Choosing a Vanlife Vehicle: Pros and Cons of What’s Available

“I mean, I wanted a VW campervan,” Andrew huffs, reminding me a little too often that this was his choice in regards to vanlife vehicles. He’s right, too — He did. Of course I adore those classic Volkswagen campers as well . . . It’s just that a VW lifestyle was not one I could foresee comfortably living.

Because of that difference in opinion though, Andy and I spent a massive amount of time talking . . . and brainstorming . . . and debating over the type of vehicle we should get before venturing into vanlife. Overall, we wanted to share our thought process, which lead us to purchasing our 1965 Clark Cortez. And if you were considering vanlife too — Well, hopefully, this can save you hassle as well.


First, analyze vehicles!

Many, many times we listed all vehicles we were considering then plotted the pros and cons of each.
(We ruled out several vanlife options — such as SUVs, trailers, more.)
In total, we chose to consider only six vehicles
so our positives and negatives are based off of our desires.

↠ Volkswagen Camper ↞

Pros

  • Classic look
  • Lots of character
  • Needs to be restored and modernized
  • Customizable
  • Vehicle is easy to navigate
  • Parts are easy to find
  • Vehicle is easiest to work on
  • Restoration is cheapest
  • Fuel is cheapest
  • Insurance is cheap
  • Connect with VW enthusiasts at gatherings
  • Easier to tow for recovery
  • Great resell value

Cons

  • Minimal to no standing room
  • No toilet or shower
  • No room for permanent full-sized bed
  • Limited room for fridge and oven
  • Smallest living space
  • Limited water capacity
  • No storage
  • No modern safety features
  • Older so not as fuel efficient

 


↠ Vintage Motorhome ↞

Pros

  • Most character
  • Rare and limited vehicle
  • Part of American history
  • Needs to be restored and modernized
  • Customizable
  • Insurance is cheap

Cons

  • Rare parts are hard to find
  • Older so not as fuel efficient
  • Lowest ground clearance
  • No modern safety features
  • Restoration is most costly
  • Needs a large flatbed tow truck for recovery

 


↠ Skoolie ↞

Pros

  • Customizable
  • Reliable
  • Highest ground clearance
  • Vehicle is easy to find
  • Parts are easy to find
  • Available in various wheel-base lengths

Cons

  • Needs customization to have passenger seat next to driver seat
  • More windows and odd door mean not as secure
  • More windows means cooling and heating is released
  • Vehicle is harder to navigate
  • Restoration is not needed
  • May have high mileage from purchase
  • Limited safety features
  • Depending on size, needs a large flatbed tow truck for recovery

 


↠ Van Conversion ↞

(Sprinter, Transit, etc.)

Pros

  • Most customizable
  • Vehicle is easy to navigate
  • Secure
  • Available in various wheel-base lengths
  • Parts are cheaper
  • Parts are easy to find
  • Reliable
  • Best stealth-camping option
  • Manufacturer warranty
  • Modern safety features
  • Easier to tow for recovery

 

Cons

  • Restoration is not needed
  • Lacks character
  • More expensive upfront
  • Can purchase new
  • Reduced headroom, unless hightop

 


↠ Class C Motorhome ↞

(Mid-sized motorhome)

Pros

  • Most secure
  • Luxurious
  • Available in various wheel-base lengths
  • Reliable
  • Parts are easy to find
  • Modern safety features
  • Manufacturer warranty

Cons

  • Lacks character
  • Expensive upfront
  • Restoration is not needed
  • Vehicle is harder to navigate
  • Depending on wheel-base, restricted access on roads and in parks
  • Generic layouts
  • Can purchase new
  • Not inconspicuous
  • No stealth-camping option
  • Needs a large flatbed tow truck for recovery

 


↠ Class A Motorhome ↞

(Largest-sized motorhome)

Pros

  • Largest living space
  • Most standing room
  • Most secure
  • Luxurious
  • Most storage
  • Reliable
  • Modern safety features
  • Parts can be ordered
  • Available in various wheel-base lengths
  • Manufacturer warranty

Cons

  • Restricted access on roads and in parks
  • Most expensive upfront
  • Lacks character
  • Restoration is not needed
  • Most expensive to maintain
  • Generic layouts
  • Vehicle is hardest to navigate
  • Not inconspicuous
  • Fuel is most expensive
  • Vehicle is most difficult to work on
  • No stealth-camping option
  • Can purchase new
  • Needs specialty tow truck for recovery

 


Then, determine your priorities!

Our top five priorities:
A vehicle we could restore.
A vehicle with character.
A vehicle we could stand in.
A vehicle with space for a bed, fridge, stove, shower, and toilet.
A vehicle we felt comfortable navigating.


Finally, pick your vehicle!

With pros and cons weighted and our priorities known, we ranked each vehicle against the other.
1 is the lowest and 5 is the highest.

For us, ‘Vintage Motorhome’ took the lead!
From here, we were ready to find our old vehicle . . .

Author: Soul of a Seeker

We are one American girl and one English bloke who seek an escape in nature. We chase a different life, one not dictated by society. With our pup-kit-cat and rare 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome, we have one soul of a seeker.

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