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The 15 Best Camper Vans for Road-Tripping in Style

Now you can experience #vanlife in comfort and style..

Senior Staff Writer

Bryan Hood's Most Recent Stories

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The 15 Best Camper Vans for Getting Away From It All in Style

The first years of this decade have already provided ample evidence that it’s important to get away from our daily lives from time to time.  And you don’t have to suffer the airport hordes or step foot on a plane to do so. We currently find ourselves in something of a golden age for luxury trailers, which has made it easier than ever to take your life on the road without sacrificing many, and in some cases any, of the comforts of home. And now, there are plenty of manufacturers and dedicated conversion shops giving the same treatment to vans and other similar vehicles. They may not be able to sleep as many people as their hulking cousins—with one key exception—but these all-in-one wonders come loaded with perks such as high-end kitchens, Wi-Fi-enabled multimedia systems, and plush beds. Plus, their relatively smaller size means they are more agile, off-road friendly, and easier to park. Below are 15 campers that will let you experience #vanlife in comfort and style.

Our Best Camper Van Picks

Best overall: airstream interstate 24x, best for off-roading: jayco terrain, best for weekend getaways: mercedes-benz eqt marco polo, best for off-the-grid trips: winnebago solis, best for cyclists: outside van tails, best for camping (anywhere): storyteller overland beast mode 4×4, best to live in: loki expeditions discovery series, best all-electric option: tonke eqv.

  • Best for G-Wagen Lovers: Terracamper Tecrawl

Best With a Bathroom and Shower: Thor Motor Coach Sanctuary

Best for $50,000: caravan outfitter free bird, best for families: winnebago boldt, best for winter road trips: sportsmobile sprinter 4×4, best conversion: boho old faithful, best for diy couples: ford transit trail.

Airstream Interstate 24X

Airstream. Thankfully, the company isn’t afraid to branch out. Just look at the  Interstate 24X , the trailer maker’s attempt to take the camper van to new heights. Built on the bones of a  Mercedes-Benz  Sprinter—like a lot of the models on this list—the vehicle has everything you need to rough it in comfort. Airstream has done a lot to maximize space in its climate-controlled cabin. A modular dining table doubles as a desk, and it can be easily converted into the largest sleeping area in a Class B Motorhome. There’s also a full mini kitchen and bathroom. You can take the van off-roading, too. In addition to a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 engine that churns out 188 hp and 325 ft lbs of torque, it also comes equipped with four-wheel drive, a height-adjustable suspension and all-terrain tires. Pricing for the all-around beast starts at $213,850.

Inside the Airstream Interstate 24X

Special Features: —A climate-controlled living area that has been designed to maximize available space. —A modular dinner table, a mini-kitchen and a bathroom with a toilet.

Jayco Terrain

Jayco is best known for its hulking travel trailers, but like Airstream, it can do compact, too (well, compact enough to fit in a parking space, that is). The US company’s new  Terrain  model, which starts at $192,000, is an adventure van designed for those who like to veer from the beaten path. As the name suggests, it’s designed for off-roading, with a turbo-diesel V-6, Koni shocks, a rear stabilizer and a rear hitch strong enough to tow an additional trailer if you need more room. Inside, it’s a little spartan compared to some other options on this list, but its kitchenette can be converted into a sleeping area with room for a full-size bed, as well as plenty of storage space beneath. There’s even a built-in awning when you need some shade in the summer months.

Inside the Jayco Terrain

Special Features: —Equipped with Koni shocks, a rear stabilizer and a heavy-duty tow hitch. —Kitchenette can be converted into a spacious sleeping area with room for a full-size bed.

The Mercedes-Benz Concept EQT Marco Polo from the side The Concept EQT Marco Polo

Mercedes-Benz clearly doesn’t want to relinquish its title as the go-to van maker for outdoor lovers. At last year’s Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, the German marque showed off a prototype based on its upcoming all-electric EQT van called the Marco Polo. The stylish EV has everything you need for a weekend at the campground and is more compact than the ubiquitous Sprinter. When the van’s rear seats are folded down, the back can be used as either a sleeping area with room for a double bed or a cooking and entertaining space. The kitchen doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some of the other entries on this list, but it does have a pull-out stove, fridge and sink. There’s also a pop-up, roof-mounted tent if your travel party includes more than two. The Marco Polo is a concept, but Mercedes will sell a module that will allow you to turn any EQT into a camper van when the $51,500 EV goes on sale in the spring.

Inside the Mercedes-Benz Concept EQT Marco Polo The Concept EQT Marco Polo

Special Features: —All-electric power train, so you don’t have to worry about doing too much damage to nature while you explore it. —Its  camping  gear—from the bed to the kitchenette—is part of a module that can be fully removed when you need more cargo room.

Winnebago Solis Pocket 36B

The Winnebago Solis is for adventurers who don’t want to be confined to the campground. The van is available with an optional power kit that has everything a group of up to four adults needs to spend a few days off-the-grid. The setup, which includes an inverter, a shore battery converter, a battery energy converter, a solar energy converter and an alternator energy optimizer, can produce enough power to keep the van and all its features running for up to 72 hours. On top of that, the van features a kitchenette, a convertible entertainment area with room for a double bed, and a full-width wet bath.

The Winnebago Solis Pocket 36B's dinette can be converted into a full-size bed

Special Features: —A unique power kit that can provide enough power to spend up to 72 hours off the grid. —Still has all the features you’d expect from a luxe camper van, including a full-width wet bath.

The Outside Van Tails next to a cyclist

If you like to mix biking and camping, Outside Van has the vehicle for you. The Portland brand’s  Tails  model is a camper van designed with cyclists in mind. The van, which is based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, has everything you need for a few days away from home, including a kitchenette, a roll-over sofa and a convertible mattress. But what really sets it apart is the rear of the vehicle that’s basically an on-the-go bicycle repair shop, with a fold-down work table, an air compressor and Molle panels to hang all your tools. If that wasn’t enough, it somehow has room for six bikes, even when the bed is laid out for the night.

The interior of the Outside Van Tails

Special Features: —The back of the van is basically a bicycle-repair shop with a fold-down table, an air compressor and plenty of storage space for tools. —Has room for six bikes, even when its convertible sleeping area is out.

Storyteller Overland Beast Mode 4x4

This latest offering from Storyteller Overland, based in Birmingham, Ala., is a true adventure van. The  Beast Mode 4×4  is the outfit’s most feature-packed model yet and was designed specifically for overlanding (as you may have guessed from the company’s name). It’s a true 4×4 powered by a 188 hp turbodiesel V-6 that’s strong enough to tow an additional 5,000 pounds. Its slick retro-style livery is offset with loads of useful off-roading gear, too, such as an LED light package, a roof rack and a side ladder and custom wheels wrapped in BF Goodrich K02 tires. Inside, you’ll find everything you need to relax after a day of exploring, including a cushy lounge that can be converted to a full-size sleeping area. There’s even a climate-control system to ensure you’re comfortable no matter the weather outside. It’s priced at a flat $198,746, for everything listed above.

Inside the Storyteller Overland Beast Mode 4x4

Special Features: —Turbodiesel V-6 sends 188 hp of power to all four wheels and is strong enough to tow 5,000 extra pounds. —Surprisingly cushy lounge for an off-roading beast.

The Loki Expedition Discovery Series Expedition Vehicle

Let’s get this out of the way: the Loki Expeditions Discovery Series isn’t technically a camper van. It’s a giant expedition vehicle, but because its cabin is installed directly onto a heavy-duty truck chassis you also don’t need anything to tow it. The vehicle’s cabin is what separates it from anything else on this list. Loki Expeditions has turned a shipping container—yes, you read that right—into a full-featured living space that has all the amenities you’d expect to find in a luxury apartment, including a full kitchen with a large fridge, an entertainment area with a U-shaped banquet, and a wet bath with a cassette toilet. It’s also big enough to sleep six adults, with room for two in the dedicated bedroom and four in the entertainment area. And because the heavy-duty vehicle, which starts at $550,000, has all-wheel drive, you can take it practically anywhere.

The Loki Expedition Discovery Series's living area and kitchenette

Special Features: —Cabin has all the features you’d expect to find in a well-appointed apartment and can sleep six adults. —Built on a burly heavy-duty truck chassis that gives you the freedom to venture off the beaten path.

The Tonke Mercedes-Benz EQV Touring with its pop-up tent opened

Looking for an EV you can take to the campground. The upcoming EQV just might fit the bill. Despite its relatively compact size—it’s smaller than the ever-popular Sprinter—Dutch camping outfit Tonke has managed to outfit it with everything you need to spend some time communing with nature. It has an entertainment area that doubles as a workspace along with a kitchenette, both of which can be converted into a two-person sleeping area with a simple flip of a bench (a roof-mounted, pop-up tent means it can sleep two more, too). Best of all, there are two variants available—the Touring, which is designed for long road trips, and the Adventure, which is aimed at casual campers.

Inside the Tonke Mercedes-Benz EQV Touring

Special Features: —Fully electronic power train means you won’t have to worry about filling up the tank (though the battery is another story). —Can sleep up to four even despite its relatively compact size.

Best for G-Wagen Lovers: Terracamper Tecrawl 

The Terracamper Tecrawl with its awning and kitchenette out

The Tecrawl isn’t a camper van per se, but it’s hard to leave something this cool off a list like this. Terracamper’s latest offering is based on one of Mercedes-Benz’s most legendary vehicles, the G-Wagen . The German shop has dreamed up a modular accessory kit for the luxury 4×4, that starts at $11,900 and includes a roof-mounted tent, a convertible sofa, and a pull-out kitchenette with a fridge box. Thanks to the ingenious setup, the boxy SUV can sleep up to three and act as your home base next time you want to rough it for the weekend. And because it’s a G-Wagen you can take it as far off-road as you want.

Inside the Terracamper Tecrawl's rear cargo area

Special Features: —A G-Wagen but has room for up to three people to sleep. —Packs a brawny powertrain that’s well-suited for off-road adventures.

Thor Motor Coach Sanctuary

Thor Motor Coach makes camper vans for those uninterested in making sacrifices. With the  Sanctuary , the company has taken Mercedes-Benz’s already excellent Sprinter 2500 4×4 and turned it into something you could easily live on—on or off the grid. The off-road-ready vehicle comes in two configurations—the 19P ($148,680), which features a back bench that converts into a bed, or the 19L ($151,060), which has a fixed double bed. Even with the bed there’s still plenty of room for other creature comforts, including a bathroom, an entertainment area with a TV and a kitchen with a sink, a dual-burner cooktop, a convection microwave oven and a fridge. An Onan 2500 LP generator keeps everything up and running, too, including an A/C system you can leave on for eight hours at a time. There’s also retractable power awning when you want to spend some time outdoors.

Inside the Thor Motor Coach Sanctuary

Special Features: —Full-featured bathroom has a sink, a shower and a toilet. —Available with your choice of either a convertible or a fixed bed.

The Caravan Outfitter Free Bird from the side

Caravan Outfitter’s third-generation Free Bird isn’t the most feature-laden camper van out there, but it has everything you and the family need to spend a weekend (or more) at the campground. The van, which starts at $50,810, is built on the relatively compact Ford Transit Connect platform but still has room for a full-size bed, a multi-purpose table that can be used as a dinette or workstation, and a pull-out kitchenette with a sink. Because it’s smaller than other options on this list, it only has room to sleep two, but there are several enticing add-ons, including roof- and rear-mounted capsule tents, in case you’re traveling group includes more people.

Inside the Caravan Outfitter Free Bird

Special Features: —It’s the rare camper van that’s small enough to be comfortably parked inside your garage. —Caravan Outfitters offers several intriguing add-ons so you customize it to your liking.

Winnebago Boldt

Airstream isn’t the only famous RV maker that’s gotten into the camper van game. Winnebago actually sells several, and our favorite is the luxe  Boldt . Despite being nowhere near as long as one of its campers—it caps out at 22 feet in length—the $230,276 van has everything you’d expect from the larger vehicle, including dedicated living and sleeping areas, a fully functional kitchen and a bathroom equipped with a shower. You also have several interior decor options to choose from, each of which delivers an updated take on classic Winnebago style. The Boldt is designed for paved roads and campgrounds, but if you want a more rugged ride, the brand also offers the off-road-ready  Revel.

Inside the Winnebago Boldt

Special Features: —Stretches 22 feet bumper to bumper, meaning there’s plenty of room for you and yours. —Enough space for dedicated entertaining and sleeping areas.

Sportsmobile Sprinter 4x4

Take one look at  Sportsmobile’s Sprinter 4×4  and it’s clear what its designers had in mind: off-roading. Whether you go with the 12- or 14-foot configuration, the Texas outfit’s stripped-down take on Mercedes’s ultra-popular van comes equipped with a 3.0-liter BlueTec V-6 connected to a five-speed automatic transmission and pumps out 188 hp and 325 ft lbs of torque. That should be more than enough to tackle even the toughest terrain. Inside, you’ll find a spacious living area with a full-featured kitchen. If you want even more room, you can also opt for a pop-up sleeping area that’ll make it that much easier to lounge in comfort.

Inside the Sportsmobile Sprinter 4x4

Special Features: —Well insulated throughout, but also has space for a propane furnace or heater. — 3.0-liter BlueTec V-6 and four-wheel drive mean it can take on any terrain.

The Boho Old Faithful from the side

Struggling to find a camper van that’s just right? Boho might be able to help. The Arizona-based company specializes in conversions and will work with you to create the vehicle of your dreams. The company offers several 20- to 24-foot layouts—of which the most popular is the appropriately named Old Faithful—that can be further tailored to meet your needs, whether your priority is multi-season versatility, lots of cooking space, or spending serious amounts of time on the road. The company also offers plenty of cool add-ons too, like wood paneling and flooring.

Inside the Boho Old Faithful

Special Features: —Versatile layouts that can be further customized so that you’re getting the exact van you want. —The wooden interior option looks better than it has any right to.

The 2023 Ford Transit Trail from the side

Ford’s ready to knock the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter off its perch. The Detroit giant unveiled its own camper van, the Transit Trail, last fall. The adventure-ready vehicle is based on its uber-popular commercial van but is taller, wider and outfitted with protective body cladding. It’s also powered by a potent V-6 that sends 310 horses and 400 ft lbs to all four wheels via a 10-speed automatic gearbox. Right now, Ford seems content to let the $65,975 vehicle be the base for the camper van of your dreams, but it comes loaded with a slew of features that will come in handy at the campground, including a drillable wall you can use to install shelves, a kitchenette or furniture, along with a 12-inch infotainment touchscreen and a back-up camera. It also available in three body configurations—medium-roof, standard length; high-roof, standard length; and high-roof, extended length—one of which should fit your needs.

Inside the 2023 Ford Transit Trail

Special Features: —It’s basically a blank slate for you and your partner to create your own dream camper. —Still comes with premium features such as a 12-inch infotainment screen and a back-up camera.

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Best Camper Vans To Live In For Full-Time Vanlife

15 Best Camper Vans To Live In For Full-Time Vanlife

Aaron Richardson

  • Last Updated: March 19, 2024
  • 22 minutes read

Are you ready to ditch the traditional lifestyle of making your home in an apartment or house? These days, more people than ever before are making the transition to tiny homes on wheels, in a movement known as vanlife. 

How do vanlifers make their life on the road actually work? What is the ultimate-best van for this type of lifestyle? 

Vanlife-styles tend to vary greatly, and each vanlifer has a unique experience to be sure. Different vehicles will be preferable, depending on your travel plans.

However, there are some commonalities for the types of vans or vehicles this group of people finds most successful for full-time life on the road.

IN THIS ARTICLE

Best Vans to Live In Full-Time

Cargo vans are the most popular vans for full-time vanlifers, and for good reason.

These vans are usually tall enough inside for occupants to stand, have adequate space for a variety of layouts and features, and can blend in for stealt​​h camping .

Several of the best van models for full-time vanlife are cargo vans, but there are quite a few unique additions. 

If you are considering full-time vanlife, check out the list below and then do your research.

Some vans are more suitable for off-road adventures, while others are more conducive to blending in and city camping.

Depending on your budget, style of vanlife, and your needs in a vehicular home, some vans may be preferable to others.

Top 15 Vans for Full-Time Living

Just under 50 percent of vanlifers are doing it full-time, with the rest doing it to travel for a few weeks or months.

According to the survey from OutboundLiving.com, vanlifers primarily prefer cargo vans, but there are a few other popular choices for the types of vans they choose. The breakdown is as follows: 

43% – Cargo Van

18% – Passenger Van

13% – Volkswagen or Hippie Van

12% – Other*

8% – Bus or Schoolie

6% – RV

*I, myself, am currently living full-time vanlife with my partner, and our “home” falls under the “Other” category! It’s a converted Suburban by SUBOVERLAND. 

These are just general categories, though, and today’s vanlifers can find lots to choose from when selecting their ideal home for life on the road. Here are the 15 best camper vans for living the van life:

1: Mercedes Sprinter  

Mercedes Sprinter

One of the most popular vanlife vehicles is the Mercedes Sprinter van. This is the quintessential, classic design for the modern day vanlifer.

It usually comes in inconspicuous, neutral colors such as white, gray or black, and can have side windows or not depending on the options available, your choice and/or conversion budget.

Before the conversion, your brand new Sprinter could cost between $35,000 and $57,000, and the conversion alone could cost $30,000 to $150,000 or more.

Despite the high price tag, a Sprinter is the dream van for many. Note: Mercedes, Dodge and Freightliner Sprinter vans are all technically Mercedes Sprinter vans.

The brand may be different depending on the year the vehicle was made. 

Special Features: Rear cross-traffic alert, parking assist with rearview camera, drive-away assist, active lane-keeping assist, blind-spot assist, active cruise control with distance assist, active braking assist, downhill speed regulation, and more. 

2: RAM ProMaster  

RAM ProMaster

Another popular vehicle for full-time vanlife is the RAM ProMaster. It is low-profile for stealth camping, has a high ceiling inside for standing room, and can be configured for many vanlife-friendly floor plans.

One perk of choosing a RAM ProMaster over a Mercedes Sprinter is that many mechanics across the U.S. are more likely to stock replacement parts for a RAM than a Mercedes, especially in more remote towns.

However, RAM ProMaster vans have a below-average reliability rating, so you may have more breakdowns than you would with another van make or model.

RAM ProMaster vans are more affordable than the luxury Mercedes Sprinter model, costing between $31,000 to $44,000 for a new van, before conversion. 

Special Features: State-of-the-art cabin tech, with standard Uconnect® 5-inch touchscreen, Integrated Voice Command, Hands-Free Calling, Bluetooth® Streaming Audio and convenient steering wheel controls.

Rear doors can swing open 260˚, open 60 inches and can fold almost flush against the van’s exterior. Dual sliding side doors can open up to 49 inches.

3: Ford Transit

Ford Transit camper

The Ford Transit is an affordable, somewhat more reliable, and comfortable vehicle for full-time vanlife.

It is available in a variety of models, with extra seating or length, colors, and features.

The Cargo Van and Crew Van models have high ceilings so that you can stand up fully inside.

Whether you choose the cargo, crew or passenger van model, the Ford Transit is an excellent and more affordable base vehicle for vanlife.

The price for a new Ford Transit before your conversion will run between $24,275 and $41,000.

Special Features:  There’s a 31-gallon tank available, as well as Ford’s Co-Pilot 360™ technology, front and rear split-view cameras, enhanced active park assist, FordPass Connect™, power sliding side door, two available center consoles, and more.

4: Vauxhall Movano

Vauxhall Movano

This U.K. van has everything you need for full-time vanlife, with four available lengths, three heights, and a fuel-efficient diesel engine.

Manual and automatic transmission options are available as well. Choose from a variety of classic panel vans, or go with a Doublecab if you’re vanlifing with a family.

New Vauxhall Movano vans typically run between £21,328 and £29,000, before conversion costs.

Special Features:  Movano offers a Navi 50 IntelliLink Pro for Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ to project your smartphone onto a 7-inch touchscreen display. There’s built-in navigation, permanent rear-view camera, and Lane Departure Warning.

VW Bus

The quintessential van for life on the road is the Volkswagen Bus, which is also known as the Hippie Van.

It has a cute, classic look and often comes in some pretty unique and fun colors.

Prices can range widely, depending on the age and condition of the bus, but can cost as little as $19,500 or as much as $145,000.

Some classic VW buses are already converted for vanlife, however, so you can save on the conversion and pay around $30,000, total. 

ClassicCars.com and AutoTrader.com are the most popular places to find VW buses, since Volkswagen is no longer selling these vintage buses directly.

The new Volkswagen Bus is electric, which is a big pro for vanlifers who also want to minimize their environmental impact.

It provides nearly 300 miles of estimated range before requiring a re-charge, and can recharge about 80 percent of its energy capacity in 30 minutes.

For vanlifers headed to remote or off-the-grid destinations that don’t have charging stations, however, the classic model may be more appropriate.

Special Features:  Varies, but  it’s a classic ! Check out  Kombi Life on YouTube  for some ideas for what full-time vanlife in a VW bus looks like.

6: VW California

VW California

Volkswagen’s California van is another classic with modern finishes, ready-to-go interior conversion, and reliability.

It has a pop-up roof to expand your interior space, and is already converted with a fully fitted kitchen that includes a cool box, sink and stove kitchen unit.

There’s also a camping table and chairs that easily stow away to save space.

Many VW California models come finished in beautiful retro two-tone paint to give it that nostalgic VW bus feel.

Prices for new Volkswagen California camper vans start at £55,281.00 to £63,591.00, depending on whether you choose the California Ocean or California Coast model.

Special Features: LED headlamps with lens, navigation system, Digital Cockpit and Driver Alert System, Adaptive Cruise Control, double glazing in rear seat area and heat-insulating glass in front, Parking sensors, and Manual Pop-up roof and awning (California Coast model).

7: Knaus Boxdrive CUV

Knaus Boxdrive CUV

If you’re looking for a van that’s ready to hit the road, without spending the time and money on unique conversion, the Knaus camper van models may be perfect for you.

The Boxdrive and Boxstar Knaus camper vans come pre-made with Knaus’ layout, which is both a pro and a con.

You won’t need to pay extra for the conversion, but you also won’t have control over the interior layout.

These vans are intelligently designed from the inside, out! There’s plenty of room to stand inside, and lots of other features that make these vans ideal for full-time vanlife.

The Boxlife models also sleep 5-7 passengers, for families who live on the road.

Knaus Boxdrive vans start at a base price of €79,990, but again, no conversion is needed.

Special Features:  Front Assist with city emergency brake function, Trailer Assist, Park Assist and Park Pilot, Atmospheric ambient lighting, Unique form language in furniture construction, floating dinette table, 90-litre compressor refrigerator, variable bench seat in living area, spacious in-room bath, multifunctional vehicle rear, and more.

8: Citroen WildCamp

Citroen WildCamp

Another classic from decades past, the Citroen WildCamp rivals the Volkswagen van among vanlife enthusiasts.

It’s built a bit tougher than the VW bus, however, with a roof rack that has enough storage for two spare wheels, a fold down ladder and more space for your bulky adventure gear.

The WildCamp runs on a 161-hp BlueHDi diesel engine. Inside, the captain’s chairs swivel into your living space, and the bed folds down from the living space for versatile living.

The kitchen features a two-burner gas stove, a stainless steel sink, a water jug and a 12v fridge with a built-in freezer.

There is also an in-unit bathroom. Prices for a new Citroen WildCamp range from €27,132 to €41,597.

Special Features: ABS and brake assist, full monitoring systems, Hill Start Assist and built-in captain’s chairs. An Alpine 9-inch premium infotainment system is also available if you want a GPS navigation system on board.

9: Mercedes-Benz Luton Box Van

For a cargo van with more of a room-like interior space, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Luton is a great option.

Unlike other Sprinter and cargo vans, the cargo area is a rectangular box that may be easier to convert into your living space for life on the road. 

However, there are no windows unless you choose to cut them out in the conversion.

The Mercedes Sprinter Luton has a high payload and lowered loading height with front-wheel drive, and features a 9-speed automatic transmission.

Used Luton Box vans will cost about £13,500 to £16,450 before the costs of conversion.

Special Features: MBUX infotainment system and high-resolution 7-inch touchscreen (10.25-inch screen available), LINGUATRONIC “Hey Mercedes” voice control and geocoded map system, increased payload and cargo area, Active Brake Assist, and optional electric parking brake.

10: School Bus

School Bus

Perhaps the most variable van on this list for living full-time on the road is the school bus, or skoolie.

Buses come in a wide range of sizes and conditions, with some already converted into tiny homes for vanlife, and others needing to be gutted before you can start your unique conversion.

Skoolies are excellent for vanlife because they tend to offer more space inside, which you can convert for your needs.

Some school bus vanlifers build multiple rooms and living spaces in their skoolies, while others like to leave the space open. 

You will probably need to take extra measures to insulate your school bus for living on the road, since single-pane windows are a common feature of almost every bus.

Pricing ranges widely for skoolies, and you may be able to find one pre-conversion for only a couple thousand dollars.

Already converted school buses range in price from $18,000 to $35,000 or more.

It’s important to have a professional mechanic check out your van or bus before you buy, and this is even more crucial with school buses.

They tend to run larger than most vanlifing vehicles, and may have special mechanics or issues that you will want to know about.

11: Renault Trafic Camper

Renault Trafic Camper

If you’re looking for a van that’s perfect for stealth camping and is a bit more subtle on the road, the Renault Trafic is a great fit.

It’s modeled like a modern-day passenger van, and pre-conversion has seats for up to nine passengers. The interior design is spacious and modular, perfect for a conversion.

You can also opt to add a SpaceClass table inside the passenger area to cut your conversion costs.

The front cab has lots of clever storage cubbies for all of your knick-knacks.

In terms of reliability, the Trafic has a really good reputation and a strong record, minimizing maintenance and repairs you should expect.

Prices for new Renault Trafic vans range from £25,150 to £27,500, before your conversion.

Special Features:  ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution, Start and Stop technology, Electronic Stability Control with Hill Start Assist, rear parking sensors, interior load side panels, LED headlights, left- or right-side loading door option, and the option to add side steps for easier entry and loading.

12: VW Crafter

VW Crafter

Fans of the Volkswagen brand who want more of a Sprinter van design will love the VW Crafter panel van.

This van is an excellent base for your full-time vanlife vehicle conversion, no matter what size you’re looking for.

You can choose from three vehicle lengths and three vehicle heights.

It’s also primed for a conversion, with 14 lashing rings recessed into the floor, lashing rails on all of the walls and an interior roof rack to use as the base for your build.

The cabin also has practical storage for smartphones, laptops, tablets, water bottles, coffee cups, sunglasses, a flashlight, folders, gloves and more.

The price for a new VW Crafter before conversion ranges from £26,745 to £48,046.

Special Features: Forward collision warning including autonomous emergency braking, without adaptive cruise control.

It also has Front Assist, City Emergency Braking, Trailer Assist, Park Assist, cross wind assist and side protection alerts. 

In the cab, you can choose to have a partition without a window, ergoComfort suspension seats or 2-seater bench in cab, and a sliding door left in load/passenger compartment.

13: Sportsmobile Classic 4×4

Sportsmobile Classic 4×4

More of an adventure van than a tiny home, the Sportsmobile Classic 4×4 is still a great vehicle for vanlife, especially if you need something more rugged for off-road adventures in the national parks.

Plus, it’s already converted for living on the road in comfort, with a compact fridge, sink and even a microwave.

The integrated penthouse top provides even more usable space and sleeping options within the van for ultimate comfort and versatility.

There’s a countertop and storage cubby that rotates outside for food prep and other needs, and the roof is equipped with a storage rack, solar panel and awning.

An access ladder makes it easy to load, unload and access the roof. Sportsmobile has also ruggedized the exterior with a steel-reinforced fiberglass shell.

Pricing starts at $20,945 , but it includes the living space conversion so you can hit the road right away.

Special Features: Advance Adapter Atlas II All Gear Driven Transfer Case, Dynatrac Pro-Roc 60 Front Axle, Dana 60 Rear Axle, Fox 2.0 Performance Series Shocks, High Knuckle Front End for Extra Tie Rod Clearance, Extra Heavy Duty Steering Arm, and more.

14: Four Wheel Campers

Four Wheel Camper

The growing popularity of vanlife has inspired some people to convert their own SUV or van for full-time life on the road.

Almost as variable as skoolies, four wheel campers can be converted from almost any 4wd vehicle.

What’s more, you can usually do so at a fraction of the cost to convert many of the other vans on this list.

Features and amenities vary widely, and are only limited by the space you have, your imagination and your budget.

From personal experience, I can tell you that the SUBOVERLAND San model is a great four-wheel camper for full-time vanlife.

This is especially true if you don’t have the time or know-how to do your own conversion.

However, it’s not for the faint of heart and it’s certainly not ‘glamping’ to live out of one.

It’s by far more comfortable and convenient than tent camping, but you can’t stand inside and you have to cook and eat in the great outdoors.

Special Features (SUBOVERLAND): 33” all-terrain tires and full-sized spare, storage cubbies/wardrobe, bed platform and full-length drawers, memory foam mattress, wood panel ceiling, rubber flooring throughout, WeatherTech floor mats, solar shower, rooftop basket rack, LED interior lights and on/off switch, insulated window panels and privacy curtains, 100-watt Renogy solar panel, two Renogy 100-AH AUX batteries, Renogy Voyager solar charge controller, Renogy 1000-watt inverter, Wirthco battery isolator, Dometic CFX28 fridge/freezer, and Fantastic Fan.

15: Rivian Electric Truck

Rivian Electric Truck

Although it’s not a van, technically, the Rivian Electric Truck is the new adventure-mobile of the future. It’s fully electric, but has a great range at 400+ miles.

Instead of an interior living space, vanlifers will need to buy and install a pop-up tent on the bed of the truck for sleeping, or just pitch a tent from the ground.

This vehicle is more accommodating for adventures in remote or rugged locations, and probably won’t work well as a stealth camper.

However, it’s well suited to off-roading and exploring nature from a comfortable and energy-efficient vehicle.

The Rivian is on pre-order only right now, with prices starting at $69,000.

