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 🙂

XBUS camper

XBUS camper

The Xbus brings a new take on a small camper bus/people carrier. Its main competitor is the VW ID Buzz, albeit the Xbus leads with its modular base and configurable components. It is a very promising concept that has gained over 1.5 million EUR in crowdfunding in 2021 and I’m sure will lead the way of electric camper vans in years to come.

The Xbus is not for everyone – it is being developed with environmental and economic credentials as the brands’ main priority, therefore some compromises in terms of how many people it can carry or top speed need to be made. But I am sure it will find its place in many people’s hearts. I am definitely looking forward to it! The company behind the XBUS (ElectricBrands) has hired 13 new employees in 2022 with the work on Xbus underway, albeit with possible delays because of the unprovoked attack on Ukraine by Russia. BTW, the Xbus Camper is the most sought-after variant of the Xbus (in the private sector). Campers know what’s good, especially nimble campers! 😉 That’s also the reason, why the company has decided to build the camper as their next test vehicle that they will take to shows and exhibitions to collect feedback. Real images (not mockups) to follow soon. Watch this space!

I have estimated the interior dimensions, but as the vehicle is a camper by design, it can’t be compared fairly to other MPVs. I am giving it a 4.5/5 rating for now, as it’s looking to be a great camper, but will adjust this accordingly as more information surfaces.

Fiat Doblò camper boot size (Short, Long, XL, High Roof/Top)

Fiat Doblò camper boot size (Short, Long, XL, High Roof/Top)

If you’re thinking Fiat Doblo for camping, then think of the Maxi XL LWB or also the High Roof version. The High Roof is the tallest MPV out there – overtakes the leading VW Caddy by a whopping 25cm, giving you much more headroom or storage space (actually both!). But it only comes with barn doors (why is a tailgate better?). If you want a tailgate, go for Fiat Doblo Maxi LWB.

It’s about 8cm shorter than the Caddy, but still one of the longest cars out there with 217cm boot length. The rear seats can be folded (backrests) or lifted up & tilted forward, or easily removed – even more flexibility (see how in this video).

Combined with good consumption, the Fiat Doblo Maxi High Roof makes an amazing camping car.

VW Caddy Maxi Camper boot size

VW Caddy Maxi Camper boot size

The VW Caddy Maxi Life is one of the biggest MPVs out there and probably the best small camper van option out there. If boot size is your primary criteria – you can’t go wrong with a Caddy. The car drives good too. Where it lacks a bit is comfort – it takes after its van origins and offers a more basic interior. But it makes up for it in storage – it really has a lot of compartments all over the place. It’s not the best car to take off the road completely – but you can take it down a good enough mud road without any big problems. A very good car camping / microcamping conversion candidate, unless you are planning to drive through forests and very much offroad – or you prefer a higher class interior comfort. 

In the UK, the Caddy Maxi Life is registered as a car (not a van), so can go at a higher speed limit than the equivalent van. 

Hyundai Staria camper

Hyundai Staria camper

Hyundai Staria is the Multivan of MPVs – swivel seats with configurable positions, it comes in either a 6 or 9-seat version. It trumps the Multivan in consumption – not by a huge margin though.  A big car for sure – the seats can be folded down giving you almost 2.5m legroom. The irony is though (the same as with a Multivan) that you are paying a premium for those luxury seats, only to then hide them under a mattress (or you’ll have to remove them to get some storage space for your camping gear). Albeit you could sleep on those reclining middle seats for a few nights too. Or go for the van (cargo) model – it’s a bit longer and taller + you can make it your own + it’s cheaper. It’s labelled as an MPV, but really, it’s just like a Multivan, not like a Caddy. We may see these categories blend somehow in the future…

As this car spans two categories: MPVs and People Carriers – I’d rate it as follows: 

  • MPV rating: 4/5
  • People Carrier rating: 3.7/5
VW Sharan camper boot size

VW Sharan camper boot size

The VW Sharan strikes a good balance between size and comfort. Actually, it’s one of the biggest MPV’s out there. If boot size is your primary criteria – you can’t go wrong with a Sharan. The car drives nicely too and offers good comfort in the front for the driver and passenger. It’s not the best car to take off the road completely – but you can take it down a good enough mud road without any big problems. A very good car camping / microcamping conversion candidate, unless you are planning to drive through forests and very much offroad.

