nimblecamper hero 1 - Best cars to sleep in (EU & US) + camping conversion examples

Best cars to sleep in (EU & US) + camping conversion examples

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I analysed over 40 best cars for car camping (EU & US) using their actual boot length, height and more – see which one is best, or pick your own criteria. This is my database of the best everyday cars to sleep in and/or for a camping conversion – I spent months collecting their camping-relevant data like boot dimensions, storage, consumption, and comfort rating. Then I worked out a weighted rating considering these criteria – the summary of my findings in this post. I’m sure you’ll find your camper in there too ;).

Click on each car to see its boot dimensions, camping conversion ideas and images and more posts related to camping in everyday cars.

Top everyday cars for camping in the EU🇪🇺/UK🇬🇧

Top picks – if you don’t want to look at the detailed table below 🙂

FLIP Camping box

FLIP Camping box

  • two separate furniture boxes with a sliding shutter, designed to be easily carried and stored
  • extractable bed​ mechanism made of anodized lightweight but strong aluminium profiles and crosses for extra strength
  • fresh & wastewater containers with an economical 12V submersible pump, water tap and a stainless steel sink with a flexible drain hose
  • large drawers with removable sections for kitchen utensils and food
  • cutlery tray – we will include colourful straws if you ask nicely :)​
  • portable gas stove​ – single or optional double stove with a safety valve in case of strong wind (standard A4 gas cartridges)
  • comfortable cushions made of premium breathable foam with durable covers and embedded wooden panels for perfect stability
  • portable cooler​ – optional quality Dometic TCX or compressor CDF cooling box keeps your food and drinks ice cold (operates on 12V and 220V) on optional tray
Rifter camper (Long)

Rifter camper (Long)

The Peugeot Rifter, from the Berlingo family (and Opel Combo or Toyota ProAce City are basically the same cars), is longer, more comfortable and scores higher in safety tests than Berlingo – which just about makes it one of the top contenders for a great camper! 

FLIP adventure bed

FLIP adventure bed

Handy if you want to save money – doesn’t come with any pull-out storage boxes or kitchen, it’s a bed platform with a mattress. It will still give you a good storage area underneath – handy for any kind of storage boxes you can buy cheaply elsewhere. If you take the mattress out, you can easily store your shopping or anything else on top or underneath.

Peugeot Partner Camper (Long – L2)

Peugeot Partner Camper (Long – L2)

Long + tall, cheap and good for DIY custom camper builds. It’s the same size and engine as Berlingo – both are quite popular as DIY camper cars, mainly because of their low entry price. I would recommend the L2 – Long version. The other versions are the same, just shorter – which will limit your sleeping area at the back. The newer versions come with the same nifty tailgate window and roof window as the Berlingo.

Top everyday cars for camping in the US 🇺🇸

Dodge Grand Caravan Camper (Chrysler Town and Country)

Dodge Grand Caravan Camper (Chrysler Town and Country)

Big and comfy – at places too much (a fold-up TV isn’t really necessary or the table at the back in some models will have to be taken out most likely anyway). Quite expensive to run, harder to drive. On the other hand, it offers a lot of space and storage compartments, comfy seats and plenty of USB and 220V power outlets. If you don’t mind the high consumption and are looking for comfort during long rides, this is a good choice.

Although Chrysler Town and Country is a different car by name, they are very similar and only differ marginally in terms of size. The biggest difference is in their styling – outside and inside, but nothing that would make a huge difference in terms of camping.

Ford Transit Connect camper

Ford Transit Connect camper

A panel van that feels and drives better than a van. It has very good safety scores and is well-rated across other websites. It offers a good-sized cargo area, about average for a panel van. Not the biggest, but it makes up for it with higher comfort when driving and in the cabin. The barn doors on most models are a downside, but they have a small plus point – you can open them all the way towards the front, by the sides of the car so that they won’t get in your way. You just won’t have a roof like you would with a tailgate.

Chrysler Grand Voyager Camper

Chrysler Grand Voyager Camper

The Grand Voyager is big and comfy. At places too comfy – a fold-up TV isn’t really necessary for camping, so although it’s a big car, you’ll be paying for unnecessary luxuries. These also add unnecessary weight, increasing its consumption. It’s, therefore, more expensive to run and harder to drive. These luxuries are also not spent wisely – again, the drive is according to most reviews online, just OK. The fold-up TV doesn’t make a long trip much better – better sound insulation could do.

