Step Van Conversion? Probably Not.

What’s a step van? This is a step van.

130128 stepvan conversion

The idea of converting a step van into an RV has been rattling around in my head for a good few months. I got the idea from these amazing people. But after a few months of investigating the pros and cons, I’ve decided that a step van conversion just isn’t for me. Here’s why.

The biggest issue for me is noise. I have a pretty strong aversion to loud noises, and complaints mentioned in some of the step van conversion forums on the interweb have led me to believe that the noise of a step van engine will be unbearable. The fact that I can hear the UPS truck coming down my street from 100 yards away also doesn’t bode well.

The second issue is stealth, although this is definitely a two-sided coin. Parked overnight in an unfamiliar town, you definitely don’t want to be hassled at 3:00 in the morning by a nosy resident or an overzealous security guard. You want to blend in, or look like you have a reason to be parked there. One one hand, a big white truck might look very much like it has a legitimate reason for being there. Perhaps a plumber has been called out on a night call. Perhaps a grocery store is receiving late night deliveries. One the other hand, a big white truck sticks out, because it’s big and white. And if parked in the wrong place (e.g., a close-knit residential area), it might look suspicious.

The third issue is drivability. I’m not convinced that a step van would handle well on the road. It’s very boxy, so driving through windy areas might feel like trying to ride a kite in a tornado. And as the owner of a somewhat zippy Toyota, I think a cargo van might feel more familiar.

So there you have it. No step van for me. The current options are: an extended cargo van with a high top, a Ford E-350 shuttle bus, or a Class B RV. I have to confess that I’m really looking forward to designing and building my own house on wheels so I’m not really actively searching for a Class B, but if a nice one came along at a decent price I just might decide to spring for it. As if mulling for the past few months hasn’t been enough, it looks like I’ll be mulling a little while longer.

  • Byron Reynolds

    Noisy? Not so! A lot of the step vans are powered by gasoline engines. My ’75 International Grumman has an International 392. With a good set of mufflers, engine bay insulation, and carpet…it’s as quiet as any front engine RV. If you want a diesel rig, then sure…that’s why they put the diesel engines in the rear of busses; they’re loud. And yes, my big V8 gets shitty fuel economy. Who cares on a vehicle that is driven less than 2500mi/yr. If you’re planning on driving 100mi a day or something, then yes…you need better economy, but not for a vacation-use camper. Additionally, keep this in mind. Step vans are CHEAP, and step vans registered as RV’s are cheap to own. In California anyway, anything pre-76 is smog exempt, so this ’75 RV conversion costs me about $60 a year to own. Beat that.

    • Christine On

      Hmm… interesting. Would love to see pics of your conversion!