• Image Credit: Volkswagen

Camper fun on a budget

Camper vans, especially those with the classic Volkswagen Westfalia style pop-up top are really cool. They're more solid and comfortable than a tent, and more maneuverable and affordable than a full-on RV. They also project the image of being an adventurous soul.

But camper vans can get pricey, and there aren't many small- and midsize van choices in this country – vans like the Volkswagen pictured here aren't even available in America. But there are affordable options in small, convenient packages. We've rounded up a few here that range from bare bones to highly comprehensive, and there's probably one that you can work into your budget.

  • Image Credit: Recon Campers

Recon Campers Pop Top Nissan NV200

The Recon Campers Pop-Top and Seat vans are basic but also quite affordable. The Seat conversion costs $6,000, and includes a rear seat that folds into a full-size bed and a heavy-duty floor and insulation. For $1,500 more, you can get the Pop-Top that, you may have guessed, has a pop-up roof and a roof-mounted bed. These prices only include the conversion, and you'll have to provide a Nissan NV200. You can buy a new NV200 for $23,245, making the total cost of the Recon Campers Seat van $29,245, and the Pop-Top $30,745. If that's still a little steep, Recon Campers, like most of these conversion companies, will happily convert a used van that will be much cheaper.
  • Image Credit: Ursa Minor

Ursa Minor Ford Transit Connect

The Ursa Minor Ford Transit Connect is similarly basic compared with the Recon Campers Pop-Top. The conversion mainly consists of the expanding roof and roof-mounted bed. The Ursa Minor conversion also includes LED lighting in the interior. Starting price for the conversion is $6,500, and it's compatible with 2014 and newer Transit Connects with the long-wheelbase configuration and a standard-height roof without a panoramic sunroof. Both passenger and cargo models are compatible. The cheapest new Transit Connect starts at $28,140, so with the conversion, it will run you $34,640. As with Recon Campers, you can also buy a used Transit Connect for the conversion to save money.
  • Image Credit: Cascade Campers

Cascade Campers Ram Promaster City

While the Cascade Campers Ram Promaster City doesn't feature the coveted pop-top roof, it does bring along some extra features to make up for it. It has a sofa in the rear that folds out into a two-person bed, a built-in sink with five-gallon water tank, auxiliary battery, solar panel charger, four USB ports, two household electrical outlets, interior lighting, camping refrigerator, single-burner butane stove-top, curtains, ventilation fan and additional storage. All of this costs just $7,000 on top of the cost for a Ram Promaster City cargo van. The company doesn't work on the passenger wagon version. A new Promaster City cargo van starts at $25,890, so the complete package will be $32,890 unless you find a good used van to start with.
  • Image Credit: Wayfarer Vans

Wayfarer Vans Ram Promaster City

Wayfarer Vans' take on the Ram Promaster City camper also lacks a pop-top, and it's a very simple conversion. Called the Wally Camper Van Conversion, it's so simple that you buy the kit and install it yourself. It comes with insulated panels to make the cabin quieter and more comfortable, a folding table, complete flooring and storage boxes with cushions that double as seating and bedding. The whole kit goes for $4,696. It only works with the cargo version of the Promaster City, so with that van's base price of $25,890, you're looking at a final total of $30,586 unless you buy a used van.
  • Image Credit: Caravan Outfitter

Caravan Outfitter Free Bird Pop-Top Van

Also using a Nissan NV200 is the Caravan Outfitter Free Bird Pop-Top. But this company's "entry-level" pop-top comes with loads of equipment, and a bit more cost. In addition to the expanding roof, this Free Bird model comes with a dinette table, full-size folding bed, butane stove top, 32-liter refrigerator drawer, storage boxes, a deep cycle battery with standard 12-volt socket and two USB ports, and curtains. Everything can be removed, too, in case you need to use the van as a cargo vehicle. Caravan Outfitter modifies new Nissan NV200s so that they come with a full factory warranty, and the company can offer financing. The downside to all this is that it's a bit pricey at $41,915.
  • Image Credit: Contra Vans

Contra Vans Dodge Grand Caravan

Now if you don't like the idea of driving some old commercial cargo or passenger van, Contra Vans has you covered. The company offers kits for consumer minivans including the 2015 and newer Dodge Grand Caravan, 2005 and newer Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey and Kia Sedona. The conversion includes a kitchen storage area behind the hatch with a sink and three-gallon water storage, a single-burner camp stove and storage. In the rear passenger area, the company adds a folding table and fold-out double bed. The kit costs $4,395 plus the cost of a van. If buying new, the cheapest options are the Dodge Grand Caravan and Kia Sedona, which both start at about $28,250. That brings the cost to about $32,645. You'll pay more if buying a new Odyssey or Sienna, or less if you buy a used van.
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