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If you’re dreaming about a camper van conversion, there’s a lot to think about before jumping in and buying a van.

Camper van conversions can really run the gamut, from a luxury Sprinter van conversion done by a company that could cost you up to $150,000, to a simple DIY cargo van conversion that will only be $1,000.

The type of conversion you pick will largely have to do with budget and what type of camper van you want, so I decided to look into both types of conversions, from a fancy Sprinter van conversion one to a budget cargo van conversion.

Hiring a Sprinter van conversion company

Interior of a built-out Sprinter van conversion. This camper van has beautiful white countertops and wood finish.

C: Townsend Travel Trailers

I caught up with Thomas Townsend, who’s been running Townsend Travel Trailers out of Santa Barbara, California for two years now, to ask him about hiring a company to do a camper van conversion.

He said his company almost exclusively works on Sprinter van conversions, from the year 2007 and newer.

“Sprinter vans are an asset because they don’t go down in value that much,” he told me. “It’s something you can use, get enjoyment out of and its low maintenance. The Sprinter van is best in terms of engine and price, and the interior is designed in a great way to build upon.”

[Related: 11 campervan rental companies to test drive the van life]

You first have to pick which Sprinter van you want to convert into a camper.

The shortest one is 144 inches, and the longest is a 170-inch extended. The shortest van has a living space that’s 11 feet long by 6 feet wide, and the longest one’s living space is 15 feet long and 6 feet wide.

Want help picking the right van for van life? Check out this list of specs on 6 popular vans!

How to choose your camper van build

Gorgeous sprinter van conversion built out with wood interior and ceiling. Learn how to build an awesome camper van conversion

C: Townsend Travel Trailers

“Typically it boils down to how you’re going to use your camper van,” he said. “How long you’re going to be on the road, what type of person you are, what type of gear you want to store. You may or may not need a bathroom and a shower. What type of galley, what type of heating, do you want hot water, things like that.”

He said their price range really runs the gamut. Many Sprinter vans cost between $45,000-$55,000 and the interiors can range from $30,000-$150,000.

Back view of a sprinter van conversion with white interior and fold-down bed in the back for an awesome camper van conversion

C: Townsend Travel Trailers

“You want to maximize the space; you don’t want anything extraneous,” he said. “If you can get by without taking a shower, it’s best to eliminate that. If someone wants to live on the road full-time we focus on creating a Class C RV that’s compatible with an RV park, with gray water tanks, fresh water tanks, heated air and water. If you want to stop at an RV park, you can plug in, drain tanks, fill-up water and connect to shore power.”

[You may also like: How to build out a gorgeous Sprinter camper van on the cheap]

The camper vans are also designed to last for two to three weeks off-grid.

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“For water, you’d have 30-50 gallons of fresh water on board that can last for three weeks. You then catch the gray water in a tank so you don’t have to dump it into the environment,” he said. “For power, we get power from solar which charges lithium batteries and the alternator. With on-demand power in the middle of nowhere, you can run blenders, and even heating systems that run off diesel. You can also have hot water….it takes 1 gallon of gas for 15 to 20 hours of hot water and air.”

The benefits of a custom van conversion

There are many benefits to buy a custom camper van conversion which takes care of the Sprinter van build up to your specifications

C: Townsend Travel Trailers

While the price tag for paying a company for a Sprinter van conversion may seem really high, it does come with certain benefits.

Thomas said all his vans come with a 3-year, 36,000 mile warranty.

“Your camper van is also in compliance, we’re building a tested, quality vehicle. It’s an asset,” he said. “If someone builds it themselves and has no proof of concept it’s not worth as much. You’re almost devaluing your vehicle initially.”

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Townsend Travel Trailers mostly builds with aluminum, composites and powdered coating for finishes. Not water-based because they scratch too easily.

Beautiful Sprinter van conversion under the stars. You can DIY your van conversion or hire someone for a custom build

C: Townsend Travel Trailers

“That’s the difference between us and a DIY van conversion person. They’ll use standard home techniques and haven’t gone through the testing and applications that we have,” he said.

