Dave & Matt Vans is just one of what seems like endless van builder outfitters nowadays. Especially where I live in Colorado, there is no shortage of vans: whether used, stock, conversion companies, or full-on custom builds. Colorado is home to companies like Wayfarer Vans, Vanworks, Vandoit, Mountain Made Vans … the list goes on, and that’s not even including DIY builds.
One of the biggest reasons I got an opportunity to test the newest fleet of Dave & Matt Vans is because it’s local. For me, it was as simple as a drive over Vail Pass, packing up a duffel and my gear, and planning an adventure for me, my van, and the open road.
In short: So, what did I experience while demo-ing the van life? A whole lot. Renting a van not only gave me a taste of what long-term van life is like, but this van in particular came with all the amenities I needed to travel, work remotely, store gear, and live off-grid for a while. The fully featured LV Five series (that’s “lifestyle vehicles” for short) conversion was a great test for living in a small space, and living the van life with a pet. If I do ever buy a van, the Dave & Matt LV Five Series is one I’ll seriously consider.
- Vehicle 159" wheelbase Ram ProMaster AWD
- Transmission Automatic
- Power Electrical, solar panel package (optional), adapter for full hookups
- Sleeps/Seats Up to 4
- Purchase price $93,495 and up
- Rental price $180/night
- Pet-friendly rentals Yes
- Roomy table/bench workspace
- Comfortable bed, bed height provides good storage
- High-tech kitchen with induction burner
- Ample overhead storage
- More user-friendly electrical than past models
- Front seats swivel for extra living space when parked
- Light floor and cabinet colors meant van was hard to keep clean
- Tricky to get to roof if you need to clean solar panels (in winter)
- Very different storage options between 5.1 and 5.2 models
- Van is heavy to drive up steep roads/mountain passes
Van Life, Trial Run: Dave & Matt Vans LV Five Series Review
I’ll be honest, I test-drove this van a while back (last fall). I’m just now getting around to writing the review because, at the time, I was dealing with a quarter-life crisis that came in the form of massive water damage and that left me quite literally without a livable home. Thankfully, I have a solid support system thanks to friends and family. But short of living in someone’s guest room for 6 months, the other inviting solution was to take that inopportune moment and turn it into a positive — a chance to test drive the van life.
So, one weekend as I was driving east back to Denver, I picked up the newest D&M LV5.1 van. Every campervan is meant to function as a home on wheels, although most of them require small sacrifices, depending on your van size, preferences, and lifestyle. The Dave & Matt Lifestyle Vehicles are meant to try and offer everything — all the creature comforts, and also all the basics: bed, kitchen, power, storage, and (optional) toilet.
Dave & Matt LV 5.1 and 5.2 Van Upgrades
Some of the “lifestyle” upgrades you’ll get with Dave & Matt are the new (finally!) induction burners and kitchenettes in the Five Series. The fuse box in the back is dialed. There’s more storage. There’s also better-streamlined climate control — the controls for the heater and front and rear fans are all in the same place.
Also, in the control center area along the left kitchen wall is the switch for the sink pump, dimmable area lightning, and USB and wall plug outlets aplenty — accessible from the bed area, kitchen area, or middle table “workspace” in the van. The wall plug outlet, while there’s only one, is oriented horizontally, which allowed me to plug in bigger wall adapters (like my MacBook charger) and a battery charger. Being the one and only two-prong wall outlet in this main space, the orientation is crucial.
The workspace — table and bench/chair — is also better than I’ve experienced in some other van rentals. I wasn’t hunched over, meaning the table and bench were at a nice height. If you are living full-time in a van, sitting on the bed just won’t cut it, trust me. The table functions on a swivel and can be oriented to both Five Series floor plans. The bench seating doubles as storage, which I quickly put to use.
Having to work remotely from this van definitely gave me ample chances to test the sleep setup, workspace, and last but not least, the kitchen. The induction burner, if you aren’t used to it, is a little strange. But overall, it’s easy and intuitive to use.
I found there was plenty of heat and power on the higher levels offered to even cook up frozen foods, and it provided a good strong crisp on dishes like fried rice. For a simmer and burner control test, I made pancakes. The only downside with this kitchen feature is that you’ll need to buy proper induction-compatible cookware.
Winter Use, Solar, Heater, Fan, and Hookups
Driving this van in snowy weather across the state in October and November was a great test case for van life in general. On warm days, I wanted circulation and air with the fans. But on most days and nights in November, I was also turning on the heater.
Thankfully, the learning curve for the control panel for the heat and electric was super easy. Everything worked as advertised. The newer van I had was also equipped with two solar panels up top. Just note the solar isn’t going to charge the batteries a ton unless in full sun.
I found in winter I had to be careful about where I parked if I wanted to get some solar power before a trip. I also had to use a super-long extension brush to get snow off all the panels every time it stormed.
Another super-cool feature of this van model is that it comes with a pronged plug adapter so you can actually charge your batteries in the van and pull electricity from hookups provided at some campgrounds. Or, just a power source at home. Instead of turning on your inverter and draining the batteries, this was a super-cool alternative option for power.
For everyday van life, but especially in winter, definitely consider what amenities you have or will need.
Dave & Matt Vans LV Five Series: Pricing & Availability
Dave & Matt Van’s Lifestyle Vehicle builds start around $85,995 (preowned D&M vans go for less). Renting the latest LV vehicles from Dave & Matt starts at about $180/night (with discounts available depending on the length of the trip). Check for current rental availability online.
The company also still offers rentals and builds for the prior LV3 and more 2022 model vans. If you get the opportunity, and it fits your work or travel schedule and lifestyle (athletes, remote workers, digital creators, and travel nurses, I’m looking at you), you should really give these rentals a go.
The newest LV5 is built on a 19.8-foot RAM ProMaster chassis with a 159-inch wheelbase. The longer wheelbase means Dave & Matt can offer different “floorplans” (aka configurations).
On top of conversion items like the bed, kitchenette, storage units, table, and vehicle seating, Dave & Matt offers more add-ons. Think things like solar, extra storage, power upgrades, or a cassette toilet. Or, you can just opt for the extra living and floorspace, if you are traveling with more than two people (or pets!).
The newest vans to market include the LV5.1 and the LV5.2 (newly available as of May 2023).
The coolest thing about the LV5 series was the upgraded ports and sink switch (moved from under the sink to a wall panel for easier access), as well as the 30-amp electric adapter plug for the electric and solar, which allow you to charge directly from electric hookups at campgrounds. Dave & Matt Vans made some major upgrades between its first vehicles and the 2022/2023 LV5 series — and it shows.