Cargo Van or Mini Van? <3

Heeeello all - I am living in New Zealand, have been saving up for a few months now to buy a van and do her up in time for summer here in the southern hem next February!

I am currently at a crossroads of choice… oh what a privileged life I do lead!


For the same amount of money - I can purchase a mini van, relatively low kms, new model, that has already had conversion work done on it, meaning I can spend the next few months tweaking the way I like. (With little to no experience of building/mechanics or converting this is the probably wiser, safer, and more boring option).


I can purchase a bright yellow cargo van, an old DHL postal van, 3L diesel engine, low kms and 2003 model, which is devoid of anything - a blank canvas, so I can spend the next 4 months making it liveable, and the next few years slowly making it my own in time for the summers of my life. I am pretty tall and would love to make a moving studio/put in a nice kitchen, maybe a lofty area who knows! This is by far the more creative option; but much more of a risk!

Would love advice from anyone who has been converting/had experience living in cargo vs minivans or anyone who has an opinion or advice. I would be spending all the money I have really and making it back up until I start my adventure so I want to make the right choice :))))

Lots of van love!




Cargo vans are the worst possible choice for camper vans for many many reasons. They cost the most to convert, they cost more to heat or cool, they get worse gas mileage, you get far more road noise no matter what you do, ventilation sucks even with multiple roof vents, and most people find that living without windows all the way around is just plain miserable.

A mini van would be much better in many aspects than a cargo van, but there is still a better choice. Full size extended length passenger vans give you the best of all possibilities. Windows for a better view and ventilation, without the need to cut holes in the roof, they’ve usually been better maintained, and the safety standards are much higher, the interior is already factory finished, so you just need to remove the rear seats, they typically get much better gas mileage because they are geared for highway use instead of city use, and the list goes on and on.

After many years of full timing and many vehicles, a cargo van was absolutely the worst, and the most expensive of any of them. All of my other choices were much better, small RV’s, smallish shuttle buses or school buses, and passenger vans offered the best experience at the lowest costs. I currently have a high top extended body 15 passenger van that was originally a hotel shuttle. I simply removed the rear seats and moved my new camping interior in. It’s old but reliable, for a total cost of under $1500 for the van and the interior, including a super comfy sofa/bed, double dishpan sinks, a stove, an ice chest, a bucket style toilet, and a weed sprayer type shower, a comfortable swivel rocker/recliner, heating, cooling, and reliable power. No solar panels, roof vents, or holes in my roof. No 12v fridges, and no propane anything. I charge my house battery while driving mostly, by generator rarely, or by shore power almost never. Heating and cooking use kerosene, as well as occasional mood lighting. Everything is portable (but secured), so it can be used either inside or outside as weather, location, and my mood warrants. Without solar panels, I can enjoy parking in the shade during the summer, and am not reliant on the weather to supply me with power. Everything is extremely simple and uncomplicated. My thermo-electric bed both heats and cools, as do my seat cushions. My 12v swamp cooler can keep my whole van comfortable even on the hottest and most humid days.

I choose to live in my van, not out of it. From the coldest days of Alaska & other northern climates to the hottest days in the south, my van is a comfortable retreat inside, and this is with no added insulation or window coverings. The solution isn’t insulation, it’s simply having enough heating and cooling power to keep you comfortable. Lots of opening windows for superior ventilation is also a huge plus. A single under $20, 10" 12v fan gives me better ventilation than two $250+ roof vents with fans ever did. I don’t use an inverter, all of my appliances and accessories are 12v, fuel powered, or dollar store battery powered. If I happen to be somewhere with shore power, I have an extension cord with an outlet strip, and a battery charger that I can also use with my generator, so I can have full power while still charging my batteries.

It’s all about choices. Choose wisely and life will be great, choose wrong and you’ll have never ending headaches until you get it right.



The real question is one only you can answer, how little space do you need to enjoy or be comfortable living. It is different for each person. It depends on how tall and wide you are, if anyone or pet is traveling with you at any time, if you have flexibility or mobility difficulties, if you require a wheel chair or cpap or have allergies, the temperature extremes you will be in, the amount of clothes you take, the lenght of time spent boon docking, will you have access to utilites and ect. too many things to consider so a lot us just start experimenting. Most of us try several different rigs and setups especially as we age our needs change so must the way we stay nomadic or maybe not. If you by yourself, are young, do a lot of back packing, are a small person used to being in small spaces to sleep or change clothes kneeling or laying down or even don’t mind doing most of the requirements of life outside the van like urban camping using a health club or spa, eating at shops basically just sleeping and spending a few bad weather days in the van then the mini van would work just fine. I went from a tarp to a tent to a pickup topper to VW van and thought it was heaven, but then I got a class A motorhome and it was even better but I soon found out I couldn’t get the places where I wanted to go so I went to a small trailer and a 4x4 truck with small camper on it. Things really change over 5 or 10 years for me. All of these were the best and right for me for most of the time I used them. The biggest 2 problems most people have are 1st never getting things ready enough to go and 2nd going with something that makes them so uncomfortable they quit. Most important is getting a good comfortable restful nights sleep that means having enough of an emergengy fund that you don’t stay awake all night worrying also. Will both vehicles be able to go where you want to go? In my case I would go postal put in a good bed and thermarest matress and sell everything else. Live in it as cheaply in it as I could only getting what I needed when I needed it. If I can poop in a bucket and afford bags that will do untill I have a huge expendable income and then maybe get a composting toilet as an example. Travel and get by untill yoou see what it costs and what you need. Don’t buy it if you cann’t afford it or sell it. Get into something you can travel in ASAP and travel while you can, as long as you can sleep in it and have enough money to enjoy where ever you are you will be good. The rest you can figure out as you go or change.


Sorry, but I don’t quite agree with Bizness’s philosophy. Hitting the road and then figuring everything out usually leads to disaster. Some people can do that, but not very many.

I’m in the opposite camp… The road will still be there when you’re ready for it, there is NO HURRY!!! Get your income figured out first and foremost. Without the money to support yourself, you’re just plain homeless. If you’re planning on working for temp agencies, get good at it BEFORE you launch. On the road in a strange city with no money and no plan is just plain stupid. I can’t tell you how many people were forced to sell their vehicles to survive because they didn’t have a plan.

Once your finances are figured out, get your vehicle in tip top mechanical shape, BEFORE YOU LAUNCH !!! The interior isn’t as important, but I would make it comfy, before launch.

Have several months worth of living expenses saved up before hitting the road. It may take you that long to find a job in a strange city.

If possible, online jobs, or your own online business, is the even better way to go. That way you can work anywhere you have an internet connection. I worked construction as a nomad for many years, and made good money. Now I make much more money working online. Since I own my own business, I work when and where I choose to work.


Cargo van could also be useful for both personal and commercial purpose but choices are all yours.

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