Best Van Water Tanks – DIY Van Life Water Tanks

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Your water tank is the heart of your van water system and will likely be the first choice you make in your van water setup.

I spent nearly a year living in my van full-time and know the importance of a quality water system.

In this roundup, we’ll go over how to size your water tank and the various other things you’ll want to take into consideration. Barker water tanks are our favorite fixed water tank, but if you’re looking for a portable setup then Scepter water jugs work great.

We’ll provide various “best of” recommendations based on your priorities and your budget.

Let’s go.

Our Best Van Water Tanks

Water refill stations can be found easily

Types of Tanks

There are three types of water tanks you’ll come across:

  • Blue Water Tank – Also known as a “Fresh water tank”, this is the water you’ll use for drinking, brushing your teeth, cooking, showering, etc.
  • Grey Water Tank – This is the runoff water that collects from doing dishes, the water that goes down the drain of your sink and/or your shower.
  • Black Water Tank – This is wastewater from using the bathroom. Very few vans other than the most expensive ones will have a dedicated black water tank and because of this, we don’t review those here. The vast majority of van lifers will use something like the Dometic 967 Portable Toilet that has its own attached black water tank. Check out our guide on best cassette toilets for van life.

Water Tank Reviews

Here are our reviews for the best van water tanks.

Barker Tanks – Best Fixed Water Tank

  • Type: Fixed
  • Size: 12-30 gallons
  • Placement: Interior or Exterior

Barker manufactures our choice for best fixed water tank.

These tanks mount on the interior or exterior (usually underslung) of your van and come in 12, 15, 20, 26, and 30 gallons.

This tank is a popular choice for many van lifers and for either blue or grey water.

Class A Customs – Best Budget Fixed Water Tank

  • Type: Fixed
  • Size: 5-75 gallons
  • Placement: Interior or Exterior

Class A Customs makes our top choice for best budget fixed water tank.

Like Barker tanks, these mount on the interior or exterior of the vehicle. They come in over thirteen sizes ranging from 5-75 gallons and for blue or grey water.

Class A Customs is a US-based company.

Northwest Conversions – Best Wheel Well, Best Space-Conserving Water Tanks

  • Type: Fixed
  • Size: 20-36 gallons
  • Placement: Interior

Northwest conversions make our top choice for best wheel well water tanks.

These tanks fit over the wheel well of your van, conserving the most interior space. This space is often difficult to make use of because of the odd shape around the wheel well so this is a great way to kill two birds with one stone.

You can order these tanks in sizes of 20, 22, 24, 28, 33, and 36 gallons.

Scepter Water Jugs – Best Portable Water Tank

  • Type: Portable
  • Size: 5 gallons
  • Placement: Interior

These Scepter water jugs are super durable and are our choice for best portable water tank.

I use very similar jugs in my van water system. One for my grey water and one for my blue water, with a spare filled blue water jug in the back. This way I can change them out between refills.

Five gallons is enough to provide a couple of days worth of water for me per jug and isn’t too heavy to carry.

Reliance Water Jugs – Best Budget Portable Water Tank

  • Type: Portable
  • Size: 7 gallons
  • Placement: Interior

These jugs are a bit more affordable than the Scepter water jugs and have a bit more capacity. They’re not as durable though.

The form factor of these jugs is a bit wider so take that into account when planning your water system setup.

All-in-all they’re a popular budget setup for van lifers.

AQUATANK2 Bladder – Best Bladder Water Tank

  • Type: Portable
  • Size: 60 gallons
  • Placement: Interior or Exterior

This bladder tank is more of a backup solution than a main water tank. When empty this can fit into your glove box but can fill to hold 60 gallons of fresh water.

Moving 60 gallons of water is no easy feat. This tank is “portable” insofar as it’s easily moved when empty but needs to be secured before filling.

You could use one of the more permanent water tanks above for daily use and keep one of these on hand for when you need the extra water capacity.

WaterStorageCube – Best Collapsible Water Tank

  • Type: Portable
  • Size: 1.3-5.3 gallons
  • Placement: Interior

Like the bladder above, this is less likely to be a water tank for daily use and more of a backup water tank.

These tanks collapse down for easy and convenient storage when not in use. But you can fill them up for those situations when you know you’ll be needing extra water. They come in 1.3, 2.6, and 5.3 gallons.

