It’s looking less and less likely that many Britons will get to enjoy a summer holiday overseas this year, given the restriction on movement and quarantine periods nations will choose to enforce.
That means more of us are likely to opt for staycations in 2020 and beyond to make the most of the UK’s scenic locations and hopefully enjoying some sun along the way.
If you are planning to avoid travel outside of the country for an extended period, you might be in the market for a campervan – especially if you have your holiday refund cash already banked.
There are plenty of UK-based conversion firms that will modify a standard commercial van into a home on wheels at a cost – but there are factory-build models you can buy too,
These are five of our picks right now, as well as a couple of alternative options for those on tighter budgets.
1. Volkswagen California
The campervan daddy: The first vehicle most people will think of is the VW California. It’s the only factory-built camper sold by a manufacturer
Price: from £55,399 to £75,238
Sleeps: up to 4 people
The first model you’re likely to think of when considering a brand new camper is the VW California, which is the only model you can buy that’s produced by the manufacturer.
Capable of sleeping four and available in two trim levels (Coast costing £55,339 and Ocean costing £63,817) and coming with a built-in table, fridge, double gas hobs, sink and cupboard space, it’s still the daddy of the sector.
This is the sixth-generation model that’s been on sale since 2015. However, last year VW gave it a thorough facelift to make it more practical, comfortable and – with the addition of a new features – safer.
The latest version gets an upgraded dashboard featuring VW’s more up-to-date infotainment system, but also improves on the already impressive built quality with high-grade door handles and better hinges for all the fold-out equipment.
You can have a California with just one engine choice – VW’s tried-and-tested 2.0-litre diesel with 148bhp. It is only available with a DSG auto gearbox
The Coast model has a manual pop-up roof, though the higher-spec Ocean has a power system to extend the height of the interior and provide a double bed in the roof compartment
There’s a secret compartment in the boot door where two picnic chairs can be stored and a small table can be taken from the sliding door panel
The roof-top bed also now has plastic springs instead of wooden slats, though the second bed – which is made by dropping the rear bench flat and folding over a built-in mattress – remains unchanged.
All Californias have an extendable awning on the side of the van, while there’s also a compartment in the boot door with two hidden picnic tables. Boot space is pretty ample too, despite the camper being loaded with living-space features.
Volkswagen also made the decision to switch to an electro-mechanical power steering system over the previous hydraulic setup.
The driver’s eat and front passenger seat both rotate round so, once you’ve parked, you can seat four around the slide-out table
There is a double gas stove (with room for gas cylinder in the back), a sink and a small fridge in the worktop compartment
The extending roof section provides another bed that’s ideal for children. The front section can be zipped down during the day
Want something a little bigger? Buyers with an extra bit of cash can splurge on the long-wheelbase Grand California. While it might be longer and offers more space inside, it also only sleeps up to 4 people in 2 double beds
This allows for more active safety features to be included, such as standard-fit crosswind assist to make the high-sided camper more stable during gusty motorway journeys.
The California has just one engine option – a 2.0-litre diesel with 148bhp with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. According to the latest official fuel economy tests, this is good for an average of 33.6mpg and emissions of 221g/km.
The higher-priced Ocean benefits from double-glazed windows, a built-in sat-nav and a power pop-up roof rather than manual. This is Money editor Simon Lambert spent two weeks in one last year, covering a total of 2,100 miles – you can read his full report here.
And if you want the utmost luxury, you can spec all the way up to the long-wheelbase Grand California, which is priced from £72,745 to £75,238 – though this also only sleeps up to four people in two double beds.
Demand is already up. Requests for quotes for the standard California model rocketed 250 per cent in April compared with March, while inquiries about the larger Grand California model soared by 100 per cent.
2. Mercedes-Benz V-Class Marco Polo
Mercedes-Benz also has an in-house campervan – the little-known V-Class Marco Polo
Price: from £57,980 to £69,880
Sleeps: up to 4 people
Unlike the Volkswagen California, Mercedes’ offering hasn’t always been built in-house.
Mercedes has been producing the the Marco Polo camper ever since it bought out camping conversion specialist Westfalia some 20 years ago.
Like the VW California, the V-Class Marco Polo has an awning that extends out to provide campsite-friendly cover
The built-in unit features (from left to right) a fridge, double gas hob and sink. When not in use, the lid can be shut to create a worktop
Boot space is divided by the mattress for the lower-level bed, which can be fully extended when the rear bench of seats is lowered
However, it hasn’t always been available to the UK market, and still remains relatively little known despite being sold through MB’s authorised dealers.
There are four different trim levels, though all based on the V-Class people carrier and even includes an AMG-Line version with big wheels and plenty of bling.
It offers seating for up to five (depending on spec) and sleeping for four.
