The past few years have been difficult for everyone, with a global pandemic forcing all of us inside for long spells of time and putting the brakes on many of our beloved summer holidays. 

International travel is still tricky for most, which is why there has been a surge in demand for staycations and, more importantly, demand for vehicles that can easily double up as a cosy place to stay. After all, who doesn’t want to leave the rat race behind and soak up the scenery in a nice, comfy camper van?

A report compiled for CarDealer Magazine by Auto Trader suggested that levels of demand in the van market rocketed by 54% in Q2 2021 compared with Q2 2019, with even used vans selling 63% faster than they did in June 2020. The fact of the matter is, vans that have already been converted into campers command a premium and those that roll off the production line complete with beds and kitchens – like the VW California – are hideously expensive. 

It’s no wonder more and more of you are looking for the best vans for a camper conversion, cheap vans to convert into desirable B&Bs on wheels and 4x4 vans that can happily traverse rough terrain and deliver their hardy adventurers to the remotest parts of the UK and beyond.

With that in mind, we’ve collated what we think are some of the best vans currently on sale that are prime for a camper conversion. 

All of the options we’ve listed span a variety of budgets and include a multitude of facets to ensure a place on your shortlist. Whether that’s a car-like driving experience, a ridiculously frugal engine for covering big distances on a small budget or simply the most bang for your buck in terms of space to convert, we’ve got it all covered.

‎Volkswagen T6.1 Transporter

The original VW Type 1s and 2s of this world were arguably the machines that kick-started a freedom revolution, allowing folk to quickly and cheaply travel in relative luxury. The Free Love era of the 1960s and 70s just wouldn’t have been the same without them.

Fast forward to today and Volkswagen is now on the T6.1 and it’s Transporter line-up is still one of the most popular vans for conversion in the world. This is thanks to a reputation for reliability, smooth, powerful and refined engines, fantastic exterior styling and probably the most car-like driving experience you’ll find in the commercial vehicle sector. There’s not much in the way of compromise if you’re thinking of getting a ride in the family estate car, put it that way. 

That said, VW Transporters aren’t cheap and one of their most enticing facets is the incredible residual values (RVs), which remain strong even when the vehicle has plenty of miles on the clock. It makes them tricky to hunt down if you’re on a tight budget, but once you’ve snared one, you’ll be amazed at how easy they are to convert. Just ensure you procure some extensive campervan insurance, as they are also incredibly desirable.  

Opt for a window-less used T4 or T5 panel van and you won’t even need to bother unbolting rear seats or moving anything around, as you’ll be faced with a nice, cavernous space to get creative. Plus, the benefit of owning such a popular van for camper conversion is that there’s a huge aftermarket for camper products. Folding beds, pop-up roofs for sleeping quarters, leisure batteries for power, window blind kits, kitchens and even toilets can all easily be found online. Most of which are a doddle to install too.

Price £27,045 (new)
Engines Petrol and diesel
Transmissons Auto and manual
Size Medium

‎Ford Transit

It’s the UK’s most popular commercial vehicle and has been for some time, meaning that there isn’t a shortage of used Transits to be had, most of which are crying out to be converted into a camper van.

Navigating the Ford Transit line-up can be tricky business, as they come in so many sizes, shapes, lengths and heights. The current Ford commercial vehicle offering starts with the Transit Connect, which can make a small but neat camper conversion in the right hands that will snugly sleep two people.

The Transit Custom is arguably Ford’s mid-sized VW Transporter rival and is extremely popular with the camper conversion community thanks to its blend of generous interior space wrapped up in an exterior that isn’t intimidating to pilot around the UK’s often narrow roads. There’s also the standard Transit for much larger haulage compartments, as it comes with high roof and longer wheelbase versions. 

Ford’s current Transit line-up is also the most “lifestyle” it has ever been, with ultra-tough Trail editions that go heavy on the chunky exterior styling and throw in all-wheel-drive for increased confidence in tricky conditions or when travelling off the beaten path.

Plus, like the aforementioned Vee Dub Transporter, there’s a large community of Ford Transit camper converters out there, so that means it is nice and easy to buy the appropriate kit to turn your van into a dream place to stay.

Price £24,850 (new)
Engines Diesel and hybrid
Transmissons Auto and manual
Size Medium to large

‎Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter makes a fantastic camper conversion because it packs a commodious load space in the rear and comes with the sort of build quality and reliability you’d expect from the German giants. It’s just quite expensive compared to said rivals. 

Merc’s latest range of diesel engines come with a spread of power outputs from the perfectly capable 116hp units to the surprisingly punchy 204hp beasts. As vans go, the Sprinter lives up to its name when pushed on the motorways, but more importantly, it’s a joy to drive and the latest versions feature the excellent MBUX infotainment system for enjoying Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as connected navigation services – important for planning those trips.

Of course, you can look towards the used market to pick up a bargain, and thanks to the Sprinter being so popular for commercial use, there are plenty to be had.

Price £32,814 (new)
Engines Diesel, electric
Transmissons Auto and manual
Size Large

‎Man TGE Panel Van

Man might be a name that’s more commonplace in the trucking world, but the TGE is a fantastically capable machine that is favoured by those high-mileage delivery drivers and hauliers. As a result, it can make a superb platform for a camper conversion, particularly if you are thinking of really epic road trips. Plus, it’s essentially a Volkswagen Crafter in disguise, so customers get a level of reliability and build quality that can be trusted. 

There’s the choice of three vehicle lengths and heights and a maximum load volume of up to 18.4 m3. It can also haul up to 5.5 tonnes, which makes it a great choice for anyone thinking of kitting the rear out with kitchens, showers and lavish double beds.

More recent models have had their infotainment systems overhauled, so there’s a far improved offering of connectivity and navigation, while numerous additional packages exist to make life behind the wheel more comfortable. Cruise control, parking assist and premium interior noise-damping can be added for a fee.

Price £30,000 (new)
Engines Diesel, electric
Transmissons Auto and manual
Size Large

‎Renault Trafic

Although the basic platform is shared with Citroen, Peugeot and Toyota in the Dispatch, Expert and Proace medium-sized vans, the Renault Trafic continues to be one of the most popular vans in Europe and it has won many plaudits along the way, partly thanks to its low entry price and the fact that even those basic vans offer a lot for the money.

There’s also plenty of room in the back and camper conversions are simple thanks to the lack of complication when stripping out the rear and adding in your own personal touches. Again, a nice choice of wheelbases and roof heights means there is a van size for everyone here, while the onboard infotainment and technology in everything but the very basic vans makes life on the road that bit more comfortable.

And if the Trafic isn’t large enough for your camper van conversion tastes, there’s also the formidable Renault Master, which is generally much larger and won a coveted WhatCar? Van Award this year.

Price £14,995 (new)
Engines Diesel, electric
Transmissons Auto and manual
Size Medium

‎Before you go

If a particular van has captured your interest but you’re not a DIY fan, read our article ‘10 best campervan conversion companies, and where to find them’. If however, you’re an expert of DIY, take a look at our complete DIY guide to converting a van to a campervan.

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