We're an affiliate.
We hope you love the products/services we recommend on Just Van Life! So you know, there is the possibility we will collect a commission should you make a purchase via any of our links. This will in no way affect the purchase price. Thank you for your support, we really appreciate it!
Is there anything more frustrating for avid campers and travellers than a vehicle that doesn’t perform the functions you need in order to maximize the potential of your trip?
Whether that’s reliability, storage space or fuel efficiency, if there’s one camping supply you shouldn’t overlook, it’s the importance of having a well-suited and high quality vehicle.
In the past decade or so, minivans have risen in popularity for camping and outdoor enthusiasts. They come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, and in some cases, can be rather pricey.
However, compared to RVs and a lot of other trucks, contemporary minivans have taken over the increasingly popular world of car camping. Simply because they perform so well in terms of fuel efficiency, cargo space, reliability and providing plenty of room to sleep.
However, with so many different minivans to choose from, picking the right one for your individual needs can become a little overwhelming. So to make things easier for you, we’ve done some of the hard work.
Below you’ll find a list of 10 of the best minivans for camping. We’ve also put together and attached a handy buyer’s guide to further remove any confusion when choosing the best minivan for you.
The 10 Best Minivans For Camping
1. Toyota Sienna
Toyota is widely renowned for producing vehicles that can last significantly longer than many of their competitors and the Sienna is another excellent example of this. If you’re in the market for a reliable vehicle to take on your camping trips, then the Sienna should be right at the top of your list.
Not only is it the perfect commuter vehicle, it also possesses a number of key traits ideal for campers. One of these is the ability to easily remove the seats without any special tools, meaning it is quick and easy to clear space for a mattress and other various camping essentials.
Another notable string to the bow of the Sienna, placing it above other minivans is the vehicle’s AWD capabilities. While it isn’t quite as good as 4WD, it does provide valuable security in the winter and on less-travelled roads.
- Removable chair mounts – mounts are detachable giving you true flexibility and added storage.
- Accessibility – sliding door means the Sienna is easy to access within seconds. You won’t need to climb through the trunk.
- Fuel economy – efficient fuel economy giving you value for money.
- Flat roof – ideal for adding roof racks, solar panels and outdoor gear such as surfboards and paddleboards.
- Low clearance – overall 68-inch height of the vehicle makes it impossible for adults and grown children to stand inside.
- Features – aside from powered windows, there aren’t as many interior features compared to most other vehicles.
2. Chrysler Pacifica
Many of you may be familiar with Chrysler’s popular Town and Country model. The Pacifica is a replacement model of this vehicle, with many of the improvements that customers wanted.
It’s simple body design is a nice touch, particularly if you don’t want all the fancy decorative changes to contemporary minivans.
One of the Pacifica’s stand-out features ideal for camping is the fact that their passenger seats fold down into the floor. This provides a flat and even surface to pack your gear onto, or alternatively, a place to put a removable platform for a bed. It’s also useful to note that when these seats aren’t folded down, there is extra storage space in the floor.
Following on from the previous point, because the floor is so deep in order to hold the passenger seats, there is a removable false bottom near the rear of the van. This is another ideal space for you to store some of your camping essentials.
- Storage space – plenty of space, including removable false bottom near the rear of the van.
- Removable seats – back seats can be folded down and detached, so you’re free to adjust the interior to your liking.
- Air flow – both sides of the vehicle have sliding doors, perfect for promoting optimal air flow on hot and humid summer days.
- Gas tank – only holds 19 gallons, which isn’t ideal for a vehicle that only has 19 MPG fuel efficiency.
3. Nissan Quest
If you’re in the market for a long-lasting minivan that can save you money on mileage, then the Nissan Quest is an option that should be taken seriously.
The Quest has a whole host of fuel-efficient features, and despite its reduced weight, still provides significant towing capacity. For example, whether you need your vehicle to pull a small trailer or just to cope with all your gear in the interior, the Quest stands up to the task.
