Best vans for camping

Space for luggage, food and travel gear with room to hide if the heavens open and your tent gets soaked. Here are the best vans for camping

James Wilson
Nov 29, 2021

If you like camping and outdoor pursuits and you want a super-practical van for the job, there are plenty of great vehicles to choose from. However, some are more suitable than others, so which are the best ones for the job? We've rounded up some of the most appealing and best value options.

There are a number of important considerations when thinking about the best vans for camping trips, such as how much luggage and equipment they can carry, whether they provide enough space to be used as emergency accommodation should you be caught in torrential rain and how many seats there are.

Happily, there are all kinds of different body styles and a multitude of van sizes on offer. Below we have focused on models that are readily available, with small, medium and large vans to choose from. The biggest models really are huge, while medium models are no bigger in footprint than estate cars like the Volkswagen Passat or Ford Mondeo, although they are much better suited to carrying cargo. Smaller vans, meanwhile, are just as easy to park and manoeuvre as many mid-size cars.

As many campers enjoy excursions such as mountain biking or beach days, the additional space of medium and large vans can often come in handy. For example, larger models are normally tall enough for adults to get changed in the back while standing up. Then again, with a bit of care, small vans can be used as make-shift changing rooms, too.

Vans of yesteryear were often very basic, offering few creature comforts. However, the latest crop of load-luggers are much more plush. Models such as the Mercedes Sprinter can even come with large digital media systems mounted on the dashboard. In short, all of the vans below are easy to live with - some of the smaller vans are even very car-like in how they drive.

When it comes to price, all of the vans below can be scooped up second-hand for somewhere between £10,000 and £35,000 depending on the age and mileage. Opt for Hire Purchase finance, and you can park one of these on the drive for a low monthly payment instead.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a van to convert to a campervan, then we have another top eight vans for you to consider. Meanwhile, if you'd rather stick with a car for camping, we've rounded up the best cars for camping here.

Best vans for camping

1. Vauxhall Combo

Used deals from £9,995
Monthly finance from £470*

Vauxhall has done a great job with its latest Combo van. It is smartly styled, comfortable to drive - great for long road trips - and it packs some impressive safety tech. The cleverest safety kit is optional and we’d recommend looking for a model with the ‘safety pack’. This bundle of equipment includes autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition and lane assist. Each of these helps to make long journeys less stressful and autonomous emergency braking might also help keep your insurance premium down.

Another option that might be useful for those with a child is the ‘FlexCargo Pack’, which adds a third seat in the front. While the extra seat will be tight for adults, it will suit younger passengers just fine. The absence of seats in the rear, on the other hand, means that there's more space for bikes, tents, kitchen sinks and marshmallows to roast on the fire. Vauxhall has offered the Combo with a number of fuel-efficient diesel engines, which are labelled with their power outputs. For most drivers, the 100hp version will offer a great balance between running costs and performance.

2. Ford Transit Courier

Used deals from £9,495
Monthly finance from £0*

Gone are the days of one Ford Transit range - there are now four distinct models. The smallest is the Transit Courier, though it still offers enough space to be a great van for camping. What helps set the Courier apart from its rivals is its driving experience. You won’t feel like you are behind the wheel of a van - it feels more like an agile small car. Perhaps this isn’t surprising as the Transit Courier shares many of its parts with Ford's passenger cars.

There are petrol and diesel models to choose from. If you are planning on doing tens of thousands of miles each year then going for diesel power will make the most sense thanks to diesel models' superior fuel economy. Still, it is worth considering whether a diesel vehicle is right for you as some local authorities are trying to persuade drivers away from diesel by introducing charges for older diesel models entering certain areas. If you're still deciding between petrol and diesel power, read our guide on whether to buy a diesel vehicle here.

3. Volkswagen Caddy

Used deals from £8,795
Monthly finance from £0*

The Volkswagen Caddy is a practical but incredibly popular machine. It is both a tough commercial vehicle but also a desirable family car for large families who use the Caddy as their main car, and a set of wheels for boy-racers who want a van they can easily modify. The Caddy also works very well for camping. There are multiple types of Caddy, which means regardless of whether you are camping as a party of one, two or even up to five, this VW van is an excellent choice.

For those wanting a van with a people carrier edge, there are ‘Caddy Life’ models. They have rear seats, plenty of windows and are generally more car-like to drive. Both the regular Caddy and Caddy Life versions are available in ‘Maxi’ specification, which translates to a longer and more spacious van.

If you want a Caddy with enough room to sleep in the back in an emergency, then the Maxi models will be the best option. There is a range of trims to choose from, including Startline, which is a more affordable trim aimed at drivers who want a van as a workhorse rather than an upmarket family car. If you want somethiung a bit more grand, we’d suggest considering a Highline model.

