Personally, I’ve never converted a van into camper van. I’m writing this in the very first sentence so that all the internet haters of the world don’t get all up in my face. So this is not a turnkey manual with plans and technical diagrams of how to wire the camper parts and accessories. However, many of the accessories on our motorhome and van were assembled and wired by my father and me at our home. Dad is an expert at this sort of thing, and I learned a lot in the process.
“In this manual, I won’t go into technical details like which cable to plug in where to get your solar panel to work properly.”
I mainly want to cover my practical advice and opinions here. What options do you have, what should a rebuilt van contain and what does a van actually not need to contain. The articles in this category of the portal will also be based on the practical experience of my friends who have converted a van but have not written a book about it.
The complexity of camper van conversion
A self-converted van can be a very simple campervan, with no shower or kitchen. It could also be a camper van that is the equal of a commercially made motorhome.
The closer a converted van comes to the features of a camper van, the more luxurious it is to live in. In the previous sections of this casual manual, I’ve detailed what all a motorhome consists of and what it actually contains. It’s up to you what you want to have in your converted van.
The desired features of the van will also depend on the duration of the refurbishment or van creation. You can knock down an extremely simple conversion in a week, but it will take you a year to make a well-done van. You will become a cabinet maker, electrician, heating and plumbing technician while you are preparing the van. I’ve even known people who never finished converting a van.
All motorhome accessories and parts for your camper van conversion can be purchased at a local motorhome shop or over the internet. I’m thinking now of things like 12v faucets, water pump, bandasky, sink, stove, LED lights or solar panels. These parts are usually quite expensive. More expensive than a similar thing you would use in an apartment or house.
You need to factor in the total price of the converted camper van:
- the price of the van
- material such as wood or aluminium
- motorhome parts
- garage rental
- necessary tools
Purchase of finished furniture
There are companies that specialise in making furniture for certain models of campervans. The most common is the Volkswagen Transporter which is very popular base for camper van conversion. So if you don’t want to buy a VW California but would like to have one, you can easily buy a rock-n-roll bed, lockers, kitchen but also a lifting roof for your Caravelle. The furniture can be attached to the original seat retention systems. Be sure to check out Maxx-Camp. At the very least, you can be inspired by their solutions.
Reimo makes both lifting roofs and fixed high roofs. Polyroof makes a pretty nice fixed high roof for the VW California.
There are also plenty of English companies that also offer their own furniture or beds. That way you can build your campervan without having to cut and assemble anything
“The advantage is that the purchased furniture is not permanently fixed in the van”
You can dismantle it at any time, use the van for another purpose or sell it without the furniture.
Buying an older motorhome or camper van
I am writing this alternative here deliberately. Sometimes it is cheaper and quicker to buy and run an older motorhome than to make a camper van. Lots of people travel with older vans and motorhomes. The running costs will be several times less than a new Ducato or VW T5. This old skool trend has been around for a long time, just go watch the surfing spots. You’ll find plenty of old Hymers or Westfalis.
Professional van conversions
There are companies all over Europe that will quite professionally rebuild your own van for you. So if you don’t want to invest in buying a big brand, you can support a local manufacturer.
“Such a van from a smaller company can be comparably good but at a lower price”