If you’re reading this then you’ve already decided that you’re going to make your own campervan, but you don’t want to break the bank to do it. Doing your own conversion can cost a bundle. Just a quick internet search will yield a tonne of results, and you’ll see that some folks out there spend literally thousands on the fanciest of conversions. But you needn’t go broke to travel in style. To help you along the way we have compiled a few tips on how to save money, so you’ll burn only the smallest of holes in your pocket.
The first thing you need to decide is what you are willing to spend on your van, not factoring in conversion costs. Take this figure and stick to it as best you can. If you intend to live in your campervan for an extended period, then maybe you will want to go for something a bit more spacious. If space isn’t all that important to you then you will have more options.
Don’t rush into buying the first van you remotely like. Shop around, do your research, ask your friends and family, and use all the tools the internet can give you. Sites like AutoTrader, ExchangeAndMart, and VanMonster are great places to look. Online classifieds like Gumtree are housing a few bargains too. And remember, the further you expand your search, the more likely you are to find a great deal. Don’t limit your search to 10 miles within your hometown. Look outwards of 100 miles and you’re sure have more joy.
But Don’t go too Cheap!
It’s very unlikely that you’re going to find something that suits your needs for £500. And even if you did, for this cost it’s likely to be a bit of a banger. Buying a van that is on its last legs is only going to cost you more money in the long run.
When inspecting a van make sure to check if the tires need replaced. Is the air conditioning working? What is the clearance like? You don’t want it too low if you’ll be going off road. Turn the engine on and listen for any suspect noise, and while you’re at it check for any leaks. Give it a quick drive around and make sure the brakes are in good condition.
Lastly, check the mileage. If the van is a bit of a rust bucket, then going over 150k can be a gamble. You may only get another 50k out of it. If it’s in good condition with regular services, then you could get away with 200k.
If any of these things fail to meet your minimum requirements, then you’ll end up driving your (kind of) new van right to the nearest mechanic. The last thing you need to be doing is spending handfuls of cash just to keep the thing on the road.
Carefully Draw up a Plan
This is one step that you want to be sure of. The last thing you want is to get your measurements wrong only to find out that the bed you’ve sourced doesn’t fit properly. So, think it over, write a list of things that are essential to you (bed, kitchen area, reading space etc.) and then draw up a plan. Take your time and make sure you’re acutely aware of the dimensions of your van and what goes where. Remember, mistakes cost money!
Source your DIY Materials Intelligently
Which of these do you think is the most expensive: new wood or salvaged wood? That’s right, new wood every time. Don’t be snobby when it comes to your building materials. If you live near a reclamation yard, pop in. They’re great for finding inexpensive, or even free, timbers! And if you’re not too proud, you will always find odd bits of wood in rubbish tips, building sites, or even at random rubbish skips. Sometimes this might mean a bit more care before getting down to assembling, but you’ll find the wood often has more character. And a labour of love is worth the work, right?
Do the Work Yourself
You’ve got all the materials; your plan is drawn up and now you’re looking at labour costs. If you really are set on saving as much as possible on your van conversion, then break out the tool kit and get to work (maybe ask a handy friend or two for help). Not only will you save a bundle, but you’ll be left with the sense of pride that comes with putting in the work. So, get stuck into your old van, gut it, clean it, and then get to it.
Don’t Forget to Insulate
After you’re stripped and cleaned your van, you’ll want to get some proper insulation in there. This will make sure that when it’s warm you stay cool, and when it’s cold you can stay warm. This is super important, so don’t scrimp on this step too much, and certainly don’t skip it. Luckily, insultation foam isn’t overly expensive. Depending on the size of your van, you’ll likely spend between £100-£150 on this.
How will you do your interior?
Walls and Flooring
After you’ve done your insulation, you will want to lay down some flooring. Whether you decide on carpet, vinyl, or even wooden flooring, this can all be done for next to nothing. You can shop for cheap deals, buy second hand, or source for free online or from someone you know. The same goes for whatever method of wall decoration you might decide on. This really is a matter of personal choice but cladding and plywood are both sensible and affordable options.
Perhaps most important of all, you want somewhere to sleep. Sure, you can fork out a crazy amount to buy a fitted bed, but why not just do it yourself? You can source a sofa bed for next to nothing using online classifieds. Want to build something yourself? No problem. Using some 2×4’s and 2×6’s you can build your own elevated bed platform. Just make sure to leave enough elevation for storage space underneath.
Next, you’ll need to sort out a kitchen area. This might sound daunting, but it really needn’t be a massive job. Grab yourself some of your responsibly sourced 2×4’s, a sheet of plywood to serve as the top, and get to work. Just like the bed, you’ll have to leave space underneath for storage. How you construct your kitchen is down to you, but you’ll likely want a sink, a chopping area and some space for gas hobs. You can spend around £10 for portable hobs, but best to fork out (get it?) a few extra quid and get yourself a decent double hob that’s connected to a propane tank. For a sink, simply cut a hole in your kitchen top and stick a large mixing bowl in there. A kitchen tap should run you no more than £10. Connect this to an appropriately stored water tank.
What about Power?
If you’re on a budget, then you don’t want to go for the solar option. The panels, roof rack and related hardware will run you into the thousands, and it’s a needless expenditure if you don’t have that many power needs. Instead, go for a power converter. This one on Amazon is under £40, and it will keep your phone and other gadgets charged. That way, you’ll not have to worry about staying connected to the outside world.
For when it gets dark, why not get some battery powered LEDs? The options here are limitless and you can literally put them anywhere. One quick online search will bring up thousands of results!
Bits and bobs
The last thing to mention is all the small things that you’ll need to fully equip your new campervan. These include, but aren’t limited to, kitchen materials such as pots, plates, cutlery, and bowls. Bedding, pillows, curtains (if you feel the need), storage boxes, and a washing bag are also vital for day to day living. Be sure to factor in things like handles, hinges and other drawer related hardware (if building your own). Not to mention the myriad of tools, nuts and bolts you’ll need. Most of these you should be able to get super cheap, or even free. If you can’t be bothered to shop around for the best deals, then you can always ask your friends and family if they’re throwing anything out!
So, there you have it. Make a note of these pointers and you will be well on your way to having your own, self-converted campervan. All you need is a bit of know-how, the energy to get started, and the will to take your time. Good luck, and most of all, happy camping!