Honda Pilot camper

Honda Pilot camper

Honda Pilot is a very spacious SUV that also offers good comfort and good towing capacity for the AWD models. You can easily sleep two people inside including a dog, the roof window is a very nice bonus too. Overall, it’s a good car for camping.

VW Multivan Camper

VW Multivan Camper

The Multivan is for you if size, versatility & looking cool are your main criteria (and you can afford it – it costs 3x as much as an MPV like a Sharan, but it isn’t 3 times better for camping – it is a cult car that offers a lot of space in a relatively small package, with the added bonus of being able to move and turn the seats and table around as you please + fold them down into a bed. But they can also get in a way and sometimes it’s necessary to remove them to take full advantage of the boot’s size. And you’ll have to get some kind of camping box or a bed to sleep comfortably and make the most of the sheer space. The Multivan is a bit of a cult car and keeps its value even with very high mileage (300K+) and 10+ years of age, so be prepared to pay the price. There aren’t as many DIY Multivan camping conversions – precisely for the reasons outlined on this page, in short – it’s almost the most expensive car of the range where you are paying for flexible seats that you would take out anyway for a DIY conversion. But there are plenty of manufactured camping boxes that you can carry in the boot (behind all the rear seats) and extend when camping (see image gallery for some examples, with and without the rear seats). But then, you can do that in the cheaper Caravelle too, so make sure you know why you’re paying up for a Multivan. Overall, a Multivan can be a great camper – but not out of the box. If you just want to try car camping out, you’ll be better off with a much cheaper MPV that you convert to an occasional camper. And if you like it and decide to commit to car camping, you can try out a Multivan with a camping extension.

Ram Promaster City Camper

Ram Promaster City Camper

This is your typical MPV/van style body – not seen as much in the US, where the biggest everyday cars are usually family style 7 seaters like the Chrysler Pacifica, Grand Voyager etc. Because of its lighter body, the Promaster offers a slightly better MPG. But it’s still not the biggest in terms of boot size. The cargo (panel van) version will give you the biggest boot and, (despite what Ram’s official website says), I strongly believe that the MPV (wagon) version will give you less boot space. The seats, additional storage and upholstery in the back have to take off some of the boot width, height and length, there’s no way around that. I’d expect the wagon boot size will be similar to the Ford Turneo Connect, which is also its closest rival.

Browse all 40+ campers:

NimbleCamper rated database: Best cars for car camping

A database of campers that’s very easy to filter by boot length, width, consumption and more…

What is car camping all about? How to sleep in any car?

For our purposes, it is literally camping and sleeping in your car. I don’t mean just driving in your car, pulling into a campsite and/or sleeping in a tent. It is taking your car – driving to a nice spot and sleeping in your car on that spot. As simple a definition as it gets :). You might have also heard the phrases “estate car camping”, “suv camping”, “boondocking”, “dry camping” or “wild camping” associated with car camping. They are all a specific version of car camping, each with its own characteristics. A microcamper is either a small car you can camp in or a small trailer, see the difference here.

nimblecamper hero 1 1024x576 1 - Best cars to sleep in (EU & US) + camping conversion examples

What do you imagine when you hear (estate) car camping? Big caravans, campervans and trailers? Expensive high-tech vans with furniture inside? It used to be like that. But the days of car camping are changing: it’s now more accessible and cheaper than ever – you can easily turn your everyday car into a part-time camper. This post will give you a list of the best cars to choose for the best car camping experience with their measurements, consumption and in-depth reviews for the top ones. And this website will show you how to convert them into microcampers or what gear to get for car camping.

Car camping is also used to describe a way how to get out there – drive to a camp, hire a cottage and sleep in it, but there’s nothing new about it. It’s just standard camping. What we like here is car camping that utilizes your current standard car. No need to buy a campervan (VW Multivan and similar) or a caravan/trailer. If you have a standard-size car (i.e. anything above mid-size), you can make it into a camping car and comfortably sleep in it. If you are thinking along the lines of any station wagon, MPV, minivan, combi, SUV, or crossover SUV type of car, your thinking is correct :).

