10 Best AWD & 4×4 Vans To Turn Into Campervans

Best AWD 4x4 vans

Vanlife can take you to some incredible places but with a 2WD van, you can only go so far. That’s where AWD and 4×4 vans come into play.

Whether you’re looking to rock crawl in Utah, hit the slopes in Colorado, or drive in the sand in Baja California, 4×4 will allow you to get off the beaten path. AWD vans offer more capability as well, making your drive safer in adverse conditions and allowing you to go further than 2WD.

Though there are endless options for 2WD vans on the market, the field narrows when it comes to 4×4 and AWD. If you’re looking for options for a more capable platform for van life, this list is for you!

This post covers the ten best 4×4 and AWD vans to turn into campervans. We go over their drivetrain, price range, and why they make a good platform for a van build.

Photo by jordanairving

What Is The Difference Between a 4×4 Van And an AWD Van?

The differences between 4×4 and AWD are quite technical so we’ll offer a brief overview.

An AWD system has electrically controlled components and sends more torque to a given wheel when the system senses low traction. This makes you safer in adverse road conditions and offers additional traction in off-roading situations.

A 4×4 system is mechanical, sending power to all four tires. The driver is required to engage 4×4, though some systems are full-time. 4×4 tends to be more robust than AWD offering more power and reliability in intense off-road conditions.

In short, AWD is better if you are concerned about safety in bad conditions, while 4×4 is better if you plan to do intense off-roading. 

10 Best AWD And 4×4 Vans To Turn Into Campervans:

1. Mercedes Sprinter

Photo by Mercedes-Benz Group Media
  • Years Made: 2015-2022
  • Drive Train: 4×4 with 4×4 low option
  • Price Range: $34,000-$61,000

The Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 is currently the only “new from the factory 4×4” option on the market. Since you can buy it new without modifications, a 4×4 Sprinter is a great option for those who want a vehicle under warranty.

Mercedes has a great reputation for reliability making it a great platform for a 4×4 campervan. You can purchase them as an empty cargo van or buy a pre-converted van from Winnebago Revel or Sportsmobile.

Photo by @4x4_touring

The 4×4 option is only offered with a diesel engine which provides great mileage of over 20 MPG. There are multiple wheelbase options such as 144’, 170’, and 170′ extended, as well as a regular and high roof option. One drawback is that you will pay a Mercedes premium for both the van and the maintenance.

In 2023, Mercedes will be replacing the 4×4 with AWD. It will only be offered with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel and will maintain the ground clearance provided with the current 4×4 model. Improvements include the ability to send 50% torque to the front wheels over 35% in the current model. The new model will also have a nine-speed transmission rather than a seven-speed. The drawback is that it will lose its low gear for more advanced off-roading.

Read Next: 16 Sprinter Van Conversions To Get You Excited For Van Life

2. Ford Transit

Photo by @motortrend
  • Years Made: 2020-present
  • Drive Train: AWD
  • Price Range: $36,000-$52,000

Ford Transit began offering an AWD option in 2020, filling in the hole left in the AWD cargo van market by GM’s exit. The Transit is currently your only option for a new AWD cargo van on the market. Since its debut, the Ford Transit AWD has become an incredibly popular platform for van building.

Ford has a solid reputation and readily available parts and maintenance. Though it is not 4×4, the AWD will give you better traction in adverse driving conditions and more capability than a 2WD.

Ford Transit Conversions
Photo by Stephen Leonardi

The Ford Transit AWD comes in low, medium, and high roof. It also comes in 138’, 156’, and 172’ wheelbase leaving you plenty of options. For even greater capability, the Ford Transit AWD can be converted to 4×4 by Quigley.

Read More: 10 Amazing Ford Transit Conversions For Van Life Inspiration

3. Chevy Express/GMC Savana

Photo by @quigley4x4
  • Years Made: AWD option was made from 2003-2014
  • Drive Train: AWD
  • Price Range: $5,000-$21,000

The Chevy Express and GMC Savana were both made by GM meaning they are nearly identical with only cosmetic differences. Made from 2003 to 2014, for many years they were the only option for an AWD cargo van on the market.

The Express and Savana have a reputation for being reliable workhorses, often lasting greater than 300,000 miles. GM vans are relatively easy to work on yourself and have cheap and readily available parts.

Photo by @carefree.camper.co

They are only offered as a low roof but you can convert them to a high roof or pop-top. As a low roof, you have the advantage of fewer issues with clearance and crosswinds than a high roof van.

The Chevy Express/GMC Savana AWD was only offered as a 1500 meaning you will have to keep your build weight down. If you want more capability, both the Chevy Express and GMC Savana can be converted to 4×4. Both Quigley and Weldtec offer GM cargo van 4×4 conversions. 

4. Chevy Astro/GMC Safari

Photo by Outdoorsy / Mo
  • Years Made: 1990-2005
  • Drive Train: AWD
  • Price Range: $1,500-$10,000 dependent on the condition

At roughly the size of a minivan, the Chevy Astro and GMC Safari are some of the most compact AWD options out there. Perfect for a weekend warrior or solo traveler, these vans are agile and capable.

The Astro/Safari is easy to maneuver – this is great for those intimidated by driving a larger cargo van. Fuel economy ranges from 15-20 MPG. These vans are also relatively inexpensive making them one of the more budget-friendly options on the market.

Photo by @dirtroadcampers

Though they are about the size of a minivan, they are boxier like a cargo van making them easier to build out as a campervan. They have not been made since 2005 but due to their reliability, you can still find them for sale in good working condition.

