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Why Are Camper Vans White So Often?

White Nissan high top van parked at restaurant

Are you thinking about chasing your dream of adventure and the wide-open road? Camper vans can bring the thrilling idea of freedom from the “norm” alive. Or, maybe you want to use it as a getaway vehicle for your weekend excursions to go camping in the mountains. Whatever attracts you to camper vans, you must have noticed by now that the vast majority of them on the road are all white.

Why are camper vans white so often? The color white is popular for camper vans because of its reflective properties. Keeping the extreme heat out of a camper van is very important because it is a small, enclosed space. White is the chosen color for camper vans because it proves to be a bestseller and is often the most cost-effective color to purchase.

So, those are the primary reasons why you’re bound to see more white camper vans than any other color. We’ve done the research now let’s dig a little deeper.

The Main Reason Camper Vans Are White: Science

Reasons a camper van would be painted white include sun, sun, and sun. If we break it down and recall what we learned about in elementary school science class, we will see that the powerful sun does play a significant role in the decision making of camper van design.

Dark colors absorb the sun’s rays and allow the heat to penetrate and hang out inside the space within, whereas white reflects the sun and keeps things cool. When a vehicle is painted white, the interior temperature of it will be lower than if painted black or another dark color.

For this same reason, you’ll notice the roof of school buses are painted white. According to Harvard University, those white tops can cool off the inside of buses by about 10 degrees on a hot summer day, which is especially important since they aren’t air-conditioned. Luckily, school lets out before things heat up too much. 

Camper vans, on the other hand, are especially common in the warmer months when camping is in full swing. Now, of course, you will see them year-round, as plenty of adventurers utilize their camper vans for cold weather activities. But you’re bound to see more of them on the road in spring and summer.

The interior of a camper van is approximately 50 square feet. And, with just a little bit of sun, they can begin to heat up, and quickly. Since there is such a small space to live in, every degree of heat matters.

Though it may seem there has been a surge in the popularity of van camping, this is not by any means a modern idea. Living “off the grid” is quite easy with a camper van. It serves its purpose as a motor vehicle but also doubles as a small space perfect for living in during your travels.

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How Hot Does It Get In A Camper Van

Seeing as most camper vans begin life as a cargo van, they are typically not equipped with central air conditioning or any air conditioning for that matter. Of course, there is air conditioning in the cab, but that only functions while you’re driving. That doesn’t do you much good while you are parked.

The reason that the interior of a vehicle feels warmer than it does outside is that it is warmer. It’s well known how dangerous hot vehicles can be for children and dogs left inside. In fact, the sun beating down on a vehicle can raise the interior temperature 20 degrees within 10 minutes. Studies have shown that within an hour, a vehicle can even get up to 150 degrees under the right conditions.

Sun coming in through large panes of glass such as a windshield and windows can magnify, and therefore intensify the power of the sun’s rays. It’s the greenhouse effect. All of that extra heat has nowhere to go.

The best color to reflect the sun’s rays away is, of course, white.

Other tips for cooling off a hot van include:

  • Using reflective sunshades on the windows.
  • Hanging room darkening curtains are a good idea if you have windows.
  • Installing an air vent or fan for venting and exhausting.

Economics Of A White Camper Van

Mass-producing camper vans require strategic planning and that means making wise choices. Prices of paint can definitely influence a vehicle manufacturing company’s decision on what colors their vehicles get painted.

White is often the most cost-effective paint color, and even cheaper when you buy in bulk, of course. Though the cost is not the main reason that so many camper vans are white, but it is definitely a factor. Throw a fancy and colorful pinstripe on the side, and you’ve got a sharp-looking van coming off of the production line.

White is always in the top three best-selling resale colors for all vehicles, especially vans and trucks. According to Kelley Blue Book, for vans and trucks, white tops the list.

Rumor has it those camper vans made in colors other than white did not sell as well. So, the major companies decided to stick with the best-selling color. And, that is how we ended up with a surge of all-white camper vans.

History Of The White Camper Van

The word “camper van” often pertains to Sprinter vans that were initially designed not to be living quarters, but delivery vehicles. Sprinter vans are manufactured to be a carbon copy of the last one and the next one.

An all-white Sprinter van is clean in appearance and plain enough for companies to personalize it by simply placing a magnetic sign with their logo and business phone number/information on the door/rear of the van. They can do the same on every van in their fleet.

The Stealth Factor

As we have already discussed previously, van manufacturing companies have discovered that white is a very popular color and what the customer wants they get. Have you ever noticed that when you are driving down the road that you will pass dozens of white vans? White vans roll off the assembly line by the thousands.

The next time you are on the road watch for white vans, I bet you won’t believe how many are actually on the road. They may have a simple logo and business phone number, no logo with ladders on top or a multitude of other business-related items attached to them.

Now, pay special attention to the tops of these white vans. Do some sport vents? Solar panels? AC units? When you happen to see these items on the top of a white van, you have spotted someone who has decided to change this standard white vehicle into a DIY camper van.

There are literally so many white vans that nobody pays any attention to them. If you want to create a camper van to take advantage of all the stealth van camping locations that are available, there is no better color to choose from than white.

You will be able to pull into someplace that people usually wouldn’t camp, park your white stealth van, spend the night and nobody will be any the wiser. There is probably no other vehicle that will blend in more than the ordinary white van!

We have a post “How Do You Pick the Perfect Van to Camp In?” if you would like more information on this topic.

Do All Camper Vans Look The Same?

What classifies a van as a “camper van?” If you had asked that question 10 years ago, the answer might be a bit different than the one you would get today. Technically a camper van is a “Class B” motorhome. Some people also call them caravanettes.

However, with the growing popularity of van camping, camper vans now include a range of different makes, models and sizes of vans that people have customized to meet the needs of the camping experience that they want as individuals. These DIY camper vans aren’t a cookie-cutter duplicate that comes off assembly lines but a monument to the individuality of their owners.

When considering the purchase of your long-awaited camper van, make sure to think about all the advantages that a white van can provide for your camping experience. Moreover, if you want to look stealthy, white is probably your best choice of color.

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The western part of the country draws me with its mountains, deserts, and red rock vistas. Still, there are numerous other wonders I'm ready to explore., from Maine's rugged coast to California's Big Sur cliffs and everywhere between.