Toyota Sienna for Vanlife: 13 Reasons Why It’s the Best

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Considering the Toyota Sienna for Vanlife?

With good fuel economy, optional AWD, & Toyota reliability, the Sienna van is a great option.

But how does it stack up against other popular Minivan models like the Dodge Caravan, Kia Sedona, & Honda Odyssey?

In this post, we’ll find out.

Here’s everything you’ll learn:

13 Reasons Why Vanlifers Like the Toyota Sienna

The Sienna is reliable, stealthy, & easy to drive – but is it the best option for vanlife?

Here are 13 reasons why vanlifers like the Toyota Sienna:

  1. Excellent Fuel Economy: The 2021-23 Toyota Sienna’s gets 36 MPG combined, which pretty much blows every other minivan on the market out of the water. Older models get good gas mileage too.
  2. Comes in AWD: The Sienna comes in AWD, which is super handy for traveling to hard-to-reach campsites.
  3. Hybrid Models Available: The new Siennas all come with Hybrid engines as a standard. Hybrid engines are better for the environment, and your bank account.
  4. Lasts a Long Time: Toyota Siennas that are well-maintained can last over 200,000 miles.
  5. Great for Towing: The Toyota Sienna can tow 3,500 pounds. Many Sienna-owners choose to tow a small camper for extra sleeping space on camping trips.
  6. Easy to Park: The Sienna is nimble and easy to park in pretty much any parking spot.
  7. Very Stealth: The Toyota Sienna looks like any regular passenger minivan. No one will suspect you could be sleeping inside.
  8. Safety Features: The Toyota Sienna has consistently received excellent on-the-road safety ratings.
  9. Fewer Transmission Issues Than the Odyssey: The Honda Odyssey is known for having some major transmission issues after 100,000 miles or so, but the Sienna transmission tends to last longer.
  10. Great Visibility: The large mirrors and windows give the driver great visibility while driving the Sienna.
  11. Easy and Inexpensive Maintenance: Mechanics who are familiar with Toyotas are everywhere, and parts are inexpensive. If you prefer to do DIY fixes on your car, there’s tons of info on the internet about any part you need to replace, or fluid you need to change.
  12. Widely Available: The Toyota Sienna is one of the best-selling minivans in the U.S.. There are tons of used options out there.
  13. Lots of Space Behind the Rear Seats: Many people who convert their Sienna vans leave in the rear seats for extra seating during the day. There’s enough room in front of these seats for a bed, and enough room behind for a kitchen unit.

5 Reasons Why Vanlifers Dislike the Sienna Van

As with every vehicle, there are downsides to the Toyota Sienna.

Here are 5 reasons why vanlifers dislike the Sienna:

  1. Seats are Difficult to Remove in Second Generation Siennas: The second row of seats in the second gen Sienna (2004-2010) are not made to be removed, and if you want to convert one, you may have to take apart the whole rear of the car.
  2. Breaks Can Wear Down: Some Sienna owners claim the breaks wear down fast, especially when towing or carrying heavy loads.
  3. Not as Fast as the Odyssey: Compared to the Odyssey’s V6 engine, the Sienna just does not accelerate very fast.
  4. Pricey for a Minivan: Compared to the Dodge Grand Caravan, the Toyota Sienna is pretty pricey, both new and used.
  5. May Not be Large Enough for Full-time Vanlife: The Sienna has a lot of cargo room, but not quite enough for amenities like a shower, or toilet. This makes it a less desirable option for full-time vanlife.

 

10 Amazing Toyota Sienna Builds

With a 60.5 inch interior cargo length, stow-able seats, & stealthy exterior, the Toyota Sienna provides a good platform for designing a layout… but which is the best?

Here are 10 of the coolest Sienna’s ever:

 

Build #10: AWD Toyota Sienna Camper with Lift Kit

  • Highlights: This gorgeous Sienna conversion has a rear kitchen area with a sink, Dometic fridge, and room for a camp stove. The front of the van has a dinette/desk table that converts into a bed that sleeps two. The van is AWD and has a lift kit for traversing unpaved roads.
  • Van: 2021 Toyota Sienna AWD
  • Owner: @oasiscampervans

 

Build #9: DIY Sienna Conversion with Large Sink and Oven

  • Highlights: This DIY Sienna build has a simple bed system in the front. The rear kitchen is the showstopper of this build, with a large aluminum sink and a drawer for storage. This van not only has a stovetop but an oven too.
  • Van: 2008 Toyota Sienna
  • Owner: @timelessmetalcraft

 

Build #8: Sienna with Large Pull Out Kitchen that Seats Three

  • Highlights: This Honda Odyssey conversion seats three and sleeps one. Under the platform bed is a huge slide-out kitchen space, with room for a stove top and tons of storage. Behind the rear seat is a Dometic fridge. The van’s electric system is powered by rooftop solar and a portable battery.
  • Van: 2015 Honda Odyssey
  • Owner: @oasiscampervans