Also, if a van designed by Townsend Travel Trailers is side-swiped, for example, it’s built so the interior is broken down into pieces. The van can dismantle in 5 hours down to bare metal if you need to get in there and fix something.

This route is very expensive, and many people don’t have the cash for that type of camper van.

The DIY camper van conversion

This couple did a DIY camper van conversion out of a white cargo van

C: www.heyvoyager.com

A DIY camper van build-out is much more affordable, which is why Benjamin McConkey, 30, and Alison Westfall, 30, of HeyVoyager.com went the opposite route of a hiring a company to do a custom-build.

They thought Sprinter camper vans were too expensive, so ended up paying $5,000 for a white utility van that you see electricians and plumbers driving around.

Not sure which van life van is right for you? Click below to see specs on 6 popular van life vans:

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

C: www.heyvoyager.com

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

How they picked their camper van design

Everything is organized perfectly in the back of this DIY camper van conversion.

C: www.heyvoyager.com

The couple is from Calgary, Alberta and wanted a camper van conversion that would last them for a six-month trip driving around the United States. They wanted simplicity, with just a bed, couch and storage.

Benjamin sent me an email with their design considerations:

  • a table that faced the window so that we could enjoy the view
  • a bed height where we had enough headroom while still maximizing the amount of storage underneath the seat.
  • to access storage, the wooden slats are hinged at the back and can be lifted up.
  • regarding our kitchen, we built a small side table in the side door purposely placed to be right next to our cooler and pantry shelves (white plastic ‘dresser’). When we don’t have a picnic table, we place our camping propane stove on the side table and have easy access to our kitchen items
  • for bathroom needs we purchased a small emergency potty, which can be folded down to five inches high and fits underneath the pantry.

How they built their camper van conversion

They watched YouTube videos, read blogs, and relied on Alison’s father to help them with the camper 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, how to install our flooring, the design, the insulation.”

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

They even put together a guide on how to do your own custom camper van build, which you can check out here: Van Conversion Guide.

Couple converts utility van into home for just $1,000. How they did it.Click To Tweet

So, they put together an e-book they hope helps others take the leap and do a camper van conversion.

“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.”

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Their biggest challenge in their camper van conversion journey

Cooking out of the back of a DIY camper van conversion is a breeze

C: www.heyvoyager.com

The couple said their biggest challenge into going into van life wasn’t necessarily the camper van build.

“Making the jump to do this was the most challenging,” Ben said. “We’d been wanting to do a trip and build a van for a long time, so making that initial leap was the biggest challenge mentally. Then, it was the design. Just wanting to make sure we thought of everything.”

Alison said it was hard to anticipate what their daily life would be like, and what it would be like living in a space so small.

“We really learned to work together,” she said. “The biggest thing aside from the actual conversion was that it’s the first big project we’ve tackled together. It really strengthened how well we work together and communicate. We learned a lot about each other.”

Living the van life in their camper van

Women drinks wine while looking out at a stream in her DIY camper van conversion


The two have done three months of their journey so far, traveling through the American southwest. Next, they are headed to the West Coast of the United States, to explore coastlines, mountains and valleys.

Alison said it was the perfect time in their lives to travel.

How to build an awesome camper van conversion


“We always had joked that we’d be this retired couple who travels, and then we didn’t want to wait until we’re retired!” she said. “Especially with the hiking and outdoors stuff, we wanted to do it now. It’s been such a nice mental break.”

'We were going to be this retired couple who travels, but then figured, why not do it now?' Click To Tweet

You can follow the couple’s journey on www.heyvoyager.com And on Instagram.

As you can see, there are a lot of ways you can build out a camper van, from an ultra-luxurious custom build-out to something cheaper that you can figure out on your own.

Just like there’s no one way to live the van life, there’s no one way to build out your dream home.

Need help picking a van for van life?


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