Ford Econoline (E-Series) For Vanlife: 13 Reasons Why It’s the Best

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Considering the Ford Econoline for Vanlife?

With an inexpensive upfront cost, stealthy exterior, & lots of aftermarket parts, the Econoline (E-Series) van is a great option.

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

In this post, we’ll find out.

Here’s everything you’ll learn:

13 Reasons Why Vanlifers Like the Ford Econoline

The Econoline is reliable, inexpensive, & easy to convert – but is it the best option for vanlife?

Here are 13 reasons why vanlifers like the Ford Econoline:

  1. Inexpensive to Buy: Ford Econolines go for as low as $4,000 these days. If you’re on a budget, this is a huge factor as they’re way less expensive than Sprinters and Transit vans.
  2. Good “stealth” Factor: Econolines are a very common work truck, so it’s easy to blend in when you’re in these vehicles.
  3. Great Cargo Length: The Econoline has a lot of cargo length (over 12 feet) to play with. That means you’ll likely have room for a bed and a full interior kitchen.
  4. Lasts a Long Time: Ford Econoline engines are known for lasting a very long time. These vans can go 200,000 miles and beyond without any major issues.
  5. Easy to Repair: The Ford Econoline is a very popular van around the U.S.. If you need a repair, it’s easy to find a mechanic or to look up DIY repair info online.
  6. Inexpensive Parts: Ford parts are known for being inexpensive. If you need to do a minor repair yourself, you can find Econoline parts online for pretty cheap.
  7. Durable: These vans are heavy and strong, and they can really take a beating. You don’t have to worry about beating them up like you would a brand-new Mercedes Sprinter.
  8. Can Handle Heavy Builds: The Econoline 350 can handle over 4,000 pounds of added weight, and can tow up to 7,500 pounds.
  9. Lots of Conversion Info Online: The Econoline is a relatively popular conversion van, so there’s a good amount of inspiration for van builds online.
  10. Many Aftermarket Add-ons Available: Many Econoline owners get aftermarket add-ons like roof racks, light bars, larger wheels and tires, and lift kits for their vans.
  11. Good Handling for its Size: Although these vans are big, owners say they have impressive handling.
  12. Good Visibility: The front windshield in the Econoline is very large, giving both driver and passenger great visibility.
  13. Powerful Engine: All Econolines come with either a V6 or V8 engine. These engines have the horsepower and torque necessary to handle heavy builds and to pull the vehicle up mountains or gravel roads.

7 Reasons Why Vanlifers Dislike the Ford Econoline

As with every vehicle, there are downsides to the Econoline.

Here are 7 reasons why vanlifers dislike the Ford Econoline:

  1. Low Ceiling Height: The Econoline doesn’t have a ton of headroom (about 4’6”), so you can’t quite stand up inside without extending the roof or adding a pop-top.
  2. Not as Visually Appealing as a Transit Van: The Econolines just aren’t super pretty, and the external aesthetics aren’t as clean as a Transit or Sprinter van.
  3. Can Have Rust Issues: Econolines last a long time, but beware of frame rust in older models that have been on the road for 20+ years.
  4. No New Options: Ford stopped making the Econoline Cargo and Passenger in 2014 in favor of the Transit. So if you want an Econoline, you’ll have to buy it used.
  5. Bad Gas Mileage: The Econoline gets just 15 MPG combined, so if fuel efficiency is a top priority, this van may not be the best option.
  6. Can’t Quite Fit Into Small Parking Spaces: The Ford Econoline is about 17.5 feet long. It won’t fit into more compact parking spaces, and it’ll be difficult to park in big cities.
  7. Can Have Engine Oil Leak Issues: Owners say that Econolines commonly have issues with engine oil leaks, which are difficult to diagnose and costly to repair.

 

15 Amazing Ford Econoline Van Builds

With a long cargo length, heavy towing capacity, & lots of aftermarket parts, the Ford Econoline provides a good platform for designing a layout… but which is the best?

Here are 15 of the coolest Econolines ever:

 

Build #15: Green Econoline with Full Indoor Kitchen

  • Highlights: This Contravans Econoline conversion has a die-facing bed with storage and a fridge underneath. The small kitchen unit includes a sink and gas stove under a large window. 
  • Van: Ford Econoline
  • Owner: @contravans

 

Build #14: All-Wood Interior Econoline with Fixed Bed

  • Highlights: This Econoline has a high fixed bed in the rear with storage underneath. The large wood countertops for the kitchen area include a huge sink below a tiled backsplash. The awning provides comfort for outdoor cooking and eating.
  • Van: Ford Econoline
  • Owner: @never_lookinmy_rearview_mirror

 

Build #13: Spacious Econoline Build with Side-Facing Rear Bed

  • Highlights: This beautiful open floor plan includes a large bed at the back next to a bench seat, and two countertops. One countertop includes a sink, and the other has room for a stove and a fridge underneath.
  • Van: Ford Econoline
  • Owner: @dominiqueclairemarie

 

Build #12: Econoline with Raised Fixed Bed and Full Interior Kitchen

  • Highlights: This extended-roof Econoline has a high bed in the back with storage underneath. The large countertop includes a sink, and room for a stove. The van is lined with overhead storage and LED lighting.
  • Van: 2006 Ford Econoline
  • Owner: @wander_woman_go

