Travelling on a budget can be tough, sometimes you just want your own space, a comfortable and consistent bed, and a big, healthy meal that doesn’t cost the earth. This is where travel in a van comes in: the budget equivalent of a five-star hotel. By travelling in a van, you can afford certain luxuries that you wouldn’t be able to if you were going from hostel to hostel on a shoestring budget such as your own space, the most comfortable bed in the world, your own kitchen and fridge. In other words, simple things that are often taken for granted but are the first thing to be missed when travelling.  Van life costs can be much lower than the price of other types of travelling as you are saving money on accommodation and transport. This means you can splash out on fancy dinners and fun experiences that you otherwise might have to miss out on. However, if you’re new to the idea of van life travel, it can be a daunting world to jump into with so many factors and opinions to consider. An excellent place to start is to think about the best van for you. 

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Best van - travelling shed
@thetravellingshed

Discover The best Van For You Based On How You Travel

The best van for you isn’t necessarily going to be the best van for someone else. Some people love micro campers, some people want something bigger, and for others, it’s essential that they can get an affordable camper. One of the most significant factors in deciding what is going to be the best van for you is thinking about how much time you are going to spend living in a van. Is van life a solution for long term travel or do you plan on being a weekend warrior or taking your van out in your holiday time? If you only plan on using your camper for short periods, you can afford to look for vans that would make a compact camper van. However, if you plan on living and travelling in your van for an extended period of time, then you are going to want something with a little bit more space. Read on to find out what we think the best van is for short term travel and what is best for long term travel. 

The Best Van For Short Term Travel 

Best van - vw t5
@campervanvwlove

If you plan on only using your camper van for short term travel- a month or less at a time- then the best van for you is probably going to be something on the smaller side. Small campers have got their benefits, they’re small and cosy and make a cheap camper option compared to something bigger. If you’re looking to get a camper for short term travel then the chances are that you’re an outdoorsy person, this means that your camper is really just a place to cook and sleep in while you’re away on an adventure. A compact camper doesn’t have to have everything you could ever need in it just the van life essentials as you’ll be going home to your house after your trip away. However, it does need to be reliable, comfortable and easy to drive. The vehicle that we think is the best van  for short term travel is a VW Transporter. 

Pros:

Best van - vanactive
@vanactive

Can buy as an empty shell or ready made

While the VW transporter’s most common usage is as a work van, it is also fairly common to find them being used as a campervan. This means you can choose between buying a blank canvas to add your own touch to or look out for a second hand or factory conversion that suits your style. There are so many companies out there who will complete your conversion for you for a reasonable price but if you want to build something more unique to you then check out our e-book on how to build a camper for just £4.99. 

Easy to drive and park

A VW Transporter is barely larger than a seven seater car. This means that it couldn’t be easier to drive and park. You are also unlikely to find any height restrictions that you can’t fit under, which means any route or car park is yours for the taking. A VW transporter is small enough to do your weekly shop in or to take the kids to school in so there is no need to have a second vehicle. As it’s easy to park you shouldn’t have any problems storing it at your home, it’ll fit inside any garage and would even be easy to park on a small terrace street. 

Best van - interior
@j.h_vanadventure

Iconic and trustworthy brand 

When you think of a camper van it is pretty likely that you’re going to think of a classic 1970’s VW bus, well the VW Transporter comes from the same iconic brand meaning they have plenty of experience in manufacturing the best van to turn into a camper. VW is a worldwide brand, and their vehicles are reliable workhorses. If you do breakdown, then there’s sure to be a VW garage nearby. 

Can add a pop top

If you already have a VW transporter and find that you want to add a bit of extra space, a pop top can be added to it really easy. Adding a pop top will mean that you would be able to stand up inside the van, which is excellent when it is time to cook. You could also add another bed within the pop top, which is a great option if you have a growing family. 

Best van - exterior
@mauricelecamion

Cons:

Can’t stand up

Unless you have a pop top, the average person won’t be able to stand up inside a VW Transporter. If you’re unlucky enough to have some rainy days during your short time away in the van then not being able to stretch out could get really annoying. It also means that, unless your kitchen is outside, you’re going to have to sit down when cooking which could get a little tricky! 

Limited storage space

A VW Transporter is pretty small and once you’ve built your conversion complete with a bed, cooking area and seats you probably won’t have that much storage space left. This becomes a real problem if you want to take any larger items away with you such as bikes, kayaks or surfboards. To do this, you’re probably going to have to add some exterior storage solutions to your camper which will have to be done at an additional cost.

Best van - pop top
@quirkycampers

Probably going to have to compromise on the conversion

As a VW Transporter is relatively compact, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fit everything you could possibly want in your conversion. You will need to be able to prioritise what is essential for you and compromise on the things that you don’t need so much. Smart design can allow you to have most of the things you would need for a short term trip within a VW Transporter, just make sure you do your research and think through your priorities before jumping straight into the build!