Special Features: Energy-efficient stadium-shaped headlights, digital dashboard, charge-level indicator, lockable storage drawer with 12 cubic feet of space, flexible crossbar system for mounting gear or a pop-up tent, three 110 V outlets, air compressor, and energy-dense weight distribution capacity.

Best Styles Of Vans For Different Types Of Vanlife

With all of the choices, it may be overwhelming to whittle down your options to find the best style and size of vehicle for your version of vanlife.

Below is a quick summary based on different van-lifestyles, and may help you refine your search.

Budget may be a primary factor, which will help narrow down the list of vans to consider from one angle.

However, the way you plan to live while on the road is one of the most relevant ways to find the ideal van for your new lifestyle.

Without further ado, here’s our list of the best vans for different priorities of live on the road:

Best All-Around Van for Full-Time Vanlife : Mercedes Sprinter, RAM ProMaster or VW Crafter

Best Van for Travel & Mobile Living : Ford Transit, RAM ProMaster, Knaus Boxdrive

Best Van for Living Big : School Bus (Skoolie) or Mercedes-Benz Luton Box Van

Best Van for Stealth : Renault Trafic, VW Crafter, Ford Transit, RAM ProMaster or SUBOVERLAND (Four Wheel Camper)

Best Adventure Van : Four Wheel Camper, Sportsmobile Classic 4×4, Citroen Wildcamp, VW California

Best Affordable Van : RAM ProMaster, Ford Transit, or other U.S. cargo van

Best Looking Van : Volkswagen Bus

Best Van for Maintenance : RAM ProMaster, Ford Transit, or other U.S. cargo van

How Much Does It Cost To Convert A Van?

Nearly 80 percent of vanlifers choose to save on their conversion costs by outfitting their van themselves.

For nearly half of these people, the conversion took 2-6 months, but around 32 percent have been able to complete a van conversion in less than 8 weeks. 

After the complexity of your build, the timeline often depends on your budget, whether you have help, and the amount of time you can dedicate to the project.

If you’re working full- or part-time while building your van conversion, it may take a bit longer than if you have the ability to focus on the project full-time.

31% $1,000 to $5,000

24% $5,001 to $10,000

17% $10,001 to $20,000

16% Less than $1,000

8% $20,001 to $40,000

3% Over $40,000

7 Things to Consider When Choosing Your Van for Full-Time Vanlife

As you continue in your journey to find the perfect van for full-time vanlife, there are a number of important factors to consider:

Price 

The options vary widely if your van budget is unlimited, but for most vanlifers, budget is a strong factor in their decision.

Most vans – even new ones – can be purchased for around $25,000, but you’ll need to keep your conversion budget in mind as well.

However, there are a number of vans on our list above that include the conversion. Also, you may be able to find an older vehicle to convert, or purchase a used van that has already been converted for vanlife.

Some vans, like VW buses and Four Wheel Campers, are smaller and you’ll be more limited on space. Others, like school buses, have enough square footage for a couple of rooms.

The happy medium is cargo and passenger vans, which often have enough space for a sleeping and kitchen/living space.

Many cargo van manufacturers also make vans in extended sizes if you need more room.

Mileage & Condition 

Full-time vanlifers are probably going to be putting lots of miles on their new ‘home’, so mileage is a very important factor to consider when choosing a van.

An older vehicle with more miles may break down more often or more quickly reach the end of its life.

The technical state of the van, including its servicing history and whether it’s been in an accident, also plays into the consideration for condition. Rust is also something you should be aware of.

Mechanical Complexity 

When you’re living on the road, you won’t always be near a city or town for servicing and you may need to maintain or fix your van yourself.​

If the vehicle is more complex or is imported, it may be a challenge to handle repairs on your own.

Complex mechanics also often mean that maintaining or replacing them can be expensive, even if you’re doing the labor yourself.

Parts Availability 

One reason many vanlifers choose a U.S. cargo van is because parts are more readily available (if they’re traveling in the U.S., that is).

You may want to consider where you plan to go when choosing your van, since the availability and price for replacement parts could significantly affect your travels if you have an issue or breakdown.

Safety 

Many of the newer vans have lots of extra road safety features included, as well as extras like parking assist and hill climb assist.

Your van is about to become your home, but it’s still a vehicle and you will want to be safe as you travel the open road.

You may also want to consider security and alarm features, especially if you will be stealth camping in cities where your vehicle is more likely to be broken into.

However, if your van doesn’t come with a security system, you can always add one.

Appearance 

Last, but not least, is the look of your van. It’s curb appeal of a different kind, but it still matters for a lot of vanlifers who want an attractive as well as functional space to call their nomadic home.

What Will Vanlife Look Like for You?

Another big consideration for the type of van you choose should be your lifestyle while on the road.

For example, if you’re going to be living the digital nomad lifestyle and working remotely from the road, you may want a van that has space for you to work out of.

Your type of journey should play just as much into your choice for a van as the vehicle, itself.

Questions to ask yourself:

What is the weather going to be like?

Will I/we be going to different climates? The insulation and features of your van may need to be different depending on your answer.

Will there be a lot of rain or humidity?

Will we be camping near the ocean a lot? If the answer to either of these questions is “yes”, avoid vans that are notorious for rust (i.e. Mercedes Sprinter vans). Click here to learn more about rust and how it affects vanlife.

Will you be traveling a lot of miles, quickly?

Or are you going to take your time? Either way, you’ll probably want a vehicle with low miles, but this is especially true if you’ll be traveling long distances. You might also want to choose a vehicle with better fuel efficiency so as to save on gas.

Is your travel route mostly on highways or off-road?

You’ll have more choices with the former, but you will need a high-clearance or 4×4 van for off-roading travel. Weight will also be a consideration for off-roading and also for your fuel efficiency.

How will you be camping? 

​ If you are going to be staying in cities and stealth camping , you will want to choose a vehicle that blends in (i.e. a cargo van).

Keep your vehicle’s clearance in mind for city camping as well; since taller vehicles may not fit into many parking garages if you need to park there. 

If you’re primarily going to be camping on free land or in the national forests, an adventure van or even an RV would be totally fine.

Also, if you will be vanlifing across Europe, keep in mind that most roads are very narrow and the towns are small, so larger vehicles may not be the best choice.

Things to Do Before You Buy Your Van

Sure, you may find your perfect van just around the corner in your hometown, but the reality for most people is that it’s a bit of a search.

Even if your neighbor up the street has your dream van for sale, there are still some things you should definitely do before you sign the check:

Set Your Budget

After you’ve narrowed down your list of ideal vans for your style of vanlife, you need to refine your budget.

Be prepared to pay for the value of the car – if there’s a bargain deal out there, it’s probably for a (bad) reason.

Set your budget based on the vehicle itself, your conversion costs, and the first two years of maintenance.

Just to be safe, a comfortable maintenance budget is probably around $2,500 to $3,500, although it depends on your vehicle and the typical cost for replacement parts.

Be sure to stick to whatever number you set for yourself; as much as you may want to splurge for that perfect van, save your dollars for your travels.

Start Your Search

Beyond the manufacturers, themselves, there are several websites out there that list vans for sale.

Of course, you may find your dream van on Craig’s List or Facebook Marketplace, but the options will probably limited to your location.

It’s also a lot harder to search using these platforms, because the search filters are not specific to vanlife vehicles. Some good sites to start searching for your van include ConversionTrader.com, ClassicVans.com, CarsForSale.com, and RVtrader.com.

Do Your Research

As you search, be sure to look into all of the details about the vans you’re considering. Take note of important technical information such as mileage, age, features, your own personal pros and cons, and of course, price and relevant links to the van listing.

Organize your info into a spreadsheet or document, so that you can refer back to everything you learn at-a-glance.

Bring a Mechanic

Once you’ve found some vans, or even the van, be sure to have a mechanic check it out before you buy it.

Even if you know your way around an engine, a mechanic can help identify potential issues that you might miss. Inform him or her about your plans, since adding lots of extra miles or living and sleeping in the van may prompt some extra things to think about.

Take a Test Drive .

It should be possible for you to take your potential van for a test drive before you buy it. If you’re lucky, you may be able to borrow it for a night or two to test it out in a local campground (for already converted versions).

If not, or if the van you’re considering isn’t converted for living out of, consider renting a similar model from EscapeCampervans.com, RVShare.com, Outdoorsy.com, or another service.

Even if the model you rent isn’t much like your dream van, you can get a more hands-on experience for what life on the road might be like.

You can also test out different features, and you may discover things that change your priorities around before you’ve spent your hard-earned money on a less-than-perfect van.

Final Thoughts

As overwhelming as buying your van may be, remember that this is the start of a wonderful adventure!

You’re about to open yourself up to some amazing experiences and sights, and you will remember this time forever.

Not to mention, you will probably have some crazy stories to tell throughout and after your journeys, meeting new people in all sorts of places.

Don’t let the process of finding the perfect van get in the way of that. Hopefully this guide will help you navigate your search with greater knowledge and ease.

At very least, we hope it helps you get on the right track toward finding your new home base for full-time vanlife.

After you’ve bought your van, it’s time to start your conversion! Unless you have purchased a van that’s already converted, this can be another somewhat overwhelming task.

We will be following this post with another featuring some great van conversions and layouts, so stay tuned!

Aaron Richardson

About Author / Aaron Richardson

Aaron Richardson is an expert RVer and the co-founder of RVing Know How. Aaron, along with his wife Evelyn, has been living and traveling in their Keystone Fuzion RV since 2017. Their adventures span across the country and beyond, including memorable RVing experiences in Mexico. Aaron's passion for the outdoors and RVing shines through in his writings, where he shares a blend of travel stories, practical tips, and insights to enhance the RV lifestyle.

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15 Best Vans For Living In Full-Time

Van conversion guide.

last updated: Dec 8, 2022

Are you planning on living in a van full time?

Congratulations! That is one of the biggest and most rewarding decisions you could make. 

The next step after deciding to live in a van full-time, is to choose that van! 

You’ll want to do lots of research to be sure that you choose the right van- it is going to be your new home after all. 

We’ve gone ahead and taken the guesswork out of the equation for you, and have created a list of the best vans for living full time in! 

In this guide, we cover the best vans for living full time in, as well as 15 examples of conversions of those vans so you can see exactly how to turn that specific van into your new home on wheels.

Let’s jump right in!

What to Consider when Choosing a Van for Full-Time Van Life

Size of the van.

The size of your van is perhaps the most important factor to consider when choosing a van to live full-time in.

While not being able to stand up in a van for a few days or weeks at a time may be manageable, odds are, this may become old and frustrating to deal with while living full-time in a van.

To combat this, you’ll want to choose a van that is tall enough for you to stand up in- even once it is fully insulated, and floors and ceilings are added. 

Reliability of the Van

If you’re going to be living in a van full-time, you probably don’t want to be subjected to mishaps like breakdowns and engine problems. 

Of course these things do happen. However,  with a high-quality van, they will happen less frequently. 

One of the best ways to ensure you are purchasing a high-quality, reliable van, is to have a pre-purchase inspection done on your van.

15 Best Vans For Full-Time Van Life

1. mercedes sprinter van.

Yellow Sprinter Van

  • Roof height: 170cm low roof, 200cm high roof 
  • Wheelbase: 
  • Length: 325cm SWB, 432cm LWB
  • Width: 178cm

Off-Road Capability : Yes!

The Sprinter Van is offered with either rear 2wd or 4wd for off-roading.

Prices: $27,000 used/ $35,000 new SWB/ $50,000+ LWB with upgrades

Pros of the Mercedes Sprinter Van for Full Time Van Life

  • They are incredibly durable. 

It is not uncommon for Sprinter Vans to run past 300,000 miles, and so with a Sprinter Van, you can rest assured that your home on wheels will remain running for quite some time.

  • They are popular for full-time van life.

Because so many people live in Sprinter Vans full-time, there is so much information out there on how to convert a Sprinter Van!

Cons of the Mercedes Sprinter Van for Full Time Van Life

  • They are expensive.

The Sprinter Van name and quality certainly come with a hefty price tag.

  • They can be difficult to find a mechanic for. 

Oftentimes, mechanics will refer Sprinter Vans to the dealer. This is less than ideal for full-time van lifers, as there may not be a dealer in your area, and dealerships are very expensive.

This Sprinter Van has a 144 wheelbase with an extra-high roof, and has housed its owners on the road for 5 whole years!

Fixed bed by the kitchen of a Sprinter Van

This Sprinter Van Conversion has plenty of space for a full kitchen with an induction stove, fridge, large sink, and even a toaster oven!

There is also plenty of room for a fixed bed.

Seating area in a Sprinter van conversion

With the help of swivels, the front seats twist around to serve as a living room/seating area. 

Even in a MWB, this Sprinter Van is suitable for full-time van life.

Full video → Years of Full-time Van Life

2. Citroen Relay/ Peugeot Boxer/Fiat Ducato

White Citroen Relay Van

  • Roof Height: 166cm low roof, 193cm medium roof, or 217cm high roof
  • Length:267cm SWB, 312cmLWB, and 370cm LWB extended
  • Width: 187cm

Off-Roading Capability: Yes.

Prices: $22,000 (used) / $33,000 (SWD)/ $50,000 (LWB)

**The Citroen Relay, Peugeot Boxer, and Fiat Ducato are all essentially the same van based on the Ducato Chassis, and they are all excellent vans for living in full-time. 

Pros of the for Citroen Relay/ Peugeot Boxer/ Fiat Ducato for Full Time Van Life

  • With factors like roll-over mitigation and enhanced steering control, this is one of the safest vans on the market!
  • These vans come at a more affordable price point than other vans on the market.
  • These vans get fantastic gas mileage, which will save you money in the long run while living in the van!
  • They are very wide. This is great because you can fit your bed widthwise in the van to save space.

Cons of the Citroen Relay/ Peugeot Boxer/ Fiat Ducato for Full Time Van Life

  • These vans don’t have much storage located in the cab.
  • They aren’t as mechanically reliable as some other vans.

Example 

This incredible van conversion features a Peugeot Boxer designed for full-time van life!

Pugeot Boxer van kitchen and sink

This is one of the most unique and creative van conversions we’ve ever seen.

In addition to a fully-stocked kitchen with a sink, stove, and refrigerator, this van’s kitchen also has an espresso maker!

This van also has a double fixed bed, full shower with toilet, and spacious working area with an additional two seatbelted seats.

Plus, this van is more than equipped to take guests along- there is a second double bed that can be converted in the van with an ingenious slat system.

Pugeot Boxer Van bedroom

The Peugeot Boxer is clearly a great van for living in full-time, just look at this conversion!

Full video → Winter Van Tour

3. Ram Promaster

Black Ram Promaster Van

  • Roof Height: 165cm low roof, 190cm high roof
  • Length: 345cm SWB, 403cm LWB
  • Width: 190cm

Off-Roading Capability:  No

Prices: $9,000used/$27,000 SWB/$45,000 LWB with upgrades

Pros of the Ram Promaster for Full Time Van Life

  • The Ram Promaster is the widest van on the market.
  • Promasters are frequently used as cargo vans, so this is a great van option for stealth camping.
  • The Promaster is fuel efficient (20mpg), so you’ll save money while living on the road!

Cons of the Ram Promaster for Full Time Van Life

  • The Ram Promaster doesn’t have as many safety features as its competitors. 
  • The lack of a 4wd option limits where you can take this van.

While not all of us are professional chefs, we can still all be impressed by this utterly astounding Ram Promaster van conversion.

Camper kitchen and sink

The kitchen in this van conversion is breathtaking. 

It has an impressive 21-inch Furrion oven , stovetop, massive fridge, and a deep sink.

On top of all those features, it is also complete with a beautiful blue tile backsplash.

White -tiled camper van shower

As if the kitchen wasn’t enough, the bathroom in this campervan is remarkable. 

It is complete with a lovely white tile full shower, complete with hot water and a Nature’s Head Composting Toilet .

The bed in a Ram Promaster Van

There is also room for a large double bed in addition to a fixed bench seat area. 

With conversions like this possible, the Ram Promaster is easily one of the best vans to live out of!

Full video → Camper Designed by a Professional Chef

4. Ford Transit

Off-grid Ford Transit Van

  • Roof Height: 182cm medium roof, 205cm high roof
  • Length: 330cm SWB, 375cm LWB
  • Width: 139cm

Prices: $20,000 used/$25,000 SWB/$42,000 LWB with upgrades

Pros of the Ford Transit for Full Time Van Life

  • The Ford Transit has loads of safety features, including collision warnings and pre-collision assist.
  • The Ford Transit is very easy to drive.
  • Repair costs are incredibly low.
  • The Ford Transit has a spacious interior.
  • Used Ford Transits can be found at very affordable price points.

Cons of the Ford Transit for Full Time Van Life

  • At 14-17mpg, Ford Transits do not get the best gas mileage.
  • While repair costs are low, Ford Transits aren’t as mechanically reliable as other vans on the market.

This Ford Transit is proof that you can have a wonderful van to live in full-time- without breaking the bank!

Red Ford Transit Campervan

The design in this Ford Transit is simple yet functional and aesthetic. The kitchen is simple, with a single burner and sink.

There is a stealthy sliding hatch for access to the cab, and plenty of overhead storage.

Massive workspace in a Ford Transit Campervan

The highlight of this van conversion is the massive workspace! 

This setup has enough space for four people to easily work remotely with ease, and there are charging wall outlets placed accordingly around the table.

When not in use as a workspace, the table and seats convert down into a double bed.

Overall, the van and build of this Ford Transit Van Conversion cost under $14,000, and I’d say it turned out pretty well!

Full video → Ezra’s Van Conversion

5. VW Crafter

Green VW Crafter

  • Roof Height: 167cm Low roof, 193cm high roof, 218cm extra high roof
  • Length: 365cm medium wheelbase, 432cm long wheelbase, 470 cm long extended wheelbase
  • Width: 135cm

Prices: $25,000 used/$49,000SWB new/$85,000 extended LWB with upgrades

Pros of the VW Crafter for Full Time Van Life

  • The VW Crafter is the largest campervan you can buy.
  • The cab of the Crafter is equipped with plenty of storage.
  • The interior of the VW Crafter is very customizable.
  • They are very reliable vehicles.

Cons of the VW Crafter for Full Time Van Life

  • The VW Crafter is the most expensive campervan on the market.

This lovely VW Crafter Van Conversion is the perfect example of a Crafter in action for full-time van life.

VW Crafter van conversion

The cab is closed off to the back of the van, but there is still a window built-in for access between the two spaces.

L-shped couch in VW Crafter camper van

This setup has plenty of space, and even fits a large L-shaped couch! Having a couch in the van is truly quite the luxury.

At night, the couch simply converts into a king-sized bed utilizing a clever slat system- one of our favorite campervan bed ideas!

Full video → Land Yacht! Incredible VW Van Conversion

6. Renault Master

Renault Master Van

  • Roof Height: 179cm, 208cm tall roof
  • Length: 318cm SWB, 368 LWB
  • Width: 138 cm

Prices: $15,000 used / $44,000 SWB / $62,000 LWB with upgrades

Pros of the Renault Master for Full Time Van Life

  • The Renault Master has a powerful engine.
  • It is possible to find very affordable used Renault Masters.
  • The interior of the Renault Master is very suitable for van conversion.
  • The Renault Master can handle a very heavy payload, so this van can certainly carry the weight of your full-time van conversion.

Cons of the for Full Time Van Life

  • This van needs frequent mechanical work done to keep it running smoothly.

This Renault Master campervan Conversion is truly mind-boggling.

Not only does it have a stunningly decorated interior, but it also has plenty of space for an incredible campervan layout!

Renault Master camper van kitchen

The kitchen in this campervan is quite large and has a huge sink, oven, stove, and refrigerator.

Living room/bedroom in Renault Master RV

This campervan’s living room/bedroom is a true masterpiece.

They managed to fit a massive L-shaped couch, so there is plenty of space for lounging and entertaining.

This area is also equipped with a Lagun Swivel Table , so the space can also serve as a work area. 

Not to mention the TV setup- Gaming/movie nights must be incredible in this van!

Full video → Inspirational Campervan Conversion

7. International School Bus

Red International School Bus

  • Roof Height: 182 cm standard, 198 cm high roof
  • Dimensions:
  • Total Length: 7.6 meters mini, 10.6 meters medium, 13.7 meters standard
  • Total Width: 1.82 meters mini, 1.82 meters medium, 2.43 meters standard

Off-Roading Capability: No.

Prices: $7,500 used / $65,000 new / $100,000+ new with upgrades

Pros of the International School bus for Full Time Van Life

  • Size! The International School bus has so much room that your opportunities for conversion are endless.
  • Used buses can be found at a very affordable price point.
  • Because these buses were designed to safely transport children, they are incredibly safe.

Cons of the International School Bus for Full Time Van Life

  • Parking, driving, and maneuvering a school bus will prove difficult.
  • This is not the vehicle to go for if you want to participate in any sort of stealth camping.
  • The medium and standard sized school buses can only be serviced at a mechanic for trucks, due to their large size.

With an International Schools Bus, the opportunities for conversion are essentially limitless.

Fully-equipped kitchen in an International School Bus conversion

This incredible conversion has it all.

A fully-equipped kitchen lines one wall, while a massive seating area lines the other. There is plenty of room for the whole family here!

The seating area in a camper bus

The back of the van has a massive king bed- this bus certainly has the space for it! 

I also love how much natural light the windows let in, this is certainly a benefit of an International School Bus conversion.

The bedroom of an International School bus conversion

Full video → School Bus Converted to an Amazing Tiny Home

8. Mercedes Vario 814

Mercedes Vario RV

  • Roof Height: 158 cm
  • Length: 690 cm
  • Width: 237 cm

Prices: $10,000-$25,000 used

Pros of the Mercedes Vario for Full Time Van Life

  • The Vario is so big that you will have ample living space in a Mercedes Vario van conversion.
  • The Mercedes Vario has a unique and vintage look.
  • You can find the Mercedes Vario at an affordable price point.

Cons of the Mercedes Vario for Full Time Van Life

  • Because the Mercedes Vario is no longer being manufactured, it may be difficult to find replacement parts for it.
  • Due to its large size, the Vario is difficult to park and maneuver.
  • You will not be able to do any stealth camping with the Vario.

This lovely conversion demonstrates the true potential of a Mercedes Vario conversion for a traveling van.

This van truly makes the most of the extra space. 

The front of the van has a full shower and bathroom.

Spacious kitchen in a Mercedes Vario Van

The galley houses the kitchen, which is quite large and has plenty of counter space, as well as overhead storage. 

One of the benefits of a large vehicle for van conversion is the option to have a fixed bed as well as a large seating area.

This particular conversion has a large fixed bed as well as a huge couch seating area!

Camper van bedroom with huge windows

I also love how they hung the surfboard up on the ceiling. Not only is this a way to keep your surfboards safe inside, but it also serves as a great piece of decor. 

Full video → Unique, Modern, and Secure Van Conversion

9. Iveco Daily

Iveco Daily Camper conversion

  • Roof Height: 155cm low roof, 190 cm medium roof, 210cm high roof
  • Length: 352cm SWB, 410cm LWB
  • Width: 200cm

Prices:  $40,000 used / $50,000 base model / $130,000 with LWB and upgrades

Pros of the Iveco Daily for Full Time Van Life

  • The Iveco Daily is one of the best vans on the market for an off-roading vehicle. For anyone who wants to live in a van full time and go on off-roading adventures, this is a great option.
  • This is a huge campervan, so there will be plenty of room for your conversion.

Cons of the Iveco Daily for Full Time Van Life

  • Due to its large size, this is not the easiest van on the market to drive around and maneuver.
  • Iveco Daily Vans are quite expensive.
  • Large fridge/stove/ sink
  • Indoor shower solution
  • Large seating area 

If you’re looking for a large campervan to convert, look no further than the Iveco Daily- one of the best road trip vans for those looking to do some off-roading!

Seating area in an Iveco camper van

This campervan conversion is incredible. It takes full advantage of this large van’s size, and incorporates a large fixed seated area directly behind the two front seats.

Iveco Daily camper van kitchen area

Moving further along the galley of the van is a large kitchen area complete with plenty of counter space, a sink, stove, and refrigerator.

The hidden shower of an Iveco Daily Van conversion

The shower system in this campervan is ingenious. The flooring in the kitchen is a shower pan, and the sink area is all watersafe.

There is a showerhead on the ceiling of the van, and a shower curtain protects the rest of the van from getting wet!

The back of the van has a large fixed bed, and it can fit lengthwise in the van due to the extra-large shape of the Iveco Daily, along with a little help from flares- one of the best campervan bed ideas. 

Full video → Genius Van Conversion

10. LDV Convoy

LDV Convoy Van

  • Height: 2.8m

Prices: $3000-$10,000 used

Pros of the for Full Time Van Life

  • LDV parts and labor are inexpensive.
  • The LDV Convoy is very affordable.
  • You will have plenty of space for your conversion inside this van!
  • The LDV Convoy doesn’t have the nicest handling, and is not the easiest van on the market to drive and maneuver.
  • Due to their age, the LDV convoys do need to be serviced every 6 months.
  • This is an older van, and like many older vans, mechanical issues tend to occur more frequently than with newer vehicles.

Spacious kitchen of an LDV Convoy camper

This particular campervan conversion has an open and airy layout. 

The kitchen is large and spacious, with custom spice racks built-in right above the sink.

In the back of the van, there is a very large couch seating area, with a collapsible table in the middle.

LDV Convoy camper van bedroom

When not in use as a table, the seating area collapses into a very large double bed.

The LDV has a very large and boxy interior which makes it great for conversion, and when you can convert a van as nicely as this one, it is no surprise why the LDV Convoy is one of the best vans for travel and living from.

Full video → Unique Self-Build Conversion

11. Vauxhall Movano

Red Vauxhall Movano RV

  • Roof Height: 170cm H1, 189 cm H2, 204 cm H3, and 214 cm H4
  • Length: 318 cm SWB, 368 cm MWB, and 433 cm LWB

Prices: $5,000-$25,000 used/ $40,000 new

Pros of the Vauxhall Movano for Full Time Van Life

  • The Vauxhall Movano is a very tall van, so you will be able to stand up with ease in this van- which is a major convenience when it comes to living in a van full-time.
  • It comes in many different sizes, so you can easily choose the perfect size to fit your needs for living in a van full-time.

Cons of the Vauxhall Movano for Full Time Van Life

  • It is not the easiest van to maneuver and drive. 
  • The Vauxhall Movano does not have as many safety features as other vans on the market.

If you’re considering converting a Vauxhall Movano to live in full time, here is an example of an incredible conversion for full-time van life!

This beauty is a MWB fully converted to be lived in full-time. 

The kitchen is clean and simple, with an extendable countertop for extra space for meal preparation.

Fixed bed at the back of  a Vauxhall Movano van

The back of this van conversion is incredibly impressive. Not only is there a fixed bed, but also a fixed seating area! 

The large fixed platform bed fits lengthwise in the van. 

At the foot of the bed, there is a small bench seat area, with a table that slides out in between the bench seats! 

Underneath one of the bench seats, there is even a portable toilet. 

This van conversion is clean and simple, yet completely sufficient for full-time van life! 

Full video → Unique and Spacious MWB Van Conversion

12. Coachmen Starflyte

Coachmen Starflyte Motorhome

  • Roof Height: 190cm
  • Total Length: 6.4 m
  • Width: 2.2 m

Prices: $10,000-$30,000 used

Pros of the Coachmen Starflyte for Full Time Van Life

  • It’s already equipped to be lived in full-time, so you can save time and money preparing to live in this vehicle full-time!
  • With such a large amount of space, living on the road full-time will be easy and comfortable.

Cons of the Coachmen Starflyte for Full Time Van Life

  • These Rvs are reported to have frequent water leaks, so you may have to complete some renovations of the water system.

The Starflyte Coachmen is one of the best options for conversions if you’re looking for an extra-large space to live in!

Kitchen area of a Coachmen Starflyte RV

These Rvs are quite large, and come at an impressively affordable price point. 

This impressive conversion demonstrates the full potential of the Coachmen Starflyte. 

There is not only a large kitchen and bathroom area, but also a fixed bed and a fixed dinette seating area. 

For anyone looking for a large vehicle to live in full-time, you should look no further than the Coachmen Starflyte! 

Full video → A Totally Remodeled RV

13. Nissan NV

A Nissan NV Campervan crossing a bridge

  • Roof Height: 135cm low roof, 195 cm high roof
  • Length: 273cm
  • Width: 122 cm

Off-Roading Capability: Yes!

Prices: $8,000 used / $30,000 standard / $45,0000 with upgrades 

Pros of the Nissan NV for Full Time Van Life

  • The Nissan NV is very light and easy to maneuver, so driving this vehicle around will be a breeze!
  • This is one of the most affordable campervans on the market.
  • It is very easy to have repairs done on a Nissan NV.
  • There is a fully electric version available. 

Cons of the Nissan NV for Full Time Van Life

  • The Nissan NV only gets about 10-15mpg, so it will rack up a hefty fuel cost over time.
  • While it is big enough for full-time van life, it is still a smaller campervan, so you will have to get a little clever with your van conversion to fit everything in.

While the Nissan NV may be one of the smaller vans on this list, it is still a fantastic option for a camper conversion. 

Plus, there is even a fully-electric version!

The kitchen in a Nissan NV Camper conversion

For example, this clever conversion fits a kitchen, bed, workspace, and still has ample storage. 

Full video → Fully Electric Van Conversion

14. Ford E350

Off-road Ford E350 camper conversion

  • Roof Height: 137cm
  • Length: 350 cm 
  • Width: 133cm

Off-Roading Capability: Yes, with some models.

Prices: $5000 used/ $35,000-$45,000 new

Pros of the Ford E350 for Full Time Van Life

  • These vans can handle a heavy payload so the weight of your conversion can be a little heavier than with other vans.
  • These vans come at a much more affordable price point than some of the more popular choices for vanlife. 

Cons of the Ford E350 for Full Time Van Life

  • This van has high annual repair costs. 
  • It is a smaller-sized van.
  • The Ford E350 is very susceptible to rust.

For anyone considering a Ford E350 as one of the best vans to live in full time, we sure do have a fantastic example. 

This incredible conversion takes full advantage of the fact that this van is smaller sized, and makes good use of every bit of space. 

