How much does it cost to convert a van into a camper van? A complete cost breakdown for every budget

Nate Murphy
How much does it cost to convert a van into a camper?

How much does a van conversion cost? It’s probably the most asked question by anyone thinking of converting a van into a camper. You’ve spent hours scrolling through pictures on Instagram of ordinary cargo vans which have been transformed into a tiny home. But how much does it really cost to make the #vanlife dream a reality?

The answer is that it really depends - and the good news is that it’s possible to convert a van into a camper whatever your budget. The cost of the base van, along with the materials and the finishes you use, will all affect how much it costs you. If you want to build a van that’s fit for full time living, you will probably need to invest more - but it’s definitely possible to build a camper for short trips with just a small budget.

Completing the build yourself instead of hiring a professional will also drastically affect how much you spend. If you are trying to keep costs down, try to do as much of the work as you can yourself. 

Check out this video to see how you can convert a micro camper for as little as $100!

We have put together the costs for three different van builds, to show you that there is an option for every budget. We’ve broken down how you can buy and convert your own camper for as little as $2,000, $6,500 or $20,000.

How to convert a van for under $2,000

Build a $6,500 van conversion

High end $20,000 van build breakdown

Base van costs

Your base van will probably be your biggest expense and is therefore one of the most important purchases you will make. You can buy a used van for as little as $2,000, while new vans start at around $40,000. 

Firstly, it’s important to consider the cost of the van compared to the bill for any possible maintenance that it will need. There’s not much logic in buying a cheap van for $1,000, that needs thousands of dollars worth of repairs later on. Additionally, there are a few things to consider that will affect the cost of buying a used van:

  • Age of the van 
  • Mileage
  • Condition
  • Size

It’s a good idea to decide how often you plan to use your van and work out how far you plan to drive it. Similarly, you should also consider how many people your van will need to accommodate. This will help you choose a base vehicle that’s right for you. 

Check out The best vans for a camper conversion for more help choosing a van.

How to convert a van for under $2,000

If you plan to use your van mainly for weekends away or shorter trips in good weather, then this cost breakdown is an example of how you can build a low-cost camper van that has everything you need. At the same time, it’s also possible to live comfortably full time in a van built for a small budget. It all depends on how many luxuries you want in your van. 

Cost breakdown for a low-cost conversion

*All costs are estimates and will depend on the size of your van.

Insulation $120 

Foil insulation roll is a good low-cost solution for insulation and a vapor barrier in one.

Windows $170

Firstly, choose a window and fitting kit that is the right size for the model of your van. If your van doesn’t already have any windows, it’s worth installing at least one to let some natural light in and see the views! 

Ventilation $60

A basic, non-motorised vent is an affordable way to keep your van ventilated. 

Electrics $440

A simple setup for a low-cost way to power your van:

Floors and walls $150

For a MWB van you can usually expect to spend around $100 on lightweight cladding and $50 on flooring material such as lino.

Materials and fixings $250

Use reclaimed or recycled materials to keep costs down. You can even repurpose old cabinets or furniture to use in your van. You can buy screws, fixings and any new wood that you need from local timber merchants or DIY stores.

  • Plywood / MDF sheets $200
  • Wooden Battens $75
  • Screws and fixtures $25

Check out this budget friendly, upcycled van conversion.

Water $167

A basic setup includes:

  • 20l Fresh Water Tank $30
  • 20l Grey Water Tank $30
  • Sink $49
  • Tap $38
  • 12v Submersible Pump $20

Kitchen $90

You can achieve a basic kitchen setup with a portable camp stove for $30, which uses propane canisters. However, disposable gas canisters are less economical, despite being convenient for occasional use. Adding a 12v Cool box to your van for around $60 will keep food fresh. 

Bathroom $29

A $20 shovel is all you need to use the bathroom in nature! Couple it with a camping shower for $9 and you can stay clean on the road without spending a lot.

Mattress $120

It’s possible to create a custom sized mattress by cutting a $100 foam mattress from IKEA or similar to size. You can sew your own covers with fabric from as little as $20. 

Security $20

A steering wheel lock is a good low-cost visual deterrent. Depending on where you park your van, you might want to invest more in keeping it safe. 

Finishes $160

You can buy paint, tiles and other finishes from local DIY stores. Similarly, check for reclaimed paint merchants in your area for discounts on high-quality paint. 

Budget van conversionInsulation$120Windows$170Ventilation $60Electrics$440Floors and Walls$150Materials$250Water$167Kitchen$90Bathroom$29Mattress$120Security$20Finishes$160Total conversion cost $1,776

Check out this video for an example of a van AND conversion for $2,500 

How to convert a van for $6,500

If you plan to take your van on longer trips, or live in it full time for example, then this cost breakdown for a mid-range conversion will show you exactly how to kit out your van for around $6,500. It’s possible to include all of these home comforts without spending a fortune. 

Cost breakdown for a mid-range conversion

Insulation and sound deadening $520

Most importantly, including sound deadening before you insulate the van will help to make your home more soundproof. 

  • Sound deadening mats $100
  • 30mm Insulation foam board $160
  • 50mm Insulation foam board $140
  • Insulation foil $120

Windows $500

Installing a pair of opening windows is a good option if you plan to spend a lot of time in your van. It’s nice to be able to let some light in on rainy days for example, or open up the windows for fresh air when it's hot. Source a window and fitting kit that is the right size for the model of your van. 

Ventilation $160

A motorised vent will allow fresh air to circulate inside your van and prevent damp. 

Electrics $1,343

Invest more in your electrical setup for full time living. Including a split charge relay gives you the option of charging your batteries as you drive. Great for cloudy days, for instance, when you can’t rely on solar! 

