There are so many options for campervans on the market that there is something for everyone. What if you are someone who wants to have the the comforts of van life and the off road capability of a 4×4 or AWD vehicle? We’ve compiled a list off all of the stock or aftermarket options for AWD and 4×4 campervans. If you’re looking for an exhaustive list of all camping rigs, check out this post.
- What’s the Difference Between AWD and 4×4
- 4×4 Campervans
- AWD Campervans
- Aftermarket Conversion Options for 4×4 Campervans
- Do you Need an AWD or 4×4 Campervan for Van Life?
What’s the Difference Between AWD and 4×4?
4×4 systems are typically associated with more hard core off-roading vehicles, think rock crawlers, monster trucks, Jeep etc. AWD vehicles are more often associated with on road and more light off road situations, think Subaru, Audi Quattro, Honda CRV, etc. 4×4 systems rely on a mechanical connection between the engine and the drive train. AWD systems rely on electrically controlled components that send power to the correct wheel when the system senses it is needed. 4×4 vehicles tend to be more robust and capable but also require more driving skill and mechanical knowledge to operate. AWD systems tend to be more hands off and engage automatically. Since they engage automatically, AWD vehicles tend to be safer on road in adverse conditions. There is far more information on this topic online if you want to do a deeper dive but that’s the basics.
Years Made: 2015-Present
Price Range: $34,000-$61,000
If you are looking for a new factory made true 4×4 campervan, the 4×4 Sprinter is currently your only option. It will be your most expensive option but also your most reliable and capable. You can buy them as an empty cargo van or purchase a Revel premade conversion through Winnebago. Additionally, Sportsmobile has made pop top Sprinter 4x4s allowing you to sleep “upstairs” and have your “downstairs” as living space.
Volkswagon Vanagon Syncro
Years made: 1985-1992
Price Range: $20,000-$50,000 depending on condition
The Volkswagon Vanagon Syncro is a true 4×4 campervan. There are few still around which makes them both a cult classic and an expensive option if you can get your hands on one. They were mostly made for official use like the Postal Service and the German army but many have since been modified to function as 4×4 campervans. Syncros are certainly nostalgic but be prepared to learn a lot about mechanics or shell out money to maintain these beasts. You can check out current listings here.
Years made: 1979-present (though you won’t commonly see newer than 1995 in the United States due to import laws)
Price Range: $5,000-$25,000
These relics boast the title of “the most capable minivan in the world.” Even cooler, one of the models is named the Star Wagon, come on! Due to import laws in the United States, 25 years must pass before a vehicle can be imported meaning you won’t find a Delica newer than 1995. They are rare but you can occasionally find them via private sellers or through an importer like DelicaUSA.
Years Made: 1977-present
Price Range: $1500-$15,000 dependent on condition and year
This Toyota HiAce has been around since 1967, though it was not offered in 4×4 until 1977. These vehicles, like the Delica and Syncro, were never made in the United States meaning import laws will limit you to 1995 and older. These are also rare but you can occasionally find them through private sellers or importers.
AWD Ford Transit
Years Made: 2020-present
Price Range: $39,000-$52,000
Just as the Sprinter is the only new factory made 4×4 campervan option, the Ford Transit will be your only new factory AWD campervan option.. First made in 2020, they filled the market hole of AWD cargo vans that had been left by GM since 2014. The Transit makes a great platform for a low, medium, or high roof van build and Ford has a solid reputation.
Chevy Express/GMC Savanna AWD
Years Made: 2003-2014
Price Range: $5,000-$21,000
We are partial to the Chevy Express for obvious reasons (check out our build here). Chevy Express and GMC Savana have a reputation for being workhorses. As they were both made by GM, the Express and Savana are nearly identical with only cosmetic differences. They are reliable and often last upwards of 300,000 miles. One down side of the Express/Savana AWD is they were only made on the 1500 platform meaning you will have to be more conservative with weight on your build.
Chevy Astro/GMC Safari AWD
Years Made: 1990-2005
Price Range: $1,500-$10,000 dependent on condition
The Chevy Astro/GMC Safari will be one of the smallest AWD platforms on the list being about the size of a minivan. Being small has it’s advantages as it gives you more agility. Just like the Express/Savana, the Astro and Safari were both made by GM meaning they only have slight cosmetic differences. With one of the lowest AWD price tags on the list, this would make a great platform for a weekend warrior or solo traveler (though we did meet an Australian couple who had been living out of one of these for 6 months, so it’s not impossible).
Aftermarket Conversions for 4×4 Campervans
If you already have a vehicle you want to convert to 4×4, or are interested in purchasing a vehicle to convert to 4×4, there are several aftermarket options. This is not an exhaustive list of converters but some information to start your search.
Quigley is one of the best known names for 4×4 conversion. Currently they are able to convert GM, Ford Transit, Nissan, and Ford E Series vehicle. They do have limitations on miles on the van and year of manufacturing. You can also find vans for resale that have already had Quigley conversions. GM ($13,000 base), Ford Transit ($13,000 for 2015-2019, currently unable to convert 2020 or newer), Nissan (2014 or newer $11,000), Ford E Series ($15,000 base)
Sportsmobile has been converting vans to campers since 1961. Their 4×4 Classic takes a Ford Cutaway with a fiberglass shell and converts it to 4×4. You have several options for layouts and can have it made completely custom. A new Sportsmobile 4×4 will cost you from $175,000-$225,000 depending on the options you decide on. You can find used Sportsmobiles $50,000 and up.
Weldtec Designs, located in El Cajon, CA, is a reputable shop for van upgrades. They have several aftermarket options to make vans more capable, including lift kits for the Chevy Express, Ford E Series, and Nissan NV. The only 4×4 conversion they do, however, is the Chevy Express. A conversion from Weldtec will cost you $23,500 for a coilover, or $17,500 for Torsion Bar conversion.
Advanced 4×4 Conversions
Located in Salt Lake City, Advanced 4×4 Conversions offers 4×4 packages for Nissan, GM, and Ford vans. They offer free quotes on their website. This shop also offers specialty conversions for Class B and Class C RVs and Motorhomes.
U Joint Off Road
U Joint Off Road specializes in Ford E Series conversions. They can do any RV on an E series platform. Their prices start at $25,000 for a 4×4 conversion and go up with additional modifications. They are located in North Carolina but their website says they have shipped vehicles to places all over the world to places like Dubai!
Do You Need 4×4 or AWD for Vanlife?
This is a question of your goals but our short answer is, no. If you want to get as far out there as possible than a 4×4 or AWD vehicle may be non-negotiable for you. Personally, while we would love to have 4×4, we have been able to get places in our RWD that a lot of vans wouldn’t dare go through being a skilled driver, having a locking differential, having recovery gear, the right tires, and some modifications like a lift kit.