Select Page

For me the choice of which model of van was relatively easy. A Peugeot Boxer/Citroen Relay ticked all the boxes for me.

I know the Fiat Ducato is essentially the same van, but there are far fewer of these available so I pretty much stuck to Boxer or Relay.


My wishlist


  • Extra width and more vertical sides of the Boxer/Relay compared to other vans. Extra length in a van makes it harder to find a parking space and may add to costs on a ferry. So extra width is free space really. A lot of people like the Boxer/Relay/Ducato because the extra width means they can sleep across the van. Unfortunately for those of us taller than 1.87m without the insulation and lining (in the van) sleeping along the length of the van is the only option. Even so extra width is still a bonus.


  • Air conditioning – Almost essential really as I spend a lot of time in very hot Spain. (Although global warming seems to be making latitude not such an issue for roasting temperatures now!). The more recent models of these vans have air conditioning as pretty much standard equipment. Not so common in other models.


  • Fuel economy –  The post 2016 Boxer/Relay has an official fuel economy of 40+mpg. It seems a no brainer to me to save money by getting the most fuel efficient van I can. It’s an easy way to save money on every journey. However.  After purchasing the van I discovered that as a lot of people say, the real world economy of vehicles is much less. See actual fuel economy below for details.


  • Low Mileage – My last van had done 150,000 miles when I bought it and 180,000 when I sold it. It ran without any problem but regularly needed money spent replacing bits. This time I wanted a newer and lower mileage van that should theoretically be cheaper to run, albeit with a higher purchase price. Also peace of mind not worrying too much about imminent breakdowns is a nice bonus.


  • Full or very good service history – Spending a lot of money on a vehicle I wanted to have the best chance of a mechanically good vehicle.


  • No or minor bodywork damage – This was a surprisingly big ask. It seems most vans are driven by people who don’t care about it or aren’t aware how big it is. Nearly every van I saw had some kind of damage to bodywork or evidence it had been repaired and resprayed. Normally around the area just in front of rear wheels where drivers forget to turn widely and hit something as they turn. Top tip: Don’t. Thankfully I managed to find a rare exception.

These were extra things that would be nice to have but not a deal breaker:

  • NOT WHITE – It would seem that was a requirement too far! I loved that my last van was Silver. It did look really cool. Unfortunately the vast majoity of large vans are yawn yawn boring White. We’re talking well over 90%. So I had to accept that the one I bought had everything I wanted. But it is White. I may try to jazz it up with some graphics or leave it looking boring and bland.


  • Cruise control – I know a lot of people don’t like using cruise control but in my opinion it does make a big difference. In driving long distances in vehicles both with and without cruise control I’ve learnt how much less strain it is to have cruise control. In effect it ‘shortens’ journeys by making them much much easier. Like with the air conditioning, most recent Boxer/Relay have cruise control, whereas on other models it seems to be rarer.


  • Low emissions – More and more cities and towns are introducing low emissions zones, especially in my favourite destination of France. Some charge for being in them, others simply forbid vehicles that aren’t low emissions. While I tend to avoid big cities it’s nice to have a vehicle that I can drive through these places without worry. Oh and it’s less damaging to the planet. That too. Yeah 😬 It’s just a shame that low emissions doesn’t equate to low road tax for a van. £250 compared to my similar emissions Ford Fiesta for £20!! Trying not to get political.

Size Matters

Probably the biggest dilemma I had over the van, much to my family’s frustration, was whether to get a LWB or XLWB version, officially L3 or L4.

The Boxer L3 has a maximum load length of 3.7m where the L4 has a maximum load length of 4.07m.

I emphasize maximum because those lengths really are at the longest point in the van. See about useable dimensions below for details.

37cm might not seem like much but when it’s 10% of your living space or enough for clothes storage, or an extra water tank, or even room for your head in bed, it’s quite significant.

I was looking for both L3 and L4 but in the end it came down to availability and the ‘right’ van.

There are far more L3s available. A current Autotrader search filtered down to my requirements gives me about 3 times as many L3 than L4. Then factor in vans with no damage and my options are severely restricted if I limit it to an L4.

The van I bought ticked all my boxes (apart from the white one), it just happened to be an L3. Time will tell if I regret not getting the longest version.

To Luton Or Not

I toyed with the idea of getting a Luton van.

The benefit is it’s extra space over the cab area with the ability to build a bed there and free up the main area for everything else.

And my possible designs for a Luton conversion did include some really big windows and cool features. I’ve seen some people use the rear tail lift as a ‘terrace’.

Also it’s totally straight sides and roof would make the build process much easier. Plus getting access to the underside for installing things like waste tanks would be much easier.

Another benefit that appealed to me and my quirky thinking was that on most Lutons the box can be removed from the vehicle chassis. So I could build a camper ‘pod’ and remove it from the chassis.

Why would that matter?

Well… I’ve long harboured the dream of buying a property in France, and I could leave the Luton box on the land as accommodation. Also if I decided to buy a foreign vehicle as most of my use is in Europe, I could get a foreign chassis cab and put my ready built Luton camper pod on the back of it.

