Best van for conversion

If you're going to convert a van, you need a solid base to get the best results. Here are eight of the best vans for conversion

James Wilson
Dec 14, 2021

Many people convert vans to suit their individual needs - as drivers require vans to help them complete a vast range of tasks. Manufacturers know this, which is why all modern vans are built with a degree of flexibility in their design, meaning it is relatively straightforward to modify or convert van bodywork for different jobs.

Even so, there are some key considerations to keep in mind when hunting for the perfect van to convert. The first is the size of the van you need. Typically, vans are grouped into small, medium and large sizes. Large models are huge and normally have enough space for an adult to easily stand up in the cargo area.

Medium vans, in many cases, will just about let an adult stand up, but taller people are likely to have to stoop. Small vans are much more compact and might not offer much more floor space than a double mattress - if that. Another thing to bear in mind is that medium and large vans often come in a range of different lengths and heights. This is worth keeping in mind if your conversion needs plenty of length but minimal height or vice versa.

Another key consideration is the number and size of a van’s windows and doors. What kind of access do you and/or your customers need? Some vans have a single sliding door, others have two. As for glass, if you are planning on starting a mobile Brazilian waxing service you might, for example, want to avoid a van with windows all around.

Recently, there has been an increase in the number of fully electric vans available. These battery-powered workhorses are typically much more expensive than a diesel van to purchase - as electric vehicle tech is still pretty new compared with what's used in a typical diesel van - but there are government grants available for new models, in many cases, to offset the higher price.

Additionally, electric vans claim to provide lower running costs than fossil-fuel-powered alternatives, so they could work if you need rock-bottom running costs and/or often drive into low-emissions zones, where there may be charges to drive an older diesel van.

Another thing to bear in mind with electric models, is whether the maximum range per charge is sufficient for the type of driving you do; if you often cover 500 miles in one day, the charging time needed with an electric van could make this impossible and a diesel model would make more sense. However, if you do lots of short urban trips - especially crossing the London ULEZ area, where older diesels are charged to enter - an electric van could be a savvy financial move and you may be able to get away with only charging from home every couple of days, which could prove particularly convenient.

Below are eight of the best vans for conversion - including small, medium and large van options. They are all in plentiful supply as second-hand vans - visit the BuyaCar van section to see all the models available now - and they are all ripe for conversions.

Prices vary depending on age and model, but as a general rule, the vans listed can be found at anything from just under £10,000 to just over £35,000 - although the majority are towards the lower half of this range. If you are considering van finance to pay for your next set of wheels, this typically translates to roughly £175* to £500* per month.

Best vans for camper conversion

1. Citroen Berlingo

Used deals from £5,995
Monthly finance from £206*

As the Citroen Berlingo is one of the smallest vans on this list, you might think that it can’t offer a whole lot in the conversion stakes. Well, don’t judge this modest French van by its cover, as there are a whole host of conversions that the Berlingo is perfectly suited to. One of the most simple is thanks to the large hatchback that opens upwards. This makes for great access and with a little modification, a wheelchair user will find no problem in boarding and exiting the Berlingo.

A new version of the Berlingo was launched in 2018 and thanks to its sharper look, anyone after a smart customer-facing van - for example those wanting to use one as a mobile coffee shop - will want to opt for the newer model. If you don't need a particularly modern looking van, the previous generation Berlingo is plenty practical. There are a number of frugal engines to choose from, with petrol and diesel options available. In general, those who cover high mileages - typically over 15,000 miles per year - are better off with a diesel.

2. Toyota Proace

Used deals from £16,495
Monthly finance from £0*

Toyota has a reputation for building very reliable cars - up until recently all Toyotas came with a five-year/100,000-mile warranty, which is great for anyone looking at two or three-year-old vans. Toyota also has a reputation for making sensible, grown up products. This means that the Proace is especially suited to those wanting to put out a classy image. If you wanted to convert a van to use as a dog walking service, a Proace could look very professional, for instance. That is assuming you don’t stick a two-metre-high stuffed dog on the roof.

The Toyota Proace is basically the same van as the Peugeot Expert and Citroen Dispatch. They are all made using many of the same components, although the Toyota has the best warranty out of the three, making it a sensible second-hand choice. When it comes to engines, there are diesel models as well as an electric one. The diesels will suit those travelling greater distances each day - especially those doing lots of motorway driving - with the electric model being a good option for those after a zero-emission vehicle who don't travel very far each day.

3. Mercedes Vito

Used deals from £18,450
Monthly finance from £0*

The Mercedes Vito is something of a status symbol in the van world - especially the latest version which was launched in 2015. Like many of the latest generation of vans, the Vito comes with a cabin much more in keeping with its regular car equivalents (in this case, like the Mercedes A-Class), which differs from previous generations of vans which were much more function-over-form in their approach to things such as equipment and dashboard design.

Mercedes also makes a passenger car model it calls the ‘V-Class’. Park one next to the Vito and you will see they bear a striking resemblance - and this is because they are fundamentally the same vehicle underneath. The biggest difference is that the V-Class is aimed more at those wanting a people carrier and the Vito at those wanting a van for commercial use. Though the V-Class has a more plush interior as standard, the Vito is still pretty upmarket as vans go, so should appeal to those after the right badge on their van.