Camco Rhino – Best Portable Grey Water Tank

  • Type: Portable
  • Size: 26 gallons
  • Placement: Interior

The Scepter and Reliance water jugs, along with the Barker and Class A Customs fixed tanks, can all work as grey water tanks. This tank is our best dedicated portable grey water tank.

It holds 26 gallons which is a hefty amount for grey water and is portable, making it easier to dump.

Water Tank Buying Guide

Your water tanks are the heart of your water system and there are a variety of things to consider before making your purchase.


The optimal size of your water tanks will depend on these factors:

  • How much water do you use?
  • How long do you want to go between refilling your tanks?

How much water will you use?

The water you pull from your blue water tanks will go towards:

  • Drinking water (reserve at least a half-gallon of water per person per day – more for hot climates)
  • Washing Dishes
  • Cooking
  • Washing your hands
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Taking a shower (if you choose to have one in your van)
  • Plus anything specific to your situation such as if you have pets

If you’re completely lost spend a few days monitoring how much water you’re using in your regular day-to-day life. There are inventive ways to save water but this will give you a baseline.

How long do you want to go between refilling your tanks?

If you’ll be spending a lot of your van life time moving around you’ll find a ton of places to refill water. Several of the more popular van life apps show the nearest water refill station. You can read more about these apps in our ultimate beginner’s guide to van life.

If you’ll have consistent access to water and the refill process isn’t overly frustrating, you might decide that you’re okay with only having a few days worth of water at any given time. If you plan to be boondocking out on public land for two weeks at a time, this is going to require larger tanks.

If you decide to go with a large water tank, be sure that it includes baffles to prevent water from sloshing back and forth too much while you’re driving.

My van water tank setup (excluding the extra blue water tank in the garage)


Where you place the tanks in your van is vital for proper weight distribution and access for refilling.

Internal vs External Mounting

Many tanks can mount internally or externally and they both come with their own list of pros and cons.

Mounting a tank externally preserves space inside the van. This is usually built into a more robust van water system, meaning that you can refill it via an external water inlet.

The problem with mounting a tank externally is that it can freeze if you plan to do winter camping. There are some ways to mitigate the tank from freezing, but it’s always a risk. Mounting tanks internally avoids this but takes up precious space.


Water is heavy. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds. This matters for a variety of reasons.

Your vehicle has a maximum payload that cannot be exceeded. The more weight you have in your van the lower your fuel efficiency.

Additionally, the displacement of this weight is important. Your vehicle will not handle properly if all the weight is on one side of the van.

Many van lifers will put their battery bank system on one side of the van and their water tanks on the other. Others will have two water tanks and place one on each side.

The general rule of thumb is to place your water tanks as low as possible and distribute the weight as evenly as you can. This means even distribution left-to-right and front-to-back.

Refilling Access

Placement is important when considering how you will refill your tanks. If your tanks are fixed you’ll need to drive your van right up to the water refill station to refill. If you choose portable tanks, this is less of an issue as you can carry them, but remember again that water is heavy.

Get in the habit of taking advantage of refilling water where you can


Water tanks primarily come in two different materials: plastic and stainless steel.

Plastic tanks are the most popular option with van lifers because stainless steel is heavy. And for the reasons discussed above, you should limit the weight. That said, some people have strong feelings about drinking from plastic and insist on stainless steel.

When choosing a plastic tank, always ensure that it’s BPA-free, food-grade plastic. This avoids harmful chemicals from seeping into your water.

Monitoring Water Levels

Lastly, you’ll want to consider how you will monitor your water levels once your tanks are set up and you’re using them. With portable tanks, this is usually easy as you can lift it up and/or look inside to determine how much water remains.

When using a fixed water tank you’ll want to use some combination of a float sensor, resistance sensor, and/or water gauge. If you’re ambitious you can check out the Simarine Pico battery monitoring system that also monitors water tank levels.

Our Verdict

That’s everything you need to know to make an informed decision about purchasing a water tank for your van.

Barker makes a great fixed water tank and the Scepter portable tanks are incredibly durable. You can’t go wrong with either based on your setup.

A water tank is only one component of what makes up a much larger water system. Be sure to check out our ultimate guide on van water systems.

Photo of 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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