Episode 63: Red Flags to Watch Out For When Hiring a Van Builder

An Instagram-worthy van only goes so far – you need it to be functional and reliable for an enjoyable van life. And to do that, you need a builder you can trust.

Our guest, Kristen Bor from the popular outdoor and vanlife blog Bearfoot Theory, has lived on the road for 7 years and undergone 3 different van builds. She shares the nightmare experience of her first van build and the tough lessons she learned about hiring a custom van conversion company.

Kristen walks us through the most important considerations when hiring a van conversion company. First, learn what to look out for in a builder, from asking for references to examining their work firsthand. Kristen stresses the importance of getting educated on van systems beforehand so you can assess builders’ expertise, and to make sure their construction approach matches your planned van use. 

We also compare notes on the many van builds we’ve each experienced, uncovering some key insights on features, materials, and components that might look good but do not always hold up for real life on the road.  This episode will not only equip you with the necessary insights for a successful van build but also avoid the potential pitfalls in the process.

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What We Discuss in Episode 63 of The Wayward Home Podcast:

  • Kristen Bor, founder of the bearfoottheory.com shares the story of how she first got into vanlife, choosing a builder to convert her van based on Instagram-worthy aesthetics. Unfortunately, this builder had limited experience and produced a shoddy build.
  • For her next build, Kristen vetted companies thoroughly and chose an established builder. She shares her tips for finding a reputable builder so others don’t experience the same pitfalls:
    • Educate yourself on van systems before hiring a builder so you can evaluate their knowledge and experience
    • Vet potential builders thoroughly – see their previous work in person, check references, and asses whether your personalities and style mesh
    • Make sure the builder constructs things properly for your intended use (off-roading, full-timing etc.)
    • Understand smaller builders may not have the capacity for extensive warranty assistance
  • Both Kristen an Kristin agree that simpler layouts and components often work better for ease of use while traveling – such as fixed platform beds vs. convertible dinettes

About Kristen Bor:

As a pioneer in the outdoor and van life blogging space and founder of bearfoottheory.com, Kristen Bor provides practical tips, relatable stories, and an authentic perspective that inspires and empowers readers to explore the outdoors more confidently. With her extensive van life experience, in 2019 and 2022, Kristen also conceptualized and organized Open Road Fest, a 4-day campout in Idaho that brought together more than 450 vanlifers and outdoor enthusiasts.

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