It’s worth noting here that the vehicle was discontinued in 2017. Despite this, there are still thousands of Quests out on the road. Importantly, the vehicle uses similar parts of other Nissan models so it shouldn’t ever be too much of a problem of finding the correct parts to carry out repairs.
- Width – the Quest is well-sized in regards to its width, which opens up the possibility of larger beds and other items.
- Economical – impressive 27 MPG highway rating, far better than the expectations of other vans on the market.
- Multiple chairs – equipped with three rows of seats, you can choose which ones you need and which ones can go.
- Seat mounts – difficult to remove so you’ll need a few tools and to be extremely careful in order to prevent damaging the inside.
4. Kia Sedona
If you’re looking for a minivan to go camping with a family, then the Kia Sedona is a fantastic choice. The vehicle has one of the largest cargo options available with plenty of interior space to spare. It’s unlikely you’ll need more storage, but if so, the flat roof makes it easy to add a cargo carrier on top.
The Sedona is very reasonably priced considering its size and high storage capacity. With buyers in the high thousands every year, it’s highly unlikely that the vehicle will be discontinued or altered anytime soon.
With such a large cargo area, the van can be challenging to drive and park, especially in busy cities. So it’s worth bearing in mind that if you’re transitioning from a small automobile to the Sedona, it may take a little getting used to.
- Cargo space – extensive space, perfect for a family trip or long breaks away.
- Flat roof – instead of using interior space, you can add a roof rack to store some of your camping equipment.
- Window space – more window space than other minivans, ideal for taking in the views whilst on your trip.
- Cumbersome to drive – for those used to driving smaller, more compact cars, the Sedona’s length will prove difficult at first.
5. Honda Odyssey
Another reliable and popular minivan for both travel and camping is the Honda Odyssey. One of the top-sellers on the market across the USA, the vehicle is another minivan that will be around for years to come.
If you’re on the road in the Odyssey and need a mechanic, repair parts are affordable and available in almost every mechanic shop. This adds further reliability and durability to the vehicle.
The Odyssey’s interior space is also well-designed for setting up a sleep system or platform ideal for camping. If you wish to build the van out entirely you will have to remove the seats, however, this is simple enough with the seats easy to take in and remount.
- Reliability – like most Honda vehicles, the Odyssey should last for at least a decade. The warranty and repair manual back this up.
- Window space – similar to the Kia Sedona, this vehicle provides plenty of window area.
- Interior – chairs and their brackets can be removed quickly, ideal for campers who wish to stretch out.
- Sunroof – most models of the Odyssey come with a sunroof, further adding to the outdoor feeling of camping.
- Seats – the Odyssey’s seats don’t stowaway, you have to fully remove them.
- Fuel economy – the town MPG is 19, which is near the low-end of the spectrum.
6. Mercedes-Benz Metris
The Mercedes-Benz Metris provides a lot more space than other minivans on this list. It’s vast cargo space is a valuable asset, and the interior of the Metris is easily customizable for camping, work and much more.
With 183 cubic feet available at the trunk, you’ll have more than enough space to pack in everything you need for your camping trips.
Depending on the specific design you select, the price of buying a new Metris van is reasonably affordable. Compared to other minivans on the market, this vehicle has a much higher payload capacity because of its shape, while also providing a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.
- Maneuverability – vehicle offers combination of spaciousness and easy operation, allowing you to maneuver the van almost anywhere.
- Payload capacity – in contrast to other compact vans, the Metris has a payload capacity that’s almost 1,000 pounds more.
- Customizable – interior of vehicle easy to customize for your individual needs.
- Towing capacity – impressive towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, far exceeding what you’d expect from a van of its size.
- Height – despite being incredibly roomy on the inside, it doesn’t have enough height to be able to stand up.
7. Volkswagen California
Volkswagen’s California model is a well-balanced van suitable for all camping experiences. With a range of modern technological and safety standards, as well as some classic, more traditional touches, the California is German engineering at its best.
