Before you start thinking about all the cool things you want to put in your future camper, it’s vital you choose the right base van for conversion.
You’ll need to consider how often you’re driving it, the kinds of trips you’ll be taking, what storage and appliances you want, how many people will be sleeping/travelling in it and what kind of layout you’d like, plus of course the colour of your van.
There are so many options to choose from which can make it feel overwhelming.
Do a little bit of research and you can find lots about the things you need to consider when choosing a van; however, we figured it would be more helpful to run you through some specific vans in size order.
So, we’ve listed some of the options below, with a bit about each van and the kind of camper you can expect to get from it.
Large base vans
Peugeot Boxer, Fiat Ducato and Citroen Relay: these three vans are pretty much the same, just branded separately by each different company. They make popular campervans/motorhomes due to the fact they have a decent amount of space to work with. They come in H1 H2 H3 L1 L2 and L3. H and L represents height and width, with 1 being the smallest. The square shape on the rear lends itself well. Also, you can get up to 6ft 4 width at the back allowing easily enough space to sleep across. You can fit really big windows too which lets lots of light in. A downside for us is they feel a little bit cheaper to drive and the dashboard isn’t as luxurious as the VW Transporter, but this is reflected in the overall price.
VW Crafter: this is our personal base van of choice and we’re actually converting one as we write! The Crafter comes in four wheelbase options, short wheelbase, medium, long and long-wheelbase maxi. These all make for great campervans of different types. Being a German-built van the quality is very good inside and out and visually one of the best; some great little aftermarket modifications can really make it stand out. It’s one of the largest vans on the market and was voted the Parkers Van of the Year three times in a row.
Mercedes Sprinter: Up to 2017/18 VW Crafters and Mercedes Sprinters shared the same chassis making them basically identical and a great reliable workhorse. With the slightly older vans now they have usually been used by a trade of some sort (which is their purpose) but this does mean that the milage is normally high and being a large van they normally come with a few knocks and bangs. This can work very well in your favour though if you are campervanning on a budget, as these are known for hitting mileage well into the thousands, meaning you can pick up a real bargain with the confidence you won't be wasting money on the interior build (always have a potential purchase inspected by a professional). From 2018 onwards VW and Mercedes decided to go their separate ways and build their own vans. Mercedes also have achieved a very solid van throughout with equally a great look.
Ford Transit Van: opt for the high-roof Ford Transit if you would like a modern-looking dashboard. These normally have a great price tag and are a very useable size van offering the same great qualities as all the larger vans in this range.
Medium size base vans
VW Transporter: undoubtedly the most popular base van on the market, and for good reason and you can really buy with confidence. There is so much we could say here about VWs; however, we’re planning another blog post dedicated to these beauties because, well, they deserve it! The first thing you do need to consider though is which age and spec you’ll be going for: Startline, Highline, Trendline or Sportline. These models have varied slightly throughout the years. The startline is the entry-level and comes with all the standard stuff you’d expect, such as electric windows, power steering etc. The spec increases as you work your way up and Sportline is the top end which, as the name suggests, is a much sportier van with higher BHP and different style suspension. Our most popular van of choice is Highline.
Vauxhall Vivaro, Renault Trafic and Nissan nv300: These all share the same chassis long or short wheelbase but offer a slightly different drive style, engine and appearance another great medium-sized van to be converted. The downside for us is the availability of products for these vehicles. The problem we find is every company within the campervan industry base themselves around Volkswagen vans because they are the most popular meaning these vans get forgotten. So we don't get as much of a selection when choosing products for designing your perfect campervan. This is still however a very popular choice with lots of people because of the attractive price they come in at.
Ford Transit Custom: This is the second most popular van for us to convert. Ford offers a very sleek design with a wider rear area giving you deeper cupboard space or a wider bed option. Suffering from the same problems as the non-VW as above but still plenty of options to choose from. For a lot of our customers, this is so appealing because of the price with the luxury extras you can include. The thing to take on board when buying to convert is the depreciation of these vans and this can sometimes swing the vote.