The best heater for van life: Eberspächer vs. Webasto

If you’re wondering what the best heater for van life is, then you’ve come to the right place! As 4-season camper van travelers, having a good heater has been absolutely essential for van life comfort and safety. In this blog post we compare two popular heaters for van life, Eberspächer and the Webasto, both of which we have used in our van, to determine the best heater for van life. We also break down a few other heater options for camper vans.

Wondering if you can trust us? We’ve logged over 40,000 miles of van travel, many of them in wintery and cold weather. We’ve even spent a night in 9 degree Fahrenheit weather and were able to stay warm and cozy with our van heater! Amiana’s also an engineer, so she loves pouring over technical specs to make sure we get the best gear.

What are my heater options for a DIY camper van?

Although this blog post is specifically compares heaters from Eberspächer and Webasto, there are a range of other heater options! Below are a few other camper van heater options to consider (and why we don’t think they’re the best options).

Portable propane heaters

Portable propane heaters are a popular and lower cost option for vans. One of the most commonly used brands in the van community is the “Mr. Buddy Heater.” These units run on propane and are not externally vented, so you don’t have to cut holes in your van. However, because they are not vented they produce a significant amount of moisture, as well as carbon monoxide. You’ll need to work to control moisture levels in your van, and ensure safe use of the product… Carbon monoxide poisoning is no joke, and can kill you! The associated moisture can also cause mold issues. We don’t find portable propane heaters to be super safe so, overall, they aren’t the best options for camper vans. 

Chinese Diesel Heaters (CDH) 

This is a great low-cost option to consider! They run off a small diesel tank and, similar to Eberspächer and Webasto units, they have to be vented (aka you need to cut a hole in your van to install them). If you want to learn more about these heaters, our friends Stokeloafvan wrote a comprehensive review of their Chinese diesel heaters, as well as an installation guide. It’s worth noting that they installed a CDH after having issues with their Webasto AT2000 STC.

You can find additional details on other options, like wood burning stoves and hydronic heaters, here.

Webasto vs. Eberspächer comparison – what’s better?

We used a Webasto for two years before swapping to an Eberspächer Airtronic B4L AM3 12v (4kW). We have been using the Eberspächer for a year and a half. Our thoughts below explain our experience and our opinions on both camper van heaters. 

Our experience with Webasto heaters for camper vans

When we first built our camper van in 2020, we installed a Webasto AT2000 STC. It fit perfectly under our Ram Promaster passenger seat and tapped directly into our gas tank, meaning we didn’t have to use a separate external gas tank to fuel our heater. Webasto also has a diesel option, but we only have experience with the gas version. We used it for two years and we didn’t have any major issues. However, we also discovered that it wasn’t the best fit for our travel needs.

Below are 4 things we didn’t love about our Webasto heater:

  • First of all, the heater only works efficiently up to 5,000 feet of elevation. Above that, the heater doesn’t work as efficiently and begins to build up soot inside of the unit due to an unbalanced ratio of fuel to oxygen. This soot build-up can eventually cause the heater to stop working. Although we never had issues, we were wary of potential soot build up down the line.
  • Additionally, the Webasto AT2000 STC only has a 2 kW heating capacity. With only 2 kW of heat, we noticed that the Webasto really struggled to keep our van consistently warm. This was especially noticeable once the weather outside dropped below about 20 degrees F.
  • Additionally, the Webasto came with a rheostat, which is supposed to regulate the heat output similar to a thermostat. However, it didn’t work as advertised. The heater was either ON (full blast) or it was OFF – nothing in between. At a price tag of $1,350 it also wasn’t the cheapest option for something that only met our needs half-way.
  • Lastly, it’s worth noting that when we received our brand new Webasto unit it came with a faulty pump. We had to troubleshoot the issue and replace it ourselves, which took a while and was a total pain!

While we never had major issues with the Webasto, we decided that the unit didn’t fully meet our needs. So we opted to upgrade to an Eberspächer.

Our experience with Eberspächer heaters for camper vans

After two years we fully removed our Webasto unit and replaced it with a Eberspächer Airtronic B4L AM3 12v (4kW). Similar to the Webasto, this unit also fit perfectly under our Ram Promaster passenger seat. It also tapped directly into our gas tank, eliminating the need for a separate fuel tank. Eberspächer also has a diesel option, but we only have experience with the gas version. 

After a year and a half of use we have found that there are three major benefits of the Eberspächer over the Webasto:

  • First of all, the Eberspächer heater has a 4 kW output, which is double that of the Webasto. Even in the coldest temperatures, the Eberspächer has no problem keeping our van nice and toasty.
  • Second, the Eberspächer has a thermostat, and it actually works! Because we use our van throughout winter, we don’t winterize our van. Instead, when we’re not using the van, we set the thermostat to 40-45 degrees F, and it keeps the inside of our van warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing. When we’re adventuring in the van, we set the thermostat to about 65 degrees and it is ACTUALLY 65 degrees inside the van, which is very comfortable. The thermostat can exceed 85 degrees F if desired.
  • Lastly, the Eberspächer is designed to operate efficiently up to 18,000 feet in elevation, which is literally higher than any place you can drive a vehicle in North America… which basically means this heater works everywhere, while minimizing the risk of soot build-up within the unit!

Even though the Eberspächer was more expensive (about $2,400), it was worth it! We are so happy we made the switch to the Eberspächer heater. In our opinion, Eberspächer is the best heater for van life. 

Our final thoughts on the best heater for van life

Both Eberspächer and Webasto make good products for van life. However, having experienced both Eberspächer and Webasto heaters in our van, we think Eberspächer wins out for us by a landslide, and is the best heater for van life. The Eberspächer has more fine-tuned control of the temperature of our van, making it more comfortable to use. Additionally, the Eberspächer thermostat controller includes convenient settings like scheduling that the Webasto unit lacks.

Another advantage of the Eberspächer unit is the higher output, which heats up our van much more efficiently and quickly. Having the Eberspächer has truly given us 4-season travel capability, and makes van life much more comfortable in cold weather. The high elevation compatibility of the Eberspächer has also given us peace of mind, since we enjoy hanging out in the mountains. We’ve found their customer service to be much better.

Similar Posts