5. Toyota Sienna

Photo by Car and Driver
  • Years made: 2011-Present
  • Drive Train: AWD
  • Price Range: $9,000-$36,000

Toyota Sienna changed the minivan game when they came out with an AWD option in 2011. Minivans are incredibly stealthy when it comes to van life. For those looking to stealth van camp in cities, you can pass as a soccer mom, leaving nobody suspecting you’re sleeping inside!

One great feature is that the Toyota Sienna is the only AWD to offer a hybrid model. If you go with the hybrid option, you can get an impressive 36 MPG. With gas prices the way they are, that is a major selling point!

Photo by @oasiscampervans

Minivans are much smaller than cargo vans, making them more maneuverable and easily fitting in a regular parking spot. If you’re looking for a stealthy, affordable, AWD van with good gas mileage, the Toyota Sienna is a great option!

Read Next: 10 Best Minivan Camper Conversions For Hitting The Road

6. Chrysler Pacifica

Photo by Jeff Xu / Car and Driver
  • Years made: 2020-Present
  • Drive Train: AWD
  • Price Range: $33,000-$44,000

Up until 2020, the Toyota Sienna was the only AWD minivan option in the United States – that is until the Chrysler Pacifica came along. Sharing all the same benefits as the Toyota Sienna, the Chrysler Pacifica makes a great option for van life.

It is stealthy, compact compared to cargo vans, and gets 25 MPG. Chrysler Pacifica does not yet offer an AWD Hybrid option but their FWD plugin hybrid gets an impressive 82 MPG.

If you’re looking for a conversion company, Oasis Campervans does beautiful minivan conversions that are fully removable, meaning you can use the van as a commuter and a camper!

7. Ford E-Series Quigley

Photo by @vanelsa86
  • Years made: 1974-Present
  • Drive Train: 4×4 High and Low
  • Price Range: $5,000-$45,000 depending on age and condition

Though the Ford E Series does not come from the factory 4×4, Quigley has a fantastic reputation for offering 4×4 conversions. They are the only company that has qualified for Ford’s Specialty Vehicle Engineering Program for 4×4 conversions. If you already have a Ford E series 2016 or newer, you can take the vehicle to Quigley to convert for just over $15,000. You can also find the Ford E series with Quigley conversions for resale on the market.

One great option with Quigley is that you can convert any E series cutaway, meaning you could have an ambulance, box truck, or custom fiberglass shell on the back. If you have Quigley convert a new E series, they include a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty.

Photo by @fieldvans

The Ford E-Series has a great reputation for being a reliable vehicle that can last for hundreds of thousands of miles. They are easy vehicles to work on yourself and parts are cheap and readily available.

In addition to Quigley, Sportsmobile and Field Van also offer 4×4 E-Series conversions with a campervan buildout and pop-top included. The conversions from Sportsmobile and Field van are built on an E-Series cutaway with a custom fiberglass shell on the back. 

Read Next: 13 Best Ford Econoline Conversions For Van Life

8. VW Vanagon Syncro

Photo by Live Work Wander
  • Years made: 1985-1992
  • Drive train: 4×4 High and Low
  • Price Range: $20,000-$50,000 depending on the condition

The VW Vanagon Syncro has a dedicated following. If you’re into nostalgia and don’t mind van maintenance, this vehicle is for you!

The Syncro makes a great platform for van life because it’s compact, has low clearance, and is very capable.

Photo by @funwagen

The Syncro was made with a pre-built camper interior as well as a pop-top. It is an older European vehicle, so be prepared to learn a lot about mechanics. Luckily, the VW and Syncro community is incredibly tight-knit offering tons of support.

Since they were only made for 7 years and were imported to the United States, they can be difficult to find. If you’re interested in getting one, you can try your luck on Westfaliasforsale.com.

9. Mitsubishi Delica

Photo by Bring a Trailer / Kahn
  • Years made: 1979-present (though you won’t commonly see newer than 1997 in the United States due to import laws)
  • Drive train: 4×4 High and Low
  • Price Range: $5,000-$25,000

Mitsubishi Delica brands itself as “the most capable minivan in the world.” With an incredibly unique look, these vans have built a loyal following.

Photo by @delica_usa

Choosing this vehicle for a campervan will ensure that you turn a few heads. As a compact vehicle, you will be able to maneuver, rock crawl, and fit in a grocery store parking spot! These are rare in the United States due to import laws but you can find them on DelicaUSA.com.

10. Toyota Hiace

Photo by Expedition Portal / brookebeesummers
  • Years Made: 1977-present
  • Drive Train: 4×4 High and Low
  • Price Range: $1500-$15,000 dependent on condition and year

Though the Toyota Hiace is still currently made in Japan, you won’t find any newer than 1997 in the United States due to import laws. These are rare in the United States but you can occasionally find them through private sellers or importers.

Photo by @ottoex

Toyota Hiace is incredibly popular among the van life community in Australia and New Zealand. They make a great choice for a 4×4 van due to their reliability, compact size, and fuel economy. Newer models boast an impressive 30 MPG. 

Has this list left you drooling over the 4×4 and AWD van options? Any of these vans would be sure to get you further off the beaten path and keep you safer in rain, snow, and mud.

Though it’s true that 4×4 and AWD are not necessary to enjoy van life, they can allow you to experience more. From a brand new Mercedes Sprinter or a classic Vanagon Syncro, there’s something for everyone when it comes to off-road vans.

Which 4×4 or AWD van would you choose for van life? Let us know your favorites in the comments below!

This post is contributed by Ashley Cohagen. Ashley is a travel nurse and freelance writer adventuring in a campervan with her partner Eric. Together, they curate their blog Create Your Own Roadshow, where they share everything from DIY campervan conversion guides and vanlife tips, to destination guides and travel nursing advice. You can follow their journey on their blog & Instagram @create.your.own.roadshow

/ Feature photo by Stephen Leonardi /

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