The Top 6 Van Chassis for Camper Van Conversion

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During our search for the perfect camper van, we learned that each van chassis has its pros and cons. No one platform is perfect. Whether you’re looking to build out your own camper van or buy a used or new camper van, it’s important to consider the van chassis used for the camper van conversion. Roof height, bed layout, off-road capability and fuel type are just some of the things to consider when looking for a van to suit your way of camping.

While this is not an exhaustive list, this post will cover the most widely used van chassis for camper van conversion and I will share my opinions. I’ve provided, what I feel are relevant specs to give you a good comparison between van chassis makes. Specs like GVWR, carrying capacity and towing capacity are not included because it can vary widely depending on the trim level, engine choice, duty rating and other variables.

Top Van Chassis for Camper Van Conversion

Van Chassis For Camper Van Conversion
Photo Credit: Storyteller Overland

1. Ford Transit – Highest Roof

  • Trim Levels
    • Cargo, Passenger Van XL and XLT
  • Lengths
    • 130” wheelbase, 220” long
      • Interior cargo length, 118” (from front seats in most rearward position to rear door)
    • 148” wheelbase long, 236” long
      • Interior cargo length, 129” (from front seats in most rearward position to rear door)
    • 148” wheelbase extended, 264” long 
      • Interior cargo length, 158” (from front seats in most rearward position to rear door)
      • Only available in high roof configuration
      • Available with optional dual rear wheels
  • Height
    • Low: Max height from floor to ceiling, 57” 
    • Medium: Max height from floor to ceiling, 72”
    • High: 81.5” 
  • Interior Width 69”
  • Engine Options
    • 3.7L V6
    • 3.5L Eco-Boost
    • 3.2L Inline 5 Diesel
  • Rear Wheel Drive*

*Note: 2020 model year will include all-wheel-drive as an option from the factory for vans with the gas engine. 

Ford Transit Pros:

  • Transit has the highest roof of any van, providing more head room and space to build.
  • We’ve heard great things about the 3.5L Eco-Boost engine from owners, telling us that they get around 20 mpg and that the van has quite a bit of power.
  • We’ve driven the Transit with the diesel engine and found power to be quite good, good fuel economy (16 mpg avg), the front seats comfortable and like the driver’s layout and ergonomics better than any other van.
  • For those who are more adventurous, you can convert the Transit to 4×4 by various companies. In 2020, certain Transit models will be available with all-wheel-drive.

Ford Transit Cons:

  • While the Transit has the highest roof, the extended version has the longest rear overhang. We’ve talked to owners who say that even in an empty van, they’ve scraped the back coming out of driveways.
  • Compared to an equivalent length van, the Transit has the least room between the front seats and rear door. The reason for this is the longer nose of the van.
  • If you convert the Transit to 4×4, the wheel wells are too small to fit larger tires without rubbing so you either need to stick with the stock tire size or cut/modify the wheel wells to accommodate slightly larger tires. 

Final Thoughts on Converting a Ford Transit Van:

With the combination of the highest roof, the Eco-Boost gas engine and ability to either convert to 4×4 or get AWD as an option, the Transit would be my top pick for a van build.

Ford Transit Camper Van Conversion Video

This is a fully converted van on the Ford Transit 148″ wheelbase long, high roof that has been converted to 4×4.

List of Camper Van Conversion Companies

Find a Transit camper van for rent

2. Ram ProMaster – Widest Body

  • Trim Levels
    • Cargo, Passenger Van
  • Lengths
    • 136” wheelbase, 213” long
      • Interior cargo length, 112” (from front seats in most rearward position to rear door)
    • 159” wheelbase, 236” long
      • Interior cargo length, 132” (from front seats in most rearward position to rear door)
    • 159” wheelbase extended, 251” long 
      • Interior cargo length, 146” (from front seats in most rearward position to rear door)
      • Only available in high roof configuration
  • Heights
    • Low: Max height from floor to ceiling, 64” 
    • High: Max height from floor to ceiling, 74” 
  • Interior Width 73” 
  • 3.76L V6 Gas (a diesel option is available in non-US models)
  • Front wheel drive

Ram ProMaster Pros:

  • ProMaster is the widest van available and the additional 4” allow people 6’ and under the ability to sleep side to side, which is only possible in the other vans with the use of aftermarket flares.
  • ProMaster has the lowest floor height due to the fact that it’s front wheel drive and doesn’t have to work around a drive shaft to the rear wheels.
  • During the almost two years we had one (159 wb extended), we found it easy to drive, comfortable and got an avg of 12-16 mpg depending on terrain.
  • We’ve heard many people who sit in a ProMaster on the lot find the front seats to be uncomfortable. We felt the same way until we spent some time adjusting them.
  • One of our favorite things about driving the van was it’s turning radius which was as good, if not better than standard cars we’ve driven.
  • Dealers who were able to work on the van were abundant and oil changes averaged $35-50. 