And if the vehicle ever dies completely I can save the camper part and put the Luton box on another vehicle.

But the cons of a Luton and the reason I decided against it are the height and access. Would I have to build a door in it and steps to get up to it? Would I use rear shutter doors or try and get one with rear swing doors? How much of a pain would it be getting in and out? To put a motorcycle in it I could use a tail lift but then the bike blocks part of that access.

A normal van already has the twin rear doors and a nice wide side sliding door. All good for multiple access at street level with big open spaces for light and nice views.

And how much less fuel efficient would the extra height of the Luton box make it?

And I was a bit concerned if a Luton would be a little too conspicuous and harder to blend in.

In the end I decided on the regular Boxer.

Having said that, now that I’ve started working on a regular irregularly shaped ‘box’/panel van I sometimes wish I had gone down the road to Luton.

So, who knows, if I do another conversion I may try the Road Less Travelled to Luton.

Lessons Learnt

Manufacturer’s Published Data – LOL


The published interior dimensions of the Boxer is not all useable space.

Load length is measured at floor level from the front under the overhang of the front seats. A point that is about 20cm forward of the seat backs and probably about 20cm high! Useful for loading long pipes or timber in a commercial van. But pretty much lost space in a camper, except for some low level stuff like piping, wiring or shoe storage. And it is measured at the back of the floor right up against the rear doors in the middle, not taking account of the rear light clusters in each corner pillar that encroaches about 15cm into the length.

That messed with my plan to build the bed right to the rear doors.

This meant a bit of a redesign. I still got in what I wanted but ended up with a slightly shorter bed with an overhang at the feet end and had to shift the kitchen unit a bit further back which means it will cover more of the side door than I anticipated.

As well as the load length, the irregular shape of walls, support structures, curve of roof etc aren’t included in dimensions and all forced several changes to original ideas and techniques.

The wheel arches are a not insignificant 90cm long so take up quite a lot of space but this will mostly be lost under seating so not so much of an issue.

Fuel Economy

Also official fuel economy figures are not real world figures.

My low mileage full service history 2019 2.0 HDi Boxer with an official fuel economy of over 40mpg only actually gets around 30-32 mpg. And that’s driving sensibly.

That’s pretty much the same as I was getting in my previous 2005 Renault Master 2.5 with over 150,000 miles on it! So not exactly a leap forward in fuel economy.

In 2019 the Boxer engines were replaced by a 2.2 HDi and use the more realistic WLTP fuel economy figures which quote around 30mpg. The owner of one 2.2HDi for sale that I enquired about claimed he was getting 32mpg driving sensibly, so seems about right.

That’s more or less what I am actually achieving in my 2.0 HDi. So for those of you comparing, I’d say post 2019 2.2 HDi have similar economy to a 2016-2019 2.0 HDi – around 30mpg. The 2.2 gives extra power but I have found my 2.0 perfectly acceptable so far.

So I don’t know if it was pointless to go for a ’40mpg’ van instead of a 30mpg one, but my guess is that the 30mpg vans also do significantly less than that so hopefully I still have the most economical possible.


Stealability – Thieving Bastards

I kept my first van just looking like a plain van without even adding windows. Apart from the stealth camping aspect, I didn’t want it to look like a camper as I thought it would be more likely to be broken into. In 4 or 5 years it was never broken into and I never saw any signs of attempted break in.

However my current van, is much newer. In a few weeks I have already seen a couple of signs of attempted break ins. I wonder if this is because it is a newer and more pristine van and unscrupulous people expect it to contain valuable tools or cargo. It could be down to cost of living/more financial strains on people as I understand theft from vans has risen.

But for the first time I am wondering if it would be better to make it look ‘campervanny’. Would that put thieves off in case somebody may be sleeping in it?

I’m still undecided on that one.

Another idea was to put fake business stickers on it that would put off people from breaking in.

Maybe I’ll go down the route of ‘Dave’s Dead Fish Recycling Co.’ or ‘Toilet Obstructions Analysis Ltd.’

See what I did with Anal-ysis there? 🙂


Written by Chris

More From This Category

The Van

The Van

For me the choice of which model of van was relatively easy. A Peugeot Boxer/Citroen Relay ticked all the boxes for me. I know the Fiat Ducato is essentially the same van, but there are far fewer of these available so I pretty much stuck to Boxer or Relay.   My...

read more
The Van

The Van

For me the choice of which model of van was relatively easy. A Peugeot Boxer/Citroen Relay ticked all the boxes for me. I know the Fiat Ducato is essentially the same van, but there are far fewer of these available so I pretty much stuck to Boxer or Relay.   My...

read more
The Van

The Van

For me the choice of which model of van was relatively easy. A Peugeot Boxer/Citroen Relay ticked all the boxes for me. I know the Fiat Ducato is essentially the same van, but there are far fewer of these available so I pretty much stuck to Boxer or Relay.   My...

read more



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *