how much does it cost to convert a van into a campervan?

How much does it Cost to Convert a Van into a Campervan?

before and after of a sprinter campervan conversion

How much does it Cost to Convert a Van into a Campervan?

Ok, so this is a really hard question to answer generally speaking. What we can tell you is how much it cost to convert our van into a campervan and list down all the things you need to take into account and budget for. 

We can also give you an idea of the labour costs for a similar conversion if you decide to pay a professional to complete the build. This will be based on a handmade unique fit out rather than an off the shelf type fit out.

Some of you may be shocked when you read how much we spent as you often read in the press how little some people have spent. This is usually because they bought a really cheap base van and probably used any materials they could get their hands on for free. That’s not to say we think that’s wrong- it’s just for us we wanted a really well designed and beautiful van that we knew we couldn’t get on a drastically low budget. We also knew we would be living and working in ours for the foreseeable future so wanted to make it somewhere we really wanted to live in full time. 

Monetary Considerations for Converting a Van 

Base Vehicle 

How much does it cost to convert a campervan

This is possibly one of the biggest costs that will vary from build to build.

You do hear of people spending as little as £1000 on a base van but that's usually because they never intended on travelling that far in it. For us we wanted a reliable van that would get us across the world and was big enough for it not to feel cramped. 

We are also not mechanically minded so needed a van which needed minimal maintenance and would just keep going! For some people they are in the position where they can buy a cheaper, older van because they don’t intend on travelling that far and they can also do work to the van themselves. Not being mechanically minded ourselves we wanted the reliability of a newer van.

We easily decided on a LWB Mercedes sprinter van due to how reliable they are and they are also big enough to fit in everything you need to live full time in. After lots of research we also decided on buying a post 2013 sprinter as that model is not prone to rusting like the older versions are. It also has a chunky looking front and bumpers which we quite liked.

Our van cost us £12,000 in 2018. As discussed you can get away with spending less but if you are planning to travel a fair distance and want a mechanically reliable van then you may to need budget for anywhere between £8000-£12000. 


Fittings & Fixtures 

Kitting out a campervan

This is another variable which can be as big or as little as you want. 

Similarly to the base vehicle, we have heard of people fitting out a van for under £500 but for us that wouldn’t get us anywhere near the look and quality of fittings we wanted in the van. We wanted a van interior that felt like a modern style home rather than a traditional campervan look.

We will list each specific item for the build in the table below but the big things to consider which will really affect your budget are:

  • Refrigeration- 12 volt fridges are really expensive! If you want a built in one expect to pay anywhere between £200-£900. We saved money by just using a 12 volt cool box which is kept in the back of the van. So far this has worked well for us with a bit of meal pre-planning! It also helps we are not sun seekers and a lot of the time we are in cold places or at altitude so the cool box doesn’t have to work very hard. If you want to save money a compromise might be to have a cool box which is either fitted in or slides into the main living area. 

  • Oven- Again, LPG ovens are really expensive and use up a lot of room. We opted to just have a 2 burner hob and use an Omnia stove top oven which is a fraction of the price of an oven. We have never missed having an oven but know for some an a built in oven is a must. Allow upwards of £300 for a built in oven. 

Omnia oven in a campervan

  • Gadgets & electrics- You must consider what is vital for you in terms of your electronics and gadgets. When we first built the van we installed a fairly simple 12 volt system for which we have numerous USB charging ports and a couple of 12v cigarette lighter ports (for the cool box, charging laptops etc). 

However the more cooking we got into the more we really wanted the ability to use a blender (and occasionally dry our hair!) We then decided to install an inverter so we could use our Nutribullet to make smoothies, burgers and hummus mainly. 

Hummus

Word of warning- we initially installed a cheap inverter (cost approx £80) but it blew up and could have potentially caused a fire in the van. Luckily we got our money back- but lesson learnt- cheap is not always good! We have now upgraded to a remote controlled wireless pure sine wave inverter and it works brilliantly. Its installed next to the leisure batteries and is simply turned on or off with the remote control. Don't ever leave an inverter on or in sleep mode as it will still drain your batteries!

  • Kitchen fit out- Kitchens can be expensive in terms of the materials and tools you need to make them. You also need to be a pretty skilled carpenter to make them (and do a nice job on them). We decided to cut time and money and installed an Ikea kitchen in instead. This has so far been brilliant and looks good with the live edge oak surface on top. Yes kitchens like this weigh more but we saved weight on other areas of the build to off set this.

Ikea kitchen in a campervan conversion

  • Off grid capabilities- Do you want the ability to be off grid? If so you will most likely need solar panels, at least 2 decent batteries and also potentially some form of split charge system. All of this adds up but for us was one of the most important parts of the build as we like to go to remote places and have complete freedom. It also wouldn’t have been cost effective to have stopped on campsites regularly when we live full time in our van. 

