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Words of Wisdom: “The best van is the one that is best for you.”

Overview of Vehicle Options

After determining that you might want or need to live in a vehicle, one of your first major considerations is “what kind of van should I get?” Sometimes the answer isn't a van at all, but some other platform that meets your needs better, or something you already have available.

This page is a starting point for finding the right vehicle for you.

Video overviews

Additional videos can be found on the pages for each vehicle type in the Vehicles section.

Vehicle Attributes

Knowing what features you need can help guide your vehicle selection.

  • Ceiling height is the interior height of the living space. A vehicle you can stand in is significantly more comfortable to live in. Keep in mind that insulation and other surfaces reduce overall height.
    • HIGH - Motorhomes, box trucks, step vans, some buses
    • MODERATE - Trailers, raised-roof vans, some buses
    • LOW - Standard-roof vans, pickup trucks with slide-in camper
    • VERY LOW - Cars, minivans, SUVS, pickup trucks with topper
  • Clearance is the overall height of the vehicle. Tall vehicles are more likely to hit low overhangs, trees, etc., and may be prohibited on certain roads. Remember to add the height of anything mounted on the roof.
    • HIGH - Box trucks, buses, motorhomes, step vans, 5th wheel trailers
    • MODERATE - Most trailers, raised-roof vans, pickup trucks with slide-in camper
    • LOW - Cars, minivans, SUVs, standard-roof vans, pickup trucks with topper
  • Conversion difficulty refers to the amount of work required to converting a vehicle from its original purpose to a residential vehicle. Straight walls are generally easier to work with when adding insulation, cabinetry, windows, etc.
    • NO CONVERSION - Motorhomes, travel trailers, pickup truck campers
    • EASY - Box trucks, step vans, cargo trailers
    • MODERATE - Cargo vans, pickup trucks with toppers
    • HARD - Buses, passenger vans, cars, minivans, SUVs
  • Fuel efficiency is the miles per gallon (MPG) or kilometers per liter (km/l) or liters per 100 km (l/100km) that your vehicle uses. In general, a heavier vehicle will have worse fuel efficiency than a lighter vehicle, and a high profile (tall/flat fronted) vehicle will have worse fuel efficiency than a low profile (short/sloped) vehicle. Driving very fast or very slow will significantly reduce fuel efficiency. Most vehicles are optimized for moderate highway speeds, but some (like step vans) are geared for city driving.
  • HIGH - Cars, minivans
  • MODERATE - Pickup trucks, SUVs, vans, Class B motorhomes
  • LOW - Class C motorhomes, vehicles with trailers
  • VERY LOW - Class A motorhomes, box trucks, step vans
  • Living space is the amount of livable area (in square or cubic measurements) after conversion. Since vehicle width is limited by law and practicality, length is the biggest factor in the amount of space available, followed by ceiling height.
    • LARGE - Class A motorhomes, most buses, box trucks, step vans
    • MODERATE - Class B and C motorhomes, raised-roof vans, trailers
    • LOW - Standard-roof vans, pickup trucks with slide-in camper
    • VERY LOW - Cars, minivans, SUVs, pickups with topper
  • Parking is generally more difficult to find the larger your vehicle is.
    • EASY - Cars, minivans, SUVs, pickup trucks
    • MODERATE - Cargo vans, passenger vans, Class B and C motorhomes
    • HARD - Box trucks, step vans, Class A motorhomes, trailers
  • Passthrough refers to the ability to reach the cargo or living area of the vehicle from the driving area.
    • YES - Most vans, buses, motorhomes
    • MAYBE - Trucks
    • NO - Trailers
  • Solar mounting refers to the ease of adding sufficient solar panels to the roof of your vehicle. Large, flat roofs are easiest.
    • EASY - Box trucks, step vans, motorhomes, trailers
    • MODERATE - Buses, cargo vans, passenger vans, pickup trucks
    • HARD - Cars, minivans, SUVs
  • Stealth is the ability to pass for an unoccupied, non-residential vehicle when needed. Windows reduce stealth significantly, while solar panels, vents, air conditioners, do so to a lesser degree.
    • YES (if unmodified or built to be stealthy) - Box trucks, step vans, cargo vans, cargo trailers
    • MAYBE - Passenger vans, buses, minivans, cars, SUVs, pickup trucks with toppers
    • NO - Motorhomes, travel trailers, pickup trucks with slide-in campers
  • Undermount space is the amount of space under the vehicle which can be used for storage, water/sewage tanks, and other uses.
    • LARGE - Class A motorhomes, box trucks, some buses
    • MODERATE - Step vans, some buses, Class C motorhomes
    • SMALL to NONE - Cars, minivans, trailers, and most SUVs, pickup trucks, and Class B motorhomes


Visit the pages for each vehicle type for additional information and resources.


