Are you dreaming of hitting the road and exploring new places in your very own camper van but are worried about the cost of a professionally-built one? With careful planning, creativity, and a willingness to DIY, you can build your camper van on a budget.
Are you dreaming of hitting the road and exploring new places in your very own camper van but are worried about the cost of a professionally-built one? With careful planning, creativity, and a willingness to DIY, you can build your camper van on a budget. This guide will walk you through building your DIY camper van without breaking the bank.
ON THIS PAGE
1. Choosing a Budget Camper Van
Popular Vans for DIY Camper Van Builds
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Budget Van
2. Making a List of Needs and Wants
3. Keeping it Simple and Minimalistic
Toilet and Shower
Solar Power System
4. Using Second-hand and DIY Materials
CHOOSING A BUDGET CAMPER VAN
Choosing the right van is one of the most important decisions you'll make when building a DIY camper van on a budget. While we have already covered the best vans for vanlife, there are certain steps you need to take to ensure you get the best bang for your buck.
Popular Vans for DIY Camper Van Builds
Some of the most popular vans for DIY camper van builds include the Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter. Unfortunately, depending on the configuration, these campers can be quite expensive.
Some budget-friendly options include the Chevy G series, Ford Ecoline, and Dodge RAM. These vans are popular because they offer ample space and can be converted into comfortable living spaces without costing an arm and a leg.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Budget Van
Before you buy a van, it's essential to research its reliability. A quick Google search can help you determine if there are any red flags about vans from that year or any common maintenance issues. Car forums are an excellent resource for finding information about specific vehicles.
Older vans often have more miles, but that doesn't always mean they're a bad choice. Well-maintained, older vans can last 150,000 miles or more, and diesel vehicles can run even longer. However, it's important to be aware that some vans have had their mileage "rolled over," where the odometer shows a lower number than the actual mileage.
Rust can be a significant issue for camper vans, as it dissolves metal and eventually causes structural damage, making the van unsafe to drive. Avoid any vans with visible rust, and be wary of purchasing vehicles from snowy climates, where rust develops more quickly. Be sure to thoroughly inspect any van you're considering for signs of rust.
Maintenance records can give you an idea of any potential issues the van may have and can also help you determine if it's been serviced regularly. When looking for a budget camper van, be sure to ask for maintenance records and thoroughly review them before making a purchase.
MAKING A LIST OF NEEDS AND WANTS
Before starting your camper van conversion, it's important to list your needs and wants. This will help you prioritize your build and ensure you don't overspend on features you don't need.
Your needs are the essential features your camper van must have to meet your basic requirements. Some common needs include a bed, kitchen, bathroom, and power source. Check out our list of 5 van life essentials for more details on the core components of your motorhome.
Your wants are the features that you would like to have in your camper van but are not essential. Some common wants include entertainment features like a TV or Wi-Fi and extra features like a roof rack or bike rack.
By making a list of your needs and wants, you can ensure that you're building a camper van that meets your essential requirements without overspending on non-essential features.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE AND MINIMALISTIC
When building a camper van on a budget, it's important to keep things simple and minimalistic. This helps you save money and makes maintaining and traveling with your camper van easier.
Instead of building a complex bed frame, consider using a platform or foldable bed. You can use foam or an air mattress to make your bed more comfortable. If you’re struggling with your bed, Bearfoot Theory’s Camper Van Bed Ideas is a great piece for inspiration.
Thetford Porta Potti 565E
Thetford Porta Potti Qube 365
Toilet and Shower
If you're on a tight budget, you can skip building a bathroom and opt for portable camping toilets and outdoor showers. The Thetford 565E and Qube 365 are affordable, compact options that can be easily tucked away when not used. Alternatively, you can install a basic composting toilet and a DIY shower system to save money.
We have recenty released an in-depth guide about the vanlife kitchen, mentioning necessary equipment, as well as tips and tricks. To summarize, a kitchen has to have at least 3 components: a fridge, a stove, and a sink.
We suggest using a built-in fridge like the Indel B CR49 instead of a portable cooler, even if you’re on a budget. Our in-depth refrigerator guide weighs all the pros and cons of a 12V fridge vs. a portable cooler, so you can make an informed decision.
