One of the main benefits of traveling and camping in a van is the small size that gives you more freedom. A conversion van is small in size but mighty in what it can offer in terms of living space and convenience. Though there are differences in various models of vans, most conversion vans are shorter and easier to drive than standard RVs.
A conversion van ranges from about 18 ft to 24 ft in total bumper to bumper length. Because of this short length, a conversion van offers a very livable space inside a compact footprint. They are easy to drive, park, and maneuver through tight places where larger RVs may struggle.
If you are considering purchasing a van for conversion, the difficult part of the process is which one to choose? The sizes of today’s vans are similar but differ slightly in areas that matter. Some are longer and some are wider so you will really need to determine your needs and then you will be able to make a wiser choice.
Below, let’s look at some of the most popular vans for conversion that are currently on the market. These are the vans that you will typically find being turned into campers.
Most Popular Vans For Conversion
The following chart shows the length of the most popular vans for conversion in the US. They are listed in order with the longest van being first and the shortest being last.
NOTE: Specs taken from the manufacturers’ websites on the latest 2021 models except for Ford Econoline which was discontinued in 2014.
|Van Make||Model||Total Length Inches||Total Length Feet|
|RAM||Promaster 136WB||213.1 in||17.75 feet|
|Ford||2014 E-250||216.7 in||18.05 feet|
|Ford||Transit Regular Medium Roof||217.8 in||18.15 feet|
|Ford||Transit Regular Low Roof||219.9 in||18.32 feet|
|Chevrolet||Express 2500/3500 Regular||224.05 in||18.67 feet|
|Mercedes||Sprinter 144 Standard/High Roof||233.5 in||19.45 feet|
|Ford||Transit Long Medium/High Roof||235.5 in||19.62 feet|
|RAM||Promaster 2500/3500 159WB||236.1 in||19.67 feet|
|Ford||Transit Long Low Roof||237.6 in||19.8 feet|
|Nissan||NV 1500/2500/3500||240.6 in||20.05 feet|
|Chevrolet||Express 2500/3500 Extended||244.05 in||20.33 feet|
|RAM||Promaster 3500 159WB EXT||250.5 in||20.87 feet|
|Ford||Transit Long-EL High Roof||263.9 in||21.99 feet|
|Mercedes||Sprinter 170 High Roof||274.3 in||22.85 feet|
|Mercedes||Sprinter 170 Extended High Roof||290 in||24.16 feet|
We can determine from the list of vans above that the shortest length is 213.1 inches (17.75). The longest van on the list is 290 inches (24.16 feet). This is quite a big range with more than six feet separating the longest from the shortest. While this may not seem like a substantial amount of difference, it is!
The extra amount of space can give you more room to work with inside allowing for a more spacious living area. However, a longer van comes at a cost since it will be a little more challenging to drive and park.
Let’s look further at each van and discuss some good reasons for choosing that particular van.
Maximum Length: 263.9 inches (21.99 feet)
Minimum Length: 217.8 inches (18.15 feet)
The Ford Transit is quickly becoming a favorite for conversion vans as it has a lot to offer. With the longest van coming in at nearly 22 feet, it offers plenty of space to set up an amazing living space. Beyond the length of the van, the Transit also has lots of headroom (in the high roof option) and a good amount of width (on the 2021 models).
I have looked at this van in person and considered it for my build but at the time, the narrow width kept me from purchasing it instead of the Promaster (discussed below). I love the comfort of this van and driving it is a pleasure. The new Transits have a luxurious feel to them and it feels as if you are driving a comfortable car. You won’t even feel like you are driving a large cargo van.
With the Transit now available in a 4×4 option, it has become a great option for those looking to convert a van to a camper.
Maximum Length: 290 inches (24.16 feet)
Minimum Length: 233.5 inches (19.45 feet)
The choice of luxury can be found in the Mercedes Sprinter. Living up to the Mercedes name, the Sprinter gives you a high-tech, comfortable ride along with lots of space for a killer living area. The total length of the longest Sprinter van comes in at over 24 feet long. This is quite a long van that can accommodate a super roomy living space.
You can also opt for the shorter version if you don’t want the added length or don’t need all that space. The shortest van coming in at around 19.45 feet is plenty for a roomy conversion, depending on the design. The benefit is that it will be easier to drive and park making it a truly mobile adventure mobile.
The Sprinter is for those who need the longest van possible. If multiple people will be staying in it or you are a family with children, the Sprinter is your best choice. The longest version is quite a bit bigger than what you will find with the other makes and models on the market.
Maximum Length: 250.5 inches (20.87 feet)
Minimum Length: 213.1 inches (17.75 feet)
I chose the Promaster for my conversion and am mostly happy with it. It’s a great van for the most part that has a nice wide interior for a spacious layout. Many choose this van for a few different reasons.
- It’s wide enough to accommodate a sideways bed.
- It’s more affordable than other options.
- It has a powerful V6 that gets great fuel mileage.
- It’s easy and cheap to work on.
The van has a good amount of length and comes in an extended version that gives a decent amount of extra space over the standard lengths. My van is a 159WB and has a total length of 236.1 inches. I can easily maneuver it nearly anywhere I want it and with the great turning radius of this van, it’s super easy to drive.
I do have some complaints about it such as it being uncomfortable to drive. It’s has a very minimal cabin without a lot of the comforts found in more expensive vans.
Maximum Length: 240.6 inches (20.05 feet)
It has a weird look but offers a nice amount of space to design a beautiful camper van. Although I don’t see a lot of these vans converted to campers, the high roof option makes a great choice. The length of the NV is more than that of my Promaster 2500 so it is a very useable van in regards to the size.
I am partial to Nissan because I have always owned Nissan trucks. I’m familiar with the typical layout and overall feel of driving these vehicles. These are typical of Nissan and will be familiar to anyone coming from any type of Nissan vehicle. It has a nice comfortable interior and is a pleasure to drive.
Maximum Length: 244.05 inches (20.33 feet)
Minimum Length: 224.05 inches (18.67 feet)
If a low-roof workhorse is what you are looking for, the Chevrolet Express is a tried and true model that will get the job done. Although you won’t have the headroom of the other high roof vans, you’ll have a length similar to those mentioned above. Many awesome conversion vans have been built using this chassis and it certainly has its benefits.
It’s great for those who are going for the stealthy look and don’t want to be seen as a camper van. Converting one of these can be super affordable since you can get them used for a great price. Many people choose this type of van and then add a pop-top to it. In the end, you end up with a spacious van with plenty of headroom thanks to the additional height the pop-up adds.
Maximum Length: 216.7 inches (18.05 feet)
As a blast from the past, the Ford E-Series vans can still be seen all over the place as company work vans. These are also workhorses similar to the Chevy Express mentioned above. Although the Econoline is no longer manufactured, it can still serve as a great van if you find a good used one.
Similar to the Chevy Express, it can serve as an excellent choice for a stealthy camper van. It has a roomy interior and with a pop-up roof added to it, it can make for a great conversion van.
As you can see, a conversion van isn’t much different in length from a large full-sized truck. For example, the Ford F250 Crew Cab LWB comes in at 266.2 inches (22.18 feet) in total length. Even the smallest F250 Regular cab is 231.8 inches (19.31 feet) long. This is about the same length as my RAM Promaster camper van that I converted. If you are used to driving a full-size truck, a conversion van won’t feel much different unless you find yourself in one of the longest ones on the market.
Conversion vans come in all shapes and sizes but any of them can be designed in a way to accommodate a comfortable living space. Whether you go long or short, a conversion van makes a great, agile home out on the road.