Best 12V Fan For Camper Vans – Best Van Life Fans

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If you’re looking for the best 12V fan for a camper van these are our top picks for 2024.

Proper airflow can mean the difference between being comfortably cool and feeling sticky and stale. Air circulation and ventilation are crucial components to staying comfortable in your van.

AC units in vans are rare unless you’re connected to shore power. They draw too much energy to use for long on your battery system alone. The combination of my rooftop vent fan and cracking open a window or two was my primary way of staying cool during the eight months I spent traveling full-time in my van.

Even in cooler climates, a 12-volt fan is an energy-efficient way to give you proper air circulation. This keeps the air fresh and prevents stale air from lingering.

Our top pick for best overall 12-volt fan is the MaxxAir MaxxFan Deluxe. It’s a rooftop vent fan offering ventilation in addition to air circulation. It is incredibly energy-efficient, has 10-speeds, and is powerful.

Our Best 12-Volt Fans

Van Life 12-Volt Fan Reviews

These are our list of the best 12-volt fans for van life.

MaxxAir MaxxFan Deluxe – Best Overall Fan, Best Rooftop Fan

  • Fan Type: Roof Vent Fan
  • Energy Draw: 0.16-2.5 Amps
  • Airflow Power: High
  • Number of Speeds: 10
  • Noise Level: Dependent on speed (very low on speed 1, somewhat loud on speed 10)
  • Install Difficulty: High (relative to the others)

This is the overall best van life fan and the best rooftop fan.

It’s incredibly energy efficient and gives you a lot of control over the energy draw based on the ten different speed settings.

Unlike wall or table fans, rooftop fans provide both ventilation and circulation. This solves a common problem that van lifers face: condensation and moisture. 

As you’re breathing and cooking, you’re creating moisture inside your van. If there’s no way for that moisture to leave, it can create humidity and condensation. This is uncomfortable and can lead to rust. If your van begins to rust, it’s very difficult to stop it from spreading completely.

This fan allows you to control which way the blades rotate so you can either pull air out or into the van. This provides a lot of versatility. Generally, I’d open a few van windows and then pull the air out of the van with the rooftop fan. This would create a vacuum and pull air into the windows creating a comfortable cross-breeze.

Some van lifers will install two rooftop fans. If you put one on “in mode” and one on “out mode” it creates a strong draft of fresh air throughout the van.

This fan is very quiet on the lowest speed setting and gets louder as the speed increases. I’ve slept many nights comfortably with it on speed ten.

I’ve placed the install difficulty as “high” because it does require you to cut a hole in the roof of your van. You’ll need to properly seal it in place, and wire it into your electrical system. All-in-all it isn’t a complex process.

This fan comes with a cover attached so you can use the fan while it’s raining without any issues. It comes with a remote for both controlling the fan and opening and closing the lid. And lastly, it has a built-in thermostat to regulate the speeds based on the temperature you set.


Maxxair MaxxFan Manual – Best “Budget” Rooftop Fan

  • Fan Type: Roof Vent Fan
  • Energy Draw: 0.1-2.2 Amps
  • Airflow Power: High
  • Number of Speeds: 10
  • Noise Level: Dependent on speed (very low on speed 1, somewhat loud on speed 10)
  • Install Difficulty: High (relative to the others)

This is the best “budget” rooftop fan. I’m using “budget” in parentheses because while it is quite a bit more affordable than the MaxxFan Deluxe, it’s still more expensive than every other fan on this list. This is the fan that I have installed in my van.

The only difference between this and the “Deluxe” version above is that this one doesn’t have the remote. This means that you need to manually open and close the cover along with manually operating the fan.

It’s not a huge deal to have to do these things manually. But as somebody who lived in my van for nearly a year, the luxury of not needing to get up to operate the fan would have been worth the extra cost.