The vehicle has Volkswagen’s iconic pop-top roof, which allows as many as four adults to sleep comfortably. It also offers a removable camping table and chairs that can be stowed neatly out of the way when not in use.
It may not be the biggest, nor the fastest, but this is an extremely well-designed and durable van that will last decades.
- Design – stunning product design, with a very sleek fit and finish.
- Durability – after years of evolutionary development, the California excels in its durability.
- Pop-top roof – iconic space sleeps four people in style and comfort.
- Practicality – 2019 facelift provides vehicle with a sharp new exterior look as well as increased practical storage solutions.
- Price – despite being good value, this vehicle is one of the more expensive options on the market.
- Accessibility – top sleeping area may be tricky to access.
8. Ford Transit Connect
Known as a cargo van by many, the Ford Transit Connect is, in reality, a minivan. Similar to the Mercedes-Benz Metris, the Connect is another ideal van for camping, with plenty of cargo space and more headroom than a lot of other minivans.
Like many others on this list, the Connect isn’t tall enough to stand up inside, but conversely is easier to drive and more discrete to travel in.
The vehicle comes in a number of different style options that include seating for up to five individuals. However, if you are only looking for a minivan for camping, there is a cargo version which eliminates the process of having to deal with removing or reinstalling passenger seats.
The Connect is a popular choice amongst full-time van lifers due to the large expanse of the back and the decent fuel economy. Even if you’re looking to buy a brand new model, the price of the Connect is far lower than most of its minivan counterparts.
- Cargo space – with as much as 123 cubic feet available, you’ll have no problem bringing all your camping essentials.
- Fuel economy – ranges from 24 city to 29 highway MPG. It’s difficult to find anything close to this efficacy when it comes to larger minivans.
- Affordable price – brand new models are priced significantly lower than others on the market.
- Length – the vehicle is shorter in length than other minivans, making it difficult to install a longer bed and stretch out at night.
9. Mazda 5
The Mazda 5 is another excellent minivan for camping. Similar to the Nissan Quest in that it’s shorter than the average minivan on the market, the Mazda 5 is perfect for tight campsites that would otherwise limit you if you were driving a larger vehicle. For solo campers and travellers who don’t want the hassle of dealing with a larger van, it’s an ideal choice.
One of its many features is an aerodynamic roof that helps to improve the fuel economy of the vehicle. The 4-cylinder engine starts up quickly and uses only minimal gasoline. Additionally, the vehicle has the option of coming with a sunroof.
It’s worth noting that the Mazda 5 has been discontinued, however it uses the same parts as the new replacement minivan in their lineup. While this means you won’t be able to find a new model, you can still get a great deal on an excellent, high quality minivan without any supply limitations.
- Maneuverability – short in height and length makes it easy to drive and manoeuvre on busy roads and in busy cities.
- Fuel economy – aerodynamic roof helps improve fuel economy.
- Flexibility – because of the vehicle’s size, you can park in a variety of places that might not have been able to accommodate larger vans.
- Limited space – the vehicle’s small interior prevents more than one adult sleeping inside.
10. Ram ProMaster City
The final minivan on the list is the Ram ProMaster City. Providing a similar look and build to the previously mentioned Mercedes-Benz Metris, the ProMaster is a tall, box-shaped minivan and available in both cargo and passenger wagon models.
If you’re specifically in the market for a van to build-out as a camper, the ProMaster is a reasonable price and also has vertical interior walls for easy customization.
Unlike most other minivans, the ProMaster doesn’t have a rear entry to access the back. Instead, the vehicle has dual sliding doors split down the middle that open to 180 degrees. This unique door design allows you to get in from either side easily, as well as accommodating all your camping gear.
- Design – box-shaped, vertical design makes it easy to customize and potentially build-out as a camper.
- Accessibility – dual sliding doors give you easy access to the van.
- Choice – there are multiple models you can choose from including cargo and passenger wagon models.