Additionally, this van has been fully upgraded with a 6-inch lift and off-roading kit.

Ford E350 van sleeping area

The layout is quite open, and the front seats are on swivels to offer a nice seating area. 

This van is complete with a full kitchen, including a Camp Chef stove and oven combo.

Full kitchen in a Ford E350 RV

The back of the van has a huge fixed double platform bed which has plenty of space underneath it for storage. 

Full video → Epic Off-Road Van

15. Toyota Coaster

Toyota Coaster mini bus

  • Roof Height: 189 cm
  • Total Length: 625 cm
  • Total Width: 202 cm

Prices: $7,000-$30,000 used/ $100,000 new

Pros of the Toyota Coaster for Full Time Van Life

  • Its large size provides plenty of space for full-time van life
  • Used, older models of the Toyota Coaster can be found for a very affordable price!
  • Toyota Coasters will hold their value in the long term.

Cons of the Toyota Coaster for Full Time Van Life

  • Due to its large size, stealth camping is not a viable option with the Toyota Coaster.

With so much space and at an affordable price, the Toyota Coaster is one of the best vans to live in!

Take this beautiful conversion for example- 

This van conversion features a walk-in bathroom, a large kitchen, and an incredibly spacious bed in the back.

Large kitchen in a Toyota Coaster camper conversion

I particularly love how open and creative this conversion is.

There is a lovely bench seat couch lounger in the van set just beneath a window. When not in use as a lounger, this space converts into a dinette with two seats and a table!

Big counterspace in a Toyota coaster campervan

This Toyota Coaster conversion is quite impressive, and certainly helps make a case for the Toyota Coaster as one of the best van life vans.

Full video → The Ultimate Tiny House on Wheels

Mercedes E-Sprinter (coming 2024!)

Mercedes-Benz is adding an all-electric variant to the  Sprinter  van family for 2024. Dubbed the  eSprinter,  this electrified workhorse is sure to appeal to eco-conscious vanlifers! Especially when considering it is likely to have a 300-mile range (this is ground-breaking because existing electric vans in this size class have ranges of around 70 miles). This might be the first electric vehicle suitable for (comfortable) full time van life!

travel vans to live in

The versatility and load capacity of Sprinter vans hold appeal for a wide range of uses in the commercial sector. Still, the recent overlanding trend has boosted the popularity of diesel and gasoline Sprinter vans among everyday consumers as well. Competence off-road and aftermarket possibilities have turned a lot of eyes to these Mercedes haulers. We are interested to see how shoppers respond when eSprinters start production in Charleston, South Carolina, during the second half of 2023.

There isn’t a lot of information that we can share about the all-new 2024 Mercedes-Benz eSprinter yet. What we do know is that the largest of its available batteries is coming to the U.S. first. According to an independently monitored test performed by Mercedes-Benz, this battery proved capable of just over 300 miles of range on a full charge while averaging 35.2 kWh/100 miles (21.9 kWh/100 km). The calculations bear out that the U.S.-bound eSprinter should have a battery capacity a little north of 105 kWh. Pricing is not available at this time. But based on the price of the standard Sprinter, we think it’s safe to say the eSprinter will start above $50,000.

Final Thoughts

That’s about it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about each of these vans.

My hope is, that this guide will help you decide exactly which van is the best van for your new vanlife adventure!

Just remember to take your time, as buying the ideal van really is crucial.

The last thing you want to do is rush into a van that is maybe too old, or simply not big enough for your needs.

Instead, the ideal van will last you for years to come.

Build your own adventure

The guide anyone can use to convert a van into a camper! With over $350 worth of savings inside

Do you want to live vanlife at zero cost?

Nate Murphy knows how to buy vans, convert them quickly and efficiently - use them for years - and then sell them for a profit. This can make vanlife not just free, but profitable!

He has successfully done this for years and he teaches his friends and students to do exactly the same. It is not obvious, but anyone can do it if they have the knowledge!

Join Nate at his free online training (running today) and he will teach you exactly how he does this!

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The Van Conversion Guide (14th Edition)

The guide anyone can use to convert a van into a camper! This best-selling guide, now in its 14th Edition, has been used by thousands of people to transform a van into a camper.

  • 150+ page eBook
  • Helps you convert any kind of van
  • Diagrams for all the main systems
  • FREE mini-course - 28 video tutorials

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15 Best Vans To Live In Full Time

Vans to live in full time

Before you buy a live-in van, learn how to spot a lemon

Initiates to the van life often begin shopping with second-hand vans for conversion, or for campers that have been prebuilt by companies. In fact, we took the latter route, as it makes good sense for truly customising your kit.

Here’s what we’ve learnt about assessing whether the van’s in good nick before you buy it:

  • Check the seat belt for wear and tear . Pull it down a few times and check to see if the material is frayed. This will give you an indicator of how much use it’s had (after all, odometers can lie!)
  • Feel the bonnet before you switch the ignition on . Some dealers or sellers will warm the engine up before your arrival so that it looks as though the van starts up on the first time. If the bonnet is cold and it starts on the first go, then you’ve got a winner.
  • Place a hand near the exhaust pipe while the engine is running . You want to make sure that no black soot is coming out with the exhaust fumes.
  • Check the engine for signs of exterior wear and tear , and have a good look at the underneath of the chassis and exterior panelling for any signs of rust. Look closely, as they’re easy to cover up!
  • Finally, ask as many questions as possible, and do a DVLA check for previous owners before you go to look at the vehicle. Take a mechanic or a friend who knows their stuff with you if you’re a little unsure.

The 15 best vans you’ll love living in

The tiny houses you see on Instagram and Pinterest are often still palaces compared to your van, so it’s important to make sure that every inch of your ride counts. We’ve found the fifteen best vans to convert into rolling homes :

1. Mercedes Sprinter

Best van to live in - Sprinter

The quintessential conversion vehicle has to be the Mercedes Sprinter. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are the go-to vehicle for many conversion companies, thanks to their durability and power. If you’re looking for a sturdy base vehicle that is still reliable even when you get into ‘hundreds-of-thousands-of-miles’ territory, then a Sprinter is the van for you. Indeed, it is an ideal candidate for the off-the-grid home of your dreams .

Mercedes are a global name in the motoring world. So, whether you break down in Morocco or lose your exhaust in Kent, parts and spares aren’t hard to get hold of. There’s also lots of aftermarket products and specially made gear that you can buy to fit your Sprinter too, making it one of the most malleable vehicles on the market.

Best van to live in - Sprinter inside

The VW Bus remains the top choice of ‘best van to live in’ for many since the 1970’s. From the So-Cal surf days through to today’s Digital Nomad, the Volkswagen Bus Camper is an iconic vehicle immersed in van life culture. And, when you take a look at these busses up close, it’s not hard to see why.

Best van to live in - VW Bus

Sadly, the early VW busses aren’t in production anymore, so parts can be hard to come by, and expensive to purchase. Nevertheless, there’s a cadre of van life DIYers and small businesses using 3D printers to make some of the smaller interior parts themselves. There’s even a growing niche of companies specialising in replacing VW Bus engines with 100% electric options–perfect for turning a classic ride into an eco camper .

These busses are loved today just as much as they were almost 60 years ago, and remain the quintessential van for that ‘summer of love’ feeling. (Indeed, this is one of Van Clan founder Brandon’s personal favourites!)

3. Vauxhall Movano

Best van to live in - moving

I couldn’t wait any longer for this one! The Vauxhall Movano is the van I began full-time van life with. I’ve been riding it through the UK for 14 months, and can attest to its virtues for the gig firsthand.

We bought a 2003 model, with 90K miles on the clock and a fibreglass maxi roof. This is one of the tallest vans I’ve been in (it’s tall enough for Rose to do a headstand in), and it’s served us comfortably on our UK Van Life journey thus far.

Best van to live in - moving long shot

The best thing about a fibreglass roof is that it’s easy to cut through, and even easier to patch back over if you make a mistake or change your build plan. We had to do this pretty recently when we removed our beloved log burner–it’s still too soon to talk about it though.

As a live-in vehicle, the Movano has been a dream to run. Practically speaking, it’s just the right length to not have to worry about finding extra large parking spaces. Overall, if you don’t need the extra length of a Sprinter but want something tall enough for a fixed bed, then this is the best van to live in. Yes, I’m pretty biased, but I love our Vincent!

4. VW Crafter

Another classic VW product, and another quintessential van life pick. The VW Crafter, like the Sprinter and the Movano, is a commercial vehicle for transporting goods. Its spacious nature, plus its amazing build quality from a trustworthy manufacturer, make it a top pick for  van dwellers around the globe.

Best van to live in - VW Crafter

Parts are much easier to obtain for Crafters than their retro cousins, as they’re still in production today. So don’t worry about visiting a garage on the other side of the world on your travels.

These vans can cope with rough terrain just as well as they cruise down motorways and country lanes. Moreover, the Crafter is a top choice if you’re looking for an LWB (long wheel base) vehicle that doesn’t cost the earth.

5. Ford Transit

Best van to live in - Ford Transit

A true British classic, and the ride of choice for “white van men” everywhere, the Ford Transit Camper may just be the best van to live in. This is in no small part due to its universally renowned maker, with plenty cheap parts, and overall rugged construction.

The Ford Transit is typically a MWB (medium wheel base) vehicle, so it’s a little smaller than the likes of the Sprinter and the Movano. However, you can get LWB and E-LWB to make extra space for onboard showers, stoves, etc.

Best van to live in - Ford Transit interior

The Ford Transit Camper Conversion is a natural choice for the van-lifer in training who doesn’t have a massive budget, but wants a quality van to get them going on their travels.

It gets a hard rap from some people in the business, but we think that they’re great runners. Besides, their shape makes them easy to add wood panelling and interior features without too much hassle. It might not suit if you’re looking for extra headroom, so try out a few different models before you buy.

6. School Bus

Best van to live in - School bus

I know it’s not a van, but you can’t have a list based on alternative living methods without including the poster child of the lifestyle. Ask any American traveller, and they’ll tell you that this little yellow bus is the best van to live in because of its space, its durability, and because converted busses look downright awesome.

Think about how these busses get used day in and day out during their service lives. They’re kept in good nick by the schools, and built to last because they have to get kids from A to B on time, every day. Parts are readily available because American schools still use them. And, their bright yellow colour means that you’ll never lose track of where you parked your home again.

Best van to live in - school bus interior

So, why do we like this little adventure bus so much? Well, they can take on pretty much anything that you throw at them, and they look very homely inside once converted. The windows give ample light, and they’re high enough to have a fixed bed without losing tonnes of living space.

We’ve seen so many different school bus conversions, that we’ve lost count (one even had roof tiles on it!) Indeed, there’s a network of bus lifers out there who can help out if you’re stuck on what to purchase, or having mechanical problems. Trust in the people, and buy yourself a bus!

7. Renault Trafic

Best van to live in - Renault Traffic

Renault, Citroen, and Vauxhall vans are usually very much alike. In fact, they’re pretty much the same vehicle, with a slightly different exterior and badge. That being said, the Renault Trafic has seen some major conversion upgrades by certain companies that have thrown it ahead of its competition.

Take German conversion company Kompanja . They’ve turned a ‘run-of-the-mill’ goods vehicle into a camper with attitude, showing us the possibilities that can come with purchasing one of these vehicles.

Best van to live in - Renault Trafic Interior

In its base form, the standard Trafic van isn’t the best vehicle for long-term off grid living  because of its height. It is, however, perfect for the weekend warrior who likes to get out whenever they can. If you buy a ready-made conversion or are thinking about adding a pop-top into the equation, then everything changes.

Being able to stand up in your home is the one thing that we believe is essential if you’re on the road 24/7, and the addition of extra height would undoubtedly make us reconsider adding one of these to the Van Clan mobile fleet.

8. Knaus Boxdrive CUV

Knaus is well known for making futuristic looking vehicles with all of the modern conveniences that you could ever need for life on the road. And their Boxdrive CUV is a serious contender for the title of ‘best van to live in’. With space-age LED lighting, a clean and comfortable living space, luxury leather seating, a master bedroom, and an onboard shower, it is a true luxury van. Yet, it somehow doesn’t cost the earth.

Best van to live in - Boxdrive CUV

This ‘Caravanning Utility Vehicle’ is based on the VW Crafter that we touched on above, so you can see what is possible if you do want to convert your own home on wheels. While I love the country-house-on-wheels that Rose and I converted in our Movano, there’s no way that we could compete with this factory-made finish, nor the stylish, sleek interior that you get from a proper company-made model.

The Knaus might not have all of the extras that some of the more expensive vehicles have, such as the EarthRoamer or the VW California XXL , but it’s a premium ride in all the ways that count.

9. Citroen WildCamp

Best van to live in - Citroen Camper Van

Like the look of a retro van but don’t want the hassle of maintaining it? Citroen has come to the rescue with the WildCamp–a thoroughly modern vehicle with that classic motoring touch. It’s over 70 years since the Type H Van was roaming around our streets; now the WildCamp has brought this iconic ride back to life, and it’s ready to foster a whole new generation of  van life stories .

Best van to live in - Citroen Wildcamp interior

Any vehicle that uses the words ‘wild camp’ is bound to be built for off-grid living, and Citroen delivers on this model’s namesake. This is the easy choice for those adventures who just want to buy a vehicle and get out into the wilderness on the same day.

With its nostalgic retro feel and modern interior, you’ve got yourself an Instagram star in the making. More importantly, the CUV is comfortable, spacious, has enough storage for all of your cooking accessories and campervan gifts . It’s a reliable, smooth-running van that you can trust to get you to your destination–without feeling like you’ve been on a roller coaster for half of the journey.

10. Four Wheel Campers

Got your own truck but don’t want to buy a separate camper for the weekends? You need to give Four Wheel Campers a try.

These camping pods attach directly to your truck bed, and can be removed and put into storage whenever you like. We were lucky enough to be flown out to California to spend a bit of time in these beasts. We couldn’t believe how user-friendly they were, and how quickly we made them feel like home.

Best van to live in - Four Wheel Hawk

The pop-top on these four wheel campers provides ample space for standing, cooking and working, and the bed pulls out to make a sleeping platform that you never want to leave.

All in all, these camping units provide your favourite truck with an option into the van life. We thoroughly recommend checking out the Four Wheels Co website to find out more information–and to locate a dealer near you!

Best Van To Live In - Four Wheel Campers

11. Mercedes-Benz Luton Box Van

best van to live in - Luton

A Mercedes-Benz Luton Box Van can make a perfect home, as they allow you so much space. The Luton is still a fairly unusual choice, but is growing in popularity thanks to the rise in self-conversion and independent campervan conversion companies.

One of the best things about a Luton van is that the extra space above the cab of the van is large enough to comfortably hold a double bed that you can sit up in. This means that you can use the entirety of the main space solely as a living space and kitchen area, without worrying about where the bed should go.

A Luton van is even big enough to create a generously sized bathroom–and carry enough water to actually be able to use it! It also features an easy shape to convert, as all edges are straight and square. They also allow for more overhead storage, making the interior feel like a room in a house, rather than the inside of a van.  

best van to live in - luton interior

The Luton Box Van may boast a tonne of living space, but it’s small enough a vehicle to allow for easy driving and parking in most places. They are not an unusual van to see in a city (think removal and delivery vans), so driving really shouldn’t be a problem for you or anyone else on the road.

As they’re made by Mercedes, they are reliable and durable. Indeed, the most important feature of any van for full-time living is that they’ll go anywhere and last you a long time. Besides the practical aspects, there’s just  so much room for creativity in your interior decorating! Overall, if you’ve got the will to make it work, the Luton Box Van is a shoo-in as one of the best vans to live in.

12. VW California

Best Motorhomes - VW C

If you’re looking for a reliable van for day trips or long weekends, the VW California may be the perfect choice. Heck, if you’re used to spending a lot of time outdoors and love a minimalistic lifestyle, then you could probably live in this van for months at a time!

The VW California comes in at about £50,000, so they aren’t exactly the cheapest campers on the market. But the extra expense is definitely worth it, especially if you’re looking for a flexible ride equally adept at navigating the wilds as an underground carpark.

travel vans to live in

Just like the VW Busses of old, you can customise the VW California to your specifications. This vintage-looking number above is a testament to the fact that a modern camper can still hold a sense of retro-class. That picture also gives you a good idea as to how easy it is to live in this van once the top is popped.

Best Motorhomes - VW C Beach

This VW California may be ‘the best van to live in’ because it shows that the very notion of van life is totally subjective. It’s really all down to how small a space you can comfortably live in.

With a pop-top or awning, you can transform a small space into something luxurious. Imagine cooking outside in good weather–it could even feel like you’ve got an extra room in the van (albeit a massive green and blue one, with no roof, and lots of birds floating about). Besides extendability, small campers  like the VW California (and its junior counterpart, the VW Caddy) can get to places where big panel vans just can’t.

Consider the type of places that you want to go to before you purchase your van or start converting!

13. Rivian Electric Truck

Using the slide out kitchen in the truck at a campsite

It’s come to my attention that we don’t have many electric campervans  in this list, so I’m changing that straight away. The Rivian Electric Truck could well be the best van to live in if you like living green, and are conscious about the environment (as well you should be!)

Rivian’s latest creation can drive almost anywhere, and can cover over 400+ miles with a single charge. That’s a mammoth distance for an electric truck to cover, and a serious feat of engineering.

Rivian Electric Truck in front of rocky mountains

Admittedly, the Rivian is perhaps more impressive for its off road capabilities than as a camper that you could live in full time. But it’s still perfect for living off grid on weekends, or for long holidays out in the wilderness. The pop-up tent on the back of the truck keeps you up off the wet ground (and away from annoying creepy crawlies), then packs down easily when you’re ready to move on.

There’s also a pull out kitchen for cooking, and plenty of dedicated space for storing gear and gadgets.

travel vans to live in

Electric off-road trucks such as the Rivian Electric Truck and the Tesla Truck Camper  are making waves in the over-landing world. And, we may well start to see more electric behemoths hitting the roads over the next few years. Truck campers like this are perfect if your van life adventures regularly take you into the back-end-of-beyond, or if your driveway consists of 50 miles of rough desert road.

Be the king or queen of the wilderness without killing the planet with this massive 4×4 monster. Head over to our article on the Rivian Electric Truck for more information on what this baby can do!

14. Sportsmobile Classic 4×4

Best van to live in - green Sportsmobile Classic 4x4 exterior

Up next on our list of the best vans to live in is one of my all-time favourites: the Sportsmobile Classic 4×4. If you’re looking for something that will serve you just as well on rough terrain as it does on the freeway, then this beast of a van is the one for you.

The Sportsmobile takes a Ford Cutaway body and moulds it with a reinforced fibreglass shell. The combination yields a unique look that’s perfect for off-roading, yet amply spacious enough for full-time van living. It’s got all the high-spec upgrades needed to take your vehicle on the rockiest tracks, including a ground clearance of a whopping 16.5”.

Best van to Live in - Sportsmobile Classic 4x4 interior

Inside, the Sportsmobile Classic 4×4 utilises a pop-top to give you extra headroom, meaning you can stand up without a problem. This is good news if you plan on living in or spending months at a time in your campervan, as it’s great to be able to stretch out and stand when cooking.

The interior is entirely customisable to your needs and can, therefore, include everything you need for a life on the road. This could consist of a full kitchenette with sink, hot water, cooker, fridge and storage space; a seating area that converts into a bed; and a complete solar electric system, eliminating the need to source electricity from the grid. Plus, there are plenty of extra storage boxes mounted to the exterior of the vehicle which are great for muddy or bulky equipment.

The Sportsmobile Classic 4×4 comes in at $40,000, with plenty of added extras available. Not the cheapest van on the market, but if you’re looking for a camper van to take you wherever your heart desires, then it could be worth the investment.

15. Ram ProMaster

Ram Promaster from outside

Last but not least on our list of the best vans to live in, we have the Ram ProMaster. The ProMaster is becoming a significant competitor to the Mercedes Sprinter and Ford Transit vans in the campervan world, and is worth considering if you plan on living in your van all-year-round.

The Ram ProMaster earns its claim as one of the best vans to live in with ample space. Indeed there’s enough to fit a full-sized bed across the width of the interior. This is in contrast to the Sprinter and Transit, where you must sacrifice length. This can save you loads of space in your conversion for other components in your campervan build. The ProMaster is also the only one of these three vehicles to have front-wheel drive, making it easy to drive, handle and park.

Inside a Ram Promaster

You can easily convert the inside of a Ram ProMaster to accommodate everything you could ever need for an epic adventure. Here’s a practical example: a plug-n-play conversion kit from Wayfarer Vans . This handy little kit means any DIY novice can create an excellent campervan set up for under $10,000.

The kit comes complete with flooring; cargo tracks to secure your gear in under the bed; wall and ceiling panelling with 100% natural wool insulation; shelving; a kitchen unit with 5-gallon fresh and grey water tanks; sink with hand pump; large bed platform and mattress; boot box; and privacy panelling for sliding and rear windows. The only things left to add is your gear (oh, and a toilet) and you’re ready to start living in the Dodge Ram Van Life!

Is A Self–Conversion The Best Van To Live In?

Not at all! If you want to get a van that’s pre-built and cuts out the hassle, then that’s fine by us. The bonus of buying a pre-built camper is that if anything goes wrong with the interior fixture and fittings, then the deal can usually either fix it themselves or recommend someone good that they use themselves.

And That’s A Wrap!

Thank you for checking out our list of the best vans to live in. I hope that it has given you some inspiration for your own adventures and has helped you to pick a vehicle that is suitable for your individual needs. If you’re still spoilt for choice or need a little bit more help then join the Van Clan community on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram and ask others to help – nothing beats advice from the experts after all!

More Content From The Van Clan Team!

  • This Vanlife Camper Shower is a great gift for the adventurer in your life.
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  • Get the Parrot Anafi for the ultimate drone experience.

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The 7 Best Vans for Van Living – Van Life in 2024

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  • Last Updated: January 30, 2024

If you’re interested in getting started with van life and not sure how to find the best vans for van living, we’ll break down everything you need to know about choosing the best home on the road in this post!

When we first started researching the best van for van life we felt completely overwhelmed. We primarily saw several different types of vans out on the road and the more we began talking with van owners and touring different vans the more confused we became about which van would be right for us.

Choosing which van you want is the most important decision of your burgeoning van life so far. It’s one thing to think about taking the plunge to begin living in a van , but once you hand someone you met on Craigslist a wad of cash and drive away with their old van, there is no backing out.

Or, maybe you opt to buy new and feel even more pressure because anything you don’t end up liking about the van is 100% your fault for making that pick. Maybe you should have gone with the more spacious option or the one with a “boxier” fit instead of the first one available on the Facebook marketplace.

Choosing the best vans for van life is like shopping for a house and a car at the same time. Unless you’re a carpenter and a mechanic, you’re going to have to take a lot of people’s word about the quality of your purchase.

While we can’t tell you whether or not the van of your dreams has a faulty transmission, we can set you in the right direction by looking at a wide range of the best vans nomads have to choose from. Before you start planning the layout and loading up on all of the van life essentials you have to find the best van that meets a wide range of criteria.

The options we’ll cover below are all conversion cargo vans that account for the primary DIY favorites as well as most modern Class B RVs professionally outfitted. All the big names including Airstream, Westfalia, Winnebago and Coachman use these vans as the basis for their luxurious Class B RVs.

Some of the best vans for van life wound up here by accident. It doesn’t matter if these vans’ first purpose was cargo delivery, the mountaintop or soccer practice. All of them have found a second home in the van life.

We’ve spent years driving around and poking our heads inside the neighbor’s camper vans to get some inspiration. We can spot a roof vent from 3 blocks away and we’ve seen all sorts of buses, vans, cars, and trucks converted into second homes.

Brave amateur engineers and van life start-ups are doing more with less. And if you choose the right van, you could find a life on the road more luxurious than most college apartments. But it won’t be easy!

These vans aren’t just houses and they’re not just cars. When so many variables are at play, it can be hard to sort out the contenders from the pretenders. We all know about Mercedes Sprinter vans, but what else is out there?

We’ll cover some classic names and surprise contenders head to toe to paint a picture of the best vans for van life no matter the budget. And if you need help making a purchasing decision, check out this post on buying a campervan.

Table of Contents

Best Vans for Van Living

Mercedes sprinter, dodge promaster, ford transit, chevy astro, ford e-series or chevy express, notable exceptions, roof height, wheelbase (length), front, rear, all-wheel or 4-wheel drive, maintenance costs, buildability, other questions to answer when choosing your van.

The majority of vans being built out post-2020 fall under one of the “Big 3” brands: Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Promaster and Ford Transit. All three of these camper vans are universally recognized as the best in the business.

Each one has a few strengths and weaknesses, so let’s take a closer look. And if you’re looking specifically for the best van for camper conversion, we have a post that lays out a little more detailed information on what to look for when making such a big decision.

Sprinter Van Parked By Trees

The Mercedes Sprinter is the greatest of all time. Sprinter vans were the first conversion vans to hit mainstream success with a diesel engine and plenty of interior space.

That engine sets this mobile home apart from the competition. You can expect Mercedes Sprinter vans to last for 300,000 miles at the bare minimum.

There is only one catch. This quintessential van is one of the most expensive conversion vans to repair. You can’t limp into any small town and expect to find someone who knows how to work on these complicated engines.

The good news is, these vans have been around for decades and have proven to be reliable and a really, really good time.

The huge used market is a testament to Sprinter’s success. Twenty-year-old cargo vans with 150,000 miles on them still attract a high price, especially if they’re four-wheel drive.

There’s no such thing as a cheap rig with 4X4, and combining better fuel economy and off-roading prowess with a diesel engine is the safest bet on the market for getting your money’s worth.

Dodge Ram Promaster Van Life

Vanlifers who count every square inch quickly point out that the Dodge Ram Promaster’s unique cargo area makes it the widest conversion van on the market.

The square shape extends the headspace and gives more room for activities. It’s only a few inches wider than the competition, but anyone who has lived in a car before knows what a difference of 3 inches can do when it’s time to go to bed.

How important? It’s the only conversion van wide enough to fit a full-size bed side-to-side.

Across the board, this van is built more for comfort than power. The Promaster has the smallest engine of the three main players and no four-wheel drive options.

This, unfortunately, disqualifies the van from many adventures, but anyone who doesn’t plan to spend much time on forest roads won’t need these abilities and will cherish the good gas mileage.

Couple Standing Outside Ford Transit Van Life

The Ford Transit simple van conversion is our pick for the best middle-class cargo van out there. It may not have the long-lasting diesel engine of Mercedes or the interior comfort of the Promaster, but it’s much more inexpensive to fix a Ford than other vans.

We hate repair costs, and no matter which van you choose, you’ll spend your fair share of time underneath the hood. Ford cars are as simple as they come and thus become some of the best vans to live in.

You won’t need to head to the shop to change a headlight, and if you do have to take care of something major, any domestic mechanic in the continental U.S. can take care of Ford Transit van engines and brake systems.

Ford Transits are American-made vans, so a few things fall apart quickly, and you can’t expect the gas mileage to compete with international competition. Ford cars are notorious for churning through brake pads, and the Ford Transits just barely have the worst gas mileage of the big three.

Instead of fuel economy, designers focused on a powerful engine built to tow up to 7,500 lbs. The affordable price leaves plenty of space in the budget for a few repairs, and Ford Transit vans are dependable units that can fire up no matter what.

Newer models of the Ford Transit Connect have AWD and electronic stability control features built-in that ensure the van is off-road worthy and even include side-wind stabilization.

Nissan Nv Van On Bridge

We’re big fans of this efficient unit that might be the smallest possible camper van conversion out there that still has standing room. Nissan gave this van a snub-nose design like a typical truck and raised the roof.

You’ll likely recognize the Nissan NV as a contractor special thanks to the extra bit of storage space above the front cabs.

With a bit of woodworking, you can convert that shelf into a complete home kitchen cabinet, bookshelf, or entertainment center and maximize the interior cargo space. It’s essential to take advantage of every inch inside this Nissan, as the van doesn’t have loads of extra room.

If you’re willing to live in a cramped space, you’ll be rewarded with decent fuel economy and one of the cheapest vans to convert on the market.

There is no such thing as cheap conversion vans anymore. But the Nissan NV hasn’t quite reached the popularity levels needed to artificially inflate the price like most newer van options.

This relative obscurity also gives the Nissan NV cargo van a few extra stealth points. No one associates these working-class specialists as one of the best vans to live in, which may allow you to sneak under a few more radars.

Budget van lifers ready to build a home from scratch can find great deals on these vans.

Good luck getting your hands on one of these still in perfect condition. Anyone smart enough to hold onto their Astro all these years ain’t selling for cheap now.

They don’t make them like this anymore. A classic boxy body makes an ideal tiny home inside a chassis that tow heavyweight and drives off-road.

The Astro may look like something primed for retirement, but this unassuming van remains one of the best AWD vans on the market.

Chevrolet hasn’t built an Astro since 2005, but early two-thousand versions of these vans are still roaming through beaches, forest roads, and backcountry campgrounds 15 years later. You can take the Astro anywhere you could drive a Sprinter van, and the beast gets 22 mpg highway.

It’s not quite tall enough to stand inside, so weekend warriors may better suit this van as a part-time living space rather than your new home. But Beggars can’t be choosers.

If you’ve got to look for a cheap minivan and you need to start your van life in a hurry, the V6 engine, insane towing capacity, and all-wheel drive options make the Astro one of the 2000s best van life options.

Ford E-Series Van For Van Life

The bottom line that defines our van search is our budget. For some of us, that means looking towards old, old vans to save a few bucks. If the only vans you can afford are from before the year two-thousand, a Ford Econoline van is your best bet (followed closely by the Chevy Express for similar reasons).

The Ford E-series van is synonymous with Class B RV from the ’90s. But this van style isn’t just a retro model. The Econoline series is as old as the VW bus, and the gas engine has ranked as one of the best vans for van life every year for decades.

This has flushed the used van market with decades of reliable, albeit gas-guzzling, Ford Econoline cargo van options. The engines vary in power, from slime E-250 cargo vans up to E-550 super-duty trucks. Each step up in power has more towing and hauling capacity and worse gas mileage.

You can find loads of used Class B RV’s using the body of these front-wheel-drive powerhouses.

