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7 Inspirational DIY Van Conversions & Van Build Resources

DIY van conversions are the cheapest route for living the van life. Check out these van builds and resources for building out your very own campervan!

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DIY van conversions are the cheapest way to start living the van life. Custom van builds are gorgeous, but they range anywhere from $25,0000-$150,000+ for a camper van. Ouch.

On the flip side, you can do a DIY camper van conversion for as cheap as $500, or as much as $25,000 for something uber fancy.

We wanted to show you a variety of DIY van conversions, plus useful resources to get started with your very own build.

Soon enough, you’ll be living the van life!

7 Inspirational DIY Van Conversions

Once you’ve decided to take the leap and convert a van, you’ll most probably be feeling excited and a little overwhelmed. Depending on your budget and the type of van you plan on converting, there are so many options available and avenues you could take.

It can be difficult to commit to any one idea, let alone get started!

Sometimes you just need a bit of inspiration to help get the creative juices flowing, so we’ve found 7 DIY van conversions, ranging from simple and affordable campervan builds to absolutely gorgeous high-end conversions that look too good to be true!

1. Super Affordable Nissan NV200 Camper

Interior platform bed in a NV200 DIY van conversion
Simple NV200 DIY Van Conversion

Lauren and Steven Keys’ budget DIY van conversion is a testament to the fact that you really don’t need to invest thousands of dollars in an Instagrammable van to start living your vanlife dreams.

The couple was planning a trip of a lifetime to every national park in the United States, and wanted an affordable and reliable van that they could convert, without investing too much time and money.

With its great handling and fuel economy, a Nissan NV200 seemed like the best option, and they managed to find a used model with only 51,000 miles for $22,300.

Woman staring out the back hatch of her NV200 camper

Lauren and Steven wanted a quick and simple campervan build, and didn’t want to add anything that might affect the van’s resale value. All it took to create this awesome DIY campervan conversion was a simple bed frame with storage underneath.

The frame materials cost about $100, and the conversion was completed by the addition of a campervan mattress. The couple opted for a mattress called the Allswell Hybrid, which has coils and foam, and is only 10” tall.

Lauren and Steven lived without a fridge or vanlife cooler, opting instead for shelf-stable food that they could warm with their propane camp stove. The couple spent most of their time enjoying the great outdoors, and the van was really only a place to sleep at the end of a long day.

This super-simple DIY van build is a great example of van living at its simplest, and if you’re going to be spending most of your time outside, it could be all you’d ever need. You could also add things like a 12-volt fridge and a portable solar generator for longer-term van living.

You can find out more about Lauren and Steven’s adventures on their website: www.tripofalifestyle.com

2. Casper the Ford Transit 

Anna French of spintheglobeproject.com now lives off-grid in a small, solar-powered home in Colorado, but for 2 years she traveled in Casper, a 2016 Ford Transit Cargo Van.

Although Anna was tempted to buy a Sprinter or a ProMaster, she decided on a low roof Ford Transit for her DIY campervan conversion because of its good fuel economy and the fact that it runs on ethanol or regular gasoline.

Although Anna had absolutely no idea how to build a campervan, and zero woodworking experience, she wasn’t to be deterred, and spent two months on her campervan build. She installed the insulation, flooring, and walls, and built an awesome kitchen and bed frame. 

One of the coolest features of this DIY van conversion is the bed. The queen size foam mattress is cut into pieces, and the frame is built so that it can convert from a small bed with a couch and screw-in table to a large bed. To make things cozy, the cushions are all covered with fabric, and there are homey curtains, too.

Friends and family were recruited from time to time, and the solar setup and Fan-Tastic roof fan were installed by professionals, but Anna did most of the conversion work herself. The total cost for this DIY van conversion was $3,480, with $1,800 of that taken up by the Goal Zero Power Station.

In 2019, Anna did a major renovation, and had a high-top roof added to Casper. For all aspiring vanlifers, she recommends buying a van you can stand up in if you’re going to be living in your DIY campervan conversion full time.

She also recommends using a top-loading DC compressor refrigerator, LED tube lights, and installing your sink with an extendable faucet near a door, for outdoor showering.

3. The Grizzly DIY Campervan Conversion

Back hatch doors open showing DIY van conversion interior
Photo: Instagram/CamperDreamin

Izzy and Laurie are a British couple who love to spend time outdoors, camping, climbing, and hiking. They decided to up their weekend camping game in 2017, and converted an old painter’s van, naming their DIY campervan conversion “Yosemite”.

When the couple added a dog, Bear, to their family, they decided they’d need a bigger rig, so they set about converting another van.

