small campervans

With sunny Summer days on the horizon, many families are looking forward to hitting the road for holiday to enjoy the beauty and adventure only nature can provide. Campervans and other recreational vehicles are a versatile option for road trips and tourists looking to camp and explore.

Campervans come in a variety of makes, models, and designs. From large luxury motorhomes to tiny micro campervans, there is sure to be a campervan to fit your budget and lifestyle. Campervans can also be a fun and ambitious do it yourself project! 

Types of Campervans

Campervans come in lots of different models that are meant to suit a variety of users. Most campervans can be classified into three categories: Pop-Top, High Top, and Classic.  

Pop-Top

Pop-Tops are the most commonly owned campervan model and have a characteristic rising roof, or “pop-top.” Commonly made of canvas or other durable fabric, the roof expansion increases head room and facilitates air flow.

Pop-Tops are a versatile recreation vehicle; their small size is great for beginners as these usually drive very similarly to a standard car, allowing for easy parking in small or tight spaces, navigation on country roads, and fuel economy.

However, the retractable roof may not be the most efficient choice, especially when heating the camper.

High-Top

High-top camper vans are an upgrade from the pop-top, as they usually have more headspace and storage options. A wide variety of layouts are possible with high-top campervans, as they are longer in length at the wheelbase.

This often allows for the inclusion of special amenities, such as a washroom, dinette, and lounging space.

Classic

Classic campervans are iconic in retro style and often in high demand. They are generally provide comfortable acccomodation for two people.

Classic campervans are better for short getaways. One drawback is that these classic models can be expensive and may require special maintenance and care. Some well-known examples of Classic campervans include the Volkswagen Type 2.

Many of these campervans are prized collector items, furthing increasing their market cost.

small campervans

What is the difference between campervans, caravans, and motorhomes?

Campervans, caravans, and motorhomes have key differences and are categorised by class: Class A, B, or C. Motorhomes and caravans are Class A and C, while campervans are Class B. 

Class B Campervans

Categorised in Class B, campervans are built on van frame and base. They are easy to drive and make an ideal choice for beginners. In fact, Class B camper

The compact size provides flexibility in manoeuvrability, making it easier to park in small or tight campsites, or even to travel off-road to more remote areas.

Class B represents the smallest recreation vehicles like campervans and usually measure no longer than 25 feet in length.

This means living space and amenities like a toilet or extra seating is very limited in Class B campervans. These vehicles are the most fuel efficient, easy to repair and maintain, and usually have lower start-up costs. It is common for do-it-yourself enthusiasts to try a campervan conversion or remodel. 

Of the three classes, Class B are the most budget conscious, and can often be bought used. 

Class C Caravans and Small Motorhomes

Class C includes both motorhomes and caravans, but do not include campervans. Unlike large, luxurious motorhomes, caravans in Class C are more compact, while still offering more comfort than a campervan.

This compact size can make driving much easier than with a Class A motorhome. Because of this increased size of 20-33 feet in length, caravans are built on a truck frame, rather than a van.

Caravans can make an ideal choice for long term trips that have more than two travellers.

Caravans often come standard with storage, refrigerators, heating and cooling systems, toilets, and even showers. Caravans in class C can usually comfortably accommodate four adults.

These recreation vehicles offer a variety of layouts and affordable price points without compromising comfort.

However, these vehicles can be less fuel efficient than campervans, and may require more extensive maintenance and repair.

Class A Motorhomes

Class A contains motorhomes, the largest option when it comes to camping vehicles. In the UK, motorhomes are typically 25 feet in length, but can be as long as 40 feet.

Class A motorhomes offer a luxury road trip experience, with plenty of living space, bathrooms, and storage space. Motorhomes can usually hold between six and eight people, making them ideal for large groups and families.

Motorhomes are built for maximum comfort, which is perfect for trips to RV parks and large campgrounds. 

Class A motorhomes have some drawbacks. They have the lowest fuel efficiency of any recreation vehicle class, and can be expensive, especially when bought new from a manufacturer.