Class B Camper Van

Do you have a concrete idea of what you want out of your van? And can you make it happen? If the answer to that question is yes, you’re ready to choose conversion vans.

Van lifers who are in a time crunch or aren’t very confident with their hands be wary. Converting a cargo van is not fun work. Even professional contractors fumble with wires and spend weekends agonizing over insulation settings and floor types.

If you’re comfortable spending a few months shopping around for the right deal, you can find a used Class B RV with many of the same amenities you were planning on building into cargo vans, ready to roll by the weekend.

Check out online marketplaces and be patient. Eventually, you’ll find someone clearing out their parent’s stuff who doesn’t know the value of classic vans, and you could find a steal. Or, you could get conned into a lemon that requires more trouble than it’s worth. The gamble is all part of the fun.

Old Class B RV engines are often in great shape, but we haven’t seen many refrigerators or original air conditioning units from the 1990s still running. The troubles with old vans often involve the appliances.

No salesperson will be completely honest about their Class B RV, so choosing a used Class B RV is unlikely to completely excuse you from a few weeks of hard work fixing up your living space.

VW buses such as the VW Vanagon didn’t make the cut for our list simply because they are unique vans that offer nearly entirely different criteria due to their age compared to newer van options. Finding one of these models requires a whole different strategy so in this post, we’re focusing just on newer models.

We also aren’t addressing the idea of shopping through a van conversion company in this post. There are several great options that will convert most newer cargo van models from Ford Transits to Sprinters into livable vans. We’ll cover these companies in another post.

Volkswagon Bus Driving Through Red Rocks

Top Considerations When Choosing the Best Van for Van Life

Before you get into the literal nuts and bolts of planning your own van build you’ll want to consider several key factors about the van itself. Each cargo van that made our list has the capacity to include the various amenities you may or may want inside the van – toilet, bed setup, shower and so forth.

But the real factors you must consider begin by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each type of van in terms of its overall functionality when it rolls out of the manufacturing plant.

We’ve interviewed dozens of van dwellers who built their own conversion vans and all agree that there is no single perfect van for van life. But they will say that one, if not all, of the following considerations, were the most important factor for them.

Remember, van life is about providing YOU the ability to live the way YOU want. So while some people opted for the Sprinter van because of its hardy diesel engine, others saw that as a liability because of the expense involved in maintaining a Sprinter van.

Here are the top things you should consider when sorting through the best vans for van life.

Roof height may or may not be an important factor to you depending on whether you are 6’4″ (as I am!) or a little more “average” in height. Most of the vans on our list offer high-roof options.

But the more options you add to your van choice the more expensive it will be new (or harder to find when shopping for a used van). If you are particularly mechanically inclined or have the extra cash to spend, you can almost always add a pop-up roof to add more space.

But definitely consider roof height when deciding which van is best for you. The Ford Transit and Sprinter Van have the highest roof out of the factory.

Ford Transit Van With Guy Standing On Roof Deck

The wheelbase is the distance between your front and rear axle. This distance will, for the most part, determine the amount of living space you have inside the van. It will also determine whether or not you can fit in a standard parking spot or make it through a big dip in the road.

Some people prefer a shorter wheelbase both for the lower cost and the practicality of being able to fit in more places. Other people want the longer wheelbase to account for adding more luxuries to the camper van conversion. You’ll be hard-pressed to fit a shower and toilet in a shorter wheelbase van.

Choosing between gasoline engines and diesel engines really only rules in/out the Mercedes Sprinter as it is the only diesel van on our list. Diesel engines are known for better fuel economy, adding an extra 1-3 mpg on average. They also have more torque, which helps with steep terrain.

But gas engines work just as well as diesel. And the cost of diesel fuel usually more than offsets the mpg difference. You also don’t have to worry about adding diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) or risk the engine shutting down in remote places.

Unless you are dead set on the Mercedes Sprinter, all of the other options on our list have gasoline engines.

Sprinter Van Pulling Boat From Water

A factor often overlooked, the drive setup plays a big part in an educated decision about choosing the best vans to live in. Front-wheel drive vans do not tend to handle well in rain, snow or ice based on the fact the weight of the engine is directly over the front axle.

And rear-wheel drive vans may have lower gas mileage and less space beneath the van due to the additional heavy drive shaft. They also don’t handle as well in steep terrain as they “push” rather than “pull” and are more inclined to get stuck in soft sand or snow.

Then there are all-wheel drive vans that maximize the power of 4 wheels but tend to reduce fuel economy by 1-2 mpg. The additional parts required will also add to the overall cost of the van as well.

Finally, the much sought-after appeal of the 4-wheel drive van, like the all-wheel-drive van comes with reduced fuel mileage and higher cost. But clearly, they will allow you the peace of mind to be able to go off-roading to places where other vans with front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive will not be able to take you.

Although many people say they want 4WD for off-roading, most of the van dwellers we interviewed related to us that they very rarely found themselves in situations where having 4WD was necessary. If anything, having great recovery gear such as traction pads and a shovel, will go further for far less than the cost of adding 4WD to your van.

Ford Transit Van With Guys On Roof Deck With View Of The Ocean

Clearance refers to how high the van chassis sits above the ground. This is often more important than whether you have 4WD or not because many roads van dwellers like to travel include ruts and rocks that you will need to clear as you drive.

There is nothing more unnerving than the sound, and imagination, of grinding rocks beneath your vehicle! You can always add an after-market lift to any van to add additional clearance.

But if you plan to spend most of your time on paved roads and traditional campgrounds then clearance will not mean a whole lot to you.

Dodge Promaster In Desert At Sunset

Even if you purchase a new van you will have regular maintenance costs associated with keeping the van in top shape. You may be surprised to learn that you cannot change your own oil in newer Sprinter cargo vans!

So rather than spending $20 on oil and a fuel filter and then crawling beneath the van to change your own oil you’ll need to find a Mercedes dealer or service center to do something as simple as an oil change. And that’s before something breaks and you need an actual repair!

Many van dwellers opt for either the Ford Transit vans or the Dodge Promaster because the engines are quite common and both parts and qualified mechanics can be more readily sourced on the road.

Some vans on our list are more “buildable” than others. Promasters, for instance, are the most “boxy” and allow even the most novice van builder to customize their van without having to cut round edges on cabinets and doors.

Sprinters are notoriously round and require much more thought and a bit more skill when building out along the upper portions of the van.

Of course, building a van of any kind will be challenging and other factors may matter more to you than buildability. But if you’re looking for an out-of-the-box van ready for insulation, 2x4s and paneling you will likely prefer the Dodge Promaster.

Dodge Promaster Boxy Buildout

The perfect van doesn’t exist, but you can build out your dream van. To find the best van for your van life, you need to ask yourself the same questions your relatives ask you when they’re concerned about your lifestyle.

How will you bathe? How do you use the bathroom? How do you sleep at night?

These are the three things in van life that will send you home faster than anything else, and the answer to these questions will point you to an affordable van and your best life.

Converted passenger vans and fleet vehicles won’t come equipped with much plumbing. Some van lifers do not mind hitting the road with anything more than a bucket in the back.

But not everyone getting into this lifestyle is satisfied with using the bathroom in a bag and baby wiping at bathtime. If there is no shower inside your van, you’ll have to rely on rivers and truck stops. It can get ugly fast, so keep your hygiene at the front of your mind when shopping.

Space-saving propane technology exists that will pump out piping hot outdoor showers without taking up interior space, but any bathroom will require valuable feet.

Even if it’s just space for a composting toilet, we believe a toilet is essential for a good van. Decide for yourself how important a bathroom is for your adventures.

While you can lay pipe in an old van, you won’t be able to add on more space. If you’re shopping for a passenger van to live in, we highly recommend going for an interior you can stand up inside.

A weekend camper or the ultimate stealth van may get away with cramped half-sized interiors. But living in a van full-time means spending a few rainy days inside. Give yourself space to stretch out and cook dinner without hunching over in case you end up trapped indoors.

Whether you’re deadset on the Sprinter van’s diesel engines, the reliability of a Ford Transit Connect or are willing to take a chance on an obscure Nissan NV cargo van, the best vans to live in are the ones you can afford and are readily available.

Shopping for an older van is an easy way to save some money, but nothing used will come without surprise costs. A good rule of thumb for used models: the cheaper/older it is, the more likely you’ll have to repair it. And if a van sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Take your time while shopping. Spending an extra month finding the right van will provide you with decades of freedom. Hopefully, we’ve helped you narrow down your decision!

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Two Roaming Souls

Best Vans To Live In And Convert For Vanlife

By Author Jake Junda

Posted on Last updated: July 12, 2023

Categories Van Build , Vanlife Guides

The Two Roaming Souls with their Ford E-350 campervan, one of the best vans to live in.

Are you curious what are the best vans to live in? Well, vanlife is certainly not a one-size-fits-all community.

Some folks are looking for just a basic weekend van with a bed, simple kitchenette, and some storage. While others are aiming for a luxury home on wheels, complete with solar panels, shower, air conditioning, induction cooktop, and more. And all wonderful campervan creations in between.

There are a lot of factors to consider like roof height , interior space, new vs used , all-wheel-drive , fuel efficiency, etc.

And of course, budget! Finding a van that fits your needs and your budget is where the real challenge begins.

But this post will help you decide which vans are the best to live in based on your specific goals.

Note: This article covers van availability specific to North America.

Euro-Style Vans 

The first category includes the most modern and expensive vans, sometimes referred to as Euro-Style. They are defined by a boxy shape and were the first vans in North America with a high roof option. The primary benefit of which is being tall enough to stand inside. And advancements have led to decent gas mileage in the high teens to low twenties.

This market segment is currently dominated by the “Big Three”, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ford Transit, and RAM Promaster. These vans with standing room and loads of modern tech and safety features are a top choice of best vans to live in.

The extended body, high roof models give tons of extra space that’s ideal for two people living full time, or families with children or pets.

And the cargo vans are an ideal blank slate for conversions, though some passenger and crew versions are available too.

There are some meaningful differences and plenty of nit-picky distinctions between them, but ultimately, they are all great platforms for a van conversion.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

The Mercedes Sprinter Van is the most high-end luxury van available. But it’s also the most expensive, leading to the high price of a Sprinter Van Conversion .

A couple is hanging out side their Mercedes Sprinter Campervan.

It’s a boxy full-size van that comes in tons of different sizes and configurations.

The Mercedes Sprinter has the most luxurious cab of all vans.

One of the most notable benefits is the available four-wheel-drive and high clearance (otherwise RWD). For off-roading, it’s the best option of the “big 3”. However, beginning in 2023, Mercedes switched from true 4×4 to all-wheel-drive (AWD), a move that will certainly upset off-road enthusiasts. (What’s the difference between AWD and 4×4?)

The Mercedes Sprinter is expensive to maintain in North America, since parts are less common and mechanical issues often require dealership expertise.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinters are also available in diesel versions, which historically results in better gas mileage, longer engine life, and thus, better resale value.

Ford Transit

A Ford Transit high roof is one of the best vans to live in.

The Ford Transit Van is another one of the most popular vans to live in. It’s Ford Motor Company’s boxy euro-style van that debuted in 2015 in North America. It is available with several different roof heights and lengths.

It offers a vehicle size similar to the Sprinter with a little bit of price savings, for purchase price and also maintenance.

Beginning in 2020, the Ford Transit became available with AWD models (otherwise RWD). This added the Ford Transit to a relatively small list of vans with all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive.

Ford Transit vans are only available with gas engines in North America.

RAM Promaster

The RAM Promaster is one of the best larger vans to live in.

The RAM Promaster, introduced in 2014, is a North American version of the Fiat Ducato Van (available in Europe since the 90’s). It offers the cheapest entry price of the “big 3” euro-style vans.

And similar to the Ford Transit, parts and maintenance are relatively cheap in North America. However longevity is slightly more suspect that the other two.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the RAM Promaster is its boxy shape. It’s not a perfect box, but noticeably less rounded than Sprinter or Transit. This makes converting the van slightly easier, with less curvature to account for.

And lastly, the RAM Promaster has the widest interior width, making sleeping width-wise more feasible. Which in turn, saves more space for the living area of your conversion.

One potential drawback of the RAM Promaster is that they are only available with front-wheel drive. A Promaster may be less capable of climbing steep pitches with low traction surfaces (i.e. snowy mountain roads or dirt backcountry roads).

RAM Promaster was available with diesel engines from 2014-2019, but since 2020 they have only been made with gas engines.

A white Nissan NV High Roof against sandstone background.

The Nissan NV is a bit of a unique van option (discontinued in 2021). It feels like somewhat of a hybrid between euro-style van and classic American work van. With its available boxy high roof, paired with a truck-like construction

It borrows the platform used for Nissan Titan, and has a long nose, which makes for a more comfortable cab but takes away from the overall cargo space. So there is a shorter living space as a ratio of overall vehicle length.

Perhaps the most notable feature is the best in class towing capacity of the Nissan NV.

They are only available in RWD, though I commonly see them used as a platform for aftermarket 4×4 conversions.

The Nissan NV didn’t capture enough of the market to remain viable, but despite that, it’s still one of the best vans to live in.

Mercedes Metris Van

A Mercedes Metris is one of the best vans to live in.

Another unique van that doesn’t fit neatly in a specific category is the Mercedes Metris (Mercedes Vito in Europe). It’s smaller than all the full-size vans but bigger than the rest of the minivans and city vans. And with a powerful engine and a RWD drivetrain, the Mercedes-Benz Metris is definitely a workhorse for its size.

For some, the Metris might be the perfect goldilocks van, with a balance of features that’s just right.

It is available in cargo and passenger versions.

The Mercedes Metris is the most refined “minivan” with a comfortable tech-loaded interior and snappy handling.

But like its big brother the Mercedes Sprinter, the Metris is priced more like a luxury vehicle. And parts and maintenance are more expensive, typically requiring visits to the MB dealership.

In the United States and Canada, the Mercedes Metris was produced from 2015-2023.

Classic American Work Vans

The classic American work vans category includes Chevy Express, GMC Savana, Ford E-series, and Dodge Ram Van.

This category of older, mostly discontinued, vans dominated the full-size van market in North America for decades. As such, there are tons of cheaper used models available that offer a budget-friendly entry into vanlife.

They are cheap and easy to maintain, with abundant parts and qualified mechanics. With designs that change very little over decades, it is easy to find common and recycled parts

The main drawbacks are the low roofs and a very rounded body. The round walls are a bit of a challenge for DIY conversions, and the low roof doesn’t allow for standing up inside.

However, there are a number of common aftermarket hightop conversions (like our campervan Delphie ). This includes conversion vans, shuttles, handicap vans, pop top campervans, ambulances, and more. Here’s why we think fiberglass hightop vans are a great value!

An old Ford conversion van has an aftermarket hightop, making it one of the best vans to live in.

And lastly, classic American work vans are not known for good gas mileage, typically hovering in the mid teens.

But their abundance and cheaper price make them the most budget-friendly full-size van option for aspiring van lifers.

Chevy Express and GMC Savana

Chevy Express Van Towing a Trailer

The Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana are General Motors’ full-size van series that began in 1996. They are the last of the classic American work vans still in production, making them the longest active in-production vans in North America.

What you can say about them is they are dependable workhorses that are cheap to buy and maintain. And from 2003-2015 the Chevy Express 1500 and Savana 1500 were the only full-size vans with available AWD in the US.

However, these vans only come with a low roof option, so standing height conversions require aftermarket mods like a fiberglass hightop or pop top.

They don’t get good gas mileage and they lack many of the tech and safety features that come standard on Transit, Promaster, and Sprinter.

While all other auto manufacturers have pivoted to a euro-style van design, the Express and Savana represent the last of the classic American work vans.

Ultimately, a used Chevy Express or GMC Savana still represents a good budget-friendly van for low-roof conversions.

But since discontinuing AWD models and the introduction of euro-style vans, I don’t think anyone is clamoring to buy a new Chevy Express for a van conversion.

I wrote another post about the differences between specific Chevy Express vans .

Ford E-Series (Econoline)

Ford E-Series Van is one of the best vans to live in.

The Ford E-Series (formerly Ford Econoline) was Ford’s previous full-size van offering until it was replaced by the Ford Transit. In production from 1960-2015, Ford E-Series was the longest-produced van lineup in North America.

They are known for being dependable and affordable vehicles.

The Ford Econoline was only ever available with RWD (Rear-wheel-drive). However, in my experience, they are the most common vehicle to find aftermarket 4×4 conversions, like those done by Quigley in Pennsylvania.

The Ford E-series vans are only available in low-roof models, so standing height conversions are not possible without an aftermarket hightop.

Probably the most famous version of this is the well-known Sportsmobile Classic 4×4 Conversion Van.

Ford E-series MPG ratings are typically in the mid-teens, thus not on par with the more modern euro-style vans.

I wrote another post about the differences between specific Ford E-Series vans .

Dodge Ram Van

Aqua blue extended Dodge Ram Van: one of the best vans to live in.

Yet another one of the old classic work vans, the Dodge Ram Van was produced from 1971-2003. The biggest difference between Dodge Ram Van and the other classic American work vans is that it’s a unibody design. This means the chassis and body are constructed as one piece, rather than the ‘body on frame’ style employed by other vans.

The advantages of unibody are weight reduction, lower cargo floor, lower center of gravity for handling, and better crash safety.

But the disadvantages of Unibody designs are lower ground clearance, less hauling/towing capacity, noisier ride, less torsional rigidity for off-roading, and more expensive crash repairs.

However, all these pros and cons are likely more relevant when comparing to other vans of the same era. Most modern vans now employ a hybrid of the two types. They are technically Unibody designs, but with an integrated frame for rigidity and strength.

A colorful Ford Transit Connect Rental by Escape Campervans.

Another popular category of vans to live in are the ‘city vans’. A few popular vans in this category are the Ford Transit Connect, RAM Promaster City, Nissan NV200, and Chevy City Express. These small city-oriented panel vans were designed as light-duty work vans with excellent gas mileage.

Their smaller size makes them easier to drive and park, handling much more like a car than a full-size van. And their sedan-based design makes them cheaper to own and maintain. They are great for building campervans that also function as a daily driver.

Their biggest drawbacks are low roofs, lower payload, low ground clearance, and shorter lifespan.

Conversions built with city vans typically use creative designs to maximize the small space. The micro-campers can employ convertible beds, slide-out kitchens, and other flexible uses of the limited space.

Due to the smaller size, city vans are more common amongst solo vanlifers. 

These vans were popular during the 2010s to 2020s, but slowly all became discontinued. The Ford Transit Connect was the final van in production in this category, ending in 2023.

Chevrolet Astro (“Astrovan”) & GMC Safari

A maroon GMC Safari: one of the best vans to live in.

The Chevy Astro (and mechanically identical rebadged GMC Safari) are another popular choice of vans to live in. The Astrovan and Safari were boxy minivans produced from 1985-2005.

These small but capable older vans carry their own cult-like following. Especially the AWD versions that became available beginning in 1990. As a versatile and reasonably dependable van, they remain one of the best older vans to live in.

VW Vanagon (Volkswagen Type 2 – T3)

Ever since the VW Bus popularized vanlife in the 60s and 70s, Volkwagen has had a penchant for campervans. Their most popular campervan oriented vehicle is the VW Vanagon, with its highly modular furniture.

A Volkswagen Vanagon (Westfalia Conversion)

And none more popular than the professionally converted Westfalia Pop Top Campervan. The most luxurious version of these professional campervan conversions included a propane fridge, 2-burner stove, sink with water storage, and sleeping room for 4 adults.

Vanagons were produced from 1971-1991. And despite their age, these classic vans are still a popular van choice for VW enthusiasts. This trapezoidal-shaped van with cab-over design creates ground clearance and angles decently suited for off-road use.

However, they are notoriously underpowered. So Vanagon conversions should be very mindful of weight.

Additionally a four-wheel drive version, called Syncro, was produced from 1984-1991.

Experienced tinkerers are willing to put in the time, sweat, and money to keep these classic vans on the road.

A Silver Dodge Grand Caravan

The last category of popular vans to live in are family-oriented passenger minivans. They are not available in cargo versions, so expect to have lots of seats and windows on all sides. Minivans are a good option for a campervan conversion that also doubles as a people-mover. You can utilize folding seats to somewhat quickly transform back and forth from family car to weekend camping rig.

The ones that are actively in production include Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Kia Carnival.

But there are loads of other discontinued or renamed minivans from this market segment (Nissan Quest, Ford Windstar, Chrysler Town & Country, Kia Sedona, among others).

Older minivans can be scooped up for a decent bargain, but new ones are around $40,000. However, unless you need the utility of the passenger seats, your money could be better spent on another type of van.

The seat configuration typically allows for folding or removable seats to achieve maximum cargo space. And the flat floor makes a good platform for micro-camper conversions.

However, a Minivan’s round body shape and abundance of windows make them a challenge to convert the same way as a cargo van (with insulation, wood paneling, etc.)

What they lack in total cargo volume and off-road ability, they make up for in MPG and driveability.

Other Great Vehicles To Live In

Some of the other best vehicles to live in might not be vans per se, but they are worth consideration.

travel vans to live in

Box Trucks are the ultimate blank slate that is easy to convert. Their perfectly square walls make camper conversion very simple, you can even use household furniture. They are not the most pretty to look at, but their boring-ness can be a perk for stealth camping .

Ford Shuttle Van

Shuttles come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many of them are powered by cutaway versions of the most popular vans like Ford and Chevy vans. They can often provide much more cargo space than a van of a similar footprint. However, they require extensive demolition before you can convert. And the abundance of windows is generally a negative for camper conversions.

School Buses (Skoolies)

Green School Bus

A school bus is another popular vehicle to live in. They come in many different sizes from full 40ft skoolies to compact short buses. The primary advantage of used school buses is a cheap purchase price and plenty of space for conversions. At about 7’7” wide buses are significantly wider than most vans (typically 5’10”-6’3”).

And while skoolies interior heights are usually either 6’2” or 6’6”, the severely curved roof means that standing height diminishes towards the edges of the bus. Which is why roof raises are still somewhat common.

Skoolies are completely surrounded by windows that are known to leak, so bus conversions should factor in the cost of window replacements or window deletes .

And while school buses are typically reliable vehicles, they usually require specialized mechanics to work on them.

Truck Campers

Campervans and Truck Campers are two of the best vehicles to live in

A Truck Camper is a hard-sided camper that is designed to slot right into a pick-up truck bed. They are a great option for serious overlanders that still want many of the comforts of an RV or campervan.

If you already own a truck capable of carrying a truck camper, then it may be your fastest way to get on the road.

And the ability to leave the camper behind gives you flexibility that no van can provide.

Takeaway: Best Vans To Live In

Choosing the right van for you is easier once you determine what your needs and goals are.

Are you designing a full-time campervan conversion for two people? Are you designing a micro-camper for one with good gas mileage that’s easy to drive in cities? Are you just looking for something cheap for a several month road trip? Are planning to do a DIY van conversion or pay for a professional van conversion ?

Once you identify your needs you can find something that fits in your budget.

If you have a large budget, then the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, and RAM Promaster are great options with a great balance of space and capability.

Classic American work vans (like Ford E-series, Chevy Express, etc) are dependable workhorses that can be purchased at a good value. But without aftermarket modifications, they aren’t tall enough to stand.

City vans and minivans are a great choice for campervans that are easier to drive and cost less to maintain. For vanlifers who spend lots of time around cities, mini-vanlife is a perfect choice for fuel efficiency and ease of driving.

Here’s our guide on how and where to buy a van .

Happy Van Hunting!

Find your way over to our Vanlife Page with everything Vanlife gathered in one place.

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Best Vans To Live In For 2024: Top 5 Vehicles Most Recommended By Experts - Study Finds

Tuesday 3rd of October 2023

[…] The Nissan NV is a bit of a unique van option. While it may have been discontinued in 2021, you can still find plenty on the market to convert into your dream home on wheels. It feels like somewhat of a hybrid between euro-style van and classic American work van. With its available boxy high roof, paired with a truck-like construction. Perhaps the most notable feature is the best in class towing capacity of the Nissan NV,” shares Two Roaming Souls. […]

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Thursday 27th of July 2023

[…] Best Vans to Live In and Convert for Vanlife […]

Your #1 online resource for van dimensions

Ultimate Van Conversion Buying Guide: Best vans to live in

travel vans to live in

As I'm looking for my own dream van to start my #vanlife, I've developed a coherent and sound system for evaluating vans (- yes, I know, it's sad, but I'm that sort of guy). I'm learning on the fly, but after checking out hundreds of vans, driving dozens of all sorts and types (really), and talking to vanlifers, mechanics, and enthusiasts, a couple of important points stuck with me.

And now it's time to share these points, simply because picking a van to live out of is a way more complex decision than I've ever imagined it to be beforehand. But to keep it sweet and simple:

What's the best van to live in? The best van to live in depends on your wishes, activities, and lifestyle. It also depends on the amount of work you want to do on the van, your budget, and the type of journey. The most important considerations are size and techical state. You need to make an inventory of your wishes and pick a van accordingly.

Below, I'll walk you through each step of the decision process.

In this article

In this article I'll go over all factors that go into buying the right van, and discuss them briefly. Hopefully it will trigger your own thought process. It has worked wonders for me.

Later on, I give examples of which vans best fit specific needs . After reading this post, you'll have plenty of food for thought and hopefully a solid idea of the van you're looking for. It's everything you need for making a smart buying decision.

As there are thousands of cargo van buying guides out there, I will primarily focus on some points that don't get enough attention, and that are specific for vanlifers.

This is somewhat of a moster read, so to make it easier on you I've added some sections. You can skip there immediately, or pick up where you've left.

  • Things to consider when choosing a van

Decisions you need to make

What types of vans are there.

  • Pros and cons of each van
  • Buying tips

Quick summary of best vans:

  • Best all-round van to live in: Promaster or Ducato
  • Best van for living big or an office: Mercedes Vario's or TN1 (508/407)
  • Best van for mobile living and quick travelling: Euro Cargo vans - Sprinter, Promaster, Transit
  • Best van for cheap maintenance: US Cargo vans - Chevy Express, Dodge Ram Van, GMC Savana
  • Best van for easy maintenance: Classic vans - VW T1 t/m 3, Mercedes TN1 or Vario
  • Best van for stealth camping (boondocking): Sprinter, Promaster, Transit
  • Best van to live in pricewise: US Cargo van - Chevy Express, Dodge Ram Van, GMC Savana
  • Best looking van to live in: Volkswagen T1, classic vans in general
  • Most expensive van to live in: Mercedes Sprinter

The four stages of buying a van

There's four clear stages to choosing a van:

  • Considering - Prioritizing your needs and wishes for the van
  • Choosing - Narrowing it down and choosing the type or even model
  • Selecting - Searching for solid options
  • Buying - Buying the best one you can find and afford.

Some things to get out of the way before we get started:

  • Maintanence-free vehicles do not exist . If you do manage to find one, please let me and the rest of the world know.
  • You should definitely let a mechanic check out the car .
  • Oh, did I say you should bring a mechanic?

1. Things to consider when choosing a van

There are a number of factors in determining what van to buy:

  • Technical state - number of miles, age, servicing
  • Complexity of mechanics - price of mainentance
  • Availability - parts, info
  • Safety - road safety and van security

Why is size important?

travel vans to live in

Allright, you have to consider a number of factors very carefully. The most important factor is definitely the dimensions of the van. Since you'll be living out of it, the things you do and want to do on a daily basis determine what van you should get.

Of course there are a number of other important factors, but you shouldn't underestimate the importance of size . Of all vanlifers I spoke to, literally all of them said that size is the number one issue. Whether it's an old van or a shiny new one doesn't really matter that much if it's too small, or too big (yes, too big can also be a problem).

All other factors are, in my opinion, way down on the list. The first three factors are size, size, and size.

Making an educated guess on what size you need can be difficult, especially if you don't yet know what dimensions suit what particular lifestyles.

The best way to get the size right, is to grab a floor plan of the models you like - and start sketching interiors. Ready to get going? Check out our ready-to-sketch floor plans .

You should always buy the best you can afford, without overstretching yourself . Whatever number that is for you, is enterily up to you. But you get what you pay for. Now, in the internet age, there actually aren't a lot of people that don't know the value of what there offering. Mostly, if a vehicle is insanely cheap, there's something wrong with it.

So I operate on the baseline that there are no bargains and that I should accept to pay whatever's the value of the car . If you're planning on buying a $10,000 car, you should prepare yourself to spend the money.

Also, it's a good idea to take the first two years of maintenance into account. I like to set aside a decent amount (around $3,000) and consider this as part of the buying price.

I just set a number and stick to it. My number is sacred, I won't make any exceptions. I found this to be good general life advice to ensure I sleep sound at night.

Technical state

travel vans to live in

Number of miles

The amount of miles a car has done is a great indication for the amount of maintaince it will probably need. But it's no holy number. Some cars can take a lot of miles before anything needs replacing. Also, the amount of service and oil changes drastically influence the technical state of the car.

I'll always prefer a vehicle that's well serviced over a low amount of miles.

Generally, the number of miles tell you the following:

  • Petrol cars will start to fall apart at 250.000 km
  • Gasoline cars will start to fall apart at 300.000 - 500.000 km
  • Manual transmissions need replacing after 400.000 km
  • Rubbers, suspension, etc. will need replacing after about 15 years

We'll come back to age in a minute. Like the number of miles, old age isn't always a bad thing. It can be cheaper and easier to maintain, more predictable and reliable (Daimler-Mercedes has a notoriously reliable OM314 and OM616 engines, which you'll find in the TN T1 and TN T2 , and Varios).

The amount of service is way more important than the number of miles on a car. Unfortunately, it's more difficult to check on the state of the engine. In the buying segment of this guide, I'll show you a couple of neat tricks to get a general feel of the mechanical state of the car.

If the car has been properly maintained (regular oil changes, every 15,000 - 30,000 km), the mechanical state can be very good, even on very old cars.

Old emergency vehicles, busses, etc. are mostly very well maintained (and have low mileage as well). I've seen German firefighter trucks of 40 years old with just 50.000 km and an almost new engine!

travel vans to live in

Complexity of mechanics

This is a pretty important factor. Before buying any car I want to have a general sense of how complex the mechanics are. This way I can make an educated guess on how my maintenance will work out over time. Are you gonna maintain the van yourself?

