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When I first got my Sprinter camper van from the dealership, I looked for one with a package best for a DIY campervan conversion. One of the things that was high on my list was swivel seats.
Not only do campervan swivel seats increase the apparent space of the van’s interior, they are a wonderful place to sit and hang out. Stock swivel seat from Mercedes are super comfortable, and we use them every single day we’re living the van life.
I was lucky that I could choose swivel seats as part of my upgrade package when ordering my brand new 2021 4×4 Sprinter van. They’ve made such a huge difference for us as our past van, a Chevy Astro, didn’t have swivel seats at all. We both had to sit on the back bench seat when we were hanging out or cooking.
But if your van didn’t come with swivel seats, don’t despair. There are plenty of aftermarket van swivel seats you can add to your rig.
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How Does a Van Swivel Seat Work?
As the name suggests, a van swivel seat allows you to rotate either the driver or passenger seat of your camper van. In some vans, like our Sprinter van, you can swivel both!
While some vans do come with factory-installed swivel seat mechanisms, most van lifers embarking on a DIY conversion choose to install an aftermarket swivel seat adapter on the factory seat base. While the prospect of fiddling around with your van’s seat bases might seem a little scary, the process of installing a swivel seat is actually very straightforward.
While there are tons of resources out there to help you achieve your goal of installing swivel seats in your van, we’ll give you a quick overview of what’s involved a little later.
The Benefits of Installing Van Swivel Seats
Let’s face it, space is always pretty tight in a camper van. No matter how carefully you’ve designed the interior layout of your home on wheels, there will be times when a little more functional space and versatility would be nice.
That’s where van swivel seats come in — they allow you to optimize the limited space in your van by creating extra seating in your living area.
There are unlimited ways you can take advantage of being able to rotate your front seats! For example, digital nomads might consider installing a fold-down table behind the passenger seat. Swivel the seat around and voila! You’ve got an instant workstation.
Alternatively, you can install swivel bases on both the passenger and driver’s seat. That way, the seats can be used as your dining chairs, freeing up the rest of your van’s living space. You’ll have more room for your van bed, kitchen, and storage without having to design a dedicated seating area.
The 4 Best Swivel Seats for a DIY Camper Van Conversion
Now that we’ve established how cool van swivel seats are, let’s take a look at the best options for making your swivel dreams a reality.
Bear in mind that there are tons of cheap off-brand options on Amazon, and it can be tempting to imagine that all seat swivels are created equal. However, safety is a big concern here, so it’s worth investing a little more on tried-and-tested models.
Scopema Swivel Seat Bases
- Adds minimal height
- Smooth rotation
- No squeaking
- Rather pricey
There can be little doubt that Scopema swivel seats are among the most popular options for DIY van conversions. Scopema doesn’t produce the most affordable swivels out there, but you can be safe in the know;edge that they’re well-built and easy to use. Plus, Scopema swivel seats have been crash-tested and meet European safety standards.
Available for the Ford Transit, Dodge ProMaster, Mercedes Metris and Mercedes Sprinter, these swivel seats add minimal height and are famous for their smooth rotation and minimal squeaking. Plus, they won’t wobble as much as other swivels, which is always a bonus.
Depending on your van model, Scopema swivel seats are extremely easy to install and come with detailed instructions for doing so. That said, if your Food Transit or Sprinter has a hand brake, you’ll need to purchase an additional relocation kit.
Discount Van Truck
- Affordable option
- Minimal squeaking and wobbling
- Available for tons of van models
- Rather heavy
- Installation can be challenging
Discount Van Truck is another manufacturer producing super-popular van swivel seats. For starters, a DiscountVanTruck swivel seat is going to be one of the most affordable options you can find. Plus, they offer options for just about any van you can think of.
While swivel adapters from this manufacturer produce very little noise and won’t wobble too much, they do add more height than other options. That can be a particular issue if you’re installing one of these swivel seats in a Ford Transit van. Discount Van Truck swivel seats are also on the heavier side at around 40 pounds, so that’s something to take into consideration.
The most common complaint from van lifers who’ve bought from Discount Van Truck is that the swivel base is difficult to install. It can take a little creativity to make the holes match up with the factory base in some camper vans.
- Only adds 1/2 inch height
- Sturdy and stable
- Fully reversible
- Very expensive
- Doesn’t work with all van seats
The Alpine Mechanisms seat swivel is the most expensive option on our list at around $600. However, these awesome van life swivels are worth every penny.
Thanks to this seat swivel’s innovative design, it’s fully reversible, meaning you can install it on the driver side or below the passenger seat. Best of all, the Alpine Mechanisms adapter features a really low profile, raising your seat by just half an inch.
Made in the USA from high-grade American steel, the Alpine Mechanisms superior design means your seat won’t rock or sway. What’s more, you won’t have to open the door to rotate your seat.
- Very affordable
- Easy to install
- Very quiet
- Offset design
- Can be stiff at first
- Quite wobbly when driving
At around $199, the Amazing Auto seat swivel bracket is definitely the most affordable option on our list. Plus, you can pick one up for a variety of vans, including the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter, and Chevy Express.