Indel B OFF CR 49
Indel B OFF CR 65
Foldable Solar Panel
Foldable Solar Panel
Solar Power System
A solar power system is a great way to power your camper van while off-grid. Renewable energy is a sustainable and budget-friendly power source. If you're concerned about the environment, we recently wrote a blog about making your RV more sustainable with solar power.
Although the initial investment is large, a good solar system will pay itself off in just a year or two. Even a single 400W foldable solar panel can save you hundreds of dollars of shore power fees.
USING SECOND-HAND AND DIY MATERIALS
Using second-hand and DIY materials can help you save significantly when building a camper van on a budget. If you know where to look, you can get many of the materials you need cheaper or even for free.
- Salvage Yards: Look for salvage yards specializing in RV and camper van parts. You can often find used cabinets, sinks, and other fixtures at a fraction of the cost of new ones.
- Online Classifieds: Search online classifieds like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for used RV and camper van parts.
- Friends and Family: Ask your friends and family if they have any spare materials you can use for your camper van conversion.
Plywood: Plywood is a versatile material that can be used for walls, flooring, and cabinets. It's relatively inexpensive and easy to work with.
Pallet Wood: Pallet wood can be used to create a rustic look for your camper van. You can use it for walls, flooring, and even furniture.
PVC Pipes: PVC pipes can be used to create a simple and inexpensive plumbing system for your camper van.
You can save money and create a unique, personalized camper van using second-hand and DIY materials. Remember, it's not about having the fanciest materials but rather about creating a comfortable and functional space on a budget.
The key to building a budget camper van is to keep things simple and minimalistic. Focus on your needs rather than your wants, and choose second-hand and DIY materials whenever possible. By doing so, you can save money and create a camper van that is comfortable and functional.
Don't forget to enjoy the journey. Building a camper van is a labor of love, and the process can be just as rewarding as the finished product. So take your time, enjoy the process, and create a camper van that reflects your personality and sense of adventure.
You want to save money on labor. Arguably the most important reason to build your own Tiny House RV – to save money! Labor can cost almost (if not more) than materials. If you do the work yourself, you can save BIG on the overall cost.Is it cheaper to build your own camper? ›
You want to save money on labor. Arguably the most important reason to build your own Tiny House RV – to save money! Labor can cost almost (if not more) than materials. If you do the work yourself, you can save BIG on the overall cost.What is the easiest van to convert into a camper? ›
The Sprinter Van is by far the most popular van for camper van conversions. Sprinter vans are durable, versatile, and most are built as cargo vans so their interiors are highly customizable.What is the average cost of converting a van into a camper? ›
A typical modern campervan conversion usually costs between $5,000-$20,000 dollars. This is usually enough to build a comfortable DIY campervan with basic home-like comforts.How much does it cost to build a van home yourself? ›
DIY van conversions tend to cost between $10,000 and $50,000 not including the van itself, depending on materials used and components included.Is it cheaper to buy a camper van or convert one? ›
The issue with conversion vans is that they are cheaper when you initially buy them, but you will now have to spend money on the conversion process. There are always ways to save money, but you'll have to remember that the price of the van is only one cost you'll have to consider.Is it cheaper to convert a van to a camper? ›
Although the upfront costs might still raise some eyebrows, buying a van and converting it should be much cheaper than buying a ready-made campervan. To make sure you don't spend over the odds, set yourself a clear budget.What is the cheapest way to power a camper van? ›
Solar panels harness electricity from the sun to charge the deep-cycle battery in your campervan. This is the easiest and most efficient way to power your campervan electrics.How hard is it to convert your own campervan? ›
Building a camper van is not too tricky however it can take a little time. Doing so is more affordable than purchasing another van. You can either go with no frills or decide on the most delightful enhancements around. Some people who like to travel like an approach that strikes the perfect harmony between the two.How fast can you build a camper van? ›
If you dedicate time and effort to every step, you'll wind up with a high-quality, comfortable van that's customized to your needs. While most van builds will take between three and 12 months, this is just an estimate; for some owners, it can take up to two or even three years.
Converted Buses Are Cheaper than Buying New RVs
It's pretty cheap to buy a used bus, and converting it yourself will definitely save you money. While there are a lot of hidden expenses in the conversion of a bus, it still saves you money in comparison to a newer RV.