I don't have the skills to work on very complex cars, which means that if I buy a complex car, I'll have to calculate hourly garage fees for maintenance.

Also, some cars have notorious electrical systems, meaning only certified dealers will consider working on them. Dealer fees are about 5x higher than an indie garage. Also, some parts of the world don't have dealers. So if you want to go to Mexico, maybe buy an older van, and not the high-tec 2018 Sprinter .

An example are Mercedes Sprinters from 2006 onwards . They have a new electrical emission system (called DPF), which requires a specialized computer that only dealers have.

A good rule of thumb is that all cars before 2000 have little to no electronics, making them easier to maintain yourself.

Availability

Where and when you live determines the availability of the model you're looking for. Why is this important? Because supply and demand. If your model isn't widely available, you gotta be prepared to pay a little extra.

Also it's important to consider what the availability of parts is. Some popular models have plenty of spare parts available, and if there's a large aftermarket, your maintenance will be a lot cheaper.

Please note that an older car doesn't automatically mean fewer parts available . Some older vans, like (again - I think they're just great) the Mercedes TN T1 and T2 (407, 508, etc.) were build for decades and widely popular, were mostly maintained properly by professional firefighters and so on. This means there are plenty of engines, transmissions, and so on available.

The same goes for information. If you're going to maintain the van yourself, it's important there are good resources available, like technical manuals, or a good community (message boards) where you can go and ask questions.

The importance of good mileage depends on how much you're planning to drive, the price of fuel (it's cheaper in the U.S. than in Europe), and the amount you're willing to spend. In my opinion, it's less important than most people think. An older car with bad mileage gives me plenty of other advantages, which I will get into later on.

There are two types of safety to consider. Number one is road safety - meaning: how likely am I to die if I get in an accident with this thing? Number two is safety from break-ins or van security.

Road safety

travel vans to live in

Old cars are less safe than new cars. They don't have airbags or crumple zones. Or even no seat belts (which is insane!). Getting in an accident with an old car is way more dangerous than in a modern car. So you have to consider how important safety is for you.

In some cars, you can add some safety features yourself , so check for availability beforehand.

Van security

In general, older vans are easier to steal, break open, or vandalize. The upside is: it's an old van! So the paint job probably isn't pristine. So a little extra scratch won't matter as much.

Also, you can add some security features yourself , such as additional locks on the doors. These things make it way more difficult to break into your van, so they are well worth there money. There's also the high-end anti-theft systems, like Bearlock. These things are great. If you get one of these, the thief will have to steal the van driving backwards. So let them have a go at that.

There's a reason this ones at the bottom. It's just not as important as all the other things. I don't mean that it's not important; it's just not as important. I myself find the looks of things hugely important, but bad looks don't give you trouble sleeping or headaches, and van security, financial worry, or seemingly unsolvable mechanical issues do.

So for the sake of my own health and that of my surroundings, I prefer to buy something nice, but not if it's not all of the above first.

Secondly: changing the look on a van isn't that hard or expensive . You can pretty easily change the color (about $1,000 if you put in a bit of work), the bumpers, grille; you can add chrome bars, spoilers, roof racks, and all that jazz.

But you can't change the size! (Well, actually you can, but it's a lot of work, and afterwards, you still have to paint the damn thing). So go for the right size, and then make it pretty!

2. Choosing a van

So we take all of our considerations and try to find the right type of van, and then narrow it down to a specific model or pool of models.

  • What do I want and what do I want most?
  • What type of van is most likely to meet those wishes?
  • What brand and model offers best value for money for my specific needs?

We've considered all the factors that go into making an informed decision. Now we need to prioritize and stick to our priorities. By this I don't mean 'set them in stone'; they can change when you gain more knowledge or information, but you shouldn't go against your own priorities without careful consideration.

So how to do it? Well, it depends. I always start by trying to map out what things I'll do most in the van, and put them in order. This gives me a general sense of what I'll need. In my case, I start with these questions:

What type of journey am I going to make?

Surroundings are key in choosing your van. Where will you go?

  • Is it cold or hot where you're going? - A lot of sun, or very dark?
  • Is it humid there? Better not buy a van that's notorious for rust. Mercedes comes to mind.
  • Are you going to primarily do off-road or high way? Don't buy low or very heavy vehicles.
  • Do you want to go stealth or not?
  • Are you going to do a lot of miles, or are you going to slow travel?
  • Where will you be staying? Ie. Do you need to park the van in large cities? Do you need to be able to park indoors in parking garages (in that case, size is very important)? If you're planning on city-hopping on the Old Continent (Europe), better not buy a large van. Towns are small there.

travel vans to live in

What am I going to do in the van?

  • Are you mostly going to drive, or are you mostly going to live in the van?

What kind of maintenance am I willing to do and in what way will I do it?

  • Maintain it yourself? Go with older vans
  • Don't want to do a lot of work? Get a Sprinter

Things to consider when choosing age

  • What is more important? Living or driving? If you'll be driving the greater part of your time, then you might want to have a more comfortable and quiet drive. You'll defnitely want better mileage, so you should probably check out newer cars.
  • If living is more important, and you'll slow travel for example, an old car can be great. Taxes are cheaper in some countries, and insurance as well.

Things to consider when picking size

  • Will I maintain the van myself?
  • Will I live inside the van most of the time?
  • Will I work inside the van (office/desk job)?
  • How important is cooking?
  • How much security do I want (in terms of burglars)?
  • How much security do I want (in terms of maintenance)
  • How are you going to build the van? (Going to use a kit? > Choose a compatible van!)
  • Do you need a desk? - does it need to be fixed?
  • Do you need a kitchen?
  • Do you need a bathroom?

What kind of technical specs and features do I need?

  • Do I want rear-wheel drive or front-wheel drive? I've recently gone into depth on why most trucks have rear-wheel drive, and why you might want it .
  • What type of fuel do I want?
  • Do I need air conditioning?
  • Do I need power steering?

Stealth camping or not?

I know, everyone wants a stealthy van. And I understand, I was inclined to go for a gangster Sprinter van myself, completely isolate myself from the world, and live for free from now on.

But there's an interesting argument to be made for not doing a stealth camper. I've read this discussion on Reddit, and the guy made an argument that after both living in the stealth van and the classic camper van, he noticed he got into a lot more trouble in the stealth van .

The reason for this is that the 'white van on the corner of the block' is just creepy. It's true, people won't know you're sleeping in there, but they also don't know what you are doing . Could be anything, really. Stake out? FBI? I guess someone who's being all secretive about their intentions just doesn't give off a good vibe.

He talked to a local cop , who said that if you're just outright boondocking in the open, and are honest about it, he won't have any problems with it; whereas with the creepy Sprinter, he will most definitely come and check you out.

So if you're not planning on doing loads of urban boondocking, maybe consider a cute Westfalia?

travel vans to live in

So what's there to choose from anyway if doing a camper conversion?

  • US Cargo or panel vans

Conversion vans

Euro cargo vans, box or luton van trucks, classic recreational vans, classic industrial vans, us cargo vans.

Examples: Dodge Ram Vans, Chevy Express, GMC Savana

travel vans to live in

If you want to start from scratch, this is a great starting point. Cargo vans are widely available, because many professionals use them as fleet vehicles. You can get your hands on one for about $5,000. Because of availability, maintenance is cheap.

U.S. cargo vans are mostly build on a pick-up frame. This means that they are heavy duty, making them durable. There's a lot of parts available, since they share a lot of parts with pick up trucks

There are a lot of aftermarket parts and they're easy to work on yourself. Also, mostly all mechanics are able to work on them.

Conversion vans are already upgraded in the factory. Generally this means that they have more windows, foldable seats, and extra storage. This can save you quite a lot of time when doing a build. They are a bit more expensive than cargo vans, and they aren't meant for full time living.

Examples: Mercedes Sprinter , RAM ProMaster ,  Ford Transit

travel vans to live in

These are the panel vans from Europe. They are a bit different than the U.S. vans, since they're not based on a pick up chassis. They are widely available in the EU, but not so much in the U.S. They are about 3 times as expensive as regular cargo vans.

Maintenance is expensive, since they are complex; for certain maintenance you need to go to the dealer.

There are a lot of high top models available.

Examples: 3.5 ton Luton Van

travel vans to live in

Box vans or Luton vans are a bit odd at first, but if you think about it, they're a practical van for conversion. The chassis, cabine, and engine is exactly the same as their cargo van siblings, though they have a box body mounted to the back frame.

These box body's are rectangular and wider than the cargo models, giving them a lot more floor surface. So you'll have plenty of more room to work with. Also, the straight walls make for easy insulating, and they offer loads of storage (most have a full bulkhead).

Best part is that you get more space without increasing the overall length of the van.

I haven't included them in the table since all parts are the same as that of cargo vans, except for size.

Examples: VW Vanagon, VW T1

travel vans to live in

Recreational classic vans have a history as being the best weekend getaway vans. They're easy to maintain and use; they are small, so easy to handle; parts are reasonably available. Every mechanic can work on them, including you, if you're willing to put in the hours.

Maintenance is cheap, but it does require continuous work. They will break down all the time.

They are less readily available as some other vans, making them more expensive to purchase. Oh, and they look just amazing.

Examples: Mercedes 407D , Mercedes 508D , Mercedes Vario

travel vans to live in

If you live in Europa it's quite easy to get your hands on an classic industrial van. These are just amazing conversions vans. They are very reliable, well-maintained, have a great cargo space which is boxy, and can carry heavy loads (making it less hard on the suspension to put in a wooden interior for example).

Also, classic utility vans are generally a bit wider than recreational or modern vans. About 5 - 10cm. This easily gives you up to 0.5m2 of additional floor space.

Parts are reasonably available in the EU, and they're easy to work on yourself. Also, every mechanic loves to work on these vans, as these are among the most reliable and easy engines ever build.

The best feature of these industrial vans is their engine: legend has it that these vans can do over a 1,000,000 km!

Complete summary of pros and cons per van

Narrow it down.

Now we get into the elimination process. Yes, this is definitely my favorite part of any decision.

Pick your top two priorities, and find which vans suit them best based on the table above.

For example, my main priorities are size and low maintenance. The best picks for these two are

  • size: Classic Industrial van
  • low maintenance: US Cargo van

Now, some questions:

Old or new.

There are typically two large eliminating points in the decision of going classic or modern.

  • The level of comfort you need . If this is above average, all classic and old cars are no longer an option.
  • Your maintenance budget & method . If you want to do it yourself, definitely consider a classic car. If you don't want to do it yourself, but don't want to spend a lot, get a fairly simple car that isn't too old.

So now you know whether or not you will buy an old car, a new car, or an average car. Great. That narrows it down quite a lot.

4 Buying tips

I won't go into detail on the more basic buying tips, as there are many out there already doing a great job of summing up all the things you need to check (tires, suspension, damage, and so on). Instead, I will try to give you some new tips and a fresh perspective.

Engine health

The most expensive part of any car is the engine, which is why you want to make sure the engine is worthwhile. There

Basic buying tips

To give you a complete overview, these are the most important basic checks:

  • Check for leakages in the engine compartment. With older engines, some oil is acceptable.
  • Also check the oil cap. If there's a thick white substance in it, it's most likely an indication of a head gasket leak. You don't want that.
  • Check the fluids: your oil should be at the proper level. If it's black, it's old oil, which is an indication that the owner doesn't maintain the car very well. Also check the coolant fluid (with a cold engine). The coolant should be a bright red, yellow, blue or green.
  • Check how the car starts and runs, listen for a healthy engine sound. There shouldn't be any nocks, ticks, or clicks. Top tip: check the engine type on Youtube to listen to a healthy sound.
  • Check if the chassis is straight, and if the engine is at a straight angle to the frame. If not, the car might've been in an accident.
  • Check the state of the tires and suspension.

I recommend checking out this video by ChrisFix for a very good and in-depth explanation of what to look for when buying a used van or car:

Buying based on trust

Nobody can check inside the engine, not even mechanics. So buying a van is based on trust to at least some extent. You have to look the seller in the eye and check if you trust him or her. If you have terrible people skills, bring someone who can read people.

Don't be naive about it, but also don't ignore it if someone is telling the truth (which most people are most of the time).

Don't fall in love with a van you haven't driven yet

If you haven't driven it, you don't know it. You have no clue what's going on. Don't become invested in any vehicle before properly inspecting and test driving it. Be stoic about it, is my best advice.

Easily check the engine compression

You'll want to know how good the engine compression is. A simple DIY trick you can do on the spot, is opening the oil fill cap, and starting the engine. The more the cap bounces around, the worse the compression.

The following van is 11 years old and properly maintained. The compression of this engine is not great, but decent:

Are you looking for the dimensions of your van?

Looking for Floor Plans?

travel vans to live in

About Van Dimensions

A great and charismatic picture of me, believe me

Hi, I'm Jim Belt and I own a 1974 Mercedes L508D. I love old vans, especially MBs - and I plan to live in one.

VanDimensions is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. VanDimensions is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

Bearfoot Theory

Van Life 101: How-To Guide for Living in a Van

This is your ultimate guide to van life! Learn everything you need to know about living in a van so you can follow your van life dreams.

Curious about van life? Learn how to live in a van with tips on van conversions, downsizing, making money as a van lifer, and more.

In 2016, I took the plunge into Sprinter Van Life. I sold my car, moved out of my apartment, and had a 4×4 144″ Sprinter built out into a tiny home on wheels with a full bathroom. After logging 30,000 miles and learning what I truly wanted in a van, I sold that first van and started over. The second time around, I went with a bigger 170″ 4×4 Sprinter Van that was converted by Outside Van. I ditched the bathroom, made room for mountain bikes and other outdoor gear, and never looked back.

Now I’m on my third converted Sprinter van that I spend roughly half the year living and organize a van life festival called Open Roads Fest to inspire other people to follow their van life dreams. My partner Ryan and I have traveled all over the United States, racking up countless outdoor adventures and encounters with all kinds of cool people that I’ll never forget. We’ve driven 14,000-foot passes in Colorado, leaf peeped in New England, road tripped the Canadian Rockies, and more.

I’ve fallen in love with this lifestyle, and I’m not sure I’ll ever stop. I truly believe van life is one of the most fulfilling ways to live and travel, and for those of you who are dreaming, I’m here to inspire you and show you how it’s done.

Whether you are considering van life as a part-time or full-time endeavor, investing in or converting a van is a process full of big decisions. Navigating the many different options, set-ups, conversions, and even designing your nomadic lifestyle can feel overwhelming. So to make it easier for you, this blog post is the ultimate van life 101 guide filled with van life how-tos and answers to some most frequently asked questions.

In this post, I cover everything from choosing and converting a van plus other helpful tips like how to earn money on the road and where to find essential amenities such as showers and fill stations. In many cases, I link to additional resources on our blog if you want to dive deeper.

Whatever your goals are, remember that there’s no right or wrong way to do van life — and that’s the best part. It’s all about making your life on the road work for you.

1-on-1 Van Life Consulting

Ready to get over your analysis paralysis and put your van life dreams into action? Let’s make it happen together. I’ve been doing van life for 8 years and lived in 3 different vans and am ready to help you take the first step towards a life of freedom and adventure. Book a 1-on-1 van life consulting call now so you can get the right van for your needs and hit the road with ease.

Why Van Life is Awesome

There are countless reasons to transition to a life on the road and these reasons differ for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a grand adventure or you want to save money, here are a few of my favorite reasons for why van life is awesome.

1. Freedom to travel and explore on your own schedule

Van life gives you the freedom to explore the places you’ve always dreamed of visiting and to do so on your own schedule. Whether that’s visiting all of the National Parks or doing a slow cross-country road trip while visiting all 50 states, van life gives you the ultimate freedom to travel without time constraints, reservations, or agendas.

2. Van Life teaches you to embrace a simpler lifestyle

Living in a van requires you to embrace a simpler lifestyle with fewer belongings. You’ll have to prioritize the important things in your life and let go of the things that aren’t essential. For many people, this is actually one of the greatest lessons of van life!

3. Spend more time in nature

Van life can be a great way to spend more time in nature. From dispersed camping to visiting National Parks, living in a van allows you to get outside and explore the great outdoors. Vans can also be great basecamps for skiing or to start and finish overnight trips like multi-day backpacking adventures.

4. Save money

Living in a van can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. Most van lifers enjoy the simplicity of van life, which often means camping for free on public lands and enjoying the outdoors free of charge. If you’re a full-time van lifer, you also won’t be paying rent or utilities, so it is very possible to save money while living on the road .

5. Be location independent

One of the greatest benefits of living and working on the road is that you can be location-independent . You may need to find reliable wifi every now and then if you work remotely, but for the most part, location independence while living in a van means that you can go where you want when you want.

Curious about van life? Learn how to live in a van with tips on van conversions, downsizing, making money as a van lifer, and more.

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The Pros & Cons of Van Life

Before jumping into van life full-time, it’s important to consider a few of the highlights and challenges that come with living in a van. Below are a few of the pros and cons of van life that I’ve encountered on the road.

Van Life Pros

  • Flexibility to travel where and when you want on your own schedule. It’s liberating to not have to be tied down to place and time.
  • Depending on your personal budget, fewer expenses may mean that you can save money and reach financial goals
  • Live more simply with fewer things and belongings
  • Spend more time outdoors
  • Meet like-minded people on the road
  • Unplug from the constant stream of news and social media

Curious about van life? Learn how to live in a van with tips on van conversions, downsizing, making money as a van lifer, and more.

Van Life Cons

  • Showers are less frequent
  • Space is tight , especially if you share your van with a significant other or pets
  • Vans get messy very fast and require constant cleanup
  • Finding fill and dump stations is an undesirable chore
  • You’ll likely spend more time in public restrooms
  • You have to be mindful of safety when parking and choosing campsites
  • You need a backup plan in case you get stuck or your van breaks down
  • City driving and exploration can be a pain
  • Cell service and wifi can be unreliable

Read next: Looking for more tips on whether you should give van life a go? Head over to my post on Van Life Pros & Cons .

travel vans to live in

How to Prepare for Van Life

When preparing for life on the road, there are a number of considerations to think about. Questions like “What will I do with all my stuff?” and “What gear should I bring with me?” are important things to think about. You also might be worried about how to break the news and talk to your family about your van life plans . There’s no one right answer to these questions, but below are a few ideas to help you get prepared for van life.

What To Do With All of Your Stuff

How you choose to handle downsizing your belongings depends on your situation, how long you will be on the road, and your level of attachment to your stuff.

When trying to determine whether to just sell everything you own before transitioning into van life or to get a storage unit, there are a number of questions you can ask yourself to help you make the decision:

  • Do you plan to travel long-term (more than a year)?
  • Do you know if you’ll be returning to the same place once you’re finished traveling?
  • Look at every item you have and consider: is it valuable? Sentimental? Historical? Irreplaceable? Why have I chosen to keep this for so long? Is this something I absolutely need or want?

Van parked in dispersed campsite in Colorado with tent set up in trees and campfire going with mountain range in distance

Option 1: Put it in storage

If you don’t know how long you want to do van life and you know you want to return to the same city when you are done, then a storage unit might make a lot of sense. If you have a lot of valuable things and furniture that you don’t want to let go of, renting a storage unit will also be the way to go. Depending on where you live and the size of the storage unit, storage units can cost anywhere from $50-200 a month (or more).

Some things are important to keep safe, like documents, photos, letters, and portfolios for example. If these are the most important items you’re concerned about, consider digitizing them and keeping several copies on external hard drives and on Google Drive. A safe deposit box is a good option for important documents, jewelry, or small family heirlooms. You could also store these items at a friend or family member’s house that you trust.

Otherwise, sort through every item piece by piece and decide what can be sold, donated, given to friends, recycled, or thrown away. Then, do it again. Do it a third time if you need to. Invite a friend over that’s good at getting rid of things and solicit their help. After going through this process multiple times with a discerning eye, if you need to get a storage unit, get the smallest and least expensive one possible to cut down on cost and burden.

Option 2: Sell your stuff

Selling your stuff is a great idea if you’re considering moving somewhere else after your travels, if your stuff doesn’t hold much sentimental value, if it’s replaceable, or if you plan to transition to full-time van life indefinitely. It’s also a great way to get a little extra cash for van life.

Once you’ve gone through the sorting process and decided which items can be sold, list the items on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, LetGo app, and OfferUp app. Post flyers or host a garage sale. If you feel comfortable, share with people what you’re doing and why you’re inspired to travel in a van. Most people will be happy to support you, even if it means they just buy something small from you or tell their friends. Share your excitement and intention in minimizing your stuff.

Kristen standing in open doorway of converted camper van at dispersed campsite with cook station set up outside

What To Do With Your Home

If you own your home, you’ll need to decide what to do with it. If you love your house and don’t want to sell it, consider renting it out. It will help cover your bills (and maybe even bring in some extra money). Plus when you are done with van life, it will make your transition back to your home base pretty painless.

Another option is to rent out a single room to someone you trust, like a friend or family member. They get to live there alone while you’re traveling (what a score!), and you get to rest easy knowing that someone is taking care of your house.

Lastly, there are property managers that will help you list and rent your home on Airbnb or VRBO. You will need to pay for these services, but the upside is that they will take care of all the logistics like managing the rental calendar and hiring people to clean.

What To Do With Your Car

The options for your car are the same as I’ve been discussing for the rest of your stuff: store it, keep it at home, or sell it. If you know you’ll be coming back regularly and will need a car, or if you’re only hitting the road for a few weeks or months at a time, keep it.

Cars don’t fare well sitting unused for long periods of time, so keep this in mind. Have a friend come over once a month to start it and drive it if they can. If you have a house with a garage or driveway where you can store it, that’s ideal. Otherwise, you’ll want to find somewhere that you can park it for as long a period of time as you need.

There are climate-controlled storage facilities that will store vehicles, but these tend to be costly over the long term. If you’re committed to transitioning into full-time van life, consider selling your car and using the money for your van or the first few months of travel expenses while you’re transitioning to life on the road. Again, share with people why you’re selling your car if you go this route. If it’s not worth much, you could consider donating it to a good car donation charity that can pay it forward.

Buying a Van

How to choose a van.

Knowing how to choose the right van for van life means understanding what’s right for you. There are a ton of options out there and you probably have a few questions: Should you buy a used or new van? A Sprinter, a Ford Transit, a Dodge Promaster, or a Volkswagen? Build it out yourself or invest in a professional conversion? Here are some considerations to make before buying a van:

  • Where will you be driving your van?
  • Will you need 4×4?
  • Do you plan on living in your van during winter ?
  • How much gear storage do you need?
  • Are you handy with fixing things?
  • What is your budget?
  • Will you build it out yourself or hire someone to do it for you?
  • Do you want a shower and/or a bathroom?

There’s no one right way to do van life, but it’s important to get an understanding of what you want your van lifestyle to look like and what will work for you.

travel vans to live in

Most Popular Van Options

When you’re deciding what type of van to get, these are the most popular types of rigs that you’ll find on the market:

Sprinter Van

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, it’ll come as no surprise that the Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van is my vehicle of choice for van life. Because I spend my winters in snowy climates and like to spend my summers exploring backcountry roads, a 2-wheel drive was a no-go for me. Up until recently when the Sprinter switched to an AWD system, the Sprinter was the only van in its category to have a factory 4×4 option. Whether the Sprinter you get is 4×4 or the new AWD, it is a capable beast with a ton of storage space for bikes, paddle boards, and more. The downside of Sprinters is they are the most expensive van option and it’s not as easy to find mechanics to work on Sprinters.

High-roof Sprinter vans are perfect for those who want to be able to stand up and walk around in their van (and want something more modern and reliable. They also come in two different lengths – the 144” and the 170” wheelbase .

Dodge Promaster

The Dodge Ram Promaster is another popular vehicle choice for van life and it is considerably cheaper than Sprinters and Transits. It comes in two different lengths – 136” and 159” wheelbase, so it’s slightly shorter than a Sprinter and has less ground clearance, but it gets better gas mileage. The Promaster is also the widest vehicle option of the common panel vans. Promasters are typically FWD which can make driving up steep mountain passes and sandy areas more difficult.

Ford Transit

Like the new Sprinter, the Ford Transit also comes AWD option (2020 and newer), making it more versatile than a traditional 2-wheel-drive van. Ford Transits are also a bit less expensive in price and maintenance than Sprinters and come with a higher interior height – the AWD has an interior height of 6’8! Transits also come with 2-wheel drive RWD options.

VW Vanagon, Westfalia, or Buses

These are great for handy folks who love a vintage vibe. Keep in mind that they might not be as reliable as newer vehicles and will require more upkeep. They also tend to not get as good gas mileage.

Budget cargo vans

Ford Econolines, Chevy G Series, Chevy Express, and Chevy Astros are popular budget cargo vans. These vans are typically much older but they are the cheapest option for getting on the road. Remember, van life comes in many shapes and forms, and sometimes a budget DIY build is all you need.

Read next: Find more tips about what van to choose in my post on Comparing the Best Vans for Van Life

New vs Used Vans

There are lots of pros and cons to think about when buying a used or new van .

Buying a new van obviously has its perks. It will come with a limited warranty, everything will be new, and the van becomes your ultimate canvas for a custom van conversion.

But you’ll also be paying quite a bit of money for a new vehicle, especially if you then hire someone to build it out for you. Buying a used van can cut down on initial costs and allow you to put more money into the conversion.

Another option is to find a used campervan that has already been converted. You’ll save yourself a ton of time and possibly money. The downside of buying used is, unless the van was converted by a professional conversion company with a lot of experience, there are really no guarantees on the quality of the conversion. Furthermore, if you have issues down the road, it might require more problem-solving.

Where to Look For a Van

If you’re sold on a Sprinter Van, check out this blog post where I share a list of forums and websites where you search for your perfect Sprinter to buy . For more places to search for Sprinters as well as other types of vans, the downloadable PDF below contains a full list of websites, forums, and Facebook groups where you can search for a van.

Helpful Tip

Rent a campervan.

If you’re really not sure what kind of van you want, renting a van is a great way to, literally, take it for a test drive. Check out this blog post for a list of places to rent a campervan for a night, a weekend, or more!

Converting a Van into a Camper

You’ve settled on the type of van, got the design inspiration, and an epic road trip calling your name. However, when it comes to actually building out your home on wheels, there’s a lot to think about. Designing your van shouldn’t be a rushed process, and doing your homework before you start the conversion process is key. The more knowledgeable you are about layouts and components, the more likely you’ll be happy with the final product.

Insulation in the walls of a Sprinter Van

There is so much more than I can write in this one blog post about planning your van conversion, so I suggest you head to my Van Life homepage and scroll down to the section on planning your van conversion. There you will find inspiration and more than a dozen blog posts with all of the nitty-gritty details on building out a van. From insulation to flooring, to bed styles, galleys, and solar power systems, we provide all of the information you should know in order to make educated decisions about your van build.

Designing your Van’s Layout

Here’s a quick pro tip: Take your empty van out for a trial run before it is converted. Throw in a sleeping pad and bag, a cooler, and your favorite camping gear, and go on an adventure.

You can learn a lot about how you’ll use the space after one week on the road. You may think you want room for kayaks only to find that you didn’t use the kayaks once on your road trip. Or a bathroom might seem like a necessity until you realize getting by without a bathroom (or at least a shower) in your van isn’t that difficult.

What you learn on this trial run will give you a much better idea of what you do or don’t want and will better inform your floor plan ideas.

See this blog post for more things to consider as you design your van’s layout .

Sprinter Van Floor plan

DIY or Hire a Conversion Company?

After you purchase your van, the next step in van life 101 is deciding whether you will hire someone to convert it or if this will be a DIY job. There’s no right or wrong answer and you have to evaluate your personal situation to decide what’s right for you. I go over all the pros, cons, and considerations for a DIY van build vs hiring a campervan conversion company in this blog post.

If you have experience building stuff and have the tools, you’ve set aside the time, or you simply think that building out a van would be a fun and enjoyable process, going DIY can save you a lot of money. I’d just recommend setting aside more time than you think you need and having wiggle room in your budget.

If you do decide to hire a company, do your homework to make sure the company is legit. There are a lot of “van conversion” companies popping up everywhere who see the growing demand for van life. However, many of these companies are inexperienced and are delivering a low-quality product. To properly screen these companies, you need to do more than just scan their website and Instagram feed. You need more than pretty pictures to ensure you’re going to get a well-built, durable van. Your builder also needs to have an understanding of solar , materials, plumbing, and how to build cabinets in a van that is constantly flexing.

In this blog post, I share a number of questions you should ask before hiring a van conversion company .

Living in a Van and Tips for the Road

Some of the most common questions I get about van life are about the basic everyday necessities. Topics like using the bathroom, showering, finding the best overnight parking spot or scouting out a good campsite, cooking three meals a day, and even what to do about your mail are always on top of mind for prospective van lifers.

Note: This blog post contains affiliate links . If you make a purchase, I get a small commission at no cost to you. I stand by the products I recommend and greatly appreciate your support.

How to Get Internet/WiFi in your Van

One of the biggest concerns I hear from prospective van lifers is how to get internet in your van . If you work remotely, this is an important consideration you’ll need to address before hitting the road, but truthfully wifi and good cell service aren’t hard to come by. I rely on a combination of using my cell phone plan as a hot spot when I’m in areas of service and Starlink when I’m out of service.

As far as choosing a cell provider, I recommend finding a plan that comes with unlimited high-speed data. Make sure you’re on a plan that won’t throttle/slow down your data after you’ve used a certain amount or in times of congestion, or you might find yourself very frustrated when you’re trying to find a campsite late at night or get work done.

I’m currently on the Visible+ plan by Visible , and I’ve been very happy with it. It’s only $45 a month (or $395/year if paid upfront) and includes unlimited talk, text, 5G Ultra Wideband, 5G and 4G/LTE Data on Verizon’s network. It’s month-to-month with no contract, taxes, or fees, making it a cost-effective option for van lifers.

Kristen Bor with a laptop and her phone in her hand sitting in a camp chair that is next to a sprinter van

The Visible+ plan I’m on also offers unlimited mobile hotspot usage at faster data speeds than other cell phone providers which allows me to conduct Zoom calls, upload photos to my website, and do all the research for my travels on while working on my laptop.

