13 Cool Camper-Van Conversions You Can (Probably) Afford
Looking to get out there—you know, really out there—but tents are a no-go and you don’t want to drag a trailer to sleep in or drive something the size of a house? Then you’re looking for a camper van. These handy homes away from home are based on normal-sized trucks and vans, meaning they should fit in normal driveways and parking spaces and be fairly easy to drive. We’ve gathered up 10 worth considering, although fair warning: Even while the majority sit at the affordable end of the camper-van and conversion-van spectrum, they’re all significantly pricier than a regular ol’ van with an air mattress thrown in the back.
Mercedes-Benz Getaway Van
Known as the Weekender elsewhere in the world, the Mercedes-Benz Metris-based Getaway camper (previewed by the Metris Weekender) essentially is a factory camper-van offering. Even though Mercedes-Benz USA outsources the conversion to Peace Vans, it sells the completed vehicle through its van dealership network.
There is a bench seat in the back that converts to a bed for two, the front seats swivel to face backward, and the roof pops up like an old Westfalia VW camper’s to afford greater headroom inside. Pricing appears to be highly variable, being dependent on customer individualization, but starts at $61,564.
Caravan Outfitter Backroad
Similar to the Mercedes-Benz Getaway, the Caravan Outfitter Backroad uses the Metris van as its base. Also like the Getaway, the Backroad doesn’t start life as a windowless cargo van—it appears to be based instead on the passenger version of the Metris, the one with rear seats and carpeting and the like. Besides bringing a welcome dose of built-in refinement (because, well, there is an interior to begin with, not an empty, bare-metal cargo area), the passenger van’s windows ensure this van is bright and airy inside.
That sense of airiness is helped by a pop-up roof, and the rear bench seat folds into a bed. Open the tailgate, and there is an optional slide-out camping kitchen, with drawers hiding a cooking burner and a fridge for an extra $3,400, as well as a solar panel setup for $1,450. A swing-out sink (that deploys from the side door) runs $2,925. Pricing for the van, sans accessories, starts at $69,981.
Airstream Interstate Nineteen
Looking for the bougiest luxury conversion van? Airstream’s smallest “Touring Coach” starts at the bargain price of $165,143 and comes finished to the same high standard as the company’s legendary polished-aluminum trailers.
Based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (a rather fine-driving commercial tool, if we may say so), the Nineteen includes a fold-out bed that spans the entire rear area of the camper van, as well as a bathroom, a kitchen, and even swiveling front seats that can turn to face the van’s interior.
The name Nineteen is a nod to this van’s 19-foot length, but spelling it out—instead of calling it the Interstate 19—adds a proper Airstream-y sense of class, don’t you think?
Boho Camper Conversion
Boho Camper Vans is chill. Like, super chill. So chill, in fact, that it doesn’t even specify “models” or “trim levels” for its creations. In fact, its creations seem entirely custom—you simply bring them money and a van—or let them pick one for you—and the outfit will use the former to turn the latter into a wood-lined cabin on wheels.
Pricing starts at $29,000 for the conversions, not including the van, and go up from there. Early in 2021, though, the only vans the company is building currently are the pictured Ram ProMaster-based “Tall” models, as crushing demand during the pandemic has seen the company streamline its available choices. These start at $36,5oo before factoring in the van.
Caravan Outfitter Free Bird Camper
Caravan Outfitter’s Free Bird conversion vans are based on Nissan’s humble NV200 cargo van, making them the smallest and most affordable on this list. If you want a cheap conversion van, a small conversion van, or have a tiny parking spot, the Free Bird is likely your best option.
The basic 2021 Free Bird Standard starts at $38,760—this time including the van—and includes a nifty removable (!) contraption that supports a double-size, longitudinally oriented bed. The apparatus fairly fills the NV200’s cargo hold, and can be folded up to reveal booth-like seating with a central table; it also has slide-out drawers housing a 31-quart fridge and a single-burner gas stove.
As mentioned, the entire bed/dinette can be slid out of the NV200 and stored should you need the Nissan for cargo duties. The $42,415 Pop-Top model is, as you’ve likely surmised already, the same and adds a pop-up roof section that allows occupants to stand up in the back. A quick note, however: The Free Bird is, technically, only a two-seater, even though that rear area can be set up as a seating area, those perches aren’t belted—so Caravan Outfitters refers to the van as a “two-seater.” The Mercedes-based Backroad listed earlier on this list can seat up to five.
The Solis hails from one of the RV industry’s mainstays, Winnebago. All-new for 2020, the Solis is based on the Ram ProMaster cargo van and thus is manageably sized. It earns its $107,821 price tag a variety of ways—but we’ll readily admit that the Solis won us over with a single luxury camper-van feature: Its heated bathroom. Nobody wants a chilly throne, right?