The Best Van For Long Term Travel

Best van - red sprinter
@nomadvanz

If you plan on travelling and living the van life long term, then the best van for you is going to be something that has enough space to spend long periods in. Remember- there are bound to be some rainy days that need to be spent inside or days when you just want to be able to chill out in your own space. It’s easy to think ‘the bigger, the better’ when choosing the best van for long term travel. For some people, this is the case, especially if you’re travelling with older children who need some space for themselves, but remember you have to drive and park your vehicle of choice. A school bus, for example, may look super cute and feel like the perfect solution to spacious living with everything you could need and more but it’s got in to struggle with some steeper uphill climbs, narrow roads and tight parking. The vehicle that we think is the best van for long term travel is a long wheelbase (LWB) sprinter van. 

A LWB Sprinter is the perfect base to turn into a camper; they’re big enough to house pretty much everything you could possibly need for an epic road trip while still being small enough to drive like a car and fit into a regular parking space. Sprinter van life is so versatile; once you have your base vehicle, there are so many ways that it can be fitted out to best suit you. Before you decide on a layout, do some research online as there are so many amazing builds and van life ideas out there to help you on your way. 

Best van - sprinter back
@sarahandalexjames

Pros:

Enough room to stand up in

If you’re planning long term travel in a van then being able to stand up in your tiny home is a huge bonus and a significant factor in deciding the best van for you. Cooking sitting down can get really frustrating, really quickly. If it’s raining outside you, want to be able to stretch out in your van, not have to stoop and give yourself backache just because the weather isn’t so good. Even if you’re on the taller side, the super-high roof van is probably going to be tall enough, measuring 2.24m (7ft4) even once you lose some height due to insulation and interior walls you’re still left with plenty of room. 

Drives Like a car

A van like a Mercedes Sprinter van is the largest type of van you can drive on a regular driving license (or it is in the UK anyway). This means you don’t have to take any extra lessons or tests to be able to buy a LWB sprinter. You can drive these vans on a regular driving license because they operate like a car, they’re easy to manoeuvre, manage uphill climbs well and will fit into most regular parking spaces. A stress-free driving experience goes a long way to a fun road trip.

They are a world wide vehicle 

Sprinter vans can be bought all over the world. This is a good thing as if you have any problems with your van, no matter where you are, there is likely to be a Mercedes garage nearby. This means you can travel with a peace of mind that if anything does go wrong, help won’t be far away. 

Big Enough to have a fixed bed AND a seating area.

Usually, when thinking about the interior design for your camper your going to have to compromise on either having a fixed bed or a seating area that converts into a bed, so you’re either going to be putting your bed together every day or, if you have a fixed bed, spending a lot of time sitting on it. However,  if you’re clever with your design a LWB Sprinter is big enough to accommodate a fixed bed and a seating meaning you can have the best of both worlds!

Best van - lexani
@lexanimotorcars

Can Make Great Off Grid Homes 

The best van is one you can spend a lot of time in off the grid. You can certainly do this in a sprinter van. Add a couple of solar panels to your roof, and you’ve got all the power you need. An underslung water container can provide you with water for several weeks, and a porta-potti should keep you going for a while. You’re all set for off grid living

Cons:

Can be pretty pricey

A brand new sprinter van is going to set you back around £40,000. That’s pretty steep. While you can obviously pick up a second-hand sprinter van for much, much less than this it is still probably going to be more than a similar second-hand van from a different manufacturer. This is partly due to the fact that they are a great van but is also down to the fact that they are the most well known and popular.

Best van - sunset
@6reasonswhy_travelblog

Still needs converting 

While a sprinter van is widely considered the best van out there, it doesn’t (usually) come as a ready-made camper van. This means that when you’re looking for a van, you need to consider the cost of your conversion on top of the price of the vehicle. If you’re looking to keep your conversion cost down and want to know how to build a campervan, then check out our e-book that you can get for just £4.99.

A bigger van means a higher fuel cost 

A LWB sprinter van means you have plenty of space as they’re pretty big. However, this also means that they’re fairly heav, ymeaning your fuel expenses may end up being pretty high. If you want to spend less on fuel, then you’re going to want to choose a smaller van.

Best van - sync van
@syncvans

Difficult to take to remote areas 

Sprinter vans are great vans, but they’re no .off-roaders This means that they can be challenging to take into genuinely remote places. If you want to go off-road, you can modify your LWB sprinter to give it 4×4 feature but this, of course, comes at an extra cost. 

Final Thoughts…

We hope you found this a useful guide to the best van for you based on long term and short term travel. Remember, everyone is different and has different priorities, but it pays to do your research before investing in a van. Let us know what you think and join the Van Clan over on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

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