Staying in a van by the river previously was associated with being poor and unproductive, but now many people aspire to this lifestyle. The phrase “van life” today brings up Instagram pictures of couples getting up in their little campers and opening the back doors to discover picturesque locations such as the seaside or a clear mountain lake.
If you’re considering joining the rising #vanlife movement, obtaining the perfect vehicle will be your top priority. Browse out our favorite little camper vans to determine if one of them is ideal for your adventures.
What Exactly Is a Camper Van?
A camper van is a regular or cargo van that has been modified with a sleeping area, kitchen space, and sometimes bathroom amenities.
Many do-it-yourselfers will buy a tiny van and convert the cabin into a fully operational camper. This allows them to incorporate their personal design and design features. They are commonly known as camper van adaptations.
Some individuals even transform minivans into recreational vehicles. However, in the last 10 years, RV companies have started to produce Class B motorhomes based on van chassis such as the Mercedes Sprinter, Ram ProMaster, and Ford Transit. Class B vans are vans specially designed to be utilized as an RV.
Advantages of Small Camper Vans
A few of the most valued advantages of using a small camper van would be its size. Here are a few more examples:
Better fuel economy than a larger RV
A compact camper can achieve 12-20 miles per gallon depending on the age of the automobile and the capacity of its engine. Some older freight vans have big V8 or even V10 engines that produce figures near the bottom of the scale. Yet, because the latest diesel and EcoBoost gas engines produce up to 20 mpg, utilizing this vehicle for daily commuting is more cost-effective than a larger RV.
You can easily stealth camp
If camping at established campsites isn’t your style, a compact van is simple to conceal. Those van lifers who want to spend more time in business areas can stay overnight on city streets if municipal rules allow it. Some people find it convenient to stay overnight at 24-hour companies such as health clubs since their vehicle fits in with the others in the parking lot and takes up little space. Whenever you stop for the night, make absolutely sure you grasp the laws around stealth camping.
Some van users do not install gear that would indicate they are sleeping inside their cars. Awnings, vent coverings, and ladders are examples of such objects. Some van dwellers install a black-out curtain between the cab and the living area, preventing passers-by from seeing into the living space. Others disguise their vehicles with “business” magnets on the doorways and clipboards and business caps just on the dashboard.
Camper vans can be customized
Since many minivans start out as cargo or transportation vehicles, one can tailor these to their exact needs. For instance, you might design a couch that converts into a bed or a bench that conceals a refrigerator. The changes might be as many as the number of individuals who like this way of life.
Camper vans are simple to operate
The majority of small camper vans are 18-23 feet in length. As a result, they are as simple to drive as a compact pickup truck. They can turn around bend and back up like a car. Furthermore, depending on the number of windows, they may have fewer blind spots than a standard motorhome. Within the greater part, vans would also fit into standard parking places.
The Best Small Camper Vans for a Van Conversion
Do you have a strong desire for a little camper van? Some folks are perplexed as to why I continue to drive the Chevy Astro, which is essentially a glorified minivan. But a lot of people like how easy it is to park and how covert it is. Furthermore, one won’t have to buy a lot to outfit it.
If you’re looking for a little camper van for sale, you have a few possibilities. You could either buy a customized van or create one yourself. You can purchase a new or even used small cargo van from a dealership, or you can purchase one that has already been customized on so many marketplaces and platforms.
The Mercedes Metris
- Price: $26,000-$34,000
- Gas Mileage: 21-22 mpg
The Mercedes Metris van was launched in the North American market in 2015. You can choose between a regular or long wheelbase in the cargo variant of this vehicle. It comes in two lengths: standard as well as extended.
This small camper van for sale is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder motor with a 7-speed transmission. With a maximum capacity of 2,502 pounds, the Mercedes Metris can transport greater amounts than the other vans. In comparison, the Nissan NV200 carries a payload of 1,480 pounds.
Mercedes Metris vans feature a more massive cargo area than their rivals, giving you more space to create your campervan. They have a 270-degree swing-open back door or a hatchback tailgate. The appearance resembles a work van, allowing this automobile an extremely discreet camper.
The main disadvantage of this van is the fact that it’s the most costly of the smaller vans, requires premium fuel, and is more difficult to park due to its extended wheelbase. Another aspect to think about is the size of the windows, which seem to be smaller than those seen on other vans, resulting in less visibility and more privacy.
Dodge Promaster City
- Price: $24,000-$27,000
- Gas Mileage: 21 City/28 mpg highway
The Promaster City tiny campervan for sale debuted in 2015 and boasts an excellent highway fuel efficiency of 28 miles per gallon. This small van has a cargo volume of 131.7 cubic feet as well as a cargo space width of 48.4 inches between both wheel wells. This minivan is next in load space only to the Mercedes Metris.
The Promaster City is powered by a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine and has a payload capacity of 1,886 pounds. It also comes standard with a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Users appreciate how dependable and long-lasting the motor is.
Another level above the base cargo van model, or the SLT, you get such a van with oil changes every 10,000 miles, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, plus heated seats. What is the finest aspect of this agile van? The back walls are practically vertical, making DIY conversion relatively simple. Nevertheless, it is not accessible in 4WD and does not have a diesel engine.
