Best Small Campervans – Things To Consider

Hi, I’m Chris. About Me

Being the owner of a small campsite, I get to see and meet the owners of a wide range of leisure vehicles each year. With this article, we are going to discuss my own observations and my guest’s feedback on small campervans. Below I will provide examples of OEM campervans as well as other alternatives from various campervan manufacturers and conversion companies. However, what I’ll also discuss are the key features you need to consider when choosing a campervan to get the best solution for you. After all, many campervans have to perform everyday tasks, maybe even the school run/work commute.

Best Small Campervans
A VW California is by no means the only choice when it comes to small campervans: Image –

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I would encourage you to read this whole article as I discuss some important factors you need to consider to find the best small campervan to meet your needs.

However, if you just want to go straight to your options, I’ve separated them into the following categories:

Now, a conversion of an existing commercial work van I’ve stated as the cheapest option. Well, that is true on the basis you are looking to purchase a second-hand vehicle and not carry out the work yourself.

I’ve had quite a few guests over the years who have done their own DIY campervan conversions.

While a DIY conversion of a second-hand commercial vehicle is indeed the cheapest option, its not the focus of this article.

In the future, I do want to produce an article with examples of the best DIY campervan/motorhome conversions I’ve come across.

Introduction To The Best Small Campervans

I’ve previously written about the benefits/strengths of campervans compared to other leisure vehicles, such as my caravans vs campervans article.

For instance, a key strength of a campervan is its flexibility to pretty much go anywhere where a typical passenger vehicle can go.

Hence, you can go pretty much anywhere you want and not have to worry about access/parking issues.

Now, as many campervans are still fitted with diesel engines, that ‘go anywhere’ advantage is going to get more diluted with Clean Air Zones. More on that below.

However, the same general benefit still stands that as a campervan is the smallest leisure vehicle, it is the most flexible.

Before we go further with this article though, there is something I want to clarify, my distinction between a campervan and a motorhome.

Are Campervans Also Motorhomes?

So, generally speaking, yes, many people will refer to campervans as motorhomes and vice versa.

However, as I discuss in my article on campervans vs motorhomes, I do have a distinction between the two leisure vehicles.

I regard a leisure vehicle as a campervan and not a motorhome if it doesn’t have a dedicated enclosed space for a toilet and shower (washroom room).

Now, as you will see below, that doesn’t mean you cannot have a toilet/shower in a campervan.

If an enclosed washroom is provided, such as that above, its a motorhome. Without a dedicated wet room, its a campervan

While a campervan may have space to accommodate a toilet and maybe even a shower, there simply isn’t the space to accommodate a true closed-off space for those facilities.

Things To Consider With Small Campervans

So there are lots of potential reasons why you may be considering a small campervan. Perhaps its for cost reasons and a small campervan would best suit your budget.

Perhaps you have a small drive, and you are looking for a leisure vehicle that will fit.

Maybe as I discussed above in the intro to this article, the campervan will actually be used on a day-to-day basis as your second or maybe even your primary vehicle.

Maybe taking the kids to school or for your commute to work. I have several guests at our campsite where this is the case.

The above are potential considerations. Below, I’m going to discuss features you need to consider in terms of how you will use the campervan specifically as a leisure vehicle.

Pay Attention To The Campervans Pay Load Allowance

A campervan, just like any caravan or motorhome, has a maximum payload allowance that is legally enforceable.

In other words, if you get pulled over by the police, and they take you to a public weighbridge, and the vehicle is heavier than it should be, you’ll be in trouble.

Hence, the more features you have installed into the campervan, leisure batteries, fridges, hob/oven, gas bottle, fixed units etc, the less the remaining payload allowance for your own personal items.

Campervan Payload Allowance
To find the best campervan to suit your needs, its going to need the space and payload allowance to meet your requirements: Image –

If you travel light, you’ll probably be within the remaining user payload. However, if you want to take with you a driveway or rollout awning, many of them are much heavier than many people realise.

