I have a few different options when it comes to vans. I could go for the more traditional style van for cheap, or I could spend forty grand on a sprinter.
I’m going to go over the options in different sections, so please bare with me.
Traditional vans like a chevy G20, or an E-150 are no longer being manufactured. They’ve been replaced by more configurable models with more options.
If I want something dirt cheap and somewhat reliable, a Chevy G20 is a great option. The issue though is that if you need to work on the engine, well… You can see why that’d be a problem. The Ford Econoline is a better option for both reliability and maintenance, but they come at a higher cost. A Dodge RAM Van is also an option, but they’re not the most reliable. In terms of cost, the Ford is the most expensive, averaging around six grand for a ’95 year model, and the cheapest being the Chevy at around two thousand dollars. The Chevy is more affordable because there’s just so many of them. Yeah, there’s plenty of the Fords and Dodges, but there’s way more Chevys.
The “modern” van classification includes vans like the Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge ProMaster, Ford Transit, and Nissan NV. I have never seen a Nissan NV camper, and I can only imagine it’s do to Nissan’s issues with reliability. A van needs to be reliable if you’re going to make it your home after all.
The Mercedes is the most expensive by far, starting around forty grand MSRP for a brand new 2022 model. That’s ridiculous. Ford Transits are a much more sound option in terms of reliability and cost. Not sure about the Dodge. I’ve seen ProMaster campers, but Dodge’s reliability tends to be… dodgy. While yes, Mercedes as a company also has reliability issues, the Sprinter is an extremely popular choice for many people looking to build a modern camper van.
If I were to go with a modern van, I’d probably start with Ford, save the money, and eventually upgrade to the Mercedes.
Now onto my favorite classification: the Euro Van. Ultimately, I’ve already decided on which van I’m saving for: the Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia. That said, let’s go over the options. First of course, is the Vanagon. Cool, stylish, utilitarian in nature. The Vanagon is the most unreliable van you could buy. Yep, you heard me right. That picture above? That van broke down all the time. They ended up selling it, and got a trooper instead.
So, you’re probably asking, “David, why would you buy one then.” Well, my fine individual, I plan to save enough money to buy one that’s been basically rebuilt. If I buy one on TheSamba for, say, fifty grand, it’ll have had everything replaced. Engine, tranny, headlights, tail lights. You name it, it’s been replaced. I’d basically be buying a brand new van in an old body.
Here’s the thing, I love the Vanagon. The looks, the feels, everything about it is so… utilitarian. Everything has a function.
But I digress, this category also includes the Volkswagen Bus, but it’s basically an older Vanagon.
I could discuss one more category, Japanese Vans, but they’re basically Euro Vans, only actually reliable. The problem is, they’re just too small to live in.