Caframo Sirocco II – Best Wall Fan, Most Energy-Efficient Fan

  • Fan Type: Mounted Wall Fan
  • Energy Draw: 0.12-0.35 Amps
  • Airflow Power: Medium
  • Number of Speeds: 3
  • Noise Level: Low
  • Install Difficulty: Medium

This is the best mounted wall fan and the most energy-efficient fan of any on this list.

The energy draw is a small fraction of that from the rooftop fans. But keep in mind that this fan isn’t going to provide the same level of airflow as those either. Yet it can blow 185 cubic feet of air per minute so it’s no slouch.

You need to wire this fan into your electrical system, but other than that it’s easy to install.

Where this fan shines is its versatility in controlling how the air flows. It has three speeds to control airflow power. And an omnidirectional gimbal so you can tilt the fan in whatever direction you need.

Because of this gimbal, you can push the fan up against the wall when you want it out of the way. Be careful if you’re trying to re-position the fan while it’s still on though because it’s possible to stick your fingers into the blades while it’s moving.

It comes with a built-in sleep timer with four settings (3, 6, 9, and 12 hours) and is very quiet.

One criticism of this fan is that it has a blue light on it that is always on when it’s blowing air. Depending on where you have it mounted this can be quite annoying when you’re trying to sleep. It doesn’t have a remote and some people are disappointed with the airflow.

Overall this is a great fan that van lifers everywhere rave about. It is durable and has a long-life motor.


Caframo Bora Fan

  • Fan Type: Mounted Wall Fan
  • Energy Draw: 0.15-0.27 Amps
  • Airflow Power: Medium
  • Number of Speeds: 3
  • Noise Level: Low-Medium
  • Install Difficulty: Medium

Made by the same company as the Sirocco II, this is its younger brother at a better price.

Much of the same is true about this fan, although the quality is slightly lower. It has three speeds, is energy-efficient, and generally has good airflow. 

This fan does seem to be a bit louder than the Sirocco II. Some van lifers report that at the highest speed, it’s difficult to sleep.

Some people claim that when initially using the Caframo Bora Fan that it has a buzzing noise. It requires you to open it up and re-adjust the blades for it to work properly. Depending on your budget and how handy you are, this may or may not be a consideration.


RoadPro RP-1179 – Best Budget Wall Fan

  • Fan Type: Mounted Wall Fan
  • Energy Draw: 1-1.3 Amps
  • Airflow Power: Medium
  • Number of Speeds: 2
  • Noise Level: High
  • Install Difficulty: Low

If you’re looking for a mounted wall fan but the Caframo ones above are out of your price range, this RoadPro fan is for you.

It’s not as energy-efficient as the Caframo wall fans and only has two speeds but the airflow power is good. It’s a sturdy fan with metal blades that are quite durable, but they are loud. If you’re looking for a quiet fan, this isn’t it.

It doesn’t have the omnidirectional gimbal but does have some mobility with a swivel base. Instead of wiring directly into your electrical system, this fan uses a standard 12-volt plug with a 10-foot cord making installation very easy.


O2COOL 10-inch Portable Fan – Best Portable Fan

  • Fan Type: Portable Fan
  • Energy Draw: 0.92-1.1 Amps
  • Airflow Power: Medium
  • Number of Speeds: 2
  • Noise Level: Low
  • Install Difficulty: Low

The O2COOL is the best portable fan in this lineup.

This fan comes with a ton of versatility. You can power this fan via your 12-volt DC van electrical system, a 120-volt AC system, or by using the internal rechargeable battery. 

The fan has a smart charger that will automatically switch to the most energy-efficient method. For example, if you plug it into your 12-volt system, it will draw power from that system instead of draining the battery.

Additionally, there’s a USB plug on the side of the fan so you can charge your phone or other devices if needed.

This is a great small, lightweight fan that is quiet. One complaint about it is that the power is sub-par when running off of the internal battery alone, so keep that in mind.


RoadPro RP8000 – Best Budget Portable Fan

  • Fan Type: Portable Fan
  • Energy Draw: 0.92-1.1 Amps
  • Airflow Power: Medium
  • Number of Speeds: 2
  • Noise Level: Medium
  • Install Difficulty: Low

This is our top pick for the best budget portable fan.