Furthermore, if you want to put a bike rack on the back, the weight of the bikes will have to be discounted from the user payload as well.

Therefore, before you can choose a suitable campervan to best suit your needs, you really have to make a list of needs and a list of wants, focusing on the needs first and foremost.

Diesel, Petrol or Electric?

Most campervans today are based on vehicles fitted with a diesel engine, and diesel does have its benefits.

For instance, a diesel engine gives you lots of torque at low revs, which is well suited to accelerating a fully loaded campervan.

Furthermore, you can get some of the highest MPG figures on the motorways/fast roads from diesel.

Another benefit of diesel in a campervan is you can get diesel space heaters, Webassto being one of the leading brands.

Therefore, instead of relying on a separate gas heater or electric heater, the fuel which drives the campervan also heats it too.

The VW Dieselgate scandal in 2015 has accelerated the phase-out of diesel vehicles and restricted where they can go (Clean Air Zones): Image –

However, diesel has its problems when it comes to emissions, and many modern diesel engines have emissions devices fitted that really don’t like short runs, which limit the flexibility of a campervan as an everyday vehicle.

Furthermore, more low emissions control zones are rolling out across the country, which will ban diesel vehicles from entering.

Therefore, when it comes to small campervans, I would personally consider a petrol option if possible. There are electric campervans, as I’ll discuss below, and there are even electric motorhomes.

However, we are still quite a few years away from their range/cost being suitable for most people’s needs.

This is obviously a big topic to discuss/consider, I’ve previously written an article about diesel vs petrol vs electric with regards to tow cars, and the content of that article is very much applicable to small campervans as well.

Do You Want a Campervan That Can Tow?

Now, I’m not really suggesting you want to consider a campervan for towing a caravan, though I do actually have a couple of guests who do.

We have had guests towing a teardrop caravan behind their campervan, for instance. However, I’m mainly referring to small cargo trailers.

Obviously, a small campervan is limited in internal storage space. Therefore, we have had guests in the past tow a small trailer behind their campervan.

Not only does the trailer provide them with additional storage space it also keeps the campervan within its maximum user payload allowance (see above).

Campervan Towing
Having the ability to tow with a campervan can add even more flexibility to how you use it on a day-to-day basis and while on holiday: Image –

Furthermore, as I discussed above, some of our guests use their small campervan as an everyday vehicle. Well, going to the tip/recycling centre is often a lot easier when you can tow a small trailer.

Therefore, I do think its worth considering if you want to be able to tow with the campervan and asking the question about a campervan’s towing capabilities and tow bar options before making a final decision.

OEM Small Campervans

OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, hence the manufacturer of the base vehicle.

Therefore, the small campervan options below are available if you walk into a VW, Mercedes-Benz or Ford dealership.

VW California

The California description is given to all VW campervans. The model most applicable to this article on small campervans is the California 6.1.

VW is also soon going to launch an even smaller campervan, the Caddy California, and once available, I’ll add details of that model below.

There is also a Grand California, however that has a dedicated wet room for a toilet/shower, so going by my definition above of what a campervan is, I actually classify the Grand California as a small motorhome instead.

With regards to the California 6.1 it comes in a few different specifications, such as the Beach Camper and Beach Tour, which are the cheapest variants up through to the Coast and Ocean, the highest specification versions.

A review of the VW California Ocean small campervan

As the original VW camper (Type 2) was pretty much where the concept of a campervan started, the VW brand still holds the most recognition and appeal for many people when it comes to campervans.

  • VW California 6.1
  • Transports: 4 people
  • Sleeps: 4 people
  • Engine Options: 2.0-litre Turbo-Diesel Euro VI (FWD and AWD available)
  • Towing Capacity: Up to 2,500 kg
  • Price Range: Starting from £60K (Beach Camper) up to the Ocean (Starting £73K)

Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo

Based on the V-Class MPV, I would definitely describe the Marco Polo as a ‘premium campervan’. Available in either Sport or AMG specification.

