Best 5 vans for cargo camper conversions (in 2023)

Embark on your vanlife journey in 2023 with our selection of the top 5 vans for cargo camper conversion. Find the best cargo van on the market to fulfil your vanlife dream.
Best 5 vans for cargo camper conversions (in 2023)

The best vans for cargo camper conversion are:


  1. VW Transporter
  2. Chevrolet Express
  3. Toyota Proace Verso
  4. Ford Transit Cargo
  5. Large Vans in Smaller Form

Choosing the right van for your cargo camper conversion is very personal. A campervan, by nature, is a very small and intimate space that must reflect your personal want and needs. A cargo van is that sweet spot size between a micro-camper and a large full-on van, perfect for those trips where you need a little more space but still want to be in cities and not as noticeable.

The vans listed in this article are all cargo vans that you can’t stand up in, so usually can fit in multi-storey car parks and in single parking spots but offer up to 3m of internal build space to fit everything you’d want in a cargo camper conversion.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Cargo Van

  • Size and Layout: Finding the Perfect Fit
  • Budget and Affordability: Making Smart Choices
  • Regional Differences: What’s Available to You
  • Safety Features: Prioritizing Peace of Mind

Size and Layout: Finding the Perfect Fit

When starting your vanlife journey, one of the most crucial factors to consider is the size and layout of the van. A cargo van needs to accommodate your living situation and desires. Consider the number of people, sleeping spots, storage requirements, and overall layout functionality. Take some time to plan your van conversion layout.

This will help you determine whether you’re after a shorter, more affordable cargo van or perhaps something bigger to store more goodies inside.

Budget and Affordability: Making Smart Choices

Budget is an important consideration when selecting a van for camper conversion. Determine your budget by setting realistic expectations that include not only the initial purchase but also the cost of conversion and ongoing maintenance. Some vehicle makes and models might be very expensive, and finding these vehicles cheap may often cost you more in the long run with high mechanical repairs. Use our budget planner to help you.

There are different ways to save money on your cargo van conversion cost, and just about anything is possible where vanlife is concerned, so let your mind dream and be brave to chase your dream… corny I know, but still true.

Regional Differences: What’s Available to You

Since cargo vans aren’t as common as other van types, finding the right one can be tricky. Depending on where you live in the world, your choices might be even more limited, which is good to know going forward.

Safety Features: Prioritizing Peace of Mind

Safety should always be a top priority when selecting a van for van conversion. Look for vans with advanced safety features such as stability control, anti-lock brakes, airbags, and collision warning systems. Some of our top picks to add are features like rearview cameras (a MUST), blind-spot monitoring, and cruise control for enhanced safety during your journeys. Prioritizing peace of mind by choosing a van with comprehensive safety features ensures a secure and worry-free vanlife experience.

Campervan safety from break-ins and theft is also a huge topic, though most people choose their own third-party security systems.

Which van would you pick for your cargo camper conversion

As mentioned above, cargo vans aren’t too common, so few makes and models exist.

That being said, the few existing options have similarities and differences, which could make or break your buying choice, so it’s important to know what you are after. Stick around until the end, where we share the best secret for cargo vans.

    vw transporter van conversion

    VW Transporter

    The original. The best? Certainly, the one you know. The VW Transporter (often named the T4/T5/T6 etc…) is one of the icons of the campervan world and is one of the longest-running van models on the market.

    Being the first doesn’t always mean these are the best, but the VW Transporter is one to consider (if your budget allows).


    Interior Dimensions

    vw transporter van dimensions


    • New: £35,000 – £60,000
    • Used: £10,000 – £25,000

    Pros of VW Transporter

    • Huge Ecosystem. Need something specific for your van? Chances are there’s a curtain, fridge or roof box that will fit the VW out there.
    • Dedicated Community. The VW Transporter community is huge worldwide, with countless forums and Facebook groups, all offering advice and help with your build.
    • Popularity. Because of their spread, VW Transporters are commonplace and easy to find worldwide.
    • VW Transporter van conversions are very common, so finding good examples of layout ideas and designs is super easy.

    Cons of VW Transporter

    • Expensive. VW Transporters come with a high cost, even for old models, since they are desirable and sought after.
    • Repairs cost more as well, especially if you buy true VW parts.
    • Not always the best build quality. Especially if you are buying an older model, rust and wiring problems are common.

    Who is the VW Transporter best for?

    VW Transporters are excellent for cargo van conversions if you have the budget. They come with unlimited custom parts already on the market, and lots of campervan conversion companies use the VW Transporter as their base, adding to their popularity. If you find one in good nick, it can last a lifetime.


    Examples VW Transporter Camper Conversion →

    chevrolet express van conversion

    Chevrolet Express

    The bog standard “white minivan” is the Chevrolet Express cargo van. These are commonplace throughout the Americas but not so easy to find elsewhere. With a cheaper price tag than its VW rival, easy-to-find parts and a thriving campervan market, if you’re in America, this van is second to none.