When I’m completely out of service and need to get online, I use Starlink. I’m on the ROAM plan which is also month-to-month. The Starlink is a bit of a power hog, so you’ll need a robust power system to run it if you are working full-time from your van. I store mine in a case in my van garage, but it’s a kind of a pain to set it up. I recommend getting it mounted to your roof, so you can use it more readily.

Auto Insurance for your Van

If you want to insure your entire build and not just the vehicle, you’ll need an RV Insurance policy.

Progressive Insurance is one of the few companies I’ve found that offers full replacement coverage for class B converted vans and your belongings and this is what I use ( read my full Progressive RV Insurance review here ), but they only cover professionally converted vans.

Roamly is an insurance company that caters specifically to van lifers and RVers that many people have had good luck with. You can read more about the different options for choosing an RV policy for van life here .

Get a free insurance quote from Roamly

Roamly caters to van lifers/RVers and they know how to tailor insurance policies to fit travelers’ needs.

Plus, Roamly customers  save an average of 25% on their insurance policies  compared to other companies.

Health Insurance

If you don’t have health insurance via your employer, you’ll want to shop for health insurance on healthcare.gov. The key is choosing a policy that has good nationwide coverage so you don’t get stuck with a huge out-of-network doctor bill when you’re traveling.

For more tips and information about healthcare coverage on the road, read my post on Health Insurance for Van Life .

How to Get Mail on the Road

There are a few different options for getting mail on the road. If you have a P.O. Box, you can give a trusted friend or family member the key or ask a neighbor or friend to collect your mail from home. You can also use an Amazon locker for any packages shipped from their site.

Need to send yourself mail? Ship it to friends’ and family’s houses that you know you will be visiting. You can also ship packages to many shipping and office stores. I usually google “receiving packages or package holding in xx” with the city I’ll be in and usually a few options pop up. Then I call for details on how the package should be addressed and what it will cost for them to hold the package. We have a lot more tips and ideas for getting mail on the road in my Establishing Residency & Getting Mail as a Full-Time Van Lifer post.

Finding Bathrooms and Showers

After two years of traveling in a Sprinter Van with a shower and toilet, I decided to nix the shower in my second van conversion. I found an interior shower used up too much water and took up valuable space, among other reasons that I outline in this post on why you don’t need a shower .

It’s easy to find a shower and toilet in most paid campgrounds, RV parks, and even gyms or your friend’s house! Of course, if you wan to camp for free on dispersed land, this means you won’t be showering as frequently as you would at home. If you’re worried about staying fresh and clean on the road, here are some camping hygiene tips for women .

If you know that you do want a shower and toilet in your van, I have several posts to give you some design and layout ideas:

  • Best Campervan Toilet Options
  • Campervan Water Systems
  • 12 Campervans With Bathrooms

In my current van, I use a pee jar for going pee and a Cleanwaste Go Anywhere toilet for #2. It’s easy to use, there is no cleanup, and it’s stows away at the size of a briefcase so you don’t waste valuable space in your van.

Read next: Showers can use up a lot of water. Read my tips on how to conserve water when living in a van .

Curious about van life? Learn how to live in a van with tips on van conversions, downsizing, making money as a van lifer, and more.

Cooking in your van

Van life cooking can seem daunting at first – with such a small space, limited access to water, and without the usual conveniences of home (oven, microwave, large fridge, etc.), how can you make easy, healthy meals on the road? Turns out it’s pretty easy! I have a few guides to help you whip up delicious meals on the road in no time:

  • How to Meal Plan and Cook in a Small Space
  • Camp Kitchen Essentials for Van Life
  • 15 Camper Van Kitchens for Layout and Design Inspiration

Water Fill-Ups, Dump Stations, and Laundry

One of the least glamorous sides of van life is chores such as refilling your water, dumping your greywater, and finding places to shower. These are chores that you just don’t have to think about when you live in a house! However, it’s pretty simple to find water, dump stations, showers, and laundromats on the road.

Common places to refill your water tanks are RV parks, gas stations, and public parks. Usually, RV parks and campgrounds also have dump stations to dispose of your greywater.

If you downsize your wardrobe with the tips I share a little further down in this post, you should be able to make it a couple of weeks without washing your clothes. You can also do laundry at a laundromat, by hand, at an RV park (they’ve also got showers!), or ask to use a washer and dryer at a friend’s or family member’s home.

Read next: Use my guide on Finding Water, Dump Stations, & Showers on the Road

How to Find Free Places to Park and Camp

How to find camping is one of the biggest questions I get from people who are just starting van life. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but the key is utilizing the right tools.

My favorite van life apps for finding a good campsite are iOverlander (free campsites) and The Dyrt (paid campsites). I also like using Benchmark Atlases to find Forest Service land and dirt roads with dispersed camping. Here are tips for finding free camping and stealth camping that have a lot more information.

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Learn how to save money on the road with these 10 tips and strategies for making van life financially sustainable and affordable.

Finding Fun Local Activities & A Van Life Community

I love to use the AllTrails and MTB Project apps for finding hiking and biking trails. Aside from that, one of the best ways to get good beta on fun things to do is by hanging out at a restaurant, cafe, or bar and chatting with the locals.

See all my favorite trail finder apps and websites for more ways to find things to do on the road.

In addition to finding awesome things to do in the places you travel, building a van life community is another great way to enjoy the road. Social media is an easy way to connect with other van lifers by searching van life hashtags on Instagram or joining dedicated van life Facebook groups.

If you’re not big on social media, check out van life gatherings to meet other nomads. I host Open Roads Fest near McCall, Idaho and it’s the perfect place for nomads and aspiring nomads to meet. You don’t need a van to attend!

Van Life Safety

It’s totally natural to have some fears about being out on the road, and you are probably asking if van life is safe. When I first started van life, I was a solo female van lifer , and I’ll admit that the first trip I went on, I was very scared, particularly at night.

Now that I have 8 years of experience under my belt, I’ve learned how to manage my fears with a set of practical van life safety tips that help me feel more confident and secure when I’m traveling in my Sprinter Van.

Here are some tips for staying safe in your van:

travel vans to live in

Van Life with Pets

As a dog owner, I completely understand questions about bringing your dog or cat with you in your van. I’ll just say that van life with pets is awesome. We’ve been doing van life with our adventure dogs Charlie and Gumbo for over 7 years. I truly think van life dogs have the best life. Between running around outside, making dog friends, and getting scraps of food leftover from camp cooking, van life dogs have it made.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t important considerations and precautions you need to take when living in a van with a pet. First, it’s essential to think about how to keep them cool if you leave them in the van alone especially if you don’t have an AC. We hardly ever leave our dogs in the van except for quick errands or maybe a bit to eat and only do so if the temperature outside is mild. It can also be limit where you can go since not many National Parks are dog-friendly.

Dogs are generally welcome at official campgrounds, but they will need to stay on a leash. If you prefer to let your dogs run free, you’ll need to find free dispersed sites that have fewer regulations and rules.

It’s very hard to keep your van clean with dogs. Between the hair and the dirt, it feels like an uphill battle. We keep a Dyson cordless vacuum in our van and use it almost daily. It has attachments that you can use to vacuum up the bed too.

Need more tips? See my post about doing van life with dogs that is full of advice.

Curious about van life? Learn how to live in a van with tips on van conversions, downsizing, making money as a van lifer, and more.

The Importance of Leave No Trace

No matter what you’re doing, it’s so important to be responsible enjoyers of the outdoors. Even in a van, where you can easily come and go, being mindful of your footprint will make a huge difference in preserving these places for years to come.

Before you head out, familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace principles to help minimize your impact at the campsites, on the trails, or even answering nature’s call in the woods. Also, make a commitment to leave places better than you found them by picking up any trash left behind by other campers.

Need to brush up on your Leave No Trace skills? Read about it here:

  • Basic guidelines of Leave No Trace
  • How to pick a campsite and Leave No Trace
  • Safe campfire tips
  • How to poop outdoors

Gear You Need for Living in a Van

The gear you need for van life can be boiled down to only having the items that you use most often in your daily life. Pay attention to what you’re currently using—or not using—so you can downsize to have only the essentials in your van. This is a great time to evaluate what you really need to be happy and to start thinking about ways you can potentially simplify your gear.

Check out a shop like The Container Store (it’s heaven for organizing nerds!) for different sized boxes, bins, and you guessed it, containers that can be easily stored in your van. Another great item is a handful of packing cubes that you can use to stash your clothing and soft goods and prevent clutter. For more ideas on how to stay organized in our van, check out this blog post on van organization tips and smart storage solutions .

Deciding what to bring clothing wise may be one of the most difficult parts of downsizing for van life. In my post on Van Life Clothing , I outlined the basic packing tips that have allowed me to maintain a minimalist wardrobe that is neat, comfy, and versatile. Check out these tips for van life clothing:

For the rest of your gear, you’ll want only the things that bring you a lot of joy and you use at least once a week. With that in mind, check out these blog posts to get the full list of the best gear for van life:

  • 30+ Must-Have Van Life Essentials
  • 50+ of the Best Van Life Gifts (treat yourself!)
  • The Best Van Life Gear at REI
  • Road Trip Essentials: A Packing Checklist for Adventure Travelers

Making Money on the Road & Van Life Finances

In 2016, right after getting my Sprinter Van, I spent nearly a year completely apartment-free. It was a liberating time, but it also came with challenges. Transitioning from stationary life to van life looks a little different for everyone, especially when it comes to your work. Luckily, I am able to work remotely, but my experience as a full-time working van lifer is different than someone who can quit their job and live off their savings for a year and that’s totally okay. The whole point is to create a lifestyle that works for you while giving you more freedom.

If you’ve saved enough money to quit your job and travel, kudos to you! But that’s not a realistic scenario for most people, including myself. If you want to do full-time van life while still bringing in income, there are a number of options. All you need is motivation, a skill set, a decent internet connection, and enough power to charge up your electronics.

Remote Job Ideas for Van Lifers

Finding a well-paying job as a freelancer in the gig economy is perfect for those who work from home, especially if you’re home is on wheels. Set up an Upwork or Fiverr profile for anything from writing, graphic design, web development, social media management, or even consulting. I also recommend checking out the Basecamp Outdoors Facebook group to find remote jobs specific to the outdoor industry – that’s how I found two of our current team members!

If you already have a job, consider asking your boss if you can work remotely and take your career on the road. Alternatively, starting your own business is a viable and lucrative option—it worked for me and has worked for many others, too.

For more remote job ideas, check out these blog posts:

  • 20 remote jobs for van lifers and travelers
  • How to start an outdoor travel blog
  • How to make money on the road: career tips for van lifers

Curious about van life? Learn how to live in a van with tips on van conversions, downsizing, making money as a van lifer, and more.

Seasonal Work Ideas

Don’t mind being semi-stationary? Get seasonal work somewhere, for example, the National Parks are a great option, and ski resorts are always hiring multiple positions during the winter for all you ski bums out there. Cool Works and Basecamp Outdoors are great resources for finding seasonal gigs.

If you’re planning on moving around more often and need something temporary, get in the habit of checking Craigslist to see if there are events in need of staff or other places just looking for some extra help. If you like pets, trustworthy dog walkers are always in high demand!

How Much Does Van Life Cost?

Van life can fit into any budget. Whether you’re looking to live cheaply on the road or not, the cost of van life varies from person to person. Expenses depend on a lot of factors such as where you camp, how much you drive, whether you eat out often, and what activities you do along the way. I know van lifers who live on $800 a month and others who spend $2,000 or more.

The biggest expense of van life will most likely be buying your van and converting it. New empty vans cost around $40,000-$70,000 while conversions can vary from $10,000-$20,000 if you do it yourself or upwards of $250,000 for a professional, fully decked out van built by a top conversion company. Keep in mind that these are just estimates. Costs are different for everyone depending on their budget.

The cost of daily life on the road depends on whether you treat van life like your real life or a vacation. Do you eat or cook in? Do you pay for campsites or stay on BLM land? Do you focus on free activities or splurge on big adventures? In this blog post, I share some my budget and the common expenses you should plan for as a van lifer: How Much Does Van Life Cost? A Breakdown of Common Expenses .

I also share tips on saving money and living on a budget in your van .

travel vans to live in

Now, It’s Time for Your Adventure!

Once you’ve got all your systems dialed, it’s time to put them to good use and go have some fun! Learn how to plan a stellar van life road trip with my detailed road trip guides and itineraries .

travel vans to live in

I hope this post has answered your frequently asked van life questions and given you the inspiration and confidence to start your own van life adventures! What did I miss? Leave us a comment below.

Curious about van life? Learn how to live in a van with tips on van conversions, downsizing, making money as a van lifer, and more.

With two decades of hiking and seven years of van life under her belt, Kristen has dedicated her life to helping people experience the positive effects of nature. As a pioneer in the outdoor blogging space, she founded Bearfoot Theory in 2014 and has since authored more than 350 blog posts about outdoor travel, hiking, camping, and van life. Her work has been featured in National Geographic, Outside Magazine, and Backpacker, and when she’s not on the road, she lives in Park City, Utah with her partner Ryan, their son, and two adventure pups.

18 Comments

This was a great article. It was full of useful information.

Thanks for reading!

This is the best article I’ve found so far, really gave me a lot to think about and consider as I’m diving into this new lifestyle! Thank you!

Glad you found it helpful!

I have read a few van life articles, yet none of them mention one important issue. Your address. Cop stops you for whatever reason, what address you have in your driver’s license? I assume you have a bank, no? Banks, credit card companies, and even your year end tax return requires an address. Not a PO box. Banks do not accept addresses to mail facilities or fedex-type, mail forwarding locations. If you rent storage space, bingo! You need to put down your address. Debit card, credit card expiring soon? Where will the bank send it to? For some reason, nobody mentions this crucial information. Parents? Friends? Relatives? Dude, not everyone is 25. Eventually people get old and die. With no friends, relatives, or family, whose address are you going to plunk down? Articles like these always “forget” to talk about the realities of life. Since I am in a position where it would be cheaper for me living in a van, you have no idea how difficult this single issue to get around. I am not a junkie and never did drugs. Never drunk, never smoked or even drank coffee. But when you end up all by yourself, things can get really complicated just by this little meaningless thing you call “address”.

Hi Ben, that sounds like a tough position to be in. However we know tons of people living on the road full-time who make it work without an “address”. It can definitely be tricky at first, but we outline several options in this blog post about establishing residency & getting mail: https://bearfoottheory.com/van-life-establishing-residency-getting-mail/

Getting a mail forwarding service that caters only to nomads might be the best option for you.

hi my name is joseph I am now retired I drove an 18 wheeler for over 30 years I now draw a disability check which gets direct deposit into my checking account since I am used to living in a small confined space I think van life would be great for me I have already spent 1 year living in a van but was around family where I could use the restroom take showers and wash and dry clothes but have spent several weeks on free camp grounds as well I love traveling and I love the open road and the freedom that comes with it im hoping to get another van and do van life full time

Hi Joseph, it sounds like you’ve had a great introduction into van life! We agree that there’s nothing quite like the freedom that comes with living in the van and getting to travel. Best of luck with getting a new van and taking the leap to full time!

I love this article except one thing: It’s not even an option for me to WFH with the full-time job I currently have (and am planning to keep). I’ve thought about buying a small RV but would have to find somewhere to park it each and every day, both while at work and when I leave work. Any ideas?

Hi Ben, this article about how to stealth camp in cities will give you some ideas of where to park: https://bearfoottheory.com/van-life-stealth-camping/

I will say that a small RV is much harder to be stealthy in, unfortunately.

Thanks for reading & best of luck!

I’m retired/disabled and alone. Any ideas on Dr. appts. and meds.?

Hi Rick, we recommend looking at nationwide healthcare plans that way you can see doctors who are not in your home state. To make refilling prescriptions easier on the road, choose larger pharmacy networks like major grocery stores, Walmart, or Walgreens so you don’t have to transfer your prescriptions each time you move from place to place since they will already be in their computer systems.

We have a blog post that goes more in-depth on health insurance options on the road: https://bearfoottheory.com/van-life-health-insurance/

well what really killed my Van lifestyle dream is the actually cost of the Van itself..

Hi Dan, the cost of vans has definitely risen over the years but it can still be done on a budget. Our content manager lives out of an older Econoline and has a very basic setup – it might not be as luxurious as other vans but it still gets the job done. Van living doesn’t have to look a certain way!

If you need any tips for how to lower the cost of a van/build, check out this blog post: https://bearfoottheory.com/tips-for-a-budget-diy-van-build/

Some downsides every should consider are you no longer have the community that comes with your former life ( we are hyper-social animals). Your hobbies are potentially quite different and this lifestyle can put tremendous strains on an otherwise strong relationship. When you return, know that life has moved on, friends, family, and places all have adapted to your absence. If its important to you, you will leave only faint marks on the world and not as many deeper ones such as group builds, art projects, and community service. The rootlessness giveth and taketh away.

Great points, thanks for sharing

you had it built? You didn’t build it yourself??? Not the article I was expecting “Van Life 101”.

I’ve designed three vans, but I did not build them myself. With that said, Outside Van (who built my last two vans) is the best in the business, so I learned a ton from them in the process about van conversions. I explain in the article that there are pros and cons to DIY build and everyone needs to figure out the best solution for them. I do have a lot of resources on my website for van conversions, but this article was more focused on the “life” part of van life.

Comments are closed.

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Home » Budget Travel » How to Live in a Van and Travel: Freedom, Vanlife, and the 21st Century Nomad

How to Live in a Van and Travel: Freedom, Vanlife, and the 21st Century Nomad

Excuse me, sir, ma’am, do you have a second to talk about freedom?

That’s why we travel, right? Sure, maybe it starts as an escape. Maybe your ex trashed you so you ran away from all those delicious problems (don’t feel bad; it’s a common story).

Maybe the looming threat of your tertiary education commitments was rearing its ugly head so you decided to delay.

Maybe you wanted to  ‘find yourself’ .

Whatever your reasons, the outcome was the same. You left… And then you caught the bug.

Now that I know how to be free, how can I choose to put myself back in the cage?

Excuse me, sir, ma’am do you have a second to talk about van life?

There’s something pure about van travel. You’ll have to peel back the layers first: the trashy Instagram hashtags. The ‘polyamorous’ douchebags competing for level-10 gipsy status to sleep with cute hippy chicks at psytrance festivals.

Peel that shit back first and what do you find? Freedom: a sincere desire to simply live freely. Travelling in a van, or any form of motorhome for that matter, is not a lifestyle: it’s an answer.

Less is more.

So let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about why you should live AND how to travel in a van.

Let’s talks about the ins and outs of travelling in a motorhome: a beginner’s tips and hacks guide for campervan travel. And let’s talk about travelling the world in a campervan: the best countries to go and how to acquire your new roots-less home.

I’m talking my favourite topic how to travel in a van.

Let’s go

A girl smiling in front of a hippie van in California

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Vanlife: Let’s Paint a Picture of the Van Travel Lifestyle

How to live in a van and travel, the best countries for rv and campervan travel, vanlife tips 101: your beginner’s rv and campervan travel guide, freedom, vanlife and the 21st century nomad.

Right, so that was soppy – sorry, folks! Here’s the deal: it’s a house on wheels. Let me reiterate that for you.

It’s a house on wheels.

Yeah sure, it may not be a very big house. But, look, if your biggest concern is not being able to take much stuff, then, mate… the traveller lifestyle might not be for you.

Let’s call it nomadic van living (just to separate it from actual nomadic living in which if you didn’t move, then winter came and you died). Living out of a van means living out of a home with wheels. Think about that for a sec.

If you run out of milk, you don’t have to leave the house to buy milk. You take the house WITH YOU to buy milk.

That’s fucking sick.

van parked up on a beach in New Zealand

There’s a new level of freedom that comes from travelling the country in an RV , campervan, or even one of the cars with the fold-out tents on the roof (they’re awesome; I’ve seen JUCY rentals in New Zealand and Australia do them). Do you know what a common thought for me is while staring out the window on a bus ride? “That’s a nice mountain; I wish I could go climb it.” 

Ta-dah! Traveller vans to the rescue.

And, to be a little bit real for a second, I do think it’s an answer. We’re in a time where we are – possibly, hopefully, maybe – starting to look at the traditional model of ‘How to Adult – 101’ and saying…

Maybe, there’s another way. Maybe we don’t need all the things we thought we did.

I’d say it’s an experiment. You travel in a van, living in a motorhome, and you have an adventure. One way or another, you come away with a new perspective. And, if you’re built for it, maybe you come away with a whole new model for life.

travel vans to live in

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Why Travel and Live in a Van or RV

Let’s talk specifics, not quasi-philosophical ramblings. What are the benefits of travelling in a van or RV?

I mean, there’s the ease of buying groceries, obviously, but there’s more to motorhome travel than just that:

Broken down van in New Zealand

  • There’s the obvious financial benefit. Your mileage (hah) will vary depending on your style. A family of four living and travelling in a full-power RV and staying at powered holiday parks are going to have a very different cost-footprint than two dirtbags travelling in a van and staying in the driveway of someone called Possum Joe. But, you can’t say rolling your transport and accommodation costs into one while cooking for yourself doesn’t help!
  • You can go anywhere! Unless the road ends in which case you get out and walk. Campervan travel changes the landscape of your adventure, but I’ll save that for when I talk about the best countries to campervan in further down.
  • You can pick up hitchhikers! Ahh, thank you, much appreciated! My people thank you in advance.
  • There is, of course, the art of minimalism. How low you go is up to you: packing for living in an RV vs. a van vs. a hatchback Prius all offer different lifestyles. But it’s a middle-point between having what fits in your house and having what fits on your back.
  • It offers freedom of movement. That’s why I call it nomadic van living. It’s like the next evolution up from nomadic horse living on the tech-tree-of-life. Stay, go, settle, cross the country; it’s all your choice. The only difference is that motorhomes break down. But, then, horses die…
  • And, of course, it allows you to shift to a more nomadic lifestyle . At a certain point, travelling in a van becomes synonymous with living in a van…

Living in a Van: From Part-Time to Full-Time

This is what I’m talking about: what starts as toes dipped in the water of motorhome travel turns into the full immersion of motorhome living. You start off travelling in an RV or campervan around Australia or New Zealand and suddenly you’re reexamining your whole model of life. Suddenly, living out of a van doesn’t seem like such an alien concept.

You start looking at your life. Maybe I don’t need so many possessions. Maybe I don’t need the weekly depression of rent day.

Suddenly, yes, van life is worth it.

Your career aspirations change; you’ve realised just how many jobs can be done while travelling and living in a campervan. How much freedom is open to you when your cost of living has drastically reduced and your office can be any old breathtaking view.

And, suddenly, you’ve become a digital nomad .

a girl standing on top of a white car turned campervan as she looks at the sunset and the ocean

Now, a deep-dive into the digital nomad lifestyle is a whole other can of worms and it’s not really my point either. My point is simply that these things tend to go way further and way deeper than we can often imagine. And that many people have created a sustainable (and fulfilling) life model around living in a van or RV full-time and earning money as they travel.

But that’s long term! Don’t get ahead of yourself, buddy. The digital nomad path changes your travel game , so take your time! Patience is good!

First, you need to get out there and experiment with motorhome travel! You need to see if it’s your holy grail. You need to dip your toes in and that means choosing and acquiring your traveller van.

Ok, so I’ve convinced you, yeah? On the awesomeness of van life? Not pressured, mind you; you’re still in control here. I don’t want to talk you into doing anything you don’t want to do…

But, you’re ready: ready for the adventure of travelling the world in a campervan – the full-time RV lifestyle! You’re ready to start thinking about buying your first campervan.

Whoa, Nelly! Slow down there, sexy-legs! I know you’re excited but even buying the cheapest of campervans is a big and expensive commitment for a lifestyle you don’t know if you’re ready for yet. Jumping in feet-first is commendable but jumping in head-first into an unknown body of water is just bloody stupid!

Group of travelers smiling with a Van and some trees behind them.

Let’s start small with finding the right van to travel in so you can decide if van life is worth it for you. Then, if it’s everything you’ve dreamed of (psst, it will be) , you can make the shift to living in a campervan permanently.

So, step 1: finding the right type of motorhome for you. I stress the word motorhome because, as you may have noticed, you have a wide range of options and the different terms get thrown around somewhat interchangeably.

Types of Motorhomes

Think of choosing your motorhome like choosing a travel buddy . If you choose well, the vibe is good and you’ll have a long grand adventure together with lifelong cherished memories. But choose poorly and you’ll end up ditching them on the side of the road and hitchhiking in the opposite direction.

A pimped out and painted motorhome (Type-C)

Choosing a Van for Travel: How to Find the Best Motorhome for You

Well, what are your needs? What are your likes and dislikes? How good are you at reversing?

These are the important questions you must ask yourself! (Especially that last one.) The number one tip for van living is that it’s gotta feel like home.

  • Travel camper trailers, for a start, have no appeal to me. Lugging a trailer around everywhere in my journeys is unwieldy. But for someone who doesn’t want to make a full-time lifestyle commitment to RV or campervan travel, a camper trailer means you get to still have a car and a home and you can just park the thing in your yard when you’re not off adventuring.
  • A converted travel van is the DIY option for the DIY mindset. Seriously, I’ve watched friends go to town on their DIY van conversion and it’s a marvel to behold – a power tool in one hand and WikiHow in the other. If full-time van life is something you ultimately commit to, I feel this the best option because you’re in control; who needs a loving committed relationship and a beautiful family to raise when you have a van! Backpackers in Australia and New Zealand often invest in buying a cheap van at the beginning of a year-long work visa, but for shorter trips, budget campervan hire tends to be a much smarter route.
  • Class C Motorhomes (RVs) provide more luxury; let’s call it the family meal deal. RV travel offers more creature comforts at the cost of higher living expenses making it the top choice with families and grey nomads. But, if your travelling with a big group or just have a soft spot for the luxury road trip experience, an RV rental might just be right up your alley.
  • Class B Motorhomes (campervans) are the bang-on choice for travellers fresh to the van travel game. Not too big; not too small: just right (just like a certain narcissistic little blonde girl’s porridge). For someone looking to dip their toes into van camping and see if this whole vanlife thing stacks up to the hype, this is the sweet spot!
  • Class A Motorhome (monstrosities) are reserved for when you’re 70-years-old, greying, and have nothing but time, disposable income, and a loving life partner you want to bang all over the continent.

But, that leaves one last question: how do you acquire your new transient home?

A backpacker new to the vanlife posing inside his new motorhome

Rent or Buy – Travel Van Rental: The Advantages of Campervan Hire

Ok, so let’s level with each other: buying a motorhome is expensive! The outright cost is enough to make any broke backpacker curl into the foetal position on the floor and that’s before you add in the insurance and registration costs plus the rising fuel prices in an ever-increasingly unstable global community. 

You’d be better of buying a station wagon and crashing at your mum’s house on laundry/shower day, though, I feel that sorta defeats the purpose of the fully independent, ‘fuck the man’ nomadic van-living lifestyle.

Here’s van living tip number two: don’t buy a motorhome until you know that it’s right for you. I’m talking about using campervan hire as your jumping-off point.

A JUCY van rental in the snow - premium choice for budget campervan hire in New Zealand and Australia

There are a lot of ways to travel a country, but I’d imagine we all have a soft spot for having our own vehicle. And, truthfully, a campervan is simply a better way to travel some countries (looking at you, New Zealand) .

Sometimes, public transport sucks; sometimes we want to go far out. And, sometimes, we don’t want to pay 50 bucks for what amounts to 12-hour bag storage and mattress rental (with complimentary white bread for breakfast).

The Great Australian Road Trip is a dream journey of many travellers I meet (I’m not sure why; I don’t think you realise how boring our roads are – long, straight, and filled with dead things). Plus, road trips are SICK! Talking shit with your mates, good tunes, smoking – ahem – “ciggies” at isolated lookouts (wink-wink): road trips are the best!

It doesn’t mean that one day you won’t have the holy grail converted traveller van, but the best way to start that big journey is with a little step. Hire a motorhome, have an adventure in any of the best countries to campervan in, and once you know how to actually live in a van and travel, you’ll know if the vanlife is right for you.

If you’re after my recommendation, for New Zealand and Australia road trips, JUCY rentals are the best. These iconic whips are the perfect home on the road to explore the roads of down under.

travel vans to live in

Wanna know how to pack like a pro? Well for a start you need the right gear….

These are packing cubes for the globetrotters and compression sacks for the  real adventurers – these babies are a traveller’s best kept secret. They organise yo’ packing and minimise volume too so you can pack MORE.

Or, y’know… you can stick to just chucking it all in your backpack…

You’re going to notice a common theme with most of the countries on this van travel bucket list: they’re costly to travel with plenty of ground to cover.  

That’s why by choosing to travel in a cheap van or RV rental, you’re going to please the tight-fisted pantheon deities of Backpakistan. Now, don’t misunderstand – you’re not going to cut your travel expenses in Europe down to the level of Southeast Asia. But taking all our usual tricks-of-the-trade backpacker secrets and applying them while living out of a van certainly helps.

The other recurring theme? They have wicked roads to drive on! Picturesque and long and fast (and sometimes windy too).

A dirt track leading to mountains in Queenstown, New Zealand

You’re still on an adventure. Spend some money, live a little! You know that 2000-year-old tree in the middle of buttfuck-nowhere… you have a house with wheels now! Go see it!

Again, you’re driving a campervan. You’re in control.

We are freedom.

Australia RV and Campervan Travel: Whole Lotta Nothin’

Ok, so there is actually a lot to see in Australia. From travelling Australia’s east coast – tropics, beaches, and seagulls – to the rugged solitude of the west, it’s fair to say that you’ll find something you vibe with amongst Australia’s massive scope.

And if you get down to Tassie, that shit will blow your mind right open. Seriously – backpacking in Tasmania is an experience simply built for van travel.

Only, Australia is big. And the roads are really long and really straight (and really empty). Notice how you never meet anyone who says they circumnavigated Australia twice?

Australia is so big, and there’s such a campervan culture Down Under with backpackers and locals, that vans are being bought, sold, and traded for weed all the time; buying a van outright is perfectly a viable option. Of course, the thing about buying a backpacker van is that one minute everything is hunky-dory, and then the next your broken down in the middle of the Nullarbor Plain with black smoke spewing from both ends (of the van… not you… if you are too, see a doctor).