Interior of a DIY Van Build with dinette and wood stove
Photo: CamperDreamin.com

The Grizzly is one of the coolest DIY van conversions I’ve ever seen. The van is a Citroen Relay, which is comparable to a Mercedes Sprinter and a Ford Transit. Izzy and Laurie bought the van with 21,000 miles, and spent around six months on the conversion, racking up around $12,500 in costs.

The couple did the entire DIY van build themselves, and the results are stunning. The wood ceiling and walls give the interior a cozy cabin feel, and the kitchen has a 2-burner stove, fridge, and sink with an extendable faucet.

There’s a beautifully designed L-shaped dinette for mealtimes, and the fixed bed has a huge garage underneath for all the couple’s gear.

Best of all, this DIY van conversion has a mini wood stove that not only keeps things toasty inside the van, but also provides another place to cook and heat water. 

It’s all about the details with well thought-out DIY van conversions. Izzy and Laurie have a place for everything, in their van, including nifty storage for the wood burner tools, and a cool slide-out storage compartment in the kitchen. 

The Grizzly is fully off-grid, and has a solar, gas, and water setup. A fiamma roof vent and Maxxair Maxxfan Deluxe keep things fresh inside, while an amazing foldable rooftop deck means the couple can enjoy amazing views from wherever they’re camping!

You can find out more information about Izzy, Laurie, and Bear by visiting their website: www.camperdreamin.com.

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4. Far Out Ride’s Ford Transit DIY Van Build

Ford Transit DIY campervan conversion
Photo courtesy FarOutRide.com

When freedom beckons, and the promise of a rewarding life on the road seems too good to ignore, it can be impossible to resist the temptation to completely change your life. Isabelle and Antoine had it all: well-paying jobs, a circle of friends, and an active lifestyle.

It wasn’t enough, though, and in 2017, this adventurous couple sold their house and possessions, quit their careers, and moved into their DIY van conversion. Needless to say, they haven’t looked back!

For their campervan build, Isabelle and Antoine decided on a 2016 Extended High Roof Ford Transit. The conversion cost around $20,000, and the couple reckons they spent around 640 hours in total working on their dream van. The results are stunning, and these van dwellers obviously thought carefully about every aspect of their build.

Interior of a DIY campervan conversion with sink, bench and bed
Photo courtesy FarOutride.com

The beautiful interior is fully-insulated and features knotty pine panels for the walls and roof, and 1.5” foam insulated vinyl flooring that’s durable and looks great.

The main living space has cabinets on either side, with a fridge, sink, and stove, and there’s a huge work surface for food prep. There’s also a compostable toilet, hidden under a cute little cushioned seat!

This awesome DIY van conversion has a fixed bed at the rear, and there’s plenty of storage throughout. Under the bed, there’s a garage with a slide-out bike rack, tire inflator, bike wash, and exterior shower. Hot water is provided by an Eccotemp L5 propane tankless heater, and the van is fully off-grid, thanks to a pair of 160-watt solar panels.

This DIY campervan conversion has tons of features, and every detail has been designed to make van dwelling as comfortable and convenient as possible. Isabelle and Antoine have documented their build-out process on their website, and it’s well worth checking out: www.faroutride.com

The couple also put together a bunch of tutorials and guides for DIY van conversions you can purchase for your own van build:

Far Out Ride's Van Build Diagrams & Guides Far Out Ride's Van Build Diagrams & Guides

If you need help planning out the interior of your DIY campervan, you'll want to take a look at Far Out Ride's van build guides. The Builder's Package includes wiring, water, propane and floor plan diagrams & tutorials. This is a great resource for DIYing your van!

5. Katie’s DIY Sprinter Van Conversion

Girl sitting on top of a Sprinter DIY van conversion
Photo: SoWeBoughtAVan.com

Although Katie has recently switched to a Ford Transit, she started her vanlife adventures in 2017, in a DIY Sprinter conversion. Katie bought a used 2016 144” WheelBase High Roof Sprinter with 86,000 miles and set about converting it into a complete dream machine. The DIY campervan build took about six months to complete, costing around $20,000.

One of the coolest parts of this DIY van conversion is the three layers of insulation. With Reflectix, foam board, and denim batting, this van is great for full-time vanlife at any time of year. For off-grid capability, Katie opted for a Renogy 300-watt 12V solar kit, which is super-easy to install. The van has LED light panels and bars, which are energy-efficient and keep things feeling cozy at night.

Interior of a DIY Sprinter van build
Photo: SoWeBoughtaVan.com

With an interior height of 6’ 4”, there’s plenty of standing room inside the van, and the cedar walls, hickory laminate floor, and fir cabinets add a homey feel. The kitchen has a 2-burner propane stove and a Nova Kool front-facing fridge, and we love the West Marine teak racks and shelves for food storage.

