The 4 Best Cassette Toilets for Van Life

One of the most-asked questions about living full-time in a van is, “Where do you go to the bathroom?” Cassette chemical toilets are great for…

cassette toilet installed in a camper van

One of the most-asked questions about living full-time in a van is, “Where do you go to the bathroom?”

Cassette chemical toilets are great for those who want a compact, convenient toilet option while living van life. While they are not as well-known as portable toilets or composting toilets, they have unique advantages that make them an excellent choice for many travelers.

It’s not often you see someone install a true cassette toilet in a DIY campervan conversion. Still, cassette toilets are quite popular in many class B camper van designs by large manufacturers such as the Winnebago Revel.

But what’s the best cassette toilet for your needs? How do you empty a cassette toilet? I have good news: I did all the dirty research, so you don’t have to! Read on to learn about the best cassette toilet for your van life travel needs.

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4 Permanent Cassette Toilets that are Popular for Van Life

There aren’t a lot of true cassette toilets on the market, unlike the plethora of portable camping toilet models available. Regardless, you still have a few options with various features and sizes to meet your needs.

Remember that most cassette toilets come in a “right side” or “left side” model, so before you make your purchase, double-check that you have the one that will fit your campervan.

Thetford C220 Series Cassette Toilet

Thetford C220 Series Cassette Toilet installed inside a campervan
Photo: Campervan HQ

The Thetford C220 Series Cassette Toilet takes a more compact cassette toilet than other models, making it the best cassette toilet for someone with limited space in their van. The seat has a swivel, allowing you to turn 180 degrees so it can store in a more compact space but still be usable without discomfort.

The Thetford Cassette Toilet C220 Series has a large capacity for its footprint of 4.75 gallons. This makes it ideal for use on extended trips or traveling with more than one person.

The C223 model of the C220 series directly hooks up to your water system and has an electric flush that ensures that waste is efficiently and hygienically disposed of. It also lets you connect directly to your water tank for its water supply.

The portable waste tank also has a convenient built-in level indicator, so you can easily see when to empty the tank. When the light comes on, it’s time to find an RV dump station!

The price tag starts at $670, depending on your chosen model.

Thetford 32811 Cassette Toilet

The Thetford 32811 Cassette Toilet features a 4-gallon waste tank capacity, which is smaller than other cassette toilets on the market, but still provides ample capacity for short trips or weekend getaways. The waste tank is easy to remove and clean, with a rotating empty spout that ensures hygienic waste disposal.

It features a built-in level indicator that alerts you when to empty the waste water tank. The toilet also comes with a detachable pour-out spout, making it easy to dispose of waste in any standard toilet or RV dump station.

You can purchase this cassette toilet for between $600-$700 on Amazon.

Thetford C402C Cassette Toilet

Thetford C402C Cassette Toilet installed inside a campervan
Photo: Campervan HQ

The C402C Thetford Cassette Toilet is a high-quality, bench-style cassette toilet for larger recreational vehicles.

It has a large waste capacity of 5.1 gallons, and the freshwater tank for flushing holds 4 gallons. This makes it ideal for use on extended trips or by larger groups. The flushing system ensures that waste is efficiently and hygienically disposed of.

The Thetford C402C Cassette Toilet is also designed for easy cleaning and maintenance, with the toilet seat and cover being removable for easy cleaning. An automatic pressure release vent ensures the waste tank is ventilated, which is crucial for traveling through different elevations and temperatures.

The waste holding tank’s working mechanism is removable, so the inside of the tank is easy to clean and maintain.

This model starts at $889.99, depending on which side of your RV you will install the toilet on.

Thetford C403 RV Cassette Toilet

Thetford C402C Cassette Toilet installed inside a campervan
Photo: Campervan HQ

The Thetford C403 Cassette Toilet is a top-of-the-line bench-style cassette toilet boasting a large waste capacity of 5.1 gallons. This cassette toilet has no freshwater tank, so it must be plumbed into your RV’s plumbing system.

This is the best cassette toilet for someone with a large water-holding tank or for someone traveling with more than one person.

As with the C402 models, the Thetford C403 Cassette Toilet is designed with a removable toilet seat and cover for easy cleaning. The waste water tank is also easily cleaned since the working mechanism is removable.

This model has a black tank level indicator light, so you never have to worry if your waste tank is too full. It also has an electric push button for adding water to the toilet bowl.

This is the most expensive cassette toilet on the market. With all the bells and whistles, it’s well worth the investment to have your own toilet in your RV to use whenever you need it!

What is a Cassette Toilet?

A cassette toilet is a compact, permanent toilet system designed for camper vans, RVs, and other mobile applications. A cassette toilet can’t be removed entirely from the camper van. It is not a portable chemical toilet and requires a different maintenance process than portable camping toilets or composting toilets.

removing the Winnebago Ekko Thetford C220 cassette toilet waste tank
Photo Credit: @EKKOnesters

The toilet bowl is set permanently in the RV or van and looks similar to a traditional household toilet but is smaller and has a built-in flush system that dumps into a removable waste tank. The cassette toilet holding tank is located beneath the floor under the toilet bowl and can be easily removed from the vehicle’s exterior.

The portable holding tank comes in various sizes. When it is full of waste, it is removed completely, and the waste is manually dumped into a dump station via a rotating pour-out spout, much like a traditional RV toilet black tank is dumped.

How Does a Cassette Toilet Work?

To use a cassette toilet, you sit on the toilet bowl and do your business as you would with any other toilet. When you finish, you use the built-in flush system to rinse the bowl and send the waste into the portable waste tank.

The waste is stored in the tank until it is full, at which point the tank can be easily removed and emptied at a designated dump station. It’s often suggested not to flush your toilet paper into the waste tank because it will fill it up much more quickly. Toilet paper can be placed in a separate garbage bag and thrown away with the rest of your trash when you dispose of it.

