Chevy Astro For Vanlife: 10 Reasons Why It’s the Best

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Considering the Chevy Astro for Vanlife?

With a square shape, inexpensive upfront cost, & optional AWD, the Astro van is a great option.

But how does it stack up against other popular Budget Americana models like the Ford Econoline, Chevy Express, GMC Savana, & Dodge Ram van?

In this post, we’ll find out.

Here’s everything you’ll learn:

10 Reasons Why Vanlifers Like the Chevy Astro

The Astro van is simple, durable, & easy to drive – but is it the best option for vanlife?

Here are 10 reasons why vanlifers like the Chevy Astro:

  1. Inexpensive: The Chevy Astro is currently one of the cheapest vans on the market. Most are around $7,000, but you can find an older model for even cheaper.
  2. Last a Long Time: Chevy Astros are super reliable vehicles that last hundreds of thousands of miles.
  3. Comes in AWD: Chevy manufactured the Astro in both RWD and AWD. The AWD option is excellent for driving in snowy conditions, or getting to hard-to-reach campsites.
  4. Easy to Drive: The Astro is smaller than it looks, and it’s pretty easy to handle and drive.
  5. Fits in a Standard Parking Spot: The Astro will fit in any parking spot that a large minivan would fit into.
  6. Good for Simple Conversions: Because the Astro is a smaller van, it’s a great choice for a first DIY conversion, or a simple no-build conversion.
  7. Square Interior Shape: The boxy shape makes the build-out easier because you’re working with right angles.
  8. Robust Suspension: The Astro has a pretty tough suspension system. That means it can handle heavy builds, and rutted roads.
  9. Rear Swing Out Doors: The rear of the Astro is pretty unique. It has two swing out doors on the bottom that open left to right, and a window on top that opens outwards. This allows you to open just the window to let in some light and a breeze.
  10. Can Tow if Needed: The Chevy Astro can tow up to around 5,000 pounds if you need to ever tow around a boat or trailer.

7 Reasons Why Vanlifers Dislike the Chevy Astro

As with every vehicle, there are downsides to the Astro van.

Here are 7 reasons why vanlifers dislike the Chevy Astro:

  1. Small Interior: The Chevy Astro looks large, but it really has around the same cargo capacity as a large minivan. You aren’t going to be able to put in as many amenities as you would in a larger van like the Ford Econoline.
  2. Poor Gas Mileage: The Chevy Astro gets a combined gas mileage of 19 MPG. This isn’t awful, but for the size of the van, it’s not great either.
  3. Can’t Stand up Inside: The cargo height of the Astro is under four feet, so there’s no way you can stand up inside without a roof lift or pop top.
  4. May Need Lots of Mechanical Work: Chevrolet stopped manufacturing the Astro in 2005. So, all Astros on the market are at least 17 years old. These vans do last a long time but any vehicle over 15 years old is prone to some serious mechanical issues.
  5. No New Options: If you’re looking for a shiny new Astro, you’re out of luck. If you want an Astro, you’ll have to buy it used, meaning potentially high mileage, and wear and tear.
  6. Loud Cabin Noise: The engine is very close to the driver’s cab, and cabin noise is really loud, especially when driving on the freeway.
  7. Dated Look: The Astros just don’t have a sleek exterior like a brand new Mercedes Sprinter. Though, this could be a plus if you’re into the look of early 2000s vehicles.

 

11 Amazing Chevy Astro Van Builds

With a square interior shape, robust suspension, & small footprint, the Astro van provides a good platform for designing a layout… but which is the best?

Here are 11 of the coolest Chevy Astro’s ever:

 

Build #11: High Roof Chevy Astro with Slide-Down Bench Seat

  • Highlights: This Chevy Astro campervan was purchased from a third-party conversion company that installed a high roof, overhead cabinets, and a convertible bench seat/bed. The current owner took out the two swivel seats in the middle and replaced them with storage boxes that also serve as a “kitchen”. 
  • Van: 1994 Chevy Astro
  • Owner: @thewaywardhome

 

Build #10: Astro with Slide Out Bed and Swiveling Passenger Seat

  • Highlights: This Astro has a bed which converts from a bench seat to a bed with a slide-out frame and some extra cushions. The side wall has a countertop, storage, a fridge, and a sink. The rear has some under-bed storage drawers.
  • Van: Chevy Astro
  • Owner: @journey_with_whitewalker

 

Build #9: Chevy Astro van with Floor Bed, Awning, and Dirt Bike Carrier

  • Highlights: This awesome astro build has a floor bed, which makes for lots of head room inside. There’s shelving and storage compartments inside, and a large awning outside. The back of the van has a dirt bike carrier installed.
  • Van: Chevy Astro
  • Owner: @peanutbutter.cowboy

 

Build #8: Astro Campervan that Seats 5 and Sleeps 2

  • Highlights: This Astro campervan has a rear seating bench with three seatbelts. At night, the bench folds down, and cushions are added to turn it into a bed. There’s a small kitchen unit with a sink and storage, and room for a cooler.
  • Van: 2004 Chevy Astro AWD
  • Owner: @bjornthebus

