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So you decided that you want to build a van and travel the world. You can taste the freedom. Waking up every morning to a new view, hitting the road in hopes of finding new places to visit, and being on no one’s time schedule except your own. It’s quite the dream and you’ve decided that you want in on it. But first, you need to start saving up money, and part of that is learning how much to save. To know that you need to know what van you want to convert and how much it will cost to convert a van into a campervan.
We are now building our third Camper van, moving from a 1996 dodge B2500, 2008 Sprinter Van, and now a 2019 Ford Transit van. Each van served different types of travel and each build looked completely different. However, the core items and their prices have stayed the same.
When it comes to your van build, you can have a simple build for less than $1000 or up to $20,000 in supplies. To figure out how much it cost to convert a van or YOUR van you can run through this list and decide which items are important to you and which ones are a must-have in your campervan. Read on to help you tally up your van conversion cost!
Solar & Electrical Cost
Solar is arguably one of the most important and expensive parts of the cost to convert a van. Your solar will give you the ability to have a running refrigerator, electric water pump, a ceiling fan, and most importantly will charge your phone battery. Although there are plenty of people who survive in a van without solar, it is not something I recommend. Having a solar system gives you so much freedom and makes your van feel more like home.
Solar can range from $100 up to $20,000. However, what I recommend is somewhere in the middle. I recommend Renogy solar as it is a well known solar company that the majority of vanlifers use.
I cannot tell you exactly what solar setup to get or how much you will need. This all depends on what you will be running inside of your van and how often you will be running it. However, I can tell you what we have and how much it cost us.
|100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel (3)||$345|
|Solar Y Branch Connectors MMF+FFM Pair||$26|
|SOLAR CONNECTOR WATERPROOF IN-LINE FUSE HOLDER W/ FUSE (20 Amp)||$18|
|BT-2 Bluetooth Module||$40|
|DCC50S 12V 50A DC-DC On-Board Battery Charger with MPPT||$300|
|2000W 12V Pure Sine Wave Inverter||$300|
|Deep Cycle AGM Battery 12 Volt 200Ah||$399|
|Deep Cycle AGM Battery 12 Volt 100Ah||$235|
|Marine Grade 12/2 Wiring||$65|
|Total (w/o shipping and tax)||$1828|
Kitchen Appliances Cost
Your kitchen is another part of your build that is going to be more expensive than others. Your kitchen is likely the heart of your van and the parts that are going to make your experience one way or another. For us, we knew that we loved to cook so we had to make the kitchen a priority. Although in the beginning, we went with a 110V fridge and an induction stovetop, we ended up upgrading later down the road.
If possible I recommend spending the money now instead of having to upgrade when it isn’t as convenient. For example, we had an upright 110V fridge that went out on us one day. Since we didn’t want to spend $1000 on an upright 12V fridge we went with a chest style refrigerator that had to be put in between the seats. This left a huge hole in our kitchen which we had to remodel.
|Stovetop or Oven||$50-1000|
|Water Storage||$20- $75|
|Total (w/o tax and shipping)||$705- $3265|
12V Fridge – When it comes to campervan 12V Fridges, you have options. From a lower end Aplicool or high-end Dometic, there is a fridge for everyone’s budget. For us, we went somewhere in the middle. We loved our 45-quart Costway, so in our second build, we opted for a bigger version coming in 58 Quarts. For more information on a campervan, refrigerators check out my post on The top 12V Vanlife Refrigerator Options.
Van life Stove – For our first build we ended up with a Flame King two-burner stove but for our second build we will be doing a Dometic Oven. There are many stove and oven options to consider which is why you should do your research and decide how much room you have in your van before deciding on a stove or oven.
Propane – Unless you are doing a portable stove or an induction burner then you will need propane. Depending on the size it will cost $20-$500 for the first purchase of the tank. Then after that, it usually costs between $10 and up depending on the cost of propane at the time. I recommend getting the standard 20lb tank that you can swap at most hardware stores, Walmarts, or gas stations.
Sink/Faucet – Your sink and faucet mostly come down to space, budget, and aesthetics. I wanted a large sink and a faucet with a water filter spigot. I made this a priority and found one that checked those boxes without breaking the budget.
Water Pump/Filter – We chose to have an electric water pump and a water filter. Often we are getting water from campsites or free areas and we want our water to taste the same and be healthy for our bodies. We also store our water in plastic containers and don’t love that taste so for both builds we opted for a water filter. Learn more on my campervan water and plumbing guide.
Campervan fan – A fan is an absolute must in your campervan. From keeping you cool to circulating air when you are cooking, it is one of the most important items you can purchase. This is why we went with the only fan we really recommend which is the Maxxair fan. Read more about campervan fans in this guide.
