One of the questions that customers most frequently ask us when planning their van build is: “Will the added weight of the materials used to upfit my van reduce my gas mileage and tax my van’s engine?” One of the many reasons people choose to live in vans or do their exploring in them is to save on living and traveling expenses, so it makes complete sense that gas mileage and wear and tear would be important factors to our clients. So, does the added weight of sleeping quarters, batteries, a kitchenette, etc. reduce gas mileage? The short answer is yes, but stick around for the longer (better) answer below.

Before we dive into this topic, we thought it might be helpful to provide you with a quick glossary of terms to aid your reading:

  • GVWR – Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is the total mass of a vehicle. GVWR includes the vehicle itself and everything on board – the driver, passengers, full gas tank, accessories, engine, etc. GVWR excludes trailers. 
  • Curb weight – The total weight of a vehicle with all of its necessary operating equipment (such as seats, engine, full fuel tank, transition fluid, coolant, motor oil, etc.) excluding driver, passenger, and cargo weight.
  • Payload – The maximum amount of weight you can safely add to a vehicle’s cargo area, plus its curb weight. Maximum payload and curb weight make up GVWR.
  • Towing Capacity– The maximum weight a vehicle is safely able to pull.

Now that we have some basic definitions down, let’s dive into our answer. When any amount of weight is added to a vehicle’s payload, it will automatically decrease the gas mileage of your vehicle. It makes sense, right? Added weight takes more gas to haul around, so each gallon of gas doesn’t go quite as far as it would for an empty van. However, it’s important to note that at Carolina Tiny Homes, our builds usually only average around 1,000 – 1,500 pounds in added payload. As you can see in the table below, the weight we add is still well below what these vans can handle and won’t make a tremendous difference on overall gas mileage.

 GVWRCurb (kerb) WeightPayloadMPG+
Promaster  25008,900 lbs.4,640 lbs.4,260 lbs.14 mpg
Promaster 35009,350 lbs.4,670 lbs.4,680 lbs.14 mpg
Transit 2509,070 lbs.5,235 lbs.3,835 lbs.17 mpg
Transit 350*9,250 – 10,360 lbs.6,020 – 7,190 lbs.3,230 – 3,170 lbs.17 mpg
Sprinter*8,550 – 12,120 lbs.4,695 – 6,410 lbs.3,855 – 3,710 lbs.22 mpg
* Weight varies depending on body style and features.
+ This is the average of city and highway MPG

We’ve covered gas mileage, but what about wear and tear? Will the additional weight of materials from a van conversion put a strain on your vehicle? Nope! All of the vans that come through our shop are working vans; this means they’re built specifically to haul cargo and pull weight. Their engines and chassis were designed for it! As long as the GVWR isn’t exceeded, a van can handle the load and is safe to drive.

At Carolina Tiny Homes, we focus on two key factors in every build that help us balance quality of materials with material weight:

  1. Balancing added weight evenly. Even weight distribution is paramount when designing the layout of a van. Uneven weight distribution can cause the tires to wear unevenly and can even damage the suspension in the long-term.
  1. Using quality, long lasting materials to utilize every inch of a van. Rather than making lightweight materials our number one priority, we focus on striking a balance between quality and weight. We also ensure that everything that goes into your van has a purpose and, oftentimes, serves multiple functions.

An example of this is the countertops we use. Choosing quality materials such as butcher-block counters over say, something like granite, just makes sense in a van conversion. Granite is weak if not installed properly, it’s heavy, and doesn’t have any give; whereas wood gives, is much lighter, comes in almost as many hues as granite, and costs less.

Another example of a feature serving multiple functions is when we upgrade stationary captains chairs so that they swivel around. This doesn’t add any weight to a build, but allows a necessary component like a car seat, to also be used for additional seating while parked.

Small, well thought out additions and modifications to our van builds allow us to create your fully customized dream van, without sacrificing vehicular longevity and gas mileage. We recently moved and our new location has given us the space to be able to create even more awesome van builds. We would love the chance to show you how we can create a beautiful space for you, without sacrificing function. Contact us to get the ball rolling on your dream van today!

Leave a Reply