Recreational vehicles are great because they allow you to travel long distances with comfort. An RV is essentially your small home away from your home. Therefore, you need to make it as cozy and comfortable as possible.
Living in your RV is all about enjoying freedom with nature. RVs can cost you a fortune. But don’t worry, you can do it yourself to save a lot of money. It’s a project that you will love to work on as you prepare to go on your trip.
So, keep reading to learn all you need to know to make a do it yourself RV.
How to Choose a Van to Make It an RV
Choosing the right kind of van for this entire project is critical. There are different types of models available on the market. Choosing the best one will be a highly subjective decision because other people have different needs, so there is a preferred choice for a van to differ.
Some vans come with some extra space while they are great for stealth camping. You can also go for cost-effective options, and of course, you can always build one too. You can even find some vans that have minimal work done on them to get them on the road for your next trip.
Make sure to choose a van that you can handle mechanically as well. All these options need to be considered before you choose a van. And you will find one according to your preferences.
How to Build a Do It Yourself RV – Step by Step
Building your van is like building your mini house on the wheels so that it will be tough, right? That might not be the case if you have planned everything and have the right kind of van with you.
This step-by-step guide will show you how to build your do it yourself RV on a limited budget. And of course, you can add more cost according to your budget if you need more amenities in your ride.
Step 1 – Buying your van
If you already have a van and want to make changes, you can skip this step and move on to her next one. For those of you who are going to start from scratch, keep reading.
When looking for the right kind of van, you need to decide what is your budget. And then begin your search. Even if you’re not going to buy anything right now, knowing the market would be useful.
Look for the models you like and consider the area where you will travel more frequently. You can also look for the right price in the areas that are away from you.
When buying a van, you need to check its tires, air conditioning, clearance, leaks, noises, brakes, mileage, and also whether it is RWD or 4WD. You will be able to work on these later on, or maybe you need to look for other options based on these features.
Step 2 – Cleaning the van
If you are going for a cheap and used van, you will have to clean it all up before you start building it as your RV. You might have to do some gutting because you never know what kind of van you will first.
There will be unbolting that you will have to do and that all depends upon what kind of vehicle you have and how it was used previously. But make sure that you unbolt and remove anything from your van that you are not going to use later on. Because you will be bolting plenty of other stuff.
When you are done with bolting, it’s time to clean your vehicle. Do a thorough clean because you never know how it was used previously or how long it had been standing. You will have to spend several hours to make it work.
Step 3 – Taking measurements
The next step is the beginning of your work on the van. You will have to make sure that you measure everything in your van, from length to width to height. You will also notice a change in the vehicle’s width as some vans tend to bow out from the center.
Make sure to note down everything as it will allow you to go for the things that can fit in comfortably in your van later on.
Step 4 – Make a plan
It’s time to develop the floor plan for your van. You will have to ask yourself what you would like to have in your do it yourself RV? Do you need a full-size bed or a working kitchen?
Do you need more storage or want to go for some space for your pet? Or maybe you need a desk to work or perhaps a little nook to relax? The choice is yours.
As we are going for a budget option here, if you want more space for a shower, you will need to spend more and get a bigger van. You need to think about your top priorities and think how much space each of these elements will take.
You will be able to know how much sacrifice you will be making. Moreover, you can try out different options and stick with the best-suited to your needs. You can fix your bed in the rear section and then build the rest of the floor around that.
You can also go for a lengthwise bed layout where the kitchen will be on the opposite side of your bed. There are convertible dinette layouts as well. With this type of design, you will have plenty of space for sitting and some rest.
Have your kitchen right behind your cabin as well. It’s just how you want your recreational vehicle to look. If you are going for a bigger van, you will also have to add a small space for a shower, devising a plan accordingly.
If you have tons of ideas in your head, make sure you draw them out and imagine how you will work with them in your van. You can be experimental here because you never know what will work out for you in your van.
Step 5 – Building foundation
Now is the time to get your hands dirty and do some stuff on your van. Make sure to use the measurements that you took earlier on and create a bed platform with the help of plywood along with some 2x6s and 2x4s.
You can also make a kitchen counter along with a stove and a functional sink. You will need some good carpentry and woodwork skills here.
It would be better for you to go for a full-sized bed but ensure you have enough storage for all your gear. It won’t take more than 4 hours to complete your bed using plywood, 2x6s, and 2x4s.
