8 Best Vans To Convert To Camper

Sketch of Fiat Ducato, Ford Transit, and Renault Master - Best vans to convert to camper

When you start looking at vans to convert to a camper, you’ll soon realise that there’s lots of different makes and models, shapes and sizes to choose from. If you’re looking to build your own home on wheels, then you’ll have to decide what kind of van you want to convert. 

From larger vans for a more spacious home on wheels to smaller vans for a more compact travel home, there’s a van for your ideal lifestyle. In this guide, we’re going to run through the 8 best vans to convert to a camper, with different size and budget options.

From the popular Mercedes Sprinter to the ever reliable Toyota Hiace, read on for the best vans to convert to your home on wheels. 

Different Types and Sizes Of Vans

When looking at vans to convert to a campervan, you’ll find that there are many different sizes and types of vans. Depending on what kind of van you’re after, there’s something for everyone’s budget and ideal size.

Size and height

The main thing you need to think about when looking at vans is the size and height. There are different lengths in most van brands, which are usually divided into short wheel base (SWB), medium wheel base (MWB), long wheel base (LWB) and extra long wheel base (XLWB). This will depend on how much room you want to have and how confident you are driving a longer vehicle.

You’ll also want to think about roof height. There are generally standard roof heights and high roof options in most vans, although the actual height is different depending on the make and model. If you want to be able to stand up fully in the van, then you’ll likely be looking at high roof vans, whereas smaller vans generally only come in a standard roof.

Auto vs Manual

Another thing you might want to consider when looking at vans for sale, is whether you want to drive an automatic or manual. While most vans have auto and manual varieties, some are more likely to be found than others.

For example, Ford Transits have only been made automatic in recent years. So, if you’re looking at older Ford Transit vans for sale, then they’ll likely be manual. This might sway your decision when deciding what van to convert to a camper.

4×4 vs 2WD

Along similar lines, you might also want to consider how much off-road driving you want to do. While most vans in this guide come in 2WD options only, there are some that come in All-Wheel Drive and even 4×4 options for better off-road handling. 

For example, you can find 4×4 Toyota Hiace vans, although they are rare. This would give you more flexibility as to where you can go. Similarly, you can get off-road Mercedes Sprinter vans, although they are generally very expensive.

This might be an important consideration for you depending on what kind of van trip or lifestyle you want to lead.

8 Best Vans To Convert To Camper

If you’re looking for your dream van for a home on wheels, there’s plenty of choices out there. We’re going to run through the 8 most popular vans to convert to camper to help you figure out what might suit you and your lifestyle.

Larger Vans

If you’re looking for larger type vans which provide a bit more space and room, these vans are the perfect options for a spacious home on wheels. However, they are larger vehicles which can be more cumbersome and challenging to manoeuvre, depending on your confidence and experience.

Mercedes Sprinter

White Mercedes Sprinter showing the DIY conversion inside

Widely considered as one of the best vans to convert to a campervan, Mercedes Sprinters are a great option for vanlife. One of the benefits of Sprinters is that they come in different sizes and types for a variety of choices.

You can choose from short, medium, long and extra long wheel bases, as well as, standard, mid and high roof options. They even come in 4×4 as well. This means they can generally suit a range of people and lifestyles, and provide plenty of space for creative DIY van conversions.

While they can be pricier than other options, especially if you’re looking at brand new ones, they are generally quite reliable and provide a very smooth drive. Although, being a European car company, parts and services can also be more expensive when compared to Ford or Toyotas.

Ford Transit

White Ford Transit with high room

Another popular van for campervan conversions in Australia is the Ford Transit. You’ll likely see many of these vans on the road. Similarly to Sprinters, they come in different lengths and roof heights from short wheel base to long wheel base options.

While the LWB Ford Transits are not as long or spacious as the LWB Mercedes Sprinter van, they are a great van for anyone looking for a medium size home on wheels. However, it wasn’t until recently that they began making them in automatic transmission and All Wheel Drive options, so older Ford Transits are a bit more restricted in options.

One of the real benefits of a Ford Transit is that they are much cheaper than the European vans like the Fiat Ducato and Mercedes Sprinter. They’re perfect for anyone looking for a spacious van at a decent price.

Fiat Ducato

Converted Fiat Ducato parked in the middle of the forest

While most Australians haven’t heard of Fiat, the Italian company makes large vans that are popular for campervan conversions. Many professional campervan companies use Fiat vans, including Trakka, Avida, Horizon and Avan.

