In the case of small campers, vans are a popular option since they offer an all-in-one solution for those looking to hit the road. You can jump in a van and take off without the worry of unwieldy trailers or large motorhomes that can be difficult to drive and maneuver around.
If you are like me, you prefer keeping it small with a camper so that it’s easy to drive, making your camping trip less stressful. A van can be the perfect type of camper for someone who wants to take off and not have the common concerns or worries that a large RV traveler has.
Even though vans are small, they offer advantages that make them a much better choice than some of the other small campers available on the market.
If you are interested in buying a camper van of some type, a decision will need to be made as to whether or not you want to purchase a class B RV or a conversion van. The two are similar but differ in a lot of ways.
A Class B RV is designed and built from the ground up by a manufacturer for the specific purpose of camping. A conversion van is a van that has been customized on the inside from its original intention for a specific purpose such as camping.
Both of these types of vans can be set up as full-featured campers and can be a great choice for someone who wants to maintain a small footprint.
Class B RV
Class B motorhomes are interesting types of motorhomes. These are the smallest drivable motorhomes that you can buy yet some of them are more expensive than even the largest class A motorhomes.
Some of the pricing on these types of motorhomes can be ridiculously high as manufacturers of these load them up with amenities and customizations that make them unique and highly livable considering the space they have.
These motorhomes are very useful for people who want a motorhome but don’t want to feel as though they are driving and lugging something large around.
They often have all that you could need in an RV and most class B motorhomes contain a kitchen area, a bathroom, some type of shower option, seating, bedding, and storage.
Class B motorhomes are not as mass-produced as a class A or class C since they generally appeal to a smaller group of buyers.
Let’s look at three different models of class B motorhomes to give you an idea of what you can expect from this type of RV.
With an MSRP of $71,625, the Carado Banff is one of the more reasonably priced Class B motorhomes that you will find. If you are looking for a new one, the Banff could make a great choice.
It is built on the Ram Promaster chassis and it has a roomy layout that can accommodate most campers.
It contains a full bathroom including toilet, sink and stand up shower. This makes it a great choice for people looking for an all-in-one solution at a more affordable price.
The video below gives you an idea of what the Banff can provide. Notice how cozy and livable the space actually is.
2020 Winnebago Revel
With the super high MSRP of around $168,000, the Revel is a 4×4 Class B that is designed to take you anywhere you want to go. It has a full shower, toilet and all of the other living areas that you would expect from an RV.
This is a van that is for those who have the money to spend and want something that will get them off the beaten path. You would be able to take the Revel to places that you might not be able to go without the 4×4.
Personally, the price is WAY more than I would ever pay but there seems to be a market for vans in this price range. There is a growing trend of people who are interested in having an off-road adventure machine like this.
2020 Roadtrek Zion
The Roadtrek Zion has an MSRP of $101,681 so it comes in between the two previous models discussed.
This is still a very pricey rig but it does offer a luxury van experience. It’s built on the Ram Promaster 3500 extended so it does have plenty of livable room.
It also has all the amenities that any other one would have in this price range. This is a well-built coach and can offer plenty of room for enjoying a luxury camping experience.
Life In A Class B RV
What does it look like to travel or camp in a Class B RV?
Many people would assume that since these types of vans are so small, it would be difficult to enjoy a roomy camping experience while staying in one. However, this isn’t really the case because they are often roomier than you might think.
A class B RV requires that you spend more time enjoying nature and the journey than you do living inside of a cooped up shelter. The lifestyle isn’t good for those who want to stay indoors and watch TV.
It’s more for those who want to go to a location, park, get out and explore. Many of those who drive vans like this would rather be out hiking, biking or exploring an area that they are in.
They use the van as a place to provide them with shelter and a place to eat, wash up, relax and sleep.
I love the size of a small van because it is cozier and is also easier to cool in warm climates and to heat in colder climates.
When I travel with my conversion van, I usually park my van and use it as needed but I spend a lot of time hiking and being outdoors.
In this case, there is no need to have anything larger than a van because I’m only using it for a place where I can tend to my basic needs. Even families can make a van work and there are many examples of living spaces set up for more than just one person.
I often enjoy sharing my van with my wife and dog. We go on adventures together and the van provides plenty of space for us to live without feeling cramped.
Much like a class B motorhome, a conversion van made for camping usually includes most everything you would need. The difference is that these are custom-built and converted from a van that had another purpose.
This often involves taking a passenger van and removing seating or other items and then converting the space to a livable area.
Why would someone want a conversion van when there is already something that fills this need?
There are many reasons but here are two of the main reasons that people would want a conversion van versus a class B RV.
1. A conversion van is more affordable.
A conversion van can be bought for a fraction of the cost of a class B RV. While you could spend upwards of $150,000 or more for a class B, you could buy a used work van for a few thousand dollars and then convert it into a camper for a minimal amount of money.
Of course, what you end up with probably won’t be as nice as the class B but that will depend on the van you buy and the quality of conversion that you do.
