May 04, 2022 5 min read
Traveling via camper van is seeing a resurgence in popularity. But this nimble RV has come a long way, from the boxy shaped, bright colored VW vans of the 1950s to the modern Class B decked out with the comforts of home.
In this industry recap, we will take you through the history of the camper van, explore the growth of this industry, check out the current trends, and even learn a thing about their future. Let’s get started.
Also called camper vans or conversion vans, Class B motorhomes are small, streamlined RVs built on a van frame. They typically range in size from 16 to 24 feet and offer living space best suited for small groups. They are popular with young families, millennials, solo travelers, first-timers and those downsizing from a larger RV. Many love them because driving and parking is a breeze.
Don't underestimate the camper van. These well-equipped camping machines pack a lot into a small space and are as capable and comfy as any other type of RV. They usually feature a galley kitchen, small bathroom, dinette, several beds, and storage space. Modern camper vans often come with conveniences like overhead air-conditioning, a power inverter, as well as an entertainment center with a flat TV.
In 1947, a Dutch VW importer came up with an idea for a van based on the Beetle. Out of this, the first VW campervan was born in 1949. It was originally designed to move vehicle parts around a massive VW factory in Britain. Known as the Splitty, or Type 2 this iconic van is still one of the most popular models today.
The Splitty was unveiled in the US market in the mid-50s, and became an instant hit. By the early 60s, nearly 200,000 vans had been sold. After the success of the VW camper, other motor companies such as Dormobile and Ford Transit entered the market. From here, the camper van began to really evolve and take the shape of what we see today.
Notably, the long-wheelbase van with higher roofs, such as the Mercedes Sprinter Conversions and Ram Promaster Camper Van models you see in today’s dealerships were first introduced in the 1980s. Many conversion companies now use the long-wheelbase vans to create modern Class B RVs.
New camper vans are being produced every day, each one with more innovative features than the last. Some are being designed for off-grid camping, others for off-road exploration, and some have everything you need for full-time living. The most common Class B brands are Airstream, Coachmen, Forest River and Winnebago.
The camper van is the fastest-growing segment of motorized RVs. But what’s triggered the popularity of Class Bs?
The van life movement, which is stealing the spotlight in social platforms and travel magazines, has inspired thousands of young people to buy or build a camper van and use it as a home base to see the world.
Joining the camper van movement is easier since converting a van yourself isn’t as costly as investing in a large-size RV. Plus, it's now easier to access technology, equipment, and resources when building your rig.
Compared to other RVs, camper vans get the most miles per gallon. Most can get double or even triple the MPG of Class A and C models, helping you save money at an age when gas prices are at an all-time high.
Another reason people are gravitating towards the camper van is that it’s simple to maneuver, park, and turn around. It's also easy to drive on narrow roads and congested streets.
Class Bs have seen an uptick in interest from RVers looking to downsize from their larger motorhomes. Although smaller, a camper van still gives you all the features and conveniences of a modern RV.
Traveling and living in a van doesn’t mean you have to rough it. People are not only looking for a trusty van to take them outdoors, but also a rig that provides comfort and entertainment. It’s now common to see vans with lounge areas, swiveling leather seats, privacy shades, built-in solar panels, and premium audio systems.
We’re now seeing a steady increase in the production of camper vans that are rugged enough to tackle off-road destinations. This unique group of vehicles has features ranging from all-wheel drive, extra tough body frame, special off-roading tires, and jacked-up ground clearance.
Being able to maneuver through rough roads means digital nomads can now escape to beautiful, remote areas. To extend their stay in nature and become less reliant on campground amenities, van lifers are outfitting their rigs with off-grid capabilities. Many vans now have a solar setup, battery pack, larger holding tanks, and even a generator.
A growing number of people are converting their humble white vans into ideal holiday homes. Even when the pandemic had decimated almost every possible travel-related industry, van conversions companies continued seeing an increase in client inquiries. Demand has skyrocketed so much that conversion businesses are struggling to keep up.
Modern camper vans are being built to allow you to do your job from anywhere, whether you are camped on a mountain top, desert, or ocean-front. You can now find vans that have an interior that provide a comfortable workspace, plus multiple electric outlets and USB’s to charge your laptop and cellphone.
In January this year, Winnebago unveiled a zero-emission camper van prototype. This e-RV is built on a modified Ford Transit Chassis, using sustainable materials. It provides a range of 125 miles when fully charged. Other manufacturers are also looking forward to an electrified future. Thor Industries and VW are also working on a Class B electric recreational vehicle.
The popularity of Van lifing, or van dwelling has led to a thriving industry. Dozens of new companies are emerging to outfit vans, sell custom rigs, and even conversion kits. New apps and magazines are popping up to help nomads find tailored travel information.
Thanks to the growth of the van life movement, a new opportunity to make money has emerged. Today, van lifers who aren’t traveling are renting out their vans and unlocking extra income. The average rental price of a Class B per night is $224. If you rent out your van, you can expect to earn around $1,568 in a week, and a cool $6720 in 30 days. Think you want to rent a van to try it out? Here are a few websites to check out: Go Camp, Escape Campervans and Warner Van Rental.
The Class B RV is here to stay. And it’s not hard to see why campervans will continue to rise in popularity. This engineering marvel is small, easy to drive, economical, and comes with all the amenities you need to travel and camp in comfort. New designs are emerging every day, from off-road beasts, luxury rigs to basic campers, so it’s up to you to pick what matches your taste and lifestyle.
And before you set out on your next van adventure, make sure you have the right gear. Out in the middle of nowhere and off the grid, you can always rely on Defiance Tools to get yourself out of a sticky situation.
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