The AMG option has bigger wheels (19″) and apparently has ‘sports suspension’ along with larger brakes/callipers.

Four people can travel and sleep in the Marco Polo, and it comes with a kitchenette featuring a sink, two-burner hob and a 40-litre fridge.

I’ve included a video below of a review of the Mercedes Marco Polo by Matt Watson, you may have seen him on the very popular CarWOW YouTube channel.

Matt Watson shares his thoughts on the Mercedes Marco Polo campervan

A notable feature that Matt shows in the video above is the Marco Polo has a rear water connection for an optional shower.

With the back door open, a shower screen can be fixed with suction pads to the inside of the glass on the rear door. However, as Matt notes, its only a cold water shower, therefore, by no means ideal.

  • Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo (Westfalia Conversion)
  • Transports: 4 people as standard (Optional 5 people)
  • Sleeps: 4 people
  • Engine Options: 2.1-litre Turbo-Diesel Euro VI
  • Towing Capacity: Up to 2,500 kg
  • Price Range: Starting from £85K

Ford Nugget

The Nugget campervan is a custom Transit conversion that’s been done for Ford by Westfalia (more about them below).

The Nugget can transport five people and sleeps four. The Nugget actually features a very unique layout compared to many other campervans you will typically find.

I’ve included a video below of the Ford Nugget campervan by A Bus And Beyond, and it shows the rear kitchenette layout.

Most campers will feature a side kitchen. However, I actually think the rear kitchen with the orientation of the pop-up roof is one of the best layout designs I’ve seen on a campervan.

I’d heard the buzz about the Ford Nugget from a couple of our guests, and I get the appeal of its layout

Not only does the rear kitchenette make a more practical cooking space in a small campervan I also think it serves as a good free space to position the toilet in the evenings.

Having the ability to use a toilet inside a campervan at night without disturbing other people is impressive within such a small space.

In fact, the above video shows the short-wheelbase version (L1). On the long-wheelbase version of the Nugget (L2) there is actually a fixed position for the toilet at the back of the camper and a larger kitchenette.

Currently, Ford only offers the Nugget with a range of 2.0L diesel engines. However, Ford does now produce a 1.0L petrol plugin hybrid version of the Transit.

Therefore, hopefully, in the near future, that engine option will become available for the Nugget as well.

  • Ford Transit Nugget (Westfalia Conversion)
  • Transports: 5 people
  • Sleeps: 4 people
  • Engine Options: 2.0-litre Turbo-Diesel Euro VI
  • Towing Capacity: 750 Kg to 2,800 Kg
  • Price Range: Starting from £80K

Small Campervan Manufacturers

The companies listed below offer brand new small campervan conversions.

Hence, they are not OEM’s such as Ford and VW above, they are purchasing new base vehicles and doing their own campervan conversions/layouts.


So you may have noticed above that for the Mercedes Marco Polo and the Ford Nugget I reference they are Westfalia conversions.

In fact, prior to 2001, Westfalia were the company behind VW campervans going all the way back to 1951.

However, in 2001 Westfalia was purchased by Daimler Chrysler (Mercedes-Benz), and since that point, VW has been doing their own campervan conversions, such as the VW California.

Westfalia Small Campervans
Westfalia offers a range of small campervans based on Ford, VW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles: Image –

While Westfalia no longer produces the official VW campers, they do still offer their own VW campervan conversions along with other campervans based on Mercedes-Benz and Ford base vehicles

Westfalia campervans based on the Ford Transit are the Kelsey range, whereas those based on the VW Transporter are branded as the Kelper range and the Mercedes-Benz is branded as the Jules Verne.

  • Ford, Mercedes and VW base vehicles
  • Transport: 4 to 5 people
  • Sleep: 4 people
  • Engine Options: Only Diesel engine options
  • Towing Capacity: Up to 2,800 kg
  • Price Range: Starting from £70K (Ford/Kelsey Range)
  • Westfalia UK Dealers: Click Here

Bilbo’s Campervans

You may have heard of Bilbo’s, they are one of the best-regarded campervan conversion companies in the UK, which were started way back in 1977.

