If you're thinking of purchasing a van and converting it into a comfortable living space that you can travel in, whether it be solo or with family & friends, then you're probably wondering how much you are likely to spend.
The short answer here is that this is not a cheap project, and like most things in life, you get what you pay for.
At a high level, I'll tell you that my first van build costed about $25k (not including the van) plus hundreds of hours of my time. This is for a full-time adventure rig that I can stand in, cook in, shower in, and even go to the washroom in.
This leads me to the most important part... What are all the elements that can affect the final cost of a van conversion and how can you keep costs down? Let's dig in...
If you are doing the work yourself I think having a $20-40K budget for the buildout will get you a really nice build. However, if you plan on hiring a professional upfitter, I would say your budget needs to start closer to the $50,000 mark.
Over the last couple of years, I've seen professional builders range in price from $125,000 - $250,000 (Vehicle Included). And the vehicle, if it's a sprinter van, is in the $50k-70k range. Of course, the final product you get on either end of this range will be var different.
One thing to consider if you're working with a professional builder, is if your build is a totally custom design or is it a package that the builder repeatedly builds over and over? As a builder does a style of van over and over, they get faster and more efficient with their time, materials, and processes that allows them to pass along some of these savings to you.
Choosing your van will come down to a few deciding factors... Here are just a few things to consider:
The most commonly used vans in the U.S. vanlife space are:
Of course there are other brands and some that are far more affordable. But if you're looking to be able to stand, walk around, cook, and sleep in your van, these are the most common brands in the space.
Whether you're a DIYer and building out your own van, or you're hiring a professional, the materials used inside your van will hugely impact the overall cost of the build. Some of the factors here are:
One thing to note is that while some builders will continue to charge a premium fee for their builds, they don't all necessarily use the same high quality materials. Be sure to understand what materials are being used to build your van interior.
There's an assortment of appliances that Vanlifers choose to include in their vans. For some, certain items are deal breakers while others are low on the priority list. These are all things you need to decide for yourself, with the understanding that they will greatly impact the cost of your van:
There is an endless list of gear that can be included in your camper van, depending on your needs and budget. You may even find yourself adding items over time as you experience life on the road and learn what matters most to you.
So as you can see, it's a massive spread in what you can expect to spend on a build. One thing I’ve always tried to keep in mind is that the vehicle costs is what it is… The materials cost is what it is (generally speaking)… The main difference between a quality build and a hack job is experience, patience and time. Just because you can buy all the same parts as a professional upfitter doesn't mean it will end up looking the same as a professional build.
Hopefully this article gives you an idea of all the factors that play into the overall cost of a camper van conversion. It's up to you to decide what your must-haves vs nice-to-haves are and go from there.
For a deeper budget breakdown of my first van build, feel free to check out this free budget breakdown.