So you're looking to hit the open road and start your grand adventure on the beautiful Australian roads?
Well, you're going to need the right van for starters…preferably, one that has been converted into an RV.
Sure, you could buy one that has already been converted for you (many companies do this), but you're going to have to shell out some serious change.
So unless you have a cool $60,000 - $100,000+ lying around, a great alternative is to take the DIY approach to van conversion.
With a pre-converted RV, you get to drive it out of the lot immediately, but you're going to end up paying for a lot of pre-installed features that you may not need nor want.
Although a self-build takes time, you can customize the interior and exterior to fit your style and have it set up for whatever activities or use suits best.
You are in control, but that doesn’t mean you have to build everything from scratch!
There are loads of affordable conversion kits and services that can speed up the van conversion process significantly for you.
So with some time and a little effort, you can convert that van into a dream tiny home on wheels with the help of vanlife community forums, facebook groups and Instagram accounts for endless ideas.
If you're doing a Sprinter van conversion or Crafter van conversion, informative blogs like Travel With Jaz are a fantastic resource of info.
You'll be guided through the whole build process with Jaz Morton and then follow along with his adventures afterwards.
If the mighty Iveco Daily is more of your bag Max_Bids is your guy. Hands down, Max has one of the best Youtube channels around which you can view here.
Max is currently working his way through the ultimate off-grid vanlife-to-be conversion and it's everything you need.
He does a brilliant job covering each part of the build process in-depth and it's simply a real pleasure to watch.
So whether you are new to vanlife, a seasoned Grey Nomad or simply looking to upgrade, you can't go wrong with a brand new or late model vehicle… and there are plenty of those out right now that scream, "Convert me!"
Well, you guessed it, we've gone through the trouble of selecting the top five just for you.
Sound good? Great, let's dive in!
1. Mercedes Sprinter
How much it costs: You can find a 2020 model starting from $48,109.00 (MWB)
Overall dimensions: 5932mm
Details: The Mercedes sprinter is the rockstar of van conversions. The latest model Sprinter was released in late 2018 and comes in MWB, LWB and XLWB variants with four-wheel drive - yeehaa finally!
Mercedes Sprinters are quite spacious, allowing you to get a little creative and stand comfortably (even if you are six feet tall).
This beautiful van is packed with a ton of safety tech, from parking and braking assist to downhill speed regulation and more.
Even though the latest model has not long hit the market, it already has products specifically designed for it that can save you countless hours in the conversion process.
Instead of building a shower from scratch, you could use a one-part fibreglass shower cubicle that is shaped to the contours of the vehicle and slides straight into place…
There is also a Sprinter-specific gas storage box that can fit one 4kg bottle, or if you’re planning to go off-grid for a while and need a reliable source of energy, the double gas storage box holds 2x4 kg bottles.
You can even perform a door conversion to replace that factory-made whiz-bang sliding door or install one of these deluxe basins for a more luxurious feel (no more brushing your teeth with the dirty dishes).
2. Toyota Hiace SLWB
How much it costs: You can find the latest model starting from $49,990.
Overall dimensions: 5915mm
Details: When it comes to reliability, Toyota makes perfect sense.
This is why a Toyota Hiace SLWB has become the van of choice for many van-lifers, and the new model only cements this further.
If you are looking for strong performance and easily available parts, this is a solid favourite.
Now with larger dimensions overall, it's now a much closer match to the MWB range Sprinters, Crafters, Transits and vehicles in that category.
Although they have kept it about 200mm more narrow overall, it allows it to maintain the compact van feel while picking up some length.
Wondering about standing headroom?
If only there was a Hitop available to provide an extra 250mm...
Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with four-wheel drive optioned (something many Toyota fans have been begging for).
However, this can easily be rectified with a conversion kit offered by Queensland company, Bus 4x4.
Bus 4x4 specialise in 4x4 conversions for Hiace vans and Coaster buses. You can view these impressive machines here.