A motorhome can be very challenging to drive and park due to its massive size; parking especially can be limited for motorhomes that do not fit in traditional parking spots.

The weight of a motorhome can make it subject to increased tolls, ferries, and/or camping fees. Accessibility to off-trail or rural areas is all but impossible in a motorhome, so a smaller vehicle may be necessary for exploration.

Many motorhomes have a trailer hitch system to allow a smaller vehicle to be towed behind.

Motorhome weight limits

Considerations when purchasing a campervan

Purchasing a campervan requires preparation, research, and a keen understanding of your unique needs and travel plans.

Some shoppers will prioritize budget, while others may consider comfort the most important factor, Regardless of personal criteria for the best campervan, it is vital to consider what travel plans you envision for your campervan before all other considerations.

Other considerations for purchasing a campervan include size, budget, engine and fuel type, maintenance costs, and vehicle condition.

Size

Campervans come in a variety of sizes, layouts and designs. Most campervans can be categorised into five distinct sizes: Micro/Mini, Small, Medium, Large, and Box-Van

Micro

A micro or mini sized campervan is derived from a car.  Measuring no more than 230 cm in length, they usually have a volume load of no more than four cubic meters.

These campervans are usually conversions rather than custom builds. Since these campervans are typically the same size as most non-commercial vehicles (usually no higher in heigh than 170 cm and no wider than 130 cm), the average adult will not have the clearance to fully stand inside.

Pop-Tops can be easily installed in most micro campervans to increase headroom or ventilation.

Micro campervans can usually sleep one adult, and do not require special permits or licenses to drive. They drive exactly like cars and usually have excellent fuel efficiency.

Since micro campervans are the same size as regular cars, they are easy to park and will fit in parking decks, garages, and on-street parking spaces.

The small size may have monetary benefits as well, often qualifying for reduced campsite fees and ferry costs.

There are drawbacks to using a micro campervan and most all of them have to do with the small size. Extra-small campervans means low storage capacity, cramped sleeping quarters, and definitely no shower or toliet amenities.

Micro campervans are best for minimalist travelers who only want to haul the essentials.

Small

Small campervans are slightly larger than micro campervans, but have many of the same benefits, such as good fuel economy, and easy to drive and park.

Small campervans usually have a load volume between four to seven cubic meters. At an average length of 260 cm or less and a width of at least 160 cm, most small campervans are comfortable enough for two travelers, if a little cramped.

The maximum height of 180 cm make headspace an issue, especially for taller individuals. Just like with micro sized campervans, it is extremely unlikely that a small campervan layout will allow for a shower or toilet.

However, the small size and low gross vehicle weight make it eligible for average campsites and standard ferry costs. 

Medium

A medium campervan is yet another upgrade in size. Medium-sized campervans are categorised as having a load volume between 7 to 12 cubic meters.

Medium campervans are more readily available on the commercial market, with many professionally built options. The base vehicle that a medium campervan uses in construction is similar to that used by emergency services, and large delivery vehicles.

Medium sized campervans usually measure up to 350 cms in length, 190 cm in width, and 215 cm in height. While this may not seem like that much more than smaller models, most medium campervans allow for a toilet or shower unit.

Medium campervans are usually low-cost to convert and generally have average fuel economy. They allow for average access to off-trail sites and are usually still eligible for standard ferry fees and highway tolls.

With a height of up to 215 cm, most adults will be able to stand inside, but taller folks may still feel cramped. Medium campervans can be challenging to drive and park for inexperienced drivers. Medium campervans may also require larger than average sized parking.

Generally, a medium campervan will comfortable accomodate two adults, possible a child or pet as well.

Large

Large campervans are defined as have 17 cubic meters of interior space. They have plenty of space for hauling families and all their outdoor gear.

Large campervans also have a thriving secondhand market. The base of large campervans are usually based on large commercial trucks used for moving companies or furniture delivery.

With an average height of 225 cm, most adults, even taller individuals, can comfortably stand inside the campervan.

Large campervans come with lots of storage and seating options, with average length of 470 cm and width of 180 cm.