- Step 1: Set a budget. A high quality van conversion can be pricey. ...
- Step 2: Find your van. Our chosen Peugeot Boxer for our van conversion. ...
- Step 3: Arrange insurance. ...
- Step 4: Design your layout. ...
- Step 5: Buy as much equipment as possible! ...
- Step 6: Cut holes in your van. ...
- Step 7: Install seats (optional) ...
- Step 8: Lay the floor.
So if you're wondering “Do I need to register my van as a campervan?”, the answer is no. However, some campervanners choose to register their conversions as campervans anyway, as it can save money on insurance and travel costs!How much does it cost to build an off grid van? ›
A professional van conversion typically starts right around $30,000 for a minimal interior build. That does not include the price of the van. Typically, a professional van conversion company will charge $100,000+ plus for their campervan buildouts.Is van life cheaper than a house? ›
Generally it is cheaper to live in a campervan, but it just depends on how you spend your money. If you like to cook your own meals, are in an area where you can camp for free and don't drive 200 miles each day, it will most likely be cheaper to live in a campervan.Why are camper vans so expensive now? ›
Supply Chain Crisis Drives Up Material Costs
At the same time, the supply of essential materials like lumber and copper is not enough to meet demands, which drives up prices. These materials, along with solar power and appliances with microchips, are commonly used in converted vans.
Van conversion will usually be on a longer wheelbase (up to 6.5m) than a pop-top campervan and definitely won't fit under car park height barriers, as they will all have high roofs. There is at least one manufacturer that offers a van conversion with a high roof and a pop-up roof to add extra sleeping capacity.Where to start converting a van to camper? ›
- Step 1 - Stripping and cleaning out. ...
- Step 2 - Windows and ventilation. ...
- Step 3 - Roof. ...
- Step 4 - Insulation and heating. ...
- Step 5 - Electric and gas systems. ...
- Step 6 - Plumbing and water. ...
- Step 7 - Lights. ...
- Step 8 - Bed and seating.
Ford Transit - Combining versatility, practicality, and sturdiness, the Ford Transit remains a top choice for van/campervan conversions. Being a Ford, they are easy to drive, often inexpensive to run, and are a great choice for any first-time campervan owner.Can you save money living in a camper van? ›
If you live thoughtfully, you can absolutely save money while living in an RV, even while traveling. But, if you're the kind of person who wants to stay at luxury RV parks and spend money on food and experiences, you might find it just as pricey (if not more so) than stationary life. There's no right or wrong here.
While you usually can't live out of a campervan in one spot indefinitely, you can move around to different “legal” spots. And for many people the freedom to move around is one of the big perks of the lifestyle. So in this guide, we will help you understand where you can legally live in a camper van or RV.Do I need an inverter in a camper van? ›
A camper inverter works by converting the power in your leisure batteries from DC to AC. You will need to use an inverter to use any products that require an AC current (typically those which have a 3 pin plug attached to them).How can I power my RV without hookups? ›
- Charge with the Vehicle's Battery. ...
- Charge with Portable Power Stations. ...
- Charge with Solar. ...
- Mounted Panels vs Solar Suitcase. ...
- Charge with a Generator.
An inverter takes 12-volt DC power from your RV batteries and electronically changes it to 120-volt AC. Some RVers use an inverter just to watch TV or for their personal computer. Other RVers use an inverter to operate microwaves, coffee pots or other larger appliances.How do you insulate a campervan? ›
If you don't have the time or budget to go with sheep's wool, we recommend using polyiso foam board or XPS foam board to insulate your camper van. Polyiso has the highest R-value per inch (R-6) of any common insulation, it's non-toxic, easy to work with, and isn't terribly expensive.Do I need a roof fan in my campervan? ›
It has been said before, but unless you are building a 60 Sq Ft rolling mold farm then you must incorporate a roof vent fan into your Campervan Ventilation System. The addition of a roof vent fan to your build will assist with airflow and in turn, help regulate temperatures and minimize condensation inside your van.Can you make money flipping camper vans? ›
In this case, you'd have to sell it for at least $60,000 just to break even. Finding a buyer will be hard, especially when someone can buy a slightly newer model for this same price. Making a significant profit will be even more difficult. For the time, work, and money you put in, flipping RVs is often not worth it.How many miles can you put on a camper van? ›
Owners who regularly use their RV or motorhome may expect a lifespan of around 200,000 miles. That being said, you could increase your RV or motorhome's lifespan up to 300,000 miles, on average, as long as the driving conditions are not unduly arduous and you maintain it in good condition.What is the best time of year to buy a camper van? ›
You'll generally find the best time to buy an RV is during late fall and winter. Fewer people shop during this period, and less competition means you'll have more negotiating power. You can also find bargains right before a new RV model is released, when gas prices are up, and at RV trade shows.Are camper vans in high demand? ›
High Cost and a Bleak Economic Outlook Hamper Demand
The Campervan (Camper Van) Market has been experiencing rapid demand and adoption across various key applications and end-use sectors in recent years.
