Best vans for camper conversion 2024

Love the idea of creating a camper van to your own exact specification? Keep reading for our pick of the best vans to start with

By James Wilson

If you are going to convert a van into a camper, you want to start with the best. Why? Simple; you need a practical, reliable base to build your campervan from - it is one thing trekking up to deepest darkest Scotland for a trip, but camping at Toddington services because you have broken down really takes the shine off things.

Additionally, a van that is well suited to being a camper will save hassle during the conversion and give you all the space you need for enjoyable holidays on the road. So, vans which come with a load area that can be tipped up to deposit cargo are great for Wallace and Gromit, but for your average human, they are not so handy. But which are the key considerations to take into account when looking for a van to convert?

One key factor is how many people you need to sleep. While small vans are great for a couple's getaway, they are far too small for those with kids. Likewise, larger vans will have no problem housing dedicated kitchen and bathroom spaces but being so vast they are more difficult to drive in urban areas and they will likely cost more to run than smaller models.

As a general rule, the smaller the van, the less it will cost to run and the easier it will be to drive. On the flip side, the bigger the van, the more space there is to play with when undergoing the campervan conversion. So, it's worth mulling over the exact balance of space and manoeuvrability that works best for you.

Fortunately, there are a great number of suitable vans just waiting to be converted. They start with small panel vans such as the Ford Transit Connect and go all the way up to the cavernous Fiat Ducato. There are those that bridge the gap, too, such as the Renault Trafic. Unlike cars, vans are typically offered in a range of lengths, widths and body styles, which means you should be able to find a perfectly sized model for your needs.

There is also a spread of prices. Some premium brands, such as Volkswagen do cost more, but they make up for this with strong residuals - meaning you'll get more back when you come to sell the van - and being more desirable than less luxurious versions. Below are eight of the best vans for camper conversions. They each have their own strengths but are all excellent bases for creating a camper van.

Best small van for camper conversion

1. Peugeot Partner

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If you are looking for a relatively compact van to convert into a camper, then look no further than the Peugeot Partner. It is small enough that you won’t need to worry about squeezing through busy car parks and navigating tight country lanes, yet, with the right conversion, it can fit in all the necessities. These include a fold-out bed and kitchen equipment. If you want bathroom provisions, however, you will likely need to explore more elaborate conversions where the rear bodywork is completely replaced with something far larger.

In general, the Partner is very easy to live with. Peugeot’s most recent version arrived in 2018 and comes with modern styling, the option of petrol and diesel engines (there is a fully electric model, too) and a cabin that is a pleasant place in which to travel. The latter is a real bonus as vans of old often came with very basic and cheap-feeling interiors. That said, the previous version of the Peugeot Partner is a great conversion option for those on a tighter budget, even if it is significantly less refined than the newer version.

2. Ford Transit Connect

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Some people see campervans as slow, difficult machines to drive, which offer very little in the way of driver satisfaction. This couldn’t be further from the truth with the Ford Transit Connect. While it's no sports car, the Transit Connect offers a driving experience that resembles that of a regular car rather than a bulky van. Just make sure everything in the back is secure before you get too carried away driving fast...

In terms of the size, the Transit Connect is similar to that of the Peugeot above. There are other larger Transits (these are called the Ford Transit Custom and the Ford Transit) but Connect models are amongst the least daunting to drive due to their size. There is also a more compact Ford Transit Courier. The Custom and larger Transit models are suitable for conversion, and which is best depends on just how much space you need. If you're set on the Connect, aim for a post-2018 model with a 1.5-litre 'EcoBlue' diesel engine if you can afford one, as these are amongst the most fuel-efficient available with a Transit.

3. Volkswagen Transporter

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The Volkswagen Transporter is undoubtedly the quintessential medium-sized camper van. Its popularity is thanks to a number of reasons; firstly, it wears a VW badge, giving it a more upmarket look and feel than most other vans. Secondly, there are a vast number of models to choose from. For those who are expecting to camp off the beaten track there are four-wheel-drive versions (labelled as ‘4Motion’ versions). There are also automatic gearboxes, and for those who need extra space, long-wheelbase versions are available, too.

Being popular does mean Transporters can cost more than similarly-sized vans, but then again they hold their value well, too, meaning that if you buy one outright you'll get more back when you come to sell. While the latest version of the Transporter was launched in 2015, VW gave the van an update in 2019.