Now to the burning question:

What car is best for sleeping in (microcamper conversion)?


All you need is a bit of creativity and skill to make a bed in your standard car – or in the case of many cars, the only thing separating you from an outdoor car camping adventure is an inflatable car bed/mattress.

Start with a car that’s long enough for you to stretch your legs when you fold down its rear seats and lie down. For better comfort, the higher the car, the better (more headroom – you want to be able to sit on your bed without hunching down).

fiat punto car camping greece
Sleeping in a Fiat Punto – it was good fun nevertheless! Not much sleeping-wise, but fit-anywhere-wise 😀

Most cars fit these criteria – except the smaller city cars and 3-door cars. Of course, you can make do in almost any car (I’ve camped around Greece in an old Fiat Punto and explored Spain in a rented Fiat 500 – the new version. But we slept in the front, the back wasn’t much of an option. These cars, however, are not very comfortable for sleeping especially for more than 1 night.

sleeping in fiat 500 - Best cars to sleep in (EU & US) + camping conversion examples
Sleeping in Fiat 500 – we slept on the front seats – does the job, but you wouldn’t want to do that for too long!

What car types are best for car camping?

It’s basically any car – it all depends on your desired level of comfort. The smaller the car, the lower the comfort. Let’s focus on the cars that fit our criteria and break them into categories:

Personal (family) cars, MPVs (people carriers), SUVs, estate (station wagons/combis)

Basically any car for daily life. Easiest if you are new to the world of camping and have a limited budget – you can find a good used 6-8-year-old vehicle for under 10K and turn it into a microcamper.

Vans – small, medium and big and/or passenger/panel vans

Bigger, stronger, higher wheelbase – the main benefit being plenty of room. But harder to park and manoeuvre + can’t be used as stealth campers that well. Their price varies depending on the model and type. All VW T(3,4,5,6) types keep their value very well – expect to pay 10K for a 20-year-old car with huge mileage. But standard vans are sometimes cheaper than normal cars (might have a high mileage though).

  • We can split them into two groups – the ones with seats at the back – Passenger vans – usually 7+ seaters like the VW Multivan (Transporter, Caravelle), Peugeot Traveller, Ford Tourneo Custom, Vauxhall Vivaro Life, Citroen SpaceTourer, Toyota Proace Verso, Mercedes Vito Tourer
  • and the ones with no seats/windows at the back also called Panel vans. You won’t be able to use them as your day-to-day family car, but on the other hand, they offer more room and customisation options. They are bare at the back so the best option for serious DIY car camping conversions.
    • small vans (Caddy van, Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner (now Rifter)/Toyota Proace City/Vauxhall Combo, Fiat Doblo Cargo, Renault Kangoo/Nissan NV250/Mercedes Citan etc.)
    • medium vans (Ford Transit Custom, Volkswagen Transporter, Renault Trafic, Vauxhall Vivaro, Citroen Dispatch, Peugeot Expert, Mercedes Vito, Toyota Proace, Fiat Talento
    • big panel vans – Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter, VW Crafter, Man TGE (it’s basically the Crafter), Renault Master, Open (Vauxhall) Movano, Peugeot Boxer (Citroen Relay), Fiat Ducato

Purpose-made campers (motorhomes), luxury campers

Made for the car camping connoisseur – with all the bells and whistles, they tend to cost 20K and upwards.

As you can see in our database, the top ones offer the longest & tallest boot space (lots of headroom and legroom for sleeping and daily chores). Of course, some of you might accept a slightly shorter car if it offers a higher level of comfort/safety. Others will prefer space over comfort.

What car do I recommend for a car camping trip?

…or:

What to consider if you can’t decide whether to go for more space or comfort?