Vans are the most common choice for those who want to build their own mobile living quarters. For most people, they are a good balance of pros and cons. Professionally converted vans are also available.

See also Van Comparisons and Model-specific weak points.

Common van models:

A Cargo van is the most common “van dwelling” choice.

  • Pro: ease of modification, stealth, mounting solar, passthrough
  • Con: aesthetics, living space, used work vans can be beat up

A Passenger van or conversion van is upfitted with A/V equipment, decor, and a raised roof.

  • Pro: stealth, raised roof, already own?, passthrough
  • Con: ease of modification, living space, mounting solar, disposing of seats

Commercial Trucks

Trucks offer significantly more room than vans, and are generally built on a heavy-duty chassis that will last much longer. However, they use more fuel, usually cost more to purchase and repair, and may be less comfortable to drive.

Skoolies and other buses offer lots of space and windows. Buses are often cheap to buy but may be expensive to convert and operate.

  • Pro: living space, easy to find
  • Con: MPG, parking, parts, insurance, serviceability, disposing of seats

Box trucks provide a large cubic space for an easy build.

  • Pro: Large living space, square shape easy to modify, easy solar mounting, passthrough (on some vehicles), space under truck to hang things
  • Con: Low MPG, insurance may be difficult to obtain, may be difficult to find repair shops, GWVR may require stopping at weigh stations in some jurisdictions, floor is above rear wheel (no wheel wells) so more difficulty getting in and out

Step vans provide a large cubic space for an easy build, with easier access than other trucks.

  • Pro: flat surfaces for easy build and solar mount, large living area, entrance steps and low floor height for easy ingress and egress, nondescript for stealth camping, easy engine access
  • Con: commercial vehicles often see very hard use, not ideal for regular highway driving (geared for local deliveries), may be difficult to find parking due to size, frequently have high miles, road noise

Ambulances can be a good compromise between a van and truck in terms of size and building platform.

  • Pro: coolness, built-in storage and electrical systems
  • Con: potential biohazards, may have excessive idling hours, leaks around specialty lighting, insurance


Motorhomes are purpose-built for recreation and living, but are expensive and often have low build quality. They are generally grouped into three classes:

The Class A motorhome is a large, expensive RV that looks like a tour bus.

  • Pro: large comfortable living space, slide-outs for additional space, many built-in features and amenities, professionally designed and installed systems
  • Con: parking, expensive, build quality sometimes lacking, very tall overall height, high fuel usage

rv-camping.org_wp-content_uploads_2015_05_classb.jpg The Class B motorhome is a mini RV built into a passenger van chassis.

  • Pro: build quality, built-in amenities, passthrough, relatively good MPG
  • Con: parking, expensive

www.rvezy.com_sites_default_files_styles_rv_photo_slider_public_rv-photos_not_20yet_20assigned_class_c_side.jpg The Class C motorhome is a Cutaway vans with large living spaces and overcab sleeping areas

  • Pro: living space, built-in amenities, relatively inexpensive, passthrough
  • Con: parking, low overhangs, build quality, very low MPG



The Travel trailer is the most common kind of RV in the US. Examples include bumper hitch trailers, 5th wheel trailers, teardrops, canned hams, fiberglass eggs.

  • Pro: space, built-in amenities
  • Con: build quality, passthrough, mounting solar


A Cargo trailer is a boxy trailer that can be converted to a living space.

  • Pro: space, ease of modification, mounting solar
  • Con: passthrough

Smaller vehicles

A minivan or SUV is a step above living in your car, but gives enough space for sleeping comfortably if the seats are folded down or removed.

  • Pro: stealth, insurance, already own?, passthrough
  • Con: living space

Common van models:


  • Pro: stealth (with sufficiently tinted windows), MPG, insurance, already own?
  • Con: low living space, limited solar options

i.redd.it_oapc7pm4ro671.jpg Pickup trucks

  • Pro: 4wd can go anywhere, ground clearance, built for towing
  • Con: handling, low overhangs, passthrough, mounting solar, expensive

Making Your Purchase

After you've decided what kind of vehicle is right for your needs, what next?

rv/intro.txt · Last modified: 2023/06/25 16:53 by mahkato