- Size – slightly shorter in length than some other minivans, limiting storage and cargo space.
Best Minivans For Camping Buyer’s Guide
When it comes to finding the best minivan for camping, there are a few important things you need to consider to ensure you get the best vehicle for your individual needs.
If you’re not particularly knowledgeable about minivans, it can be a difficult and daunting task trying to find the right option with all the features you desire for your camping trips.
Luckily for you that’s where our Buyer’s Guide comes into use. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the key areas to focus on when selecting a vehicle that best suits your needs. Giving a little extra thought to these will help steer you towards the perfect option and save you both time and effort in the long run.
Seating and Amenities
One of the biggest draws of minivans is the ability to carry various combinations of people and cargo. The interior cabins of minivans can be configured in a traditional and strictly functional style all the way through to living-room plush.
Most minivans have either seven or eight seats. Seven-passenger models tend to have two captain’s chairs, rather than a bench seat, in the second row, which can be useful for separating children and allowing easier passage to the third row behind. They can also be removed to open up more space, or for Chrysler models, folded into the floor. In most minivans, the third row seats usually provide sufficient space for average-sized adults.
In terms of amenities, many minivans on the market are fitted with useful family-friendly features. For example, the Kia Sedona comes equipped with a fold-down mirror near the top of the windshield header, ideal for parents wanting to keep an eye on their children behind. Similarly, Chrysler models offer FamCam, an interior camera that allows occupants in the front of the van to monitor rear passengers.
Additionally, many of the manufacturers, aware that their vehicles will sometimes be serving as homes-on-wheels, fit their vans with a number of power outlets and USB ports.
Built-in WiFi is also commonplace in contemporary models, although it’s likely to require a subscription to use. Finally, there are always cup holders, storage bins, drawers and more aplenty, ensuring that vans are outfitted for just about any type of trip.
Fuel Economy and Engines
The majority of minivans come with a V6 engine which typically produces anywhere between 270-300 hp. While it must be acknowledged that the fuel economy of minivans isn’t the best with most hitting the low 20s, it is better than a lot of three-row SUVs that the vehicles often compete against. In fact, there are some minivans that really excel in their fuel efficacy, the Ford Transit Connect a prime example.
The Chrysler Pacifica is offered as a plug-in hybrid version and can deliver an impressive 27 MPG overall when running as a hybrid. Chrysler themselves have estimated that the Pacifica plug-in hybrid can travel around 32 miles purely on electric power.
It takes just over two hours on a 240-volt connection to fully charge the battery, whereas if you’re using a standard household power outlet, it will take closer to 12 hours. For those looking to use their minivan for short journeys and running errands as well as camping trips, this could be a potential game-changer, so it’s definitely worth further research.
Cargo and Storage
Interior space is one the most important features to look for when shopping for a minivan for camping. To put it simply, if there’s not enough space for you and your camping gear, then is there really any point buying the vehicle? We highly recommend taking a full inventory of everything you plan on packing, then figure out exactly how much space you’ll need.
Useful cargo-carrying features include power-folding seats, detachable mounts and much more. It’s worth noting that getting the seats in your minivan to fold flush with the cargo floor makes loading large items significantly easier. The Chrysler Pacifica and Kia Sedona are just a couple of examples of minivans with excellent cargo space, perfect for families and camping trips.
Windows and Doors
It’s important not to overlook the impact that your minivan’s windows and doors can have on your overall camping experience. At the end of the day, who wants to go on a camping trip when you can’t take in the picturesque sights and feel close to nature?
Whilst you’ll want your minivan to have large windows so you can maximize the sights on offer, you’ll also want to have a good level of privacy. It’s important to figure out the ideal balance between the two before finding a van that matches your requirements. When making your decision, remember you can always use window tint and various blockers to prevent people from looking inside.
The level of seat functionality you desire is a key contributing factor in the selection process. Some seats fold, some are fully removable, and many can do both.