While the Amazing Auto swivel seat is known for being nice and quiet, it will tend to wobble quite a bit as you’re driving. That said, this swivel adapter adds minimal height to the factory seat, which is always a huge plus.
The biggest downside to the Amazing Auto swivel seat is its challenging operation. We’ve heard reports that many van lifers have found it difficult to rotate their seat with this adapter when it’s newly installed, although it seems the operation gets easier over time.
On the plus side, the Amazing Auto swivel’s offset design means you don’t have to make all kinds of adjustments to your seat before rotating it.
Choosing the Best Van Swivel Seat: What to Consider
As we mentioned earlier, not all swivel seats are up to snuff. Still, among those that we’ve recommended, there are quite a few notable differences. Let’s take a look at what you should think about as you’re shopping for the best van swivel seat for your needs.
As you’re embarking on your DIY camper van conversion, you’ll quickly get an idea of how costs can mount up. That said, there are plenty of ways to build out a van on a budget without going into crazy debt. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot on a seat swivel adapter. In fact, you can get away with spending as little as $200.
As previously mentioned, you can buy a van with factory seat bases that swivel. However, you’ll pay a lot for the privilege and DIY swivel seats usually work a lot more effectively.
There are DIY swivel seats available for all popular van models, although you’ll have to choose carefully and read the fine print before committing. For example, vans with parking brakes often require extra adapter kits in order to install the swivel base.
What’s more, you might have to get creative when you’re trying to install certain models, depending on your van’s factory seat base.
The most commonly reported issues arise from van lifers trying to install a swivel base on a Ford Transit 10-way power seat. However, it’s more than doable, especially with the Scopema swivel seat. For reference, check out this post on the Ford Transit USA Forum.
One or Two Swivel Seats?
Deciding on how many swivel seats to install comes down to your preference and also your van’s layout. If you’re a solo traveler, it might seem like overkill to install swivels on both the driver side and passenger seat.
However, van life couples or adventurous families will find that having two swivel seats is the way to go. We’d recommend thinking about this during the early stages of your van build. It’s not a bad idea to design your layout with rotating seats in mind.
Weight and Height
It almost goes without saying that your swivel seat should be as lightweight as possible. After all, every extra pound counts when you’re building out a camper van.
Perhaps more importantly, the swivel base shouldn’t add too much extra height, especially if it’s on the driver side. Any swivel seat is going to add height seeing as it sits between the factory seat and the factory seat base.
That might not be a huge deal on the passenger side. However, if you aren’t especially tall, you’ll need to make sure the driver seat won’t be lifted so that you can no longer reach the pedals.
Ease of Operation
There’s no point installing a swivel seat if it isn’t easy to rotate. That’ll just mean you’ll be less likely to use the thing. With that in mind, make sure you go for a model that’s not only easy to install but has simple controls for turning your seat.
Ideally, you’ll be able to swivel all the way round without having to open the van door or adjust the seat as you go. By the same token, your swivel seat shouldn’t squeak or wobble too much. That’ll just end up driving you crazy after a while!
How to Install a Van Swivel Seat
As we already mentioned, installing a van swivel seat is pretty straightforward. Still, you may have to make special adjustments, depending on your van’s seat base.
You’ll need a few basic tools like an adjustable wrench and a drill with a Hex socket, and the manufacturer instructions should have a comprehensive guide. Still, here’s a basic outline of what you can expect during installation.
Disconnect the Battery
Please don’t forget to do this first. You can imagine how shocking the situation could get if you do! You’ll have to find your van’s battery, which shouldn’t be too hard. Once you’ve got the battery in front of you, disconnect the negative terminal to prevent it from transferring power to the van seat.
Remove the Seat Bolts
Next, you’ll have to remove the bolts from the factory seat base. Don’t be put off if your van has a bunch of wiring under there. Just take a deep breath and carefully disconnect the wires beforehand. Once that’s done, use the appropriate tool to remove all the bolts. Put ’em in a safe place and remove the seat from its base.
Install the Swivel Plate
In an ideal world, the holes on your swivel plate will match exactly up to the factory holes on your van’s seat base. Still, this is the point at which you may have to get creative in order to make everything fit properly. We won’t go into detail about every possibility with every van here. Suffice to say, there’s tons of information on van life forums and YouTube.
Reconnect the Seat
Once you’ve got the swivel plate firmly attached, it’s time to put the seat back in place. Remember those original bolts you put in a safe place? Place the seat in position and replace those bolts, tightening them as much as possible. Next, reconnect any wiring under the seat and reconnect the van battery.
Conclusion on the Best Van Swivel Seats
As we’ve seen, installing swivel seats in your camper van is pretty much the way to go. You won’t have to spend much money, and you don’t have to be a master engineer to make installation a breeze. Ultimately, your campervan will feel much bigger and more livable thanks to this simple addition.
We hope you’ve found our guide to the best van swivel seat useful. Feel free to leave any questions or suggestions in the comments section below!