Ram ProMaster Cons:

  • To date, there is no way to convert a ProMaster to 4×4. The Fiat Ducato in Europe, which the ProMaster is based on, does come in a 4×4 version however there’s no indication this will become available in the US market. There are ways to raise the ProMaster, however larger tires would most likely not fit without modification.
  • We found that while the ProMaster would happily cruise at 80+ mph, the engine struggled on steep grades (our van weighed 9,000 lbs fully loaded). Due to the lack of power, I would not want to tow anything with the ProMaster when it’s fully loaded.
  • In most conditions, the front wheel drive was fine, however the few times we parked in wet grass or muddy conditions, the van struggled to extract itself. One reason for this is more weight is carried on the rear wheels so the front wheels would have a tendency to slip trying to pull the van out of something.
  • We did not like the on-board navigation system and chose to simply use our phones.
  • Finally, the ProMaster has a face that only a mother could love. 

Final Thoughts on Converting a Ram ProMaster Van:

We put around 33k miles on our ProMaster and really liked it. The extra width of the ProMaster really makes a difference inside and can provide more options for bed layouts. If 4×4 isn’t a requirement and you’re not planning on towing anything, the ProMaster is a great platform for a van build. 

Ram ProMaster Van Conversion Video

This is a fully converted van on the Ram Promaster 159″ wheelbase extended, high roof.

List of Camper Van Conversion Companies

Find a ProMaster Camper Van for Rent

3. Mercedes Sprinter – Factory 4×4

  • Trim Levels
    • Cargo, Crew, Passenger
  • Lengths
    • 144” wheelbase, 234” long
      • Interior cargo length, 128” (from front seats in most rearward position to rear door)
      • Available with dual rear wheels
    • 170” wheelbase, 274” long
      • Interior cargo length, 170” (from front seats in most rearward position to rear door)
      • Only available in high roof configuration
      • Available with dual rear wheels
    • 170” wheelbase extended, 290” long 
      • Interior cargo length, 180” (from front seats in most rearward position to rear door)
      • Only available in high roof configuration
      • Available with dual rear wheels
  • Heights
    • Low: Max height from floor to ceiling, 64” 
    • High: 75”
  • Interior Width 69” 
  • Two engine options
    • 4-Cyl Gas (new in 2020)
    • 6-Cyl Diesel
  • Rear wheel drive and four wheel drive

Mercedes Sprinter Pros:

  • Until the 2020 Transit is released, Sprinter has been leading the pack with the only van available from the factory with four wheel drive (the Chevy Express Van had AWD but that option was dropped in 2014). Shortages and long wait times are a testament to how popular 4×4 models have been.
  • Owners we’ve met have reported that the 6 cylinder diesel engine produces excellent power that is undeterred by steep grades and the drive is fantastic. We’ve test driven a few Sprinter based vans/RVs and have found that they drive well and power is more than adequate.
  • Owners report gas mileage to be in the high teens/low 20’s for the diesel engine.
  • Resale tends to be higher for the Mercedes. 

Mercedes Sprinter Cons:

  • With options, the Sprinter tends to be the most expensive van in upfront cost. While the argument has been made that they make up for this by the increased gas mileage, diesel tends to be more expensive, the diesel engine requires DEF fluid and is more expensive to maintain. After our first oil change in the ProMaster, we called a couple Mercedes dealerships and inquired how much an oil change would be. We were given quotes ranging from $350 – $1,000.
  • While Ford and Ram dealers are prolific throughout the US, there are fewer Mercedes dealerships (about 370 MBZ dealers compared to about 3,000 Ford and about 2,500 Fiat Chrysler dealers). One thing to note, not all dealerships are able/qualified to service vans (true for all brands), which further limits where you can take your Sprinter if/when there is an issue. Also, Freightliner service centers will work on the Sprinter.
  • Mercedes states that bio-diesel blends higher than 5% are not approved for use and any damage caused by using non-approved fuels will not be covered. B20 (20% blend) is common in the US and may cause issues with the Sprinter. Also, if you plan to take your van to different countries, due to the engine requiring ultra-low sulfur fuel, you’re limited to countries who have that fuel available.