Katie’s DIY campervan conversion has a fixed bed at the rear, with tons of storage underneath. She made sure to include features like a Fan-Tastic vent fan to keep the air circulating, an awesome Roadshower 2 for keeping clean while on the road, and a Thetford Porta Potti.

Katie has an awesome website with loads of information about her build-out process, travels, and other vanlife advice: www.soweboughtavan.com.

6. The Wandering Woods Sprinter Conversion

The back hatch area of this DIY Sprinter van conversion
Photo courtesy WanderingWoods.org

For Justin and Betsy Woods, vanlife seemed like a no-brainer. They were both saddled with crushing student loan payments, and eliminating monthly rent payments and utility bills could be a way of saving money to pay off their debts.

This tireless couple bought a 2005 158” wheel base Sprinter that had been used as a FedEx vehicle, and spent eight months on their DIY van conversion, even though they were both working full-time and attending school!

Justin and Betsys’ van is absolutely gorgeous inside, featuring wood walls, beautiful wood countertops, and TrafficMaster vinyl flooring. The fixed bed at the rear has a huge storage garage underneath that the couple uses to store bikes and a kayak.

Interior of a Sprinter DIY Van Build
Photo: WanderingWoods.org

There’s tons of storage space inside, too, including cabinets, under-bed drawers, and a tall pull-out closet for hanging work clothes. The couple uses magnetic baby proof latches that keep drawers and cabinets closed when the van is in motion.

This well-thought-out DIY van conversion features a top-loading fridge in the bench seat, atmospheric LED lighting under the cabinets, a Camp Chef outdoor oven that runs on propane, and a pull-out table that doubles as Betsy’s keyboard stand! There’s a Russian Planar diesel heater to keep things cozy in the winter, and 300 watts of solar for off-grid living.

Check out Justin and Betsy’s website to take a tour of their beautiful van build and read their compelling travel guides and vanlife advice: www.thewanderingwoods.com.

7. Hey Voyager’s DIY Van Build

Couple standing in front of a DIY van build
C: www.heyvoyager.com

Benjamin McConkey and Alison Westfall built their own DIY van conversion using a white cargo van which cost them only $5,000.

“They are reliable vans, they are meant to haul heavy equipment or tools so we liked the idea that it was durable,” said Alison.

Alison and Ben wanted a DIY campervan conversion that would work for a six-month trip driving across the United States. They wanted simplicity, with just a bed, couch and storage.

Here are some of their design considerations:

Alison and Ben watched DIY van conversions on Youtube, read blogs, and relied on Alison’s father to help them with the van build.

“Neither of us had an experience doing renovation before, so it was overwhelming at first,” said Alison. “My dad helped us quite a bit, guiding us when it comes to tools, our flooring, the design, the insulation.”

This couple spent just $1,000 on a DIY van conversion. Woman sitting in back of camper van, looking out at Grand Canyon

But the two eventually put their camper van together, with a whopping price tag of only $1,000.

“We don’t have solar panels, we don’t have a stove, no sink with running water,” said Alison. “We hope people will get  that it’s not intimidating.”

Handy Guides for DIY Van Conversions

There are so many things to consider, when starting out on a DIY campervan conversion, and it can seem like a daunting task. You’re not alone, though, and there are plenty of people who have created beautiful campervans with no prior experience in woodworking, plumbing, or wiring!

Whether you plan on a simple van conversion or a spectacular dream van for full-time adventuring, there are plenty of resources available to help you realize your vanlife dreams.

The Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook

Our Pick
DIY Campervan Conversion Sourcebook

Learn how to build your own van with this detailed van build sourcebook. While the title reflects Sprinter vans, the concepts can be used on any DIY campervan conversion. You'll learn design considerations, how to plumb your van, choosing solar panels, installing water tanks and electrical and wiring systems. A great resource!

Learn More Learn More

If you’re thinking about buying a Sprinter for your DIY campervan conversion, this incredible book will provide an invaluable reference guide for every step of your buildout. Well worth the money, Greg Keith’s book is the ultimate Sprinter bible. You’ll learn not only how to select the best Sprinter year and model for your needs, but also how to tackle every aspect of the conversion.

The Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook lays it all out with diagrams, tables, and pictures. Chapters are organized by different aspects of the conversion process, including cabinet building, designing electrical systems, and choosing the right solar setup.

What’s really cool about Greg’s 378- age book is that it comes in ebook format, and is regularly updated for free!

