Is it cheaper to convert a campervan?

Nate Murphy
volkswagen steering wheel

Why do people build their own vans? Is it cheaper to convert a campervan than buy one? The answer is, yes. DIY conversions can save you a lot of money, and you can simply convert the van to whatever standards your budget allows. You’ll save loads on labour costs by converting your own van too. If you have time to spare, then doing things yourself will mean that you can spend less money on the van and invest more in your future adventures. 

How much does it cost to insulate a van?

The size of your van will affect how much it costs to insulate. If you’re going to be spending most of your time in warm climates, you can get away with just simple foil insulation - but to properly insulate a van for all seasons, you will need:

(Rough costs for a LWB van)

  • 6 x 30mm / 1” sheets Insulation foam board ($30 each) 
  • 4 x 50mm / 2” sheets Insulation foam board ($40 each) 
  • 5 x rolls of Insulation foil ($20 each)

6 x $30 = $180
4 x $40 = $160
5 x $20 = $100

$440 total

How much does it cost to make a van into a camper?

The great thing about converting a van into a campervan is that it can be done whatever your budget. 

The average cost of a self-build conversion is $5-10,000, but it’s possible to build your own camper for as little as $1,000 if you use reclaimed materials, second hand products, and do all the work yourself.

The cost of your base van will also be a big factor in your overall spend. You should plan to spend about 60% of your budget on the van itself and the rest on the conversion. There’s no point in investing a load of money in a campervan that won’t last mechanically!

For a more detailed look at the costs of converting a campervan, check out our complete cost breakdown for every budget.

Is a campervan a good investment?

Building your own campervan is definitely a good long-term investment. While you have to spend a lot of money at the start, you can use your van for hundreds of future holidays and save on the cost of accommodation. The average cost of a hotel in the US is $100 a night - so if you’ve spent $15,000 on your campervan, you’ll only need to spend 150 nights in your van before you’ve broken even. Plus, you’ll be able to park your van in beautiful places with views that will rival even the most expensive hotels. 

If you plan to live full time in your van, you’ll save a ton of money on rent and bills. The average rent is around $1500 a month - so it will only take 10 months of van living to save that much. If you factor in the savings you’ll make on electricity and gas bills, then you’ll quickly discover that a campervan is a very good investment.

To monetize your campervan even more, you can also rent it out. Sites like outdoorsy.com allow you to make extra money from your van when you’re not using it - Some owners make an extra $50k a year from doing this! 

If you’re buying a ready built campervan, the cost will be considerably higher and it will take longer to get a good return on your investment. 

Why are campervans so expensive?

The cost of buying a campervan can be anything from $50k-$300k, depending on the type of vehicle. Most campervans are simply cargo vans that have been adapted to become leisure vehicles. They come with a high price tag as they are often bespoke vehicles that have been modified on a small scale. There are high labour costs associated with hand modifications and specialist tradesmen that are needed to install the plumbing and electrics. 

Parts for campervans are also specialist and tend to be expensive. For example, a small campervan fridge costs around $600. They also often need heavy duty tires and bigger engines because of the extra weight they carry. 

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