Final Thoughts on Converting a Mercedes Sprinter Van:

While we really like the amount of cargo space in the standard 170, the sticker price, maintenance costs and diesel fuel limitations would deter us from purchasing one. That said, with the gas engine as a future option, that opinion may change. Despite the extra cost, the Mercedes badge carries a certain cache and the Sprinter has been a proven platform in the van world.

Mercedes Sprinter Van Conversion Video

This is a fully converted van on the Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 170” wheelbase extended, high roof.

List of Camper Van Conversion Companies

Find a Sprinter Camper Van for Rent

4. Nissan NV – Truck Design

  • Trim Levels
    • Cargo, Passenger
  • Length
    • 146” wheelbase, 240” long
      • Interior cargo length, 120”
  • Heights
    • Low: Max height from floor to ceiling, 56” 
    • High: 77”
  • Interior Width 70” 
  • Engine Options
    • 6-Cyl Gas (1500 and 2500 models)
    • 8-Cyl Gas (3500)
  • Rear wheel drive

Nissan NV Pros:

  • The NV is based on a proven platform used by the Nissan Armada and Titan. We’ve had a chance to use an 8-cylinder Armada and enjoyed driving it.
  • There are aftermarket options to convert the NV to 4×4 and room to add larger tires (some owners have reported that wider tires can affect the opening of the sliding door).
  • The high-roof NV also has the second highest ceiling in the group.

Nissan NV Cons:

  • Despite it’s 20’ overall length, it has the least amount of cargo space compared to the mid-length vans from other makes that are slightly shorter overall…and the shortest Transit only has 2” less cargo space than the NV despite the Ford being 20” shorter overall! This can be credited to the long nose on the NV which is designed more like a pick-up truck than a van.

Final Thoughts on Converting a Nissan NV Van:

Due to the lack of cargo size compared to the it’s length, we would only consider the NV if we were looking to build an overland vehicle where 4×4 and larger tires were a requirement. The truck platform of the NV lends itself well to this task.

List of Camper Van Conversion Companies

Find a Nissan NV Camper Van for Rent

5. Chevy Express / GMC Savana – Most Engine Options

  • Trim Levels
    • Cargo, Passenger
  • Lengths
    • 135” wheelbase, 224” long
      • Interior cargo length, 121”
    • 155” wheelbase extended, 244” long
      • Interior cargo length, 141”
  • Height
    • Low: Max height from floor to ceiling, Not Provided
  • Interior Width Not Provided
  • Engine Options
    • 4.3L V6 Gas
    • 6L V8
    • 6L V8, CNG/LP capable
    • 2.8L 4-cyl Diesel 
  • Rear wheel drive

Chevy Express Pros and Cons:

I’m mixing the pros and cons because the Express is a special case. 

  • The Chevy van is a relic when comparing it to the other cargo vans and while it may not have the bells and whistles of it’s counter parts, it’s only $5,000 less expensive than a similarly equipped Transit High Roof new. Once you add an after market high-top roof you’ve now spent as much or more than the Transit. So why would you consider one? Because you can pick them up in the used market for cheap.
  • They’ve been making the Express and it’s twin the Savana since 1995 (and other versions well before that) and they are plentiful, have plenty of after-market support, can be converted into 4×4 and are built on a truck chassis’.
  • We’ve had the opportunity to borrow a 2002 Savana with 210k miles on it and the V8 still pulls the van up steep grades like they aren’t there.
  • Many RVers chose these vans to tow their trailers as an alternative to pick-up trucks for good reason, they have up to a 10k pound tow rating.
  • Added bonus, they made an AWD version of the Express/Savana and limited examples can still be found. 

Final Thoughts on Converting a Chevy Express Van:

If we were looking for a budget van build, a used Chevy Express / GMC Savana would be the van we use. That is unless we got a Ford Econoline.

GMC Savana Van Conversion Video

This is a basic van build on the GMC Savana 135″ wheelbase, low roof. Learn more about our temporary camper build: Basic DIY Camper Van Build.

