4×4 camper vans are a pretty rare breed. You’ll usually find that the 4×4 feature is only available with upgrades made to an existing camper van (and will add roughly $2,000 to the price tag).
But for those ready to dive headfirst into hardcore off-roading or winter vanlife, you may require a 4×4 or AWD adventure van. Thankfully, there are a decent amount of brands offering badass rigs for you to either test out and rent, or purchase as your own.
But first, let’s define the differences between a 4×4, 4WD, and AWD wheel power system.
NOTE: I thought I needed 4WD for van life but I’ve been 100% satisfied with my RWD Ford E250. A good set of tires and tire chains can usually take care of your off-roading needs (and save you money!) But proceed…
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Different Types of Drivetrains
When it comes to the power system of your tires (AKA drivetrain), there are different options that provide different levels/types of power:
RWD: Rear-wheel drive that only sends power to the rear tires
FWD: Front-wheel drive that only sends power to the front tires
4WD: Four-wheel drive means all four tires on a vehicle receive an equal amount of power, with the ability to turn it on/off and switch to 2WD.
AWD: All-wheel drive means all four tires always receive the same amount of power without the ability to turn on/off.
4×4: An umbrella term used to convey the number of tires that receive power on a vehicle. So, 4×4 means all four tires on a rig receive power, whereas 4×2 means only two of the four tires receive power.
4x4 vs 4WD vs AWD
People often use these terms interchangeably, but here’s a more thorough breakdown of how they are different.
Remember that 4WD is a type of 4×4. This means that all 4×4 rigs have 4WD, but not all 4WD rigs are 4×4. The first “4” in “4×4” signifies the number of tires on your rig. The second “4” signifies the number of tires that receive power. For example, my van is rear-wheel drive so it’s technically a 4×2 (4 wheels on the van, but only 2 receive power).
AWD means that every tire on your rig receives the same amount of power, no matter what. But a 4×4 power system means that your rig may come with the option to turn 4×4 power system on or off (usually via a switch or dial on the dashboard).
The biggest benefit of turning off your 4×4 power system is getting better gas mileage. Otherwise, an AWD or 4WD rig is going to handle better, have better pickup and overall stability.
As a vanlifer, it’s safe to assume you’ll be driving a standard van with four wheels, so this level of detail probably isn’t necessary–but still good to know!
Storyteller Overland Beast Mode 4×4
Ballpark Price New: $218,000
Ballpark Price Used: $170,000
The Storyteller Overland Beast Mode 4×4 truly lives up to its name. With so many features packed into this van, it was made specifically for hardcore overlanding. The Beast Mode is a high-roof Mercedes-Benz Sprinter on 144” wheelbase. It comes with a turbo-diesel V-6 engine that racks up 188 hp and can tow 5,000 pounds.
It has numerous off-roading features, such as a roof rack (to add the best cargo carrier), wet bath, LED light package, and side ladder that make an off-road adventure worthwhile. It also comes with both Storyteller Overland and Mercedes-Benz specific warranties.
On the interior, you get a comfy lounge, which doubles as a wide sleeping area. The Beast Mode 4×4 is perfect for any weather, seeing as it has a climate control system.
Airstream Interstate 24X
Ballpark Price New: $240,000
Ballpark Price Used: $130,000
Airstream is one of the most well-known brands for trailer life–but how does it fare for Class B camper van life? Well, it’s off to a great start by basing its adventure van model off the most popular chassis-style: the Mercedes Sprinter. The brand is always looking for ways to take its vehicles to new levels, and it does so exceptionally well with the Interstate 24x.
As Airstream states, “The Interstate 24X is our most rugged Touring Coach to ever hit the road. Venture far off the highway with 6 all-terrain tires, 4×4 capabilities, and rugged body protection.”
In this van, you can find a climate-controlled cabin within its 24ft-long space. It contains a modular dining table you can use as a desk or convert to make a massive sleeping area. Other fun accessories include built-in outdoor shower, USB and 110V charging outlets, hot water and an impressive solar panel setup.
The van also comes with a bathroom and a full mini kitchen. It comes with four-wheel drive, all-terrain tires, and height-adjustable suspension. Also, it is equipped with a turbo-diesel V-6 engine able to produce 188 hp.
Winnebago 4x4 Revel
Ballpark Price New: $200,000
Ballpark Price Used: $160,000
Winnebago has been in the RV-make and design business since 1958; they’ve built up solid street cred by offering reliable and reasonably-priced motorhomes and travel trailers. But somewhat recently, they also offer more heavy-duty adventure vans instead of just the “casual” exploring luxury rigs they’re known for. The Winnebago 4×4 Revel is a top player in this new category.
The 4×4 Revel comes with on-demand four-wheel drive with low and high range, traction control, and electronic stability. Similar to the Airstream Interstate 24X, the Winnebago Revel 4×4 is built on the bones of a Sprinter van chassis. It also has a 3L 6-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that pushes out 188 hp.
On the inside, this vehicle houses a power lift bed that has enough space underneath for extra storage and can comfortably fit two people. Oh, and an induction cooktop and a freshwater tank that can hold up to 21 gallons.
If you start the hunt for a Winnebago 4×4 Revel, make sure “4×4” or “4WD” is specified in the listing. Winnebago offers the Revel 44E in both 4WD or 2WD and you want to make sure you aren’t accidentally opting for the 2WD option.
The Winnebago Revel is a great option for those who want the luxury comforts of home combined with ultimate off-roading capabilities.
