For the adventurous types, van life is the way to go — enjoy freedom, convenience and affordability in your drivable home. Achieving van life can be hugely beneficial for the right person and give them the life they always dreamed of.
Though it might seem simple to find a van and hit the road, it’s important to take your time and find the right vehicle for you. After all, you’ll be spending most of the time in your van, so looking through all of your options will help you find the best vehicle.
Here are the best vans for van life.
1. Mercedes Sprinter
You’ll see the Mercedes Sprinter at the top of many best vans for van life lists. And there’s a good reason for it — the Mercedes Sprinter has excellent off-roading capabilities, easy handling and plenty of storage. They’re durable, powerful vans that will hold up even after hundreds of thousands of miles. They also have plenty of safety features.
Its high-quality materials and roomy passenger space make it one of the best vans to live in. The Mercedes Sprinter offers a variety of different options you can choose from, including many variations of the cargo van, a diesel or gas engine and two drivetrains. It’s one of the best sprinter van conversions and offers a huge amount of space.
The Mercedes Sprinter is one of the more expensive vans on the market, but many people are willing to pay the price for all the great advantages that come with it. You’ll probably be able to find some older Mercedes Sprinters for a discounted price. Since Mercedes is such a well-known brand, it is usually easy to find aftermarket parts or nearby dealers who can help you with maintenance.
The Mercedes Sprinter is a hugely popular sprinter conversion van in the van life community and remains one of the best van life vans on the market.
2. Ford Transit
The Ford Transit is up there as one of the best vans to convert to fit your van life. It’s another favorite among the van life crowd for its large interior space, safety features and plentiful options — it offers various choices for body lengths, wheelbases, roof heights and engines. You’ll have your choice between gas and diesel and can find the perfect van dimensions for your situation.
Automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, “intelligent” all-wheel drive and more make the Ford Transit one of the safest vans to buy. You’ll also have the ability to upgrade to even more safety features. If you’re planning to go off-roading or traverse muddy, snowy or wet roads, the Ford Transit’s safety features could appeal to you.
The Ford Transit offers less space than the Mercedes Sprinter but more than many other vans on the market. It’s a great option for those looking to merge quality with affordability. The Ford Transit offers plenty of advantages for living the van life at a great price. It’s a rugged, durable vehicle that you can easily convert into a liveable van.
3. Dodge Ram Promaster
The Dodge Ram Promaster is beloved because of its size. It’s one of the widest vans on the market, making sleeping much easier and more comfortable. A person six feet tall could potentially sleep in the width of this van, leaving a lot more room for other things such as a dining table. Like the Mercedes Sprinter and the Ford Transit, the Promaster comes in various lengths and roof heights.
However, it only offers one engine — a 3.6-liter V6 — and is slower than the Transit and Sprinter. Some like the Promaster because of its front-wheel drive and tight turning radius. The Dodge Ram Promaster is an easy vehicle to upfit and a great van for van life.
4. Ford Econoline
Electricians, construction workers, plumbers and van-lifers alike use this nondescript, stealthy white van. The Ford Econoline is hugely popular among various occupations for its versatility and size. Its boxy frame gives you plenty of room to install a bed and kitchen with plenty of space left over for storage.
Although Ford retired the Econoline with the release of the Ford Transit in 2014, it remains available in cutaway models. Because of its size and drivability, the Ford Econoline remains one of the best vans for conversion to campers.
5. Chevy Express
The Chevy Express has proven its worth as one of the greatest vans to live in, as it’s been around for over four decades. It’s become a cherished van to live in for its retro appearance — the Express hasn’t gone through a redesign since the late nineties.
It’s also one of the easier vans to build off of because of its simple interiors and durable chassis. Those looking for a project may find the Chevy Express perfect for them. You can spend a lot of time crafting the Express to suit your needs.
The Express also has a low roof, making it one of the more compact vans on the list. You can always add a high roof or make it into a pop-top — it all depends on how much time and energy you’re willing to put into your van.
For the right person, the Chevy Express offers one of the best options in terms of durability and price. You can likely find a used Express for a great deal.
6. VW Bus
Vintage, nostalgic and reliable — the VW Bus is one of the best live-in vans of all time. With a history of more than 60 years, the VW Bus has its roots in the free-wheeling times of the 1970s. Since then, it’s remained popular, evolving from the hippie movement into a popular choice for digital nomads and those living life on the open road.
Unfortunately, the VW Bus is out of production, so getting your hands on a van or its parts can be challenging. However, there is a new electric version coming out in the U.S. in 2023, which brings back some nostalgia for this vintage vehicle.
7. Renault Trafic
The Renault Trafic can start as a humble vehicle, but with the right conversion, it can turn into a liveable, comfortable camper with a modern appearance. In its original state, the Trafic’s low ceiling and compact frame aren’t well-suited for liveable conditions for long periods. It may work great for those looking to get away on the weekends.
