Getting into vanlife is not cheap. Buying a base vehicle, doing the conversion and finally hitting the road can take months and a lot of money. So, one of the most common questions we get is…
What is the cheapest van to convert into a camper?
The quick answer:
The cheapest van for camper conversion is the Nissan NV200, which will cost about $25,000. This is a compact cargo van and is really only ideal for a solo traveler who is ok with doing vanlife in a tight space.
The explosion of interest in camper vans over the past 5 years has driven up the price of new camper vans in order to meet the rising demand. Therefore the cheapest van that you can convert into a camper would be an older model, used panel or cargo van.
There are several reasons that a used van will be cheaper to convert into a camper such as availability, vehicle condition, and brand. Continue reading further to learn more about the options for camper van conversions and the cheapest van you can get to create your own getaway on wheels.
Cheapest Cargo Van to Convert to a Camper
Panel vans are automobiles characterized by a body that lacks windows on the sides and back of the design. Vans of this type have been utilized over the years by electricians, HVAC technicians, florists, plumbers, and electricians, to transport items over small distances. The load capacity of a panel van is typically comparable to that of a conventional sized pickup truck, but it has the advantage of being covered, which prevents bad weather from damaging any products during transit.
The cheapest new panel van to use for a camper van conversion that you can find is the Nissan NV200. The Nissan model NV, which starts at around $25,000, comes standard with a 2.0L I4 engine and Front Wheel Drive. The NV200 Compact Cargo is expected to get 24 MPG in town and 26 MPG on the interstate.
What is the Cheapest Sprinter Van to Convert into a Camper?
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is one of the most prominent vans on the marketplace today now. The Sprinter is a multi-purpose vehicle that is frequently used for delivering packages or as a labor vehicle. The Sprinter also serves as the foundation for many camper vans as it is taller than standard vans and usually longer, creating an ideal canvas for a camper conversion.
Although a Sprinter is technically a Mercedes product, there are other, less expensive versions of this exact van. The Ford Transit is one such model that is available at a fraction of the cost of a Mercedes Sprinter. While not a luxury vehicle, you can pick up a Ford Transit van, new for around $40,000 and a used one in good condition for around $20,000.
Can I Save Money Buying a Used Van?
Absolutely. Opting to purchase a used van, in any category, will shave off thousands and quite possibly tens of thousands of dollars from the cost of the van. Used vans are also preferable to new ones for camper vans because the conversion kits cost so much money.
The best, and cheapest, used van that is suitable for a camper conversion is the Chevy Express or GMC Savana. The Chevrolet Express shares technical characteristics with the GMC Savana, which was created in 1995 to replace the Chevy Van and GMC Vandura. Both are based on the GMT600 platform, which has a full body-on-frame design, enhanced engine options, and better drivability than the GMT400-derived chassis.
How Much Does it Cost to Convert a Van into a Camper?
The cost to convert a regular panel, cargo, or sprinter van into a camper can differ from project to project. This is because of the wide range in base prices of the van itself, and the actual conversion kit. You can purchase a pre-fabricated conversion kit from a company, purchase plans and build one yourself, or build one yourself from scratch.
Of course, building your own DIY camper conversion kit will be your cheapest option, but if you get a really good deal on the base price of the van, you should consider purchasing a conversion kit. This is because prepackaged conversion kits are manufactured to fit your specific van.
Is It Cheaper to Buy a Camper Van or Convert One?
It is cheaper to convert your own van into a camper van. Camper vans have exploded in popularity over the past decade with sales ramping up exponentially over the last 5 years. Camper vans now come in many different sizes with tons of amenities and features to create a true RV experience.
Prebuilt camper vans are expensive. You can expect to pay upwards of $100,000 for a small camper van with luxury camper vans easily selling for double that. Compare that to buying your own van and converting it, which can be done for around $40,000 and you can see the vast difference in pricing between the two.
What Are the Short and Long Term Costs for a Camper Van?
Like any other motor vehicle, there are short and long term costs to owning a camper van. In the short term, you can expect to pay for the van and the conversion kit. Any amenities that you want to feature not included in the conversion kit, like a wet bath or workspace, can add additional charges to the short term cost.
Long term costs for camper vans are on par with other long term RV costs. This includes regular maintenance and upkeep. Keep in mind that if you choose to purchase a used van, converted or otherwise, you may find yourself paying more sooner for maintenance and repairs.
Are Camper Vans Overpriced?
The answer to this is a matter of opinion, but yes, currently the camper vans on the market are extremely overpriced. There are a few reasons for this. First, the demand for camper vans has created a surge that manufacturers cannot meet fast enough, creating supply chain bottlenecks.
Secondly, camper vans, like other motor vehicles are a depreciable asset. This means that you will only lose money in a camper van, it does not appreciate like a house. Finally, a camper van will eventually wear out to the point that the repair bills will exceed the value of the camper. Unfortunately with a used camper van, this may happen sooner than you think.
For those who plan on using a camper van to earn money, like from social media influencing or blogging, a camper van would not be considered overpriced, but rather a business asset. If you plan on using a camper van for a business, be sure to report it on your taxes as it depreciates.
(featured image: nissanusa.com)