    Interior Dimensions

    chevrolet express van dimensions


    • New: £30,000 – £45,000
    • Used: £5,000 – £15,000

    Pros of Chevrolet Express

    • You blend in. In America, these vans are everywhere, so you blend in with traffic and don’t stand out.
    • Parts are cheap and easy. Repairs for these vehicles are as cheap as most normal cars since they are commonplace, which makes it affordable to repair, even at a garage.
    • Large engine. These vans have big engines, so although not fuel efficient, they don’t wear out quickly.
    • Chevrolet Express van conversions are common, so finding good examples of layout ideas and designs is easy.

    Cons of Chevrolet Express

    • Only in America. Outside of the Americas, these vans can be more expensive to buy, repair and find.
    • Not fuel efficient. These vans are not the greatest with fuel efficiency, so long drives will be more expensive.
    • Mostly white. If colour matters a lot, and you don’t like white, you will have to paint the van yourself or pay a company to do so.

    Who is the Chevrolet Express best for?

    If you’re based in America and are looking for a solid, stable and well-tested cargo van for your camper conversion, these can be a great option. Finding them second-hand can also be very affordable for most budgets.


    Examples Chevrolet Express Camper Conversion →

    toyota proace verso van conversion

    Toyota Proace Verso

    Though mostly a people mover, remove the seats, and you have yourself a smaller yet functional cargo van shell ripe for a van conversion. Toyotas are cheap to run and repair, and their vans make for a great alternative.


    Interior Dimensions

    toyota proace verso van dimensions


    • New: £35,000 – £50,000
    • Used: £5,000 – £20,000

    Pros of Toyota Proace

    • Parts are cheap. Toyota’s are inexpensive to repair, so finding parts is easy, cheap, and available worldwide. It’s like a Nokia phone.
    • More compact. The smaller size means it can fit in tighter places or narrower roads.
    • Available in electric. If electric vans are your thing, Toyota offers an electric version of the Proace with decent specs.

    Cons of Toyota Proace

    • Expensive new. Though second-hand deals can be found, buying these new is quite costly!
    • More dismantling required. As most are sold as minivans with seats, to turn it into a cargo camper, there’s a bit of manual labour involved to dismantle the unneeded additions.

    Who is the Toyota Proace best for?

    With a smaller shell and the possibility of a fully electric van, the Toyota Proace is perfect for those looking for something a little easier to drive, or perhaps you don’t have as much stuff to fit in.


    Examples Toyota Proace Verso Camper Conversion →

    ford transit cargo van conversion

    Ford Transit Cargo

    Ford has a large van, a micro van, and of course, a cargo van. Fords are commonplace and easy to get ahold of and are one of the cheapest vans to find second-hand, so are a great starting point for your cargo camper conversion journey.


    Interior Dimensions

    ford transit cargo van dimensions


    • New: £30,000 – £40,000
    • Used: £3,000 – £15,000

    Pros of Ford Transit Cargo

    • Highly customisable. If you have the budget, custom designing the perfect-shaped van with Ford is possible.
    • Economical. Compared with the other options, Ford Transit Cargo’s are one of the most economical cargo vans.

    Cons of Ford Transit Custom

    • Rust buckets. Fords are notorious for having rust, especially on older vans, so if you’re buying second-hand, be vigilant.
    • More expensive parts. These are not as commonplace as other cargo vans, so parts and specialist-fit furniture might be more expensive to buy and fit.

    Who is the Ford Transit Cargo best for?

    If you want a very particular-sized cargo van, and don’t mind paying the extra for specialist furniture, Ford Transit Cargo’s are an economical cargo van conversion option for you.


    Examples Ford Transit Cargo Camper Conversion →

    sprinter L1 van conversion

    Large Vans in Smaller Form

    On our blog on the best large vans for a campervan conversion, we discuss 12 different van options. Although they aren’t as commonplace, most of these companies offer smaller, lower-roof vans that can act as a cargo van.

    Usually, they are classed as low roofs (H1’s) and shorter wheelbases (SWB/L1/L2).

    Examples are:

    • Mercedes Sprinter L1H1
    • VW Crafter L1H1
    • Fiat Ducato L1H1
    • Peugeot Boxer L1H1
    • Citroen Relay L1H1
    • Renault Master L1H1

    This blog would be far too long to list all of these out on top of the options we listed above, but if you have a brand preference or are heading to a second-hand marketplace, these are the ones to keep an eye out for.

    Which is the best cargo van for camper conversion?

    The best van for a cargo camper conversion depends on personal choice and circumstance. If your budget is lower, then a cheaper van is what you’ll be after.

    If you have a larger budget, your options are more open, so it falls to which space is best suited to your layout.

    Ask yourself these questions:

    • What length/height of van do you need for your layout to fit?
    • When (not if) you break down, how easy are parts to get where you’ll be going?
    • Do you want custom furniture for your vehicle? If so, how easy is this to get?

    Something to bear in mind is how these vehicles are also like to drive. Many people forget to do this research when choosing their vehicle. You must test drive any contenders before picking your base vehicle for your van conversion.

    At the end of the day, no “best” vehicle exists. As long as you research and ensure you have the optional extras you require (AC, Sat Nav, heated seats etc…), then your choice will be the best fit for your conversion.

    Use our van buying checklist and common sense before buying a used van for your campervan conversion.


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