Updated: Apr 11
Social media platforms like Instagram and Youtube are full of beautiful van tours but there are some answers that are hard to get through a single video. Should you choose a manufactured van or a custom one? That is a very personal choice you will have to figure out, but hopefully this post will help give you an idea of the benefits and downfalls to each one.
You can drive away with it. Because these vans are factory built, when you see it at the dealership, you can pretty much drive off with your new adventure vehicle!
You don’t need to think about layouts. This is a great option if you truly have no idea what you need or what you will use most in the van. This has already been decided for you and there has been feedback to the manufacturer to change things that haven’t worked.
You may have access to information about your vehicle faster. Companies like Winnebago have been around for a long time and are pretty large. They have put a lot of information and specs on their websites and usually have a customer service department that is focused on helping you get what you need fast.
It can be easier to insure. There are standards that need to be met in various states to qualify a vehicle as an RV. Usually the manufacturer has covered all those bases for it to be fully insured.
They are expensive. Compared to custom vans, they can get expensive. The interior cannot be changed to help lower the cost so you are stuck with what they charge you.
You could find their designs don’t fit your needs. While it is easier to let another company take the guesswork out of designing your van, it could mean you will discover you need things that manufactured vans don’t provide (like ample storage for your gear).
Some of the features can’t be used off-grid. Depending on the van, it may or may not have solar. And even if it does, things like microwaves and AC units take most of the power you have stored. If you use them at night you risk damaging your batteries, because they aren’t being replenished with the solar panels. Usually manufactured vans are designed with shore power in mind. This means you won’t be spending as much time off the beaten path.
Interior colors are fixed. You don’t get much choice in the interior design. Some models vary their colors slightly, but for the most part you are stuck with beige or brown. You can usually paint the walls, but you are spending a lot of money on your van. You should love it when you move in.
Built to fit your exact needs and design choices. The best part about custom vans is that they are CUSTOM! The layout, design, and accessories are all chosen by you. Do you love to mountain bike but don’t want to attach your expensive bikes to the back of the van? Store them under a lifted bed to protect them! More of a ski bum? Maybe the bench design works better. There are so many crafty ways to store your gear inside your van where they are safe.
Less expensive than manufactured vans. Custom vans rarely cost more than $60,000 for the build. You usually have to find the van yourself, but this is a great way to lower the entire cost of your adventure van. Also, since you are working with a builder to create your van, certain things may be able to be changed to lower the cost, like the kind of fridge, or you decide to skip a heater because you know you will be in warm climates.
More focus can be put into off-grid adventures. Taking your home with you deep into the woods is one of the best parts of living in a van. Your custom builders will help you decide what your electrical needs are based on your desired appliances and design an electrical system exactly for you. There are certain appliances that perform more efficiently and some that don’t even require power at all (like propane stoves instead of induction cooktops).
Can take time to get it on the road. Custom builds are created for you, so you won’t be taking your new tiny home with you for at least a month. If you ask for more customizations, it could take longer. If you want a custom van, allow the builders some time to get it to you before you take off on your next adventure. They want it to be perfect, after all!
The companies are smaller, so it could take a little more time to get answers. Some of these operations are as small as 5 people, many even less. The people building your van are also answering emails, phone calls, and potentially working on other client builds too. If you choose to work with a custom campervan company, give them a little grace when it comes to answering your questions. They are juggling many hats.
If possible rent a custom van and a manufactured van for a weekend to get a feel for some of the differences. This will give you more of an idea of what you will want for the layout, design, and potentially who you would like to build your van if you choose that route. Whatever you choose, you will end up loving your time on the road!