Van Camping 101: Benefits of a Campervan

posted in: Accommodations, Adventure, Travel | 16

The time has come for an important decision to be made: What will our next travel vehicle be? After years of mulling over all the possibilities and debating the pros and cons, we came to an agreement.

We are converting a minivan to a campervan!

We are proud new owners of a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica. The conversion process has begun and we will keep you updated as we go along.

It’s no secret we love a good adventure especially when it includes a road trip. We have tent camped, truck camped, and last year we borrowed a pop up camper for the summer. All the while, talking through the positives and negatives of each, knowing at some point we will be choosing our next fun on wheels.

All of these experiences have led us to our final decision to convert a minivan for our next travel vehicle and here’s why.

Dreaming of hitting the open road? Let us tell you all the important benefits of a campervan as your next travel vehicle.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Benefits of a Campervan

Size and Maneuverability

Compared to a motorhome or detachable trailer, a van is a breeze to drive and is much smaller. We realized last year while towing the pop up, we felt limited getting to and from places. If we see something off the highway that sounds interesting, we like to hop off and explore. Off-the-beaten-path roads are not necessarily suitable for large recreational vehicles. It is much easier to pull over at a roadside attraction or place of interest in a minivan.

Parking is also an issue. Searching for a spot for long vehicles is aggravating and time-consuming. The height is a limiting factor as well, but the minivan will fit in most underground parking garages including our garage at home.

Another great benefit of the van being easy to maneuver is that both of us feel comfortable driving which will come in handy on long road trips.

Everyday Use as a Second Vehicle

We are not choosing to sell our home (or at least not yet) and live in the van full-time. We will use it as an everyday vehicle and for our travels. Therefore, we are not gutting it to convert it to a camper; everything we add will be easy to remove making it a perfect second vehicle for us.

Dreaming of hitting the open road? Let us tell you all the important benefits of a campervan as your next travel vehicle.

Purchase Price

The upfront cost of a minivan is cheaper than an already customized Class B motorhome camper van. We chose to buy a brand new minivan which is the more expensive option than a used vehicle, but we wanted to start out with a warranty and defer any maintenance issues for as long as we could.

Maintenance Costs

Maintenance costs can vary depending on the type of vehicle. Unlike a motorhome or specialty vehicle, a minivan can be worked on at any repair shop with costs significantly lower.

Efficiency

Fuel efficiency is an important factor to consider when purchasing a travel vehicle. Gas prices fluctuate; just because one year prices are low, doesn’t mean it will stay that way in the future. The Chrysler Pacifica gets 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway.

Let’s take our summer road trip last year as an example comparing it with a few other vehicle types. We drove 11,000 miles – almost all highway miles – at an average gas cost of $2.50 per gallon.

  • Tow Vehicle with Trailer at 10 mpg = Fuel Cost $2,750
  • Class C Motorhome at 15 mpg = Fuel Cost $1,833
  • Pacifica at 25 mpg = Fuel Cost $1,100
  • Chevrolet Cruze at 30 mpg = Fuel Cost $917

These are a few examples, but there are many variables and options that can affect fuel cost. We decided a mix of a slightly bigger vehicle that we can sleep in comfortably plus savings on gas is a advantageous combination.



Stealthiness and Lower Camping Costs

With an inconspicuous campervan, parking overnight for free undetected is possible almost anywhere. There are a few places that welcome overnight guests such as Wal-Mart, casinos, and rest stops, but with a van we won’t have to plan accordingly.
And when staying at campgrounds, there’s no need for electric or water so we will save costs with only needing a tent site.

Hassle Free Set Up

How nice does it sound after a long day of driving to just pull in and not have to set up. With a campervan there is virtually nothing to do. It doesn’t matter if it is nighttime or raining.  There are no annoying tent poles or leveling necessary. Just pull in and relax.

Security and Comfort

We’ve all seen idyllic pictures of the perfect camping moment. Don’t get me wrong, the picture below looks dreamy, but it is not reality all the time. I will argue that tent camping is the best way to feel one with nature, but because of that it brings different issues to the table.