Large campervans usually have space for more sleeping space, as well as larger bathrooms and kitchen setups, and typically sleep up to four adults comfortably, with additional space for children or pets.

Larger campervans usually have average fuel economy, but typically have more expensive repair and maintenance costs.

These large vehicles can also be difficult to drive and park, especially in areas with narrow roads. Large campervans typically do not fit in garages or in average sized campsites.

Box-Van

Box style campervans are the largest type of campervans. They have the average length of 440 cm and width of 230 cm, making it possible to have a wide variety of layouts that include sleeping space for at least four adults.

Height measurements of Box-Van campers usually top out at 240 cm, making it very easy to tall adults to stand comfortably with plenty of headroom.

Cost and Budget

Cost and budget for purchasing a campervan may be the driving factor for most people in the market for a campervan. New campervans are generally more expensive than used.

Smaller models tend to have lower fuel costs, as well as a cheaper initial investment. Some people may even elect to rehabilitate an older model; this can result in significant cost savings and a campervan that is customized precisely to specific needs and tastes.

Additionally, campervans purchased new often have packages of added features that may be worth an extra expense.

Cost may also depend on what type of campervan that best suits your travel plans. Campervans are generally the smallest option, and the most budget friendly, but often lack bathroom and kitchen amenitites. DIY conversions or buying used can help reduce upfront costs. With that said, a self-build can cost from  £500 to £25,000.

New campervans that are professional outfitted can cost up to £40k. Size is also a big factor in price of a campervan. Generally, buyers can expect a price between £1,000 and £5,000 to convert a small campervan, whereas it costs between £2,000 and £10,000 to convert a large campervan, depending on how much work needs to be done.

Luxury motorhomes, on the other hand, usually represent a significant investment, with new models costing about £63,874 on average.  

Condition

New campervans are available from a variety of manfacturers. These campervans are pricey but are brand new and not likely to have any major repair needs for many years with typical use. However, there is also a thriving market for used and remodeled campervans of all types.

If buying a previously loved campervan, the condition of the vehicle should be closely inspected, ideally by an automative professional. Sellers should be willing to disclose details about the vehicle, as well as provide all appropriate paperwork.

Travel Plans

When considering what type of campervan or other recreation vehicle to purchase, travel plans for the campervan are crucial to making the best purchase. For example, large scale motorhomes are often unwieldy and can limit the types of campgrounds you are able to use during trips.

For adventures that take you off the beaten path, smaller campervans often handle rougher terrain better than larger models. Additionally, smaller campervans can fit in small spaces if needed.

However if the trip you have planned involves staying put for longer periods of time or lots of time on the road, a motorhome can provide much more comfort with all the amenities of home. In fact, there are plenty of people who live in motorhomes as their primary residence. 

Engine and Fuel Type

Like most vehicles, campervans are outfitted with many different engine and fuel options. Most common include diesel engines, petrol engines, or electric.

Diesel engines are better options for larger campervans as it has stronger torque and better accelaration for large loads. However, diesel is not always the most environmentally friendly choice, even if the fuel economy is generally pretty high for diesel engines.

Most modern campervans use petrol and some models may even offer hybrid or electric fuel options

Other common fuel types for use with campervans and motorhomes are propane and butane.These are often used primarily in campers for cooking and heating the campervan.

Propane is used by most caravan and motorhomes and is a versatile choice for most travelers. Butane is a better choice for mild weather and warm climates, and are primarily found in small and micro campervans.

Towing capacity

Campervans have limited space for storage. This can be especially difficult for tourists with a lot of gear or luggage.

If the campervan has a trailer hitch system, additional storage can be towed behind the camper to free up space. Towable storage is also useful in keeping the campervan within the appropriate payload allowance.

Motorhomes may also offer towing systems as many motorhome residents require a second, smaller vehicle to get around cities and residential areas. 

Best Small Campervans

Finding the best small size campervan for your travels can be daunting, especially considering space needs and budget. Here are a few of the most popular small campervans.

Ford Transit

The Ford Transit campervan production line has recently introduced the new Transit Custom Nugget. This campervan sleeps up to four people.

