Vanlife Windows: Sliding, Crank-Out, & Fixed + Install Guide
Every vanlifer has their own unique preferences. One thing that varies greatly from vehicle to vehicle is the inclusion of van windows. While some people don’t bother, others will install as many as possible.
In this article, we’ll go over the benefits of windows, available models and installation process. By the end, you’ll have a clearer view on van windows and whether they’re the right choice for your van build.
Pros and Cons of Vanlife Windows
Are you uncertain about installing van windows? Reviewing the pros and cons can help you decide.
Most van windows are transparent, which helps enhance the van’s interior lighting. If you have natural sunlight streaming in, you won’t have to switch on lights to see inside. Not only does this save money, but it also brings health benefits.
During the summer, your van’s interior will likely get hot. To battle the heat, you might turn on a 12v van air conditioner or use a Maxxair fan — while these appliances can help, they may also drain your van’s battery. If you have van windows that open, just prop them open while driving and let the wind cool you down.
The enhanced ventilation from campervan windows also come in useful during cooler seasons. If you prepare meals inside your van, opening the windows will help release smoke and reduce the risk of odors.
Installing windows in your campervan increases visibility, which makes it easier to enjoy outdoor views. For instance, say you’re taking a scenic route — if you lack windows, you won’t have many angles through which you can appreciate the nature. As an added bonus, increased visibility makes you more aware of your surroundings (which keeps you safer).
Windows aren’t just functional — they’re also aesthetically pleasing and can improve any vehicle’s appearance. They are also very likely to increase the monetary value of your van (which will come in handy if you ever choose to sell).
While there are plenty of benefits to installing windows, there are also a few downsides.
Danger of Theft
If a burglar decides to break into a van, the windows will usually be the prime entry point. This is because windows are more vulnerable to external forces than van walls (and are thus easier to destroy). Moreover, windows can give potential thieves insight into what items you have in your vehicle. Of course, this problem can be solved by investing in window covers made for vanlife.
Windows present an opening through which heat can enter or escape your van. If you live in a cold region, windows make it easier for bitter winds to infiltrate your van and lower interior temperatures which will increase the amount of fuel needed to keep your van heated. It’s also possible for water to seep in through window gaps and cause moisture damage.
Although windows make your van more vulnerable to the elements, you can solve this issue through insulation. This involves padding any gaps or crevices with insulative materials like foam, wool and fiberglass.
Expensive and Difficult to Install
If you want to minimize expenses, leaving your van window-less will help save money. Those who have carpentry experience could cut costs by installing windows themselves — however, doing so is one of the more difficult projects of a DIY build. It’s also important to note, that if you plan to add windows, you may save money buy finding a passenger or cargo van that includes factory windows.
Do I Need to Install Van Windows?
At the end of the day, windows for campervans are not necessary. A lack of windows won’t affect the function of your vehicle or make travel impossible. However, it can impact the quality of your journey. Having no windows means fewer opportunities to enjoy natural light, fresh air and the great outdoors.
If you don’t have the funds for windows, or you’re not interested in the installation process, you may want to hold out on them for now. On the flip side, if you’d like to take advantage of the unique benefits windows have to offer, read on to learn how to find and install them.
What Type of Van Windows Should I Get?
From van bunk windows to pop out van windows, there’s no shortage of models out there. In this section, we’ll review some of the most popular options.
Aftermarket Van Windows
Aftermarket van windows are customized, tinted windows designed to provide maximum privacy. What sets them apart from standard windows is the thin film tint, which offers a darkened appearance from the outside. Moreover, they maintain a gap between the frame and the glass (which means the tint film won’t peel off when you open or close the window).
This window type is a great choice for anyone who wants to preserve their privacy and keep outsiders from peering into their vans. It also saves you the trouble of applying tint later on (which can be difficult if you’re not the most artistic person). You may purchase aftermarket van windows through one of the following methods:
- Van conversion businesses: For professional van windows, visit a van-centered retailer (like Motion Windows or Van Windows Direct).
- Dealer: Although technically not aftermarket, if your van came without windows, you can find the factory windows that come standard on cargo and passenger vans and add them to your van.