And if you find that the standard roof is making it hard to stand up, you can bring it into our Brisbane workshop for a Hitop or pop top roof conversion.
A DIY door conversion kit can easily replace that sliding door so you don’t lose neighbours, as well as give yourself some added security from the security mesh screen.
This van is also spacious enough to fit in a shower/toilet cubicle (and then some), but you’ll have to join our waitlist while we are finishing the mould off.
However, there is a gas storage box available specifically for the Toyota Hiace SLWB for your off-grid energy needs, so you can get to installing this while you wait.
3. Toyota Hiace LWB
How much it costs: The latest model starts from $38,640.
Overall dimensions: 5265mm
Details: The Toyota Hiace LWB comes with the same advantages of the SLWB… except for the large space.
This is one of the biggest complaints that the van community had against the previous model - its box-like design and ultra-compact cabin was simply too small.
Despite that, it still remained one of Australia’s most popular mid-sized vans for conversion throughout its reign.
Well, Toyota has moved with the times and stretched things out a bit. And boy, what a difference it makes!
It's still a compact van, although, with a little creativity, you can get around the space limitations to fit in some cabinets, a bed with storage space underneath, a kitchen area, a wardrobe, fridge and more.
Like the SLWB Hiace, our gas box is made specifically for this van, which fit the van’s exact shape and look like Toyota made it themselves.
Bus4x4 does a four-wheel-drive conversion for this van too, and we’ve got you covered when a pop top conversion is required to add more vertical space for standing and walking around - your back will thank you for it!
4. Volkswagen Crafter
How much it costs: A new model will set you back starting from $49,290 (MWB)
Details: The latest Volkswagen was designed to give the Mercedes Sprinter a run for its money. They've paired away from sharing their same design for the Post 07 shape and Volkswagen even invested €2 billion to build a factory just for this van. Watch out Mercedes!
It has a host of similar features as the Sprinter, from the variants and generous space to the all-wheel-drive option and technological advancements.
Much like the Mercedes Sprinter, you can fit in a one-part fibreglass shower cubicle, add a deluxe basin combo, Thetford cassette toilet, a shower front panel and you’ve got yourself a complete DIY RV bathroom sorted.
We’re currently working on the Crafter gas box, but the universal gas storage box works a treat too.
So when it comes to choosing between this one and the Sprinter for your grey nomad & vanlife livin’, it is really just a matter of which Euro-made vehicle you prefer.
5. Ford Transit
How much it costs: A new Ford Transit starts at $50,490.
Overall dimensions: 5981mm
Details: This list wouldn’t be complete without talking about the Ford Transit. Why you ask?
We feel Ford has slightly reinvented themselves over the past few years and really worth a mention.
They invested a considerable amount of resources into better developing their Transits and since, they are building a reputation for being reliable and extremely durable (as long as you take care of it, of course).
The overseas model adds all-wheel drive capability to the line-up, although it’s unsure if that’ll make it to Australian shores at this stage.
For the latest model release here though, you’ll get forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking for added safety as standard, along with a huge list of other brilliant new features.
Ford Transit LWB vans are much the same size category as other MWB vans, they simply refer to them differently.
So LWB doesn't mean what you think. Their LWB is roughly the same size as the Sprinter, Crafter and SLWB Hiace.
The Transit is not the same as the Transit Custom though.
This is their mid-sized van which again, they provide in various sizes and equally make for a good base vehicle for a DIY campervan conversion.
Back to the Transit though, they do provide great flexibility if you're looking for something in the MWB size and these models are well suited for you to add some necessities and amenities.
If converted right, this van can be your true companion on the open roads of Australia.
But in saying that, all the vans above are winners in our eyes. There has never been as much competition amongst vehicle manufacturers and the result is nothing short of endless options to choose from.
Happy van hunting and be sure to reach out if you have any DIY RV conversion questions here