The Ford Transit van is made to order, meaning it’s built according to the customer’s specifications. There are an overwhelming number of options and features from which to choose from, so it makes the ordering process quite stressful! We built our first Ford Transit DIY camper van out of a 2016 Transit, and our second build is underway out of a 2021 Transit. This order guide is based on our experience.
Please keep in mind that it’s impossible to define a complete package that would suits everyone! So we’ll try to focus on the essential stuff. Oh and one last thing: we’re not sponsored or affiliated with Ford; we made this guide on a voluntary basis. Hope this helps! 🙂
Update November 2022:
The 2023 Transit Trail was just announced! With bold claims like “Vanlife-Ready” and “Attention DIYers”, it caught our attention. At the moment it’s all marketing pitch, so we gathered all the info we could find and made a clear and concise list of the technical features and specifications:
First things first, go to the Transit “Build & Price” tool on Ford.com. This will help you customize your own Transit and get a price estimate (the price is updated as options are added or changed) and prevent you from choosing combination of options that are not compatible together. Choose the options you want under “Select Your Configuration” widget on the right-side of the page:
With a 3-seating second row, the Ford Transit Crew van is designed to carry 5 passengers and still has room for cargo. There are side airbags
Up to 15-Passenger Seating
The passenger van is an interesting option if you want windows all-around and plan on reusing the included interior finish for your conversion.
Start from a fully blank slate! Most flexible and cheapest option. The Transit cargo van is what most people choose for their conversion.
Our experience with the cargo van Transit
That’s what we used in 2016 to build our Ford Transit camper van, and that’s what we would use again if we had to start over today. With a clean slate, we’re in control and we can start right-away without having to disassemble anything first.
The passenger and crew van comes standard with side-curtain airbags (full-length on the passenger van, up to the second row on the crew van). These will have to be disabled and removed, or leave undisturbed which can be challenging.
With 56.9″ (4’9″) interior height, it’s not possible to stand up. So we personally don’t recommend going with the Transit low roof for a campervan conversion.
Our experience with the high roof Transit
We honestly don’t see any real downside with the high roof… Some people say it’s hard to drive in high wind conditions; sure it’s a bit more work than a car, but you get use to it and it’s really not that bad, so we don’t see it as a deal breaker. Because we live full time in our van, being able to stand up and still have headroom draw the line between van camping and van living.
Because of the limited space, we wouldn’t recommend the regular length Transit for a van conversion.
Best suited for:
Best suited for:
Our experience with the extended length Transit
We built our van for full time vanlife, with all the amenities and for multiple sports, so the extended length Transit was a no brainer. Indeed, the high roof extended length Transit looks HUGE at first sight, but we quickly realized that the space fills up quickly, very quickly… We would definitely choose the extended length again if we had to start over!
Every decision is a compromise. Are you willing to compromise interior living/storage space just to make it easier to park? In our opinion, if you feel like you need the interior space, then get the extended length. Yes, it’s more difficult to park, but you’ll get use to it. And if you’re into the outdoors like us, you’ll spend most of your time in rural or semi-rural areas anyway. If the primary use for your van is dwelling in large urban areas, then in this case the extended length might not be ideal.
That overhang is definitely the weakest point of the extended length for off-roading; the rear bumper (or trailer hitch if you have one) will touch the ground in water bars (dips) or on steep departure angle. So if the primary use for your van conversion is off-roading and getting anywhere is very important for you, then consider the long length instead. On the other hand, if the primary use for your van is to get you to the trailhead to ride your bike (like us!), then you’ll be able to make it. Personally we wouldn’t want to compromise on interior space, so we don’t look back on the extended length. We see our van more like a very capable RV, not like a Jeep. 🙂
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is the maximum total weight that a vehicle can handle safely, including the curb weight (empty vehicle), options, passengers, payload, fuel, etc. Driving a vehicle above its GVWR creates a potential safety hazard because the vehicle’s frame, suspension, brakes and tires are not designed for it. It is important to understand that aftermarket modifications (tires, suspension, etc.) do NOT increase the GVWR. You can read this page to learn more: Weight Ratings Explained & Van Conversion Weight Breakdown.