Your bedroom will hopefully be one of the simpler parts of the build. Depending on which style of build you go with, you might only need a mattress and bedding. If you are opting for a convertible couch/bed then you will need a few more items such as a Lagun table to make it functional.
|Total (w/o tax and shipping)||$500-$2050|
Cushions/Mattress – Depending on your layout you will likely need to purchase a mattress for your bed and/or cushions if you have a seating area. If you are doing a table/bed conversion then you will only need to purchase the cushions or mattress and cut it into the appropriate cushion sizes. To see the mattress we chose, check out our post all about campervan mattresses.
Lagun Table – If you are going to have a seating area of any kind, you might consider having a Lagun table. A Lagun Table is a piece of framing that is removable. So anytime you don’t need a table you can easily store the table.
Insulation and Subfloor Cost
Camper Insulation is another part of your van you can spend a little or you can spend a lot. For our first van, we opted for foam board, 3M Thinsulate, and spray foam (in the cracks), and for our Ford Transit, we did Foam Board on the floor and professional Spray foam on the walls and ceiling. This means insulation can cost you anywhere from $200 to $2000. The below budget does include your campervan subfloor which includes 1 inch XPS insulation, 2x2s, and glue.
|1/2 inch plywood||$60-80|
|1 inch XPS Insulation||$40|
|Total (w/o tax and shipping)||$436- $2156|
Roof Rack and Deck
Having a roof rack was always part of my vanlife dream. Sitting on top of our van at night staring at the stars or watching the sunset across the bay while enjoying a cold beer atop the van was a must. It wasn’t until we researched and learned how much roof racks were that we decided that it would simply have to wait.
So although I definitely think a roof rack is a beautiful part of vanlife, I don’t think its a necessary one.
Now that being said, depending on the roof of your van, you might need to add a DIY rack on top to be able to securely add your solar panels without drilling into the roof of your van unnecessarily.
|Unistrap ( cross bars and roof rails)||$220|
|Body blocks for roof risers||$35|
|Steel straps for connecting unistrap||$15|
|Misc Parts: Nuts and bolts||$26|
|Total (w/o tax and shipping)||$554|
Van Build Materials and Tools
The rest of the van build cost is wrapped up in tools, wood, brackets, screws, nails, and other materials. This list is not inclusive and probably doesn’t include everything.
This list includes tools you don’t have to have to build your van, it just makes it easier. You can get away with less, it’s just about what you are comfortable using and not using. Even my total at the bottom could go even lower depending on what tools you decide you use.
|Wall and Ceiling Material||$60-$500|
|Misc Parts (hinges, screws, nails, etc)||$50-$300|
|Wood for Cabinets, Framing, and Bed||$300-$10,000|
|Total (w/o tax and shipping)||$747-11,800+|
Drill – When you are converting an entire van into a home, it’s important to start with a good drill. You are often going to be drilling into metal inside your van which means you need a solid drill with lots of power. This is why we recommend
Jigsaw – There will be a LOT of cutting involved when you are building out your campervan. This is why you most definitely need a Jigsaw. A jigsaw will allow you to easily cut wood or metal for your conversion.
Wall and Ceiling Material – Your walls and ceiling can range from something as low priced as plywood or beadboard for $20 a slab or up to $600 for cedar planks. It’s all up to you in what you want it to look like at the end and your budget! In our Sprinter, we used beadboard for our walls and shiplap pine on the ceiling. Our van build ceiling was my absolute favorite thing about our Sprinter and don’t regret spending the extra money!
Flooring – If you install your campervan flooring correctly, it’s possible to only need a few boxes which can be less than $100 depending on your flooring choice. I recommend only putting down your subfloor and then only putting in vinyl flooring in the places that will be showing. This way it is easier to access if you want to change it out or if something goes wrong.
Table Saw – A table saw can really come in handy when beginning the carpentry section of your van. With our Sprinter van, we were able to get away with just using a chop saw and a jigsaw. It’s totally doable and you don’t need to spend the money on a table saw. However, on our Transit build, we have had a table saw and it has been so much easier with that tool.
Wood for Framing and Cabinets – The amount of wood you use is so discretionary to your own build that it is almost impossible to price out for someone else. You can go with cheap plywood for the framing, walls, and cabinets if you wanted or you can hire someone for your cabinets for up to $10,000. My advice is to put money where it matters the most.
Total Cost to Convert a Van
At the end of the day, you could convert a van for a few hundred dollars. It really depends on YOUR needs and what you want inside of your campervan. For the low end and high end that I have listed below, I included all the things I personally would want inside my van even if I was doing a super budget build. This doesn’t mean that you can’t find ways to cut corners even more such as borrowing tools, shopping deals, and finding used items.
*This price still includes some items that are 100% necessary so don’t be discouraged if you don’t have 4k to spend on a build. Take a look at this list and start figuring out the items you don’t want or need and make a budget! You could also do the same for the high-end budget. There are so many builds that have cost way more than this! This is just an estimate of things that I would consider important when looking at the cost to convert a van into a campervan.
Now that you know your overall budget needed for your van, you can begin to save money for vanlife! What do you think, will you be on the high end or low end of the cost to convert a van?