A ready-made conversion or a DIY project can completely transform the Renault Trafic into one of the best live-in vans out there. Like many vans on this list, all you’ll need is some imagination and time to transform the vehicle into exactly what you want.
8. Nissan NV200
The Nissan NV200 is a small van that you can live in. Its easy driving, gas mileage and compactness make it a favorable choice for many. Compared to others in its class, it is very affordable.
While it may not offer the luxury and space of other vans, it is a functional living van that is a great option for many travelers. You can always add a pop-top for extra space, too. The Nissan NV 200 is a very convenient live-in van that offers many of the simple functions people are looking for.
9. Step Van
You can look for a step van for something a little bit off the beaten path. You’ll often see step vans driving by with the UPS logo painted on their side, but they can also actually make great vans to live in.
These medium-duty trucks offer a ton of space, making a kitchen, bed and dining area easy to add. You can also stand up in them without a problem — they were actually made to be driven sitting or standing up. Manufacturers like Ford and GM will make these trucks, so you’ll be able to find them and any parts you may need.
The only issue with these step vans is that they’re typically low-slung vans, which makes it a poor choice if you’re planning to do a lot of off-roading.
How to Choose the Right Van
The good news is there are plenty of options on the market you can choose from. Still, it can be challenging to figure out which van is best for you. There are a few different ways to make finding your perfect van easier, like setting a budget, determining its function and prioritizing certain qualities.
Set Your Budget
One of the first things you’ll want to do as you start looking for a van is to set a budget. Finding a price range that fits you narrows your options. This will help you put some parameters around your search.
Determine the Function
How are you going to use your van? If it’s going to be a true living space, you may want to find a van that offers a lot of space and high-quality materials. If you’re looking for a nice weekend getaway van, you can settle for something a little smaller. Appointing a function to your van will help you understand what you should look for.
Some vans, like the VW Bus, are out of production, so you’ll have a hard time finding parts. Other options, such as the Mercedes Sprinter, have a large brand that you can find across numerous countries.
Although it may not seem like that much of a factor as you shop, it may become more important if you encounter issues with the van or need new parts. Consider availability as you look for the best van for you.
You can also include the age of the van in your buying decisions. A brand-new van will likely have modern technology, top-of-the-line safety features and years of driving left, while a used van will be more affordable while offering similar functional benefits.
Mostly it depends on how much you’re willing to invest into the van and if you’re interested in purchasing a vehicle with some miles on it.
It can also be helpful to prioritize various aspects of your van over others. That way, you can eliminate options that don’t fit your criteria. Here are some different factors that you can rank to find the best van for van life:
- Size: One of the most significant factors for van life vans is size. Some people want as much room as possible, while others are content with a little bit of space. It all depends on your needs and what you’re looking to put in the van — if you’re planning on adding a dining area, you may need to find a van with ample space.
- Comfort: How much do you value comfort? Some people need just the right factors for sleep, while others are fine sleeping relatively anywhere. Make sure you figure out what kind of space you’re okay sleeping in and the amenities and materials you’ll want to have in your van.
- Drivability: If you’re planning on driving your van in various conditions, you’ll want to find a van with good handling and maneuverability and an engine you can trust. Also, think about the amount of safety you’ll want in your van. Some vehicles offer more safety options than others. For those long drives through the snow and mud, you’ll want a tough, durable van you can trust.
- Customization: Also, consider how much work you’re looking to put into your van and options for customization. Some vans already come with a lot of modern customizations and storage space. Other vans are more bare-boned and allow for much more room for customization. If you’re looking to take on an entire project and have control over all customizations, a simplistic van may be right for you.
- Appearance: Even aside from the function of your van and how big it is, some people care a lot about how the van actually looks. Some favor that modern, sleek look, while others search for a retro aesthetic.
From sprinter van conversions to vintage classics like the VW Bus, there is so much to choose from when it comes to live-in vans. As you look for the right van for you, take your time and figure out which option would be most beneficial for your situation.
Contact Raybuck Auto Body Parts for Upfitting Tools
When you find the best van for you, it may be time to start the upfitting process. Converting your van into a liveable vehicle is a tall task, full of various steps and hours of work. Find a trusted provider to help you make the upfitting process go smoothly.
At Raybuck Auto Body Parts, we offer a huge variety of tools that can help you convert your vehicle into a liveable dream van. Instead of sorting through various shops to get what you need, Raybuck Auto Body Parts offers everything in one convenient online location. Talk with our customer service experts to find what you’re looking for quickly.
Shop our store today and get all the tools you need to make your vehicle one of the best vans to live in. Contact us today!