The Actual Cost of Buying a Camper Van, According to Van Lifers

Wondering how much a camper van costs? From DIY conversions to brand-new custom builds, get the inside scoop from van lifers.

anjali with her dogs inside a camper van

If you are daydreaming about waking up to breathtaking sunrises, spending your free time outside in the sun, and road tripping to your favorite places, then van life may be calling your name. Before you abandon the comforts of your current reality for the freedom of van life, you may be wondering if you have the budget to afford a camper van.

When my husband and I began researching vans, we felt overwhelmed by the variety of camper vans available to us. There are different chassis of camper vans and vehicle systems (4×4, AWD, etc.). There are new custom converted vans, used converted vans, and DIY vans. And no matter which van you choose, there are endless possibilities of upgrades and modifications you can make to the van that will affect the total cost.

After weighing the pros and cons, we decided to purchase a new converted 2022 4×4 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. We have many friends, however, who decided to purchase their vans used or go the DIY route.

This article breaks down the options available to you in terms of chassis, the cost of new converted vans vs. DIY vans, unexpected van conversion costs, and optional upgrades to help you better understand what to expect to spend on a camper van. The four questions at the end of the article will help you reflect on which option might be best for you.

Camper Van Chassis

white camper van parked on a campground
Photo: Sam and Whitney’s camper van

When you are considering the cost of camper vans, it is important to know the differences in price between the different chassis of vans. If you are buying your van new or planning to go the DIY route, remember the cost of the van chassis itself is separate from the cost of the conversion.

Three of the most common, new chassis that people convert their cargo vans on are the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Ram Promaster vans. The wheelbase, powertrain, and class can also affect the total cost. Below is a breakdown of the current cargo van costs for each chassis as of 2024:

ChassisPrice Range
2024 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Van$49,900 – $74,200

Use this calculator to help you determine the exact cost.
2024 Ford Transit Cargo Van$46,415 – $55,750

Use this calculator to help you determine the exact cost.
2024 Ram ProMaster Cargo Van$44,960 – $62,880   Use this calculator to help you determine the exact cost.

Obviously, there are other popular chassis options for a campervan outside of the ones mentioned above, such as the Ford Transit Trail. You may also choose to go a different route entirely and purchase an older chassis camper van like a Volkswagen or Chevy Astro.

Sam and Whitney (@back2naturevan) decided to purchase a 2006 RWD Dodge Sprinter 2500 with 411,000 miles on it.

They explain, “We knew we had purchased an older van that would need some mechanical work and maintenance. We went in knowing that things wouldn’t be perfect so had expected additional costs. Ultimately, we did have some maintenance done by a mechanic and some additional repairs done by us that added up to about $7,000. All campers have issues, even new ones. We picked this one because we knew we could work on it ourselves and is known to be reliable.”

couple inside their camper van
Photo: Sam and Whitney inside their camper van

I recommend test driving the campervans you are most interested in to see how they drive before purchasing. Also, if you or your partner are tall, make sure you can comfortably stand up in the van. With my husband being 6’5”, this is a factor we had to navigate when choosing the best van chassis for us.

If you are buying from a dealer and plan to take out a loan, remember to get a quote on your monthly payment on the chassis to make sure it is doable for your financial situation.

Cost of a New Custom Van

If you do not want to go through the time and hassle of converting your van by yourself, you may consider purchasing a new converted camper van.

couple with their dog inside a camper van
Photo: Kate and Tom in their campervan

This is ultimately what my husband and I decided to do. Neither of us is particularly handy when it comes to carpentry or electrical wiring, and we did not want to waste precious time (and rent money) while converting a camper van by ourselves. We also lived in an apartment complex and did not have the tools or garage needed to convert a van.

After researching van conversion companies, renting camper vans, and attending an RV/van convention, we narrowed it down to our top two choices. From there, we made a pro/con list for each company. We also saw both custom vans in person and met with the sales representatives to get a final price quote before making our decision.

We chose Vanworks for several reasons. We loved the layout of the design for full-time van life, we could pay for the van chassis and conversion in a single loan, and the company was based where we lived at the time in Fort Collins, Colorado, meaning we could be present for the build process.

After adding on some interior and exterior upgrades, the total cost of our 2022 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter camper van was right around $130,000.

couple with their camper van parked outdoors
Photo: Kate and Tom with their camper van

It took Vanworks a little under two months to convert our van after we signed the paperwork and got approved for our loan. We put down about $20,000 on our van up-front and signed a 20-year loan. Each month, we pay about $1,050 towards the loan, but some months we pay extra towards our principal. We plan to live in our van for a few years before eventually selling it.