 

Build #7: Toyota Sienna Conversion Kit with Rear Kitchen Slide-Out

  • Highlights: This conversion kit from Freeway Camper Kit has a front bed that converts to a dinette. The rear has a kitchen that slides out from the trunk. It includes a Coleman camp stove and a sink.
  • Van: 2004-2020 Toyota Sienna
  • Owner: @freewaycamperkit

 

Build #6: Pop-Top Sienna with Convertible Dinette

  • Highlights: This Hybrid Sienna has a pop-top sleeper, meaning this van can sleep three people. The large bed on the interior converts into a dining area or desk. The rear kitchen unit includes a sink, stove, and prep space.
  • Van: 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid
  • Owner: @toyotasiennapr

 

Build #5: Sienna Conversion with Rear Kitchen that Seats Four

  • Highlights: This Contravans Toyota Sienna conversion has two rear seats, meaning by day this van seats four people. The rear converts into a large cozy bed. The trunk of the car opens to reveal a kitchen area with a pop-out table, sink, and fridge.
  • Van: 2011-2020 Toyota Sienna
  • Owner: @contravans (photos on contravans.com)

 

Build #4: Sienna Conversion with Folding Platform Bed and Slide-Out Kitchen

  • Highlights: This smart Toyota Sienna build seats four during the day. It has a platform bed that folds into a bench seat for some extra room. The rear has a slide-out kitchen with a sink, a propane stove, fridge, and lots of countertop space. 
  • Van: Toyota Sienna
  • Owner: @pacific_cre

 

Build #3: Sienna Build Kit for One with Under-Bed Storage and Hidden Toilet

  • Highlights: This Toyota Sienna conversion build is designed for solo travelers. It has a twin-sized bed in the back. Under the bed is lots of storage, a battery, and even a portable toilet. The rear of the van has a kitchen unit with a sink and fridge.
  • Van: Toyota Sienna
  • Owner: @oasiscampervans

 

Build #2: Toyota Sienna with Interior Kitchen and Extendable Bed

  • Highlights: This fully-furnished Sienna build looks like the inside of some fancy Mercedes Sprinters or Ford Transits. It has a large kitchen area with tons of countertop space and a sink. The bench seat folds down into a bed, and there are custom curtains on all the windows.
  • Van: 2006 Toyota Sienna LE
  • Owner: @toyotasiennapr

 

Build #1: Cost-Effective Sienna Build that Seats Five

  • Highlights: This practical DIY Sienna build seats five people and two dogs. At night, one bench slides out into a large bed. The rear has an inexpensive DIY kitchen with a plastic storage rack and cooler.
  • Van: 2018 Toyota Sienna
  • Owner: @crazycripplecouple

 

Cost, Dimensions, & Fuel Economy

Now that you know a little more about the Toyota Sienna, let’s see how it stacks up against the Dodge Caravan, Kia Sedona, & Honda Odyssey.

 

Toyota Sienna Cost

Cost: Toyota Sienna vs Dodge Caravan vs Kia Sedona vs Honda Odyssey

ModelNewUsedPrice
Toyota Sienna$35,385$23,956Check Price
Dodge CaravanN/A$9,000Check Price
Kia SedonaN/A$22,998Check Price
Honda Odyssey$37,490$25,895Check Price

 

Toyota Sienna Dimensions

Dimensions: Toyota Sienna vs Dodge Caravan vs Kia Sedona vs Honda Odyssey

ModelInterior HeightInterior Length (cargo)Interior WidthExt Length
Toyota Sienna37.5 inches60.5 inches50.5 inches204 inches
Dodge Caravan39.3 inches62 inches50 inches202.8 inches
Kia Sedona39 inches62 inches52 inches203 inches
Honda Odyssey38 inches65 inches48 inches205.2 inches

 

Toyota Sienna Fuel Economy

Fuel Economy: Toyota Sienna vs Dodge Caravan vs Kia Sedona vs Honda Odyssey

ModelCityHighwayCombined
Toyota Sienna (hybrid)36 MPG36 MPG36 MPG
Dodge Caravan17 MPG25 MPG20 MPG
Kia Sedona18 MPG24 MPG21 MPG
Honda Odyssey19 MPG28 MPG22 MPG

 

Conclusion: Is the Toyota Sienna Right for you?

There are a lot of reasons to like the Sienna: It’s super reliable, excellent on gas, comes in AWD  – but it may not be for you.

Biggest factors:

  • Excellent Fuel Economy (Especially in Hybrid Models)
  • Easy to Find
  • Super Reliable
  • Comes in AWD
  • Pricey for Minivan

So should you get one?

Yes! If you are in the market for a minivan for vanlife, the Toyota Sienna is a fantastic option. With Toyota reliability, optional AWD, and industry leading fuel economy, the Sienna stacks up nicely against the Dodge Caravan, Kia Sedona, & Honda Odyssey.

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