Raising The Standard

Choosing the Right Base Vehicle for Your Campervan Conversion

Already fantasizing about the cool features you’ll have in your converted camper van? That’s okay but first, you need to tackle the big elephant in the room; choosing the base vehicle for van conversion. Other than just matching your budget requirements, your vehicle of choice needs to have the right features and match your maintenance expertise level.

With the right base vehicle, it means once your conversion kicks off, there’ll be no looking back. On the contrary, your start could be faced with multiple hurdles and end up costing you an arm and a leg. So, how do you choose the right base vehicle to kickstart your camper van conversion DIY? Read on to discover the key things to look out for and the vehicle options best suited for this project.

What To Consider When Choosing A Base Vehicle For Van Conversion

Your choice of base vehicle will determine the outlook, shape, and functionality of the end camper van. Let’s take a look at the key considerations when choosing the base vehicle for your future home on wheels:

Your Purpose

While most DIY enthusiasts like to jump right ahead into the sea of van options, it’s good to begin with what you intend to achieve. Are you a weekend lover looking for a simple camper van? Or are you a devoted traveler looking for a more robust camper van setup? Answering these questions will give you a good starting point when choosing your base vehicle.

Check the vehicle size

Size is a key consideration in this venture. With a larger vehicle, you get more space but it also opens doors to other challenges like parking and maneuverability. On the other hand, a compact van is nimble even though you’ll need to put up with space limitations. Get a base vehicle that meets your practical requirements and comfort preferences.

What’s your budget?

Without a realistic budget, you may end up spending more than what you had in mind. The cost of the base vehicle for van conversion is just the start; consider the conversion materials costs, upgrade expenditures, and other miscellaneous expenses.  In your entire process, aim to strike a balance between budget and quality.

Conversion-friendly features

Conversion-friendly features

Take a look at the features of the vehicle that will take out complexities in the conversion process. Go for high roofs, flat walls, and extended wheelbases. Consider a van whose cargo area closely resembles your preferred layout. This will save you a lot of effort and time when the conversion kicks off.

Fuel efficiency

Better fuel efficiency means more miles covered in your outdoor adventures. Evaluate the consumption of various potential vehicles. A diesel engine vehicle may provide better mileage than a petrol engine, but the initial cost may be higher. Go for fuel efficiency that meets your travel routine and preferences.

Weight capacity

Bear in mind that your selected base vehicle has weight limits. When choosing the vehicle, consider how much weight it can carry and stick to the limits. Consider how much weight the conversion will add to the vehicle. Factor in the occupants, and other supplies to ensure you don’t exceed the base vehicle’s weight limit.

Inspect and test drive

Don’t be in a hurry to start your camper van conversion project. Thoroughly inspect the base vehicle options for rust, unusual sounds, and other anomalies. Do a test drive to ensure everything is working as it should. Take a hands-on approach to this and let a professional help you through the process.

Base Vehicle Options To Consider For Your Camper Van Conversion

When it comes to picking the right base vehicle for van conversion, the options could overwhelm you. Here are the various options worth considering as a base vehicle:

Volks Wagen Crafter

VW Crafter is one of the most popular base vehicle options for conversion since it offers a choice of four wheelbases to choose from. It comes in maxi, long, medium, and short wheelbases, which all make excellent campervans. This van is not only visually stunning but has numerous aftermarket features that make it a great choice.

VW camper conversions with Crafter as the base vehicle allow you to acquire a complete home on wheels with a shower and a toilet on board. However, due to its big size, VW Crafter may not suit everyone’s preferences, but it surely does make a great campervan.

VW Panel Vans

VW Panel Vans

These are vans often used for courier deliveries. With an upsurge in online shopping services, it’s not difficult to get a variety of used panel vans to select from. Due to their popularity, you won’t miss a spare part for these panel vans. Since they’re often used as delivery vans, you shouldn’t be surprised if you find most used panel vans have higher mileage. That shouldn’t be much of a concern if a van has had an excellent service history.

Other perks of choosing a VW panel van are that it’s spacious and makes a great option if you’re looking to build a medium or large campervan. A popular choice to go with is the VW Transporter due to its perfect base and size suitability.