Priced competitively against the market-leading VW California, the Marco Polo is a worth alternative
The same dashboard and instrument cluster is used in the V-Class MPV model
The two front seats rotated so that the who group can interact once they’ve pulled over to stop
Like the VW California, the two front seats swivel round, the rear chairs fold flat to form the downstairs bed and there’s a pop-up roof that extends into the upstairs sleeping quarters.
In the main part of the cabin there’s a unit on one side that houses a sink, stove, fridge and has a handy set of cupboards, drawers and cabinets to store cooking utensils and whatever else needs to be packed away when you’re on the move.
There’s also an external socket so owners can tap into campsite’s electric supply or power devices – such as an electric heater – when alfresco dining in the evening.
A table extends out of the side unit and provides plenty of leg-room for occupants
This cabinet door even includes a vanity mirror as well as offering an additional storage solution
With the power roof extended, this is the large bed that can be used in the higher section of the vehicle
Under the bonnet is Mercedes’ 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, which comes in two outputs – one with 161bhp or a more potent 236bhp – and a 9-speed automatic transmissions. Both will average around 36mpg, so says the official brochure.
The range topper is the V300d Long in Exclusive spec, which gets a 360-degree camera to make parking it a cinch, added driving assistance packages and luxury massage and reclining seats in the back that even have climatisation and footrests. It also features a massive sound system if you want to take a party on the road.
While it has an extending awning fixed to the side of the vehicle, there isn’t as much smart storage for picnic chairs and tables as in the California, meaning they do take up some boot space.
3. Ford Transit Custom Nugget
The Transit Custom Nugget might have a terrible name, but its a camper kitted out with some features other simply don’t have
Price: from £59,608 to £63,334
Sleeps: up to 4 people
Of all the models to make into our list, this one has by far the worst name.
But look beyond this and you’ll notice that the Ford Transit Custom Nugget has plenty to offer against more premium rivals.
As you’ve already guessed, it’s based on the Transit van – the most iconic of all commercial vehicles there is. However, this one is a full conversion that’s sold through Ford dealers and is listed as an official model on its website.
Prices for the Ford Transit Custom Nugget range from £59,608 – which is more than the VW California
The bed system is different to what we’ve seen before, with it disappearing into the kitchen section of the camper
There’s a bed in the extendable roof compartment too. There’s a hard-top conversion model (pictured), though the standard version has a manual pop-up with canvas sides
As you’ve come to expect from the campervans we’ve included already, it has an awning built into the side of the vehicle, a camping table and chair set that are fixed to the boot door when not in use and its own external electricity supply.
Inside, the two front ‘captain’ seats swivel 360 degrees to create a living-room setup, while the rear bench cleverly folds down into one of the kitchen sections to convert into a bed for two people.
A manual extendable roof ups the sleeping capacity for four people in total.
The kitchen layout is also unique, with a small fridge, double gas stove and sink in an L-shaped unit. There’s even a cutlery drawer
When the rear seats are upright and the front chairs are rotated, there’s an extendable table for dining
At the back there’s an external shower system and the campervan even has its own fresh water fill-up supply connector
In the kitchen area – which sits behind the rear bench – owners will get a 40-litre fridge, gas-fired cooking and a sink with its own water supply.
What makes this standout from other models is the fact it comes with it’s own fresh water fill-up supply connector, an outdoor shower facility and an auxillary 400-watt adjustable fuel fired heating system for chilly evenings.
There are three engine-and-gearbox combinations to choose from. You can only have a 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine, though in two outputs of 128bhp or 183bhp (we’d probably choose the latter).
In the cabin, the interior is based on the Transit van, which is more car like than it has ever been
Customers can only have a 2.0-litre diesel in two power outputs. We’d choose the more potent 183bhp version
Both are available with a six-speed manual transmissions, though the more potent powerplant has the option of a six-speed auto – and is the most expensive at over £63,000.
The smaller engine has a claimed fuel efficiency of 30mpg, while the least economical is the more powerful output with the auto gearbox, averaging just 25mpg.
Optional extras are available too, which annoyingly includes air-con at a massive £960 on top of the big sum you’ve already forked out. There’s also a handy bike rack.
4. Sussex Campervans Manhattan/Paradise (Renault Trafic)
Horsham-based professional converters, Sussex Campervans, will turn a range-topping Renault Trafic van into a home-from-home on wheels for a fraction of the price of factory-made campers
Price: from £41,995 to £51,995
There are a number of high-quality conversion firms across the UK, one of them being Sussex Campervans.
The most popular model it produces is the Manhattan and Paradise conversions based on the award-winning Renault Trafic – or the Nissan NV300 sister van,
The Horsham-based company purchases the vans new direct from the manufacturer and then custom-builds them into a compact mobile home.