During a van conversion, weight adds up surprisingly fast! We’d recommend choosing the highest GVWR payload package available with the Single Rear Wheel (SRW, to maximize interior space), which should be 9,500 lbs:
Our Van GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight)
The total final weight of our van comes up to 8,950lb. That includes the curb weight, the conversion, the passengers, fuel, propane, full fresh water tank, food, payload (bike gear, snowboard gear, etc.). More info here: faroutride.com/weight
Dual Rear Wheels (DRW) can handle more weight (up to 11,000 lbs GVWR), but interior cargo space is reduced because of the larger wheel wells.
Single Rear Wheels (SRW) is limited to 9,500 lbs GVWR (Transit Cargo van), but allows more interior cargo space. This should be sufficient for a DIY camper van conversion:
Start Your Build
We’re done with the “Configuration”. Click on “Start Your Build” to continue!
Paint schemes for 2023:
Our experience with a Dark Color
It’s no secret that dark colors absorb more heat. On a hot sunny summer day, the exterior of our van gets so hot that it’s impossible to touch it for more than 1-2 seconds! The metal absorbs heat and then radiates inside the van. Insulation (Thinsulate) will slow down the heat transfer, but over a few hours some heat eventually finds its way inside (just like a beer cooler eventually gets warmer; insulation slows down the heat transfer, it doesn’t completely stop it!). Of course, the dark color plays in our favor in winter, but it’s easier to heat the van (Webasto/Espar Heater) than to cool it down (Maxxfan Installation, Mosquito Screens). On second thought, we will choose a lighter color on our next van.
3.5L PFDi V6 Engine
Standard engine. Less high-tech features often means less potential for failures.
3.5L EcoBoost V6 Engine
More power, more fun. The EcoBoost has been around for a while by now, people LOVE it. Turbo engines perform better at higher altitudes than naturally aspirated engines. It’s a good option for the re-sale value of your van.
Our experience with the 3.7L V6 engine and the 3.5L EcoBoost
Until 2020, the 3.7L V6 engine was the standard engine on the Transit. We went for it because we knew it would be the most reliable choice, and indeed we didn’t get a single issue with it so far (80,000 miles). It’s powerful enough to get us from point A to point B (we do a lot of mountain driving), but we wouldn’t mind the extra power of the EcoBoost… In fact, everyone we talk to absolutely love the EcoBoost, so we’d most likely get that next time!
Our 2021 Transit has the 3.5L EcoBoost, and we can definitely feel the power! It’s SO FUN to drive, very happy so far! Our conversion is not done at the time of writing these lines, so we still don’t carry much weight. But even at max capacity we feel like the van will still have plenty of extra power.
Rear Wheel Drive
That was the only option from 2015 to 2019. This is what we personally have, please read “our experience” below to get our feedback.
All Wheel Drive
For 2020, all wheel drive (AWD) was introduced on the Ford Transit van. The AWD system improves traction by instantly balancing the torque on the axle that needs it the most (front/rear). Note that the AWD van has the same ground clearance as the RWD (no lift kit included). If you’re into the market for a van with enhanced traction, but pushing the limits of where you can get off-road is not your thing, then AWD is the perfect match.
On the other hand, a “true” 4×4 system normally has the ability to lock the 4 wheels (all 4 wheels are turning simultaneously at all time) and also has low-range gear(s). So if you’re an off-road enthusiast and enjoy taking your van as far as you can on rough terrain, then consider getting a 4×4 van with a lift kit. Keep in mind that a full campervan conversion (with all the amenities, etc.) is quite heavy and isn’t much fun to drive off road (think of the dishes rattling and all…).
Our experience with RWD
Since 2017, we’ve been lucky enough to spend most of our time chasing mountain biking trails and backcountry skiing zones throughout North America. This means a LOT of driving on the backroads, in summer AND in winter. We also use our van quite a lot as a mountain biking “shuttle” on steep logging roads here in British Columbia.
From our experience, a RWD van (with limited slip) is very capable, as long as there’s weight in the back (very important) and with appropriate tires (all-terrain tires or snow tires).
After 4 years driving from Mexico up to Alaska, in all kind of conditions (loose dirt, snow, ice), to access remote locations for mountain biking and backcountry skiing, our opinion is that AWD or 4×4 is NOT mandatory. We did just fine with the RWD and limited slip differential.