Based in Surrey, they focus on VW campervan conversions and offer a range of layouts such as their Space, Komba, Celex, Nexa and Lezan.

However, Bilbo’s also offers niche custom designs to suit individual requirements. Notably, as well as selling new campervan conversions, they also offer a conversion service for older VW T5 and T6 vehicles.

A review of the Bilbo Celex small campervan

As seen in the video above, Bilbo’s do now offer a campervan with a proper Thetford cassette toilet, just the same as you would find in a caravan or motorhome.

While its obviously not in a dedicated enclosed wet room its still one of the best toilet arrangements you will find on any small campervan.

Another of the layouts well worth looking into is their Space range with removable and reconfigurable cabinets/fixtures.

The build quality of Bilbo’s conversions is up there with the best in the business, and their conversions are approved by the NCC, which is the UK trade body for leisure vehicles established in 1939.

  • VW base vehicles
  • Transport: 4 people
  • Sleep: 4 people
  • Engine Options: Only Diesel engine options
  • Towing Capacity: Up to 2,500 kg
  • Price Range: Used from £29K, new from £63K
  • Manufacturers Website: Click Here

Jerba Campervans

Based in Scotland (East Lothian) Jerba Campervans have been offering new VW campervan conversions since 2005.

Just like Bilbo’s above, Jerba is registered and approved with the NCC. Jerba’s conversions are also formally approved by VW under the MotorhomeQualified scheme.

Just like Bilbo’s above, Jerba focuses purely on VW conversions of T5, T6 and T6.1 vehicles. They offer new conversions, conversions of used vehicles and they hold a stock of new and used approved vehicles.

A bit of background on Jerba Campervans and their 100% employee ownership model

The standard Jerba range includes Tiree, Cromarty, Sanna, Taransay and Jura variants.

However, within each of those standard layouts, Jerba offers customers the ability to customise the specification to their own individual requirements.

The 100% employed ownership model that Jerba is operating by should bring additional confidence to customers that each employee has a vested interest in making sure that each individual customer’s requirements are met.

  • VW base vehicles
  • Transport: 4 people
  • Sleep: 4 people
  • Engine Options: Only Diesel engine options
  • Towing Capacity: Up to 2,500 kg
  • Price Range: New from £59K
  • Manufacturers Website: Click Here

Auto Campers

Auto Campers is actually a partnership of three separate companies. There is Auto Campers South (Roy Woods Transits) based in Berkshire, Auto Campers North (Firth Campers) based in Sheffield and Highland Auto Campers based in Inverness.

They offer four layout options the Leisure Van, MRV, Day Van or Eco-Line with a choice of either a Ford or VW base vehicle, apart from the Eco-Line, that’s only available as a Ford Transit conversion.

Auto Campers
The Auto Campers range of layouts for VW and Ford base vehicles: Image –

The Auto Campers range of conversions and multiple-choice base vehicles in short and long-wheelbase configurations offers potential customers a lot of options to choose the best campervan for their needs.

They also have a good stock of used/approved campervans, and they also offer a hire/try before you buy option. I think the hire/try service is well worth considering, especially for new campervan owners.

  • VW and Ford base vehicles
  • Transport: 2 to 7 people
  • Sleep: 4 people
  • Engine Options: Only Diesel engine options
  • Towing Capacity: Up to 2,500 kg
  • Price Range: From £51K
  • Manufacturers Website: Click Here

CMC Campers

CMC (Concept Muli-Car) is based in Kent and was established in 1988. CMC offers two brands of campervan conversions either Reimo or Hembil.

Reimo is a German-based manufacturer of campervan conversion kits and the CMC HemBil models are based on Scandinavian design principles.

What set’s CMC apart from the other campervan conversion companies above is the range of base vehicles they work on.

While the staples of the VW Transporter and Ford Transit base vehicles are available, there are also smaller options available such as the VW Caddy.

