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Camper Van vs. Day Van: What’s the Difference?

Van parked near a wooded area with door and back open

Van camping has become increasingly popular in the past few years. People are now able to visit their favorite out of the way places and campgrounds without having to navigate the roads in a big RV. However, you have to find out which van is right for you before you take part in this fun activity.

So, what’s the difference between a camper van and a day van? A camper van has amenities such as a bed, kitchen, lights, and usually, even a small bath, and they are used for travel and camping. A day van is used for day trips such as hiking, dirt biking, fishing, or surfing and might contain a table or bench bed.

Both vans have their pros and cons, and you’ll need to read about each before making a purchase decision. To learn more about which van you should choose, we’ll need to break down a few differences between the two.

What Are the Main Differences Between Camper Vans and Day Vans?

Camper vans have been an excellent choice for campers who want to see the world from the comfort of their vehicle. There’s no need to haul around a trailer, nor do you have to worry about not having everything that you need with you.

On the other hand, people use day vans for day trips, hence the name. Day vans are useful in a pinch when you want to spend a night at your favorite fishing spot but not great for staying for a prolonged period. You won’t have the same amount of amenities, but they certainly have plenty of room to haul any equipment that you will need for a day.

When you’re going to the lake to go fishing for the day, a day van has enough space to store all of your fishing gear inside. You’ll be able to load up with a tackle box, several fishing poles, an ice chest for lunches, and more. It’s a solid choice for those who enjoy off-roading as well.

If you want to camp for the weekend, you’ll definitely want to get in line for a camper van. They usually have all the amenities you need for an extended stay. These simple additions are all you really need to spend several days in the woods or near a beach. With a day van, you wouldn’t have the necessities.

Another difference between the two is their weight. Camper vans contain toilets, sinks, cabinetry, beds, tables, and other furniture. You won’t have much space or weight capacity left over when you’re using it. It’s always a good plan to check the weight load limit when you’re buying and camping in a camper van.

Day vans don’t have too much inside of them, which means you’ll have no problem exceeding the capacity of a camper van. Load in all of your essential gear and necessary equipment without having to worry too much. There’s always a weight capacity on all vehicles, but day vans have a much better ratio than camper vans.

Day vans are often purchased to use as work vans. Like so many people who own their own business already know, a day van allows you to carry all your equipment to the job site. You can operate entirely out of the back of a day van.

When the weekend comes, remove the work equipment and pack up the toys, and you’re ready to go. Unfortunately, camper vans don’t have enough space to grant you that luxury.

We also have a post “Camper Van vs. Caravan: Do You Know The Difference?” for another comparison.

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The Pros And Cons Of Camper Vans vs. Day Vans

As you’ve already read above, camper vans and day vans both have their unique features. Deciding which one is better and what the differences are between them can be evaluated through a pro and con list. Here are the main benefits and downsides of each vehicle:

Pros of Camper Vans

  1. Camper vans usually come with toilets, sinks, refrigerators, and other necessities that make life much more comfortable. You can camp at a wider variety of places since you don’t have to worry about making sure that there’s a bathroom.
  2. You can stand up straight in almost all camper vans. Many of them are well over 6′ tall in the center, making it easier to move around when fixing meals or getting ready to go to sleep.
  3. Camper vans often utilize a bed-bench combo, allowing you to convert one to the other whenever you need to. This combo saves space, and it’s also very comfortable.

Cons of Camper Vans

  1. Camper vans weigh more than day vans, which could present a challenge if you’re not used to operating heavy motor vehicles.
  2. It’s always nice to have a bathroom and a sink, but dealing with the sewage can be gross and frustrating.
  3. Heavier vehicles require heavy-duty tires. Camper vans usually need tires that cost $20 to $30 more than that of a day van.

Pros of Day Vans

  1. Day vans usually don’t cost as much to buy upfront because they don’t have a lot of amenities and furniture inside.
  2. Day vans are typically much cheaper to repair, and they have fewer problems in the first place. Without all of the extra living necessities, repair costs are usually not as expensive.
  3. If you haven’t driven a large motor vehicle, you’ll be much more comfortable with the lightweight feeling of driving a day van.

Cons of Day Vans

  1. The biggest and most obvious downside of owning a day van is that you don’t have most of the amenities that a camper van has. No toilet, fridge, and sink all limit your camping ability.
  2. Day vans don’t have as good of a resell value as camper vans. People are always buying used camper vans, but day vans aren’t as popular.
  3. RV parks that allow camper vans most likely won’t allow the majority of day vans. This issue is yet another campground limiting feature.

Price Differential Between The Two

Camper vans aren’t known to be cheap. If you have a limited budget, you might want to consider buying a used one. They can cost upwards of $100,000 or more for a brand-new one. Even if you purchase something that’s on the low-end of new, it’ll still cost around $45,000 to $60,000.

Used camper vans are much cheaper, but they’re still not as low as a day van. You could find a camper van with ten or more years on it that’d cost around $20,000 if it has low miles. However, there are certainly a few gems with 100,000+ miles that only cost you about $9,000.

On the other hand, a day van costs about $50,000 tops. You can buy a regular empty van and turn it into a day van by adding a bench, a table, and other bits of furniture. The low-end of new day vans can cost about $25,000 to $30,000 depending on the brand and vehicle package you buy.

Used day vans are a toss-up. Some people sell their vans for as low as $5,000 if they have 150,000+ miles on them. You can also find high-quality like-new day vans that sell for about $20,000. Again, it all depends on the features, age, mileage, and the make of the vehicle in question.

Whether you choose a camper van or a day van, they both offer many benefits. Camper vans are usually better for camping and long road trips, but day vans work if you need a mobile workspace or just a van to spend the day fishing or dirt biking.

To recap, here are the main pieces of information you should’ve learned throughout this post:

  • Camper vans usually cost more than day vans, new or used.
  • Day vans offer plenty of space, while camper vans provide a small home on wheels.
  • Camper vans are much more expensive to repair since you’ll have to deal with more furniture and other parts.
  • You might be limited in your camping adventures if you choose a day van, but you can convert it for a lot less money.
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Ever since I was little I have been a traveler at heart. It all started when I was six years old and my family took a road trip to Alaska. I enjoy visiting new places and revisiting some of the great locations that I have been to already.