They come in different lengths and roof heights too, with the LWB option not quite as long as the Mercedes Sprinter’s longest van size. However, the Fiat Ducato LWB Maxi vans are perfect for anyone looking for a spacious home on wheels that is still compact enough to drive easily.

The main downside of the FIat Ducatos is that they are not as common as Mercedes and Fords, so you’ll have to look a bit harder to find one on the market. They are also difficult to source parts for and parts are generally quite expensive, so if something happens on the road, you might be looking at a pricey bill to fix it.

Volkswagen Crafter

Beautiful view of a mountain and a Volkswagen Crafter
Trail Campers

The Volkswagen Crafter is one of the main competitors to Mercedes Sprinter vans, with a similar design, size and type options. While they’re not as commonly seen around Australia than the Sprinters, Crafters are perfect for anyone looking for a roomy home on wheels.

The short wheel base option only has a standard roof height, so it’s more ideal for anyone wanting a small campervan. However, the medium and long wheel base Crafter vans are definitely more in line with the Ducato and Sprinter vans for a full conversion.

Crafters can be more difficult to find than Sprinters, but they’re generally of a similar price line. If you’re looking for something slightly smaller, you can look at the Volkswagen Transporter.

Renault Master

Chrome colored Renault Master

Just like Crafters, Renault Master vans are another European company making popular vans for camper conversions. They come in different wheel base lengths and roof heights, with the LWB option being more similar to the Sprinter LWB option, meaning it’s a very long van with heaps of room for building a fully set-up home on wheels.

Just like other European vans, they’re more difficult to find in Australia, but Renault Masters are usually more affordable than Fiat, Mercedes and Volkswagen options.

Smaller Vans

If you’d prefer something more compact and easier to manoeuvre, smaller vans can be quite handy. They’re great for weekend vanlifers or anyone looking for something easier to drive and park. 

They are generally cheaper to buy than larger vans as well, so you might be interested in a small van if you’re restricted by budget.

Toyota Hiace

White converted Toyota Hiace and a beautiful sunset

One of the classic vanlife options in Australia, the Toyota Hiace vans are one of the most versatile and reliable vans on the market. While it’s a compact van, you can definitely use the space creatively to make it a home.

They come in different options, with the LWB Hiace being the more standard size, the SLWB offering a higher roof height and the Commuter Hiace being a longer and higher van. They are all still medium sized vans, so they’re very compact and easy to drive.

Toyota Hiace vans also come in manual and automatic transmission and you can also find 4×4 Toyota Hiaces, although they are quite rare. The options are endless! 

Hiace vans are hugely popular amongst surfers, tradies and weekend vanlifers. Although they’re also perfect for longer trips, offering a nice balance between compact size and roomy storage. 

The best part about Toyotas is that they’re known for their reliability and are one of the cheapest and easiest vans to get fixed if anything is to go wrong on the road. You’ll also find plenty of them out on the market, so you won’t have a problem finding them.

Hyundai iLoad

White Hyundai iLoad and a camping tent

Recently emerged as one of the best vans to convert to camper on a budget. The Hyundai iLoad is a very compact van which is more like driving a regular vehicle, so it’s easy to park anywhere you like.

They are also extremely affordable compared to the larger vans, so it’s perfect for your first van or if you’re looking for something on a tight budget. Hyundai’s are also known in general for good fuel efficiency and availability of parts.

While they’re incredibly small compared to even the Toyota Hiace, you can still make it a cosy home with a bed and storage for your gear.

Mitsubishi Express

Girl sitting on her converted Mitsubishi Express

Before the popularity of the Hyundai iLoad, Mitsubishi Express vans were traditionally the choice for backpackers, budget vanlifers and tradies. They are more compact than Toyota Hiace vans but slightly larger than Hyundai iLoads, so they offer enough room in the back for a nice sized bed and storage. 

You’ll see quite a few Mitsubishi Express vans on the road, although they’re not as popular as the Toyota Hiaces. They’re also not known particularly for their reliability, but they are cheaper to fix than some of the European vans, so it offers a nice balanced budget van option.

Find The Best Van For Your Conversion

While you begin your search for the best van for your dream conversion, these options are definitely some of the most popular ones you’ll see on Australian roads. Whether you want a larger van for a fully set-up home on wheels or a more compact option for solo road trips, these options provide something for everyone and all different budgets.

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