 

Build #11: Vintage Econoline with Fold-Down Bed and Rear-Door Kitchen

  • Highlights: This gorgeous vintage Econoline has cool green rear bench seats that fold down into a bed. The interior is built out with wood countertops and side tables, and there’s a kitchen area that pulls out of the back doors.
  • Van: 1965 Ford Econoline
  • Owner: @econo_camper

 

Build #10: Econoline with Indoor and Outdoor Cooking Area and Awning

  • Highlights: This Econoline has a single rear seat in front of its queen-sized bed to seat three during the day. The kitchen can be used either inside or outside, and they have a cassette toilet hidden between the front two seats.
  • Van: Ford Econoline 350
  • Owner: @sitka_the_van

 

Build #9: Econoline with Side-Facing Back Bed

  • Highlights: This Econoline is made for weekend getaways. It has a simple side-facing bed in the back, and a large bench seat with a pop up dining or work table.
  • Van: Ford Econoline
  • Owner: @briananaughton

 

Build #8: Econoline with Slide-Out Bed, Tons of Cabinetry, and an Outdoor Shower

  • Highlights: This DIY Econoline build has gorgeous wood cabinetry throughout with tons of nooks and crannies for storage. The slide-down bed acts as a bench seat during the day, and there’s a full interior kitchen with a sink and camping stove.
  • Van: Ford Econoline 350
  • Owner: @zookeeperkyle

 

Build #7: Five Passenger Econoline with Rooftop Tent

  • Highlights: A whole family of five can travel and sleep in this Econoline. The large convertible bench seats sleep three, and the Roofnest on top sleeps another two. The kitchen area sits at the rear and has a sink, stove, and fridge.
  • Van: Ford Econoline
  • Owner: @contravans (more photos at contravans.com)

 

Build #6: Econoline with Indoor and Outdoor Kitchen Areas and Overhead Storage

  • Highlights: This gorgeous Econoline has a large front-facing bed with under bed storage and a side table. The kitchen has a large countertop, sink, and drawer fridge. The side door swings out for outdoor kitchen use.
  • Van: Ford Econoline E350
  • Owner: @amythevan_e350

 

Build #5: Econoline with Back Bed and Double-Wall Kitchen

  • Highlights:  This Econoline has room for two humans and a dog with a large back bed. The double-wall kitchen has lots of counter space and a sink. The owners have also added a fridge between the front two seats.
  • Van: Ford Econoline
  • Owner: @crazybrave.adventure

 

Build #4: Econoline with Extendable Bed and Slide-Out Kitchen

  • Highlights: This all-cedarwood Econoline build has an extendable bed behind that converts from a twin to a queen. The side door opens up to the slide-out “kitchen” with a stove and oven. The side wall has tons of cabinetry, a fridge, a sink, and even a hidden toilet.
  • Van: 2005 Ford Econoline 350
  • Owner: @wildwoodcampervans

 

Build #3: Econoline with Pop-Top and Two Sleeping Areas

  • Highlights: The two sleeping options in this Econoline make it super versatile. One is a convertible bed that acts as a couch during the day, and the other is a pop-top sleeper. The kitchen setup has an installed two-burner stove, and a water tank sink.
  • Van: Ford Econoline
  • Owner: @road2neverland

 

Build #2: Econoline with Huge Convertible Bed and Lots of Countertop Space

  • Highlights: This simple and spacious Econoline has a huge rear bed and a large countertop with a sink. The bed tucks into a couch for a few feet of extra room during the day.
  • Van: 1999 Ford Econoline 150
  • Owner: @our.econoline

 

Build #1: All-Vintage ‘88 Econoline with Interior Surfboard Storage

  • Highlights: The two front brown seats of this vintage Econoline swivel around to make a comfy lounge area. There’s a large side-facing bed in the back, a countertop and sink area, and a fridge. The owners tied up a rope to the ceiling to store a surfboard.
  • Van: 1988 Ford Econoline 150
  • Owner: @vintagevanproject

 

Cost, Dimensions, & Fuel Economy

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

 

Ford Econoline Cost

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

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

 

Ford Econoline Dimensions

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

ModelInterior HeightInterior Length (cargo)Interior WidthExt Length
Ford Econoline53.9 inches121.4 inches73.6 inches212 inches
Chevy Express55.1 inches126.8 inches62 inches224.1 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

 

Ford Econoline Fuel Economy

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

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

 

Conclusion: Is the Ford Econoline Right for you?

There are a lot of reasons to like the Ford Econoline: It’s widely available, stealthy, & easy to work on – but it may not be for you.

Biggest factors:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to Repair
  • Durable
  • Good “Stealth” Factor
  • Low Ceiling Height
  • Not As Appealing As Transit
  • Bad Gas Mileage

So should you get one?

Yes! We’d recommend the Ford Econoline for vanlife over other budget Americana vans (Chevy Express, Chevy Astro, GMC Savana, & Dodge Ram van) for vanlifers who like the Ford brand and want to get into vanlife on the cheap. With tons of aftermarket support, and a long history of vehicle services available, the Ford E-Series is a no-brainer.

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