Renting a van in the U.S.: The 5 best #vanlife models

In my opinion, renting a van in the United States is the best way to enjoy the great outdoors without missing out on visiting the big cities.

Travelling by van means the freedom to go anywhere, while enjoying both comfort and outdoor life. 

The most beautiful national parks in the American West will be at your doorstep.

Here are my 5 favourite van models and my reasons for choosing this way to travel.
 

#1- The Mavericks


The Mavericks is a popular choice among vanlife enthusiasts. 

Its big comfortable bed is much appreciated after a day of hiking in the national parks.  

It sleeps 2 or 4 if you take the optional roof tent ($). It's the perfect choice for families.

The kitchen area is in the back of the vehicle and has a sink, a stove and a refrigerator.

The queen-sized bed converts into a “dining room” for mealtimes: just place the foldaway table in the middle of the two convertible benches.

Imagine yourself relaxing at your campsite in the heart of Zion National Park... the dream!
 

TECHNICAL DETAILS

  • Model: Ford E150
  • Approximate fuel consumption: 13 L /100km
  • Length:  5.4 metres (17.7 feet)
  • Width:  2.01 metres (6.6 feet)
  • Interior height: 1.38 metres (4.5 feet)
  • Automatic transmission
     

EQUIPMENT

  • Dashboard and rear air conditioning
  • Fresh water tank (19 litres) and grey water tank (23 litres)
  • Electric refrigerator (30 litres)
  • 2-burner propane stove with 2 bottles of propane
  • Sink with faucet and drain
  • 110V power cable (for campsite connection)
  • Small electric heater
  • Multiple 12V plugs for accessories
  • Foldaway in-van table
  • Interior light and curtains
  • Picnic chairs
  • Kitchen kit (plates, pans, cutlery, etc.)
  • Bedding
     

BOOK NOW

 

#2- The Big Sur


The Big Sur is 60 cm longer than the Mavericks.

This extra space allows you to keep the rear bucket seats up all the time. Those on a family road trip will appreciate not having to play Tetris with the car seat every night.

Here too, the kitchen is set up in the back of the vehicle and is equipped with everything you need to prepare a good meal.

 

TECHNICAL DETAILS

  • Model: Ford T-350
  • Approximate fuel consumption: 12.4L /100km
  • Length: 6.04 metres (19.8 feet) 
  • Width: 2.06 metres (6.9 feet)
  • Interior height: 1.42 metres (4.8 feet)
  • Automatic transmission
     

EQUIPMENT

  • Dashboard and rear air conditioning 
  • Fresh water tank (19 litres) and grey water tank (23 litres)
  • Electric refrigerator (30 litres) 
  • 2-burner propane stove with 2 bottles of propane
  • Sink with faucet and drain
  • 110V power cable (for campsite connection)
  • Small electric heater
  • Multiple 12V plugs for accessories
  • Foldaway in-van table
  • Interior light and curtains
  • Picnic chairs
  • Kitchen kit (plates, pans, cutlery, etc.)
  • Bedding
     

BOOK NOW

 

#3- The Santa Cruz


Those who opt for the Santa Cruz know that it's one of the most fuel-efficient models out there.

This compact van gives you great freedom. You'll be just as comfortable on the streets of Los Angeles or San Francisco as you are on winding roads or off the beaten path.

The Santa Cruz is perfect for solo road trippers or couples. It features a full-time bed and a space-saving kitchen in the back of the van.

With the 1-burner pullout stove, sink, 13-litre water tank and refrigerator, you'll be able to prepare great meals in the great outdoors. 
 

 TECHNICAL DETAILS

  • Model: Ford T-350
  • Approximate fuel consumption: 8.7L /100km
  • Length: 4.4 metres (14.5 feet)
  • Width: 1.83 metres (6 feet)
  • Interior height: 1.28 metres (4.2 feet)
  • Automatic transmission
     

EQUIPMENT

  • Dashboard air conditioning (while running)
  • Fresh water tank (13.2 litres) and grey water tank (13.2 litres)
  • Electric refrigerator (30 litres)
  • 1-burner propane stove with 2 bottles of propane
  • Sink with faucet and drain
  • 110V power cable (for campsite connection)
  • Small electric heater
  • Multiple 12V plugs for accessories
  • Storage space on both sides
  • Interior light and curtains
  • Picnic chairs
  • Kitchen kit (plates, pans, cutlery, etc.)
  • Bedding
     

BOOK NOW

 

#4- The Hitop


The main advantage of the Hitop over the models presented above is that you can stand up inside it (unless you're more than 1.96m tall!).

