Small campervans share many similarities with tiny houses. They take you back to the basics, are affordable and agile. Small van conversions are easy to create and easy to move around in. Small camper vans are a perfect solution for the adventurous spirit that wants to live close to nature.
While it is true that small van conversions are compact, it will surprise you just how roomy they are when you design their interiors thoughtfully. They might not have all the comfort features of a hotel room, but they can hold just about any amenity you would find in most self-catering Airbnb cottages.
On top of this, they have adequate internal space and head height. Some like the VW Transporter are so airy, they can sleep four people at a go.
Pros of small vans over larger vans
Choosing the right size van can be a daunting task. But, it is best to remember the wise old adage – the best things often come in the tiniest packages. While the larger campervan‘s fixed gigantic bed may be alluring for extended travel time, small vans have their benefits, as you will find out below.
Smaller vans = easier to drive
Some campervanners love driving their huge travel vehicles. Large vehicles elevate their sitting positions, giving them more visibility and comfort. That said, some drivers find large campervans a tad difficult to drive. Their extra length and height could add a layer of complexity to actions such as reversing or parking.
Additionally, you have to watch out for low heights when driving a large campervan. For this reason, large vans have to avoid fast food drive-through spaces, some car parks, especially the underground type and low hanging foliage.
Since they are heavier, they also have to observe safe slowing down distances, as well as watch out for weight limits in overpasses and bridges as well. Plus, since they are slower than regular vehicles, drivers need to observe courtesy by pulling over and allowing other cars to go ahead when up windy roads.
In contrast, small vans are easier to park and maneuver smoothly on narrow lanes and roads. You can park them just about in any type of city parking and they are swift. You will feel more relaxed when sitting behind the wheel of a small van. They are nimble and are safer, allowing you to easily steer away from any obstacles on the road.
They are affordable
A new 2021 Ford Transit Connect could set you back $27,000. Its larger 250 medium or high roof counterpart, the Ford Transit cargo van, is in the $40000 to $45000 range. Micro vans are often cheaper than larger campervans. So, if you are starting on the #vanlife lifestyle, and have a limited budget, why not go for a small van?
Some small vans have removable seats, making their conversions easy, affordable and quick. You can use them as a camper and put your seats back and not pay through the nose for it.
You can park your micro camper in any parking space. Larger campervans cannot squeeze in small parking spots. For this reason, go for a small campervan if you do not want to spend hours on end looking for a spot in crowded lots.
They keep you adventure focused
Small vans only have minimal living space. You will spend more time in the great outdoors while out and about in a micro camper. They are as agile as regular vehicles so you can visit more places in them. On top of this, you can park in most campgrounds and board most ferries if you want to travel abroad.
Beautiful and stealthy
Some small van conversions are a sight for sore eyes. A well-designed small van conversion could create a holiday feel and help you roam free and stealthily.
Cons of small vans over larger vans
- They have less power than larger vans and will strain more when packed with heavy gear or when on rough roads.
- A small van is not a good camper van for large vanlife families.
- Living in a microvan may not be as comfy as larger vans. For example, you cannot stand up in them, which makes full time vanlifing in them lose its novelty, real quick!
Top 8 vans for small van conversions
1. Citroen Berlingo van conversion
The Citroen Berlingo is a choice small van for vanlife conversions. It is so trusty that Citroen has sold over 1.5 million of these little vans since their 1996 release. A camper can use Citroen Berlingo as a bridge between the tent life and the costly campervan conversion. Use it for wild camping or your overnight stops when boondocking.
This microvan has two variants. There is the 1996 to 2008 model and the 2008–2018 multi-space model. It has an internal load height and length of 1.24 meters and 2.16 meters, respectively. Its load width is 1.55 meters.
The older Citroen Berlingo has useful rear sliding doors and spacious boot space. There is a green 1.6-litre diesel engine and a 1.4 and 2.0TD model. First-generation Berlingos have a 600 kg payload capacity.
The newer Citroen Berlingo has a spacious cabin as it’s built purposely to ferry people. For this reason, it has a roomy cabin. Go for a glass roof panel Citroen Berlingo variant for an airy cabin feel. Second generation Berlingos has a 749 kg payload capacity and 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines.
Ann and her dog, Mr Darcy of the littlestcampervan, are weekend warriors. They are budget travellers that love camping and the outdoors. For this reason, their Citroen Berlingo conversion build is a godsend. It is affordable, has stealth and is economical.
