If you are interested in van life, you might wonder just how much it costs exactly to convert a van into a tiny home. There is no one answer to this as the cost depends on a lot of factors, such as the kind of vehicle, the quality and quantity of appliances included in the van, the maintenance costs and so on.
So, how much does it cost to convert a van into a tiny home?
The short answer:
A campervan conversion can cost anywhere from $1K to $100K depending on the quality of finishes and number of man hours required.
A campervan conversion will obviously cost less if your individual requirement is just to have a place to live and fulfill your basic needs from, and will cost more if you want a well-designed space that will last over the years and be a comfortable dwelling for you to enjoy.
Read more below to have a succinct cost analysis of a campervan conversion, and a break down of all the factors involved in the process.
Campervan Conversion Cost (DIY vs Professional)
Typically, doing a campervan conversion yourself with enough things included to build a comfortable house will cost you around $5,000 to $15,000. Since this is a DIY method, it will cost lesser than hiring a professional to do the job.
A professional might charge you above $25K for a van with all the necessities for a normal home, but prices can vary depending on what kind of design you want for the van. Typically, professionals charge based on the material cost. If you want to go for premium, high-quality wood flooring, for example, it will cost you more.
What is the cost of the base vehicle?
One of the biggest expenses involved in a campervan conversion is the base vehicle. Some people spend as little as 1000$ over the base van, which works well if you just want a place to stay and don’t want to travel long distances.
An inexpensive van will also require more maintenance, which is why it is usually purchased by people who have the mechanical know-how of a van and are able to repair it on their own.
An expensive, spacious van such as a LWB Mercedes sprinter may cost around 13,000$. Vans like this are able to travel long distances easily and have enough space to store a lot of items, mimicking the effect of a house very well.
How much would the fittings, fixtures and appliances cost?
Again, it all comes down to your individual requirements. For example, if you want built-in 12 volt refrigerators, you can expect them to cost around 250$ to 1000$. There are other ways you can ‘refrigerate’, though, such as using a cool box fitted anywhere in the van.
With gadgets and electronics, something like a 12 volt system will work well to run a number of USB charging ports and other devices. If you have appliances that require more energy, you can install a simple inverter to fulfill that purpose. Try not to go for inexpensive, low-quality inverters as they might blow up after extended use and in worst cases, even cause a fire.
It might cost you 1500$ to 4000$ if you want an off-grid, solar setup for your van. It might be expensive at the forefront, but it would prove to be a worthwhile investment because it can easily run a wide range of devices such as electric fans, lights, refrigerators, computers etc. and requires little to no maintenance.
How Much Does Ventilating a Campervan Cost?
It’s important not to go too cheap when it comes to ventilation – you don’t want to purchase a vent which is too flimsy and ends up breaking again and again. You can expect to pay about 250$ to 300$ for a simple ventilation system for your van.
Should You DIY Your Van or Pay a Professional to Do It?
It might be cheaper to convert your van into a house yourself, but consider that time is money, too. Getting a professional to do the job might cost more at the front end, but it is a good investment if you don’t have the DIY skills to build your van yourself nor have the time to learn them.
How hard is it to convert a van into a campervan?
It is not that hard to DIY a van into a campervan, considering there are lots of YouTube tutorials available online to help you perform the task with ease. To give you some general pointers, make sure you plan a bit before beginning your DIY campervan project. Make some models out of cardboard to have an idea what you wish to make.
Also, make sure to stay within your budget and make use of affordable tools. Practice safety precautions and especially while assembling big parts, don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional to make your task simpler.
Is it worth converting a van?
While it’s not necessary to convert a van since you can just buy a readymade campervan, it is still worth doing so as premade ones in the market may not best suit your individual preferences. You might save up on the cost by buying a readymade campervan, but there may be no guarantee on the quality.
Again, it depends on what you want, but the added cost in converting a van proves to be a worthwhile investment since it is customized for your needs and wants.
How to save money while living in a van?
The best way to save money is to regularly maintain your van by getting the oil changed and the tires inflated on time. The better you maintain your van, the more you’ll have to avoid getting it repaired which is often expensive.
Apart from that, do your best to conserve water and fuel. For example, don’t buy too many dishes so you won’t have to consume too much water while cleaning them. Focus more on no-cook meals such as sandwiches in order to save energy, and try to make your own food instead of eating out too much.