This is an asset for your daily comfort. For example, in bad weather, you'll be warm and dry as you prepare your meal since the kitchen is located behind the front seat.

When it comes to sleeping, the dining area turns into a double bed and there is a single bed on the upper level.

This makes this van a perfect choice for families with 1 teenager, for example.

Note that for safety reasons, baby seats cannot be installed in this type of van.
 

TECHNICAL DETAILS

  • Model: Chevrolet Express
  • Length: 5.6 metres (18.5 feet)
  • Width: 2 metres (6.8 feet)
  • Interior height: 1.96 metres (6.5 feet) 
  • Automatic transmission
     

EQUIPMENT

  • Dashboard air conditioning
  • Water tank
  • Sink with faucet and drain
  • Electric refrigerator 
  • 2-burner gas stove
  • Microwave
  • USB and 120V plugs
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Kitchen kit (plates, pans, cutlery, etc.)
  • Bedding
     

BOOK NOW

 

#5- The Kuga


The Kuga is similar to the Hitop with a more recent fit-out.

The other difference is that the Kuga has solar panels. The battery for your lights and fridge will last much longer and constantly charge (in the Hitop the batteries will only charge when the engine is running or when you're parked at a campsite with electricity).

This is a little extra not to be overlooked if you plan to spend several days in a park with an unserviced campground.

Like its predecessor, it has a double bed on the lower level and a single bed on the upper level.

Here again, a baby seat cannot be installed in this type of van.
 

TECHNICAL DETAILS

  • Model: Chevrolet Express
  • Length: 5.6 metres (18.5 feet)
  • Width: 2 metres (6.8 feet)
  • Interior height: 1.96 metres (6.5 feet)
  • Automatic transmission
  • Solar panel: charges the battery for lights and refrigerator
     

EQUIPMENT

  • Dashboard air conditioning
  • Water tank
  • Sink with faucet and drain
  • Electric refrigerator 
  • 2-burner gas stove
  • Microwave
  • USB and 120V plugs
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Kitchen kit (plates, pans, cutlery, etc.)
  • Bedding
     

BOOK NOW

 

3 good reasons to choose a van for your U.S. road trip

Van in Monument Valley
Live the vanlife experience you've always dreamed of

I've been a fan of vanlife for a little over 12 years now.

I've had the opportunity to travel around the United States several times and I have some wonderful memories. If you're a nature lover like me, I'm ready to bet that renting a van for your U.S. road trip will be one of the best experiences you've ever had.

#1- Sense of freedom

Some travellers don't like to book their accommodations in advance.

What if you decide to stay longer to enjoy the lunar landscapes of Death Valley? That's exactly what happened to me during my American West road trip in 2014.

Travelling without booking ahead can be risky during peak season (that's how you end up in a Walmart parking lot) but more often than not, it means the freedom to choose where and how long you stay in a place you've fallen in love with.

 

#2- Easy to manoeuvre

Driving a van is more like driving a car than a truck, as can be the case with motorhomes in the United States.

Yes, North American roads are wide, but sometimes they can be so winding that RVs are prohibited. That's the case for the road to Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park and the road to Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park.

And in the city, a van is much easier to park than a RV.

More time, less stress.

 

#3- Economical choice

Generally speaking, renting a van will cost you less than renting a RV.

Moreover, the gas consumption is lower.

On average, a van consumes between 9 and 13 litres / 100 km, while a RV consumes between 25 and 35 litres / 100 km.

Another point: renting a van will be more economical than renting a hotel room every night. In the low season in the United States, some campsites cost as little as $10. It's even possible to camp for free in the national forests when there are no indications to the contrary.

It's easy to do the math...

 

So, do these van rental models make you want to live the vanlife for your next trip to the U.S.?

If you have any questions or if you're a vanlife enthusiast and want to share your tips, feel free to leave a comment below.

 

Karolane Lessard

An enthusiast of both our vibrant cities & great oudoors, my life revolves around travel & adventure. It's a no brainer that I have to share the wonders & secrets of my neck of the woods with other travelling souls. Enjoy the journey!

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