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Best Small Vans For Van Life (Conversions To Live In)

Best Small Vans For Life

Living in a van has become a popular lifestyle choice for those seeking adventure, simplicity and freedom on the road. What are the best small vans for van life?

Van life is all about explore new places without the constraints of traditional living and for that you just need a home on wheels.

While some choose to have bigger vans such as Sprinters to convert or RVs to live in, others prefer something smaller that allows for stealth camping or each parking.

With careful planning and a bit of creativity, a small van can be transformed into a cozy, functional home on wheels. It can be done!

We give our advice and experience of living in a small van, the potential layouts available, what you can squeeze into your van and some tips on maximizing space.

Is it Possible to Live in a Small Van?

Living in a minivan or small van is possible and can be quite rewarding. You just need to make sure you have the right size vehicle to cope with all of your van life essentials.

While a small van does come with challenges, such as limited space and the need for minimalism, the benefits often outweigh the drawbacks.

Within the small space, you need to ensure you have access to basic necessities like a sleeping area, cooking facilities, storage and possibly a small bathroom if size does allow.

Adjusting to a more minimalist lifestyle, prioritizing essential items, and finding creative solutions for everyday tasks is a must if a small van is your home.

Once you have mastered that, you are free to embrace the freedom to travel and live in diverse environments, from urban areas to remote nature spots.

Best 5 Small Vans for Van Life

1. Ford Transit Connect

The Ford Transit Connect is popular among van lifers for its compact size and affordability. It offers great fuel efficiency, making it a cost-effective option for long journeys.

The interior is versatile, with plenty of options for customization, including adding a bed, storage, and kitchenette.

However, it may feel cramped for those needing more space, and it can struggle with power when driving in hilly areas.

Pros:

  • Compact size, easy to maneuver and park
  • Good fuel efficiency
  • Versatile interior for customization
  • Reliable with a strong service network

Cons:

  • Limited interior space compared to larger vans
  • Less power on highways and inclines

2. Ram ProMaster City

The Ram ProMaster City is known for its roomy cargo space and efficient design, making it a great option for van life. The front-wheel-drive system offers better handling in adverse weather conditions.

It boasts a decent fuel economy and affordable maintenance costs, making it a practical choice. The downside is its limited ground clearance, which can be an issue on rough terrains.

Pros:

  • Spacious cargo area for its class
  • Front-wheel drive, better traction in bad weather
  • Good fuel economy
  • Affordable maintenance costs

Cons:

  • Not as stylish as some competitors
  • Limited ground clearance

3. Mercedes-Benz Metris

The Mercedes-Benz Metris stands out for its high build quality and a comfortable, powerful ride.

It’s equipped with advanced safety features and offers a higher payload capacity than many competitors.

While it’s more expensive upfront and in terms of maintenance, it provides a premium van life experience with its durability and performance.

Pros:

  • High-quality interior and build
  • Smooth ride and powerful engine
  • Good payload capacity
  • Advanced safety features

Cons:

  • Higher purchase price
  • Expensive maintenance and repairs

4. Nissan NV200

The Nissan NV200 is a budget-friendly option for van lifers, known for its excellent fuel efficiency and practicality.

It’s easy to maneuver in city environments and offers a straightforward design that’s easy to customize.

A negative is that it lacks interior space compared to other models and might not be the best for those planning extensive highway travel.

Pros:

  • Affordable initial cost
  • Excellent fuel efficiency
  • Easy to drive and park in urban areas
  • Simple, practical design

Cons:

  • Smaller interior space
  • Limited power for high-speed travel

5. Chevrolet City Express

The Chevrolet City Express is an economical choice with good cargo space and reliability. It excels in urban driving conditions due to its compact size and maneuverability.

The interior is basic but functional, which might be a drawback for those looking for more amenities. It also lacks the power needed for comfortable highway driving.

Pros:

  • Affordable and fuel-efficient
  • Compact size for urban driving
  • Good cargo space for its size
  • Reliable performance

Cons:

  • Basic interior and fewer amenities
  • Limited power and performance on highways

Layouts for Small Vans to Live In

Designing a layout for a small van conversion involves maximizing the limited space to include essential living areas.

There are many elements of a small van layout that you must include, while others could be deemed as luxury such as a shower.

A comfortable bed that can double as seating during the day is one of the best ways to maximise space. Many van dwellers use convertible beds or Murphy beds to save space.

A compact kitchen area with a small stove, sink, and storage for cooking supplies should also be incorporated.

Some opt for portable stoves and collapsible sinks to conserve space as they can also be used outside and offer more options when the weather slows for outdoor living.

Depending on the size of your van, built-in cabinets, overhead storage and multi-purpose furniture with storage should be high on your layout design list.

If it isn’t possible to add much storage into your design, use boxes stored in the van to keep belongings organized as you will need to avoid too much clutter.

Depending on the van’s size, you might have dedicated space to include a portable toilet or a small shower setup.

Many van lifers rely on public facilities and that works when it comes to showers, but our one piece of advice would be to find space for a portable or composting toilet…even if you have to bring it out every time needed.

How to Maximize Space in a Small Van

As mentioned, maximizing space in a small van requires strategic planning and clever design solutions when converting a van.

There are some excellent tips and tricks to make the most of your van’s interior and we love watching videos of how self-build van conversions have been designed.

They are great for future inspiration and you’ll think to yourself “why didn’t I think of that”!

One of the important points is to utilize vertical space for storage by installing shelves, hooks, and overhead compartments.

Choose furniture that serves multiple purposes, such as a bed that converts into a couch or a table that folds away when not in use.

Use storage bins and containers to keep items organized and easily accessible. You’ll ensure you are moving things around constantly.

Adopt a minimalist mindset by only keeping essential items and regularly decluttering to avoid overcrowding. You will be surprised at how little you need to live van life.

Opt for foldable or collapsible kitchenware with handles that remove or stackable pots and pans, roll clothing rather than fold, don’t carry unnecessary items and your layout will feel much bigger.