Skoolies are expensive
From their tires and brakes all the way up to their windshield wiper motors, buses are expensive to fix. Parts on an older bus can be difficult to find. This means however nice you make the interior, you will be faced with expensive repair bills, often when you least expect them.
You can expect to spend about $20,000 to $30,000 to convert a used school bus into a home on wheels. In addition to conversion costs, there are also costs to consider once you hit the road.Is it cheaper to live in an RV and travel? ›
Living in an RV can be cheaper than traditional home ownership because RVs require less space and utility usage, resulting in lower costs for heating, cooling, and maintenance.What tools do you need to convert a camper? ›
- Tape Measure. Consider the tape measure your new best friend. ...
- Utility Knife. ...
- Drill + Bits. ...
- Circular Saw (otherwise known as a 'Skilsaw') ...
- Straight Edge. ...
- Forstner Bits. ...
- Hole Saw Kit. ...
- Jig Saw.
The most common sizes for converting a enclosed trailer into a camper are five, six, seven and eight feet wide. As far as length, you can get anything from eight to 32 feet. You can also get them customized to be 6 or 7 feet tall (which is what we did).What is a self sufficient camper? ›
It means your RV has a bathroom and tank system for holding water. You don't need any outside sources to operate. A self-contained RV is fabulous to have when boondocking because you won't have to worry about finding a bathroom or worse! Having a self-contained RV makes your camping experience much more enjoyable.What class is a converted camper van? ›
Often called Camper Vans, Class B motorhomes are built using automotive vans or panel trucks. Due to their smaller size, they can conveniently double as your everyday driver. The sleek, modern design of the Class B utilizes every square inch of interior space to pack a whole lot of goodies into a compact area.What is a camper van classified as? ›
For the uninitiated, a camper van is a type of recreational vehicle. It's also the smallest type of motorhome known as a Class B Motorhome. As their name suggests, camper vans are built on a van chassis. This makes them more nimble and fuel efficient than larger Class C or Class A motorhomes.Are conversion vans worth it? ›
If saving money is your primary concern, conversion vans are a great choice. Older ones are very affordable, especially compared to many other vans out there.Is it worth building your own campervan? ›
One of the biggest advantages of building your own camper van has got to be the low cost, especially if you intend to do all the work yourself. If done correctly, you can end up with a tailor-made camper van that's designed around your exact needs, for a fraction of the cost of a factory built camper van.
Those looking to save money long term
All-in-all, once you get everything set up, living off the grid is a cheaper way to live. Renewable energy is cost effective, living off the land makes for lower food bills (but takes more maintenance), and living in a less extravagant home can save you a lot of money, too.
- Identify Your Priorities. Consider your overall layout — it's important to understand where your priorities lie. ...
- Plan Your Layout. ...
- Determine Your Budget. ...
- Find the Right Van. ...
- Figure out Electrical and Wiring. ...
- Remember the Plumbing. ...
- Add Kitchen Appliances. ...
- Consider Flooring, the Ceiling and Walls.
