how to Choosing the right minivan

When it comes to choosing the right minivan to convert to a mini-RV, you have many different makes and models to choose from. To make the process easier, here’s what to look for.

1. Removable or fold down, fold flat seats

make sure the minivan you are considering has either completely removable rear seats or seats that fold flat into the floor. If the two rows of rear seats can’t be removed or folded flat into the floor, find another van.

2. Removable center console

if there’s a center console between the front driver and passenger seats, make sure it is removable.

You’ll want the space between the front seats clear, so you can crawl to the back of the van from the front without going outside.

3. Maximum interior height

measure the distance between the floor and the ceiling inside the middle of the back of the van. As a minimum you’ll want thirty six inches. More is better.

4. Maximum interior width

measure the distance between the walls in the back. As a minimum you’ll want forty eight inches wide. More is better.

5. Presentable outside appearance

if you’ll be stealth camping in your minivan, you’ll want it to look reasonably new, clean and dent free. Avoid vans that have been repainted, have rust or major dents. You don’t want people calling the police when they see your minivan parked in their neighborhood, so get one that looks presentable.

6. Good mechanical condition

As with any vehicle you plan to drive, you want it to have good brakes, tight steering, reliable engine and transmission, quiet muffler and be in overall good condition. With the hundreds of thousands of used minivans on the market, there’s no reason not to get one that isn’t in excellent condition inside and out.

My personal choice

I’ve owned a number of minivans and when it comes to which one I’d buy for converting to a mini-RV, the choice, at least for me, is clear. The model I like and own is the Toyota Sienna.

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I chose the Sienna for a number of reasons. Like all Toyotas, they are reliable, safe and easy to drive. They are packed with safety features, are available with dual electric doors and have more interior space than most other minivans.

Of the various Sienna models, the second gen Sienna’s (2004 – 2010) are the easiest to convert and offer the most value for the dollar – especially the LE models – which are a step above the base van.

Third gen Sienna’s (2011 and newer), have a few more features but not all models have a customer removable front console or totally removable middle row seats. These vans can still be converted into mini-RVs but require a bit more work.

I know this to be true because I currently own a 3rd gen Sienna, and as you’ll see in some of photos in this book, the middle seat rails remain in floor after the seats have been removed.

My previous Sienna was a 2006 and the back seats could be removed leaving a flat floor, making for a good starting point for a mini-RV conversion

3rd Generation Toyota Sienna

Obviously, there are other good minivan choices, including the Honda Odyssey, Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town and Country, and KIA Sedona.

As long as the van you are considering is in good condition, has removable seats and removable front console, it’ll work for a camper conversion.

Just make sure the open space behind the front seats is as least six feet – more is better.

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