Through it, Ann can escape the monotonous life of the city and head into the windy and rainy but beautiful Wales landscapes. On her blog, ‘thisgirlcamps’ Ann refers to herself as a ‘budget-conscious solo female camper’.
Her Citroen Berlingo’s interior is beautifully blue and has lots of wooden accents. Ann says that she built her van’s storage space and bed using some Hejne shelves, IKEA bed slats, an Ivar shelf and a futon mattress.
A wooden box holds her pantry house and slides right under the foot of her bed. On top of it is a chopping board from Ikea.
- Instagram conversion: littlestcampervan
- Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CThdvM5oY5i/
- Vehicle image link: https://www.citroenvansales.com/citroen-berlingo/
2. The Mercedes Metris van conversion
The Mercedes Metris is an excellent work van and is perfect for small van conversions. Mercedes released its third generation V class in 2014, giving it the Metris name for the North American market. It is a practical van and has the option of a standard (126 inches) or long (135 inches) wheelbase.
The passenger option does not have the long-wheelbase version. With a maximum payload of 2502 pounds, this little micro van can haul lots of gear. The 2021 Metris has a seven-speed automatic transmission and adaptive cruise control.
It has a useful digital rearview mirror that, with a switch flip, will display an image from the rearview camera. This feature will give you a crystal-unobstructed view of the road behind when your cargo section is packed.
Moreover, this new model has a 7-inch SmartScreen infomercial network for smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The advanced system also allows map-reading with real-time traffic data — a Metris first.
The Mercedes Metris has a turbocharged 2.0 litre, four-cylinder engine, and a 7-speed transmission. Additionally, it has a large cargo area which gives you more room for your build. Hyggevannw Mercedes Metris pop-top camper van can sleep 4. The pop-top bed can sleep two, making it a perfect family getaway van.
- Instagram conversion: https://www.instagram.com/hyggevannw/?hl=en
- Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CCkJdU6DG23/
- Vehicle image link: https://www.mbvans.com/en/metris/cargo-van
3. The Ford Transit Connect van conversion
The Ford Transit Connect, like its larger sibling, the Transit, is reliable and has excellent fuel economy. It was first released in 2002 but was first sold in North America in 2010. For this reason, you can easily find a second-hand Connect to kick start your #vanlife lifestyle.
It is a front-wheel drive, with two four-cylinder engine variants. You can choose between the 2.5 litres with a six-speed automatic transmission or the 2.0 litre with an eight-auto transmission. The 2021 Ford Transit Connect is designed with versatility in mind. It has short and long wheelbase options and symmetrical back doors or rear liftgates.
Its maximum payload is 1570 pounds and can tow up to 2000 pounds. You will have 127 cubic feet of cargo space to work with, should you choose to purchase the cargo van. The passenger van has a 105 cubic feet payload and you can fold its second and third row of seats. Additionally, the passenger van has wireless charging and a dual-zone automatic climate setting feature.
Jake Carrington of the them0derndayhippie, so loves this micro camper van, he has an Instagram handle dedicated to it. Here fellow Ford Connect fans share their love for this mini camper and share pictures of their cool campervan ideas.
- Instagram conversion: https://www.instagram.com/transitconnectcampers/
- Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CDe5LDTJlKO/
- Vehicle image link: https://www.ford.com/commercial-trucks/transit-connect-cargo-van/
4. The Dodge Promaster City van conversion
The Dodge Promaster City is a second-generation Fiat Doblò. It was launched in 2010. The Promaster City is a fuel-efficient van you can order with or without rear seats for your campervan build. You will love its fuel and cargo capacity.
It has 131.7 cubic feet and a 48.4 inches cargo area between its wheel wells. Its cavernous cargo space size is only rivalled by the Mercedes Metrix. It measures 187.5 in long, 72.1 wide, and 74.0 in high. The Promaster City has a turbocharged 2.4-litre, 4-cylinder engine and a maximum payload of 1886 pounds.
Moreover, it has a nine-speed automatic transmission and is front-wheel drive. The 2021 option has some improvements that include fog lamps and aluminium wheels on the tradesman cargo van.
Leftyriders’ Max & Cat travel the great outdoors in their off-grid, mini–Dodge Promaster City. They have been living in it for a year and a half now, going up hills and mountains in it. Max & Cat steer clear of the campgrounds but will make a stop at national park campgrounds for free camping.
- Instagram conversion: https://www.instagram.com/p/CQh70x6Br15/
- Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CQh70x6Br15/
- Vehicle image link: https://www.ramtrucks.com/ram-promaster-city.html
5. Nissan NV 200 van conversion
The Nissan NV200 is a compact cargo van that has lower payloads and lengths than most other small van conversion models. That said, it has an efficient diesel engine and brilliant interior touches. It has a powerful 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine, and the van has a maximum payload of 1,480 pounds.
