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

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Considering the Chevy Express for Vanlife?

With a spacious interior, cheap build cost, & large payload capacity, the Chevy Express van is a great option.

But how does it stack up against other popular Budget Americana models like the Ford Econoline, Chevy Astro, 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 Express

The Chevy Express is cheap, stealthy, & easy to maintain – but is it the best option for vanlife?

Here are 10 reasons why vanlifers like the Chevy Express:

  1. Easy to Service: The Express is a pretty common van, so there’s lots of information out there for DIY fixes. For more serious issues, it won’t be difficult to find a mechanic familiar with these vehicles.
  2. Great for Stealth Camping: Van-owners like the Express because it’s pretty easy to park wherever you want without people knowing you’re sleeping in your van.
  3. Fits in Parking Garages: The low roof means you don’t have to worry about this van not fitting in low-clearance parking garages or drive thru lanes.
  4. Easy to Maneuver: The low roof also means the Express has a low center of gravity, so it’s easy to maneuver around tight turns, especially considering its size.
  5. Cheap to Buy: Compared to the Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter, the Chevy Express is a budget van that’s way cheaper new and used.
  6. Can Tow if Needed: The Express has a tow capacity of up to 7,500 pounds if needed.
  7. Can Handle Heavy Builds: The Express 3500 has a payload capacity of over 4,000 pounds. So it will be able to handle heavy builds with no issue.
  8. Lasts a Long Time: With proper maintenance, Chevy Express vans can last as long as 300,000 miles.
  9. Spacious Interior: The Chevy Express is long and wide, so there’s plenty of room for a bed, and fully interior kitchen area.
  10. Inexpensive Parts: Chevy Express parts are inexpensive and easy to come by if you ever need to do any repairs.

7 Reasons Why Vanlifers Dislike the Chevy Express

As with every vehicle, there are downsides to the Chevy Express.

Here are 7 reasons why vanlifers dislike the Express:

  1. Dated Exterior: Chevrolet has barely updated the exterior of the Express since they started manufacturing the vans. So, they aren’t the most visually appealing vans on the market.
  2. Can’t Stand up Inside: The Chevy Express has a pretty low roof, so you won’t be able to stand up inside unless you install a high roof aftermarket.
  3. Small Side Mirrors: The side mirrors are not quite large enough for how large the van is, especially if you’re towing something.
  4. Poor Gas Mileage: If you’re looking for good gas mileage, the Chevy Express isn’t the van for you. It gets just 13 MPG combined.
  5. Uncomfortable Seats: Owner’s say the front seats in the van aren’t the most comfortable.
  6. No AWD Options From Manufacturer: Chevrolet does not currently offer the Express in 4WD or AWD, although there are many aftermarket companies that will perform this conversion.
  7. Very Few Updates in Recent Years: Chevrolet has not made any huge improvements on the Express in recent years, so purchasing a new one may not be a great bang for your buck.

 

15 Amazing Chevy Express Van Builds

With a spacious interior, large payload capacity, & stealthy exterior, the Chevy Express provides a good platform for designing a layout… but which is the best?

Here are 15 of the coolest Chevy Express vans ever:

Build #15: High-Roof Express with Lots of Storage and Double-Wall Kitchen Area

  • Highlights: This DIY Express build is jam packed with tons of storage, from ledges, to baskets, to some under bed storage. The front area of the van has a countertop for cooking and coffee-making, and another countertop that contains the sink.
  • Van: Chevy Express
  • Owner: @dylventures

 

Build #14: DIY Express with Convertible Bed and Swing-Out Table

  • Highlights: This DIY Express project has a convertible bed that slides up to a large bench seat. Across from the bed is some cabinet space, and a swing-out table for when the bed is in “bench mode”. There’s a sink area in the front of the van behind the passenger seat.
  • Van: Chevy Express
  • Owner: @emily_mcdo

 

Build #13: Express Conversion with High Bed and Residential-Style Sink

  • Highlights: This boho-chic style Express has a high platform bed with storage underneath from the rear. The kitchen area has a large bowl sink and residential faucet. The fridge sits between the two front seats.
  • Van: 2006 Chevy Express
  • Owner: @vanlifetrader

 

Build #12: Low Roof Express with Fixed Bed and Roof Deck

  • Highlights: This professional Chevy Express conversion has a fixed bed with storage underneath, and overhead storage. The kitchen unit has a sink and a pull-out drawer with a Yeti cooler.
  • Van: 2002 Chevy Express
  • Owner: @flippinvans

 

Build #11: All-Terrain-Ready Express with Slide-Out Storage and Large Fridge

  • Highlights: This Chevy Express has a 4WD conversion and a lift kit, so it’s ready for any terrain. The interior has a side-facing bed with slide-out storage underneath. The kitchen unit has a sink, and stove, and the side door reveals a large fridge.
  • Van: 2015 Chevy Express
  • Owner: @timberline_vans