The UK firm’s most popular models are the Manhattan and Paradise, both of which are based on the Renault Trafic or its sister van, the Nissan NV300
Each model comes with a classic side-kitchen unit inclusive of a two burner hobs and a sink
As with all good campervans, there’s a pop-top elevating roof with space for a king-size bed in there
It says the Trafic has proved to be one of the most capable base vehicles, impressing with its combination of car-like driving dynamics, high standard specification, refinement and available space.
The firm takes a top-of-the-range Sport trim level, with low-roof short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase versions powered by 1.6-litre turbodiesel engines producing 143bhp and a six-speed manual gearbox, returning a claimed 46.3mpg.
The van already has standard features that include satellite navigation, DAB radio, Bluetooth, air conditioning, rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, and cruise control with speed limiter.
You can choose between a short- or long-wheelbase version of Renault’s van depending on the amount of space you need
A clever folding rear bench converts the back into a massive bed. Even the wood-panel flooring is high spec
Under the bonnet is a frugal 1.6-litre diesel engine, with power sent to the wheels via a standard six-speed manual ‘box
But then conversion add a classic side-kitchen unit inclusive of a two burner hobs and a sink and a pop-top elevating roof.
The rear seats fold flat into a king-size bed, while you can also spec the same size sleeping facility in the pop-top roof section.
All models also come with thermostatic gas heating and the most expensive in the range – the long-wheelbase Paradise Deluxe (from £51,995) even has a built-in flushing cassette toilet at the rear.
Customers can even spec theirs to have solar panels for power generation on the move.
5. Randger R499/R535 (Fiat Talento)
The Randger R499 and R535 are based on the Fiat Talento commercial vehicle. The names refer to their length, with the 4.99-metre version being the short-wheelbase model and the 5.35-metre example being the longer camper
Price: from £41,995 to £43,995
The final model to make our list is the Randger, available in two versions called R499 and R535.
Those names relate to each version’s length, with the short-wheelbase measuring in at 4.99 metres and the long-wheelbase being 5.35 metres.
The donor vehicles are the Fiat Talento – a commercial vehicle that’s not immensely popular in the UK but shares many parts with the Renault Trafic and is the ideal mule for a campervan conversion.
To make the pricing structure simple, both models come in one specification with the only choice for customers being which of the three exterior colours to pick
The front cab seats swivel round so you can face the rear-seat passengers and there’s a table, which is stored in the boot, that can be clipped into place for the full dining effect
Under the bonnet is Fiat’s 1.6-litre twin-turbo diesel unit. It’s mated to a six-speed manual gearbox to produce 125bhp and average fuel economy in the region of 40mpg
Power comes from a 1.6-litre twin-turbo diesel engine producing 125bhp and returning in excess of 40mpg (claimed). You only have the option of a six-speed manual gearbox, so there’s no choice of an auto.
Randger, a French brand, is part of the Marquis Leisure dealer network – the largest of its type for motorhomes and caravans in the UK – with 12 dealerships across the country and every model sold with a two-year warranty.
To make the pricing structure simple, both models come in one specification with the only choice for customers being which of the three exterior colours to pick.
The kitchen area comprises a stainless steel sink, double gas hob. Fold the rear bench down and there’s a decent-size bed
In the kitchen area is a built-in fridge with a freezer section that’s hidden away in the beautifully finishes unit
All models come with the pop-up roof area, which offers a double bed that’s suitable for children
The driving layout is a like-for-like with the Fiat Talento van with a 7-inch touchscreen media and nav system, cruise control and air conditioning for the cab
Inside, the front cab seats swivel round so you can face the rear-seat passengers and there’s a table, which is stored in the boot, that can be clipped into place for the full dining effect. Fold the rear bench flat and it becomes a spacious bed.
There’s plenty of sound-deadening too, with high-impact polymer coated walls to keep the cabin well insulated – apart from the canvas pop-up section, which has a double bed designed for children rather than full-fledged adults.
As well as a number of spacious cupboards and lockers, the kitchen gets double-burner gas hobs, a stainless steel sink, a 41-litre fridge and both a fresh and waste water tank.
The shorter Randger R499 costs £41,995 while the longer-wheelbase R535 is just £2,000 more, with the one-spec model costing £43,995
The additional length doesn’t add more sleeping quarters but does include a fully-working toilet and a little saloon door for a bit of privacy (left). The restroom also gets another sink and a shower head that can be attached to the taps (right)
The interior of the R535 shows the slightly different table layout with an additional stool chair
All examples come with a built-in fire detector (left). The Randger range also have CO2 detectors fitted as standard (right)
Stretch the budget to the £43,995 R535 and the extra space means you get the added benefit of a washroom, with a cassette toilet with electric flush and 18-litre wheeled holding tank. There’s also a washbasin as well as a shower system and a towel holder.
Safety wise, every example comes with not smoke and CO2 detectors.
