Best Chinese Diesel Heater for a Van Conversion: 6 Budget-Friendly Picks

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If you want to warm up your van quickly without hauling extra propane, a diesel heater pulls fuel from your van’s fuel tank to provide on-demand heat. If you have a gas van or don’t want to tap into your van’s main tank, you can also have a separate diesel tank to fuel the heater. Whether you’re considering full-time van life or weekend trips, you don’t want to get caught in an unexpected snowstorm without a heater (trust me, I’ve been there). 

After 5 years of full-time van life and 2 DIY conversions, I would not build a van without a diesel heater. However, not everyone can afford the luxury Espar/Eberspacher or high-priced Webasto. Here are 6 Chinese diesel heaters for van warming on a budget

Top Pick: Happybuy 5KW Diesel Air Heater 10L

The world of van-friendly Chinese diesel heaters can feel lawless and sketchy, but Happybuy redeems most heater companies’ reputations by providing reliable customer service. This heater has sufficient operation and long-term durability for the price. If you’re willing to do a little modification, this heater install can save you a ton of money and keep you toasty warm.

This is the most highly rated Chinese heater, available for a fraction of the price of name-brands. Although the installation instructions are lacking, there are plenty of YouTube videos to guide a DIY install. The heater uses very little fuel and has a nice LCD screen for monitoring and adjustments.

Having a heater provides more freedom of travel in your van

Are Chinese Diesel Heaters Any Good?

Chinese diesel heaters have gained a reputation for being cost-effective alternatives to well-known brands, such as Webasto or Espar. However, they do come with their own set of considerations:

  • Affordability: Chinese diesel heaters are typically more budget-friendly, often less than one-tenth the price of their European counterparts! You can install an “off-brand” diesel heater for less than $200, while many popular brands are well over $1,000!
  • Performance: With proper installation, most users report that Chinese diesel heaters perform exceptionally well in terms of heating efficiency and reliability.
  • Warranty and Support: While Chinese heaters are affordable, they often come with limited warranties and may not have the same level of customer support as established brands.
  • Quality Control: Quality control can vary among Chinese manufacturers, so it’s essential to choose a reputable brand to ensure a reliable product.
  • Installation: Installation can be more challenging compared to some other heaters, so some DIY skills may be required. The manuals and guides are less accessible and detailed compared to name brands.

Top 6 Best Chinese Diesel Heaters for Van Conversions

If you’re a fairly experienced DIYer and don’t plan to travel to cold climates very often, a Chinese diesel heater is a great way to save big bucks while ensuring your van stays warm. Keep in mind that all of these options require a willingness to learn and troubleshoot because the English installation manuals are (unsurprisingly) lacking in detail. Still, you can enjoy incredible heating capacity with the right heater selection and proper installation in your van!

Best Overall: Happybuy 5KW Diesel Air Heater 10L

Happybuy is the cheapest and best-reviewed Chinese diesel heater on the market. It has been tested by over a thousand van lifers and truckers and clearly offers the most bang for your buck. While it is not the perfect heater, the Happybuy vendor is dependable and provides quality customer service. Once you master the installation and troubleshooting, this heater may keep you so toasty that you have to open a window in frosty weather.

  • Heating Power: 5 KW (12V)
  • Adjustable Temperature Range: 46°F-95°F / 8°C-35°C
  • Tank Capacity: 10L/2.6 gal
  • Fuel Consumption: 0.64 (L/hr) / 0.169 (Gal/hr)


  • Quick startup heating and ultra-low energy consumption
  • Remote control and LCD panel
  • Wide temperature range


  • Super affordable alternative to Webasto (less than 1/10th the price!)
  • Includes all required installation parts
  • Fast warm-up and extremely efficient heating (some people even report getting too hot in their van!)
  • Stay comfortable in 0°F
  • Precise fuel control
  • Quiet operation
  • Best customer service through Amazon vendor


  • Installation instructions are difficult to understand (YouTube research required)
  • Error codes can be difficult to diagnose
  • Some users report a slight leak in the fuel tank and fuel filter
  • Remote control is not dependable
  • There are reports of receiving damaged units, so inspect carefully before installing

Most Versatile: VEVOR Diesel 5 KW Air Heater 10L Tank with LCD Thermostat

If you want more versatility for flexible installation, monitoring, and timed heating, this Chinese heater has a range of options and styles. It heats up quickly even on super cold days, but may not last as long as a name-brand option. Beware of a few safety risks like glow plug issues and fuel tank leaks that you need to thoroughly understand and address for risk-free operation.