United States. In the US, individuals who lack a permanent address and stable living situation, including vandwellers, are technically considered "homeless". Of the 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles, approximately 25% were living in a vehicle.Where do van lifers get their money? ›
Some van lifers make money as graphic designers and web developers, which can be done from anywhere as can all aspects of digital marketing. One thing to keep in mind is that working as a freelancer is like running your own business in some ways.How much is a van life monthly? ›
To give you a very rough idea of monthly van life costs, some of the van lifers we know spend as little as $800/month while a good number of van lifers we know spend around $1500-$2000/month.What is the downside of Vanlife? ›
You can't park anywhere you like, and sometimes finding a spot can be a problem. Parking in some places may be unwanted or even illegal. Unfortunately, not many cities are van life-friendly, meaning if you get caught sleeping in your van at an inconvenient spot, you may have to pay a penalty.Do you have to pay bills if you live in a van? ›
While a lot of expenses will go down if you switch to living in a van full time, some will stay the same or go up. Important payments like health insurance, or subscription entertainment services like Netflix, will stay the same. Almost anything related to a house, like electricity, natural gas and water, will go down.Is it better to live in a van or RV? ›
Generally speaking, an RV is going to give you much more living and storage space than a van. This allows you to keep more of your things and spread out a bit more, something that can make or break the travel life for some.Is owning an RV lot profitable? ›
RV PARK RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)
According to most sources, you can expect anywhere from a 10% to 20% return on your initial RV park investment. As a result, investors who are hoping to maximize their investment dollars should consider RV park investment a lucrative option.
Can You Turn a Utility Trailer Into a Camper? It's now popular to turn anything on four wheels into a camper, and an enclosed utility trailer is perfect for that! With walls, a ceiling, and empty floor space, you have a blank canvas on which to create your own custom RV.
Tiny homes are more weatherproofed.
Owners can choose what kind of insulation and heating and cooling options suit them and their local climate, whereas RVs are generally not built to be lived in during the winter (though of course, one could tow it somewhere warm).
The total monthly cost for RV living is around $2500 to $5000 per month, depending on the type of RV and lifestyle. Your monthly expenses would likely include gas, food, insurance, electricity, health insurance, phone and internet plans, entertainment, repairs, and maintenance costs.How many campers can you fit on an acre? ›
Assuming the acre is functional in shape, meaning closer to a square than a bowling alley, estimates typically range from 34-40 trailers per acre with no truck cab. The second point to make is that as the land increases in size, the number of trailers that can typically be stored per acre goes up.Is buying a deeded RV lot a good investment? ›
RV lots can be a good investment, but it depends on the location, how long you plan to keep it, and if you can rent it out. If you're only planning to use it for a month or two yearly and you can't rent it out when you're not using it, it's going to be challenging to recoup the costs of the lot.Are RV parks recession proof? ›
RV parks are often considered a recession-proof asset class due to their low operational costs, steady rental income, and tax benefits.Can you hook a camper to a semi-truck? ›
Yes, you can tow a 5th wheel RV trailer with a semi-truck. There are, however, a few things to consider when doing so. First, you'll want to match up the kingpin coupling. This is the part that connects the trailer and the truck.How do I make my RV a permanent home? ›
More lenient zoning requirements allow RVs to be permanent residences if they meet the same housing codes as traditional homes. This includes having sewer access or a septic system, access to fresh water, and possibly even electrical.What is the largest tiny home on wheels? ›
1) The Denali XL (The Largest tiny house on wheels):
The 399-foot living area of this sizeable tiny home on wheels has powered huge windows and high ceilings.
Does a Tiny House Count as an RV? All tiny houses that are built on trailers, (making them tiny houses on wheels), are legally classified as RVs, however, not all tiny houses on wheels are certified as RVs.Is living in an RV cheaper then a house? ›
Living in an RV can be cheaper than traditional home ownership because RVs require less space and utility usage, resulting in lower costs for heating, cooling, and maintenance. Additionally, RV living encourages a simpler and more minimalist lifestyle that can lead to fewer expenses related to possessions.
It is financially smart to live in an RV. Living in an RV means living a lot smaller with a lot less stuff. You have less room for everything – clothes, toys, tools and more saving you a lot of money. Along with less space, you save on utilities and home-improvement projects if you own your home.Does living in an RV actually save money? ›
If you live thoughtfully, you can absolutely save money while living in an RV, even while traveling. But, if you're the kind of person who wants to stay at luxury RV parks and spend money on food and experiences, you might find it just as pricey (if not more so) than stationary life.