Travelling around Australia in a motorhome is THE way to go. Travelling and living in a campervan is a good antidote to the high prices of… everything… and, given the country’s lacklustre public transport services, is also the best way to see everything . 

approaching the barn bluff mountain in tasmania, australia

Of course, you can – and should for trips on a shorter itinerary – go for a budget campervan hire in Australia. Skip the bureaucracy, skip the queue, and, best of all, skip stamp duty <groans internally>. (Our insurance and rego costs are daylight robbery too – fair warning.) All this leaves a rental as the smoothest option for entry into Oz’s untold vastness.

So… what’s the best campervan hire in Australia? Easy, JUCY Campers .

JUCY Campers Australia have been around serving backpackers for a long-long time, so they know their clientele and they know them well . Even while growing up in Byron Bay almost twenty years ago, I remember seeing scores of JUCY campervans parked at the beach. Usually, with some happy-go-lucky, not-a-care-in-the-world bangin’ their lack-of-woes away in the backseat.

They do cheap campervan hire in Australia, and they’ve been around for more than two decades. They gotta be doing something right!

New Zealand RV and Campervan Travel: The Real Aotearoa

It’s fairly comparable to campervan travel in Australia but with less roadside drug testing. And you can cross the country in about eight fewer days. Oh, and petrol is more expensive!

Everything aside, road tripping in New Zealand – and road tripping on South Island in particular – is FUCKING MINDBLOWING. Like, ‘I’m having a transcendental moment just from watching a sunset’ mindblowing. There’s so much to explore in every tucked-away corner, and then you cross the ferry to South Island and New Zealand is all like:  Welcome to New Game Plus, Bi-yatch. 😉

Public transport is meh and hitchhiking is traditionally the gold standard for getting around, but to truly get lost in Aotearoa (The Land of the Long White Cloud), driving a campervan is the way to go. It’s kind of hard to put into words the true majesty of traversing New Zealand’s natural landscape. Can we just say that it did things to my soul and leave it at that?

A car crossing a river on a dirt track with mountains in the distance near Queenstown, New Zealand

So, what about cheap campervan hire in New Zealand? Well, you’ve got JUCY Campers New Zealand (yes, same guys obviously) who are also probably the best campervan hire in New Zealand. Seriously, I can’t stress JUCY Campers enough for budget campervans in New Zealand and Australia. RVs, mini-campers, minibuses too – they know they’re way around!

Be careful, though: if you start living in a campervan in New Zealand, you may just decide that it’s finally time to hang up your boots. New Zealand is where people stop travelling.

packable travel medical kit

Things go wrong on the road ALL THE TIME. Be prepared for what life throws at you.

Buy an AMK Travel Medical Kit before you head out on your next adventure – don’t be daft!

Japan RV and Campervan Travel: Ore No Daibouken!

Once upon a time, this may have been considered a weird entry on this list. Maybe, it still surprises you.

It’s not that your transport options for travelling around Japan aren’t excellent (because they are, albeit expensive), but a road trip in Japan by campervan is still an amazing way to see the country, and there’s loads to see! Once you’ve broken off the main roads into the mountains, forests, and villages, you’ll see why.

The downside to campervan travel in Japan is that petrol is pricey and the tolls on expressways (the country’s primary road infrastructure) are a nightmare. The upshot is living off home-cooked tofu stirfry is ridiculously cheap and the Japanese are some of the most patient and courteous drivers you will ever encounter.

Mount fuji standing proudly over Lake Kawaguchiko, Japan.

So what about campervan hire in Japan? I mean, you could buy one outright but somehow I imagine that could get confusing…

Well, guess what? For campervan rental in Japan, you’ve got Japan Campers . Easy name, easy game!

If you’re thinking you’d like to partake in a road trip somewhere other than the standard destinations, I would highly suggest going for a Japanese campervan journey. Japan is still fairly unused to nomadic van living so you can get away with a few more sneaky overnight parks than you would elsewhere and if you want to travel off the beaten track – Shikoku or most definitely Hokkaido is the place to go for vanning – then you’ll be a fan of a van in Japan… man.

USA RV and Campervan Travel: The Good, the Bad, and the Not-So-Ugly

I mean, there are fifty states all up so road tripping the USA by campervan is a pretty damn good way of seeing them all! (Although Alaska and Hawaii may take some tricky planning to reach.)

Look, here’s a picture of the American wilderness:

havasupai grand canyon day trip from las vegas

Now does a campervan road trip in the USA make sense? The American landscape is so majestic that even just seeing an old Spaghetti Western gives me them wanderlust vibes – and that is a term that I loathe and do not use lightly!

So, let’s talk campervan hire in the USA! I mean… you could buy one off of Craigslist, but you might get shot.

For cheap campervan and RV rental in the USA, check out Outdoorsy . It’s another takeoff in the sharing economy; you’re renting motorhomes of actual humans with actual thoughts and feelings and lives.

I gotta be honest: that’s seriously dope. Think Airbnb for the vanlife.

For budget campervan rental in the USA, Outdoorsy is the go. Then you can go and have your own 21st-century Spaghetti Western!

Oh, plus there’s all that legendary rock climbing in the States. You want a van for that shit.

  • Driving the West Coast (Road Trip Planner)
  • RV Renter’s Guide: Las Vegas
  • Driving the East Coast (Road Trip Planner)
  • RV Renter’s Guide: California

Canada RV and Campervan Travel: A Little Drive Aboot

To the north of the States is another big-ass country filled with gorgeous nature and lovely people who get weirdly offended whenever I drop the C-bomb. Cultural differences aside, Canada makes the list of the essential ‘Great Roadtrip’ countries.

The RV and campervan game in Canada is strong . It might have something to do with the expansive wilderness simply built for vanlife. Well, it would be fairer to say that vanlife was built for the expansive Canadian wilderness.

Anyway, forget the split hairs! A backpacking adventure in Canadian is supreme and by way of campervan is the best way to truly get lost there. But you’re getting quite far north. By which I mean, it’s getting cold. You’ll want to get the best travel van you can (with some damn proper insulation).

Bears on a road near a campervan and RV campsite in Jasper, Canada

Outdoorsy , once again, is the top pick for cheap campervan and RV rental in Canada. It’s all about that sharing economy! Cheap, good services, and you’re dealing with REAL people rather than a dealership with a salesperson with a 5-syllable last name that has way too many ‘K’s in it.

Find yourself a budget campervan to hire in Canada (ideally with good insulation) and go find a moose! Why a moose? I dunno, I’ve just always wanted to see a wild moose!

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan RV and Campervan Travel: Meet Stan

See, told you I’d give you some interesting choices! Have you heard of the Pamir Highway? Probably not… I hadn’t either until one of my fellow Broke Backpacker Adventure Experts told me it was the perfect place for a non-standard campervan road trip.

And he’s right! The Pamir Highway is gorgeous! Officially it’s called the M41 Highway (but nobody calls it that) and it runs from the city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan down into and through Tajikistan . Hell, if you’re feeling super adventurous, you can keep driving it into Uzbekistan and Afghanistan !

In all honesty, the scope of Central Asia is breathtaking. Exploring Kyrgyzstan alone is something out of a dream, and that’s just one of the Stans! It’s huge, there is so much space, and it is still vastly untouched by the hand of western tourism. If you’re looking for a van life adventure that really is ‘off the beaten track’, it’s the way to go.

The Pamir Highway - an unexpected dream destination for van travel

How do you acquire a campervan over that way? Well, you’re outside the scope of most of the standard budget campervan hire services but you still have options. One of the highly recommended options is Iron Horse Nomads in Kyrgyzstan. Owned and run by a couple of ex-pats, these guys can get you sorted for transport around the Stans.

Or you could just charge it: catch a flight over and hope for the best. Worst case scenario, you just buy a horse!

Europe RV and Campervan Travel: Home of the Autobahn

“Europe isn’t a country!”   Shut-up, dude; nobody cares. It still counts.

An RV or campervan in Europe goes a long way towards getting you around; there is a lot to see there. Backpacking around Europe is also expensive as all hell (on the west side), so travelling in a motorhome is also going to go a long way towards keeping your budget in check.

The cool thing about a campervan road trip in Europe is all the countries you’ll visit! By the time you’re done, you’re reasonably looking at 5 to 10 different countries (at least).

That’s a lot of unique cultures, languages, landscapes, and… food! All those accommodation cost savings? Yeah, just put them towards eating your way across Europe!

Looking down a valley with steep walking tracks on Mt Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland.

So, what are your options for cheap campervan and RV hire in Europe? Well, there’s CamperTravel Bookings . They have great coverage right across Europe (in case you forgot, there are a lot of different places in Europe) and they’re cheap with lots of different rental options.

Europe is a bit of a funny one for van travel. When it comes to the idealised road trip, it often gets left behind. But with such great options for budget campervan and RV rental in Europe, it’s becoming a more sought-after destination.

Plus, the roads, man! So big, so fast, so furious, and so damn pretty! Arrgghh, vanlife, YES!

travel vans to live in

Sort out your rental before you’re living the vanlife DREAM. To get the best price, rentalcars.com simplifies the process at a lower cost and can match you with the right vehicle for your adventure.

So, it’s as simple as finding the best van for your new van life and you’re away, right? With that sort of simplicity, you could be living and sleeping in a campervan within a week. Nay, good sir! Campervan life requires more finesse than that.

Do you remember how the first time you left on a backpacking adventure you packed like a dickhead? But then, you repeated the process and, every time, you got better. The question of what to take on a road trip and even how to live and travel in a van is the same.

It’s all about practice.

Freedom camping at a DOC site in New Zealand

You’re starting out – be it your first budget RV rental or your first converted traveller van purchase – and that makes you a beginner. That’s fine though, that means you’re only going to get better: it’s all practice!

And besides, you’ve nabbed yourself a campervan and RV travel guide 101 filled with tips for beginners. Let’s talk finesse!

The RV Travel Lifestyle: What to Expect from Travelling in a Motorhome

Before I give you the bullet point list of deliciously digestible tips, let’s talk about the actual ins and outs of the campervan and RV lifestyle. Whether you’re going on your first great campervan road trip or experimenting with living in an RV full-time, it’s not all just about freedom and good shots for your socials.

First up, there’s adulting. There’s always adulting. Just because you’re living out of a van doesn’t mean you’re not an adult!

Chores are a big part of van life. You know how when you live in a really small flat even not washing the dishes kills those rocking feng-shui vibes? Well, it’s the same deal in a van only multiplied by fifty: it’s a small space.

Kitchen cleanup, sweeping out the dirt, changing the greywater, making your bed… don’t forget to brush your teeth too! Living in a campervan permanently still means being a good homemaker. And if it’s travelling and living in an RV, you’ve just doubled up on your chores and maintenance schedule.

man brushing teeth in the mountains whilst on a van trip

That’s another important point to touch on – maintenance and breakdowns. If you’re not a gear-headed person, prepare to learn. Rolling into the mechanic’s every time you hear an odd noise is going to severely hurt your budget. I’ve watched mates brand new to the van living game teach themselves welding, change windows, and play with their vehicle’s electronics all with the assistance of our benevolent overseer Google: that shows a good mind for it.

It’s also worth mentioning cops. Mileage varies depending on how many laws you’re breaking (aim for less than five) but you will always be in closer proximity to the coppers. And – I think it goes without saying – losing your licence is a death sentence to the lifestyle of a vanner.

The idea of pulling over anywhere anytime is super appealing, but it’s also far from always being that easy, especially in urban environments. Overnight parking and sleeping in a campervan is something cracked-down on, especially in our good ol’ friend, the affluent West, though the ferocity of revenue-raising tactics varies by area. It’s sorta case by case and depends on where you are in the world, your type of van, and how smartly you’ve chosen your park-up.

Stealth van living is an acquired art form and something you will gradually get better at over time. Again, it’s about finesse: a bountiful boondock takes a deft approach.

RV and Campervan Hacks for Travelling

Everyone likes a good hack! Here are some practical tips for beginner RV and campervan travel. A few bits to keep you travelling smooth until you’re a vanlife pro!

a colorfully painted volkswagen van in costa rica

  • Bring tools – Have a solid supply of tools to work with stored somewhere inside your campervan – everything that’s good for an emergency. A well-stocked toolbox , duct tape (definitely), spare fuses – put some effort into your motorhome inventory checklist!
  • Van and RV camping apps – There are actually tonnes of these and many that are region-specific. They’ll help you suss out good camping spots to set up your van at from the free park-ups to the ‘ Why am I paying $35 for cold shower and shit-pit usage?’ variety. There are also some wicked RV trip planner apps out there and even apps for budgeting on gas. App up! It helps.
  • Utilise 24-hour stores and petrol stations – They can be a really good place for staying overnight in a campervan. Buy some supplies and then ask the attendant if they mind if you hang around until the sun is up. Or don’t ask and just look scary and unapproachable and they’ll probably leave you alone. Face tats help with that.
  • And boondock beautifully – Like I said, sneaky parking takes a bit of practice. However, generally, if you’re rocking up somewhere after dark and not planning a lengthy loiter the following morning, she’ll be right. Worst case scenario, just play the “I was falling asleep at the wheel and really needed to pull over for the night,” card: it’s bulletproof
  • For the ladies – Get yourself a GoGirl – it makes girls pee like boys! I won’t give you a how-to, but I reckon you can figure it out. Jokes aside, it’s honestly a really important safety tip. The reason animals are so cautious when and where they do their thang is because they’re vulnerable while they do, and it’s the same for people… unless you have face tats.
  • Clear storage bins – And for any other containers you use for storage, clear plastic is the way to go. Not having to unpack everything to find what you’re looking for goes a long way when you’re van living.
  • Anti-moisture packs – The desiccant ones (of the ‘DO NOT EAT’ variety) that come in just about any sorta packaging and fresh packets of burrito wraps. Use them for keeping away the damp in your campervan’s storage. But, yeah, don’t eat them.
  • Grippy rubber mats – Yeah, look, I have no idea what these are called. These ones! Stick them under your plates, cups, condiments, and whatever else so they don’t slide around on the road.
  • Always have a headtorch on hand – Hell, have two. Why stop there? Have six! Every traveller needs a headtorch.

backpacker drinking using grayl geopress filter bottle

Drink water from ANYWHERE. The Grayl Geopress is the worlds leading filtered water bottle protecting you from all manner of waterborne nasties.

Single-use plastic bottles are a MASSIVE threat to marine life. Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle. Save money and the environment!

We’ve tested the Geopress  rigorously  from the icy heights of Pakistan to the tropical jungles of Bali, and can confirm: it’s the best water bottle you’ll ever buy!

RV and Campervan Travel Tips for Staying Sane and Not Killing Each Other

Practical tips are good but what about mindset tips for van life? If you’re travelling with someone, there’s always the off-chance that you’ll get sick of them off and drive off the next time they’re using a petrol station toilet.

If you’re travelling alone, well, sometimes the hermit’s path can send us a bit loopy:

  • Keep structure – The most important part about freedom is not having too much of it; constraints are good. Set an alarm, have a morning routine, write a to-do list; these things go a long way for keeping you focused.
  • And don’t sweat the mistakes – You’ll make them, and you’ll make a lot of them. Getting lost, puncturing a tyre, nearly bogging yourself in an ancient forest deep in the primordial wilderness of Tasmania: these things happen.
  • Exercise – Similarly, keeping a routine of steady exercise is equally important. Many people like to join a 24-hour gym chain which has the added bonus of shower usage (that’s a van life hack!). That said, if you’ve ever watched a Youtube video on callisthenics, you know that any old park or tree can be a gym!
  • Keep a tight ship – A more-or-less no-brainer but take control of your space, keep it clean, and keep the feng shui on-point. I cannot stress JUST HOW MUCH keeping your space organised is necessary. And when you lose things in a van, just assume it’ll show up by itself in six hours times.
  • Meet ‘n’ greet – Use the nights you stay at campsites, backpackers, or wherever else to make friends. Socialising is good! It can’t all be a stoic monk-living in a van.
  • Take space – For travel buddies and partners, take some damn space from each other sometimes. It’s basic relationshipping 101. It’s totally ok to have days where everything they say and do makes you want to kick them in the shins, but the healthy response is to go for a long walk (up a mountain).
  • Bang it out – For every great fight, there must be a great catharsis. For couples on the road , I’m not the best person to give advice. But if we’re talking a platonic travel buddy, maybe just roll a joint on it instead.
  • Take the traveller mindset – Always remember to don your traveller hat. “What’s a ‘problem’ ? I only know of  ‘fun challenges’ . That person looks friendly, I’ll ask for help .”

Get Insured Before Embarking on Your Van Travelling Adventure

Oh, so you got some legally mandated vehicular insurance? Well, that’s a good start, but what about some optional insurance for your anatomical features? Your face, your spine, your favourite bits…

You’re going travelling in a van and that means getting travel insurance before you do because, like it or not, things go wrong. And when they do, someone has to pick up the tab. Personally, I’d prefer that someone be a faceless insurance corporation with the cash to spare rather than my mum.

Make sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! I highly recommend World Nomads, as they’re one of the best travel insurance providers out there.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

travel vans to live in

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

History is a funny thing: it works in cycles. Once upon a time, our ancestors walked great distances shepherding their livestock and foraging for food. They followed the sun.

And then, we discovered how nice it is to have a home. You mean I can have a mattress, a flushing toilet, and a kitty-cat? Sign me up!

And now, reality is settling in. Faced with the reality of crushing debt, overwhelming mortgage payments, and storage spaces full of stuff we never use, we once again yearn for the romance of the nomadic life. But things are different now.

Our horses have been replaced with vans, our cooking fires with gas stoves, and our deep-seated fear of the night’s terrors with deep-cycle solar-powered batteries. It’s a new kind of romance, but it’s still an adventure.

To live the minimalist lifestyle and see the world with no roots save the one you’re driving. To do something kick-ass! That’s an adventure.

You know that feeling you get when you’re doing something awesome and ballsy and you’re going your own way? That’s van travel.

Give it a shot. Hire a campervan, or an RV, or a converted ice-cream truck… Hell, build one from scratch! But just give it a damn shot.

Take that first little dip in the water of van life. Then, see if you can go back in the cage.

A campervan covered in cool graffiti in a palm treelined campsite

Ziggy Samuels

How to live in a van and travel Pinterest Image

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I had been traveling around America with my husband for over 10 years, but now it seems impossible, not just because of the pandemic but because we bought a horse farm in Irvine, CA, and have been spending most of our time here ever since. I literally can’t wait to start traveling again!

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Van Life Guide for Beginners: Traveling Around the United States in a Campervan

travel vans to live in

Written By Bastian Graf

The best way to see North America is on a road trip. Whether you’re planning a road trip and plan to rent a campervan or RV or you’re considering becoming a full-time van lifer, we have you covered. We’ve put together a full guide covering do’s and don’ts, great tips, and expert recommendations for traveling around the United States by road.

Van Life USA Cover

Download the full guide here

The best way to see North America is on a road trip. Whether you’re planning a road trip and plan to rent a campervan or RV or you’re considering becoming a full-time van lifer, we...

Here’s what you can find in this Guide:

travel vans to live in

1. Best Campervan Rentals

  • Campervans or Conversion Vans

2. Tips for Campervan Travel 

Plan Out Your Route

Be prepared on the road, must-have travel apps.

  • Campervan/Minivan Maintenance

Campervanning = Minimalism so Pack Smart

3. Budget Travel Tips to Save Money on Your Campervan Trip

4. Campervan Travel Guide – Road Trips To Consider

5. Best Campsites or RV Parks to Visit in the US

6. Van Life Tips – Best Places to…?

Take Selfies

Go Stargazing

  • Watch the Sunsets

Campervan on road with backdrop of Yosemite National Park, USA

Best Campervan Rentals

Fridge vs. no fridge – lots of space vs. not so much space – proper campervan vs. minivan … decisions decisions decisions.

Renting a car or campervan for the first time can be pretty daunting, and with so many options out there, it can be hard to decide on what’s the best van is for you. Read on for top tips and expert advice on how to find the right vehicle for you.

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself.

  • What am I most comfortable driving?
  • How many people are in my group?
  • What is my overall budget for this road trip?
  • Do I prefer to sleep in a vehicle or a tent?

Answering those simple questions will help you to decide between renting a campervan or minivan.

Minivan Rentals

These dependable vehicles are cheap, reliable, and, most importantly, easy to pick up all over the country. We recommend minivans for:

  • Travelers who are happy to fold down the seats and throw a mattress in the back of the van.  Packing a tent is also an option.
  • Travelers on a budget – minivans are cheaper vehicles to run than campervans or RVs .
  • Groups of people who are traveling together (this is a great way to save on the cost of fuel)
  • People who are planning to mix it up between camping and staying in hotels .

Campervan Rentals

The perfect vehicle for groups of two who are planning on living on the road, experiencing the van life, for the length of their road trip.

We recommend campervans for:

travel vans to live in

  • People who have a bigger budget to spend on a vehicle
  • Travelers who prefer their home comforts such as the fridge, kitchen sink, and gas stove.
  • Travelers who are planning on sleeping in their vehicle every night, and are looking for a little more room.
  • Travelers who are considering van living as a lifestyle

*Bonus – Some campervans have solar panels!  Having solar panels means you have less of a need to stay at a powered campsite to recharge the batteries for your fridge & lights!

Still not sure what vehicle to rent? Check out our articles  6 Reasons to Rent a Minivan for your Next Road Trip and  6 Reasons Renting a Campervan is the Best Way to Travel the USA .

Tips for Campervan Travel

Traveling around in a campervan is a brand new experience to many people, so we thought we’d put together some tips to ensure that your trip around the USA with Travelers Autobarn is the ultimate, stress-free road trip!

The United States is vast, and you won’t be the first road tripper to look at Google Maps and underestimate how long it will take you to drive from one place to another. But, while you still want to keep some degree of spontaneity in your trip, it’s ideal to have a rough idea of where you want to travel to, the route you want to take, and how long it will take you to get there. If you are going through larger cities, try to avoid rush hour traffic, or you may get delayed for hours.

Have a rough plan of where you want to go, your must-see sites, and where you plan to stay each night will help you stay on budget, be more relaxed, and have a more enjoyable trip. Bring a map of the United States too!  You never know when you may hit a stretch of highway without services, so be prepared!

*Bonus – when you rent a campervan RV or minivan from Travellers Autobarn USA, all of our vehicles come with FREE UNLIMITED MILES ! So even if you detour from your original plan, we have you covered!

Food & Water

The hotter it is, the more water you need.  You don’t want to get stuck in Death Valley National Park without water!

packed nuts and dried fruits

It’s also crucial that you pack some non-perishable food to keep you going should you break down – think cereal bars, nuts, and dried fruit. Try to avoid snacking on salty snacks – it’s just going to make you even thirstier and could speed up dehydration.

Weather – Know the forecast!

Knowing the weather forecast is extremely important!  Depending on the time of year and what parts of the country you plan to campervan through, Mother Nature may have a different plan for your road trip.  Winter months can bring on harsh temperatures, slippery roads, high winds, and road closures. Knowing ahead of time can save you from having to turn around or from being stuck in a stressful situation.

In some parts of the United States, you will need to be aware of hurricane season and pay attention to tornado warnings.  The Weather Channel app is a great way to check the forecasts before you set off on the open road each day.

Our flexible drop-offs and unlimited miles are extra helpful in these situations. Don’t be in a rush!

*Bonus – For more tips on winter travel, check out our Van Life Guide to Winter Road Trips in a Campervan .

Avoid unsealed roads

Although many of the highways and roads in the United States are in good condition, you may end up on a gravel or dirt road.

If you have rented a campervan or car from one of the big cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or San Francisco (to name a few), then you might find that the insurance policy you took out does not cover you when you are driving on unsealed or unpaved roads. Make sure you read the small print.

Bison crossing road in winter

When you’re driving, be aware that collisions with these animals are frequent, as well as cows and other animals, particularly at nighttime, dawn, or dusk. If you are pulling a night shift at the wheel, then try to ensure that the passenger next to you stays awake and alert to help you watch out for any animals on the road.

And please don’t try and take a selfie with or pet the wild animals!  Not only is it against the law in certain parts of the country, but it is dangerous and could result in serious injuries or even death.

Boondocking – Dry Camping – Wild Camping

Solar panels come in very handy when you need to dry camp.  If you are running out of steam and need to pull over in the middle of the night, or you can’t find a campground for the night, make sure you are in an area that allows the campervan to be parked.  If you are in or near a larger city, it should be reasonably easy to find a Walmart, gas station, or truck stop that will allow you to use the parking lot for the night. Make sure it is 24-hours in the event you need to use the bathroom facilities.  If you are in the middle of nowhere, make sure you don’t park on private property or where there is a “no trespassing” sign.

GasBuddy – An excellent app for travelers on a budget!  Gasbuddy helps locate the cheapest gas near you so you can compare prices and save.  They have a rewards program that allows you to earn points towards free gas, as well.

travel vans to live in

Google Maps or Waze – Real-time GPS apps with live traffic alerts. Both apps are popular, so it comes down to preference.

The Weather Channel – The Weather Channel app has a free version and is great for current and extended forecasts across the United States. If you are heading to a new location, make sure and double-check the weather forecast.  You may need to change your route, stop and restock your water supply, or give yourself additional time due to slippery roads.

First Aid: American Red Cross – The First Aid app is a must!  We hope you never need it, but in the event, you have a first aid emergency or need to prepare for a weather emergency, the content is preloaded, so you have access to safety tips, step by step instructions, videos, and access to 911 no matter your location.  And it’s free!

HipCamp – Hipcamp is an awesome app for finding and booking campsites, RV parks, and more.

Campervan or Minivan Maintenance

Remember that you are responsible for the campervan while it is in your possession. You should treat it like it is your vehicle and carry out basic maintenance checks every 300-500 miles. Basic maintenance includes checking things like tire pressure, and oil, washer fluid, and coolant levels.

If you’re driving a campervan, then make sure you know the height of the vehicle and be wary of driving into parking garages, under bridges, or low hanging branches if you aren’t sure.

Travellers Autobarn Campervan with Campfire

Forest fires and brushfires are unfortunately very common in parts of the United States.  They can be dangerous – so always make sure you adhere to the guidelines.

We recommend that you visit the check the fire danger rating in the area and make sure campfires are permitted where you are staying (particularly in summer).

If you start a campfire, then you must always make sure it is entirely out at the end of the night and have at least 10 liters of water nearby in case it gets out of hand.

Just because you are camping doesn’t mean you have to stick to cups of noodles, hot dogs, or cans of beans.  Get creative and meal prep before you head out on the open road. Here are a few prep tips for cooking in a campervan.

Campervan cooking

  • Cut up your chicken, beef, or pork and toss them in the seasoning or sauces before you pack up.  Not only does this help with cleanup in the campervan, but it also saves space. If you season the meat ahead of time, then you don’t have to pack spices or bottles of sauce, and the meat will be full of flavor! You can even go one step further and cook the meat ahead of time.
  • Wash, cut, and put your fruits and veggies in a gallon bag.   Again, this saves time and space on the road and makes it easier for snacks if you are traveling with kids.
  • Pack Reynolds Wrap and grilling bags. These are great for preparing meals over the campfire.  Toss in your preseasoned steak strips, potatoes, veggies and add a little water, seal or wrap it up tight and throw it on the fire. Quick cleanup, easy to throw together and delicious!  Foil is also great for cooking breakfast burritos, shrimp boils, teriyaki chicken with peppers and pineapple, fish, and Banana S’Mores, to name a few.
  • Precook a few pounds of ground beef! Ground beef is very versatile.  You can throw together some tacos, taco salads or nachos, add to some pasta sauce for a quick spaghetti, or use it for breakfast burritos or hobo packets in the morning. If you aren’t a red meat eater, then chop up some sausage or ground turkey, or mushrooms if you are vegetarian/vegan.

It’s no secret that traveling in a campervan comes with less storage and smaller space than a motorhome.  Dollar stores are a great place to find travel-size toiletries for your road trip, and it’s easier on the budget.

Another great packing tip is to save condiments from fast-food restaurants.  If you know you are going on a campervan road trip, plan to keep any extra condiments from eating out.  Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper packets take up a lot less space than full-size bottles and don’t require refrigeration.  This not only saves space for additional packing items but doesn’t take up space in the campervan fridge.

travel vans to live in

Budget Travel Tips to Save Money on your Campervan Trip

One of your biggest outgoings is going to be the cost of your fuel. As we mentioned earlier, one of the best apps we recommend is GasBuddy. It’s convenient for finding the cheapest gas prices in your area. Having an app like GasBuddy or Waze can assist you in not only finding a gas station nearby but also which station has the lowest fuel prices.

*Pro-tip: Having the A/C on all the time will eat into your fuel tank – so if you’re trying to save some money settle for opening the windows instead.

Hit a supermarket with a grocery list in hand!

grocery list

Once you have rented your campervan, you will likely be departing from one major city, so we recommend that before you hit the road, you stop by a supermarket to stock up on all the essentials (and we don’t just mean beers and sausages for the barbie!).  Have a list! We all know that we spend more money in the grocery store without a list frequently buying food or supplies we don’t need and forgetting items we do.

Buying food and supplies from gas stations and small local stores on the journey can hit your traveling budget hard.

National Parks Pass

If you plan on visiting more than 3 National Parks, then we highly recommend you invest in an annual America the Beautiful pass ! The cost is $80 and gives access to over 2,000 National Parks and National Refuges.  Typically each park has around a $35 entrance fee, so an America the Beautiful pass is an excellent deal for travelers planning National Park Road Trips . If you are 62 and older, they have an annual Senior Pass that is significantly cheaper.  If you are a current, or veteran, member of the US military or if you are a US citizen or permanent resident with permanent disabilities then you are eligible for a free pass.*

*Please confirm prices and terms have not changed for these passes at NPS.gov .

Campervan Travel Guide – Road Trips to Consider

Ultimate National Parks Campervan Road Trip   – One of our top recommendations that you can enjoy in both summer and winter !

West Coast Campervan Road Trips – Los Angeles to Big Sur , LA to San Fran , or Los Angeles to Seattle

The Narrows Hike – Ultimate Zion Campervan Getaway – Zion National Park features some of the most incredible hikes in the United States.