That being said, if you’re into the outdoors like we are, we would recommend AWD or 4×4 if your budget allows it. Even if we think it’s not mandatory, it’s a nice feature for sure. Indeed, to access some ski areas, AWD or chains (faroutride.com/thule-snow-chains-review) are sometimes required; installing snow chains in the cold/snow sucks, so we wouldn’t miss this. And even if we don’t get stuck (we actually got stuck venturing in the sand twice, and we confirm that the Maxtrax Recovery Board are a life saver!), having AWD would probably give us a little boost in confidence when we’re far out there.
The Transit now ships exclusively with the 10-Speed SelectShift transmission. This transmission is part of a joint-venture between Ford Motor Company and General Motors. More cool facts here:
Rear Axle Ratio & Limited Slip Differential (LSD)
A higher axle ratio has a better mechanical advantage, and is therefore better suited for higher payloads and steep and sustained mountain driving (like mountain bike shuttling ). The downside is higher gas consumption on highways, because RPM are higher.
Limited Slip Differential (LSD)
The Limited Slip Differential (LSD) is a feature to increase traction. If a wheel slips, power is transferred to the other wheel (on the same axle) simultaneously. In other words, both wheels on the axle are working together. It is not an electronically controlled system (by sensors or such); it’s actually a mechanical device (clutch) on the differential. The LSD system cannot be turned off (which is fine). The LSD is an optional feature and we HIGHLY recommend it as it makes a HUGE difference! Here is a quick demo of the LSD in action that we did a while ago:
The LSD is offered both for the RWD and the AWD. Why the AWD? Aren’t all wheel already controlled by the AWD system? The AWD is an electronic system able to balance the torque between the front axle and the rear axle, but not between the left/right wheels. So adding the LSD option still has benefit with the AWD.
The idea of the packages is to bundle features together to make the order process easier. Note that these features are all available individually under “Interior” and “Exterior” section; the packages do not add new extra features (except for the HD Tow Package below). In our opinion, packages actually make things more confusing. So we’ll skip this section and proceed to choose features individually.
Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package
• Tow/Haul Mode with Trailer Wiring Provisions
• 4/7 Pin Connector Assembly and Rear Jumper
• Relay system for backup/B+/Running Lights
• Frame Mounted Hitch Receiver
We personally like the Tow/Haul mode for urban driving in heavy traffic (with frequent and unplanned acceleration/deceleration), because the tow mode extends the shift points (the engine revs higher) and adds engine braking when decelerating. For mountain driving, we prefer the SelectShift (to manually select the gear, but that’s us; the normal mode works just fine too!) And also, the hitch receiver acts as a skid plate for the rear bumper.
The Upfitter Package adds the upfitter aux. swiches, large center console (67E), auxiliary fuse panel (87E), dual AGM batteries (63E) and the modified vehicle wiring system (53K).
The key point with this package is the get the CCP2 (customer connection point #2). The CCP2 allows to tap into the alternator power and charge your house battery when driving, using a B2B charger (per our camper van wiring diagram). It consists of an electrical terminal (size M8) rated for up to 175A, located on the driver side pedestal (near the driver door).
Per BEMM: “Most vehicles with single battery will not have CCP2. Only those vehicles with twin batteries or certain SVO options with will have CCP2, check with your local Ford dealer for details. If CCP2 is required then order kit KU5T-14D089-B”
Our goal here is to go through the options we think are essential (or useful) for a van conversion. We won’t list every single option available; we want to focus on what’s we think is not to be missed.
50/50 Hinged Rear Door
Standard rear doors only open up to 180°. The 50/50 Hinged Rear Door option allows the rear doors to open all the way up to the van body (253° as shown in the photo below). We highly recommend it, because doors hold better when fully opened (in incline or high wind) and it’s just more convenient to have them fully opened.
Short Arm Power Adjusting, Manual-Folding Heated Mirrors with Turn Signals
In our opinion, heated mirrors are a must for sub-freezing areas (the mirrors tend to fog and freeze a lot). And on a large vehicle like the Transit, we think the turn signals are an important safety feature.
