Best Used Camper Vans For your Van Conversion

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A camper van conversion is an awesome way to RV. By building from the ground up, you can get a camper that’s perfectly customized to how you want to camp. A used or late-model camper van can save you a bundle when looking for your camper van to convert.

Used camper vans are one of the best ways to get an affordable camper van conversion. But what van should you buy exactly?

We’ve got you covered. We’ve been evaluating vans for years, so let’s take a look at the best used camper vans for your camper van conversion. 

Table Of Contents

Camper Van Conversion Cost

First things first, let’s talk about money. The cost to convert a van to a camper van can be split into two big expenses: the cost of buying your van to convert and the cost of actually converting it. 

The Price of the Van

The most common vans to convert are cargo vans, such as the Ford Transit. These large vehicles have spacious interiors and are often completely empty besides the front seating, making for easy conversion. 

A new cargo van will usually run between $40,000 to $80,000, depending on the make and model. Used cargo vans will be cheaper, often being in the $20,000 to $30,000 range or less. Older models of cargo vans can sometimes even be found for under $10,000. 

The Price of the Conversion

Once you have a base to convert, you’ll have to consider the conversion costs. If you pay a professional company to do your conversion, you’re looking at a minimum of around $10,000.

That’s just the start with prices going all the way to $200,000 and beyond! Most professional van conversions will fall in the $30,000 to $60,000 range.

If you’re the handy type, it’s also possible to do a DIY campervan conversion. This can be significantly cheaper, running between $5,000 and $15,000 for your typical build. But, it’s possible to do a DIY build for as little as $1,000!

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10 Best Vans For Your Camper Conversion

Now that you know what to look for in a van to convert, let’s look at 10 of the best vans for your camper van conversion.

1. Ford Transit

White Ford Transit van - camper van conversion

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The Ford Transit is a hugely popular cargo van for camper van conversions – and for good reason. They have the best fuel economy of their competitors on top of being highly reliable.

The Ford Transit has three roof heights (low, medium, and high), three lengths (regular, long, and extended), and is available with rear- or all-wheel drive. The Ford Transit’s customizability, reliability, and efficiency make it one of the best vans if you want to convert a camper van.

No wonder there are so many van lifers who use this van.

2. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

White Mercedes Sprinter van - camper van conversion

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The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is one of the most popular models for a conversion van camper and it’s easy to see why. These vans are high quality and highly engineered, with the quality you expect from a luxury brand like Mercedes-Benz. 

The Sprinter comes in three lengths (144” wheelbase, 170” wheelbase, and 17” extended wheelbase) and two roof heights (standard and high). The Sprinter has rear-wheel drive by default but is also available with a “4×4” drivetrain. This is essentially all-wheel drive which can be engaged and disengaged when needed. 

The Sprinter’s high quality has made it so popular that “Sprinter van” is often used as a catch-all term for any cargo van. If you decide on a Sprinter for your camper van conversion, you’ll be in good company!

3. RAM Promaster

Charcoal grey Ram Promaster van - camper van conversion

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Although it doesn’t get talked about as much in discussions of van conversions, the RAM Promaster is still a great option. Plus, it’s got a few unique features that set it apart from other cargo vans. 

For one, the RAM Promaster has the widest body out of the popular cargo vans, allowing for more space in your build. Plus, the flat-sided walls can make that build easier. It is also unique in having front-wheel drive whereas most popular vans have rear-wheel drive. 

RAM Promasters also come in four different lengths (8’ cargo length/118” wheelbase, 10’ cargo length/136” wheelbase, 12’ cargo length/159” wheelbase, and 13’ cargo length/159” extended wheelbase) with two roof heights (standard and high). 

Because of these unique features, a RAM Promaster can be a great choice for a unique van-to-camper van conversion.

4. Nissan NV

White Nissan NV van - camper van conversion

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The Nissan NV is a unique-looking little cargo van that’s not especially popular. In fact, it will be discontinued after 2021. Despite that, it can still be a good choice for a camper van conversion.

Besides just standing out from the crowd, the Nissan NV’s unique look can make it a bit better for stealth camping. Because it’s only rarely used for conversions, it’s less likely to be recognized as a camper van.

And like most Japanese car manufacturers, Nissan has a reputation for reliability and quality manufacturing.

5. Ford E series

White Ford Econoline - camper van conversion

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Now that we’ve gone through the modern options, it’s time to get into a classic. The Ford E series, formerly known as Ford Econoline, is the precursor to the modern Ford Transit. It has many of the advantages of a new Ford van, but because of their age, you can find them extremely cheap.

Ford produced E series cargo vans from the 1960s up through 2014, so a wide range of models can be found for sale, including relatively new ones.

6. Chevy Express/GMC Savana

Beige and red Chevy Express van - camper van conversion

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Another choice for classic cargo vans is the Chevy Express, also sold as a GMC Savana. Although these are still produced by Chevy, it’s more common to see older models used for camper van conversions. 

Like any older model of van, the biggest advantage is going to be lower cost. And, like most older vehicles, an older van can be a bit more simple to repair.

7. Compact Cargo Vans (Mercedes Metris, Ford Transit Connect, RAM ProMaster City)

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Every major model of cargo van also has a “sister” model which is smaller and more compact:

These compact cargo vans are largely similar to their bigger counterpart but smaller in almost every dimension. They’re also a bit cheaper than larger models. They’re a bit small for most camper van conversions, but for those who don’t mind less room, they’re great for an ultra-compact camper.

