People interested in Vanlife are often curious just how much money it costs to buy and convert your own campervan. It is also usually the first question we get asked “How much did it cost to convert? It’s interesting that when we lived in a house no one asked us how much our house cost, but all of a sudden everything is on a monetary basis. It seems the cheaper you can build the more points you get in the #VanlifeGame 😂
So what is the average cost to convert a courier van into a home? This is a very tricky question to answer definitively because all campervans are different and what people want is very different. The answer ranges from under 1k to over 100k depending on the cost of the conversion materials and inclusions. There is obviously a wide range and, the ol’ saying “how long is a piece of string” is very relevant. We think that our van conversion strikes a good balance between price, features, and comfort.
We had little to no experience before building our own campervan. But with thorough research online, reading blogs and watching endless YouTube DIY videos, we kinda got the basics about building. It was a true “Learning by Doing” project.
Our main goal was to make our van as functional and comfortable as possible while staying under $20,000 conversion cost. We kept a detailed log of all purchases and receipts. Below you will see the full cost of our self-converted campervan from the van itself and the whole conversion including additional accessories to make the van feel like home.
The most expensive item is usually the electrical, it’s common to spend at least $1,500-$6,000 for a decent-sized off-grid solar setup. The later provides ample electricity for the typical comforts we’ve all grown accustomed to (lights, fans, fridge, phones, laptops, cameras, TV’s, blender, etc).
The fridge also tends to be one of the more expensive individual items, but you can go with more economical versions. Wood is another expensive material that really adds up.
But besides those ‘big-ticket’ items, it’s mostly just a ton of smaller items that add up to big money in the end. You can always but secondhand, direct from suppliers or from manufacturers. This will save you heaps but it does take time to research and find the best deals. Something we were very happy to do to keep our budget in check.
Many would consider our van build as ‘Glamping’. For us it strikes a good balance between price and amenities, with most of the comforts of a home, by using cost-effective materials and products. We wanted the creature comforts, we also want to spend long periods of time off grid.
A lot of research went into what kind of van we wanted. We were on a budget and knew we wanted to buy secondhand to keep cost for the van down itself. Our goal was to try and get a van that had less than 60,000 total kilometres. We also knew we wanted a van tall enough to stand in, so we wanted the van to have a high top and long enough to sleep length ways, so ultimately it needed to be a LWB.
We believe starting with the best Van base you can afford is the key. There is no use spending all the time and money on a rust-bucket that has mechanical issues. You are better off spending less on your conversion and more on the vehicle. We chose a 2020 Renault Master x62 LWB with a high top. Our engine is a 2.3L diesel engine delivering 110kW with the 6-speed automated gearbox model. Combined with a 100L fuel tank and long service intervals the Renault Master will keep us on the road and travelling longer. You can find the specifications here 👉 Our Van Build at a Glance
We feel we certainly lucked out on this purchase, Karen found this 2020 Renault x62 LWB online as a private sale at truly a great price. With only 8,000klm and still under warranty we stretched our budget on the van purchase and shaved on our conversion budget.
We had a pre-purchase inspection done to the van before we bought it. The van was in great condition and had many kilometres left! But the first thing it was needing was it’s first service to maintain the warranty. So we picked up the van Saturday and drove it straight to our local Renault service centre and forked out $600 for the first service ouch!
But overall, it fitted our criteria, we were getting a near new vehicle in awesome condition, low kilometres and we thought the price was amazing.
You can read in detail what products we put into our build here, but now it’s time to talk dollars.
As we mentioned earlier we knew that our biggest outlay would be the vehicle following by the electrical system. The electrical components were the first big ticket items that we bought. No use buying all the little stuff and not having the funds for what makes your conversion work and besides the cabling is one of the first installs in the van. Yep this set us back $5620.
To save money we ran all of the cabling for both 12vlt and 240vlt systems. Once the cabling was run it was checked over by an electrician and auto electrician, when they were happy we continued the build. They each fitted off their side of the electrical systems for compliance.