Emily Monsalud (@EmGoneWilde) is a full-time van lifer who purchased a 2023 Ram ProMaster 159” High Roof. She also decided to pay for a professional conversion through TG Customs. While Emily is happy with her van and build, she wishes her van had 4-wheel drive along with a complete fixed bed instead of a half conversion for more garage space, along with a composting toilet, more solar panels, and greater battery power.

beautiful woman inside a camper van
Photo: Emily with her 2023 Ram Promaster High Roof

If you are considering a professionally converted custom campervan, here is a table to show the breakdown of costs across a few different van conversion companies. Remember that these conversion companies tend to have a variety of packages and customizations that affect the total price of conversion and cost of the camper vans:

NameYear/Make/ModelConversion CompanyPrice of ChassisPrice of ConversionTotal Camper Van Cost
Kate and Tom Zittergruen (@roamwithless)2022 4×4 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 144” High RoofVanworks$68,000$62,000$130,000
Emily Monsalud (@EmGoneWilde)2023 Ram ProMaster 159” High RoofTG Customs$50,000$70,000$120,000
Maggie Spieker (@mileswith_mags)2020 FWD Ram ProMasterDave and Matt Vans$30,000$25,300$55,300

If you do not want to convert your van but do not mind purchasing one that has already previously been lived in and has some miles on it, purchasing a used converted camper van may be the best option for you. Used vans are beneficial because they tend to be cheaper than buying new converted camper vans, and you do not need to spend time converting it yourself.

The cost of a used converted campervan varies depending on the chassis, mileage, and wear and tear to the build of the van, but it will be at least a little more affordable than the costs mentioned above.

Cost of a DIY Camper Van

man posing outside a 1999 4x4 Ford e350
Photo: Bill Widmer with his 1999 4×4 Ford e350

For those who have the time, patience, and want the satisfaction of saying they built their own van, the DIY van conversion route is the way to go. Compared to purchasing converted vans, DIY camper van conversions are typically a cheaper option. However, it requires a good amount of time spent learning if you are not already familiar with building vans.

Anjali Justice (@anjalijustice) decided to go the DIY route on her 2014 Ram ProMaster. Anjali says that although the electrical ended up costing more than she expected, she feels “pretty happy with the ProMaster because it was very easy to build out due to its shape. I like having the bed go width wise. I like the extra height of other vans, though. The ProMaster is fine for me, but any taller person couldn’t fit.”

woman with her dogs inside a camper van
Photo: Anjali with her dogs inside her 2014 Ram Promaster camper van

With the help of her dad, Isabella Janssen (@thelonesol and also converted her van for full-time living. Isabella has a 2018 RWD Mercedes Sprinter (and former Amazon cargo van). Since she is living in her van full-time, Isabella explained that she “did not want to skimp on my systems or construction… Comfort was key for me.”

woman with her 2018 RWD mercedes sprinter
Photo: Isabella with her 2018 RWD Mercedes Sprinter

To help you compare prices on the variety of DIY van builds out there, here is a table to show the van purchased along with its mileage and total costs:

NameYear/Make/ModelMileage at PurchasePrice of ChassisPrice of ConversionTotal Camper Van Cost
Anjali Justice
2014 FWD Ram ProMaster72,000$27,000$9,000$36,000
Isabella Janssen (@thelonesol)2018 RWD Mercedes-Benz Sprinter180,000$25,000$23,500$48,500
Bill Widmer (@theportalatwitchwell)1999 4×4 Ford e350238,000$36,000$8,000$44,000
Alannah MacLean and Kyle Heddle (@wayoftheroads)2012 RWD Chevrolet Express 3500131,000$15,800$5,000$20,800
Keith and Hannah Rose (@keithandhannahh)2021 RWD Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 170”0 (new)$60,000$45,000$105,000
Sam and Whitney (@back2naturevan)2006 RWD Dodge Sprinter 2500411,000$8,500$19,500$28,000
Kristin Hanes (@thewaywardhome)2021 4×4 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 144”0 (new)$65,000$30,000$95,000
Kristin Hanes (@thewaywardhome)1994 AWD Chevy Astro57,000 miles$6,000$3,000$9,000

As you can see, the total costs for a DIY van range from $9,000 – $105,000. The factors that affect the total cost are typically the chassis along with the interior and exterior upgrades you decide to add.

