At this part in your journey, you have decided that van life is for you. Now the first thing you need to do is figure out what van is right for you! This part of the process can feel overwhelming when you do not know a lot about cars or what exactly you are looking for. I am going to categorize what vans are best in three categories depending on what you are looking for.
- Mercades Sprinter Van
- This is one of the most common types of van for conversions, but unless you are willing to buy one brand new, it is not worth it (Almond, 2020).
- Years to Avoid: 2015, 2016 (Almond, 2020)
- Best Years: 2004 – 2006, 2010, 2012
- They offer great handling (Almond, 2022).
- They are luxurious (Almond, 2022).
- They are expensive (Almond, 2022).
- They will need repairs (Almond, 2022).
- Regular maintenance is a challenge (such as changing the oil) (Almond, 2022).
- Auto parts are expensive and imported (Almond, 2022).
- Maintenance is dealer exclusive (Almond, 2022).
2. Dodge Promaster
- Even though these vans are regularly used for conversions, they are not quality and they are unreliable.
- Years to Avoid: 2014 – 2016
- Best Years: 2017 – Present
- Parts are easy to find
- Walls are easy to work on
- Cargo Space (Montalvo, n.d.)
- There is a diesel engine option (Montalvo, n.d.)
- Backup camera not standard (Montalvo, n.d.)
- Controversial styling (Montalvo, n.d.)
- Passenger version not offered (Montalvo, n.d.)
- Common electrical and airbag complaints (NHTSA, n.d.)
- They are unreliable
- Parts are cheaply made
3. 1963 – 1979 Volkswagen Microbus (VW Bus)
- This iconic van is not the best choice because of how rare they can be.
- Years to Avoid: 1972-1973
- Best Years: 1965, 1971
- They are aesthetically beautiful
- They are head turners (Stewart, 2017).
- They are hard to find because they are so coveted (BusDepot, n.d.).
- They are not safe (issues with rolling) (Stewart, 2017)
- Parts are hard to find (BusDepot, n.d.).
- They cannot go fast (Stewart, 2017)
- Issues with rust (BusDepot, n.d.).
Best Vans to Buy
- Ford Transit Van
- These are reliable and easy to fix which makes them perfect for any van conversion
- Years to Avoid: 2021
- Best Years: 2017 – 2019 (Almond, 2020)
- 2 different wheelbase types (Almond, 2020)
- 3 different roof heights
- 3 different lengths
- AWD available
- Cheap and easy to fix (Almond, 2020)
- Parts easy to find (Almond, 2020)
- Not luxurious; it is mediocre (Almond, 2020)
2. Ford E Series Van
- These are the more affordable predacesors of the Ford Transit.
- Worst Years: 2011 (E-150), 1997 (E-250), 2006 (E-350) (Jones, 2021
- Best Years: 1997 (E-150), 2009 (E-250), 2013 (E-350) (Jones, 2021)
- Compact full-size vans (Van Dimensions, n.d.)
- Widely available (Van Dimensions, n.d.)
- Cheap and easy-to-find parts (Van Dimensions, n.d.)
- Affordable (Van Dimensions, n.d.)
- High mileage (Van Dimensions, n.d.)
- No longer made (Van Dimensions, n.d.)
- Curved interior walls
- Only 2 body lengths (Van Dimensions, n.d.)
- Only one type of wheelbase (Van Dimensions, n.d.)
There are always more vehicles to choose from. I did not include step-in vans or school buses because there is not much information available about which models are the most reliable, though those are two more types of vehicles that could be other options. Whatever vehicle you decide to use for your conversion, make sure you do your research. You want to make sure you get a car that you can afford and that you can afford to maintain.
Almond, J. (2020, June 12). The worst Mercedes-Benz sprinter van problems can cost you thousands. MotorBiscuit.
Almond, J. (2020, June 23). Are Ford transit vans very reliable? MotorBiscuit. https://www.motorbiscuit.com/are-ford-transit-vans-very-reliable/
Almond, J. (2020, June 24). The best-used Ford transit years are worth hunting for. MotorBiscuit. https://www.motorbiscuit.com/the-best-used-ford-transit-years-are-worth-hunting-for/
Almond, J. (2020, July 7). People complain about these Mercedes sprinter van years the most https://www.motorbiscuit.com/people-
Almond, J. (2022, March 1). The worst Mercedes-Benz sprinter van problems can cost you thousands. MotorBiscuit. https://www.motorbiscuit.com/the-worst-mercedes-sprinter-van-problems-can-cost-you-thousands/
The Bus Depot. (n.d.). Buyers guide to buses/Vans/Campers. BusDepot.com – VW Bus / Camper / Vanagon / Westfalia / Eurovan / Rialta Parts. https://www.busdepot.com/buyers-guide
Jones, P. (2021, May 8). How long do Ford E-series last? (8 important facts). https://motorandwheels.com/do-ford-e-series-last-long/
Montalvo, L. (n.d.). 2014 RAM ProMaster 1500. Cars.com. https://www.cars.com/research/ram-promaster_1500-2014/
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.d.). 2014 ram promaster van 2wd. NHTSA. https://www.nhtsa.gov/vehicle/2014/RAM/PROMASTER/VAN/2WD
Stewart, B. (2017, April 26). You love the VW bus. So do we. Popular Mechanics. https://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/trucks/a26207/volkswagen-microbus-vw-bus/
Van Dimensions. (n.d.). Dimensions for the Ford E150, E250 and E350 (2008-2015). VanDimensions. https://vandimensions.com/database/ford/e-series-2008