Joshua Schukman
by Joshua Schukman
Posted February 11, 2022

When it comes to living life on the road, there are many different options for vessels that’ll help you roll into parts unknown. #Vanlife is a type of RVing lifestyle that embodies freedom, simplicity, and adventure. RVing in a big camper can sometimes limit the simplicity of the journey and complicate the spaces you’re able to explore. Van life — on the other hand — causes one to stay focused on the destination and on keeping life compact.

What is van life?

Van lifers are people who RV around the country in converted vans. Many van life vans are quite elaborate and are often remodeled by the owners themselves. Other vans are more simplistic rigs that provide a place to sleep and a compact vehicle to reach the beaten path. 

van life travel

Why van life? 

Van life is a simpler way to explore the country than in a larger RV, but it’s not necessarily for everyone. It is generally best for couples who aren’t traveling with kids. While there certainly are #vanlifers with kids, it can be tough to travel with more than two people in the tightness of a van space.

You might also be wondering why choose van travel instead of other RV/towable options? Simply put — you’ll be able to reach more places more easily in a van. Many of the best campgrounds are in areas that can be very difficult to get into with a long RV or travel trailer. Van life allows you to reach these areas with ease.

Lastly, you might choose a van over other types of RVs because of the way you can customize your journey. Many van lifers purchase vans that initially are blank slates — allowing them to turn their rig into a highly personalized road home. 

The 5 best campers for van life

1. Mercedes Benz Sprinter

Cost: $34,985 – $57,985+

best van for van life

There is simply no van that is more synonymous with modern van life than the Mercedes Benz Sprinter — and this is for good reason. Sprinters offer 3 different length options, are readily available in 4×4, and can easily be found used with a conversion already done. Note: Price increases substantially if you buy a Sprinter that’s already converted.

PROSCONS
Common in the van life communityHigher purchase price compared to other camper vans
Many different conversion blueprints are available online.Higher maintenance costs
Flexible length options = a wide variety of conversion possibilitiesService is generally only available at Mercedes dealerships
4×4 availabilityParts can take extra time to get delivered, meaning service can be delayed
High top roof design standard

Rent one like this on Outdoorsy.

2. Ram Promaster

Cost: $29,995 and up

campervan life

The Promaster is a relatively new kid on the van life block, but when it hit the scene, it quickly became one of the best van options due to its affordability, versatility, and creative options. You can choose from a number of different length and height options — a huge perk for conversions.

Because of the Promaster’s popularity as a van life van, you can also readily find used conversions that already have the sleeping, cooking, and living quarters made up so you can hit the road right away.

PROSCONS
The Promaster’s width makes it one of the biggest vans.The lower ground clearance can prevent you from reaching some of the most extreme campgrounds.
Affordable cost relative to other campervansNo 4×4 option
It’s a type of van that can be easily serviced at any Ram dealer.
Wide array of interior options and amenities
Flexible height and length options

Rent one like this on Outdoorsy.

3. Ford Transit Van

Cost: $34,500 and up

Since its debut in 2014, the Ford Transit has been one of the best vans for road trips and van life due to its array of height and length options. Used Transits with finished conversions are also readily available.

PROSCONS
Affordability relative to Mercedes Benz SprinterFord Transits 2019 and before are rear-wheel drive only. AWD only became available from 2020 onward.
Easily maintained by neighborhood mechanicsNarrow design can make customization difficult.
Ultra-maneuverable
Many people have converted Ford Transits into vans you can live in — meaning you can find a used one relatively easily.

Rent one like this on Outdoorsy.

4. Chevy Express/GMC Savana 2500/3500

Cost: Starting at $32,500

Image source: chevrolet.com

When it comes to types of vans for van life, the Chevy Express/GMC Savana are not ones you’ll generally find on other best-of lists. But we love them for their versatility and because they’re the only vans that are still built on a heavy-duty truck platform.

What this means is that they can support a tremendous amount of weight for your van life conversion and still tow something heavy — like another camper — behind them.

PROSCONS
Heavy-duty frame allows for heavy conversionsNo 4×4 options
Easy to maintain at any Chevy dealership or neighborhood mechanicHigh top conversion only available aftermarket 
Used and aftermarket parts readily availablePoor fuel economy
Can tow up to 6,500 pounds behind it

Rent one like this on Outdoorsy.

5. Volkswagen Westfalia Campervans

Cost: $10,000-$80,000+

best van for vanlife

Many RVers feel these are the best vans for van life because they bring a hip and vintage vibe to the road. As one of the first van life vans ever made, this iconic classic will turn heads on the road and at the campgrounds. Note: Costs vary widely because some Westfalia floorplans/years are rare and regarded as collector items.

PROSCONS
These nimble vans fit in nearly any space — including a parking space.Only available used and parts can be hard to come by
Often feature a popup roof for extra vertical sleeping spaceMaintenance is expensive and specialized.
The Volkswagen campervan community is very supportive and close-knit.Poor fuel economy
You’ll turn heads in this van life van.Engines are generally reliable but not powerful by today’s standards.

Rent one like this on Outdoorsy.

Start your #vanlife venture

The best road trip vans are those that allow the maximum flexibility for you to build the campervan you want. No matter which van you choose, our list offers options that can fit most any van life dream while allowing you the flexibility to make your campervan your own. 

Looking for a campervan to rent? Check out available vans on Outdoorsy.

Have a van and want to make extra money by renting it out to others? List it on Outdoorsy.

Joshua Schukman

 

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