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What van should I get to build a camper van?

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Any recommendations for a van to build a camper van? I want to go as small as would be comfortable to fit a bed, sink and cooking facility, and still stand up inside (so, 1.6m inside). I’m thinking about reliability, comfort of driving, fuel economy and ability to traverse a few dirt roads here and there. AWD would be a bonus.

Mitsubishi’s L300 Express was available as a four-wheel-drive model way back in the 1980s (83 to 86) and was a very popular van to convert for camping thanks to that all-wheel-drive grip that allowed it to tackle rough roads with little problem. After 1986, a few of the later model Express 4WD vans (often badged Delica) made it into Australia as private imports, and there are a few of them around now to choose from.

The requirement to be able to stand up inside the vehicle will limit your choices a little, but popular vans like the Toyota HiAce, Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Vito were available in a high-roof configuration. Even though they lacked all-wheel-drive, generally rugged construction means they should cope with dirt roads pretty well. They just won’t have the grip for off-road work.

As with any second-hand commercial vehicle, try to find out what it did in its previous life. A van that has been used for hard labour might well be worn out. And don’t forget, nobody bought these things new for anything other than a working life.

If, on the other hand, you’re shipping for a brand-new van, there are plenty of options from Ford, Mercedes, Peugeot, Fiat, Toyota and more. The vast majority of them use a turbo-diesel engine so will be quite economical and many also offer an automatic transmission for ease of driving. Choose the one that suits your intended layout best in terms of side and rear doors and the ability to climb from the front seat into the van area without leaving the vehicle (some have cargo barriers that will prevent this).

Disclaimer: You acknowledge and agree that all answers are provided as a general guide only and should not be relied upon as bespoke advice. Carsguide is not liable for the accuracy of any information provided in the answers.


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