Unexpected Camper Van Costs

There are sometimes costs to purchasing camper vans that you may not have anticipated.
If you decide to convert your van yourself, be aware that all of the little costs can add up quickly, and you may want to budget for a little more than you expect to spend.

camper van parked outdoors
Photo: Isabella’s camper van

Isabella explained that when she converted her Sprinter van, she “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.”

There are also costs to factor in outside of the cost of the conversion. When we purchased our Sprinter van, we did not consider the significant cost to register it as a Class B motor home in the state of Colorado. We were taken aback by the hefty registration cost of a little over $2,000 per year. Be sure to ask your DMV ahead of time how much your camper van will cost to register in your state.

Camper Van Upgrades

Of course, the total cost of your van will depend on the interior and exterior upgrades you decide to add. For example, we decided to add bamboo walls, ceiling, and accents to the inside of our van instead of going with the standard cloth. This increased the total cost but made it feel more “homey” to us, so we found it to be worth it.

woman standing inside her camper van
Photo: Isabella inside her camper van

Another upgrade consideration is the amount of storage space and drawers you have in your van. Isabella said that she might like to add more storage underneath her bed with built-in drawers to access from the living space. More storage and cabinetry tends to help you keep the small space of your van tidier and more organized, which is something that many of us take for granted before we actually live in a van.

Maggie (@mileswith_mags, echoes the need for more storage in her ProMaster conversion. Maggie also says that if she could redo her conversion, she “would have had the Espar heater exhaust on the driver’s side to reduce fumes from entering the van when the sliding door is opened,” along with an additional solar panel on top of her van.

Keith and Hannah Rose (@keithandhannahh) have several upgrades and changes they would like to make to their self-converted Sprinter van. They said that they would “do an entirely different layout with a fixed bed, a comfortable couch/lounging area/workspace in front of the bed, a bench pop-up shower, hydronic heating for on-demand hot water, a secondary alternator for charging the van, raise the fridge off of the ground, garage space for storage, intentional storage throughout the van for the things we use/store regularly, and an AWD van with exterior upgrades for a better ride.”

camper van showing its interior
Photo: Keith and Hannah’s camper van

If you are on the fence about deciding if an upgrade for your home on wheels is right for you, you could always wait on it potentially save money. Sam and Whitney explain, “Our philosophy is often to wait to see if we really need an item before getting it. This helps with space and budget.”

camper van showing its interior
Photo: Sam and Whitney’s camper van interior

Which is the Best Option for Me?

When considering the costs of camper vans, here are four questions to ask yourself to help you decide which option might be best for you. If you have a partner, I also recommend talking through these together before you make a decision.

As a final tip, try to rent a van for at least a weekend trip on the chassis you are considering before purchasing one. This may help you ensure that the van chassis is right for you and help you decide which features you want or need to have in your van conversion.

1. Are you going to live in your van part-time or full-time?

Before you purchase a camper van conversion, it is important to decide if you are looking for one that you could simply enjoy for a weekend trip or live in full-time. For those looking into full-time van life, there may be certain non-negotiable features such as a portable toilet, shower, air conditioning, and heater that you will want to factor into the cost of your conversion. If you are using your camper van as more of a weekender adventure mobile, you may be able to forego some of these amenities in the total cost.

2. Do you have the time and skill needed for DIY?

Although some may argue that going the DIY route is often cheaper, it does require a substantial amount of time and skill to convert one by yourself or with your partner. Do you have the ability to give up time after work and on weekends to work on your camper van for the next 6-12 months? And if you do not already have the carpentry and electrical skills needed, do you have even more time to devote to learning these skills online?

3. What kind of driving do you plan to do?

If you are getting a camper van to go on intense off-road trails, you might want to consider a chassis that has 4-wheel drive and high clearance. Even if you do not plan to go on these types of roads, you will want to consider other conditions like your camper van’s drivability in snow or sand. Keep in mind that 4×4 camper vans are typically more expensive which will factor into the total cost.

4. How much can you comfortably afford?

The cost of the van itself is just the start of your expenses. You will likely need to purchase some other essentials and outdoor gear before hitting the road. Plus, there are ongoing costs such as fuel, insurance, registration, oil changes, and tire rotations. Make sure that you choose an affordable camper van option for yourself. I recommend making a budget of your monthly expenses along with the monthly estimated cost of your van to see if it is doable based on your financial situation.

Are you considering purchasing a camper van? Let me know in the comments!

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One Comment

  1. Chuck Voinovich says:

    What conversion companies are in Arizona?

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