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What is the best van to convert?

One of the most common questions we get asked is 'What is the best van to convert?'. This is the first decision to make when starting your vanlife journey, and it is a big one. In this post we will go through the top three considerations to think through when choosing your base van.

For ultimate vanlife whether it is long weekends away or full time living we recommend a large panel van, namely Mercedes Sprinters, VW Crafters, Peugeot Boxers, Fiat Ducatos and Citroen Relays.

The main three things to consider when choosing between these models, revolve around dimensions:

  1. How will you use it?

  2. How tall are you?

  3. What layout do you have in mind?

How will you use your van?

Firstly, will you use your van in urban areas? In this case consider a shorter van that will be easier to park and manoeuvre.

If you will be more rural then a larger van has the benefit of space - always of importance when fitting a whole house inside a van. However keep in mind that the legal weight restriction does not typically correlate with the size of van, so a larger van could have the same legal weight restriction (e.g. 3500Kg - check the V5). A larger van will weigh more to begin with and you will need to add more materials for the walls, floors, cupboards etc. This means that a larger van will have a lower remaining weight capacity for personnel and luggage - not ideal if you also want to be carrying heavy adventure gear.

Legal Weight Capacity - (Vehicle Kerb Weight + Conversion Weight) = Remaining Payload

The same model of van can come in a few different weight limit options so ensure you check this when purchasing a van.

How tall are you?

Secondly, consider your height. You generally want to be able to stand up in your van so start looking for at least a H2 Relay, Boxer or Ducato. Once you have insulated and installed the floor and ceiling this would leave around 185cm, which is ideal for anyone under 6ft tall.

If you are over 6ft you probably want to consider the H3 version of the Relay, Boxer or Ducato. The Sprinters and Crafters tend to be taller anyway so would also be great for anyone that is taller.

Having a taller van doesn't really have any downsides as you are already too tall for height restricted carparks with a H2 van.

What layout do you have in mind?

Often people tend to get a van and then consider the layout and conversion plan. However we would recommend thinking about your layout early on and keep this in mind when choosing your base vehicle. Some base vans are better suited to one layout than another.

The dimensions of different makes and models of vans can have a big impact on how much space you are left with. For example the Sprinters and Crafters are longer but narrower compared to the Boxers, Relays and Ducatos. This later group are all the same chassis and are wider but shorter.

Therefore if you are looking to have a width ways bed to save on living space, we would suggest a Boxer, Relay or Ducato as you can achieve a bed of 180cm easily and 190cm if you add recesses into the wall insulation at the head and foot of the bed as in the picture below. Ideal for anyone under 6ft 2!

A Sprinter is around 10cm narrower but it is a longer van. So you can more easily have a length ways bed, enabling anyone well over 6ft to be able to stretch out comfortably.

Although it feels like a huge decision, whatever van you choose you can lovingly make your van into your home.

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Anders Soft
Anders Soft
Jun 23, 2023

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