Van Build: A guide to designing, converting and self-building campervans & motorhomes

Van Build: A Complete DIY guide

This book guides you through every step in your DIY van build, from choosing a van, to designing the layout, to plumbing and electrical systems, to self-building your new dream home — all in as little as 21 days. You'll find 222 pages of details, including charts, lists, photos, and descriptions to help you design and build your own campervan from scratch.

Buy on Amazon.com Learn More

If you’re determined to convert your van, but don’t know a table saw from a hacksaw, Ben and Georgia Raffis’ excellent book could be all you’ll need! The authors stress that they built their dream van having never touched many of the tools they ended up using, and that zero skills or experience shouldn’t stop you from embarking on a DIY van conversion.

Van Build walks you through every step of how to build a campervan, including how to choose the right vehicle, designing the layout, and how to successfully plumb and wire your campervan.

Thanks to Ben and Georgia’s exhaustive research, you should be able to save a lot of time, and the latest version of the book includes a ton of vanlife community feedback on  gas systems, bed options, and other hot topics.

Faroutride.com’s Van Build Diagrams

Far Out Ride's Van Build Diagrams & Guides Far Out Ride's Van Build Diagrams & Guides

If you need help planning out the interior of your DIY campervan, you'll want to take a look at Far Out Ride's van build guides. The Builder's Package includes wiring, water, propane and floor plan diagrams & tutorials. This is a great resource for DIYing your van!

Isabelle and Antoine spent a long time perfecting their DIY van conversion, and their Ford Transit camper is truly gorgeous. If you want to know just how they did it, and perhaps use their systems in your own conversion, there are beautiful downloadable diagrams available on their website.

For a small fee, you can access high-resolution, printable diagrams that illustrate Isabelle and Antoine’s water, electrical, and propane systems, as well as a floor plan diagram. 

DIY Van Build Parts and Kits

If you need a little bit of help building a DIY van conversion, you can buy parts, accessories and even interior kits.

This will speed up your van build and get you on the road even faster.

Here are a few places where you can look for DIY van build parts:

Interior Kits

If you don’t feel like doing all the insulation, sound dampening and wiring on a DIY van conversion, you might want to consider a full interior kit. Then you can add stuff later, like a kitchen, bathroom, bed, etc.

  • Adventure Wagon: Buy complete interior kits for Ford Transits and Mercedes Sprinters, including insulation, wiring, ventilation, upholstered interior panels, and wall-to-ceiling anchor points 
  • Colorado Campervans: Full interior kit with insulation, sound dampening, flooring, LED lighting, electrical and walls and ceiling

Van Kitchen Unit

campervan kitchen pod by Trail Kitchens
Photo: Trail Kitchens

If you don’t want to build your own campervan kitchen, you may want to consider putting in a prebuilt van kitchen unit.

  • Trail Kitchens Campervan Pod: This campervan kitchen unit is a full kitchen with a fridge, complete with a marine grade water system, single burner stove, sink and Dometic 50L fridge

Prebuilt Campervan Beds

If you need a bed for your DIY campervan, you can buy just the bed from several companies. Here are a few to look over.

  • Van Wife Components Versa Bed System: This 3-panel bed is super versatile. Turn it into a bench, table, bunk or regular bed. The Versa Bed system consists of 4 bed panels and 4 – 72” lengths of J-channel, which is what is used to mount the platforms along the walls of the van
  • Flarespace Bump-Outs and Bed Mattress: Flarespace flares let you sleep sideways in a Mercedes Sprinter or Ford Transit campervan, and the company also offers beds and mattresses that fit perfectly with the bump-outs.
  • RB Components: You can buy bed panels for a Sprinter van camper, including complete kits and individual panels

Campervan Cabinets

From wheel well cabinets to overhead cabinets, these companies have you covered.

How to Pick the Right Van for a DIY Van Build

Woman standing inside a DIY campervan conversion on a city street

Choosing the right van for your DIY van build needs requires a lot of thought. A big part of your van decision will be ruled by how much money you want to spend.

A used van from Craiglist or Facebook Marketplace can be as cheap as a few thousand dollars, where a brand new 4×4 Sprinter van can cost you $66,000 before you even convert it.

Here are some other factors to think about when choosing your perfect camper van for van living:

  • Whether or not you want to stand up in your camper van conversion
  • The type of gas mileage you’re expecting, and whether you want to use gasoline or diesel
  • Whether want to buy a camper van that’s already built out or do a DIY camper van conversion
  • The size of the van: do you want a minivan, a small cargo van, a full-sized cargo van, a conversion camper van, a vintage van like an old VW, or a high-top van?
  • Will you absolutely need a bathroom and kitchen in your van? 
  • Do you plan on taking your van off-roading? If so, you’ll probably need a van with all-wheel drive

There are so many vans out there to choose from when it comes to doing a camper van conversion. What type you choose is entirely up to you.

