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
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!
🏆Best cars for camping 🏆
- Fiat Doblò camper XL, High Roof 🇪🇺 4.0/5
- Honda Odyssey 🇺🇸 4.0/5
- Volkswagen Sharan 🇪🇺 3.9/5
- Caddy Maxi Camper (Life) 🇪🇺 3.8/5
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.