Newer versions look very similar but the cabin technology made a significant leap forward - including a more modern touchscreen media system. On the flip side, older Transporters with less tech could be just the ticket for those looking for a more no-nonsense campervan.

4. Renault Trafic

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If a VW Transporter is about the right size for your camper conversion needs, then a Renault Trafic will suit you just as well. In fact, if you are on a tight budget a Trafic could suit you better than the VW due to generally being more affordable. The Renault is still an appealing van in its own right; it has plenty of space, a range of relatively economical engines and a proven track record of being a reliable workhorse of a van.

Post-2019 models are the most plush, as Renault updated the interior to include more modern technology such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Renault also brought in some revised diesel engines to make sure its van met the latest emissions standards, which is important if you live in an area clamping down on less environmentally friendly vehicles, such as the London ULEZ area. Regardless of age, all Trafic models come with a diesel engine but there is a choice of automatic and manual gearboxes - the latter being the most common.

Best large van for camper conversion

5. Ford Transit

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The Ford Transit is a step up in terms of space compared to those above. There will be no need to skimp on bed size, kitchen size and even bathroom size as the long, wide and tall Transit has room for it all. That said, there are plenty of different body styles to choose from, including models with higher roofs that could be useful for squeezing in an extra bed. All versions use a diesel engine, although newer versions are available as mild hybrids, which means you get some electric assistance for the engine, although not enough to power the Transit on battery power alone.

For those planning to do a lot of campervanning in remote locations, the Ford Transit Trail is an excellent option. This comes with rugged styling (such as black wheels and dark cladding around the bottom of the bodywork) and four-wheel-drive. On the inside, Trail models come with seats wrapped in an easy-to-clean material, plus equipment such as front and rear parking sensors - which are a huge help for manoeuvring such a large van - air-conditioning and cruise control.

6. Mercedes Sprinter

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The Mercedes Sprinter has been the go-to option for high-end van transport for some time. As a result, the previous generation Sprinter has a proven track record for classy camper conversions - with the most extravagant costing more than a typical two-up-two-down house. If you aren’t super wealthy, fear not; there are plenty of other conversion options out there, and thanks to the range of body styles available, there should be a Sprinter to suit your needs.

A medium-length Sprinter with a high roof is a great middle-ground between offering plenty of cabin space and being too unwieldy for tight rural roads. There are short and long versions, plus the option of normal and super-high roofs.

The new Sprinter that arrived in 2018 (pictured above) marked a significant improvement in interior refinement (the cabin technology is much more in line with regular Mercedes cars, such as the A-Class). If you can afford one of the newer models, therefore, these are a great option, but there is a lot to be said for the indestructible feeling of older models.

7. Fiat Ducato

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The Fiat Ducato is a popular starting point for motorhome manufacturers when building a campervan. This is because, compared to large vans like the Mercedes Sprinter and Volkswagen Crafter, it is much more affordable but still a capable and practical machine. The Ducato is available in a host of different body styles with useful camper van conversion features such as sliding side doors and a long wheelbase.

The Ducato is actually built using many of the same components as the Peugeot Boxer and Citroen Relay - so these two are great alternative options. In fact, cover up the badges on each and you might struggle to tell the three apart. The Ducato is relatively fuel-efficient, too, especially with a 2.0-litre diesel engine.

Older models come with either 2.3-litre or 3.0-litre diesel engines, which are still fairly economical but they do not meet the latest emissions regulations called ‘Euro 6’. If you are planning on only driving in remote rural settings this won’t be an issue, but in towns that are cracking down on vehicles that use less environmentally friendly engines, other vehicles might be a better choice.

8. Nissan NV400

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When it comes to vans, the Nissan NV400 is a relatively rare one. Is this because it is rubbish? In short, no. It has been available in a range of body styles, with the choice of front- or rear-wheel-drive and a good selection of engines. The latter consists of 2.3-litre diesel engines that vary in the amount of power they produce - if you plan on putting in lots of heavy camper equipment (such as a full kitchen and bathroom) we’d recommend going for one of the more powerful engines that produce around 150hp.

Part of what makes the Nissan such an uncommon sight on UK roads is that - much like Fiat above - Nissan teamed up with other van makers to develop and manufacture its large van. The Japanese car manufacturer buddied up with Renault and Vauxhall and both of their models (the Master and Movano, respectively) are more popular in the UK. Regardless of which of the three you choose, they all offer ample space in the back for campervan equipment.

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

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