This isn’t the best fan in any category except for cost. That said, it’s a great portable fan if you’re on a budget.

The RoadPro RP8000 runs off of a standard 12-volt plug or eight D batteries. It has two speeds and is generally not too loud. It doesn’t feel like the most quality fan but great if you’re on a budget.


Van Life 12V Fan Buying Guide

It will be helpful to consider the layout of your van and the situations in which you’ll want to use your fan. This will help you to determine what features are most important to you.

Some vans have two rooftop vent fans

Energy Efficiency

Energy consumption is always a top consideration for van lifers. If your electrical devices such as your fan draw too much energy, you run the risk of running your batteries dead. Thus losing power to your fridge or other devices.

We’ve included the amperage draw of each of the fans reviewed here to help you determine their energy efficiency. Generally, hard-wired fans are more energy efficient than portable fans. And the higher the quality (and usually the higher cost) the more efficient it will be.

Airflow Power

Air circulation and ventilation are usually the top benefits of having a 12V fan in your rig. Therefore the power of this airflow is an important consideration.

Noise Level

Nobody wants a fan that sounds like a jet engine or makes a constant clicking noise, but beyond that, it’s generally down to your personal preference. I like the soft sound of a fan as a little background white noise – especially while I’m sleeping. Other people are more sensitive.

The fans reviewed here generally follow the principle that they’re quieter at lower speeds and get louder at higher speeds.

A great way to determine how loud a fan will be is to read the product reviews. But a rule of thumb is that the more blades there are the quieter it will be.

Rooftop vent fans create great air ventilation

Functionality

Thinking ahead about how you’ll be using the fan will help in determining what features you want it to have.

  • Do you want to be able to turn the fan on and off with a remote?
  • Do you want a built-in thermostat so the fan knows when to turn on and off based on the temperature you set?
  • Do you want an auto-off timer that turns off after a pre-determined period of time?

All these and other options are available.

Power Source Options

Some fans are hard-wired into the van’s electrical system. Others will plug into a 12V (or USB) socket and are portable. Some fans run on battery power (rechargeable or disposable).

Size and Weight

This is less of an issue for rooftop fans, but it’s a consideration for others. Wall fans intrude on the space in your van so their size is important. Portable fans move around so both size and weight are a consideration.

Airflow Versatility

It’s one thing to have powerful airflow, it’s another to have some choice about how and where the air flows.

Number of Speeds

Most fans offer multiple speeds. The more speeds it offers the more likely you’ll be able to find that “just right” feeling of comfortable airflow.

Another benefit to having a larger number of speeds is energy efficiency. The lower the speed the lower the energy draw, so having more options gives you greater control over how much energy you’re using.

The 12V rooftop vent fan in my rig

Tilt and Rotation

While the speed of the airflow is one factor, being able to tilt and/or rotate the direction of the airflow will give you greater control over air circulation.

Portability

Do you want to be able to carry the fan outside or move it around in the van? If this is important to you then consider how portable your 12-volt fan is.

Difficulty of Installation

The last thing to consider before buying a 12-volt fan is how difficult it will be to install. Rooftop vent fans require you to cut out a hole in the roof of your van and hard-wire into your electrical system. Portable fans usually sit on a flat surface or get clipped up and you can begin using them right away.

Our Verdict

That’s everything you should know to make a decision on what 12V fan is best to meet your van life needs. If it’s possible, I highly recommend getting a rooftop fan as ventilation is just as important as circulation.

The MaxxAir MaxxFan Deluxe is a great choice for a fan that will keep you comfortable throughout your van life adventures.

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AUTHOR

Robert Johnson is the founder of Van Simply. He spent eight months traveling full time in his converted camper van and takes frequent shorter trips to explore the world. He enjoys taking his van on surf trips, visiting national parks, and meeting up with the wonderful people he has met on his travels.

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