List of Camper Van Conversion Companies

Find a Chevy Camper Van for Rent

6. Ford Econoline (Discontinued) – Used Market

The Econoline was put into limited production when the Transit was introduced. Since 2017, only the cut-away version of the E-Series van is available. The specs for the E-Series van are very similar to the Chevy/GMC van. These things have been around since the 1961 model year and they’ve held a strong grasp of the full-size van market ever since making them even more plentiful than the Chevy. With a strong after market, parts availability and ability to convert to 4×4, the Econoline is another good choice for those looking for a solid van on a budget. 

Ford Econoline Van Conversion Video

This is a fully converted van on the Ford Econoline 350 cutaway that has been converted to 4×4.

List of Camper Van Conversion Companies

Find an Econoline camper van for rent

Final Thoughts on Choosing a Van Chassis

NOTE: The specs were compiled from various sources and may not match the current model year or the specs may have changed since publication. A good resource is Sportmobile’s website where they list the various vans and specs. In some cases, I was unable to find certain dimensions on the manufacturer’s website and sourced them elsewhere so assume all dimensions are approximate. Refer to the manufacturer’s website for the most current specs.

Pay attention to carrying capacity.

Options like different engines can affect how much carrying capacity is available. For example, a V6 Chevy van has 200 lbs more carrying capacity than a V8.

Service and Maintenance.

Mercedes only has 12% of the number of dealers in the U.S that Ford does. Consider the cost of maintenance and maintenance intervals when choosing a van chassis for your camper van conversion.

Diesel vs. Gas.

Modern diesel engines in the U.S. and most first world countries require ultra low sulfur diesel. If your adventures take you to Mexico, for example, you may have a hard time finding the right diesel and adding the higher sulfur variants will cause damage that voids your warranty.

Test drive before you buy.

Before you decided to buy a used or new van chassis for your camper van conversion, consider renting a camper van or two to see which van chassis is the right fit for you. You can find campers for rent build on most of the van chassis mentioned in this post.

Which van chassis would you choose for your camper van conversion?

Learn more about our GMC Passenger Van Build

Check out our List of Camper Van Conversion Companies

Find small camp trailers under 3500 lbs

Leave a Comment

21 thoughts on “The Top 6 Van Chassis for Camper Van Conversion”

  1. Have been enjoying your channel for a while…getting closer to retirement and looking to decide on the right adventure-type rig…really curious if you think the 2023 Transit would be up to the White Rim trail (Canyonlands area)….
    Dave & Sylvie
    near Friendship, Indiana

    • Hi Dave and Sylvie – we’ve never been on the White Rim trail so we can’t speak to whether a Transit would be able to make the journey. As with all off-road trails, conditions can change drastically season to season, year to year so even if it was passable it may not be at another time in the future. Best to call the park and speak to the Rangers. Also, there’s a good video by the NPS explaining the road and some of the challenges with “Sprinter type vans”:
      Personally, unless you plan to do trails like this all the time, I would suggest considering renting a Jeep in the Moab area for a few days to do the trip and leave the camper behind if it’s not up to the task.

  2. I want to convert a Sprinter Van…. I’m in the process of purchasing equipment, and I would gladly appreciate any input. 🙂

  3. Hello very good comparative article. I am Dave Daneault owner of 4x4setupMagazine. A Franco Canadian online magazine. I would like your permission to translate your article because we have a lot of questions on the subject. We would of course take care to put your name in the reference of the article and the link to your page if you agree of course.


  4. Great article Joe! As an Automotive technician, I just wanted to point it out that a brake job on a Ford Transit can be really expensive. They wear out fast and are hard to replace. Thank you for putting together all this info.

  5. Nice article.. my husband wants to do the interior build himself, any suggestion on where to find, for starters, the rear style shower for instanence in the Coachmen’s Beyond?

    • Hi Rosanne – you could try looking at RV parts suppliers and see what they sell. That specific shower may be made in house by Coachman and not available on the open market.

  6. The note about the Ford Transit having the highest roof is not what I’ve found in my research. Even in the H3 variant it has one of the lowest when compared to other vans, having just 2025mm of internal height available (source:

    The Fiat Ducato / Citroen Relay / Peugeot Boxer / Ram Promaster H3 variants have an internal height of 2172mm.