- Online: You can find dozens of options from retailers like CR Lawerence on Amazon.
For the best results, it’s advisable to work with a manufacturer that has extensive experience in the RV window industry. You can purchase ready-made Promaster van windows, or (if you’re willing to pay a bit more), spring for custom van windows.
Alternatively, if you’re trying to save money, a more generic retailer like Lowe’s or Amazon is a good choice. Keep in mind that every state has its own regulations on tinted windows — be sure to check the laws in your area before buying them.
Common Types of Van Windows Available
Here are a few common van window models you may want to consider for your conversion project:
- CRL Universal Half-Slider Window: This flat, glass window is designed to increase ventilation and natural light. It features a removable screen and is usually installed on the driver’s side.
- CRL Universal Vertical Sliding Window: This vertical, sliding aftermarket van window integrates well with vans that have contoured sides. The window has an opening bottom panel, as well as a detachable screen that slides upwards.
- CRL Universal Crank Out Window: This unique van window tilts at a 45 degree angle, which helps boost ventilation and encourages airflow. It features an upper portion that is permanently fixed in place.
- CRL All Glass Look Sprinter Van Window: This is a more modern van conversion window style. It offers a 28% dark gray tint and is meant to be installed by the passenger sliding door.
Keep in mind that these are just a few options available. As mentioned earlier, the possibilities are pretty much endless when it comes to van life window styles.
How Much Does it Cost to Install Windows in a Van?
Van window installation costs vary depending on size — small van windows are typically more affordable than large ones. Having a unique shape (such as a round van window) can also boost costs. In general, installing one van window can cost anywhere from $300 and $1,200. This covers the window price, supplies and labor. Of course, you can cut costs by executing your own conversion van window replacement or installation.
How to Install Windows in Your Campervan
Once you’ve decided on the types of windows you’d like, the next step is to actually install them. If you’re not very experienced with carpentry projects, the idea of installing your own windows might seem daunting. To make things easier, we’ve assembled a brief guide that reviews the essential campervan window installation steps.
Decide The Location
The first step of any window installation is to determine where you want the windows to go. Here are the most popular options:
- Rear: Installing rear windows provides visibility through the back of the vehicle (which comes in useful when driving).
- Sides: For passengers, side windows for vans are the best way to enjoy outdoor views. You can install them on one side, towards the front, towards the back or across the entirety of both sides.
- Roof: If you want to optimize natural lighting and enjoy sky views, consider installing windows on the van roof.
Generally, window location comes down to personal preference. However, the design of your van may dictate where you can (or cannot) install windows. For instance, say you have a water tank attached to the side — it would be difficult to place a sprinter van side window here.
Mark Out The Window Size/Shape
After determining where you want the windows to go (and, of course, the number of windows you’d like), it’s time to size them. Start by tracing the window perimeter onto a piece of cardboard. Then, cut out the tracing to make a template. Finally, tape the template on the van wall and outline it using a marker pen.
Cut and File The Window Hole
Now that your template is on the wall, you can cut out a physical space for the window. Just follow these steps:
- Drill holes on the corners of the traced window outline
- Insert a metal cutting jigsaw blade into the holes
- Start sawing the van walls
Use the saw gently to avoid scratching any paint on the van walls. Once the hole is complete, sand the edges to smoothen out any sharp points and ensure the window is proportional.
Insert and Screw In The Window
Now that the window frame is prepped and ready, you can proceed to actually install the glass panes. Provided you measured the template correctly, the panes should fit smoothly into the window hole. It’s best to insert them from the outside — if you cannot reach, you might need to get a ladder.
Once the window is inserted, secure it in place using self-tapping screws. Start by hand-screwing them in, then finish the job with an electric drill.
How to Block Out Windows In Vans
If you don’t have tinted or black-out van windows, you might be concerned about privacy. Fortunately, blocking out van windows is easy — all you have to do is buy some campervan window covers. You can also make your own DIY van window covers.
Improve Your Van Life Journey Today!
There’s no doubt that windows make van life more fun. Even if you don’t need them, you probably want them — it’s hard to beat the benefits of natural light, ventilation and improved views. If you have any questions about van windows, our team of experts is here to help. Feel free to contact us today!