The rest of the Solis camper van is well equipped, with a pop-up roof for standing space, a reconfigurable bed, swiveling front seats that can flip to face the living area, and full insulation in the walls and for the plumbing so the vehicle can be parked and used in wildly varied climates.
Like Boho vans, Outside Van generates custom van builds for customers. There is no set template, nor does the outfitter require a single make of donor van, although the company’s website seems to show a preference for Mercedes-Benz Sprinters. All of these large camper vans have one thing in common, however: They’re all rugged-looking and built for living van life off the beaten path.
Those not interested in delving into Outside Van’s involved custom ordering process can choose from among the prebuilt inventory the company has on hand at any given time. The example shown here just might be the one we’d choose.
Off Grid Adventure Vans
Starting with a long-wheelbase (159-inch) Ram ProMaster van, Off Grid Adventure Vans will build you a camper in one of three layouts: Rambler, Summit, or Vagabond.
Happily, all three builds are affordable. After first buying the underlying ProMaster (about $36,000), customers need only shell out $42,500 for the entry-level Rambler setup. The Summit runs the same $42,500, and even the top-dog Vagabond and Sandstone models cost just $43,950 to $44,950 apiece.
The differences between Off Grid’s designs are minimal, and mostly have to do with the integration of the bed, which can be a fold-out Murphy-style unit or fixed, etc. Optional extras include an outdoor shower, a heater, a composting toilet, an extra solar panel, and a hot-water system.
Sportsmobile Classic 4×4
There are a number of camper models offered by the Sportsmobile brand, but easily the coolest is that based on the old Ford E-series commercial cutaway van chassis.
As Sportsmobile’s website notes, the Ford Econoline E-series has been discontinued—but that doesn’t mean it’s stopped building them into campers. Customers can bring in used examples for conversion; those interested in a brand-new large conversion van can turn to Ford’s E-series replacement, the Transit.
In any event, the E-series is bad-ass because it’s tough as nails and, well, you could probably find one for cheap. The Classic 4×4 is based on the E-series cutaway; Sportsmobile adds a fiberglass shell from the cab back, as well as a $20,945 four-wheel-drive conversion. Total pricing ranges from $175,000 to $225,000 depending on how a customer outfits their Sportsmobile.
With four-wheel drive and burly tires, the Classic 4×4 is remarkably rugged-looking. Its old-school frame and relatively narrow body do result in what appears to be a smaller living space than you might get in a more space-efficient, commodious modern camper van like a Ram ProMaster or Ford’s Transit. But who cares when you could take this Sportsmobile practically anywhere? Sure, a tent is also small inside and goes anywhere, but this is way, way better. If you want to live the van life but also want to go overlanding, this is the rig for you.
Similar to the Free Bird camper listed earlier in this roundup, Modvans’ creations can be transitioned between full-fledged camper vans and empty, cargo-ready vans. That’s because the bulk of the campers’ innards can be slid out through the back door when not needed, leaving the van to be, well, just a van.
That modularity is—you guessed it—the driving force behind the “Modvans” name. There’s pretty much a single model in the lineup, the CV1, and it is constructed using a Ford Transit as its base.
American Safari JXL Conversion
American Safari’s JXL conversion for the Jeep Wrangler is nacv;wdc—which is to say, “not a camper van; we don’t care.” It is a camper, although certainly isn’t based on a van. But the key bits are there: A living space carved out of the back of a vehicle—in this case, a Wrangler SUV with an additional 15 inches of bodywork grafted on and a built-in pop-up roof tent—and nobody could possibly question the JXL’s ability to go camping.
Really, the JXL conversion qualifies American Safari’s Jeep as an overlanding vehicle. A super burly and incredibly cool one at that.
Once again, we’re pushing the boundaries of the term “camper van” and also moved well beyond “affordable,” but how could we not include this insane EarthRoamer LTS? Using a Ford F-550 chassis equipped with four-wheel drive, the LTS is both ruggedly capable and extremely huge. (It’s eight feet wide and 29 feet long!) Ford’s 6.7-liter diesel V-8 provides motivation, and the lifted suspension affords the rig 12.5 inches of ground clearance.
We’d be careful cresting steep rises—the wheelbase is 17 feet long, so it’d be easy to drag this thing’s belly chasing a Jeep down a trail—but you can take your time and go the slow route, thanks to the 95 gallons of fuel, 85 gallons of freshwater, 12,000 watt-hour batteries, and 1300-watt solar panel onboard. For more on EarthRoamers, check out the $1.5 million XV-HD.
Bonus: LEGO Volkswagen T1 Camper Van
Want a taste of conversion camper van life but can’t afford anything on this list? Maybe give this cool LEGO kit a go! It is priced at an affordable $119.99, is officially licensed by Volkswagen, and should fit almost anywhere. The only hitch? It’s about the size of a shoebox, so you can’t actually sleep in this VW or camp with it. Also, it requires assembly, but at least that part’s fun. #vanlife for life!