    The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2018+ H3 is the largest at 2243mm.

  7. Hey, Joe!
    Nice article; especially comparing all the all the interior measurements! I would like to point out a couple points regarding the Sprinter, having owned one since 2015.

    First of all, if you plan to use the Sprinter regularly, in my experience it is an extremely reliable vehicle. This is why it’s been a popular choice for fleet use worldwide. I make sure mine never sits for more than a couple weeks if we’re not traveling. It’s suitable for running errands, so I can always keep some fresh fuel in it.

    Second, the often quoted prices for oil changes are a bit out of line with reality. Yes it requires special oil, available at NAPA and Amazon, etc. NAPA runs it on sale about 4 times a year, currently $5.49/quart. Filters cost under $11 for the OEM. It is absolutely the easiest vehicle ever to do an oil change on! It can be done without even jacking it up. My cost today for an oil change is $87.75 plus tax. The change interval is 20K; I do mine every year regardless of mileage.

    With the purchase of a $25 tool on Amazon, fuel filters can be done easily by anyone with basic mechanic’s skills, for about $75. Again, I use only OEM filters.

    DEF is a non-issue. Top it off every 2,500-3,000 miles. It literally sips DEF compared to the US pickup trucks. I calculate 1,700-2,000 miles per gallon, but the consumption is so low that it’s a little hard to be accurate.

    The bio fuels are not the huge issue that some on the forums make them out to be. Mercedes has altered their previous statements and allow limited use of up to 20% bio, with the recommendation to use less than 5% bio whenever possible. If using the higher concentration, monitor engine oil level more often, and perhaps shorten oil change interval as the bio is more susceptible to being induced into the crankcase.

    I hope some of this information will be helpful to those making a decision on what van or class C chassis to purchase!

    • Thanks John. Unfortunately for people like us who live in these full time, we don’t have the room to keep things like oil pans to change our oil so the cost of maintenance at a dealer has to be accounted for. Also, we want to go south into Mexico and beyond and you can’t take any modern diesel there because they don’t have ULS diesel.

      • He gave good info because somebody might have space for an oil pan to do their own oil change. After all, van life is all about DIY where possible, right? There’s nothing miminalist about a diesel or gas engine but doing your own oil changes is minimalist. Each to their own I guess.

  8. One more comment… The height measurements here – are they all interior measurements? Do you happen to have exterior height measurements on the stock models? One of the factors that will limit my choice is that the van must fit into my garage, thanks to the rules of my HOA. I expect I will have to narrow down my search based on exterior dimensions and maybe add a pop-top to have full standing room inside the van while camping.

  9. I absolutely love the resources you guys compile and post—it’s so great to get straight information and not just opinions about this or that (although I find those posts informative too). I just have one wish—could you make these informational posts printable without the ads so I don’t waste a ream of paper printing out the information to study? I would love it if there was a link to a .pdf version at the end of each resource! The list of Class B manufacturers is fabulous, and the information on the various chassis… NEED .PDFs! 🙂

  10. Thanks for taking the time to write an outstanding and comprehensive review. Keep up the good work!

    I don’t understand why there aren’t more RV manufacturers building on the Transit platform, especially since it’s the number 1 best selling van in the US (and maybe the world).

    One small oversight: the Promaster is available in an extra short, 118″ wheelbase. It otherwise has the same width and height as the other Promaster variants. This may seem too small for RV conversions, but it has been done (the Westfalia Vanagons were small). The Sprinter badged under Dodge was also available in a 118″.

  11. This is the best cargo van comparo I’ve seen. Neutral and objective, other than the subjective note on aesthetics.

    Some more Pro items for the fullsize NV compared to other factory high roofs:
    — highest ground clearance, a little over 8″.
    — NV may be the strongest towing platform, too, with the V8 and ladder frame.
    — lowest purchase price and longest warranty.

    I picked a different platform but the NV is, IMO, too often overlooked by buyers.

    Folks buying a FWD van (more common in the minicargo arena) would well served to keep heavy items between the axles rather than behind the rear axle. It’s good practice in any case but especially so in the wet grass scenario you describe.

    As far as power, the base gasoline 6cyl engines in all of them are all in the same hp and torque. ballpark.

    Folks running the excellent Ecoboost or other direct injection engines may want to avoid idling, as that has been associated with carbon buildup on the intake valves and subsequent performance/driveability issues.


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