What makes a great family van? Our build philosophy, keep it simple and Modular.
Updated: Mar 11
I starting building the type of vans we do because no other builder we found focused on family oriented, daily driver, modular builds. It's not that other builders don't do these kinds of builds, its just not their main focus and they just did not understand what a family type van would need and wanted you to buy an empty van and build the entire thing out to a tune of a $50k+ build. Everyone focuses on what I refer to as "van life" builds that people live out of and focus on vans for 2 not more than 2 that really just wanted a better way to camp. I really needed a van that could transport my family, use as a cargo van, and elevate my camping to "glamping" and be more comfortable in poor weather similar to the old VW Weekender vans built in the 90's but in a modern safer platform.
Sprinter Crew with sink, fridge, adjustable bed, front dinette area
Simple however doesn't mean cheap. Vans are expensive to buy and expensive to build with hundreds of hours of work in our typical build and tens of thousands of dollars in parts. They can be built in various price levels, like anything else, however the more you want the more it costs of course. Its still like building a house on wheels. We have done very simple vans under 10k with just a bed, some windows, and a dinette area and of course more with our typical build between $20-35k. To keep costs down I start with vans that have seating, flooring, walls, and headliner that are basically turn key from the start as a van with seating. We elevate the use of the van adding storage, bed, dining area, ventilation, and further by adding aux power, insulation/sound deadening, solar, and even a heater in some cases for cold weather or damp conditions camping. All of it removable. This not only makes the van flexible in use, but increases resale value and comfort because its like a Swiss Army knife. Some compromises are necessary of course because you can only fit so much in a tiny area especially with seating and most importantly roof for gear you can actually get to when you want it. You cannot have it all but you can have 80% of what I call an "RV type build". Our build blogs cover extensively some of our more fully featured builds and what we do and why. We as well have articles on building the van in stages as well and other helpful posts.
Sprinter Passenger Van-flexible seating, adjustable removable bed, front dinette, and storage
Ford Transit Mid Roof Crew with lots of storage
Our builds are for how you really would use the van for every day use. You look at all the Instagram posts and you don't really see how the vans are actually used. It looks so big. Add people and gear and things get very tight fast. If not configured properly just trying to go to sleep or lay down and relax, or sit down and have a snack or meal can be a challenge. Not in our builds. Double bunk beds look awesome but where do you actually put your stuff? Its gets ugly and is not functional. We feel there is a right way an a wrong way if you have to have 4 beds in a high roof van. It just never worked for me well. One of the reasons why my personal vans always have Pop Tops. That's why we build the vans the way we do, you need storage and you don't want to have to move everything around and it needs to be organized.
Sprinter Van Lots of Storage in various storage lockers and rigid storage bags, all removable.
High Roof Sprinter. Storage- This is reality on a trip, you can't fit this stuff when you have double bunks, kids, cooler...Pop Top solves this for sure or storage solutions become key. You can see clearly in this example why a bed platform and storage area under the bed is really important. We have ways to maximize storage and sleeping areas with and without a Pop Top. Check our our blog posts.
The example below is what your van really looks like packed for a trip. If you had two "bunk" beds in back you where would you sleep? You would have to move everything just to sleep or hang out. If you had a dinette in the rear the same problem. There are always compromises to any design. In our modular layouts with flexible storage we feel we offer the most flexibility to meet any need as you have options for storage and to reconfigure your van.
What are some of the key features? Modularity, storage, seating, place to eat, place to sleep, aux power to run fan,heater, lights, fridge, and other DC low voltage items.
In the pictures above EVERYTHING comes out of the van within minutes. So you can have a passenger van, cargo van, or camper in minutes.
Modular with sink, fridge, seating - can do two rows, one row or any combo of seating
Storage-you can never have enough especially with a family. We can put organized storage above and below the bed. We use semi rigid storage lockers that are removable. Unlike a fixed cabinet these don't cut your head open with you hit them, they are removable, and they hold more.
Sleeping, removable adjustable bed with a lower sleep platform with pull out drawers or even a dinette below maximizing space and storage
Pull out drawer option that doubles as a lower sleep bed
Place to eat or hang out with out moving gear-this is our lagun and swivel seat configuration
Aux batteries are in hood to save space inside. AGM batteries used that work in cold and hot climates. Charging via solar and alternator. Need this so you don't drain your starter battery when running accessories. (lights, heater, fan, outlets, fridge...)
Various DC outlets to run fridge, charge phones, or even a lap top
When walls are down we insulate and sound deaden- keeps van warmer in winter, cooler in summer, and way quieter on those long trips