Its engine has an Xtronic CVT that delivers a seamless wave of power. We are talking smooth acceleration and low, quiet engine rpm, fuel-efficient cruising.
It has a driving advantage as well. The NV200 Compact van build allows you to see far ahead, for easier navigation in traffic. The cargo floor measures 82.8” deep and 48.0” wide between the wheel arches. This van has a cargo space of 122.7 Cu. Ft. Fold down its front seats and has an extra space of up to 9’8” for longer builds.
Its low entry price makes it an ideal option for campervanning on a budget. Its rear doors are split 40/60, with the short one placed on the left street side to lower traffic disruption when open.
- Instagram conversion: https://www.instagram.com/nissan_nv_vans/?hl=en
- Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CRuyBFpBQMb/
- Vehicle image link: https://www.nissanusa.com/vehicles/commercial/nv200-compact-cargo.html
6. VW Caddy Maxi van conversion
The VW Caddy Maxi is a solid build van with solid residual values. You could make a good amount of your cashback on resale, which is worth keeping in mind because its original purchase price is a tad high for most beginner campers. The VW Caddy has the VW Transporter’s legendary functionality packed in a smaller space. You can do so much with this microvan.
The Caddy Maxi allows seven people seating (driver included). It has a 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine that can speed up from 0 to 60 mph in 12.1 seconds. If you want more power, buy the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI. The Caddy Maxi has a comfy steering setup and a lot of front-end grips for easy maneuverability around corners.
Dot_the_caddy_camper is a self-converted VW caddy maxi that is taking its owners across the UK and Europe. Dot is a blue VW Caddy build and has a white and wooden accents interior with a wide bed. It has white curtains between its sleeping area and cabin for privacy.
- Instagram Conversion: https://www.instagram.com/dot_the_caddy_camper/?hl=en
- Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CFus2FDB2Tw/
- Vehicle image link: https://www.volkswagen-vans.co.uk/en/new-vehicles/caddy-life.html
7. Renault Trafic van conversion
Renault Trafic Van has been around for three decades. During this time, this practical and hardy van has been at the top of the light commercial vehicle’s sales chart in Europe, and for good reason. It has exceptionally economical engines and technology. On top of this, you will have a versatile load space and easy maneuverability. Renault Trafic has an adjustable steering wheel you can set to your preferred height.
Its latest model has 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter engines and a six-speed manual gearbox. There are three trim types, Business, Business+, and Sport. The black version is quiet, the looker adding exceptional appeal to these comfortable vans.
Go for the Renault Trafic if you want a comfortable driving position and significant payload in your small van build. You have a choice of a short-wheelbase (SWB) low-roof panel van (SL), SWB high-roof (SH) long-wheelbase (LWB) low-roof (LL), and LWB high-roof (LH).
This compact van can haul 5 to 8.4 cubic meters of load. It has a full-steel bulkhead behind the seats for protection and minimal in-cab noises.
camper.trafic is living the ultimate campervan life in his Renault trafic. He believes home is where you park your campervan. He excellently used his campervan space by creating a mobile kitchen drawer that he can easily move to the outdoors when making a meal.
- Instagram conversion: camper.trafic
- Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/BYKi6PBFofb/
- Vehicle image:https://www.renault.com.au/vehicles/trafic/
8. Peugeot Partner van conversion
The Peugeot Partner‘s standout feature is its i-Cockpit layout. The i-Cockpit layout is Peugeot’s innovative design that gives the driver a smaller than usual steering wheel and dials above the dashboard. You will either love or hate this little wheel that adds more room to your cabin’s interiors.
Choose between the standard or long size van and four trim levels; S, Grip, Professional, and Asphalt. The Peugeot Partner has manual gearboxes fixed as a standard, but you have the option for an eight-speed automatic drive.
The Peugeot Partner van has a 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel engine and its loading bay fits two-euro pallet sizes.
- Instagram conversion: tepee.vanlife
- Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CFphHqYIzfR/
- Vehicle image link: https://www.peugeot.ie/range/find-your-vehicle/all-new-peugeot-partner.html
If you are looking to live the tiny house lifestyle in a campervan, go for one of these top 7 vans for small van conversions. Micro campervans are a splendid choice for people that love the outdoors or are into impulsive getaways. They may not make the best campervans to be in all day, but their owners will have it easy, leaping into exciting adventures in them, at short notice.