Wildcard: The £20,000 camping trailer that you can tow behind your car
Don’t want to stretch your budget to a full-blown campervan? How about this – an Opus trailer that has everything you’d need for a staycation this summer
If you don’t work to extend yourself to a full campervan, then there is a solution that sleeps six and is capable of taking your trip off the beaten track.
It’s a new camping trailer called the Opus Off-Road that uses a durable chassis and is fitted with ‘AIR tent’ technology which inflates the canvas section in around 90 seconds with the press of a switch.
This is a world exclusive reveal of the product, which will cost just under £21,000 and can be towed behind your existing car (granted it is certified to pull a trailer weighing 1750kg) with integrated spring suspension and all-terrain wheels and tyres and increased ground clearance.
Fitted with integrated spring suspension, all-terrain wheels and tyres and offering increased ground clearance, the trailer can be taken off the beaten track for a scenic trip
The trailer can be towed behind a car to the desired camping location (left). At the flip of a switch the tent inflates in around 90 seconds (right)
The tent has a sleeping area one one end, a kitchen in the middle and a lounge section. All three can be divided to create three independent bedrooms for up to 6 people
It features two fixed double bed areas, both with inner privacy tents. The seating area can be converted into a third double bed, meaning there is room for up to six people to sleep in comfort. This can be increased to ten with the addition of the optional full awning system.
But it’s more than just a tent that expands from a trailer. That’s because the chassis houses a load of secret compartments for a fully-functioning kitchen with two gas hobs, fridge, stainless steel sink and microwave.
The living area is fully-insulated and double-skinned aluminium panels provide a strong and lightweight outer shell. The waterproof 10-ply floor is fitted with durable vinyl flooring.
The trailer is packed with hidden sections that can expand, extend and fold out to fulfill all your camping needs
This hob section extends out from the side of the trailer so you can cook outside and connects to the gas supply
It takes mobile glamping to new levels and proves you don’t need an independent vehicle to fulfill all your British holidaying needs
Pressurised gas springs make setting up the Opus an easy, one-person operation. On pack-down, the lids close against a finned rubber seal around the perimeter, which in conjunction with the roof cover, provides complete protection from water ingress.
It also comes with 12v and 230v electric socket points, a work surface with drawer unit, portable toilet and storage unit and electric heating.
It takes mobile glamping to new levels and proves you don’t need an independent vehicle to fulfill all your British holidaying needs. Opus has 11 official dealers across the country and quotes a delivery lead time of six weeks. Finance is also available across the dealer network and is cheaper to finance a brand new Volkswagen Golf and an Opus than a VW California.
Want to do your own DIY campervan conversion? It will be cheaper if you find an affordable donor van…
Elliott Boddy is the owner of Travelin-lite based in Bishop’s Stortford, Essex, which supplies parts to customise VW T4 T5 and T6 vans.
Last year, he converted a retired AA T5 van into a makeshift campervan and he believes more people will be tempted to do a DIY version for a number of reasons.
Namely, they have more time on their hands, there is more video content online to see how it’s done and with overseas holidays off the cards, they are more likely to hunt for a staycation.
Meanwhile, with many being refunded for holidays, there is the chance more spare cash is floating around to do these sort of projects.
If you are tempted, what tips does he have?
Before and after: Elliott Boddy is the owner of Travelin-lite based in Bishop’s Stortford, Essex – a firm that can convert an ex-AA recovery vehicle into a luxury campervan
He says: First of all, you need to decide how often you’d potentially use your DIY camper. If the answer is often, you’ll want to find a van with fewer than 100,000 miles on the clock.
Retired AA and British Gas vans, that aren’t old but will have a huge mileage on, are a good cheaper option and are auctioned off frequently, but are definitely a vehicle to target if you’re planning to use it once or twice a year – they can be snapped up for between £4,000 to £10,000, but will require a few thousand pounds of work.
I’d aim for something with 140bhp – lower than this, it will be sluggish once you add extra weight such as beds and a pop-top.
I’d plump for a long wheelbase van if you can, over a small one – this extra foot of space doesn’t sound much, but it will make a big difference when looking at installing your units.
Specification is important. Ideally, you’ll want to find a van with air conditioning, sat-nav, and parking sensors – and, if you’ve never really driven a van before, reversing cameras are very handy.
When you are hunting for a vehicle, beware scammers on online marketplaces. Stick with a reputable company that have a range of Transporters in stock.
Once you’re ready for conversion, the chances are, the van will have ply-lining installed in the back of the vehicle and this can all be removed.
Sound deadening and insulation are a must when kitting out your camper. You may want to do this yourself, or leave to a professional converter to do.
Silent Coat sound deadening and Dodo insulation matting are excellent products for this.
If you want to install a pop-top, Skyline, based in Somerset, are a great brand. You can get one where you are able to leave a memory foam mattress in the roof space all the time and it is fully TUV approved (a mark of quality).
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