Affordable Vans: Transforming Your Budget-Friendly Ride into a Dream Camper
One of the most important parts of any camper conversion is the vehicle you use as the base. If you want to save money for other parts of the project, you may want to choose cheap vans as your starting point.
Van conversions come in all shapes and sizes. Some are pre-made and ready for adventure as soon as you buy them. Others are blank slates that require significant renovations and design work. If you want to start with a generic van and convert it into something special, you need to properly research the best base vehicles.
Fortunately, there are lots of great options on the market! Price is a major factor for every project, and you can often find affordable vehicles if you look for used models. Everything is more expensive when you buy it new, but it will also have a longer lifespan. Weigh these pros and cons as you make your final decision!
Best Cheap Vans for Conversions
During your search for the perfect van, note the specifications of each vehicle. Vans vary widely when it comes to weight limits, length, and fuel efficiency. Don’t choose a model just because it’s popular! Instead, think about your list of specific needs and wants.
With that in mind, check out the list of cheap vans below. If the prices for the current year seem high, check out models from previous years. The prices drop significantly over time, even if the vans are only two or three years old!
Ford Transit: $25,000 – $45,000
The Ford Transit lineup is a favorite of vanlifers across the country. These vehicles come in a range of heights and lengths, so customers can select the model that best fits their lifestyle. If you buy it straight from the manufacturers, you can even customize a unique build from the ground up.
In addition, Ford Transit vans are some of the most fuel-efficient options on the market. They’ve proven themselves to be highly reliable, which is an important feature for all camper vans. You need to know you can count on them!
The Ford Transit is one of the best cheap vans for those who love off-road adventures. Every post-2020 model is capable of traveling across rugged roads. Overall, these vehicles are tall, fuel-efficient, and sturdy. It’s easy to see why they’re so popular!
Explore the latest Ford Transit models on the Ford website. Used vehicles are also available through dealerships near you.
Nissan NV: $25,000 – $37,000
Nissan NV Cargo vans are compact and quite affordable! In fact, they’re one of the cheapest options on this list. Unfortunately, several models were recently discontinued, so it’s not quite as easy to find these vehicles nowadays.
However, models from 2021 and earlier are still circulating, and they’re wonderful options if you can find them. These boxy vans have a unique appearance that helps them stand out from the crowd. They’re also quite reliable and fuel-efficient, so you won’t need to spend a fortune to keep them operational.
You’ll save money upfront and over time, so you’ll have a larger budget for the actual conversion process. In addition, these vans work well as stealth campers because they are generally used for commercial work. It might take a bit of effort to find a Nissan NV, but they pay off in the end!
Learn more about these campers on the Nissan USA website. There are several unique trims and packages to explore.
Ram ProMaster: $39,000 – $52,000
The Ram ProMaster is one of the most popular bases for van conversions. These vehicles were originally designed for heavy-duty construction work and cargo transportation. They have since evolved into sleek and efficient vans that are reasonably affordable.
Ram currently sells 13 distinct van models. These vary in length, with the shortest model being 118 inches and the longest being 159 inches. Most notably, Ram ProMaster vans are wider than most other cargo vans. The extra width is crucial for those who want to expand their living space and make every inch count!
In addition, these vehicles are great for snowy roads because they all have front-wheel drive. All the models are also fairly short, which makes them more maneuverable on the road. Finally, these vans have a clean, industrial design that makes them ideal choices for stealth campers.
Check out the various models and prices on the Ram website.
International School Bus: $8,000 – $65,000
Although they’re not vans, school bus conversions (also known as skoolies) are popular among the van life community. These vehicles provide plenty of living space, and there are countless options for design and self-expression.
There are many different lengths and styles to choose from, but you can never go wrong when you shop under the umbrella of international school buses. These are well-maintained, and you can buy either new or used models.
This huge catalog also comes with a considerable price range. School bus conversions can be some of the cheapest or most expensive options (depending on the model and design you choose).
The only downside is that these buses can be difficult to drive, and they tend to have poor gas mileage. But if you want a large and highly-customizable living space, you won’t find a better option than a skoolie.
Those who want to explore international school buses should check out National Bus Sales or the ICBus website. Your local dealerships might also have information about where to purchase new and used buses.
Additional Factors To Consider
When you’re planning a van conversion, you need to consider other factors beyond the initial price. If you buy an ill-fitting vehicle that requires a lot of special renovations, you can still end up going over your budget.
In most cases, it’s best to pick cheap vans that align closely with your desired layout. The fewer tweaks you make, the cheaper the conversion process will be. Look around for design inspiration and make a list of personal must-haves.
Once you have a general idea of what you want, explore various vehicles. Look at aspects such as:
- Miles per gallon (highway and city)
- Fuel type
- Weight limits
- Vehicle condition
- Ease of customization
If you’re worried about the price point, you should always look at used vehicles first. Even those that are in great condition will be several thousand dollars cheaper compared to their brand-new counterparts.
Just be prepared to take on additional maintenance and repair tasks for these older models. Cheap vans sometimes cost more money down the road, so be thoughtful when you make your decision.
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