4. Peugeot Expert

Used deals from £14,495
Monthly finance from £0*

You might notice that the Peugeot Expert looks a lot like other vans you may have seen. This is because many companies share the same main components across their vehicles - it is only really their styling that differentiates them. This is very common in the van world as it helps keep manufacturing costs down. In fact, the Vauxhall Vivaro, Peugeot Expert, Citroen Dispatch and Toyota Proace are all the same van underneath their respective bodywork. This keeps costs down for manufacturers and gives motorists more choice.

As the latest Expert was launched in 2016, there are plenty of second-hand options to choose from. Plus, there are three body lengths available - so you can match your load-carrying needs to the van you acquire. The shortest models are referred to as ‘Compact’, the mid-length models are called ‘Standard’ and the longest are called ‘Long’. If you need seating for up to six - including the driver - there are ‘crew cab’ models as well, although these are only available in standard or long body lengths.

5. Ford Transit Custom

Used deals from £11,995
Monthly finance from £572*

Ford launched the Transit Custom in 2012 - so there are an awful lot of strong value used models to select from. Our advice would be to go for the newest model you can afford as Ford has given the Transit Custom regular updates throughout its life. Some of the biggest arrived in early 2018, when Ford revised the styling and redesigned the cabin to be much more modern - using many of the same components seen in the latest Fiesta, such as the central touchscreen media system.

Regardless of age, all Transit Custom models deliver the same practical and functional package. They even manage to be enjoyable to drive for this type of vehicle. All Transit Custom models are front-wheel-drive and we’d recommend diesel versions to the majority of drivers due to their punchy performance and decent fuel economy. There is also a ‘Trail’ model that was recently introduced which comes with more rugged styling and a system that helps keep both front wheels turning when driving on slippery surfaces, which could appeal if you plan on camping in more remote areas.

6. Citroen Relay

Used deals from £10,995
Monthly finance from £423*

This is where things start to get big, as the Citroen Relay could happily transport all the camping gear you would need for two or three families. As such, it is particularly well suited to those that plan to camp and do many activities that require bulky bits of kit - such as surfing, cycling and climbing. Plus, as the van's roof is so high, there is plenty of space to stand in the cargo area and get changed in privacy.

Although the Relay has a huge cargo area, most models only have seating for two or three people. So if there are a lot of you going camping, you would need another vehicle. There are some - very rare - Relay models that have been converted to minibuses, but these are quite hard to find and are less suited to traditional van tasks, such as having a secure cargo area. There are numerous body styles to choose from and in 2016 Citroen updated the available diesel engines so that they met the Euro 6 emissions standards, which should make them exempt from many diesel emissions charging zones.

7. Mercedes Sprinter

Used deals from £23,450
Monthly finance from £0*

The Mercedes Sprinter is one of the more upmarket large van options. The most recent version was launched in 2018 and marked a significant improvement in onboard technology compared to the model it replaced. The multifunction steering wheel, for instance, looks more like something you’d find in a Mercedes A-Class, with its metal-effect trims and touch-sensitive buttons.

The range of technology on offer is impressive for a van. There is adaptive cruise control, which works by the driver setting a maximum speed and the van safely maintains that speed, slowing the van if a vehicle is detected in front. Should the vehicle ahead pull over or speed up, the van can then automatically increase its speed. There are also optional large digital displays, which Mercedes calls its ‘MBUX' system that can span the dashboard for a more high-tech feel. If you want a less techy interior, meanwhile, the previous version of the Sprinter is still an excellent van.

Along with diesel versions, Mercedes makes a fully electric Sprinter, called the eSprinter. If you plan on using your van for camping we’d go for a diesel as the battery-powered alternative has a very short official range of 95 miles and this is likely to drop further if you carry lots of weight.

8. Renault Master

Used deals from £17,995
Monthly finance from £0*

The Renault Master is the largest van in the French manufacturer's range. It is one of the more recently updated vans on this list, as Renault revamped the Master in 2019, giving it more modern styling and more cabin technology. Even though the tech isn’t quite as extensive as what Mercedes includes with the Sprinter, it is still a significant improvement.

The biggest interior change was the addition of a new central, dash-mounted media system as older Master versions had a display located where you traditionally have a rear-view mirror. Now the display where the mirror would have been shows footage from a reversing camera - very handy for parking.

The largest Master is the rear-wheel-drive long-wheelbase version, which has a 17 cubic meter load bay. This is very large, meaning that the Master should work regardless how much you plan to take with you on camping trips. So, if you need a supersized van that looks modern inside and out and offers strong value, this is a great choice.

*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%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

Read more about:

Latest best cars & vans

  1. Cars with top tethers for child seats

  2. Best cars for four car seats

  3. Cheapest five-door cars