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What should go in first, ceiling insulation and ceiling, or the fantastic fan?
Ceiling and insulation. It should be finished however you plan. Then put the fan in. The fan comes with a flange trim piece that covers the edge of the hole when you cut and install.
I think about this question too. I've never done it yet, and I know TMG's response is the S.O.P., but I wonder about:

1) Cutting metal cleanly is so much easier when nothing is in the way, such as insulation and ceiling liner,
2) Obvious answer is to cut from above, but on some high roof vans this is either difficult access or person's weight can damage roof,
3) spacing/placement is easier and more accurate if you can see the metal, ribs, etc,
4) wiring easier to hide before ceiling/insulation

How do the popular fans adjust for ceiling thickness? If its just basically two pieces that slide together inside and out, then I'd think installing the fan first, then remove interior trim side, insulate and put up ceiling, might be the better option in some cases?
You just trim the depth piece of the flange depending how thick your ceiling is. If you feel it's easier, you could cut a hole and install the fan without the flange, insulate and finish it off, then trim the flange and add it after.
If I were able to do it over again, the vent and fan would go in first before I finished the ceiling.

I did the finished ceiling first, leaving the square roughed in for the fan which worked just fine. However, I was a tad little off on the dimensions of the trim ring that came with the vent. Okay, I thought the trim ring was square cornered and it wasn't... Rolleyes 

I now have a very nice ceiling with square corner cutouts which arent' covered by the nicely rounded trim rings.

If you really want to finish the ceiling panels first, then at least have the vent on hand so that you can make sure that the trim ring covers the edge of the ceiling panels.

In my case, the only do-over that I might be able to fix it with are: a) an older trim ring when they were squared off at the corners or b) whole new ceiling panels which were tricky enough to do the first time and are covered in closed cell foam under the vinyl...It ain't gonna happen!
I cut the fan hole with everything in place.  

But I have 40+ years running power tools. (And the scars to prove it.)

First I drilled all the way through on the corners so I had the exact location. 

I attached a bag under the hole so all the dust went into it.  

I cut the headliner in an X,  then trim to fit after the hole is cut.