In my case, I wanted something high quality so I spent a little more on a van. I purchased a Ram Promaster that was like new. I then spent $10,000 on my conversion and made it something that I was extremely proud of.
In the end, I saved a ton of money over what I would have if I had chosen a class B.
2. A conversion van can be customized to your needs.
The best thing about a conversion van, in my opinion, is that it can be customized to your exact specifications. This was important to me as I had a difficult time finding a manufactured class B motorhome that was set up the way I wanted.
I had a hard time with the high price of the motorhome and it still didn’t have a layout that I liked. They also tend to be a bit sterile in their finishes. I enjoy creating things so the possibility of creating a camper van for myself was right down my alley.
I created mine the exact way I wanted it and I know it inside and out so it will be easy to adjust or customize areas as needed.
This is the advantage of a conversion van. You are completely in control of it and can set it up however you need it to be.
Advantages And Disadvantages
There wouldn’t be different types of vans for camping if there weren’t some advantages and disadvantages of both types. This is all subjective and will differ based on your experiences.
If you are considering a class B motorhome, here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages that you can expect.
Class B Motorhome Advantages
- Everything is already done for you. The manufacturer has designed and built a ready-to-use RV so that you can immediately hit the road and begin enjoying the experience.
- Warranty. Just like a car, when you buy a new class B motorhome, it usually comes with a warranty in case you have problems.
- You’ll be able to park in almost any RV park. Although I haven’t experienced this, there have been reports that many RV parks do not allow conversion vans.
- High build quality. A class B has been carefully designed and assembled by professionals and you don’t have to worry about things falling off the wall or potential problems from do-it-yourself work.
Class B Motorhome Disadvantages
- Price. These things can get very expensive so it can be intimidating to throw lots of money down on a small van. Some of the high prices I’ve seen can be downright laughable.
- You are stuck with a pre-determined layout. This could be good if you find one you like but bad if you have trouble finding the perfect fit for your needs.
- Only a few vehicle options and sizes. You are limited to a few popular models that manufacturers use for their van builds.
- Not stealthy. If this is important to you, a class B that a manufacturer has designed and built will look like an RV and lower your chances of successfully stealth camping.
For those looking to convert a van and make it a camper, there are certainly some advantages to do so. Likewise, there are some disadvantages as well. I have outlined a few of each below.
Conversion Van Advantages
- It’s cheaper. You won’t pay as much for a van conversion unless you go all out or purchase a new van and then have a company convert it for you. Taking on the challenge yourself will yield a more affordable finished product.
- You get to design your own space. Although challenging, it can be fun to dream and then make that dream into a reality.
- You can choose your van option. There are many good vans that would be great for conversion. You get to choose the one you like the most and that fits your layout best.
- You can remain stealthy. If you choose, you can build your van so that it would be difficult for others to know you are living inside.
Conversion Van Disadvantages
- You have to do the work. Finding a van is easy but converting it to a camper can be challenging.
- Possible safety concerns. If you purchase a conversion van or convert one yourself, there may be assembly errors that could result in things falling off the wall or possibly dangerous situations from DIY electrical wiring.
- It may be more difficult to sell. People may have a concern that the conversion was not done in a quality way. They may find it unsafe, making it more difficult to sell when the time comes.
Best Van For A Van Conversion
There are lots of different options for a van conversion and most people will go with a van that has the maximum amount of room. This often leads one to purchase a cargo van that most class B’s are already built upon.
The three main options in the United States include the Ram Promaster, Ford Transit and the Mercedes Sprinter.
This allows someone to create the same type of living space as they might find in a class B that costs much more money.
It doesn’t have to be a cargo van but these tend to be the most popular and most workable option on the market.
A van conversion can be converted from nearly any van as long as it has enough space for your preferred layout. You may have to remove seats, walls and other items to accommodate the conversion.
Is A Conversion Van Considered An RV?
An RV is a vehicle or a trailer that is mobile and contains a living area, including amenities such as kitchens, dining areas, bathrooms, beds, and seating areas. A conversion van certainly falls under this category and can be considered an RV.
Most people who convert vans to RVs include normal living areas that you would find in any RV. Although conversion vans aren’t always titled as motorhomes, they can be as long as they meet certain criteria.
These criteria vary in different places so you would have to check with your locale to determine if this is possible with a conversion van.
Even if a conversion van is not titled as a motorhome, it still falls under the definition of an RV.
Whether you choose a conversion van or a class B RV built by a manufacturer, either can provide you with a great space to take camping. Vans like these make excellent choices for those who are interested in a small motorhome that is easy to drive.
A conversion van can allow you to create your own customized space that will serve you well no matter what needs you have. A class B motorhome is a great option if you don’t mind the high price that you have to pay to obtain one.
Even though these are the smallest of all the motorhome types, they can provide you with an excellent living space that can serve you well on a camping expedition.
The one you choose will depend on the funds you have to spend as well as your desire to tackle a conversion or not. A conversion van is hard work but worth it if you are handy and creative.