weight exceeds thresholds.
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