With campervans and caravans becoming a popular choice for holidaymakers, some people may prefer a more DIY approach and wish to convert their own van into a campervan. With plenty of time before next summer rolls around again, now could be the ideal time to investigate this exciting adventurous prospect.
There are plenty of vans on the market, and it can be tricky to know which would be best for you to convert. Here, we take a look at some of the best vans for converting into a campervan to help make that dream happen.
Things to consider when choosing your van
Investing in a van to convert is a big decision, and there are several things you might want to think about before investing in yours, including:
You can convert a van into a campervan on any budget, as long as you're realistic on what you're looking for from the completed project. If you're looking for a higher-end finish with lots of gadgets, you'll likely need a higher budget to achieve this.
At the beginning, it's best to set out your total budget for the conversion, including the cost of the van and project costs. A general rule is that a third of your budget should go on the conversion, and two-thirds is for the cost of the van. Remember, your campervan is only as good as the original van, so invest your time and money well to start with on a good quality van that will serve your needs and be reliable.
Size and height
Once you've decided on your budget, start considering what size and height van would suit your needs. For example, are you going to use your campervan to live in, or for road trips and holidays? Plus, take into account if you need to carry any specific equipment such as bikes, climbing gear, water sports equipment, as you'll need space to store these items.
It is also important to contemplate who will be using this van, do you wish to take the whole family away, or use it as a personal escape for yourself? Do you have any furry friends you wish to bring? All these factors need to be thought over when you choose your van.
For the vehicle height, a key question to ask yourself is do you wish to be able to stand up inside the van? If you're looking for a long-term living solution, this is necessary. A high roof van is likely to cost more than a low roof van so be sure to think carefully about which will suit you best.
When you've chosen the type of van you'd like to convert, take some time to consider any ongoing maintenance it might require and the costs associated with this. Certain manufacturers such as Ford can likely be fixed by any mechanic, but a more niche brand may need a specialist mechanic. This could be costly and difficult to find.
If you decide to go with a new van, mileage won't be a concern. But as many DIY enthusiasts will choose a used van, mileage is something you'll need to look at. Consider:
- Your budget
- How long you plan on owning the van
- How far you hope to travel in it
- How often you plan on going away
Although it's unlikely to be a deal-breaker, as with any vehicle, the lower the mileage the better. But as this can often cost more, you'll need to weigh up and pros and cons for your situation.
Tips for looking for a used van
Once you've decided on the type of van you wish to purchase and convert, you can start your search. If you find the van of your dreams online, remember to go and have a look in person, making sure you fully evaluate it for any issues now, or that could occur down the line. Elements for you to check include:
- The mileage
- Tyre condition and tread
- Rust issues - check under the van and wheel arches where possible
- Electric components
- Air conditioning and heating
- Locks - remember to check if the door and windows shut and lock correctly
If you're happy the van is in good condition, take it for a test drive. On the drive, remember to check the brakes, listen for any abnormal noises from the engine, and whether or not you like the drive. If it's a larger van, it's a good time to check how you feel about driving such a large vehicle, especially if you're not used to it. If you don't feel comfortable now, you may wish to reconsider and look at purchasing a smaller vehicle.
Top van models for campervan conversion
Small vans often get converted into campers and can generally sleep two comfortably. For the occasional getaway, they are a sensible and economic choice for many first-time converters and campervan owners. They do come with some limitations such as head height, but they can still make for wonderful small campervans. Top vans that can be great for conversion include:
- Citroen Berlingo - Often spotted in campsites, the Citroen Berlingo is an affordable option with plenty of information available online about the van in general, and conversions. With its agile handling and affordable running costs, it's a good choice for individuals or couples.
- Renault Kangoo - Similar to the Citroen Berlingo in size and structure, the Renault Kangoo is another favourite among DIY campervan converters. Spacious for a vehicle this size, this van offers plenty of storage space, perfect for anyone packing up for a long journey or holiday.
- Ford Transit Connect - Similar to its big brother the Ford Transit, the Ford Transit Connect is a popular choice for small van conversions. With its generous load area, great handling, and affordable used purchase price, this van is a good one to bear in mind when looking for your next van to campervan conversion.
Offering the best of both worlds, medium vans offer a good blend of size and cost for your DIY campervan conversion. Being slightly easier to drive, cheaper to buy, and giving you more space compared to small vans, medium vans are popular, and generally, there is plenty of choice on the market for you to choose the right van for you. These could include:
- Volkswagen Transporter - Iconic in its look, the Volkswagen Transporter is such a popular choice for van conversion that Volkswagen themselves even build their own! With a large range of Transporters out there to choose from, this powerful, comfortable to drive and stylish van make a great choice for a DIY conversion.
- Vauxhall Vivaro - Economical to run and easy to drive, a Vauxhall Vivaro is an excellent choice for van conversions. There's enough space for you to add your own personal touches, and perfect for campervan owners who aren't used to driving very large vehicles.
- Peugeot Expert - Ideal for solo travellers or couples, the Peugeot Expert is small enough to drive as an everyday vehicle while having enough space for converting into a campervan.
Sometimes small and medium vans just aren't big enough to suit your needs or store all of your things, and this is where large vans come in. With long-wheel bases and higher head height, larger vans offer an ideal solution for your campervan adventures.
- Mercedes-Benz Sprinter - The ultimate large van for campervan conversions, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is one of the largest vans for conversion. They suit anyone looking for that bit of extra space, allowing the DIY conversion to be whatever you want it to be, including a decent size cooking and living space.
- Ford Transit - Combining versatility, practicality, and sturdiness, the Ford Transit remains a top choice for van/campervan conversions. Being a Ford, they are easy to drive, often inexpensive to run, and are a great choice for any first-time campervan owner.
- Fiat Ducato - A solid starting point, the Fiat Ducato is a popular choice for campervan conversions across Europe. With a wider rear track and lower chassis, you would be in great company if you choose to convert this van for your own home on wheels.
Is it legal to convert a van into a campervan?
Yes. It is perfectly legal to convert your van into a campervan as long as no major structural work is done to the chassis, engine, or cab. Once converted, in the UK, you have the option to re-register your van as a "motor caravan" with the DVLA but this is not a legal requirement. Even if your vehicle stays legally as a van, it can still be used as a campervan, as long as you have the correct insurance.
Should I buy a van that's already been converted?
When looking to own a campervan, the options are to either convert a van or to buy an already converted campervan. Which way you wish to proceed is completely up to you as they both have their own benefits.
By buying a ready-made campervan, you can use it straight away. You also won't have to think about the purchase price and build budget or worry about your DIY skills.
Alternatively, by converting your own campervan, you can have the layout and design to your taste. You'll also be able to decide on the quality of the build and the van, which is something you can't always know if you buy a ready-made conversion.
Do I need a special license to drive a campervan?
This completely depends on the weight of the campervan and your age.
If you passed your driving test before 1st January 1997, you automatically have the right to drive a C1 classification vehicle, which can weigh up to 7,500kg.
If you passed your driving test after 1st January 1997, you automatically have the right to drive a B and B1 classification vehicle, which can weigh up to 3,500kg. If you wish to drive a vehicle over 3,500kg, you will need to pass an additional driving test to add category C vehicles to your license.
Overall, if your campervan is under 3,500kg, anyone with a valid driving license will be able to drive your new campervan.
Find your perfect used van today
If you are looking to find your next used van ready for your own DIY conversion, and need more help and advice, contact Carbase today. Our expert team of friendly staff are on hand and more than happy to help you find your perfect van today.