Ford Transit Connect
- Price: $24,000-$31,000
- Gas Mileage: 24-29 mpg
The Ford Transit Connect is a low-cost camper van with excellent fuel efficiency. It was first introduced in 2012, so you can get a lot of secondhand vans for cheap, as well as camper vans that have been fully built out.
Have a technician engaged when looking for your next vehicle Because Transit Connects are renowned to have gearbox troubles.
This tiny camper van is available with two engines: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder van or a turbocharged 1.6-liter Ecoboost 4-cylinder. This vehicle has a maximum payload of 1,620 pounds.
This is a relatively small camper van for sale (the second tiniest in its class) with less cargo room than some of its rivals or four-wheel drive. It does, nevertheless, have twin sliding doors on the sides that make it incredibly simple to air out and use.
The external design makes it a great covert camping vehicle. Also, because it is little, it is easier and less expensive to repair. Furthermore, others claim that while this compact camping van lacks power, it is easy to drive.
Nissan NV 200
- Price: $22,000-$23,000
- Gas Mileage: 25 mpg combined fuel economy
The Nissan NV 200 is a low-cost mini camper van for purchase with excellent gas mileage that is designed for city driving. In terms of cargo space, the van falls short of the Metris, Ford Transit Connect, and Promaster City. Many van dwellers have hidden portable toilets in their own structures.
With a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, the NV 200 produces less power than its competitors. It makes it a great choice for van lifers who plan to travel vast distances on a regular basis.
Take into account that the Nissan NV 200 small camper van has a payload capacity of 1,480 pounds when designing your DIY campervan project. If you overload this van, it will function poorly. This van has the advantage of being the least expensive of the group.
Toyota Sienna AWD
- Price: $34,710-$42,250
- Gas mileage: 36 mpg combined fuel economy
The huge side sliding door makes getting in and out of the van a breeze, which is ideal for days when you’d like to establish a tiny outside area under the side awning. Because the back seats are easily removed, you can transform this minivan yourself, conserving a lot of money on the build.
The huge side sliding door makes getting in and out of the van a breeze, which is ideal for days when you’d like to set up a tiny outdoor living room underneath the side awning. Because the back seats are easily removed, you can modify this minivan yourself, sparing a lot of money on the build. Furthermore, the flat roof enables the installation of various solar panels to produce electricity anywhere. If you’re looking for a Toyota Sienna custom build, browse over Oasis campervans and Contravans.
- Price: $10,000-2,000
- Gas mileage: 26-30 mpg
Searching for something a little different? Consider the Mitsubishi Delica. It’s a sturdy and durable mid-90s Japanese classic minibus that’s also reasonably priced.
The Delica is equipped with 4WD. It’s small, so you can surely locate parking even in cities, yet it has a high clearance, so you can go off-road.
This vehicle seats eight passengers and folds flat, making it possible to keep them mounted. While operating the Delica is simple, due to its size, you must do so on the wrong side because these beauties have been all brought straight from Japan. Remember that the inner height is really only 51.8 inches.
Because this van was not manufactured in the United States, there are no companies that specialize in expert conversions. But, you can modify a few of the smaller conversion kits on the market. Consider the QuQuQ Box and the Egoe Nest. If you want something else more substantial, you’ll have to put in the time to do a DIY conversion.
VW Eurovan Camper
- Price: $10,000-24,000
- Gas mileage: 18-22 mpg
There is nothing more recognizable than a Volkswagen Eurovan Camper. If you’re a fan of these small gems, there are plenty of secondhand and reasonably priced examples on the market.
The gas mileage is excellent, making it suitable for extended road trips throughout the country. Its automatic transmission is the VW Eurovan’s weak spot; it can cause issues. While considering prospective vans, it’s a worthwhile endeavor to look into the vehicle’s history and perhaps ask a mechanic to come out and inspect it with you.
The Eurovan was manufactured as a camper (Volkswagen collaborated with Winnebago to produce them) and has not been in manufacture since 2003, hence there are no businesses that specialize in changing them. Nevertheless, you can either clean up the old interior or fully replace it. That is all up to you.
The layout usually included a stove, a sink, and a couch that could be converted into a bed. Certain variants even included a pop top, which provided significantly greater internal space. Whether you retain things precisely as they were designed or fully modify them, this little bus makes a wonderful camper. Several VW models have been brought into the United States over the years, including the Combi, Westfalia, and Splittie. They are more difficult to obtain and can be more expensive, but with a little perseverance, you can locate them.
- Price: $3,500-$7,000
- Gas mileage: 20.3 mpg combined fuel economy
The Honda Element is a cult SUV camper that is popular among van lifers across the United States. The model was withdrawn in 2011, however, in recent years, an increasing number of people have tried to transform used ones into campsites. It’s simple to spot because of its boxy appearance and distinctive bi-parting doors. The concept is inspired by a lifeguard station. Despite this, it looks exactly like an automobile, making it incredibly covert.