The questions above should help you narrow down which camper van conversion you need.

Check out these top posts about choosing a campervan for van life!

The Best Vans for DIY Camper Conversions

Wondering which van to choose for a DIY Campervan? Check out these top articles.

We hope you build an awesome DIY van conversion!

Everything is organized perfectly in the back of this DIY camper van conversion.
Photo: Hey Voyager

As you can see, there are DIY van conversions that can fit any budget. We hope these resources and examples of van builds will inspire you to get started.

To get started on your van build and do even more research, check out the Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook, which explains installing solar, insulation, greywater and blackwater tanks, etc. This 378-book has everything you need to know about doing a DIY camper conversion and works on any type of van. 

Click here for a closer look at the Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook.

Good luck on living the van life in your camper van conversion and exploring the great outdoors.

Other camper van stories you’ll love:

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55 thoughts on “7 Inspirational DIY Van Conversions & Van Build Resources”

  1. I currently live and cruise in a 34 foot sailboat. I someday see us moving to a land yacht to see more of the country and imagine a van would be just about right. After all, traveling on land is much simpler. You don’t need to carry spares for every darn engine part and be so quite self reliant.

    The DIY tradesman’s van looked just about right to me. But somehow I doubt my husband who finds our current boat pretty tight will be convinced.

    Reply
  2. Amazing article, article is explained in a good way.Blog post can be a very good way to interact with others and involve in new and relevant discussion.

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  4. My husband and I just bought a van so we could do exactly this! Right now we’re in the process of DIYing the whole thing and it’s crazy. It’s so hard to anticipate exactly what we’ll need and what will work for us. We’re just trying to find different designs and we what will be best for us. We bought an old conversion van so we’re in the process of gutting it and redoing it all. For almost a year now we’ve lived at my parent’s house saving for wedding we had last month and in the process of living there, we realized we didn’t want to put down roots just yet after the wedding.It’s really exciting and scary to think about living out a van lol.

    Great post! There are a ton of great resources here!

    Reply
    • That’s so cool, Christina! What type of van did you get? I really want to do van life but the thought of building it out totally scares me, haha.

      Reply
  5. Hi Kristin:

    I’m looking to make the move to the #vanlife, however, I’ve noticed that there are very view companies in the Bay Area that convert a van and purchase it as well.

    Any help in locating a company that converts a van from conception, purchase of the vehicle, and implementation?

    Mahalo,

    AK

    Reply
    • Hey Ashley! So, I haven’t found any build companies that will also purchase the vehicle. The only one I’ve found who is working with Nissan is this one: https://www.reconcampers.com/. Eventually, he hopes to have camper Nissans available for purchase at the dealership, so a person can buy one already built. Other than this, I think you have to buy your own van and then find someone to build it out. Good luck on your journey!

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  7. Hey Kristin great article! You cannot beat a good custom conversion! My husband and I converted our 30 seater school bus into our liveable home and its ideal as we could make everything just the right size! 😉 Still after a year by camper and previously 2 years by boat… We are both still dreaming of returning to the water… There’s nothing quite like a floating home! I’m sure you’ll agree 😉

    Reply
    • Hi Emily! Wow, you really lead an adventurous life trying out all those forms of living. That is so cool! And I agree…being on the water sure is a magical experience.

      Reply
    • I am obsessed with school bus conversions. My only concern is the longevity of the engine since they are usually pretty old when schools put them out to pasture! I am not mechanical at all, so if I had trouble out on the road, I would be totally screwed. Some people do them so stinking cute and I would love that part but unless I found one with low miles that my mechanic gave the go ahead on, I think I would be too afraid of breaking down.

      Reply
  8. Hi Kristin,
    I was wondering if you had a list of auto insurance companies that will insure a DYI van conversion. I am also interested in finding out about homeowners/renter’s insurance for tiny homes as well, if you know about such details. Any info would help.
    Thanks,
    Kristene

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  10. We’ve found that many van conversion DIYers prefer using L-track because it is so versatile and strong. Plus there are quite a bit of fittings that snap directly into the track.

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  11. I know it’s not really accepted to crowdfund, but I don’t have a lot of finances to get out of a bad living situation. At this point it’s my dream to have my own diy campervan. I plan on doing all of the work myself and as cost effective as possible. I will be making videos of my progress along the way. There is no better time than now to have a van and take my home with me everywhere. I am looking at band in a lower price range, but anything can help at this point. I am the type to pay it forward!
    gf.me/u/vyw49b

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