Theft is a major concern while traveling, but in a stealth camper such as a minivan it helps to blend in to normal traffic and vehicles. Having run-ins with wildlife is less of a concern as well-being protected by a hard outer shell. Weather can also be a gloomy part of travel. Have you ever tried to take down a pop up or tent in the pouring rain with mud everywhere? Wind and rain are not really a complication in a campervan.

Dreaming of hitting the open road? Let us tell you all the important benefits of a campervan as your next travel vehicle.
Is that a bear behind that tree?

Negative Aspects of a Campervan

We have taken into consideration the negative aspects as well. We will rely on campgrounds and alternative means, but the biggest negative to me is the lack of running water, shower or bathroom. Since the interior is not particularly high, there is no standing tall in the van which might feel cramped at times. We also realize it limits where we can travel to since we can’t drive to every continent. For the next few years, we plan to take the van on many short trips and at least one major road trip a year in the United States. On any other future trips we will fly to our destination.

We’ve weighed it all out and decided the benefits outweigh the negatives so here we are in the middle of converting our minivan to a campervan!

Be Part of the Adventure.

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What’s the right adventure vehicle for you? Would you ever travel in a campervan?

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Dreaming of hitting the open road? Let us tell you all the important benefits of a campervan as your next travel vehicle.

 

16 Responses

  1. Chris Travels

    Thanks for giving such a detailed and well written post on the merits of van camping. You make some very good observations, including both the pros and cons.

  2. The lack of running water, shower and bathroom are what always hold me back. But I’m very curious to see how it turns out and I’ll be following this project!

    • Those were my concerns as well, but for the most part we will be camping close to those at either a campground, rest stop or casino. And when we are not, we are going to utilize a portable toilet and shower. We shall see!

  3. The hubs has been working on an old Ford van that we are going to take out camping. Looking forward to when we can take it out on the road. I look forward to reading more about the Pacifica.

  4. This is so cool, I can’t wait to see what it’s like once it’s been converted into a campervan! I like that you can revert it back to a normal car if you want too.

  5. Very cool project! One massive plus is the complete freedom that you have to go where you want and not relying on public transport

  6. I traveled during one month on a campervan like this one (well, fully equipped and ready to use) and I felt the “cramped thing” a lot. However the shower or running water was never an issue for me because I always used camp sites. The main pro for me was that even if I drive once every 5 years, taking a campervan was not an issue for me (I am not sure I could say the same with a motor home). Only two years left to my next drive, now!

  7. Just at the right time . I am having the same dilemma. A camper van really gives you the freedom to travel and stopover where you like to. Saves on hotel bills and can easily be parked up in towns and cities. Look forward to your updates.

  8. Can’t wait to see the finished design!! How exciting!

  9. I agree the benefits of a camper van are wonderful. I like that you picked a smallish vehicle that can still take you just about anywhere. I am excited to see your end design.

  10. Sandy N Vyjay

    The Campervan looks like a great way to move around. I like the fact that its maneuverability is good. I am sure it will take you to places and on roads that have not been trod before. Would love to explore the campervan life.

  11. I had actually never thought to travel like this until I met some friends doing it recently. Now, I think I would like to try it. I would have loved to have done this during my time in Iceland.

  12. So glad to have found this sight. Just in the process of pricing a Chrysler Pacifica for the exact same reason. Had a GMC Savana in the past that I did the same thing with. I know the Pacifica will be a little smaller inside than the GMC but I’m hoping it’s not too cramped for me as a single camper. I used and still have a cot with a regular RV premium single mattress attached to a piece of 4’x7′ plywood.Boxes with camping gear fit under the cot and I utilized a Thetford Curve portable toilet. I am familiar with the Tri fold mattress’ you are using. We use them for guests at home. Very comfortable.
    Another nice feature of using a mini van, easier to sell or trade in on another vehicle in the future. RV’s not always so easy to sell.
    Looking forward to your progress.

    • I’m glad you found us too! You should follow us on Facebook because in the next few days we are leaving for our first road trip in the van. We are off on a 2.5 month trip starting with Route 66. We will be shooting a video to show off what we’ve done so far. I haven’t had a chance to write up a post yet on all the progress. It’ll have to wait till we get back but we’ve installed a microwave, shelving unit for clothes and a fridge. We did buy a portable toilet as well, a Luggable Loo.

      • Awesome. Will definitely be following you on Facebook. Looking forward to seeing your additions to the van.

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