Oasis Sienna Campervan
Conversion kit starter price: $9,800
As a fan of all things budget, this is my favorite 4×4 camper van conversion on the list. Oasis Campervans has built a no-frills, minimalist conversion in Toyota’s Sienna AWD minivan. Their Classic Conversion comes with some of the most popular van build accessories on the market: Jackery 1000 Explorer lithium battery and solar panels, a Dometic fridge and adjustable, portable Lagun table.
Of course, what you lose in space you make up for in stealth, money saved, and fuel efficiency. This campervan would be a tight fit for even two people–but for those on a budget, it’s a win!
Sportsmobile Classic 4x4
Ballpark Price New: $200,000
Ballpark Price Used: $140,000
As the proud owner of a Ford E250, I’m biased towards the Sportsmobile Classic 4×4 because it’s built on the Ford cutaway chassis. This van is an absolute tank; featuring 7.3L / V-8 engine, 140.3” wheelbase, 10,000lb. towing capacity, full float rear axle, and even a pop-up tent top.
The body is built with a steel-reinforced fiberglass shell. You won’t find quite as roomy a living space as the Sprinter 4×4 layout, but this just makes for an extra stealthy and fuel-efficient rig.
While Sportsmobile has similar van builds on the market, it states, “The only way to get the Sportsmobile 4×4 build is via the Sportsmobile Classic.” According to Sportsmobile, the Classic 4×4 is still in production and you must reach out to them in order to get production timeline details.
Ballpark Price New: $127,000
Ballpark Price Used: $90,000
Modvans are built on a Ford Transit chassis and, similar to Sportsmobile vans, use a pop-top to create a high-roof. The pop-top also makes these vans less top-heavy than traditional high-roof vans, which gives them a lower center of gravity and makes them more adventure-capable.
The Modvan CV1 comes with an optional 4×4 AWD upgrade–so make sure you opt for that if 4×4 is critical to you. As the name suggests, Modvans are built with modular interior accessories (ie modular kitchen cabinetry / water tank placement) and the seats can easily be removed. This means you can use the van for solo off-road adventures, or empty out for family trips or even to haul 4×8 sheets of plywood as a utility cargo van.
Vandoit Quigley 4×4
Ballpark Price New & Used: Contact Vandoit
The Vandoit Quigley 4×4 is simply a converted Ford Transit that has a Quigley Transmission. Fortunately, the warranty from the Ford Transit is valid even after the conversion. The Ford Transit holds cargo and the Quigley Transmission is what brings the 4WD.
Quigley has been around since the 1960s, building their reputation in specially-designed 4×4 drive systems. According to Quigley, they are “the oldest, largest and most successful manufacturer of high quality 4 wheel drive conversions for full sized vans and “cut-aways” in the world.” You could say they know what they’re doing.
The Vandoit Quigley 4×4 is the perfect vehicle for a large number of people. It has two floor plans, with one floor able to hold six people and the other eight people. It also has a kitchenette, fold-up platforms, and gear storage. Ultimately, you can customize the Vandoit Quigley to whatever you require.
Thor Motor Coach Sanctuary
Ballpark Price New: $172,000
Ballpark Price Used: $119,000
The Thor Motor Coach Sanctuary is like the van version of Thor himself. Yet another campervan conversion built on the Mercedes Benz Sprinter–specifically the 2500 4×4. This vehicle is pretty optimal for living anywhere.
It is an off-road capable vehicle that has two configurations. There is the 19P with a back bench, which doubles as a bed. There’s also the 19L that comes with a double bed.
Despite the bed taking up space, you still have enough room for other things like an entertainment area and a bathroom. There’s even room for a kitchen filled with essentials such as a fridge, convection microwave oven, sink, and cooktop.
Also, you get a 3000-Watt Pure Sine Inverter and generator powerful enough to keep everything running, even an air conditioner for up to eight hours. If you want to relax outside, the van also comes with a retractable power awning.
Thor Motor Coach thought of everything you could possibly need and included it in the Sanctuary. If you want a home away from home, then this is the van for you. However, you still need to plan and come up with a budget for your van adventure.
Pleasure-Way Rekon 4x4
Ballpark Price New: $182,000
Ballpark Price Used: $119,000
The Pleasure-Way Reon 4×4 is a van that boldly challenges the Winnebago Revel 4×4. Both vans sport similar features, but the Rekon is a bit bigger than the Revel.
Despite also using the well-known Mercedes Benz Sprinter, the Rekon holds a split-folding bed, a bed bigger than the one in the Revel. That said, you still get the same storage space because this van has space underneath the bed, which the brand calls the “garage.” The van comfortably sleeps two.
American Safari JXL
Ballpark Price New Kit: $20,000 for standard JKU-fitting American Safari JXL kit
If you’re looking for a super rugged overlanding rig and a 4×4 campervan just won’t cut it, the American Safari JXL Conversion might be a good fit.
American Safari has taken the Jeep Wrangler chassis and built a livable campervan with a pop-up tent on top of it. This vehicle is going to excel at camping and off-roading.
A main difference between this layout and the classic Jeep Wrangler is its length, which is caused by the extra stretcher that contains the pop-up camper top. This top covers numerous sections of the van, from the sleeping area to the kitchen area and dining table.
The top also helps to increase cargo space, so when you do not plan on living the van life, you can still use your adventure rig for daily activities.
Summing It Up
No question that 4×4 campervans are more expensive than your RWD or FWD van–and they definitely aren’t necessary for off-roading!
But if you’re very sure that you need an AWD rig, consider one of the above adventure vans for ultimate comfort, road reliability, and peace of mind.
Check out my roundup of top-rated small (and older) campervans if you think a budget build is for you.