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For many outdoor adventurers, the idea of having a minivan camper conversion van (and living the van life) is a dream come true. The ability to travel in comfort and style, all while having the convenience of having a bed and kitchenette with you wherever you go, is a wonderful thing.
While the traditional minivan camper conversion van might be a bit too expensive for some, there is a great alternative – converting a minivan into a camper.
Many people will convert a cargo van or Sprinter vans into campers as well but since they are larger you will have to spend more money to renovate the inside. Although having the extra space is nice spending the extra money on the larger vehicle just isn’t practical for some people.
In this article, I will discuss the best minivan for a conversion, including the pros and cons of converting a minivan to help you decide if it is the right choice for you.
What is a Minivan Camper Conversion?
When talking about a minivan camper conversion it is important to know exactly what it is as some people have different definitions than others. When I’m talking about conversions I am referring to the process of taking a standard minivan and transforming it into a fully functional minivan camper.
This includes adding features such as a mattress, bed platform, kitchenette, stove, cooler, storage, and other amenities that make the van more like a traditional RV. This process can be done either by an expert or by a do-it-yourselfer, depending on the individual’s knowledge and skill level.
Converting minivans into van conversions can be an exciting and rewarding project and it makes stealth camping much easier (since no one expects a minivan). It will take some time, money, and effort, but the end result of your DIY campervan conversion will be a fully customized vehicle that you can use for camping, long road trips, and more (without needing to pack a tent).
Of course, determining which minivan you should use for this project is important (and I will go into detail about that below) but before that, you need to decide what kind of van conversions you want to build.
- Do you want to make a full-size van conversion or a smaller one?
- What is your budget for the project?
- How many people will be traveling with you?
- How often will you use the minivan camper?
- Do you want to be able to only use it as a minivan camper going forward or should it still be able to use as a normal minivan too?
All of these are questions that you should ask yourself before you get started.
Depending on your budget, you can customize the interior of your van to fit your needs. You can add all of the comforts of home with enough cargo space left over to pack camping gear as well.
Although a minivan will have plenty of space for most of the things you will need, one thing that most minivans won’t have room for is a fully functioning bathroom. This means you will have to buy a small composting toilet or even get one that you can set up outside.
If you don’t plan on using your minivan as a camper full time you will want to make sure that anything that you add can be easily removed as well. Don’t go drilling holes to mount things unless you are sure you want your minivan to stay a camper permanently.
Once you have decided on the design of your minivan camper, you will need to begin the conversion process.
You will need to make sure that your minivan is properly insulated and soundproofed. You might also want to install a propane tank for heating, cooking, and other needs.
Some people treat it more like actual camping so they will bring firewood to cook over an open fire. Either way, you have to decide what you want in regard to comfort while you are sleeping in the minivan camper.
You will also need to install the necessary electrical components. This includes outlets, switches, lights, solar panels (you get some that connect to your roof rack), and a power converter. You will also need to buy separate batteries for this (which again takes up extra room).
Exactly how much of this you will want or need to do depends a lot on your budget and what you are wanting to do with your vehicle.
You will also need to install a water tank and plumbing for the sink and shower (again assuming you want those comforts and won’t just be staying at campgrounds that have them).
Then you will need to finish the interior of your minivan camper. This includes adding furniture, appliances, and any other items you want. You will also need to install curtains or blinds for privacy.
So now that you have a little better idea of what conversions from a minivan into a camper van look like let’s take a look at what I consider to be the best campervan.
The Best Minivan for Camper Conversion
When it comes to choosing the best minivans for camper conversion, there are a few factors to consider. The most important factor is the size of the van.
Since the goal is to create a comfortable and functional living space, it is important to choose the best camper van that is large enough to accommodate all of the necessary amenities.
The second factor to consider is the type of engine and transmission the minivan has. This will affect how much power the van has, as well as its fuel economy.
Another factor you will also want to consider is your budget. More expensive vans can cost you many thousands of dollars more than the base models. And since you will be gutting the interior of the minivan starting with a cheaper option is better (at least in my opinion).
When looking at these and other factors there is one minivan that I feel stands out from the rest. I believe the best minivan for a camper conversion is the Chrysler Pacifica or Voyager
This minivan is large enough to fit all of the necessary amenities because of its large storage space, has a powerful engine and transmission, and is fuel efficient. It also comes with a variety of features that make it ideal for a camper conversion, such as the fact that all of the seats fold down into the floor (it is the only minivan that offers this).
This can be especially helpful if you aren’t planning on keeping your minivan as a camper all of the time.
The Chrysler Pacifica or Voyager vans are also considerably cheaper than the Honda Odyssey, the Toyota Sienna, or Kia Sedona. Since you will be essentially gutting the interior of the vehicle when doing a minivan camper conversion having a few thousand extra dollars can make a big difference when it comes to adding in comforts that you might not be able to afford otherwise.