Mercedes Sprinter

The Sprinter is a powerful heavy-duty van offering a large cargo area, which gives your campervan layout more space. The 2017 and 2018 Mercedes Sprinter had a similar chassis to VW Crafter and this made them a perfect workhorse duo. If you go for a used one, you’ll notice that the mileage is also a bit high since they’re commonly used by traders. Its large size also means that the van could come with several bangs and knocks.

That’s nothing to worry about especially if you’re after a base vehicle for van conversion on a tight budget. If you find a Sprinter with mileage running in the thousands with a few bangs, you can use these as bargaining chips and slash your base vehicle cost by a great margin.

Ford Transit

Want a base vehicle with a high roof and a contemporary dashboard? The Ford Transit makes an excellent choice. It’s a favorite among campervan conversion enthusiasts because it comes in a variety of capacities and engine sizes. If you’ll be frequenting mountainous or off-road terrains, a longer Ford Transit isn’t the best option. It’s worth finding “campervan conversions near me” to help you determine the ideal wheelbase choice.

Ford Transit may come at a higher price tag than other vans in its category, but it also offers great qualities that you’ll find useful in your campervan conversion.

Vauxhall Vivaro

Vauxhall Vivaro

Vauxhall Vivaro comes with a medium-sized wheelbase with a different drive style compared to the large wheelbase vans discussed earlier. Its engine size and physical appearance make it an ideal choice for a medium campervan. The only downside would be finding products required for campervan conversion. That’s because most manufacturers in the campervan conversion industry mainly base their provisions around VW vans.

However, a creative and industrious campervan conversion expert will find a way around this challenge. Vauxhall Vivaro has an attractive price tag, making it a suitable choice for those looking for a base vehicle for van conversion on a budget.

Nissan NV300

For those looking for a medium-sized wheelbase van for camper conversion, the Nissan NV300 is a budget-friendly choice. This van comes in a variety of roof heights and body lengths, offering flexibility for different conversion layouts. With a bigger cargo space, you’ll have the chance to be creative and implement a unique layout for maximum comfort.

NV300 doesn’t fall short of ergonomic features that elevate the driving experience. Its driver-friendly features make it ideal for both short and long-trip escapades. But like Vauxhall Vivaro, it’s not a popular choice and therefore finding materials for the conversion requires some creativity.

Peugeot Partner

Peugeot Partner has a small wheelbase just like Toyota Proace. Its build and driving style is more like that of a car and it can comfortably fit in car parking spaces. The van has a compact construction and makes a campervan perfectly suited for one or two people.

If you choose this as your base van, you better be sure that you’ll be able to deal with the double sliding doors. But don’t worry; you can find skilled “campervan conversions near me” who know how to handle the sliding doors and deliver a compact campervan.

Manual vs Auto: Which Transmission Is the Best for Campervan Conversion?

Manual vs Auto: Which Transmission Is the Best for Campervan Conversion?

The engine type to go with depends on the level of control and engagement you’re looking for. If you’re an avid traveler who loves the tactile experience that comes with shifting gears on scenic routes, a manual shift is an ideal choice. On the other hand, an automatic transmission is the gateway to relaxation, ideal for those who want hassle-free travel. It’s a perfect choice if you’ll be passing through long stretches or high-traffic areas.

On fuel efficiency, a manual transmission gives you more control hence a better fuel efficiency. Even though modern automatic transmissions have improved efficiency, they still don’t match manual ones. so, if you want more mileage for every liter of fuel, a manual transmission will get the job done.

Lastly, the terrain you’ll be covering the most during your adventure also matters. If you’ll be cruising through off-road terrains, precise control will be necessary and therefore a manual transmission is ideal. Modern auto transmissions come with features such as hill descent control, but still, some off-road enthusiasts prefer the control that a manual transmission offers.

Wrap up

Choosing the right base vehicle for van conversion depends on what your needs are. That’s why it’s important to evaluate what your preferences are while also factoring in your budget. Before embarking on your campervan conversion journey, make sure you’ve considered factors such as vehicle size, weight limits, conversion-friendly features, condition, and budget.

Most importantly, find experienced “campervan conversions near me” to help you through the base van selection process.

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