 

Build #7: Astro van with Convertible Bench Seat and Rear Sink

  • Highlights: This DIY Astro conversion has sort of a unique build. There’s a convertible bed that slides out into a bench, across from a countertop that has a sink at the rear of the vehicle. 
  • Van: AWD Chevy Astro
  • Owner: @seizetheadventureyt (photos from youtube.com)

 

Build #6: Astro Build for One with Rear Stove Slide-Out

  • Highlights: Astro owner Brian is a filmmaker living in his Astro full time. He’s installed lots of storage for film gear, along with a platform bed. The rear of the van has some slide-outs for outdoor cooking, and he’s installed a fridge between the two front seats.
  • Van: Chevy Astro
  • Owner: @brian_bear_butler

 

Build #5: Chevy Astro with Wheeled Slide-Out Bed

  • Highlights: This DIY Astro build has a clever bed design that easily slides out on wheels to its full size. There’s a long countertop area with some storage underneath, plus a desk or shelf next to it.
  • Van: Chevy Astro AWD
  • Owner: @dalt_online

 

Build #4: Astro campervan with Platform Bed and Sink

  • Highlights: This simple one-person build has a large rear bed with some storage underneath. The “kitchen” unit has a sink and some storage underneath. The fridge is located between the two front seats.
  • Van: Chevy Astro
  • Owner: @coleschronicle

 

Build #3: Chevy Astro with Large Rear Bed and Awning

  • Highlights: This lifted, AWD Astro has a simple interior build. The owners have installed a large rear bed, wood paneling, and a small storage compartment and countertop area at the front. An awning and camping chairs make for a great outdoor hangout spot.
  • Van: Chevy Astro AWD
  • Owner: @vannawhiteastro

 

Build #2: Blue Chevy Astro with Fixed Bed and Mood Lighting

  • Highlights: This Chevy Astro is a DIY build that sleeps one person in the rear fixed bed. The front area has a countertop and a pull-down bench. The van is rigged with some awesome color-changing mood lighting.
  • Van: Chevy Astro
  • Owner: @the_ethnic_explorer

 

Build #1: AWD Astro van with Slide-Out Bed and Lots of Counter Space

  • Highlights: This DIY Astro Project has a slide-out bed with an interlocking frame. Across from the bed is a long countertop with a sink and room for a stove. The rear window opens up to let extra light and air inside.
  • Van: 2005 Chevy Astro AWD
  • Owner: @chevyvanlife

 

Cost, Dimensions, & Fuel Economy

Now that you know a little more about the Chevy Astro, let’s see how it stacks up against Ford Econoline, Chevy Express, GMC Savana, & Dodge Ram van.

 

Chevy Astro Cost

Cost: Chevy Astro vs Ford Econoline vs Chevy Express vs GMC Savana vs Dodge Ram Van

ModelNewUsedPrice
Chevy AstroN/A$7,750Check Price
Chevy Express$38,100$26,995Check Price
Ford EconolineN/A$15,750Check Price
GMC Savana$38,100$26,700Check Price
Dodge Ram VanN/A$8,795Check Price

 

Chevy Astro Dimensions

Dimensions: Chevy Astro vs Ford Econoline vs Chevy Express vs GMC Savana vs Dodge Ram Van

ModelInterior HeightInterior Length (cargo)Interior WidthExt Length
Chevy Astro46.9 inches126 inches55.9 inches189.8 inches
Chevy Express55.1 inches126.8 inches62 inches224.1 inches
Ford Econoline53.9 inches121.4 inches73.6 inches212 inches
GMC Savana55.1 inches126.8 inches62 inches224.1 inches
Dodge Ram Van56 inches124.8 inches73.5 inches192.6 inches

 

Chevy Astro Fuel Economy

Fuel Economy: Chevy Astro vs Ford Econoline vs Chevy Express vs GMC Savana vs Dodge Ram Van

ModelCityHighwayCombined
Chevy Astro16 MPG22 MPG19 MPG
Chevy Express11 MPG16 MPG13 MPG
Ford Econoline13 MPG17 MPG15 MPG
GMC Savana11 MPG16 MPG13 MPG
Dodge Ram Van11 MPG14 MPG12 MPG

 

Conclusion: Is the Chevy Astro Right for you?

There are a lot of reasons to like the Astro van: It’s inexpensive, reliable, & comes with optional AWD – but it may not be for you.

Biggest factors:

  • Inexpensive
  • Comes in AWD
  • Long Lasting
  • Square Interior Shape
  • Small Interior
  • Dated Look
  • Poor Gas Mileage

So should you get one?

Maybe! We’d recommend the Chevy Astro for vanlife over other Budget Americana vans like the Chevy Express, Ford Econoline, GMC Savana, & Dodge Ram van for vanlifers who like the Chevy brand but want AWD. Don’t care about AWD? The Chevy Express offers a slightly larger platform for a similar price.

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