CMC Campers
The top row is CMC Reimo campers, and the bottom row is CMC Hembil campers: Images –

As well as offering campervan conversion services for customers own vehicles CMC also offers the option of an air suspension installation which can not only provide better road comfort but practical benefits for disabled clients.

Notably, as CMC offer conversions of the VW Caddy not only is that one of the smallest campervans on offer today, its also available as a petrol-powered vehicle which, as I’ve stated above, has the benefit of being able to access clean air zones where diesel vehicles are going to be banned.

  • VW, Ford, Fiat, Nissan and Vauxhall base vehicles
  • Transport: 2 to 7 people
  • Sleep: Up to 4 people
  • Engine Options: Petrol and Diesel engine options
  • Towing Capacity: 750 kg to 2,800 kg
  • Price Range: From £50K
  • Manufacturers Website: Click Here

Sussex Campervans

You’ll never guess where they’re based, well yes, Sussex. While the name of the company is an obvious clue to their location, their range of campervans isn’t obvious.

Sussex Campervans specialise in Nissan, Renault and the ever-popular VW conversions. However, they have one camper in particular, which is significant, the E-NV200 Camper.

The E-NV200 is the first electric campervan on the market. It features the same electric motors and battery from the Nissan Leaf.

Specifically, the 40kW model, which we actually own as a family car. Sussex Campervans claim a range of between 124 to 187 miles for the E-NV200 Camper, which I believe to be generally accurate.

The E-NV200 may be the first, but it won’t be the last electric campervan

What’s also interesting to note about this electric campervan is its not just the mode of transport that’s electrically powered, its fully electric for the heating and cooking too.

There are four additional lithium batteries onboard which provide 230V off-grid power.

As you have probably guessed, this electric campervan is not cheap (£59K). However, its a starting point for where campervans, along with all personal vehicles, are going, electrified.

  • Nissan, Vauxhall and VW base vehicles
  • Transport: 4 people
  • Sleep: 4 people
  • Engine Options: Diesel, Petrol and Electric
  • Towing Capacity: 750 kg to 2,500 kg
  • Price Range: From £44K
  • Manufacturers Website: Click Here

Small Campervan Conversion Companies

Now, pretty much any commercial van can be converted into a camper.

If you need to keep your budget under control, you may be looking for a cheap base vehicle that you then need a conversion company to do the work for you.

Well, there are lots of companies offering campervan conversions of second-hand vehicles, but how do you find the closest to you?

Well, the easiest way I know of and I website my guests have told me about, is Quirky Campers. On their website, they have a directory and a UK map of campervan conversion companies.

If you click the image below, their directory will load up in a new window.

Quirky Campers Directory
Click the image above for the Quirky Campers directory of campervan converters

Now, while you will obviously be looking for a conversion company as close to your location as possible that also can work within your budget, do some additional research before making a decision.

In other words, put the company name into Google, see if they have a Google business listing with reviews, a TrustPilot rating, Facebook reviews etc.

When you have found a suitable company provide them with as much information as possible. As stated above, consider the features that you need over those that are purely wants.

Is a toilet and a space to store it essential to you etc. Do you need a bike rack fitted? Do you want to be able to tow a small trailer etc.

Conclusions On The Best Small Campervans

So I hope the above information on small campervan options can help you narrow down your choices.

While you could consider an OEM campervan, they are the most expensive option available when you look at the features/specification to price point.

If you are looking for a brand new small campervan, the likes of Westfalia, Bilbo’s, Jerba, Auto Campers, CMC and Sussex Campervans can offer you just the same level of quality but with more customization options and likely at a better/lower final price point.

If you are on a tight budget and will be using a second-hand vehicle, several of the companies mentioned above carry out work on second-hand vehicles, but you may also find another more local company to you through the Quicky Campers directory.

Then again, if you change your mind and you think you want a leisure vehicle with a dedicated wet room for a toilet and shower, check out my article on the best small motorhomes.

That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you use the information above to find the best small campervan to meet your needs and budget and once you have come and visit us at Horton Common 🙂

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