Plumbing is the next important system to have installed in a liveable van conversion. If you don’t have the basics such as running water it makes it extremely difficult to live comfortably. Our plumbing came in at $2800. We do not have, as many would expect an internal shower/toilet room. Karen just really couldn’t cope with the idea of the toilet sliding out into the kitchen. Nor did we want to take up extra space in the living area, especially when we were already using extra length for our bed. So we developed a fold down slide out en-suite.
Our savings in the plumbing area came from calling in favours. The gas fitter is a family member and Rob helped with all of the install.
Again we did not scrimp on the actual items that were necessary. The hot water shower system we chose is a Joolca. After being out adventuring for the day we want to know we have a hot shower waiting for us. With all of research they came out on top and everyone we spoke to says their after sales service is outstanding and that what you really need.
Cabinetry was something we knew we would struggle with. Neither of us are skilled in this area. If we wanted that professional finish we needed to hire someone with talent or find another solution. Karen is very good at thinking outside of the “box”. She came up with the idea that we would use flat pack cabinets for not only the kitchen but also for the rest of our storage solutions. It was up to Rob to make it work. Coming in at $2434 it certainly isn’t the cheapest of diy cabinetry fit-outs however we feel this is what you live with daily. The look, feel and functionality of these cabinets makes your daily life easy.
If the drawers don’t open or close properly, they will cause you more grief than paying a few extra $ to begin with. If they weren’t sturdy enough under continuous movement in the van they would disintegrate. We were even able to save a few $’s here by using or should we say, reinventing the use of bedside cabinets as our overheads, and adapting cube storage shelving as our basket storage. All of the products we used in our build you can find here.
So where did the rest of our budget go? It is unbelievable the amount that was spent on what you can’t see and the little bits and pieces like trims, nails, glue, screws, bolts and nuts. It seemed we were always buying more nuts and bolts. They are after all the all important backbone that holds it all together. If we didn’t get this right there would be no use putting all the rest together so at $3332.00 it’s not surprising that it is the second most expensive on the list. Other items that were needed such as the ladder and a few decorating items came to $1068.
And there you have it a total of $15951.00, we are pleasantly surprised. Even though we were keeping close tabs on the running total we expected some extra blowouts and had budgeted for $20k.
That’s until you started adding the comfort items. Now these we have separated out of the main costings on the spreadsheet. Why well you really don’t need them. You can certainly live without these comfort items, but we had saved on the main budget so spoilt ourselves. These luxury items came in at $4722, so effectively we blew the budget 🙄
Ok so you aren’t so handy on the tools and you need to pay labour costs we estimated our time and the extra free labour we received to an amount of $24,416.00. Our build was an 8 week (5 days a week) project with the two of us on the tools. Professionals would probably take far less time. But would probably have more men on the job at qualified tradesman pricing.
Dreamtime_Van Conversion Cost = Van + Ongoings $36,000. + Build $15951.00. + Luxury Items $4722 + estimated Free Labour Costs $24416.00 ….. Drum Roll a true cost of $81,091.00. Since completion we have had an independent valuation and now have “Le Frog Box” and we were very pleased with the valuation, however it is insured for a lessor amount at an agreed value of $100k.
Was it worth doing the work ourselves…. Absolutely…. Would we do it again…… Well maybe (but not professionally) …. but definitely not yet we want to enjoy the fruits of our labour.
So we hope this has answered your questions on how much it cost to build our camper van. Below you will find a spreadsheet of our costs. If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comment section below 👇 we will be sure to get back to you.
As we mentioned there is a huge variety of builds, here are some other vans and their conversion costs that illustrate the massive range of budgets from less than $1,000 to over $25,000.
TwoWanderingSoles – $900
DivineOnTheRoad – $3,980
KellyNicoleTravel – $7,906
SaraAndAlexJames – $25,564
All of the main products we used in our build you can find listed 👉 on our Products Link Page
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We are finally on the road to Tasmania first stop Macksville