Purchasing a used Honda Element is quite cost-effective, with some models starting as little as $3,499. It also has a four-wheel drive, so you can go on some exciting off-road excursions. But unlike minivans, the Element’s cab is relatively tall, allowing you to change inside without requiring you to lie down. Sitting up in bed is also a pleasant experience. There are no firms that perform expert Honda Element camper conversion. Nevertheless, conversion kits are available from Ursa Minor, Fifth Element Camping, and Freeway Camper Kit.
Dodge Grand Caravan
- Price: from $27,290, new
- Gas mileage: 20 mpg combined
Find out about the Dodge Grand Caravan if you want mini camper vans with a lower profile. While it appears to be a car, it is quite long, with lots of space for sleeping. It can seat up to 7 people and is quite large. It measures 202.8 inches in length, 78.8 inches in width, and 67.9 inches in height. A double bed and a kitchen are easily accommodated. You can cook in the back seat of your car thanks to the rear hatchback door.
The Dodge Grand Caravan is a popular automobile and camper with a long production period. As a result, replacement parts are readily available. Nevertheless, finding a used one for sale can be tough. Due to the same reasons, it retains its worth well if you plan on purchasing one for a memorable vacation and then returning to normal life.
- Price: from $33,040, new
- Gas mileage: 19-28 mpg
Some other popular compact but capacious minivan is the Honda Odyssey. With a length of 205.2 inches, this automobile is also appropriate for taller van lifers.
One disadvantage is that converting the Odyssey into a camper requires removing a row of seats to create a level sleeping platform. Thus, if you want to convert your automobile into a camper for the weekend, it may take some time.
It’s also dependable and long-lasting, making maintenance simple and cost-effective. Its value, however, does not last long. Choose a used one.
If you enjoy the design of the Honda Odyssey, you have four options for conversion kits: RoadLoft, Freeway Camper Kit, and Ququq. Look up Oasis Campervans for a proper professional design.
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
- Price: from $27,541 to $56,998
- Gas mileage: 30 mpg combined
The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is a viable alternative to the Honda Odyssey. It’s a 7-seater minivan with roughly the same dimensions and appearance. As a result, it’s ideal for covert camping.
To maximize the best use of the free space, some van lifers build a large bed platform and attach drawers under there, allowing them to simply slide out at the rear of the vehicle.
The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid has the advantage of two rows of seats that fold precisely flat into built-in floor cargo. This lets you maintain the minivan configured as a car at all times.
Yet, some believe that it is not particularly dependable. Some are experiencing transmission line failure. As a result, it is critical that you get a previously owned model inspected by an expert before purchasing it.
Conversion Kits for Small Campervans
After you’ve decided on a model, you should consider your conversion. Purchasing a conversion kit is the most cost-effective and time-efficient choice.
This would be made up of one or even more modular components that are manufactured in a factory and sent to you. You now can mount them on your van with a few simple tools. Choosing a conversion kit will still save you time and money.
Consider the firms that provide conversion kits for small campervans.
Wayfarer Vans – Starts at $5,580
Have you decided on a Ram Promaster City? Wayfarer Vans is a company that specializes in transforming Ram Promasters into campers. Their Wally kit is ideal for Promaster City.
It’s a sophisticated flexible kit consisting of plywood boxes that combine to make a sleeping platform. When you uncover them, some of them serve as storage whereas others serve as a kitchen. A fold-up table is also included in the box.
Freeway Camper Kit – Starts at $1,249
Freeway Camper Kit is a Quebec-based minivan and SUV conversion expert. Their packages have included a dinette that converts to a bed, a slide-out kitchen section in the camper’s back, and storage. You may customize your kit with options like a folding mattress, a sink, a solar generator, a flowing water system, and much more.
They also produce six generic kits that are appropriate for various minivan models. They can fit in a variety of minivans, which are indicated on the page for each kit. You’re not sure if you want to acquire one of their kits yet? Lease one on a vacation to put it through its paces.
Pros and Cons of Mini Camper Van
When purchasing a tiny camper van for sale, consider the advantages and downsides. Consider whether you’re okay with not being upright. You’ll almost certainly to cook outside of these little camper vans.
- It has excellent gas mileage.
- Less expensive than larger vans
- It is easier to maneuver.
- It is now easier to park.
- It fits into a typical garage and parking space
- You are unable to stand
- It is very compact
- In a campervan, there is far less room for anything you would want.
- It cannot be overloaded with items.
- The engine is not as powerful as that of larger vans.
There are lots of options on the market if you’re searching for a tiny van to transform into a DIY camper. It is entirely up to you to decide if you want a cargo van or a passenger van for your campervan project. Alternatively, consider purchasing a car camping conversion kit to convert your tiny cargo van into a camper. You will not have to do it all alone!
The Mercedes Metris van offers the biggest interior capacity, yet it is additionally the most expensive, costing between $26,000 and $34,000. The Nissan NV200, on the other hand, is the least expensive at $22,000-$23,000 and has the least amount of luggage room for a van build. All of these little camper vans have advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to read the specifications to figure out which one is best for you.