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Choosing the Right Van for a Campervan Conversion

Converting a van into a campervan is a complex but very doable project – and the end result is well worth it. With a campervan you can travel and live in comfort, while still having the convenience of a capable vehicle to get you places. One of the first and most important decisions for any project like this is choosing the right van to start your campervan conversion with.Choosing the Right Van for a Campervan Conversion

There are many factors to consider when selecting a van for a DIY campervan build. The van’s size, layout, cargo capacity, availability of parts, and overall reliability will all determine how suitable it is for your campervan conversion. Some classic vans like the Volkswagen Transporter have been used for conversions for decades, while more modern vans offer new amenities and technology.

In this guide, we will compare some of the most popular vans used for campervan conversions. We will look at the Volkswagen T5 and T6, Renault Trafic, Vauxhall Vivaro, Mercedes Sprinter, Volkswagen Crafter, and Peugeot Boxer models. For each van, we will outline the key benefits and considerations when using it as a campervan base.

Converting a VW T5 Transporter

The Volkswagen T5 Transporter is arguably the most popular base model for DIY campervan conversions. Produced from 2003 to 2015, this van has the perfect size and layout for campervan builds. Some key benefits of the VW T5 include:

  • Ideal size – not too big or small, easy to drive and park
  • Good interior height for standing up inside
  • Modular interior with removable seats
  • Large sliding side door and rear doors for easy access
  • Huge community support for conversions with readily available parts and guides

When looking for a used VW T5 for conversion, pay close attention to the vehicle’s service history and check for any signs of rust or damage, especially on the floor. Overall, the T5 makes an excellent and proven base for campervan builds.

Converting a VW T6 Transporter

Choosing the Right Van for a Campervan ConversionThe VW T6 is the newest incarnation of the classic VW van. Launched in 2015, it offers some nice upgrades over the T5 model:

  • More modern styling and interior
  • Improved fuel economy and Euro 6 emissions compliance
  • Better noise insulation for a quieter ride
  • Latest safety features and tech options available
  • Retains same flexible layout and dimensions as T5

Downsides of the T6 include the higher purchase cost and potentially lower availability compared to the very common T5 vans. But overall, the T6 makes for an improved modern campervan base.

Converting a Renault Trafic

With good cargo capacity and a flexible interior, the Renault Trafic is another suitable van for camper conversions. Benefits include:

  • High roof option allows standing height inside
  • Sliding side door available for easy access
  • Good payload capacity up to 1250kg
  • Fuel efficient diesel engines
  • Affordable pricing compared to VW models

Watch for transmission issues on older Trafic models. And be prepared for a little more engine noise compared to a VW van. But the Trafic offers a cost-effective campervan base.

Converting a Vauxhall Vivaro

Sharing a lot in common with the Renault Trafic, the Vauxhall Vivaro has similar pros and cons for campervan conversions:

  • Spacious high roof option
  • Good payload capacity up to 1226kg
  • Choice of diesel engines with decent fuel economy
  • Very competitively priced used vans available

The Vivaro lacks some of the refinement of VW models. Check for rust around the rear wheel arches when buying used. But it represents an affordable campervan base overall.

Converting a Mercedes Sprinter

For larger campervan builds, the Mercedes Sprinter really fits the bill. Here are some of its best attributes for conversions:

  • Multiple length and high roof options
  • Excellent build quality and luxury interior options
  • High payload capacity up to 1750kg
  • Powerful turbo diesel engines
  • Reputation for safety and reliability

Of course, the Sprinter carries a premium price tag. It’s also a much larger vehicle which may not suit all conversion projects. But for full-featured motorhomes, the Sprinter can’t be beat.

Converting a VW Crafter

Choosing the Right Van for a Campervan Conversion

Another large van popular for bigger campervans is the Volkswagen Crafter. Benefits for conversions include:

  • Cavernous interior space with multiple sizes
  • shares some parts compatibility with T5/T6 vans
  • Optional 4MOTION all-wheel drive system
  • Wide opening rear doors
  • Payload capacity up to 1.5 tonnes

The Crafter is costlier than something like a Transit or Ducato van. Maneuverability can also be an issue with the largest Crafters. But it’s a refined large van choice for camper conversions.

Converting a Peugeot Boxer

The Peugeot Boxer, along with its siblings the Citroen Relay and Fiat Ducato, rounds out our list. These vans offer:

  • Multiple size configurations
  • Excellent interior height in high roof models
  • Sturdy and durable construction
  • Slightly lower cost than Sprinter or Crafter vans

Reliability issues have plagued some Boxer model years, so be diligent when buying used. Overall though, the Boxer makes a fine campervan base choice.

So, What is the Right Van for You?

In the end, it’s up to you – there is no right or wrong!

Choosing the van to convert into a campervan requires balancing many factors like size, layout, features, and acquisition cost. Classic vans like the VW T5 provide an ideal compact size and huge community support. But larger vans like the Sprinter offer interior space and payload capacity at a premium.

Carefully inspect any used van for common condition issues before purchasing. And research what conversion parts and resources are available for each model. With Clearcut Conversions, you can find all the campervan parts, accessories, and furniture you need for a successful DIY campervan build.


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