If you’re simply looking for a minivan that has seats that can lay down, then you’re in luck as most vehicles on the market have this basic feature. If however, you want a minivan that has fully detachable seats, then a vehicle such as the Toyota Sienna could be the ideal choice.
It may sound fairly insignificant compared to some of the other considerations, but the type of tires that come stock with your minivan is worth taking into account.
For example, if you wish to go off-road in your vehicle, you’ll need the correct tires to do so successfully. While it’s not too much of a problem to install tires on any minivan, it would be convenient to find a van that already has the exact tires you want in order to save time and money.
A typical minivan on the market can tow around 3,000 pounds or more, which is essentially the weight of a midsized box trailer loaded to capacity. There are some models which far exceed this total though, notably the Mercedes-Benz Metris which has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.
Selecting a minivan with a mid to high towing capacity is recommended, and provides you with further flexibility when travelling and camping. To calculate a vehicle’s tow capacity, you’ll need to subtract the gross combination weight rating (GCWR) from the vehicle’s curb weight.
Finally, it’s important to weigh up the roof options provided by different minivans on the market in line with your needs.
Whether you want to add some solar panels, or strap a couple of surfboards to the roof of your vehicle, it’s imperative that you check what the roof looks like before making your final decision. This includes taking into account whether it’s sloped or flattened for your equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best minivan for camping?
The ‘best’ minivan for you will ultimately depend on what’s the best fit for you and your family’s needs.
If you’re looking for a vehicle with large cargo space suitable for family trips then the Kia Sedona and Ford Transit Connect will be high on your list, whereas if you’re in the market for a smaller minivan that’s easier to drive and maneuver around cities then the Mercedes-Benz Metris and Mazda 5 are models that’ll be of interest.
As is often the case when buying any vehicle, cost is a big factor when choosing your best-suited minivan. If the price of a brand new van doesn’t fit into your budget, then you can always look into buying used models. This is something you’ll have to do anyway if you opt for the discontinued Nissan Quest and Mazda 5 vans.
Are auto insurance rates higher or lower for minivans?
Irrespective of style or make, every vehicle is rated individually when it comes to calculating auto insurance rates. These rates reflect a number of the vehicle’s unique characteristics, including safety features, modifications, as well as the cost of maintenance and repairs.
So while it isn’t as simple as saying that minivans cost more or less to insure, safer vehicles do tend to come with lower insurance premiums. This is the same for all vehicles with high-tech safety features like camera systems and crash warning systems.
What is the best minivan to sleep in?
If you’re taking your minivan on camping trips, you’ll need a vehicle that can offer you a good sleeping experience. The Ford Transit Connect is a particularly good vehicle for this.
Its rear seat backs can be folded down or removed, and the front passenger seat can also be folded flat. With a few modifications, the Connect is also one of the best minivans on the market for ‘stealth’ sleeping, the ability to live in a van without anyone knowing.
What should I look for when buying a used van?
Unlike a brand new minivan that has come straight from the factory, used vans will typically have travelled thousands of miles over a number of years.
However, these remain a good option for those working to a tight budget so long as you take a number of factors into account. Some of the most important things to check before buying a used van include the condition of the vehicle’s bodywork, suspension, lights, engine, brakes, tires, steering and interior.
Minivans are a fantastic way to maximise your camping experience because not only are they big enough to store your camping gear and a mattress to sleep on, they’re also small enough to fit into tight spaces.
With many of the models highlighted on this list, you’ll get the best of both worlds, without experiencing any significant limitations.
As you’ve hopefully learned, choosing the best minivan for camping is a personal experience. You can make your choice based on body style, interior space, reliability and more.
The perfect vehicle for me may look a lot different to you, so it’s vitally important when making your decision, that you take into account exactly how you intend to use your van.
Are you planning to live out of it full-time? Do you have a family, or are you travelling solo? Are you looking for a van that can make camping excursions stress-free and enjoyable? The answers to these questions and many more will impact your choice of van, so give time to them as it will benefit you in the long run.
Best of luck!