You can go for a simple countertop for the kitchen and place a regular 2-burner stove on top. The counter needs to be big to hold a sink and a small cutting board for the prep work.
With a large enough counter, you will have plenty of storage space underneath. You can use your plywood and 2x4s to create your counter within just a couple of hours.
Step 6 – Making curtains
Windows in your van will be great for natural light, but you will need some privacy in your van life as well. And for that, you will have to make your curtains.
It’s not that difficult of a process at all, and you can use a variety of tutorials to make your curtains by operating sewing machines. And that’s it!
5 Vans You Can Use to Build a DIY RV
You might still be thinking about which type of van should you go for? Well, to ease things for you, we have developed a list of 5 vans to build your do it yourself RV, and they are as follows:
1. Any Volkswagen camper
When it comes to van or RV life, Volkswagen is by far the best brand and is loved by all in the RV community. You can either go for the old VW bus, Vanagon, or the newer Eurovans for Westfalias.
These are Volkswagens converted by Westfalia Co. in Germany and converted by Winnebago in the United States. These campers are great for camping, but you need to be careful with the used ones that might run into mechanical issues.
2. Euro-style campers and vans
Another good option for you to consider is a Euro-style van known as Sprinter, Promaster, or Transits. They are great for their interior height and have long wheelbases. The boxer shape will provide you with plenty of room to work with too.
You can choose Dodge or Mercedes Sprinters, Dodge Promoters, or Ford Transits. This is the best option for you to consider if you are looking for a do it yourself RV because there is ample room for you to work with and design your floor plan.
3. Cargo vans
Another great option for you to consider is cargo versions along with their passenger versions. These vans are great for stealth camping because you can find them everywhere. You will discover Ford Econoline, Chevy van, Dodge Ram van, Chevy Express, and GMC Savanna.
These vans are pretty reliable, but they are nothing too fancy. However, they can serve you well when it comes to accommodating different floor plans according to our preferences.
4. High-top conversion vans
These are full-size passenger vans like the ones we have just mentioned. They have been turned into highly comfortable vehicles, and some of them even come with wheelchair lifts. They come with various amenities pre-installed to working on them to make your RV more suitable for you.
Skoolies are for your ultimate living on the road experience. You can conveniently accommodate families if you are not going to be alone on your trip. You can either go for a short skooly or a large one and convert it accordingly.
Why Do You Choose to Live in A Camper Van?
Why a camper van? This question might be challenging to answer because you don’t have words to describe the feeling that RV life gives you. It’s an alternative lifestyle that is particularly attractive to minimalists as well as outdoor lovers.
The people who prefer this lifestyle are digital nomads who work online or move throughout their seasonal jobs. It’s a life that is not suitable for all. For some, it might be a financial necessity, while others are just adventure seekers.
This lifestyle can help you save money, and you can be mobile at all times. It is far more comfortable than camping, and you can use clean solar energy to have a lesser environmental impact. You can pack up and go anytime you want and set up wherever you want.
How much does it cost to convert a van into a campervan?
It all depends upon how ambitious you want to be with your project. It also depends on how much space is available in our van. Some people go with their vehicle and don’t do many conversions.
Others give up to $45,000 4WD Sprinter. But for a high-tech conversion, you can expect to spend around $15,000 for sure. For a more simplistic conversion, you can easily manage it within $5000.
What is the best van to convert to a campervan?
The best van to convert is the Ram Promaster, Ford Transit, and Mercedes Sprinter. These vans have plenty of headroom, and you can use the space available for different floor plans as well.
Is it legal to convert a van into a camper?
Yes, you can legally convert your van into a camper, and it needs to have an access door to enter the living accommodation. With that feature, it will be deemed as a camper van, not a regular van.
What license do you need for a camper van?
You can use your regular driver’s license to drive your camper van. This license allows you to drive a vehicle that can weigh up to 3500 kilograms and tow a trailer up to 750 kilograms as well. A regular do it yourself RV falls into this category, so you don’t need a different license for it.
So, what do you think about a do it yourself RV? Is it worth all the effort or not? If you are a do it yourself fanatic, this project will be worth all the effort.
You will end up saving a lot, plus you will have the bragging right as well. The best part is that you can easily try out different floor plans on different tips as well.