How Much Does A Camper Van Cost? Real-Life Examples and Tips

If you dream about one day owning a camper van and having more freedom to explore your favorite places, you’ve come to the right place!…

A woman with her two dogs on the mattress of a camper van.

If you dream about one day owning a camper van and having more freedom to explore your favorite places, you’ve come to the right place!

Van life is an exciting experience but can be pricey. When you factor in the cost of your van, customizations, and any optional upgrades, you’re looking at tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars.

Therefore, it’s essential to know what to expect. Luckily, we’re here to help!

In this article, we’ll show you how much a camper van costs. With the help of experienced van lifers, we’ll cover everything from van chassis options and DIY vans to van conversion costs and optional upgrades.

Let’s begin!

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What Do You Need To Consider?

Photo Credit: @backtonaturevan

Finding the right camper van can be overwhelming. When we started looking for our dream van, we couldn’t believe how much variety we had to choose from.

There are various vehicle systems (AWD, 4X4, etc.) and chassis. There are used converted vans, DIY vans, and new custom builds. And it doesn’t matter which van we opt for, we then have endless modifications and upgrades to choose from. 

Of course, each option comes with varying costs. Therefore, you need to consider what type of van you want to buy, how much work you want to do, and what budget you have.

To simplify things, we’ll break down the options available regarding van chassis, DIY vans, and new converted vans. We’ll also look at additional upgrades and unexpected conversion costs.

How Much Does A Camper Van Chassis Cost?

A man and a woman standing with their black dog near the entry door to a camper van.
Photo Credit: Kaylin Zittergruen.

One of the most important factors when purchasing a camper van is the price difference between chassis. Also, bear in mind that the cost of the van chassis is separate from the cost of conversion.

Three popular new chassis van lifers convert their cargo van on are:

  • Mercedez-Benz Sprinter – $49,900 – $74,200
  • Ram Promaster – $46,415 – $55,750
  • Ford Transit – $44,960 – $62,880

The wheelbase, class, and powertrain will affect the total cost of each chassis. The figures above relate to the current costs of each chassis in 2024.

Van lifers Whitney and Sam purchased a 2006 RWD Dodge Sprinter 2500 that had 411,000 miles on it. Here’s what they had to say:

“We knew we had purchased an older van that would need some mechanical work and maintenance. We knew things wouldn’t be perfect, so we expected additional costs… We picked this one because we knew we could work on it ourselves, and it’s known to be reliable.”

How Much Does A New Custom Van Cost?

Photo Credit: Always the Adventure

New custom vans are an excellent option if you don’t want to convert the van yourself. This is also a convenient option if you aren’t particularly handy with things like wiring and carpentry.

However, it’s worth noting that new custom vans usually cost a lot more. For example, we used Vanworks to build our 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter camper van, which cost approximately $130,000. 

The extra costs are worth it, though, because we were left with our dream camper van without having to do any of the hard work.

Van lifer Emily also purchased a new custom van. She is super happy with her 2023 Ram ProMaster 159” High Roof, which features a fixed bed, composting toilet, and solar panels.

Emily’s total costs were $120,000. Here’s a breakdown of her costs:

  • Price of chassis – $50,000
  • Price of conversion – $70,000

How Much Does A DIY Camper Van Cost?

anjali with her dogs inside a camper van
Photo Credit: Anjali Justice.

If you have enough time and the necessary skills, you could save money by completing a van conversion yourself. However, a DIY build does require a lot of time and effort.

Camper van enthusiast Anjali Justice went down the DIY conversion route on her 2014 Ram Promaster. Factoring in all Anjali’s costs, she spent just $36,000 on her van. 

Here are some other examples of van lifers who opted forDIY conversions:

  • Isabella Jensen – 2018 RWD Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – $48,500
  • Bill Widmer – 1999 4×4 Ford e350 – $44,000
  • Kristin Hanes – 1994 AWD Chevy Astro – $9,000
  • Keith and Hannah Rose – 2021 RWD Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 170” – $105,000
  • Sam and Whitney – 2006 RWD Dodge Sprinter 2500 – $28,000

From this, we can see the total costs for a DIY van range from $9,000 to $105,000. Factors impacting the total costs include the chassis and interior and exterior upgrades.

Unexpected Costs You Need To Expect!

Photo Credit: The Wayward Home

It’s also important to consider any extra unexpected costs when purchasing your van. This is particularly important if you plan to carry out your van conversion yourself because there are many small costs that add up quickly.

Take this Redditor, for example. He spent just $13,620 on his camper van before planning to convert it himself. However, he didn’t factor in the costs of extra tools and consumables he needed for the job. 

He ended up spending an extra $1,950 unexpectedly. That’s more than 10% of the cost of his van!

When we spoke to Isabella, she shared a similar experience. She told us, “[I] created a budget for the build but quickly realized there were so many small things I needed to buy or didn’t think about. I went over my initial budget by around $8,000.”

Some unexpected costs you might encounter include:

  • Tools
  • Lumber
  • Registration
  • Vehicle parts
  • Propane

Camper Van Upgrade Costs

campervan parked on the campground
Photo Credit: Tom Zittergruen @nomadxtom and Kaylin Zittergruen @katekeepswild

The exterior and interior upgrades you choose will heavily impact your total costs. For example, one happy camper upgraded their van with bamboo ceilings, walls, and accents instead of cloth.

This significantly increased the total cost, but they loved how “homey” it made their van feel.

You should also consider storage space upgrades. To increase the space she had in her van, Isabella installed built-in drawers under her bed. On the other hand, another van lifer installed solar panels, which dramatically increased the total cost. 

Van upgrades can cost anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands of dollars in total, so stick to your budget!

When it comes to saving money, we like to follow the advice of Whitney and Sam, who said, “Our philosophy is often to wait to see if we really need an item before getting it. This helps with space and budget.”

How Much Does It Cost To Live In A Camper Van?

Photo Credit The Wayward Home

After you’ve bought and kitted out your camper van, the costs don’t stop there. Unfortunately, a plethora of new costs come into the picture. 

If you plan to live in your van full-time, you must know exactly what to expect. Luckily, a recent Reddit thread looked at the main costs associated with van life. 

Here are the main costs expert van lifers listed:

  • Van insurance
  • Gas
  • Propane
  • Site rental
  • Food
  • Water
  • Maintenance and repairs

So, what can you expect to pay? According to Reddit, total monthly costs vary greatly, so it’s hard to calculate the precise amount you’ll spend. However, we can use other campers’ experiences as a guide.

One Redditor told us, “Per month $82 insurance, $50 camp fees, $120-160 petrol, $20LPG, $40 showers/laundry. $320 for all groceries.” That’s $672 a month, which is very affordable.

Meanwhile, another van lifer admitted to spending approximately $2,000 monthly for everything. Someone else said they spend between $500 and $1,500 monthly. 

What’s The Best Option For You?

kristin and starlink working remotely on the road
Photo Credit: The Wayward Home

Now you know how much a camper van costs, you can start to think about which option best suits you. Do you want to buy a new custom-converted van? Or would you prefer to build a DIY camper van?

Making a final decision can be challenging, so here are some things you might want to ask yourself before committing:

  • Do you plan to live in your van part-time or full-time?
  • Do you have the necessary skills for a DIY build?
  • What type of driving do you plan to do? (off-road?)
  • How much can you afford?

Hopefully, answering these questions will give you a better idea regarding the type of camper van or RV build that suits you best. So, what do you think? Are you ready to take the next steps? Or do you have some budgeting to do first?

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