A white 2016 Chevy Express van is shown from the front while a family unloads cookout supplies.

SUVs Are Over: Why Cool Families Have Moved on to the Conversion Van

Let’s say you’re either a) a busy, growing family; b) a bigtime road tripper with your buddies; or c) a season ticket holder and devoted tailgater. What do these three groups have in common? An opportunity. They’d all benefit from a set of wheels that not only fits everyone but one that also offers extra amenities and bountiful cargo space. In short, these lifestyles would all benefit from Explorer Conversion Vans, specifically a converted Chevy Express Van.

On the official Chevrolet website, Express Vans are referred to as commercial cargo vans, but delivering packages isn’t all they’re capable of: they’ve become popular among passenger vehicle buyers who aren’t satisfied with an SUV or crew cab pickup layout. Available in two wheelbase lengths–135 inches and 155 inches–both van sizes offer taller rooflines and configurable cabins, which is why they’re gaining on large SUVs.

Converted vans used to be the purview of angsty millennials looking to jump on the #vanlife trend, but aftermarket outfitters like Explorer Conversion Vans suggest a more mainstream idea: replace your daily driver with one of their customized rigs. These vans are no larger than a Suburban, yet they’re roomier and more customizable, with features like flat-screen TVs and swivel seating. Could it be that a humble Chevy Express Van is the perfect vehicle for you?

A white 2016 Chevy Express van is shown from the side with the doors open after the owner searched 'Explorer Conversion Vans.'

#vanlife: Not Just for Wanderers

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard all the buzz about #vanlife. It goes like this:

  • Boy hates life.
  • Boy has existential crisis.
  • Boy finds mechanically sound panel van on Craigslist.
  • Boy spends six months converting van into mobile studio apartment (documented painstakingly on Instagram).
  • Boy sells everything, quits awful job, rescues mutt from shelter, and embarks on a journey to find self (documented painstakingly on Instagram, minus the nights parked overnight at Wal Mart).

Most of us can’t ditch our 9-to-5 jobs, skip out on the mortgage, and pull the kids out of school, nor do we want to, yet the idea of a customized SUV-like vehicle with RV-like roominess sounds like a dream. If you’ve ever spent time at a large soccer tournament or made the rounds on the travel hockey circuit, it’s possible that you’ve seen other families road tripping in a converted van.

Call it #vanlifelite, but many folks cherish as many long weekends on the road as their busy schedules will allow. For these part-time wanderers, an Explorer Conversion Van makes sense. Vehicles like the Tacoma used to reign with casual weekend campers because it was easy to add a cab on the bed or even pitch a soft tent and anchor it to the truck’s tie-downs. With an Explorer Conversion Van, you can still enjoy the outdoors, but there’s also a backup plan for indoor shelter if needed.

Logistically Simplify Group Activities

Have you ever had to caravan large groups to an event or activity in multiple vehicles? Nothing kills the mood more than having to split up and manage the logistics of parking and staying together. Meanwhile, Express Van owners are comfortably tucked into a single plush cabin that’s more like a family room than a motor vehicle.

With seating for up to nine of your buddies, your commute to the golf course or the stadium is almost as fun as the event itself. Choosing a 7-passenger layout puts two in the middle and three in the rear (and two in the front, of course!) with room left over for clubs or coolers. The seats are easily removable to accommodate extra cargo and fewer passengers, too.

Opt for the extended version, and seating increases to nine passengers with four total rows: two in the front, two in row two, two in row three, and three across in the way back. Let’s say you and your buddies have season tickets to your favorite NFL team, but parking’s expensive and scarce. Imagine climbing aboard a single vehicle and traveling together. Once you’re there, convert the cabin into a tailgating hub.

If fit and finish are important, consider that these converted vans include high-end finishes like wood-like trim, fade and stain resistant finishes (important when nachos are on the menu), available ambient cabin lighting, cloth shades, and even double-stitched leather window valances. You can even add a center ice chest with an insulated cooler. Customize your audio system for even more on-the-road entertainment.

Explorer Conversion Vans for Families

If there’s a single demographic that most benefits from a converted van, it’s families. With all the soccer tournaments and carpooling, families are always seeking more passenger and cargo space. Instead of an SUV that offers limited flexibility in the interior spaces, opting for a converted Express Van will immediately elevate you to “cool” parent status among your kids and their friends.

When you’re not carting around the neighborhood kids or the volleyball team, you can remove some of the seats to create an expansive living room environment for your own brood. Add a 32-inch flat-screen TV mounted safely on the headrail, and you won’t hear a peep on that 3-hour road trip. The cabin includes tons of charging ports, cupholders, and cubbies, so everything they need is located within arm’s reach. Small touches like window shades create a serene and filtered environment that’s perfect for napping babies.

One often overlooked benefit of conversion vans vs minivans is the higher seating position. While some SUVs have recessed seating with higher windows, conversion vans offer taller windows that start at your kids’ eye level. Add the big, comfortable seats, and they won’t feel shoehorned in the back. Also, the taller van roof height contributes to a more expansive home-like living room feel the kids will love.

Team parenting gets easier, too, because your van offers kid-friendly accommodations during the ride and once you arrive. It’s nice to have a home base during a day-long out-of-town tournament, so pitch the Ez-Up and prop open the rear doors of your van to create a picnic area for the hungry players. You can play audio and even screen a movie so the kids can cool down and enjoy the downtime between games.

A white 2016 Chevy Express van is shown from the front at an angle parked near a building.

Conversion Vans Make Life Easier

Asking a parent of a kid if life is hard is like asking the sky if it’s blue. Raising kids becomes a lot easier when what you drive adequately supports your lifestyle. Choosing a conversion van may seem like a radical decision, but more families than ever before are flocking to this hidden segment–and reaping the benefits. What are the benefits? Convenience, safety, and enjoyment.

Conversion vans offer taller cabins and more seating flexibility. Also, clever aftermarket outfitters can easily customize your van’s interior with specific features and equipment, like large flat-screen TVs, ambient lighting, and concert-grade sound systems. Having options like these makes the prospect of an away tournament far less stressful. The same is true for family road trips.

Sure, you can opt for a large SUV with three rows of seats and extra space for cargo, but what these vehicles can’t offer is versatility. They also can’t provide the kind of cabin space you’ll find in an Express Van. If you’re holding out because of size concerns, keep in mind that the wheelbase of a conversion van is no larger than that of a Suburban.

Also, this stage of life doesn’t last forever: you can swap out your van for a smaller vehicle sometime in the future. Chances are, your conversion van will hold its value, too. It’s almost a guarantee that just as your kid-rearing days are coming to an end, someone else’s are just beginning, giving you an opportunity to pay it forward and share the biggest secret in the industry.