AGM Batteries - Dual
You’ll most likely spend some time using the radio when parked. Or you might want to connect loads to the auxiliary switches (e.g. Air Lift Suspension Kit, LED bar, etc.). Or using the van in winter is harsher on the batteries. At last and most importantly, the single battery often doesn’t come with CCP #2 (Customer Connection Point #2, located on the driver-side pedestal); the CCP#2 can handle up to 175A current and could be used to charge your auxiliary battery bank (e.g. with a Battery-To-Battery charger: faroutride.com/b2b-review).
Extended Range Fuel Tank
31 gallons instead of 25 gallons. Not necessarily a “must have”, but it’s nice to know it’s available as an option.
Keyless Entry Keypad
We love ours! We ordered our van with one keypad on the driver side, and later added another one on the passenger side.
Wheel Well Liners
The front wheel well liners are optional, adding them increase protection from debris and supposedly quiet the noise from the road (from what other have said).
Windows – Fixed Glass, Rear-Door and Passenger-Side Cargo Door
We personally enjoy the factory window in the passenger-side cargo door. It’s nice to check out the view when camping, it helps with ventilation (note: the factory side cargo door window does not open anymore since 2020 or so), but most importantly, in some situations, it’s the only way to see the incoming traffic when turning left at a fork. Unfortunately, it comes as a package with the rear cargo door windows and we don’t think they are necessary. With the permanent bed platform and garage layout, we never use the rear windows; our insulated window covers are always on them… To sum it up, we would most likely order a Transit without windows and add one to the sliding door and in the bedroom (bunk window) ourselves.
Dual Alternator (not needed!)
The Transit comes with a 250A alternator as standard. The van draw current from the alternator to feed its own electrical systems; it is unclear how much current exactly, but it is believed to be in the 80-100A range. The extra current can then be used to charge the auxiliary (or “house”) batteries.
The dual alternator option is not required for camper van conversions, as the single 250A alternator is more than capable of delivering enough power for this task.
Our goal here is to go through the options we think are essential (or useful) for a van conversion. We won’t list every single option available; we want to focus on what we think is not to be missed.
Factory or Aftermarket Swivel?
The benefits of ordering the factory swivel seats are no installation, and shorter base (better driving position). The factory swivels are not offset, meaning that to complete a 180° rotation, you need to play with the seat settings (fwd/rear) in order to clear the steering wheel, the center console and the door panel. The only option available with the swivel is the 4-way manual seat. Also, take note that you cannot start the engine when a seat is not locked in forward position.
We highly recommend the Scopema swivel; it’s the most popular option with a reason. The Scopema swivel raises the seat by only 0.75in, doesn’t rattle or wobble, operates smoothly, and is slightly cheaper than factory swivels. See our Swivel Seat Side-by-Side Comparison. Going with an aftermarket swivel enables you to choose any seat option (e.g. 10-way powered and heater seats), and you won’t get the safety alarm sound. It shouldn’t take more than a couple hours to install both the driver-side (faroutride.com/driver-swivel-seat) and passenger-side swivels (faroutride.com/swivel-seat-installation), because it’s a simple bolt on procedure. Make sure to get the Push Down Manual Parking Brake option (code 90G) if you go aftermarket, so you don’t need to relocate the parking brake.
Per BEMM, the standard (single) 250A alternator can handle up to 120 amps of continuous load. That’s more than enough to charge your electrical system from the alternator using a Battery-To-Battery charger (faroutride.com/b2b-review).
Front Overhead Shelf
Can’t say no to extra storage!
Large Center Console
Powerpoint Outlet – 12V
7- Lead Time
Most of the time, dealers will mention about 8 weeks from order to delivery. This is a bit, actually a lot optimistic. Typical lead time is around 3 or 4 months.
Update: As you must know by now, the supply chain is a big mess (pandemic, Ukraine, etc.). Many people had their 2021 order postponed to 2022, then to 2023… It’s all very frustrating, but that’s what it is. Your best bet is to place an order for a new Transit (deposits are refundable, but check with your dealer to make sure), meanwhile keep looking at dealers for canceled orders (people not taking delivery of their order for whatever reason). Good luck!
8- Conclusion & Resources
See you on the road!