  • Heating Power: 3 KW, 5 KW, or 8 KW (12V)
  • Adjustable Temperature Range: 60°F-90°F
  • Tank Capacity: 10L/2.6 gal
  • Fuel Consumption: 0.1-0.35 L/hr


  • Aluminum body frame
  • Highly efficient (use just 1 gallon of diesel to heat your van all night on a cold night)
  • 24-hour timer and LCD thermostat with remote control (preheat the van from a 98-foot distance)
  • Auto shut off
  • Quiet operation


  • Most installation parts and accessories included
  • Timed heating or manual adjustment
  • Quality low-profile unit
  • Reviewers report excellent heat output 


  • Poor installation manuals; DIY installers need a basic understanding of electricity and mechanical operation
  • Modifications may be needed, like your own replacement diesel tank and gaskets
  • You have to Jerry-rig your own ducting for multi-vent options
  • Many users report that it stops working after 3-6 months and the fuel pumps are not dependable
  • Issues with the glow plug cap could emit dangerous Carbon Monoxide into your van, so be cautious and use a detector

Easiest Installation: IMAYCC 8KW Diesel Heater with LCD Switch and Remote Control

This Chinese diesel heater is an all-in-one kit, making installation far easier because the combustion chamber, fuel pump, and LCD controls are grouped in a single unit. All you have to do is attach it to a power supply and the diesel fuel supply (whether filling the tank or using fuel lines tapped into your van tank). It boasts a powerful 8 KW heating capacity that works even in negative temperatures and altitudes up to a whopping 18,000 feet (taller than any U.S. mountain range). 

  • Heating Power: 8 KW (12V)
  • Adjustable Temperature Range: 64°F to 86°F / 18 to 30℃
  • Tank Capacity: 5L
  • Fuel Consumption: 0.23-0.51 (L/hr) / 0.06-0.13 (Gal/hr)


  • All-in-one kit design (no spare fuel filter needed but you have to install the included fuel filter yourself)
  • Less complex installation is easy for DIYers
  • Several safety precautions and adjustable features
  • LCD monitor and remote control
  • Silencing fan and muffler


  • Extremely affordable kit with all installation parts included
  • Easiest installation: Just connect the power supply and diesel supply line
  • Vertical design with tank, monitor, and heater built into one unit
  • Overheating protection and several safety additions to prevent dry burning or leaks
  • Easily accessible oil observation and air inlet/outlets
  • Fixed bracket creates easy mounting


  • Larger than other units (14.5” x 5.9” x 14.8”) because all parts are built into one aluminum housing
  • Modifications are required for DIY installers (not perfect right out of the box)
  • May smoke upon startup if the glow plugs are defective (venting needed)
  • Aluminum has odors that off-gas for a while after installation

Best Portable Option: HCALORY 12V 5 KW Portable Diesel Parking Heater

If hooking up all the fuel lines and hardwired electricity seems too complicated, this heater gives you all the same benefits in a convenient portable package (with a handle!) All you have to do is fill it with diesel and plug it into AC or DC power. 