  • Mattress- so many people scrimp on mattresses! When you spend half your life lying on it you need to get a comfy mattress which isn’t going to give you a bad back. We have recently upgraded our mattress to a  Casper mattress  which we had to cut to fit the van. It’s like heaven after lying on the thinner foam mattresses out there although it was slightly disconcerting putting a knife to a £400+ mattress! 

  • Ventilation- You need to ventilate your van to prevent excess condensation and damp. Fans are ideal as they can extract food smells and moisture out as well as using reverse settings to pull in cold air if you are in a hot country. As a minimum you need a roof vent but learn from our mistake- don’t go too cheap! We have a Fiamma vent in ours which we chose because of the cost but it’s broken numerous times so we will be upgrading it in the future. We also have a Flettnor fan  over the bed. Expect to pay upwards of £200 for a simple vent / fan and the Flettner fans are approx £100. 

  • Toilet / shower set up- A permanent toilet and shower room can be quite an expense and also takes up valuable room. We know it’s a deal breaker for some people but for us we wanted to keep the open plan feel and also not be reliant on carrying lots of water or worry about having to find water all the time. We have a dometic portable toilet in ours which pulls out from under the bench seats and use a pop up shower  system. The toilet and shower system all in is around £180. 

pop up shower in a campervan

Tools

If you are building the van yourself you may need to buy new tools unless you are a DIY enthusiast or have a carpentry background. We were lucky enough to have use of parents tools but did have to buy some extras. We have a list of the tools we used for our build in our shop here which give you an idea of the associated costs. 

Cost to convert a campervan

Additional security features

Our campervans are very precious to us, especially when virtually everything you own is contained within it when living full time van life. Therefore having it completely secure is essential and gives you peace of mind when you leave it unattended.

The best types of security devices don't come cheap but they were worth every penny.  We had deadlocks and an immobiliser installed and have a Disklok. 

Facilities

Do you have somewhere with electric you can convert the van? If not you may have to rent a facility somewhere to do it. This can get really expensive unless you know somebody with land, outbuildings, or workshops etc and can be in the £100’s per week. We converted our van on our parents driveway so luckily didn’t have to spend any money on this. 

Reclassification 

If you make major changes to a van, rather like a house, you must inform the authorities. In the UK we have to apply to the DVLA to have a panel van reclassified into a campervan so they can easily identify vehicles. Quirky campers wrote a good article on this here. 

Although it doesn’t cost anything to send off the application to reclassify it might cost money to meet the exact requirements of a ‘motor caravan’. 

Your Time

If you work full time and are doing this in your limited spare time- how much is your spare time worth? It might take you a couple of years to get a van completed which if you had paid a professional to do it, it could have been potentially ready in 8 weeks and you could have been using it to enjoy your free time in. 

We built our van ourselves because we were not working full time and could throw ourselves into the build and work in the evenings. We had it ready in 6 weeks so that worked out best for us. If you have the room to keep the van and don’t mind tinkering with it around work then a self built van is ideal but it is important to consider how much your time is worth.

If you are unsure about whether to do the build your self or pay a professional then see the table at the end of this blog to help you decide. 

How much did our van cost to convert?

Please note we have tried to give as accurate figures as possible but these are an approximate cost and they will vary depending on the spec and size of your van.

Base Van cost: £12,000  (LWB 2013 Mercedes Sprinter) 

campervan conversion cost

The following tables list in sections the tools and equipment used to build our campervan. 

 

Tools & Fixings

Click on the tool links for more information
 Item Approx Cost
Workbench (owned already) £25
Drill  (owned already) £130
Jigsaw  (owned already) £77
Kreg Pocket Hole System  £44
Circular saw  (owned already) £190
Router bit set  (owned already) £26
Various Glues & tape £60
Magnets £30
Copper pipe cutter £10
Handsaw  (owned already) £25
Quick Grip Clamps £24

Screwdrivers / pliers / wrench, hammer  (owned already)

£75

Toolbox  (owned already)

£35

Spirit level  (owned already)

£24

Drill & screwdriver bits  (owned already)

£32

Screws

£40

 

 Approx total tool cost to buy: £942. Excluding Tools owned already £232


Soundproofing & Insulation 


Click on individual product links for more information 

 Item Cost
Silent Coat sound deadener £45
Bubblewrap insulation £70
Earthwool insulation £60
Aluminium foil tape £20
Expanding foam £30
Celotex  £180

 

 Approx total sound proofing cost: £405

 

Ventilation 

Click on the individual product link for more information 

 Item Cost
Flettner Fan £100
Vent or Fan (Maxxair & Dometic have good reviews) £200- £400
Sealant £12

 

 Approx total ventilation cost: £400

 

