For van life beginners, choosing a van is one of the hardest and most stressful parts of getting started. There are many different types of vans out there and they all have their own benefits, so it’s important to do a lot of research and decide which one is the best fit for you.
There are so many options to choose from: vans, buses, campers, trailers, SUVs, minivans and more! You can basically set up a home in anything you choose, but it’s so important to look at all of your options to see what will best fit your personal needs.
Personally, I went with the Nissan NV 2500. These vans are a little less common in van life and might be a little harder to come across. For me, it was the first van that I looked at. It was used and full of junk, but the mileage was fairly low and it was completely mechanically sound.
The price was under $10k and I was anxious to get started on my build, so I bought it on the spot! I’ve had my van for about a year now, and I don’t regret my choice. It was the perfect van for me to buy with the resources that I had, and there are a ton of positives that I feel weigh out the negatives. Here are a few reasons why I ultimately went with the Nissan NV 2500!
Why choose the Nissan NV 2500?
First off, they are STEALTHY! Since not too many people pick this as their choice of a home, these vans are a little less noticeable. While buses and sprinters are often immediately identified as a mobile home, these vans draw far less attention.
They are more often used as work vans, so if I am trying to stealth park somewhere, I am less likely to be discovered as a camper and rather just passed off as a work van. This is SO helpful for when I am traveling through a city or urban area with no available campsites nearby.
Nissan cargo vans are very tall, clocking in about 7 feet of interior height. Even with inches of insulation on both the floor and ceiling, this height gives me plenty of head room. I can stand up straight and still have a few inches of clearance above me!
Additionally, these vans are a little shorter in length, with about 15 feet of cargo space. This comes in handy in multiple situations, including fitting into one normal parking space so I don’t have to pay for two or worry about sticking out! It also helps me fit into smaller campsites and drive on windy roads that might be too dangerous for longer vehicles.
Nissan vans are known for having fewer mechanical issues, which was very important for me. I knew that I was going to be putting a lot of miles on my van since I am more of the type to be constantly driving and exploring rather than staying in one place for a while. I wanted to make sure that I would have a van that could handle so much driving, and this one does the job! Every mechanical fix that I’ve gotten done so far has been from normal wear-and-tear, and I never feel uncertain that my van might not make it somewhere.
The downsides to a Nissan van
There are a few downsides to having a Nissan. While the height and length make the cargo more than big enough to comfortably fit inside, they can pose a few issues. The van becomes fairly top-heavy, making it extremely difficult to drive in windy conditions. The length of the van is great for stealth and accessibility but cuts off a few feet of living space, which means I can’t really walk around inside.
I personally don’t mind that as much, since I spend most of my time outside anyway! Additionally, while Nissans are more mechanically reliable, the parts are far less accessible than American vans. This means that when I do need mechanical work done on my van, I often have to wait a few days for parts to ship in from other cities. Some people prefer American vans solely for the fact that they typically have standard parts that mechanic shops already have or can get within the same day.
If you’re a vanlifer searching for a future home to buy, take your time! Weigh out all of your different options and research what each one can provide you. There are going to be upsides and downsides to every option, so it’s important to figure out which aspects are most important to you before settling on one decision.
I was willing to give up a few feet of walking space to have easier driving and stealth camping experiences! Buying your van is buying your home for the next few years, so take your time searching and get what will make you the most comfortable in the long run!
Check out this quick tour of a Nissan NV 2500 that was built out as a comfortable camper van by WandersInNature:
Continue reading: How (And Why) We Became A Vanlifer