 

Build #10: High Roof Chevy Express with Fixed Bed and Bench Seat

  • Highlights: This professional build from Paved To Pines has a super high roof for standing room inside. The interior is fitted with a fixed bench seat, and a high platform bed. The kitchen area has a stove top, and a slide-out fridge.
  • Van: 2002 Chevy Express
  • Owner: @pavedtopines

 

Build #9: Low Roof Express with Wall Separating Driver’s Cab

  • Highlights: This DIY express build has a side-facing bed and a large kitchen countertop. The rear is separated from the driver’s cab by a wall and tiny door, which helps the interior feel extra cozy.
  • Van: 2009 Chevy Express 1500
  • Owner: @vanlifeabyss

 

Build #8: Chevy Express with Awning and Apartment-Style Interior

  • Highlights: This Chevy Express has a side-facing bed in the back with storage underneath, and a built-in nightstand. The kitchen unit in front has a sink and cabinet storage. The rear build is separated from the driver’s cab by a curtain.
  • Van: 2003 Chevy Express 3500
  • Owner: @vanessa_the_adventure_van

 

Build #7: 4×4 Chevy Express Conversion with Sliding Bed

  • Highlights: This simple Express build is super functional. The large rear bed slides up into a couch for more interior room during the day. There’s shelving and drawer storage throughout, and an interior kitchen area with a sink.
  • Van: Chevy Express 3500
  • Owner: @vandalscustoms

 

Build #6: Simple High-Roof Express with Indoor Kitchenette

  • Highlights: This simple DIY express build has a high roof for comfortable headroom inside. The interior has a large bed and a kitchenette area with a stove and sink. Plus, there are two ceiling fans for great air flow.
  • Van: 2016 Chevy Express 2500
  • Owner: @vanlifetrader

 

Build #5: Express with Convertible Dinette that Seats Four

  • Highlights: This Chevy Express seats four people. In the rear is a dinette with a pop-up table that converts to a bed. A slide-out from the rear holds the stove for outdoor cooking.
  • Van: Chevy Express
  • Owner: @instavanbuilds

 

Build #4: Express with Convertible Bed and Large Sink

  • Highlights: This low-roof Chevy Express has a creative jigsaw bed system that converts from an L-shaped couch to a bed. The owners installed lots of creative storage, plus a pull-down desk/table, and a large sink.
  • Van: 2013 Chevy Express 3500
  • Owner: @thevanlifechornicles

 

Build #3: High-Roof Chevy Express with Westfalia-Style Interior

  • Highlights: This high-top Chevy Express conversion from Contravans has a simple, clean design. Inside is a fold-down bed, and a small kitchen unit with a cooler. The passenger seat swivels around for more seating.
  • Van: Chevy Express
  • Owner: @contravans

 

Build #2: DIY Express with Wood Paneling and Rear Kitchen

  • Highlights: This DIY Express has a bed that slides up to make room for a pop-up table inside. There’s a small food prep area in the interior of the van with a fridge underneath. The rear doors swing open to reveal an outdoor “kitchen” with a sink and room for a camping stove.
  • Van: 2001 Chevy Express 2500
  • Owner: @vanlifetrader

 

Build #1: Chevy Express with Pop-Top and Convertible Dinette

  • Highlights: This Express is fitted with a Quigley 4×4 system for rugged mountain roads. Inside is a dinette setup that converts into a comfy bed, a hidden porta potty, and a kitchen unit with a fridge, stove, and sink. Beartooth Vanworks also installed a super high pop-top that provides standing room inside.
  • Van: Chevy Express
  • Owner: @beartoothvanworks

 

Cost, Dimensions, & Fuel Economy

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

 

Chevy Express Cost

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

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

 

Chevy Express Dimensions

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

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

 

Chevy Express Fuel Economy

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

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

 

Conclusion: Is the Chevy Express Right for you?

There are a lot of reasons to like the Chevy Express van: It’s inexpensive, durable, & spacious – but it may not be for you.

Biggest factors:

  • Cheap to Buy
  • Lasts a Long Time
  • Spacious Interior (relatively)
  • Poor Gas Mileage
  • Dated Exterior

So should you get one?

Yes! We’d recommend the Chevy Express for vanlife over other Budget Americana vans like the Ford Econoline, Chevy Astro, GMC Savana, & Dodge Ram Van for vanlifers who looking for a cheaper alternative to expensive vans like the Sprinter. The Chevy Express offers a durable platform for vanlife with plenty of aftermarket support and low cost maintenance.

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