  • Heating Power: 5 KW (12V)
  • Adjustable Temperature Range: 50°F to 90°F
  • Tank Capacity: 5L
  • Fuel Consumption: 0.1-0.35 L/hr / 0.03-0.1 Gal/hr


  • The compact and portable toolbox design is easy to carry and install
  • Super quick startup and efficient heating
  • More safety features than other options (auto-shutoff and overload protection)
  • Remote controls can link to a handy Bluetooth app
  • Smart LCD monitor with lots of adjustment options


  • Very fuel efficient and clean burning (no smells)
  • Portable suitcase style makes it easy to move for multiple uses in and outside of the van
  • Incredibly easy to set up and use (just a few minutes after unboxing and you are ready to warm up!)
  • Low power after startup (10-30 Watts)
  • Very lightweight muffler 


  • A large power drawer (~135 Watts) to startup, so a larger battery is required
  • May need to place the unit outside the van
  • More expensive than other Chinese heater brands
  • Not a permanently installed option in the van but you can modify to hardwire it in
  • Lots of error codes were reported and no reliable customer service

Most Adjustable Settings: Bestauto 8KW Diesel Air Heater

For maximum customization and settings, this heater is fairly reliable and has some really great reviews. It self-primes (an issue with many other brands) and comes with nice installation hardware, however, you will probably want to replace the cheap fuel tank with a steel tank.

  • Heating Power: 8 KW  (12V)
  • Adjustable Temperature Range: 46°F to 95°F / 8°C to 35°C
  • Tank Capacity: 10L / 2.6 Gal
  • Fuel Consumption: 0.1-0.51 L/hr / 0.029-0.135 Gal/hr


  • Offers six levels of heat control, allowing you to adjust the fan and fuel consumption
  • Provides excellent heat output, maintaining a comfortable temperature even in a 27-foot-long RV with outside temperatures as low as 15°F, achieving 73°F on 2-3 levels of heat


  • Great price compared to name-brand diesel heaters
  • Features automatic temperature settings for convenience
  • Comes with everything needed for installation
  • Energy-efficient during regular operation, although startup and shutdown with the glow plug consume more power


  • Poorly written instructions (use YouTube)
  • Temperature settings are only available in Celsius
  • The aluminum casting may have imperfections such as chips and rushed casting
  • The included diesel tank is of low-quality
  • During the first use, it emits a chemical smell
  • Caution is advised against placing the base mount plate directly on wood or flammable materials, as it can become very hot to the touch
  • The ground wire for the harness is relatively short, potentially limiting installation options

Budget Pick: ZHIBANG Diesel Air Heater Unique Intelligent 12V/8KW

In a pinch, this knock-off Chinese diesel heater looks and operates remarkably similar to the name brands for the cheapest possible price point. However, you still get what you pay for and this unit is not without its potential issues. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are a price-savvy DIYer who can diagnose the issues and modify them as needed.

  • Heating Power: 8 KW  (12V)
  • Adjustable Temperature Range: Unlisted
  • Tank Capacity: 5L
  • Fuel Consumption: Unknown


  • Very simple combustion chamber, oil pump, oil filter, air filter, and intake piping
  • Standard aluminum body 
  • Works in negative temperatures
  • Low noise with the ability to adjust the blower speed and silence the fans


  • Super affordable and fairly long-lasting for the price
  • Reliable warming all night long
  • Very low fuel consumption without any noxious fumes


  • Very little installation guidance
  • Lots of error codes may require diagnostics and restarts
  • Cheaply made compared to other options
  • No customer support

Winter camping in a van can feel very cozy

Key Takeaways: Chinese Diesel Heaters are a Toss Up, But Quality Customer Support Helps

The overall reviews for Chinese diesel heaters in van conversions are very mixed. Some people have a great budget-friendly experience, while others go through a nightmare of problems, error codes, modifications, and diagnostics. 

Personally, I recommend the Espar for long-term van life. But if you only plan to live in your van for a short amount of time or use it on vacations, a Chinese diesel heater is an awesome cheap alternative!

The key is to look for a brand that actually provides customer service, such as Happybuy or Bestauto. More importantly, don’t expect the installation instructions to be of much help. This project will require some gusto and YouTube research to get it right! But you’re a DIY van lifer, so I know you’ve got the persistence part covered 🙂 

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Logan Hailey is a writer, natural wellness educator, and full-time van lifer. A nomad at heart, she has lived on the road for 5 years and counting, first in a DIY skoolie and now in her self-converted Sprinter van. She is passionate about living in harmony with nature and creating off-grid van vessels to enjoy the beauty of wild places. Keep up with her adventures on Instagram (@naturallylogan), TikTok, and YouTube.

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