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Best vans to convert into campers

By Maxine Ashford | May 2, 2023


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We take a look at the best vans worthy of a campervan holiday

Best vans to convert into campers

Campervan holidays have become more popular in recent years and when travel restrictions were in place during the pandemic many holidaymakers looked closer to home for their summer break.

While overseas holidays are back on the cards, there is still something to be said for the appeal of packing up a campervan and hitting the road without the queues and stress of airports or ferry terminals to contend with.

But there is a downside to this seemingly-idyllic past-time and that’s the cost because campervans are very expensive to buy outright. Hiring is an option, but then you can’t exactly specify everything you want inside your home on wheels.

So, as an alternative, many would-be campervan owners are looking to the conversion route whereby a van is transformed into the ideal holidaying vehicle with all the mod cons of home.

Once again, these conversions are not cheap and you need to think carefully about your priorities before taking the plunge. Building from the ground up means you will have a van featuring everything on your wish-list, but the costs will add up if you need to pay someone else to carry out all the work.

Then there are other factors that need to be considered. For example, size is key. How many people will be travelling? What are their ages? After all, long journeys in cramped seats are not a great start to any family holiday. And if you are adding seats then safety requirements need to be adhered to. This is an area that cannot be disregarded and if extra seats are being fitted, they will need proper seatbelts. It is strongly advised a professional is consulted and any installation work properly checked over.

Then there are the beds. Do you want fixed or flexible? Many seats and sofas convert into beds at night but are social areas during the day. Fixed beds are not so practical in that sense but are generally more comfortable if a good night’s sleep is a priority.

Many campervan holidaymakers spend a considerable amount of time outside of the vehicle socialising or firing up the barbecue. With that in mind, fixed awnings are the way forward as these provide protection from sudden downpours and shade when the sun is blazing. And some vans also have a pop-up roof which is a nice way to stay cool on hotter summer nights.

Then there are power and heating considerations. If you need to plug in a fridge, cooker and heater then you will need numerous power sockets. And, of course, would you want a portable loo and shower for even more on-board luxury. It might be a good idea to visit a couple of campervan showrooms to get some layout ideas and see how they have utilised the limited on-board space to the max.

And finally, what van will you want to drive?

Over recent years, one model has really stood out as ‘the’ van to modify into a campervan and that is the Volkswagen Transporter with its stylish good looks, excellent reliability record and assortment of sizes and lengths.

It’s very easy to drive and maintenance work is considered to be quite simple and cost-effective on these vehicles. Fuel economy is also impressive.

And to highlight its success VW has even built its own version. It’s called the California but is not cheap starting from £60k.

Of course, the Ford Transit van has an excellent reputation and its wide interior is ideal for conversions. Once again, the Transit boasts impressive running costs and with soaring sales, there are always plenty of second-hand models on sale.

The Mercedes Sprinter is another van worth looking at. It boasts a wealth of safety kit as standard, along with an excellent reputation for reliability. Fuel efficiency is not quite so impressive, but that’s a price you may want to pay for that Mercedes badge.

The Sprinter is also available in different sizes and heights with a choice of powertrains, including electric.

The Vauxhall Vivaro makes for a great conversion and there are models of all sizes. Since gaining all the PSA Group mechanics, its reliability and safety rating has improved considerably and it now benefits from all the know-how within the vast Stellantis group.

It is easy to drive, comfortable and day-to-day running costs will also be low.

Renault has its Trafic model which can easily be worked on. It’s a rather compact model, but has a practically-sized load area making customisation projects easier. Running costs are good and it drives with car-like handling.

While these are just a few suggestions, there are many more vans out there that would be suitable to convert. And, in addition, there are all manner of conversion packs that can help make the project easier too.

But if you need even more help, there are numerous companies that will complete the full conversion to your specific requirements … at a cost of course, so make sure you shop around.

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