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RV Review: Dave and Matt Vans—affordable and rentable

To say that van life is popular nowadays with many people would be like saying pet rocks were a hit in the 1970s. But I wonder how so many younger people are affording these vans which, when outfitted for camping, can be well over $100,000 and sometimes up to $200,000. Further, many of the conversions seem unnecessarily convoluted. 

When I saw the press release from Dave & Matt Vans in Colorado, I was intrigued. The company does think differently than many in this field. That inludes offering the ability for prospective van life enthusiasts to rent a van to see if the lifestyle even fits. 

Dave & Matt vans are equipped to camp

Further, the vans themselves, all based on the Ram ProMaster, start at $74,995. That is far below where many van conversions are priced. But these are equipped to camp. 

Offered in three lengths that correspond to the lengths of available ProMaster vans, the commonality of all three is that there’s a bed at the back and a kitchen in the middle of the van on the road side. The front captain chairs in the cockpit swivel around to face the van interior. Also, there are unique storage systems. 

On the subject of those storage systems, there is a slotted surface in several places which enables one to hang various storage containers, depending on what type of storage is desired. There are slotted walls on the rear doors and along the walls in the smallest of the vans. This seems to be a good solution offering a lot of flexibility. 

The GearAge has lots of storage

Speaking of storage, the bed at the rear is raised, which leaves a lot of space underneath for stuff. This area is referred to by the duo as the GearAge. Neat. 

Even the least expensive model is fitted with two 100-amp-hour lithium batteries that incorporate a heating function into them. They do come from Colorado, after all. These batteries power an 2,000-watt pure sine wave inverter. That, in turn, can operate a single induction cooktop much like the Duxtop model I reviewed in the past. 

Simple water system in the van

The water system is rather simple with two seven-gallon containers under the kitchen sink. One is filled with fresh water, and the other is to capture the gray water. This is a pretty simple solution. 

A 12-volt refrigerator with freezer compartment keeps the beer and grub cold. 

Dave Ramsay and Matt Felser, the Colorado duo behind Dave & Matt Vans, have stated that their vans have “everything you need, nothing you don’t.” 

“All of our vehicles come with everything you need and nothing you don’t at a price you can afford. There’s a lot of space for people to bring themselves into the vans—we don’t add a bunch of stuff. Our bare-bones [models] have full electrical; everything runs off a battery system that charges off a solar panel and while you drive,” said Felser in an interview with Sunset. 

Straightforward electrical system

That electrical system is pretty straightforward and offers more capacity than the portable solar generator, a Jackery 1500, that I carry around with me. So it should handle the needs of anyone using this van with no issues. Since I’ve powered the induction cooktop with the Jackery, a system like that, or the one in these vans, is more than adequate. 

Ramsay left a New York City finance job to start his own business, prompting a need to cut back. “I could live in someone’s basement or finance a van to live in,” Ramsay recalls. “I went with the van.”

What’s not to love?

Note that these vans don’t have some things we RVers are accustomed to. Those include rooftop air conditioners, a water heater, shower or even a space heater. 

There is the option of a space heater. However, it’s in the form of a gas-fired model. So for those who spend time where it’s cold, this would be a good thing to have fitted to the van. 

A toilet, too, is not standard. You can either BYOT, or get one fitted to an ottoman in the van. 

There isn’t a shower, per se, but the faucet in the kitchen sink can serve as a shower head. But remember the no-water-heater part of the picture. So you might want to get something like a Privy Bivy and a portable shower, which isn’t a bad thing anyway. Heck, you could put your portable lavatory in there, as well. 

However, this is changing, as they are beginning to offer a submersible 120-volt electric water heater that you drop in the seven-gallon Jerry can under the sink. A shower stall is also newly available with a drain to drain the water out the floor and onto the ground.

In summary

When you consider that a moderately equipped pickup truck today can cost more than one of these fully outfitted vans, it seems like a good package. Further, the fact that you can rent one to just try things out makes the deal even sweeter. 

With much of the interior of these vans available to the owner to outfit however they deem appropriate, this seems like a good deal. 

So, how does this compare to other van builds I have liked in the past, such as the VANaholic? Different but similar, actually. Both offer a fair amount of flexibility in design and use with simple functionality. Considering how complicated many of these builds are, including the Airstream which has power shades, one of the more ridiculous features on any RV, I like things like this better. 

Use your Dave & Matt van as a daily driver

The smallest of these, too, is about the same size as the SUV many people drive, at just 17’9” in length. So you could use your RV as a daily driver. Also a plus. 

And for the same $200,000 for some van conversions, I could have two of these along with enough money to hire a chauffeur for a year. So there’s that. 

*****

I would love to read your comments and suggestions over on our new forums, where you can weigh in and start or join a discussion about all things RV. Here’s a link to my RV Reviews Forum.

If you’re RV shopping here are some tips on RV shopping from a former RV salesperson—me!

Tony comes to RVtravel.com having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has an RV podcast with his wife, Peggy. 

These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. They are based on information from a single unit and may not reflect your actual experience. Shop your RV and dealership carefully before making a buying decision. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.

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Roger Spalding
28 days ago

Whoever you are, please bring Tony back. I miss him, and enjoy reading his reviews every day.

Paul Cecil
29 days ago

Those asking about dumping the grey water straight to the ground. That is allowed for boondocking. But common courtesy says to use a catch can to properly remove the grey water. Of course if you are staying at a public or private campground use a bucket or a can to catch the grey water. I know that Four Wheel Camper’s truck campers do not have a grey water tank. So do many van conversions along with the simpler truck campers (truck shells) do not have grey tanks.

Spike
29 days ago

Is it even legal to just dump your grey water from a shower on the ground??? Wouldn’t fly in any public or private camps I’ve been in.

KellyR
28 days ago
Reply to  Spike

We’ve been to two different camp grounds – real campgrounds, water and 30 amp only – no pavement, no gravel, no specific site except to get close enough to elec and water, with dump station on site. When we checked into them the desk person instructed us on the dump station and stated that gray water could just be run on to the ground. I guess one may call it primitive, but the type we prefer for us and our class B – no fire ring, no picnic table. I cannot remember which states they were in, but I do know they were East of the Rockies. Deer in the woods 20 feet behind us would pop their heads thru to say hello once in a while. This was only about 5 years ago.

wanderer
29 days ago

Good review. A refreshing change from the >100K vans, typically outfitted for tailgating parties and filled with TVs. But, the lack of even a small cassette-based toilet system is pretty lame, if this is to be used for anything but weekending. And the plan to dump grey water on the ground, ditto.

If there’s no infrastructure at all, might as well buy an old clunker van and install your own bed and table, would save another 50K.

Nick L
27 days ago
Reply to  wanderer

They have composting and cassette toilet options!

Jay
29 days ago

Are they wired for shore power too? I couldn’t tell. As for gas heater, a ventless catalytic heater like a Buddy puts all the combustion products into the heated space, making for a lot of humidity. Probably need to crack a window or two to allow for the carbon dioxide generated as well.

Nick L
27 days ago
Reply to  Jay

Shore power is standard. As far as the heater, it’s not a buddy heater. It’s a gasoline evaporative heater so no issues with the combustion happening in the van!

Jay
25 days ago
Reply to  Nick L

Good info, thanks.

Bob p
29 days ago

I think they have a winner, if they can keep their prices low they should sell everyone they can make and their rental program will help sell the vans. Good review.

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