Floors and walls $350

Investing in a hard wearing floor will keep your van from getting damaged over time. A plywood floor topped with vinyl or lino is an excellent solution.  

Materials and fixings $650

In addition, the quality of the materials you buy will affect the overall cost of your build. Try to calculate the amount of wood you will need at the start and shop at local timber merchants for the best deals. Alternatively, buying ready-made units from IKEA can sometimes be more cost effective than building from scratch. 

  • Plywood / MDF sheets $400
  • Wooden Battens $200
  • Screws and fixtures $50

Water $225

Having a larger water tank will allow you to stay off grid for longer.

Kitchen $1,086

For a more permanent kitchen set up, you can install a refillable LPG gas canister and a fixed hob. LPG is widely available and very economical to fill up. Adding a compressor fridge too will be the ultimate luxury.

Bathroom $220

Including a hot shower in your van build will be a game changer. It will make staying clean on the road easy and will mean that you can spend less time at campsites too. 

Heater $160

If you are going to be using the van in cold weather, it’s worth installing a Chinese diesel heater. These copies of big names brands are a lot cheaper, and they do a good job. 

Mattress and Seating $350

Investing in a mattress with a memory foam layer will make your seats and bed even more comfortable. Plus, covering your cushions in a better quality fabric will be more hard-wearing and make them last longer. 

  • Upholstery fabric $150
  • Memory foam mattress $200

Security $179

Depending on the age of your van, you might need to install additional locks or security features to keep it safe. At the same time, fitting a GPS tracker can also offer additional peace of mind. 

Wi-Fi $155

If you plan to work from your van, you can add a Wi-Fi router and signal booster to make sure you always have a good connection. You'll find that there are specific RV Wi-Fi products on the market, but this DIY set up comes at a lower cost. 

Finishes $600

Investing in the details and finishing touches will make your van feel more like a home. 

Mid-range van conversionInsulation$520Windows$500Ventilation $160Electrics$1,343Floors and Walls$350Materials$650Water$225Kitchen$1,086Bathroom$220Heater $160Mattress$350Security$179Wi-Fi$155Finishes$600Total conversion cost $6,498

Watch a full tour of this van conversion, which was completed for $6,500.

How to convert a van for $20,000

Here is the cost breakdown for a dream van conversion. In other words, if you want the ultimate luxury experience, then here’s how much it will cost you. 

Cost breakdown for a high-end conversion

Sound deadening and insulation $650

  • Sound deadening mats $100
  • Thermo van liner $300
  • Thermo fleece $250

Windows $800

To maximise views and light in your van, you could also install windows in the back doors. Additionally, you could install a skylight for cloud spotting or stargazing! Make sure to choose a window and fitting kit that is the right size for the model of your van. 

Ventilation $420

To allow a good circulation of air through your van, you can install two Maxxair motorised vents. Use one vent to draw damp air out of the van, and the second vent to bring fresh air in.

Electrics $3,275

Lithium batteries come with a higher price tag, but you'll find that they are lightweight and can be used to their full capacity. Installing as much solar as possible will mean that you can power all of your devices without worrying that you might run out of power!

Floors and walls $500

Using high quality cladding and flooring will make your van feel completely luxurious.   

Materials and fixings $2,200

Choosing good quality wood for your furniture and worktop will transform your van into a high-end camper. Finally, adding extra details such as edging will give your build a professional touch. 

  • Plywood Sheets $1,000
  • Oak Worktop $600
  • Wooden Battens $200
  • Screws and Fixtures $300

Water $1,364

To save space inside, install custom made water tanks fixed to the underside of your van. Also, another great space saving solution is to purchase a sink with a built-in stove. 

Kitchen $1,805

Underslung gas tanks are a brilliant solution for saving space inside your van. Plus, it also means that you won’t need to have a sealed gas locker.

Bathroom $2,500

In short, having a shower inside your van means that you can use it even when the weather is bad outside. With an indoor gas boiler, you can use LPG to heat your water. A composting toilet is an eco-friendly option that you can empty easily on the road. 

Heater $650

A propane heater can warm your van using your LPG gas supply. You will find that once it’s installed, it’s a very effective and cost efficient way of heating your living space. 

Mattress and Seating $1,000

Getting your mattress cut to size and upholstered by a professional company can save a lot of time and stress.

Security $530

With a high-end van, you won’t want to skimp on security!

Wi-Fi $375

A multi directional antenna will mean that you can pick up signal from any direction. Working in beautiful remote places just got easier! 

Extras $2,410

To finish, these things aren’t essential, but nice to have if you can!

Finishes $1,500

Complete your luxury van by splashing out on some nice paint, tiles, rugs and decorations! 

High end van conversionInsulation$650Windows$800Ventilation $420Electrics$3,275Floors and Walls$500Materials$2,200Water$1,364Kitchen$1,805Bathroom$2,500Heater $650Mattress$1,000Security$530Wi-Fi$375Extras$2,410Finishes$1,500Total conversion cost $19,979

Check out this high end van conversion with insanely cool features!

To sum up, how much does it really cost to convert a van into a camper van? Once you have decided on how often you will use your van, you can begin to plan your budget and choose your priorities. If you are going to be using your van all year round and in colder climates, you may want to invest more on a good heater and hot shower. On the other hand, if you are going to be working in your van, then a good electrical setup will be your priority. 

Tips to lower van build costs

  • Use reclaimed materials where possible 
  • Shop at local timber merchants
  • Have a DIY approach instead of hiring professional labor
  • Get a smaller van to reduce costs
  • Shop around online or look for second-hand items
  • Borrow any tools that you need
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