4. Vauxhall Vivaro

Used deals from £9,594
Monthly finance from £400*

The Vauxhall Vivaro is ticks a lot of boxes as a great all-rounder. It is made in Britain, it offers very good usability and the latest Vivaro is based on the same underpinnings as the Toyota Proace, plus the Peugeot Expert and Citroen Dispatch. Meanwhile, though the previous-generation Vivaro was a larger van, important metrics such as maximum load volume and maximum cargo weight have remained roughly the same or increased with the current version.

There are two lengths of the current-generation Vivaro to choose from; L1 and L2, with the latter being the longer one. Vauxhall also offers Vivaros from the factory with nothing but the front cabin attached to the floor pan, which is potentially very helpful if you know that your conversion would have required the removal and disposal of most of the bodywork. If you can afford to go for a new van this is great, but it does also mean there are a number of one-off Vivaros out there, so you could well find a pre-converted van that is perfect for your needs.

5. Volkswagen Crafter

Used deals from £23,995
Monthly finance from £777*

The Volkswagen Crafter is the best large van on sale at present. Part of what makes the Crafter so impressive is its cabin, which feels very upmarket for a van. Although the latest-generation Crafter was launched back in 2016, the exterior design still looks sharp, with angular creases and crisp LED daytime running lights. The interior is similarly modern and appealing.

There is plenty of safety and convenience equipment as well, with kit like adaptive cruise control available. This uses sensors to scan the road ahead and if the system judges that you are getting too close to the vehicle ahead, it will automatically reduce your speed and then if a vehicle holding you up moves out of the way, it can then accelerate you back up to your desired speed. Handy for long, busy motorway trips.

On a more practical note, as the rear cargo area is vast, the number of suitable conversions is huge. Not all Crafter models are born equal, though, as there are three different lengths and three different roof heights to choose from. There are also front- and rear-wheel-drive models, with the latter offering the better total carrying capacity as well as a maximum towing weight of 3.5 tonnes - which is significantly better than many off-roaders.

6. Renault Master

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

Renault updated its largest van, the Master, to give it more contemporary styling and a more modern cabin in 2019. The biggest news inside was a new media display mounted on the dashboard - older models had their displays mounted where a rearview mirror would normally be. What Renault didn’t need to change was the huge amount of cargo space available. Granted, there are different size bodies available, but the Master is in general, quite a large van.

Depending on your needs, the ride quality of the Master can be a good or bad thing. Renault designed its largest van to be able to carry very heavy loads, so the suspension is quite bouncy if you drive with no cargo - as there's less force pushing the suspension down. Load it up and things get better, but it is worth keeping this in mind; if your conversion plans are lightweight you might get bounced around more on rough roads.

Alternatively, if you are planning to convert your van into a mobile car cleaning service or you're a window cleaner and might be driving around with a heavyweight tank of water, the suspension setup could be perfect.

7. Vauxhall Movano

Used deals from £13,995
Monthly finance from £0*

The Vauxhall Movano is a large panel van that up until recently was based on the same platform as the Renault Master. However, the conglomerate that owns Peugeot and Citroen bought Vauxhall in 2017 and now the Movano shares its underpinnings with the Peugeot Boxer and Citroen Relay. Traditionally, these models have always erred on the side of function over form. As a result, they are often the basis for campervan conversions due to their lower price compared to some German alternatives.

Like many other large vans, such as the Volkswagen Crafter, the Movano is available as a fully electric van. Typically electric vans have fairly modest official ranges per charge - and the Movano-E is claimed to be able to travel 139 miles from a full charge. Compared to an electric car like the Nissan Leaf e+ this seems low, but as many battery-powered vans are expected to undertake mostly stop/start journeys in city/town centres, the range is likely to be more than enough for many urban drivers.

Electric vans do tend to be more expensive than equivalent diesel models, but there are government grants available to help reduce the cost of buying or financing a brand new electric van, while those going for a second-hand model will still benefit from a lower 'fuel' cost - especially when using cheaper charging like overnight home charging.

8. Peugeot Boxer

Peugeot Boxer front three quarters view

Used deals from £15,995
Monthly finance from £0*

As mentioned above, the Peugeot Boxer is closely related to the Vauxhall Movano. However, this has only been the case for a few years. As a result, there are a number of older and more affordable Boxer vans to scoop up for your conversion needs, which make a clever choice if you're on a budget. You won’t be the first to do this, though, as the large French van has been widely used as the basis for everything from horseboxes to ambulances.

Truth be told, the Boxer has been in production for quite a while in car years - the current model can trace its roots all the way back to 2006. To help keep its van relevant, Peugeot has updated the Boxer multiple times since then, including significant changes in 2014, 2016 and 2019. The newer the van you can afford the better, as the onboard equipment you get will be more up-to-date and the more environmentally friendly the engine will be. All Boxers promise impressive amounts of space and carrying capacity, though.

*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.

 

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