Ford Transits are some of the best base vehicles for campervan conversion and are the best-selling passenger van in the UK.

The Ford Transit Custom Nugget is easy to drive, making it versatile for a variety of travel. Maintenance and repair is generally cheap and easy due to the wide availability of replacement parts. The Ford Custom Nugget campervan’s engine is a 2.0 litre diesel outfit, with up to 183bhp and an automatic gear box.

In terms of layout, the Ford Transit presents a L-shaped kitchen at the rear of the van. Most Nuggets have a hinged pop-top roof above the kitchen area to increase standing room.

The kitchen comes standard with a sink, two gas burners for cooking and a 40 litre top-loading fridge. Sleeping and seating space are towards the front of the van.

The Nugget has two front seats that swivel to create a living space setup, and the rear seat bench provides seating for three, as well as folding down into a bed. Additional sleeping space is provided by a manually extendable roof-up, but may be too cramped for an adult’s sleeping space. Twin sliding doors allow for easy vehicle exit.

The Nugget also has a built in side awning to provide sun and rain protection that stores easily on the interior side of the boot door. Other great amenities that the Ford Nugget campervan provides include easy water supply system, an outdoor shower and a 400 watt adjustable heater.

Price: from £59,608

VW California

The California is one of the most popular campervans in the UK. Recently modernized and upgraded to offer four tiers of trim packages, Volkswagen’s California campervan series includes updated info-tainment dashboard, sleek, durable handles and hinges, and high quality finishes and design. VW California campervans usually sleep between two and four people.

The California series has a wide range of bases and there is a vehicle to fit most budgets. VW sells smaller vehicles, such as the Caddy California that sleeps two people and has a tent that can be attached to the rear of the campervan.

Bigger models, such as the Coast or Grand California fall on the more expensive end of the spectrum.

The simple and versatile layout of campervans in the VW California series generally have mounted furniture, a rear door with hinges to raise a portion of the roof to increase headspace and venitilation. 

Price: from £29,665 to £74,711 (depending on vehicle size)

Mercedez Benz Marco Polo

Often synonymous with luxury, the Mercedez Benz Marco Polo campervan offers a high class option that combines practicality and indulgence.

The Marco Polo offers a completely integrated kitchen space, with a sink, stove, fridge, cupboards and drawers to hold all the meal prep necessities.

A folding table provides the perfect place to gather round. Stow-aways and plenty of cabinets allow for easy storage not only for every day essentials but also outdoor equipment for all your camping adventures.

The Marco Polo has a maximum height of 2350 mm if the pop-top roof is extended, meaning most adults will be able to fully stand comfortably. With the pop-top closed, the Marco Polo campervan height is under two metres, and will easily fit in multiparks, garages, and car washes.

With its sleek profile, powerful diesel enging and nine speed autos, the Marco Polo is an agile vehicle that is easy to drive and steer. In terms of interior layout, the front seats have swiveling capability that help create a defined living space.

Rear chairs fold down flat to form a bed large enough to hold two adults. An pop-up roof can extend to create an additional sleeping space. The V-Class Marco Polo can usually accomodate up to four people and may not be as family friendly or good for large groups as other brands.

Price: from £54,660

Vauxhall

Vauxhall is new to the campervan market. The Vivaro Elite is based on Vauxhall’s Vivaro van and produced by noted camper converter, Wellhouse Leisure. 

The Vivaro Elite campervan is meant to sleep up to four people, however there is an extra charge to include an additional double sized bed.

It has an expanding rooftop to create extra head room. A rear bench slides back and forth to allow for more room for passengers or extra storage space. This bench is also the primary bed when it folds down. Both front seats (driver and passenger) swivel, and it is possible to add a fifth seat if desired.

The kitchen in the Vivaro Elite is in the metal section of the camper van and comes standard with a 25 litre compressor fridge, sink and a double burner gas stove.

One innovative feature is an included solar panel to feed and renew the campervan’s supply of electricity.  Power units of 12Vand 240V are found throughout the camper interior.

Additional features include a 2.2kw heater, on-board water tank, 17-inch wheels, front parking sensors, rear parking camera, semi-adaptive cruise control, and an industry leading navigation and entertainment system with satelittle navigation.