The Toyota Sienna is the best alternative for if you can’t stand Chrysler simply because of the reliability of the vehicle over many years however with the increased purchase price it isn’t worth it for most people’s conversions.
If you want to go even cheaper you can choose a used minivan as well. The Dodge Grand Caravan also has plenty of storage and all of the seats fold into the floor as well (via the Stow and Go system). So if you get a gently used Dodge Grand Caravan you might be able to save ten thousand dollars or more on your camper conversion when compared to getting a brand new Chrysler model.
Of course, the Dodge Grand Caravan isn’t without its cons. For one the Dodge Grand Caravan isn’t exactly known for its reliability. That isn’t to say that these models are horrible but they certainly aren’t the best. So if reliability is your number one concern then you would be better off getting a Toyota Sienne or Honda Odyssey instead of a Dodge Grand Caravan.
Another major con of the Dodge Grand Caravan is that it is no longer made. The Dodge Grand Caravan stopped being produced in 2020 so you can’t purchase any of these new. So you will have to try and find a low-mileage used model for your van conversion which as the years go by will become harder and harder.
Of course, the Pacific (and Voyager) aren’t without some cons as well which is why I will dive into both the pros and the cons of this specific minivan model below.
Chrysler Pacifica Minivan As A Camper Van Pros & Cons
Now that I have given you my choice for the best minivan to convert to a camper, let’s take a quick look at some of the different pros and cons that the Pacifica has going for it and against it.
|Spacious interior – The Chrysler Pacifica minivan offers plenty of interior space for up to eight passengers, making it an ideal choice for large families.
|High cost – Despite being cheaper than the other new vans on the market the Pacifica still doesn’t come cheap. The base Pacifica starts at slightly over $37,000.
|Powerful engine – The Pacifica comes with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that provides a smooth and powerful ride.
|Poor resale value – The Pacifica has poor resale value, so buyers should be prepared to take a hit when it comes time to sell it. This is true of pretty much all conversions however no matter which vehicle you convert.
|Safety features – The Pacifica comes with a variety of advanced safety features, such as blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control.
|Outdated design – The Pacifica has an outdated design, so buyers who want a more modern look should look elsewhere.
|User-friendly technology – The Pacifica comes with an intuitive Uconnect infotainment system that makes it easy to stay connected while on the road.
|Poor rear visibility- Due to the design of the rear window of the Pacifica you will likely have some issues seeing your surroundings to the rear. Of course, if you cover the windows when you convert the vehicle that won’t matter as much.
|Fuel efficiency – The Pacifica averages 28 mpg on the highway, making it one of the most fuel-efficient vans on the market.
|Expensive hybrid option- If you want to get even better fuel efficiency you can upgrade to the hybrid Pacifica model. However, the Pacific hybrid starts at almost $50,000 so it doesn’t come cheap!
So although the Pacifica is a great choice for a minivan conversion (and I personally believe it is the best option) it is far from perfect in every single way.
Pros and Cons of A Minivan Conversion to a Minivan Camper
When it comes to minivan camper conversions, there are both pros and cons. The biggest pro to a minivan conversion is that it is much more affordable than buying a traditional camper van or RV. Additionally, a minivan conversion is more flexible and customizable, as you can choose the exact features you want and design the interior to your exact specifications.
Additionally, vans are generally more fuel efficient than other types of camper vehicles, making a minivan converted into a camper a great choice for long trips. Getting 30MPG will save you a fortune on fuel (especially at today’s prices) when compared to the 10-15MPG that a normal camper will get.
On the other hand, there are also some drawbacks to minivan camper conversions and the process involved. It is more difficult to maintain a converted minivan than a traditional camper van, as it isn’t designed to carry all of the weight that you might put inside of it.
You also have to consider how much time and money you will be putting into the conversion (buying things, removing the seats, etc.) to determine if it is better than just buying a small camper instead.
It can also be difficult to find parts and accessories for the conversion process, as many of them are not readily available. This can be pretty frustrating and extend the amount of time that it takes you to get your minivan camper conversions finished up.
Space is another major issue with a van build. Since you will be removing all of the seats you won’t have a ton of room for passengers (beyond the two front seats). You also have to figure out the legalities of having people sit in the seats in the back space whereas that isn’t an issue with a normal camper.
A van build will also be quite small in comparison to camping in a larger RV. Although small isn’t the worst thing in the world if you are planning on spending most of your life in the van (hashtag vanlife) then having a small bed, small kitchen, small cargo space, etc. inside of your vehicle will not exactly make your life easy.
But hey, that’s part of the fun of converting a minivan anyway. You get to try the make the most out of the capacity and storage that you have while leaving behind all of the unnecessary things. Knowing that is something you should consider before you try to live a van life just because of the better gas mileage of a minivan.
Does A Minivan Make A Good Camper Conversion?