Top everyday cars for camping in the US 🇺🇸

Honda Odyssey camper

Honda Odyssey camper

Honda Odyssey is one of the biggest minivan (MPV-type) cars, rivalled only by the Kia Carnival (Sedona) or Toyota Sienna. You can sleep in it easily, and have a storage box in the boot without it getting in the way of sleeping, that’s how big it is :). Its 245cm (96.5in) long boot gives you 200cm (79in) of sleeping area and still leaves 45cm (17.7in) for storage – or your dog.

Most camping conversions I’ve come across tend to throw everything out at the back to make the most of the space and build their own bed frames and storage. It is a good car for camping, if you can get over the higher price tag (starting at around $30,000).

If you are looking for a minivan with a lot of storage space and seating flexibility, the Honda Odyssey is a good option for you. It can fit up to eight people in three rows of seats that are spacious and comfortable. You can also adjust the seats to suit your needs. The third row can be folded into the floor, and the second row can be slid, folded or taken out completely.

Chrysler Pacifica Camper

Chrysler Pacifica Camper

The Chrysler Pacifica is in short a Chrysler Grand Voyager with better specs and trim. It offers a spacious and luxurious interior with plenty of storage options. It has the available Stow ‘n Go® Seating and Storage System, which allows you to fold the seats into the floor and create more room for cargo1It also has in-floor bins that provide extra space for your stuff when the seats are not stowed1. The Chrysler Pacifica is a great choice for anyone who needs versatility and comfort in their vehicle.

Toyota Sienna Camper

Toyota Sienna Camper

Toyota Sienna certainly is a big car! You can have a camping box behind the seats in the boot and a bed prepared on top of the seats (some DIY adjustments are needed). But, it does come with one of the lowest boot heights out of US minivans (5-10cm/2-5inches lower). It is one of the top cars in terms of size, but not in terms of consumption – it eats almost double of what a typical EU MPV does – you’ve been warned! No wonder, as it has a powerful 3.5 liter V6 engine that offers up to 296 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful minivans available.

VW ID Buzz camper

VW ID Buzz camper

This post gathers information about various versions of the ID Buzz as they become available. Latest update – 12. February 2023 – added the ID Buzz Cargo boot length, width and height.

The king of camper vans received an electric upgrade. Actually, not just electric – the interior is looking very cosy and spacious too, as less room is needed for an engine + all its moving parts – which are now all underneath the cabin. The multifunctional rear seats + table and swivel front seats make it a very versatile car to camp in. And we do like a lot of space in our campers, don’t we!
The double floor + rear seats folding flat to create a surface for a mattress look very handy – compared to a Multivan, where you have to level the seats with something.

The ID Buzz Cargo version’s official dimensions are now available (1), making the electric small van one of the top campers in the People Carrier / Panel Van categories. If its boot was just a bit taller, it would take the first slot, but it’s overtaken by Fiat Doblo High Roof or the Hyundai Staria Cargo. However, it still offers plenty of room, a modular interior and of course – it’s 100% electric.

Nissan NV200 camper

Nissan NV200 camper

The Nissan NV200 is a very spacious car for its size. It is one of the tallest and offers a lot of headroom for a DIY camping conversion. Where it lacks behind is drive and interior comfort. It’s not a vehicle you would choose for long journeys – but of course, if you are not used to the comfort of higher class MPVs like a Sharan or your previous car, this won’t be a problem. It will get you there and you’ll be happily camping in its big boot, especially if you want to do your own DIY camper conversion or buy a camping box. For a simple conversion (not putting many storage options in) it doesn’t offer many built-in storage compartments in the back, you better come up with some good solutions yourself.

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/