8. Step Vans

White step van

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A “step van,” also known as a multi-stop truck, refers to the big, blocky vans used by postal and delivery workers. You also see them in other applications like ice cream trucks and food trucks. 

These vans are a good choice for a camper van conversion because they’re very roomy and sturdy. Plus, their flat sides can make for an easier camper van conversion. And even better, they can often be gotten quite cheaply used or via auctions.

9. School Buses

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Maybe a bus doesn’t quite qualify as a “van” conversion, per se. But, if plenty of space is what you want, it’s hard to beat a school bus build. These massive vehicles provide tons of room and are ideal if you want to have your whole family live in an RV. 

Often known as “skoolies,” this particular style of camper van conversion is fairly popular and has quite a following. Old school buses can often be bought cheaply at auction and both DIY and professional conversion are possible. 

The major downside of skoolies is that they’re much harder to navigate than a cargo van, especially in narrow city streets. And, they’re not nearly as fuel-efficient, getting only 6 to 12 miles to the gallon. But, if you want maximum space in your camper, it’s hard to beat a bus.

10. Unique Vehicles

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While most conversions will use some kind of van or similar vehicle, there are plenty of examples of camper conversions using other vehicles. Often, these will use some kind of work vehicle that can be bought cheaply at an auction. 

Box truck conversions are a great example of this. Box trucks are “chassis cab trucks,” where the front section is enclosed and separated from a larger cargo area in the back. You might best recognize these as the trucks you can rent from companies like U-Haul and Penske.

This rear cargo area provides a bunch of space and makes box truck conversions a great budget option. 

But there are far more unique builds out there for the more creative DIYers out there. For example, people have made camper builds from fire trucks and garbage trucks!

While these unique builds aren’t going to be most people’s first choice, and you’ll have a much harder time finding a professional willing to do it for you. But if you have access to a unique vehicle, and the know-how to DIY it, the sky’s the limit!

What Is the Best Van to Convert for a Family of 4?

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Fitting a whole family into a camper van conversion isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. If you’re not married to a vehicle that’s strictly a “van,” a school bus camper conversion can be a great camper van for a family of four. Skoolies provide tons of space and are a great option for families. 

But, if you really want a van to convert and won’t accept any other vehicle, there are some options. With its wider body, a RAM Promaster can provide a bit more space to move around than other cargo vans. Step vans and box vans are also an option for a more spacious converted van.

Camper Van Conversion Resale Value

Like any vehicle, a camper van will tend to depreciate in value over time. A camper van isn’t a secure financial investment like a traditional home. However, with proper care, it is possible to maintain the resale value of a camper van. 

Regular maintenance is essential for retaining value. Being proactive about engine maintenance and avoiding last-minute repairs will keep your van attractive to future buyers. And keeping the outside of your van in good shape will not only keep it looking good, but it will also protect against costly water damage. 

You can also increase resale value with renovations and additions. New appliances or extra amenities like solar panels can add a lot of value to your camper. 

The exact resale value of a camper van conversion is hard to calculate. But, looking at resale sites for camper vans can give you an idea. Looking at listings on and, you can see older van conversions tend to resell for around $10,000 to $30,000.

Newer van conversions, however, resell for much more, starting around $30,000 and going up to $100,000 for a newer, more advanced converted van.

Can You Live Full-Time In A Camper Van?

Can You Live Full-Time In A Camper Van?
Living full-time in a camper van is definitely possible, but it’s not for everybody. 

Wondering if you can live full-time in a camper van? In fact, you absolutely can, but there are some considerations to make first.

Think of a camper van as essentially a small studio apartment on wheels. It’s a much smaller living space than you’re likely used to, and it’s important to consider if that’s right for you.

You’ll have to put up with limited space and storage, and you might find the available space a bit cramped. That said, not lugging around a ton of stuff and living with just the basics can be very freeing, for the right person.

Another thing to remember is that a camper van has unique upkeep and maintenance that’s different from a traditional home. You’ll have to fill and empty tanks, keep track of battery charge, and other RV-specific upkeep, not to mention the usual upkeep that goes with a vehicle, such as oil changes.

You’ll have to be prepared to stay on top of these sorts of things if you want to RV full-time in a camper. 

On top of this, you’ll have to find somewhere you can park your camper van anytime you want to bed down for the night. There are plenty of options, from stealth camping to BLM land to a good old-fashioned RV park, but it’s still something you’ll have to do regularly while full-timing. 

But, if you can deal with all these aspects of full-timing in a camper van, it’s well worth it. You’ll have unparalleled freedom to go anywhere and everywhere and do so on your schedule. So if that freedom is worth dealing with the unique lifestyle of full-timing van life, making the leap is likely right for you.

Final Words About Vans For Camper Van Conversions

With a used van, you can get yourself into the camper van conversion of your dreams at a much more affordable price than buying a new one.

From used cargo vans like Sprinters or older E-Vans to more unique options like step vans, there are plenty of options to be found. Once you find the right van, you’ll be one step closer to living out your van life dreams.

Related Reading:

How Much Does Van Life Cost Per Month?
25 Must-Have Campervan Accessories
What is a Stealth Camper Van for Off Grid Camping?
Best Campervan Rental Companies: US and Canada

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