Ultimate Rock Climbing Campervan Road Trip – Not for the novice!  But if you love rock climbing, then this itinerary is a must!

San Francisco to Denver and back – You won’t regret this roundtrip campervan adventure!  Our itinerary takes you through some of the most famous places in the western United States.

Tips for a budget campervan rental

Best Campsites or RV Parks to Visit in the USA

The United States has so many amazing places to visit . Traveling around in a campervan lets you see the most popular destinations, plus all of the beauty in between. You’ve decided which campervan is best for your road trip, you know all of the tips and best travel apps, we’ve given you a few road trip itineraries to consider, so now all that is left is where to stay.

The US is full of campgrounds and RV parks with a variety of amenities. However, if you are on a tight budget, you may want to look for free campgrounds along the way.  Just be prepared, many of the free campsites come with no facilities or amenities so you will need to plan accordingly.  Some of these sites are within the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in parking lots of larger retailers like Costo, Walmart, and Cabelas, and truck stops and rest areas.  Make sure and do your research so that you don’t get ticketed.

Here are 5 of our favorite RV Parks to visit:

  • North Pines Campground, Yosemite National Park, California
  • Glacier Campground, Glacier National Park, Montana
  • Zion River Resort, Zion National Park, Utah
  • Mesquite Spring, Death Valley National Park, California
  •  Paradise on the River, outside Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Bonus: If you are planning a road trip out of Las Vegas or California, check out our  Best Campervan Campgrounds Near Las Vegas  and  Best Places to Campervan in California.

Van Life Tips – Best Places to…?

Whether it is the Grand Canyon in Arizona, inside of a gigantic tree in Redwood National and State Parks, overlooking the Pacific ocean with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, or hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park, we know travel selfies are a must! Here are our top 5 selfie spots.

  • Antelope Canyon in Arizona – We already mentioned places like the Grand Canyon & Zion above, but add Antelope Canyon to your list. It is particularly incredible and something everyone should experience.
  • Glacier National Park, Montana – Lake McDonald, Grinnel Glacier, Going to the Sun Road – GNP should be on everyone’s bucket list!
  • Redwood National & State Parks, California – The enormous redwood trees are not only a site to see but are fantastic backdrops for the avid selfie-taker.
  • San Francisco , California – Hawk Hill is a great spot to take a selfie with the Golden Gate Bridge and the city in the distance.
  • Las Vegas, Nevada – There are too many spots to list, but the fountain at the Bellagio Hotel is a great place to start.

Pro tip: Any US National Park is a spectacular place for selfies.

travel vans to live in

Travel outside of the bigger cities, put your phone down, and stargaze into the incredible nighttime sky.

  • Arches National Park – Utah Bryce Canyon – Utah
  • Death Valley National Park – California (make sure to go during the milder seasons)
  • Joshua Tree National Park – California
  • Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado
  • Sedona – Arizona (don’t plan to stargaze during the late summer months.  Early July to late August is monsoon season.)

Watch the Sunset

Who doesn’t love a good sunset? Below are some of our favorite spots to take in some of the most magnificent sunsets in North America.

  • Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona – The south rim, in particular, provides not only an exceptional sunset experience but a view of most of the canyon itself.
  • California – Pick a place! Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Big Sur, Joshua Tree National Park.  California is full of beautiful sunsets locations.
  • Montana/Wyoming – Glacier National Park , The Grand Tetons or Yellowstone National Park.  The clean mountain air and the sun setting behind the mountains – you can’t go wrong.
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico – Old Fort Marcy Park is an incredible experience for those willing to hike.
  • Arches National Park, Utah – When the sun sets, it changes the colors in the sandstone arches making a spectacular visual experience and a prime opportunity for incredible photos.

You are all set for traveling around the USA in a campervan, now book your campervan at one of our three US RV rental locations !

Here are a few other guides you might enjoy.

Guide to the Best Campgrounds for Campervans in the USA

Guide to Free Camping in the USA

Visit all our Guides here

Considering traveling overseas?  Check out our other Beginner’s Guides for New Zealand and Australia Campervan Trips.

About the Author

Bastian Graf

Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.

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6 Vacation-Ready Travel Vans & Campers You Can Buy Or Rent In 2024

W ith the weather getting warmer, you may be itching to get out of the office — and the house — for a much-needed vacation. However, with exorbitant airfare costs, you might be looking at more affordable options, such as going camping (or glamping) or a tried-and-true, good old-fashioned road trip. If this is the case, you're going to want the right vehicle to travel and stay in to get the most out of the experience and remain comfortable throughout.

Ideally, this vehicle or trailer will also be affordable, so you can better spend your money on other fun things during your vacation. One way to save money on a travel van or camper is by looking for an affordable campervan conversion that will outfit a van with customizable amenities for sleeping, eating, and more. A custom build takes time, however, and it may not be ready before your time off from work. Even so, there are still options for the travel vans and campers that are vacation-ready and currently available — here are six of them.

Read more: 5 Of The Best RV Deep Cycle Battery Brands, Ranked

The Winnebago Travato Parks And Drives Easy

Winnebago is synonymous with motorhomes and RVs, but the American manufacturer also makes the Travato , one of the best-selling campervans in North America. With four different floor plans, the Travato's interior is 21 feet long and can comfortably sleep two. Depending on which model you opt for, you can sleep in twin beds, flex beds, or Murphy beds. The brand's WinnSleep system uses a dual-layer, high-density hygienic foam mattress and suspension system so that you can be just as comfortable sleeping on the road as you are in your own home bedroom. If you're not a light packer, there is storage space under the bed, as well as roof and bike storage, and RAM Tough-Track mounts are included to keep smartphones and devices conveniently nearby.

The Travato is capable of providing 12,000 usable watt-hours of power if you feel like taking the travel van off the grid. This electricity can be used for the vehicle's Eco-Hot water system, which can quickly heat water for cooking and cleaning, as well as cut down on wastewater. If you're camping out in colder weather, embedded roof and sidewall insulation and dual-pane, acrylic-insulated windows will help efficiently retain the temperature inside.

A swing-arm mounted table that swivels 360 degrees allows flexibility in the interior, which can also include a refrigerator, wet bath, and wardrobe closet. The travel van is also practical to drive on the road and park as you would with any normal-sized van, and its front seats can turn and be used as part of the living space. The base price for the Winnebago Travato is $185,749, though the cost will go up if you include rooftop solar panels and other additional options.

The Airstream Bambi Is A Compact Version Of The Iconic Flying Cloud

Airstream is famous for its iconic-looking trailers — if you were trying to recreate an old-fashioned road trip that looked straight out of the 1960s, the Flying Cloud — one of the best retro-campers you can buy — would help you achieve that vintage look. But, if you're looking for a much more compact trailer that would be a lot easier to pull behind you on your next vacation, the Airstream Bambi may be closer to what you're looking for.

The single-axle travel trailer has four different floor plans between 16 and 22 feet in size, and — despite its compact footprint — can sleep up to four passengers. You can sleep comfortably, no matter what the temperature is outside -- the camper has full air conditioning and heating. It's also got room for a galley kitchen, bathroom facilities, and a dinette and lounging space. Other features include stainless-steel kitchenware, stain-resistant seat cushions, roll-top lockers, a retractable awning, a 12V/110V LED high-definition TV and DVD player, Bluetooth stereo sound, a solar pre-wire kit, and a rearview monitoring system.

Like other Airstream vehicles, it's built with lightweight aluminum and a curved, vintage design. Since it's so compact, it's easy to maneuver and tow, and you won't have much trouble parking it or fitting it into a small campsite, making it great for a vacation spot as well as getting to and from that spot. The base package for the smallest Airstream Bambi starts at $60,400.

Consider The Grounded G2 If You Want To Go Fully Electric

If you're looking for a fully electric campervan for a more sustainable vacation, one manufacturer you can look at is Grounded. The Grounded G1 is one of the best electric campervans made , but it's not currently available — however, the Grounded G2 is travel ready and offers many of the same great features. The fully electric, solar-equipped Grounded G2 uses the BrightDrop Zero platform and is powered by a 173 kWh battery that allows for an impressive 250-mile range. An additional 10 kWh battery powers its spacious living area and the numerous amenities within it, including a kitchen with a fridge, freezer, and induction stove.

One thing you'll notice from the outside of the G2 is its high ceiling, which is 78.5 inches at its tallest point. Inside, it's 158 inches long and 75.2 inches at its widest, and has enough room for a queen-sized bed, bench seating with a flip-up table, and underseat and overhead storage. It also includes an outdoor shower and/or indoor wet room with a dry-flush toilet.

The travel van is loaded with many of the high-tech features you can expect from a luxury EV, and its companion Grounded+ app allows you to control the vehicle's lighting, temperature, appliances, and entertainment, as well as track location and driving data, battery status, and water and fuel levels. The interior is highly customizable, and Grounded says that it can still be built and delivered quickly if you leave a small deposit now. The base price starts at $195,000.

The Shasta Compact Will Keep You Warm In The Winter

The 2024 Shasta Compact has four different floor plans, but they're all relatively small if you're looking for a camper that's practical to travel with as well as affordable. The Shasta Compact models, which range between 16' 9" and 23' 1" long, are all easy to tow and have a hitch weight between 300 and 400 pounds. Its aluminum construction and fiberglass insulation won't weigh you down much, either.

It includes a jackknife sofa and blackout shades for the sleeping area, as well as a skylight and a powered roof vent. For bathroom facilities, it can include a marine foot flush toilet, shower, towel hooks, and a mirrored medicine cabinet, while its kitchen can include a two or three-burner stove with glass cover and a range hood with exhaust fan. The Shasta Compact also includes USB ports for charging your devices and a cable TV hook-up for more old-school entertainment in the living and sleeping areas.

The auto-ignition furnace comes in 18,000 or 25,000 BTU models, while the larger trims include fireplaces. A water heater bypass and water system winterization kit also comes standard. The roof is fully walkable and has a power awning attached with LED lights, while rack and pinion and carpetless slideouts are available for certain models. Depending on which Shasta Compact you go with, its MSRP is around $16,000.

The VanCraft Sprinter Can Go Off The Road And Off The Grid

The VanCraft Sprinter is an affordable campervan that won't break the bank if you're keeping costs in mind regarding your next vacation. Starting at $122,000, VanCraft offers three different-sized models of its travel van: the Rover, Rover XL, and Alltrek. The Rover is 19 feet long and has space for up to four people to sleep, while the larger models are three feet longer and can sleep up to six people.

VanCraft excels at building interiors that are easy on the eyes and will feel like you're staying inside a (small) fully furnished home. The cockpit includes black leather seats and a curtain will keep it separate from the living area, which includes maple walls, vinyl flooring, and a 6-inch memory foam mattress. A 45-quart refrigerator, induction cook top, and electric pressure regulator come with the kitchen, which is powered by the travel van's 200 Ah battery. A 320-watt solar panel and 3000-watt inverter provides juice to the battery, and passengers can use up to three 110V outlets and six USB outlets for various devices and appliances. The van's dash also includes Apple CarPlay and a 7-inch touchscreen.

Along with its solar power, the VanCraft Sprinter is great for off-the-grid travel thanks to its 40-gallon fresh water system, which is user-friendly and supplies an outdoor hot shower. If you plan on taking the van to colder climates, the water system can also be winterized, and you can opt for an all-season insulation package to keep warm more efficiently with less energy. Another available package is the VanCraft Sprinter's off-road option, which includes 32-inch all-terrain tires, a matte hood wrap, and a two-tone light pod kit, which will allow you to truly head off the grid.

The Thor Tranquillity Is For Those Who Like To Travel In Style

If you want to travel in style and are looking for a luxury campervan that will blow you away , one option is the Thor Tranquility . Built on a Mercedes-Benz chassis, it's a fairly compact travel van that still offers plenty of high-quality features. You can opt for a metallic gray or radiant silver interior, or mix and match the two options with the cabinetry.

Depending on which of the five models you go with, it's 19' 8" to 24' 4" long. At 10.5' tall, it offers plenty of headroom in the interior. The two captain chairs at the front can turn 180 degrees and be used for the living area, which includes a dual-burner gas stove, microwave, refrigerator, sink, dining table, and a high-definition 24-inch smart TV mounted on a flexible swing arm. A second overhead TV in the front and a Wi-Fi extended and 4G hotspot can also enhance your entertainment options. A sleeper sofa can fold out for more space, while the bathroom and shower are fully enclosed for privacy.

All-terrain tires and a 200-watt solar charging system with a solar charge controller will allow you to take the van wherever you want to go, while features like traffic sign assist, active lane-keeping assist, blind spot assist, attention assist, and cruise control make it easier to drive. A keyless entry system can also be included for added convenience. The MSRP of the​​ Thor Tranquility starts at $180,460. It's available in four colors: Tenorite Gray, Blue Gray, Silver Gray, and Arctic White.

Read the original article on SlashGear

friends using camper van by the water

travel vans to live in

Van life-line: Living in RVs can be affordable but perilous in Florida

Jacquelyn Velazquez carries laundry, cleaned in an outdoor washing machine and dried on a line, back into the trailer where her family of three is living while waiting to be able to repair their home's leaking roof and rebuild the gutted interior, which flooded nearly to the ceiling during last year's Hurricane Ian, in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

Soaring RV ownership in the United States is often linked to “VanLife” glamor and the envied lifestyle of digital nomads. But full-time RV living in Florida also looks like Ron Elrod and his family of four, who live in their camper at Coastal River RV Resort by the coastal town of Steinhatchee.

It’s not so much VanLife, as VanLifeline.

As Elrod, 38, and his wife and two children watched Hurricane Idalia draw a bead on the Big Bend of Florida last fall, they grabbed up their two cats and dog, Buddy, and evacuated to Perry, a city about 28 miles away. Crammed into a friend’s powerless garage, the family and the pets listened to the winds roar. All they could do was scour Facebook on their phones for updates on the storm’s destruction.

“It was real scary,” Elrod said. “When you see the walls on the building that you’re in move, it makes you wonder whether you made the right decision to evacuate. But I’m glad we left.”

A scallop haven nestled at the mouth of the Steinhatchee River on the Gulf of Mexico, the town of Steinhatchee was battered by Hurricane Idalia. Seawater surged 12 feet across coastal Taylor and Dixie counties, rivaling the devastating “Storm of the Century” in 1993. The first major hurricane on record to make landfall in this part of the Big Bend, Idalia’s winds reached 115 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s final report on the storm . In that garage, the Elrod family watched on livestream as the Steinhatchee River carried houses out to the Gulf.

Most owners at Coastal River RV Resort picked up and evacuated their RVs as well as themselves before the storm. But there were a few like Elrod who had nowhere else to move their campers. When the family returned the next morning, through the fallen trees and downed power lines stood their RV like a beacon.

Some reports estimate that 1 million Americans live full-time in RVs, with Florida one of the most popular spots owing to its lack of income tax and perceived ease of life. The numbers and conditions for those who do so for lack of other affordable housing options are elusive. Housing scholars report that “mobile, leisurely, full-time RVers are the most commonly researched RV population,” while “stationary, lower-income RVers are recognized but overlooked in studies.”

READ MORE: New law to provide Florida homebuyers with more transparency on flood history

Elrod and his family live permanently in their RV because it’s affordable and close to the hardware store where Elrod works in town. Even after Idalia ravaged the coast, he doesn’t plan on living anywhere else, he said.

But if Hurricane Idalia hadn’t spared their camper, federal flood insurance and disaster assistance are generally not available for RVs that have not been converted to a permanent foundation. They would have lost their home — and gotten no relief.

Farther back in the camp, Amber McGreevy, 24, was more worried about protecting her one- and two-year-old children than their RV. McGreevy and her husband didn’t have a truck to move their trailer for Idalia, and two large oak trees loom over their home – one directly above their children’s room.

Their home was spared serious damage. But as the clouds receded, their troubles were only beginning. Before the storm, people stocked up on grocery items, including baby formula. In a town without a major grocery store for about 30 miles, she had no way to feed her child. She ended up getting formula from her mother in Georgia.

Like Elrod, McGreevy doesn’t want to move. Not only is camper life what they can afford, but she prefers it.

“It’s better than a house in my opinion,” McGreevy said. “Because I have lost so many homes growing up to natural disasters, I don’t want to that for my kids. When I get a truck, I want to know I can move my home and know it’ll be OK when we come back.”

As a variety of government, NGO and private-sector players work to try and fix the larger U.S. housing crisis, campers and RVs can serve as an adequate alternative to keeping people off the streets, said Adam Millard-Ball, an associate professor of Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles.

But large urban centers don’t always have space for RV resorts like the ones in rural Steinhatchee. To provide temporary affordable housing in cities, Millard-Ball suggests converting excess space in public roads and parking lots into legal areas for camper residents to live. The average residential street is more than twice as wide as the functional minimum of 16 feet, and some of that extra space could be used as housing, Millard-Ball’s research shows .

Equally important is ensuring access to basic utilities like water hookups and garbage collection to full-time RV residents, he said.

“Some people like the nomadic existence, but for many people it’s the lesser of two evils,” Millard-Ball said. “It’s better than couch surfing or being in a tent.” Copyright 2024 WUFT 89.1

Bruhat Soma, 12, of Tampa, Fla., stands on stage with his family after winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee, in Oxon Hill, Md., on Thursday night.

I took my camper van across 48 US states. These are my 10 favorites

Apr 14, 2024 • 8 min read

travel vans to live in

Setting off on the road in a camper van gives you maximum flexibility as you discover the USA © epicurean / Getty Images

Hitting the road in a camper van is one of the most intimate – and exciting – ways to experience the USA .

Which is why I set off on a two-year road trip with my husband and dog  in 2017. We camped in 48 states, hiked countless national parks , ate in local towns and drove from coast to coast in our 1996 retro camper van. 

As our trip unfolded, we learned that certain states suited us van campers better than others. The states of the  Southwest , for example, contain a wide diversity of landscapes within their free public lands. The East Coast amazed us with stunning fall colors and historic towns we had previously only seen in books.

While every state added something unique to our adventure, a few really stood out. Having now crossed the entire continental United States, we’re delighted to share the 10 best US states that are perfect for your next camper or RV trip.

Where to find the best US national parks for RV campers this summer

A family around a campfire by evening, Maine, USA

Pine forests and craggy coasts  

Driving into Maine from its northwest side brings tall pine trees, skinny roads and no cell phone service for miles. This was the stuff of a novel by famous Mainer Stephen King – and to us West Coast folks, it was the unfamiliar territory that made the trip that much more exciting. In northern Maine, the entire landscape smells like Christmas trees. (We learned from a fellow camper that balsam fir collected from Maine provides the largest supply of Christmas wreaths in the country.) Heading toward the coast, we reached  Acadia National Park , where the mountains meet the ocean. We were happy to find that this is one of the most dog-friendly parks in the USA, which meant we got to bring our travel companion along many of the trails.

The 10 best parks in Maine to hike, snowshoe or swim

A hiker in fall in the Adirondack Mountains, New York State, USA

2. New York

Forget the city, and head upstate

Putting  New York State  on our top-10 list was a tough call, since it shares so many things we loved about Vermont and New Hampshire as well, like incredible fall foliage. Yet New York makes the cut thanks to its surprising (to us) range of geography. From Eternal Flame Falls in the state’s far west to wineries in the Finger Lakes and watchtower hikes high in the  the Adirondacks , we barely had enough time to check off everything on our must-visit list. And that’s not to mention the more well-known Lake Placid Olympic sites, Niagara Falls  and Letchworth State Park . What’s more the hiking trails all over the state really impressed us. Now that we’ve sampled a bit of all the state has to offer, it’s at the top of our itinerary for future road trips.

6 Hudson Valley road trips for every type of traveler

Gorgeous rainbow on an autumn day along the Foothills Parkway in Wears Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA

3. Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains are especially beautiful in fall

Great Smoky Mountains National Park  is the most visited one in the whole country – and for good reason. As we visited the park and drove through  Tennessee in the fall, we took in the rolling mountains and waterfalls that dot the landscape, finding countless surprises around each corner of the twisty back roads.

Traveling in a camper van, we’re always on the lookout for affordable things to do. The mountain town of Gatlinburg is the perfect gateway for enjoying free trails in and around the national park. We spent the majority of our visit hiking through the colorful forests and climbing fire towers to get the best viewpoint.

Where to celebrate Dolly Parton in Tennessee

A camper van parked at a viewpoint in California

4. California

Experience a little bit of everything

If we had to pick one state to experience a little bit of everything, it would be  California . Its ecosystems are so varied that you don’t need to drive too far to witness something new; in fact, the place is so large and diverse that it shouldn’t even count as a single state. Despite the state’s famous popularity, the vast size of its public lands made finding campsites easy. Within the space of a few days, we spent evenings under the famous redwood trees, had picnics by the ocean and wandered aimlessly among the cacti of Death Valley National Park . Oh, and rock climbed in Joshua Tree National Park , took a dip in Lake Tahoe  and hiked among the rocks of Lassen Volcanic National Park .

Here’s what you need to know before your trip to California

A cannon at Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania

5. Pennsylvania

A cradle of American history 

Pennsylvania turned out to be one of the most memorable states we visited, thanks to its role in the USA’s story. We spent an entire day taking an auto tour around the Gettysburg National Military Park , and seeing the battlefields in person brought to life the history we had read in school.  Eastern State Penitentiary  and  Valley Forge National Historic Park were other stops we hadn’t considered before rolling into Pennsylvania. While federal public land is sparse here, Pennsylvania has numerous state parks that offer free, easily accessible camping.

The 5 best road trips in the Poconos

Cups of fresh cherries for sale in Traverse City, Michigan, USA

6. Michigan

Great Lakes and pristine beaches

From its southern stretches to the  Upper Peninsula ,  Michigan  has a surprising number of pristine beaches that are not packed with tourists like the ones we visited in California. One of my favorite memories is camping on the shore of Lake Superior, having dinner on a pebble beach after several days of visiting Great Lakes lighthouses.

We were able to find camping spots all the way north to the UP, feasting on whitefish and pasties (meat pies) along the way. In the summer months, bushes brim with fresh berries to pick, and farmers markets abound with fresh produce.

11 of the best places to visit in Michigan

Tent camping under the northern lights in Minnesota

7. Minnesota

See the northern lights on a fall night

We just loved  Minnesota , which rarely makes the list of top road-trip spots in the USA. Known as the state of 10,000 lakes, Minnesota had no shortage of fishing holes and quiet campsites by the water. We were able to travel all the way north to the border of Canada and take a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters . While Minnesota winters are exceptionally cold, fall is lovely here. And the chances are high that you can see the northern lights on a cloudless night.

Minnesota’s best – and most underrated – state parks

A camper van with open rear doors in the Monument Valley Desert, Utah & Arizona, USA

Natural wonders for everyone; off-grid travelers most welcome

For outdoor enthusiasts who love mountain biking, rock climbing and stunning hikes , Arizona is a gem. While most people (rightly) associate the state with the  Grand Canyon , all of it is ripe for adventure. Free campsites are scattered in the forests surrounding Sedona , Flagstaff  and southern Arizona, which makes it one of the most budget-friendly places to visit year-round.

We loved Arizona’s warmth and hospitality toward explorers from elsewhere. Indeed, the state is a magnet for anyone interested in off-grid living. Each February, the town of Quartzsite swells to accommodate nearly 2 million travelers, who visit in camper vans, RVs and converted school buses. Workshops and community events held on the outskirts of town teach travelers about van life, provide help with solar-panel installations and bring people together to share tips on future road trips. All these services for nomads provide a sense of community  – which, together with the fair weather, make Arizona the perfect launchpad for an epic road trip.

Introducing Arizona’s national parks and monuments

A camper on the dunes, White Sands National Park, New Mexico, USA

9. New Mexico

Do you prefer red or green chile?

Starry nights. Predictable (even if chilly) temperatures. Few flying bugs. What’s not to love about camping in the desert? And when it comes to spectacular desert vistas,  New Mexico is in a class of its own. Endless trails lead through spire-like hoodoo rock formations, while a lack of trees in the north allows for excellent landscape visibility, and some of the most magnificent sunsets we’ve ever seen. It’s also home to our favorite cave system,  Carlsbad Caverns National Park , on the state’s southern border.

New Mexico’s camping logistics are appealing, too. Large swaths of Bureau of Land Management (BLM)–managed areas allow free camping, and the state generally flies under the radar, which makes it less crowded even in the most scenic areas. And we ate vibrant cuisine at affordable prices all over the state, an underrated food haven. Red or green chile? We’ll take both.

How to take a perfect spring-break road trip through New Mexico

A woman stands outside her RV parked on the side of the road in Monument Valley, Utah, USA

Come for the national parks. All five of them 

Home to five national parks , Utah might be the most picturesque state we visited. Our goal? Getting to all of the Mighty 5: Capitol Reef National Park , Canyonlands National Park , Arches National Park , Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park . An essential tip we picked up along the way: get to the national parks early . By following this advice, we were able to beat the crowds; it often felt like we had the park to ourselves. Climbing Angels Landing in Zion had always been a goal of mine – but the trail can be overly packed by 10am. Arriving early made all the difference; here was a fantastic way to take advantage of the mobility a camper van affords you.

15 unique activities to add to your Utah bucket list

This article was first published Jun 19, 2020 and updated Apr 14, 2024.

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  1. The 13 Best Vans to Live In for Van Life in 2024

    Drivetrain: 2WD and 4WD. Roof: Low, Medium and High. A Mercedes Sprinter is considered one of the best vans for van life, even though it has a heftier price tag than similar vans in its class. We chose a Sprinter van as our second camper van due to its 4×4 capabilities, clearance, diesel engine, and resale value.

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    The LDV has a very large and boxy interior which makes it great for conversion, and when you can convert a van as nicely as this one, it is no surprise why the LDV Convoy is one of the best vans for travel and living from. Full video → Unique Self-Build Conversion. 11. Vauxhall Movano.

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    Find your dream van. From custom class B campers to overlanding beasts or built-out minivans, your next rig is waiting for you on VanlifeTrader. Search Listing Featured Listings See all listings $55,000 Featured 2008 Dodge Sprinter 2WD. Lombard, Illinois $215,000 Featured The Pueblo: 2023 Mercedes Sprinter AWD ...

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    2. VW Bus. The VW Bus remains the top choice of 'best van to live in' for many since the 1970's. From the So-Cal surf days through to today's Digital Nomad, the Volkswagen Bus Camper is an iconic vehicle immersed in van life culture. And, when you take a look at these busses up close, it's not hard to see why.

  8. The 7 Best Vans for Van Living

    Best Vans for Van Living. The majority of vans being built out post-2020 fall under one of the "Big 3" brands: Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Promaster and Ford Transit. All three of these camper vans are universally recognized as the best in the business.

  9. Best Vans for Van Life: Sprinter vs Transit vs Promaster

    Ford Transits are less expensive upfront compared to Sprinters and some of the other van options for van life. They have lower maintenance costs than Sprinters. They are easier to service than Sprinters. Parts are easy to come by. They have the tallest interior height. There is a factory all-wheel-drive option.

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    City Vans. Another popular category of vans to live in are the 'city vans'. A few popular vans in this category are the Ford Transit Connect, RAM Promaster City, Nissan NV200, and Chevy City Express. These small city-oriented panel vans were designed as light-duty work vans with excellent gas mileage.

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    The Ford Transit is often considered to be one of the best cargo vans to live in thanks to its trusted construction and worldwide popularity as a brand. After all, Ford was the first car manufacturer, so their workmanship is definitely trusted as they've stood the test of time. ... Adventure Travel Couple (@acrovanadventures) View this post ...

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    Quick summary of best vans: Best all-round van to live in: Promaster or Ducato. Best van for living big or an office: Mercedes Vario's or TN1 (508/407) Best van for mobile living and quick travelling: Euro Cargo vans - Sprinter, Promaster, Transit. Best van for cheap maintenance: US Cargo vans - Chevy Express, Dodge Ram Van, GMC Savana.

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    Winnebago Revel 4×4. If you ever wanted to hermetically seal every awesome bit of your life into a van, look to the Winnebago Revel. Precision engineered to be rock solid, this adventure-ready travel van comes stock with a 4×4 transmission, 325lb/ft of torque and enough space to stow every conceivable genre of action gear under the sun.

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    This Platypus Gravity Water Filter is really easy to use, and filters water faster than any other filter we've seen. The flow rate is 1.5 liters per minute, or 2 liters in less than 90 seconds. This water filter was built for backpacking, so folds down into a small size, one of those perfect van life essentials.

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    Photo: @sebagvivas. Let's start small with finding the right van to travel in so you can decide if van life is worth it for you. Then, if it's everything you've dreamed of (psst, it will be), you can make the shift to living in a campervan permanently. So, step 1: finding the right type of motorhome for you.

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    Each February, the town of Quartzsite swells to accommodate nearly 2 million travelers, who visit in camper vans, RVs and converted school buses. Workshops and community events held on the outskirts of town teach travelers about van life, provide help with solar-panel installations and bring people together to share tips on future road trips.

  27. Current Conditions

    The weather in Yellowstone can change quickly, especially during the winter. While planning your trip, be sure to check out the following: Current weather conditions: a live display of the current weather throughout the park.; Forecasts and seasonal information: extended weather forecasts and typical conditions for every season.; Webcams: a live look at various locations throughout the park.

  28. United Cheap Flights to 300+ Destinations Worldwide

    Fly United to destinations near and far. Choose United Airlines to fly to more than 210 destinations in the U.S. and more than 120 destinations internationally — every day we operate more than 4,500 flights across five continents. Our comprehensive route network means you can book a direct or connecting flight to and from airports all over ...

  29. Visit Canada

    Visit Canada. Find out what document you need to travel, visit family and friends, do business, or transit through Canada, and how to extend your stay. Special measures for. For people affected by. Iranian temporary residents in Canada. The situation in Lebanon.

  30. Make an Appointment at a Passport Agency or Center

    Our passport agencies and centers: Process all applications we receive from acceptance facilities and by mail, and. Serve customers by appointment only who have urgent travel to a foreign country in the next 14 calendar days, or need a foreign visa in the next 28 calendar days. The U.S. Department of State runs each passport agency and center.