Seattle-Based Peace Vans Rents, Repairs, Renovates, and Electrifies Camper Vans
The Company has a Simple Goal—Make People Happy
You know that giddy feeling you get whenever you’re about to embark on a camping trip? That’s the feeling that the team at Peace Vans hopes to evoke in their customers on a daily basis. The Seattle-based company specializes in repairing, restoring, and renting camper vans, but its real mission is to make people happy. Something it does by offering excellent customer service, a sense of community, and a passion for adventure.
From Struggling Garage to Booming Business
Located in Seattle’s SoDo business district, Peace Vans began its life as a repair shop that worked almost exclusively on classic vans. In 2013, the small establishment found itself struggling to keep its doors open, with the owner preparing to shut it down. When VW Vanagon enthusiast Harley Sitner—a regular customer at the shop—heard that it was closing, he offered to buy the place. Sitner saw potential in the business, and he had some ideas on how he could make it successful.
Early on, Sitner and his crew of mechanics focused on making Peace Vans the best specialty repair shop in the Pacific Northwest. Soon, its reputation grew beyond the region, attracting customers from across the country. They came looking for exceptional service and attention to detail. The vast majority left with a smile on their face—both happy and satisfied.
By 2016, the company had transformed into a bonafide success story, fulfilling its mission of providing top-notch service and spreading happiness amongst its customers. It was about that time that Peace Vans branched out into the rental business, launching the service with a small fleet of four camper vans.
Expanding into Rentals
For years, Sitner and his team had been fielding requests from travelers to borrow a van for use on Pacific Northwest road trips, so expanding into rentals seemed like a natural progression. The company even offers travelers some suggested itineraries, sharing hidden campsites and off-the-beaten-path attractions. Naturally, it didn’t take long for the service to become a hit with customers.
Today, the Peace Vans rental fleet has grown to more than 20 vehicles consisting of VW Vanagons, Sprinters, and Mercedes Metris. Most models come equipped with small kitchens complete with refrigerator, sink, and two-burner stove. Some have pop-up roof tents that serve as sleeping quarters, along with beds located inside the cabin itself. An onboard battery pack provides electricity for recharging devices and powering an HVAC system. Pots, pans, dishes, and clean linens are all included, allowing customers to pick up their van and hit the road as quickly as possible.
Each of the rental vans has also received extensive upgrades to make them road trip-ready. All of the engines have been overhauled, and the coolant and fuel systems have been replaced with modern equivalents. The vans also have upgraded suspensions, along with revamped electrical wiring. This has made the 30+-year-old vehicles more efficient and reliable while exploring Seattle and beyond.
Filling a Niche
In 2017—a year after launching its rental business—Peace Vans expanded into vehicle sales by unveiling a camper van of its own. Built on the Mercedes Metris platform, the Peace Vans Modern Weekender is a spiritual successor to the much-loved Vanagon. The Weekender strives to be a vehicle that can serve as a daily driver—including fitting nicely inside a garage—while doubling as a camper when owners are looking for an adventurous escape.
The Weekender’s design includes a versatile rear seat for eating meals, working remotely, or as a gathering point when it’s time to relax. The bench-style seat folds flat, creating a bed that adds additional sleeping space to compliment the pop-top roof tent. When needed, a table conveniently attaches to the base but quickly stows out of the way when not in use. Dual sliding doors allow plenty of airflow, while an external awning and a raised suspension are optional upgrades.
The Modern Weekender fills a niche in the camper van market and seems to have struck a chord with customers. Sales have been so brisk that in 2020 Mercedes named Peace Vans its official camper van partner. The company now builds and helps distribute the Metris-based RV throughout North America, spreading happiness far and wide.
As if repairing and restoring vintage vans, building the Weekender, and renting campers weren’t enough, Peace Vans has added another service to its resume. The company now offers electric conversions of VW Vanagons, removing the old internal-combustion engine and replacing it with an electric motor.
Each conversion is a custom build that installs a 96-volt, 71-horsepower motor generating 120 feet-pounds of torque. Using the same batteries found in Tesla EVs, the electric van has a minimum range of at least 100 miles. Larger battery packs can extend the driving distance further based on the owner’s needs and budget. Don’t expect to beat the new electric VW ID Buzz to market, however, as Peace Vans says, the process takes roughly 9-12 months to complete.
Despite juggling plenty of projects and activities, the Peace Vans team continues to explore new opportunities. The company has started dipping its toe into the travel market by organizing small-group photography expeditions to the Olympic Coast. The five-day itinerary takes travelers along stunning coastlines and into lush rainforests, exploring a remote and vast wilderness in the process.
The trip includes overnight camping, expert advice and instruction from professional photographers, and plenty of tall tales around the campfire. Both beginner and advanced photographers are welcome, with a schedule of activities designed to appeal to a broad audience. As you would expect, travelers can bring their own camper or rent one from Peace Vans.
Each of these various endeavors comes back to the Peace Vans’ stated mission—to make people happy. Whether it’s restoring a customer’s vintage Vanagon or helping a traveler explore the Pacific Northwest in a rental model, the company’s business revolves around spreading happiness. And right now, business is very, very good.