Price: from £49,000

Third-Party Conversion 

Buying a campervan from a dealership is not the best route for many consumers. Luckily, there is a both a thriving market for campervan conversions done by third parties.

All over the UK, companies whose who business revolves around campervans can be found to fit nearly every specialized need. Most third party conversions are not limited to the same base vehicle models that larger car manufacturers are. 

Third Party conversion allow for buyers to completely customize their campervan to their needs. This can include extra seats for a particularly large group, bigger sleepjng or kitchen spaces, or even something like increasing accessibility for wheelchair users.

Building a campervan from the ground up can even reduce costs in some cases by starting with used base vehicles.

DIY Conversion

 Converting a campervan can be a fun project for individuals with the right skill set. 

There are a lot of details to consider when undertaking a camper conversion yourself rather than rely on professionals. It is true that converting a van into camper yourself can drastically reduce the cost of acquiring a campervan.

The cost of a DIY campervan conversion can range from £ 500 to thousands, much of that depending on the cost to attain a base vehicle and how much work needs to be put into the project. 

Some base vehicle manufacturers can create certain features, like swivel seats or folding bed benches, that maximize space and layout of a campervan, but are difficult to recreate as a DIY project.

Other aspects of layout and design, such as storage, furniture design, finishes, and heating systems can be better customized with a do-it-yourself. DIY conversions or renovations can also be used on traditional vans, provided the space is adequate for the end user.

There are a ton of resources for those looking to undertake a campervan conversion project. Van build plans, camper specific insulation, heating systems and more are usually readily available to purchase.

Many campervan enthusiasts even add solar panels to generate electric power in a move that is kind to both the Earth and budgets!

Best Small Campervans
Love Campers. April 2021 Photo by Jamie Marshall www.lovecampers.co.uk Citroen Relay camper van conversion Low Resolution file (2400px on longest edge)

Budget Small Campervans

If your budget is tight, there are a few small campervans in the market that costs less that £5,000. Be aware that these budget friendly campervans may be especially tight on space and may lack the amenities of larger and more expensive models.

  • Peugeot Partner Tepee Micro Campervan: This micro campervan has a carrying capacity of five people and sleeping room for two adults. The rear camping section is removable so that the van can be taken on short errands if necessary. Features include twin gas-burning hobs, a table that transforms into a bed frame for a large bed. Storage is found throught the campervan. Heating and air conditioning units are also on board.
  • Toyota Hiace Lwb: Boasting an automatic transmission and turbo diesel engine. the Toyota Hiace sleeps at least three adults and is the perfect size for a short trip. A high roof ensures plenty of standing head room. Other features include solar, gas, and electric outlets and connections, fridge, a hob and grill, and a dining table. For travelers roadtripping into other countries in Europe, the Hiace comes with both European and UK standard electric hook-ups.  .
  • Fiat Frankia: The Frankia sleeps five adults and has plenty of living and sleeping space. This campervan comes standard with a backflush toilet and shower. The kitchen includes gas powered cooking appliances. 
  • Citroen Relay: Small and mighty, the Relay is packed with features such as two sofas that convert to either two single beds or one double sized bed. The kitchen area features plenty of cabinets and storage space, but the sink uses a foot pump and only supplies cold water. A toilet closet is also an added feature.

Recap

Travelers looking to get away to the great outdoors may turn to a campervan for comfortable camping and adventuring. When considering what campervan is best, there are many considerations to be made, such as size, budget, travel plans, and condition.

There are many types of campervans available on today’s market, ranging from micro vans to luxury motorhomes, with amenities that can give travellers more than just the essentials.

Some of the UK’s most popular campervans include camper mainstays such as the VW California series, while the Mercedez Benz Marco Polo gives a luxe edge to the great outdoors.

Ultimately, users that are priced out of the new campervan market will find a thriving seondhand market. Coupled with some construction know-how, many customers opt to build or renovate a campervan themselves. Whatever campervan you choose, it is sure to bring happy memories for many years to come.

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