You are not the only one if you are not sure whether you should get a van or a standard car for your car camping plans. Many people are weighing their pros and cons as well. This is a typical question that you see asked in various forums:
This post is a summary of the best answers, pros and cons, that such questions receive and will help you choose the right car for your camping plans – an MPV / car or a van for car camping?
Get a van version if
- you only need seats for max of 2 passengers (or you have a second car for standard use)
- you want to make a proper DIY makeover – including taking some parts out, drilling holes, screwing things on etc. (vans are not as good for a ready-made camping box that usually goes over the rear seats that the van doesn’t have)
- if you’re in the UK and you don’t mind having to adhere to lower speed limits for vans (if your vehicle will be category N1 in the logbook – 50mph on single carriageways, 60mph on dual carriageways, 70mph on motorways). More info here.
- if you’re in the UK and you don’t mind paying higher vehicle tax and insurance
- you don’t mind higher noise levels (the insulation and upholstery is lower grade)
- you want a bit more room as the walls are thinner (less upholstery and covers)
- you are looking for a cheaper car (used work vans go for less)
- you don’t mind lower interior and drive comfort
- you want built-in privacy & higher security in the back (i.e. the van version doesn’t have windows at the back, no need to buy or make your own curtains / window shades)
- you want to be more stealthy (no windows = more privacy out of the box + looks like a workers van)
Get an MPV (car) version if
- you need a family car (5+ seats) and a camper in one
- you don’t plan a big DIY makeover, but want to put in (over the seats) a boot jump (camper box) or a similar reversible DIY solution, as per fellow camper’s experience: “I’d go multispace just for the flexibility. Boot jumps are designed, as far as I can tell, to sit on the top of folded down seats. Do you plan on putting a permanent bed in the back? So it may depend if you need the seats for anything, but I always think it’s handy to be able to pop them up for passengers. And as someone else said …higher spec, and hopefully it’s not been screwed into the ground by some jobbing builder.“
- you want to avoid the UK van speed limit restrictions and higher tax
- you want a bit higher interior and drive comfort (better trim level – although the MPV versions are still based on the van, so don’t expect a level of comfort as you would from a Sharan)
- you can’t afford a second car for camping but will use this one for both
- you want to have windows and more light at the back (but you need to buy or make your own curtains / window shades)
- MPV versions tend to have some bonus features like a roof window (Berlingo) or more storage options overhead
These might come in handy...
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Pressure solar camping shower (pumped) – 10l
This camping shower is easy to transfer and doesn’t need to hang in the air – it has a built-in pump that lets you pressurise the chamber and shower or use it in the sink anywhere. It’s black, so the longer you leave it in the sun, the warmer the water will be (or just leave it in a hot closed car in the summer).
- Lightweight: 870 g including the bag
- 10 litre capacity | On/off button on the handle to prevent waste
If it’s a van rather than a car, you may encounter difficulties booking into some campsites. This is anecdotal rather than my personal experience, mind. Also, a secondhand car is likely to have led an easier life than a van, and will probably be better specced.”FB forum camper
“Depending on your circumstances, the insurance cost may not be much different between a van and a car but some companies are awkward or just won’t let you transfer your No Claims Discount from a car to a van/commercial vehicle and vice versa. As for the tax. Passenger vehicles from around 2001 are banded based on emissions. Vans pay a flat commercial rate of tax. Currently it’s £275 per year“FB orum camper
Whichever version you decide to buy – you can find plenty of inspiration in our DIY car camping conversions section. Happy camping!
6-person inflatable camping shelter – air seconds base connect – £299.99
Don’t like fiddling around with poles? This inflatable car tent might be the right choice for you. The sheet + poles make joining it to your car even more flexible. It has two large openings on opposite ends, giving you a choice of which side you’ll attach to the vehicle. It fits most MPVs – tailgate or side-door, you can connect it from two ends
- Height: 2.25 m (opening for tailgate 1.75m) | Floor area: 6.25 m2 (2.5×2.5m) | Comfortable for 6 people
- Openings on 4 sides (2 suitable for a car) | but only 1 mosquito net
- Weight 13kg
- Easy installation: Rapid pitching thanks to its all-in-one inflatable structure (requires a separate pump though)
- The fabric filters UV rays with a UPF of 50+, Waterproof, good quality – tested in long rain and strong winds, it holds up pretty well (relatively to the price)
Dometic HUB Air Modular Shelter
This car/suv tent offers very cool design and I love the versatility – fits SUVs, MPVs and campervans. You can pitch it freestanding on the beach, on-site with your camper or as valuable shelter when off-roading with your 4×4. Best feature is the ability to REMOVE (unzip) ALL 4 WALLS – making it an awning + tent in one!
- Width:230cm, Depth:230cm
- Attachment Heigtht: 180-210cm (fits tailgate as well as side door, MPV, SUV, Multivan)
- Windows have mosquito nets
- Weight: 13.8kg