The "Cheapest Camper Van on the Market" Is Chinese and Actually Packs an Amazing Punch

RVLife 8 photos
Photo: Saic Maxus
Over the past couple of months, I've started asking myself how cheap a camper van can be. Well, in my search for the most affordable unit on the market, I've arrived in China. It's here that we meet the RVLife, a Class B RV that's going for as little as $36K, and no, not just the conversion, but the entire vehicle, beds, water tanks, and all.
That's right folks, the RVLife camper from Saic Maxus, the one and the same known and considered to be one of China's leading OEMs in the automotive field, is selling for $36K (€33,300 at current exchange rates), and while that doesn't include any shipping or import fees, it's still a rather notable RV that some of us may see as a viable solution to the on-road life. Time to kick back and explore what could be considered the cheapest camper van on the market.

Now, everything starts off with nothing more than a Saic van, but the manufacturer makes no mention of the make and model. All we know is that a 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine sits as the powerhouse behind the magic. It's all set to rear drive and capable of cranking out a peak of 375 Nm (277 lb-ft). Also part of the whole chassis magic is the independent front suspension but leaf-spring setup on the rear.

With an idea as to what you can get your hands on for the remainder of this short written experience, let's kick back from our busy week, as you do on a Saturday, and pretend you own this hunk of $36K mobile habitat. Pick your favorite destination, but nothing too wild as this one's meant for the lightest of dirt roads, and see yourself parking the RVLife on that 'X' in your mind.

Photo: Saic Maxus
Once you do, you'll want to get out of your vehicle, stretch those back muscles, and take in the sights and sounds of the wonderful world around you. It's also at this stage that you'll want to start setting up your campsite, and this means unloading all your goodies from the RVLife; this is also where this habitat begins to really show off what the Chinese have in store for this industry.

For starters, the images in the gallery showcase a rear-mounted ladder that allows for access to the RVLife's roof rack, where you most likely have some outdoor dining gear lying in wait or just a couple of kayaks. By the looks of things, you can even picnic up here.

Part two of the story begins the moment you swing open the RVLife's doors, especially the ones at the rear. With the open passage into the RVLife now available, future owners are bound to be surprised and pleased with this thing's modular abilities.

Photo: Saic Maxus
For example, the rear bedding area is made up of two split singles that lower to create one large double bed. When they're not being used, these beds lie lifted and locked into place, revealing one hell of a workspace. That's because the underside of each bed is equipped with full-length mounting brackets, and as we can see, all that's just perfect for some of the gear and tools you may need on your adventures. Folding work tables are part of the mix, too.

Moving toward the front of this RV, we can see that the interior also shows off a couple of seats in the living space, which disappear once the beds are set up, but for transit, two passengers can come along for the trip. Come to think of it, with a rooftop tent, a family of four could easily use the RVLife for extended weekends.

A galley block separates the living space from the cab and has room for countless storage cupboards, a fridge, an induction cooktop, and even a microwave. Sure, it's not much, but it's the basics we would need, and for $36K, how high can our hopes really be?

Photo: Saic Maxus
As for the rest of this wheeled home, Saic Maxus doesn't make much mention of anything, but we can see that wood seems to be king here, along with some composites. Oh, and don't expect any sort of modern or European styling; this one's about as raw as you can get.

Still, raw as it may be, Saic Maxus does make sure there is 115 l (30 gals) of fresh water on board, a 5 kWh battery, and an inverter, but there is nothing about solar panel power or the ability to accommodate such a feature. Still, it sounds like more than enough to ensure that we can survive off the land for at least a day or two. With the right aftermarket features added, the RVLife presents itself as a rather attractive solution to the growing rates this industry is seeing worldwide.

If you've got $36K to throw at a camper that, let's be honest, might look completely from what you see here, then the RVLife comes in as a chance you could take. Be sure to leave a comment about how the experience turns out, and don't forget those shipping and import fees.
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About the author: Cristian Curmei
Cristian Curmei profile photo

A bit of a nomad at heart (being born in Europe and raised in several places in the USA), Cristian is enamored with travel trailers, campers and bikes. He also tests and writes about urban means of transportation like scooters, mopeds and e-bikes (when he's not busy hosting our video stories and guides).
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