How Do You Empty and Clean a Cassette Toilet?

When considering using a cassette toilet, you may be nervous that emptying and cleaning it is difficult, messy, or gross. One of the benefits of cassette toilets is that they are super easy to maintain and, when done properly, won’t make a mess! There are cassette toilet chemicals that help break down waste and keep the smell down.

I can’t guarantee that it’s not a little bit gross, though, since no one wants to mess with poo. But this alternative is a convenient, easier, and more sanitary option than using portable camping toilets, digging holes in the ground, or trying to find clean public restrooms.

Here’s how you can empty and clean your cassette toilet in 6 easy steps:

  1. Find a designated dump station for emptying the portable waste tank. Make sure to follow any posted instructions or regulations. You can use apps like Harvest Hosts or Campendium to find public dump stations. Most campgrounds that have RV hookups will have dump stations also.
  2. Remove the waste tank from the toilet by pulling it out of its compartment. Make sure the waste tank is securely closed and that the empty spout is in the closed position. I suggest wearing gloves as well.
  3. Position the waste tank over the dump station or appropriate location and open the empty spout. Allow the waste to drain completely, and then close the empty spout.
  4. Flush the waste tank with clean water to remove any remaining debris. Be sure to have your own hose, as many public dump stations don’t provide hoses.
  5. Dry the exterior of the waste tank before storing it back in its compartment.
  6. Slide the waste tank back into place. You’re done!

By cleaning and maintaining your cassette toilet regularly, you can ensure its longevity and functionality for your future trips. Here’s a great video on YouTube that walks you through the entire process of emptying your cassette toilet.

What are the Advantages of a Cassette Toilet?

A cassette toilet is convenient. Because the waste tank can be easily removed and emptied, there is no need to deal with messy hoses or complicated plumbing systems. This makes it a quick and easy option for travelers who want to spend more time enjoying their trip and less time dealing with toilet maintenance.

It also allows you to use your own bathroom to do your business instead of trying to find a public restroom or digging a hole in nature. No more concerns when you see a dreaded “rest stop closed” sign – just pull over and use your own toilet!

How Does a Cassette Toilet Differ from a Portable Toilet?

Many people mislabel a portable camping toilet as a cassette toilet, but they are two very different things. While both cassette and portable toilets are designed for mobile use, there are some key differences between the two.

Portable camping toilets are smaller than cassette toilets and often require more frequent emptying and cleaning.

Since the holding tank of a cassette toilet is separated from the inside of the camper van, there will be less chance of having a smell inside your RV or camper van. A portable toilet is attached to the waste holding tank and sits inside your van or RV. When it’s close to time to empty your portable toilet, there may be a smell depending on how long it’s been since your last cleaning and what chemicals you use to break down waste.

How Does a Cassette Toilet Differ from a Composting Toilet?

Composting toilets work very differently than cassette toilets.

A composting toilet uses a natural process to start breaking down human waste into compost. Composting toilets separate liquid and solid waste for faster decomposition and reduce odors.

They are self-contained and do not require any water or external plumbing. Instead, they rely on a fan or ventilation system to remove odors and excess moisture from the composting chamber.

In a typical composting toilet, solid waste is collected in a separate chamber from liquid waste. This solid waste is mixed with a natural composting material, such as coconut coir, sawdust, or peat moss. The composting material helps to absorb moisture and provides the necessary environment for bacteria to break down the waste.

Over time, the bacteria in the composting material break down the waste into compost, which can then be safely disposed of or used as fertilizer for plants. Do note that composting toilets do NOT create true compost. The composting process takes much longer than the time you have before needing to empty and “refresh” your composting toilet.

However, they keep your poo odorless (or smelling like dirt) until you have to empty the solids bin, which can be only once every few months, depending on how many people use it. The cleaning and dumping process is more time-intensive than simply dumping a waste tank on a cassette toilet. Still, since they don’t have to be cleaned as often, many travelers don’t mind the task of trade for the more environmentally friendly toilet choice.

3 Things to Consider When Purchasing a Cassette Toilet

When purchasing a cassette toilet, several important factors must be considered. Here are the top three things to keep in mind:

1. Capacity

The waste capacity is the first thing to consider when purchasing a cassette toilet. You want to ensure the toilet can hold enough waste to accommodate your needs. A larger waste capacity means less frequent emptying, which is more convenient for you. If you are traveling with another person, you will probably want a toilet with a larger capacity.

2. Size and Design:

Another important factor to consider is the size and design of the cassette toilet. You need to ensure that it fits in the space you have.

The design and style of the toilet may impact your decision as well. Since the black tank is accessible from outside your van, you’ll want to ensure you purchase the model that exits the left or right side, depending on where your wet bath is located.

If you plan to have a full wet bath with a shower, you’ll need to consider the interior size since cassette toilets can’t be removed from wherever they are installed in your van or RV.

3. Ease of Use and Maintenance:

Finally, consider the cassette toilet’s ease of use and maintenance. Look for features like waste level indicators, detachable toilet seats for cleaning, and electric flush options. Some cassette toilets plumb into your RV’s main water system, and others have fresh water holding tanks in the design. Check the flush controls and ensure they are user-friendly and efficient. You’ll be using them a lot!

What’s the Best Cassette Toilet For You?

A cassette toilet may be the perfect choice if you’re looking for a convenient, hygienic, compact, easy-to-use toilet system for van life.

While cassette toilets are generally easy to use and maintain, following proper procedures for emptying and cleaning the waste tank is important to ensure proper hygiene and prevent potential health hazards.

Once you’ve determined the cassette toilet features and holding tank capacity you need, you’ll be able to choose the best cassette toilet for you.

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