First, you should think about how are you going to spend most of your time in the car:

  • Is it driving for many hours (long trips) and then just sleeping? You probably want a car that offers more comfort – you want the drive to be safe and comfy if that’s what you will use it for most of the time. Look for 1.5 – 2 in the comfort grade rating. Ford Galaxy offers good comfort whilst still being quite spacious, and you can’t go wrong with a Honda Odyssey in the US, which offers both – a big boot and comfort.
  • Or is it actually living in the car (not just sleeping, but also doing things – spending time reading, preparing for the trip, relaxing, moving about inside the car)? Then you should choose a car with the longest & tallest boot space. VW Caddy Maxi Life is a winner in this category for the EU (you could also opt for the even taller Fiat Doblo High Roof, but it will not fit into all car parks – it’s 2.13m, so you’ll have to check height restrictions.
  • If you want something in the middle, go for VW Sharan or Seat Alhambra – they offer plenty of space, but also a good level of comfort. In the US, it’s Honda Odyssey (or similar cars, like Kia Carnival or Dodge Grand Caravan).
  • Will you often drive off the road and need a 4×4 (4WD)? See the best SUVs for camping in our database.

I chose a VW Sharan – although I was considering VW Caddy Maxi Life before that, until a well-priced and kept Sharan crossed my path :).

What is the criteria for a good car camper?

1. Car boot length – for a comfortable sleep (with your legs stretched out)

Have you ever tried to sleep in a car? It’s not the most comfortable of experiences if you don’t have the right equipment and your car isn’t prepared for it – meaning you sleep in the front or back seat. That’s not what you want to be doing whilst camping. What we are going to focus on is comfortable sleeping in your car – so that you can travel, explore > rest > and continue exploring. And comfortable means the ability to stretch your legs when you lie down in the back, without bumping your head into the front seats. A general rule of thumb – you’ll need about 170cm (5.57ft) boot length with rear seats folded down. I’ll allow some buffer as you can always move the front seats forward and easily gain about 20cm. That should give enough comfortable space for the average man (~175cm / 5.74ft) and woman (~163cm / 5.34ft).

Look, there’s plenty of room at the back – and that’s just a tiny sample of all the cars and SUVs available:

Toyota RAV4 image: Reddit

2. Car boot height – the higher, the more headroom you’ll have, the more comfortable it is

No one likes to feel claustrophobic – even if you don’t suffer from claustrophobia, you probably don’t like to have to crawl into your bed or crawl out at night when you need the loo. Bumping your head into the roof (although padded) isn’t your aim in the morning either. The higher the car, the more comfortable your camping trip will be. Aim for at least 90cm from the boot floor to the roof, the more, the better. You really want to be able to sit inside, on the bed, without having to crouch or bend your head.

This also depends on your camping style of course – if you are into stealth camping, you might want to have a small and inconspicuous car. But if you are after comfort – you want a tall and long car.

3. Good storage options

The more bare the interior of a car, the harder it will be to live inside. If you have plenty of compartments, hooks, holders, lights, 12V sockets – it’s easy to keep your day-to-day things handy. If you only have some small compartments in the front (not in the back, where you’ll spend most of the time car camping), you’ll either have to create your own storage compartments or have to settle with things lying on the bed all the time.

What’s next? Some camping essentials to make your trip marvellous!

Depending on the car you have chosen, you’ll need to kit it out – primarily something comfy to sleep on, some storage, something for privacy and useful tools for camping.

What car did / will you choose for your next adventure?

Post author:

Lukas

Founder of NimbleCamper.com, avid traveler and outdoor enthusiast. Car camping and microcamping allows me to keep traveling and exploring with a much greater level of freedom & privacy – to go anywhere and sleep anywhere. I didn’t have 30K to buy a VW Multivan, so found my way to the world of everyday car camping conversions. Here I share my experiences and what I learn.

Check out my thoughts on a balanced life: sensimism.com

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3 Comments

  1. Hi lukas if a car not listed does it mean in ur opinion it’s no good for sleeping in and no assesories suitable to make it into a small over night camper
    Just wanted to know if there anything I could do to a vauxhall zafira 2009
    Many thx Martin

    1. Hi Martin,

      if a car isn’t listed, it mostly means I haven’t gotten to it yet and it’s probably lower down the priority list as the other cars in the database. A Vauxhall Zafira is about as big as a VW Touran, adjusting some Touran DIY conversions should be easy: https://nimblecamper.com/?s=touran

      But you can sleep in almost any car with a boot size that of a Zafira and can use any of the ideas in the DIY Conversions section: https://nimblecamper.com/category/diy-car-camping-conversions/