It can be extremely overwhelming when searching for your perfect van. With so many tempting choices it can be easy to opt for what is cheapest, or what everyone else has. However, that may not be the best choice. This post explains why we think a Citroen Relay is the best van on the market for a camper conversion!
This van model is also used by Fiat, Peugeot, and Ram – Fiat Ducato, Peugeot Boxer, and Ram Promaster respectively.
Note: we have a Citroën Relay – and we LOVE it!
1. It’s the widest van on the market
This was the primary reason we chose our van.
A Citroen Relay is 3 inches wider than its next widest competitor – the Ford Transit. This may not sound like a staggering amount, however, when you are trying to squeeze your life into a tiny van, you will quickly realise every millimeter counts!
Being the widest van on the market has many perks – none greater than the opportunity to sleep widthways (if you are 6ft or under).
The wide space not only makes the space feel larger, but it also makes it much more versatile when planning layouts! The space you save by putting your bed widthways allows for a generous living/ kitchen space. It also means you may not need such a long vehicle to fit everything you want in.
Another perk of having a wider van is that you can afford to create deeper overhead cabinets, and a deeper kitchen. Our kitchen is 600mm deep. That is the same as in a house!
By choosing this van we made no sacrifices when planning our layout. We have a fixed double and single bed, a shower, a reasonably sized kitchen, and a very generous living space with a corner sofa. This all fits inside the L3H2 van.
2. Plenty of head room
If you are looking for a van that you can stand up in, the H2 model of this van is perfect (if you are under 6′ 4″). If you are taller there is an H3 model which offers a generous 7ft of internal height – one of the tallest vans on the market.
Despite having adequate headroom this van looks remarkably petite from outside – this is due to it being slightly lower to the ground. As this van is lower to the ground, it doesn’t require as big of a step to enter, making it a little easier on your knees! However, if you are looking to spend a lot of time off-road, you may want to think about buying a 4×4 van, or a van with slightly more clearance.
3. It’s the Boxiest
For anyone who isn’t an experienced van converter or carpenter, you will be extremely thankful for the boxy shape of this van. Its boxy shape makes it (in our opinion) the easiest and best van for a camper conversion.
Unlike many of its competitors, it doesn’t have extremely slanted walls, therefore very little space is lost. This is perfect if you are planning on making bunk beds. However, it isn’t perfect, and there is a slight slant that you will have to account for.
When comparing the 4 main vans that are commonly converted,
- Fiat Ducato / Ram Promaster / Citroen Relay / Peugeot Boxer
- Mercedes Sprinter
- Ford Transit
- Renault Master / Vauxhall Movano
The Citroen Relay variant is often the cheapest! Mercedes Sprinters are considerably more expensive, partly because of their longevity and good construction… and partly because you are paying for the name!
However, anyone looking for a (relitively) cheap, robust, and AMAZING van, should definitely consider a Citroen Relay (or one its its sister brands!).
When we were searching for our van, a lot of the dealers said that the only van capable of outrunning (with regards to lifetime mileage) a Citroen Relay is a Mercedes Sprinter.
Although the initial purchase of a van is usually the biggest expense, there are always other expenses that go hand in hand with owning a vehicle, e.g. road tax, insurance, and even just fueling it up. However, this point refers directly to the mechanical maintenance of the van.
Although every van is different, generally speaking, Citroen Relays are one of the most reliable vans. They can quite comfortably reach 200,000 miles over their lifetime (if not more)!
One of the best things about this model of van is that by comparison to a Mercedes Sprinter they are reasonably cheap to repair. This is predominantly because they do not need to go into a specialist garage.
In order to minimise the risk of having any mechanical issues, make sure you thoroughly check the vehicle and take it for a test drive prior to purchasing it.
When buying a van for a camper conversion it can be scary to commit, we think that committing to a Citroen Relay (or similar van) should be a no-brainer. The fact that you can sleep widthways was the only reason we needed to jump right into purchasing one.
We purchased our van off of gumtree, however, there are a lot more reputable dealers out there (if you are willing to pay a premium)!!
If you have any questions regarding this van, or even purchasing a van, don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to hear from you. You can always find us in the comments below!
For more information and helpful step-by-step guides make sure you check out our van build page below.
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I’ve almost completed my Citroen relay build and fully agree that it’s the best base van to use. Isn’t that why most of the big factory builders use them.
I bought a 23000 mile full s/history some while ago and wanted to build something a bit special for myself, I’ve had coach built motorhomes in the past but wanted to build a van and the lwb Relay was my first choice for all the reasons you’ve outlined.
My requirements were. A permanently fixed twin bed with a high quality mattress, a decent size toilet shower cubicle, a second row forward facing belted double seat, as large as possible kitchen galley area with a decent oven/hob and separate sink.
I also wanted to remove the rear doors and panel the rear of the van and build in a garage under the bed area with access through a large as possible locker door; all of which I have now achieved, the conversion is now almost complete.
Another requirement was to be as independent and self sufficient as possible so I have fitted 400w of solar panels supporting 400AH of leisure batteries with an 1800w Waeco inverter allowing me to operate a Dometic 1100 freshjet aircon unit. I’ve unfortunately gon quite a way past my completion deadline but it should be ready to roll in a couple of months ready for the spring.
A large number of other important to me assets have been built into the conversion that I haven’t mentioned,
A number of people have suggested I should share my build process with others but I have never considered it however reading your article I think I might if it could be helpful to others. I might add that in my early working life I was a professional coach builder. I do hope my response to your interesting article is of interest.
Congrats, sounds like your van is an absolute showstopper!!