Electrics


Click on the individual product links for more information 

 Item Cost
Leoch 130 AGM Lesiure batteries £169 x 2
Pure sine wave remote inverter £270
Leisure battery charger  £70
Ring DC to DC charger  £240
Fuse box  £30
Selection of fuses £10
Insulation tape £5
Master/kill switches x 3 £60
Battery indicator £13
LED light bulbs £20
Internal battery indicator £12
Switches £10
USB & 12v charging port £17
Shrink wrap £6
Lamp holder £8
CO & smoke alarm £27
Hook up cable £20

 

 Approx total for electrics: £856

 

Camper Lining & Floor Materials 

 Item Cost
Tongue & Groove wood (6mm) £55
Various Wooden Battons (2x1') (2x2') £150
Wood for trimmings £120
Auto Carpet  £30
Flooring (click tiles) £109
Glue (eco stick turbo x 4) £44
Paint & Primer £150
Spray adhesive  £7

 

 Approx total lining & floor materials: £665

 

Kitchen Materials 

Click on the individual product link for more information 

 Item Cost
Ikea kitchen units £300
Live edge worktop £100
Gas Hob £66
Cool Box £40
6 x 10 litre water containers £60
Water pump £18
Sink & waste £70
Misc connectors & pipes £20

 

 Approx total for kitchen materials: £674

 

Heating & Gas System

Click on the individual product link for more information 

 Item Cost
Propex Heater HS200 £500
Gas pipes & fittings £50
LPG installation & tank £810

 

 Total for Heating & Gas system: £1,360

 

Solar 

Click on the individual product link for more information 

 Item Cost
2 x Bimble solar panels £433
Solar Gland Box £12
CT1 Extra Strong Adhesive Glue £12

 

 Approx total for solar system: £457

 

Security & Safety

Click on the individual product link for more information  

 Item Cost
Immobilisation System £450
Deadlocks £500
Disklok £130
Fire blanket  £10
LPG detector £29
Snow Chains £164
Jump Leads £13
Snow shovel £6
Anti slip mats £25

 

 Total for security & safety: £1327

 

Soft Furnishings & Mattress 

Click on the individual product link for more information  

 Item Cost
Casper Mattress £450
Foam for seats £45
Fabric for seats  £80
Fabric for Thermal Window Panels £30
Silver Foil Bubble Wrap £20
Neodym Magnets 10mm £16

 

 Approx total cost for soft furnishings & Window Panels: £641

 

Toilet & Shower 

Click on the individual product link for more information

 Item Cost
Dometic 976 portable toilet £130
USB rechargeable shower  £30

 

 Approx total cost for toilet & shower: £160

 

 APPROX TOTAL FOR BUILD: £7,100
 APPROX GRAND TOTAL FOR BUILD & VAN: £19,000          EXCLUDING ANY LABOUR COSTS

 

Remember this cost does not include any labour costs or any of the all important little extras you need for kitting out the van to live in. Hopefully it does give you some idea on the likely costs for your build though.  

Sprinter campervan conversion

Other considerations 

Remember- on top of all the above listed essentials you need to factor in cooking and kitchen equipment, soft furnishings of your choice such as curtains and cushions, bedding, lights and storage containers etc. 

We haven't listed all these as the list would be endless! As a rough guide probably add on another £250 at least for all these things. 

How much extra would it Cost to have the Van Converted Professionally? 

Most converters will be able to give you a good idea of what their likely labour charges are once they understand what type of van you are looking for and the spec. 

We know of 2 handcrafted, bespoke campervans that have been converted professionally and they costed £16,000 and £15,500 all in (materials & labour excluding the van cost). Both of these vans were pretty high spec with heating, fridges and water heating to give you an idea.

Therefore it you take off the materials cost we have listed above it gives you a pretty good idea of what it will cost extra in labour to have a van converted professionally. 

We would suggest you take a look at Quirky Campers Converter Directory to browse through the types of professional converters available. They all have their own individual style and some will be do vans completely bespoke to you and others are much more rigid with their customer builds (usually because they have a tried, tested and trusted build design). 

Professional Conversion VS Self Build Conversion

To help you decide whether you should convert a van yourself or have it done professionally- have a look at the following table and see which side of the table best represents you:

 Professional Conversion Self Build Conversion
You want to get out and have adventures ASAP? You have the time to dedicate to a build project and are a patient person
You are cash rich time poor You are time rich and cash poor?
You lack any facilities to carry out a conversion You have the room at home or facilities elsewhere to do a conversion 
You lack any DIY skills and don't have the time to learn them You have DIY experience or have the time to learn new skills 

Any Questions?

We would love to hear from you- please contact us here. Please also feel free to leave a comment below. 


6 comments


  • linda barton

    very useful information, many thanks and your van looks anazing. wishing you many happy travels


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