Which are the best vans for conversions? Now there's a question. Not only because there are so many great vans out there, but also because picking the right one to convert depends very much on what you want it for. A van can be made into anything from a mobile workplace – a mobile beauty salon or coffee van, for example – to a flexible storage space for refrigerated goods, tools or specialist equipment.
There are lots of aspects to think about, but size will obviously be a major consideration, as it isn't simply a case of bigger equals better. The smaller the van, the easier it tends to be to drive, manoeuvre and park, and the more economical it is likely to be to run. But if you're going to spend any amount of work time in the load space of your van, you'll need more space – for a start, you’ll need to be able to stand up in it. Larger vans give you that flexibility.
Van manufacturers are more focused on driving experience these days than they used to be, but driving a van is still different from driving a car. So if that’s what you're used to, you'll probably want to go for a van that still feels quite car-like to drive, like a Ford Transit.
Choosing a popular van is a good idea: you'll have plenty of choice on the used market, so are more likely to be able to get exactly what you want at a good price, plus parts should be easy and inexpensive to get hold of too.
Here are our top ten vans for carrying out a conversion:
Fiat Ducato: Around two thirds of motorhome conversions in Europe are Ducatos. It offers plenty of space – there’s easily enough room for an adult to stand in the 17 cubic metre load bay – and is comfortable and pleasant inside. It’s also good looking, well equipped with technology, reliable and good value, with strong diesel engines delivering up to 175bhp. Other popular conversions include flatbed and tipper variants.
Ford Transit: The Transit range is incredibly flexible, with a host of conversions available. Whether you need a dropside, tipper or Luton van, there’s an option available to meet your needs. And if you’re looking for something more specific, the brand accommodates all sorts of industries: you can find refrigerated vans, campers, welfare conversions and more on offer. What’s more, you’re guaranteed the same engaging drive and advanced technology as the regular variants.
Volkswagen Transporter: Practical, spacious and versatile, the Transporter is popular as a camper conversion, but businesses can specify it as a tipper, dropside or Luton too. More recent used iterations come with a DAB+ radio CD player with Bluetooth, MP3 and USB connectivity as standard. It's also well equipped with safety features – since 2017 all Volkswagen vans have had autonomous emergency braking as standard.
Renault Master: With its huge capacity and hardworking attitude, the Renault Master offers a strong selection of conversion options. Off the shelf and bespoke conversions are available from new, meaning there’s lots of choice when you start looking, and standard variants include the chassis cab, crew cab and platform cab. It’s smaller sibling, the Trafic, is also a practical choice for those looking to convert a Renault into a camper van.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: The Sprinter comes in a variety of lengths and heights, and its huge load bay – up to 15.5 cubic metres – offers great flexibility for conversions. Its reputation for reliability and quality is also excellent. Not surprisingly, it's been popular since its launch two decades ago, and a 2018 revamp means better deals on anything from before that date.
Ford Transit Connect: Smaller than the Custom, the Connect is hard to beat if you need a van that's easy to manage on the road. Derived from the Ford Focus, with which it shares some components, it is full of technology designed to make driving easier, and its comfortable cabin is a pleasure to be in.
Vauxhall Vivaro: Another of the best vans for camper conversions, and based on the same design as the Trafic, the mid-size Vivaro is a pleasure to spend a lot of time in thanks to comfortable seats, a smooth ride, and a DAB radio with Bluetooth and USB connectivity. If you're feeling patriotic, it's also the only van still built in Britain.
Citroen Berlingo: The Berlingo was the UK's ninth bestselling van last year, thanks to its spacious cabin, generous technology and safety equipment, quirky looks and low running costs. It's quiet, comfortable and enjoyable on the road, and has won numerous awards. Its 2018 revamp will keep down the price of models from before that date.
Vauxhall Combo: Now in its fifth generation, Vauxhall's second-smallest van is practical and generously equipped, with plenty of safety features. It's smooth and fun on the road, with strong, frugal engines and a comfortable ride, and is another one to have on your list if you're looking for something very car-like and usable.
Nissan NV400: Space and versatility are first class in the NV400, thanks to a 15.8 cubic metre loading bay that's 4.4 metres long. Safety and security features are generous, as is other standard equipment, which includes a radio with MP3, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. The 2.3 litre engine delivers up to 168bhp.
At van traders Vanwise Group, we have a wide selection of great quality used vans – including many of the above models – just waiting for you to take them on a road trip. To discuss your van conversion needs or test drive a model among our stock, call our Maidstone dealership on 01622 233151, or our Harlow dealership on 01279 216163.