I’ve always been a fan of the great outdoors, and I love the idea of hitting the road and experiencing new adventures. So, when I heard about the idea of turning a minivan into a minivan camper, I was intrigued. And, let me tell you, I’ve learned a lot about this topic over the years.
So, grab a cup of coffee (or your favorite camping beverage), sit back, and let’s chat!
First of all, let’s start with the basics. Minivans have been around for decades, and they’ve always been known for their versatility and spacious interiors. They’re great for families, as they can comfortably fit several kids, plus all the gear you need for a road trip.
And, when it comes to camping, a minivan can easily be transformed into a cozy and convenient home on wheels.
Now, let’s talk about why a minivan camper works so well. Firstly, they’re low to the ground, which makes it easy to load and unload gear. Plus, they’re fuel-efficient, so you won’t break the bank on gas money as you travel from one scenic location to the next.
And, perhaps most importantly, they’re incredibly comfortable to drive. With plenty of legroom and a smooth ride, you’ll feel like you’re driving a luxury vehicle, not a minivan camper!
But, the real magic happens when you start to convert your minivan into a minivan camper. You can add a bed, a kitchenette, and even a bathroom, depending on your needs and the amount of space you have.
And, let me tell you, once you’ve got all your gear set up, you’ll feel like you’re living in a tiny palace! I mean, what could be better than having a comfortable bed, a hot meal, and a private bathroom all in one convenient package?
Now, let’s talk about some of the challenges of the conversion of a minivan into a minivan camper. First of all, you’ll need to have some handy skills or know someone who does. You’ll need to install insulation, build a bed frame, and add electrical and plumbing systems.
But, trust me, the end result will be worth it! And, if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, there are plenty of companies that specialize in minivan conversions.
Another challenge is space. You’re working with a limited amount of space, so you’ll need to be creative and choose your gear wisely. But, with a little planning and organization, you’ll be able to fit everything you need into your minivan camper.
And, the best part is, you’ll have everything you need right at your fingertips, without having to fuss with setting up a tent or searching for a camping ground.
Now, let’s talk about some of the fun things you can do with a minivan camper. First of all, you can go on road trips and explore new destinations. With your minivan camper, you’ll have the freedom to go where you want, when you want, and you’ll never have to worry about finding a place to stay.
And, let me tell you, the memories you’ll make and the experiences you’ll have will be priceless.
But it isn’t all about how good minivans are, cost is a major factor as well which is why I will discuss it in the next section.
How Much Does A Conversion From Minivan To Camper Cost?
Converting a minivan into a camper is a dream for many nomads and adventurers, but the cost can be a real buzzkill. The cost to convert a minivan into a camper can vary greatly depending on the type of conversion you want, the materials you use, and the amount of work you’re willing to do yourself.
For starters, you need to buy a minivan. If you’re lucky, you may find a used one for a reasonable price, but don’t count on it. New minivans can cost anywhere from $35,000 to $50,000, depending on the make and model. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Once you’ve got your minivan, it’s time to start the conversion process of turning it into a camper. This is where things can get really pricey. You’ll need to invest in a bed, a kitchen, storage space, and all sorts of other camper essentials.
Depending on the quality of the materials you choose, this can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000.
But wait, there’s more! You’ll also need to install insulation, a roof vent, a solar panel, and all sorts of other gadgets to make your minivan a real camper. These items can add another $2,000 to $3,000 to your bill.
And let’s not forget about the labor costs. Unless you’re a handy person, you’ll probably need to pay someone to do the work for you.
This can add another $2,000 to $5,000 to your bill, depending on the amount of work that needs to be done.
So, all in all, the cost of purchasing a minivan and then to convert that into a camper can easily reach $40,000-$60,000 or more. That’s a pretty steep price to pay for a mobile home on wheels, but it’s a small price to pay for the freedom to roam the roads and see the world.
But, hey, let’s not forget the joys of having your very own campervan. No more paying for expensive hotels or struggling with tent camping. And the best part? You can park anywhere and wake up to a different view every morning.
That’s pretty priceless, if you ask me.
In conclusion, the conversion process of turning a minivan into a camper is a fun and exciting project, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It takes time, effort, and a lot of money. But if you’re willing to invest in your dream, the rewards are endless.
So, grab your toolkit, hit the road, and start exploring the world in your very own minivan camper.
Final Thoughts On Camper Conversion
Conversion from a minivan to a camper van can be a great way to get the convenience and comfort of a traditional camper van without the hefty price tag. The best minivan for camper conversion is the Chrysler Pacifica, due to its large size, powerful engine and transmission, and fuel efficiency.
When it comes to the pros and cons of the conversion of a minivan to a camper van, the pros outweigh the cons. However, it is important to weigh all of the possible pros and cons carefully before making the decision to convert a minivan to a camper van or before choosing the Pacifica (or Voyager) as the minivan that you want to convert.