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.
SEE BELOW FOR VIDEO TOURS OF WHAT WE’VE DONE SO FAR!
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.
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 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.
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, roll out the mattress and relax.
Related Post: Find the Perfect Mattress for Van Camping
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.
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.
Read here to find out more about our DIY outdoor shower and toilet combo solution.
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!
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What’s the right adventure vehicle for you? Would you ever travel in a campervan?
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