Looking through the interior of a modern luxury campervan toward the open back doors.

The Full Cost of a Van Conversion | Our Breakdown & Shopping List

Considering a DIY campervan conversion? We're sharing the total cost of our van build with a full breakdown to help you plan your own.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you use them, we earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

One of the most common questions we get as two full time van lifers is: how much was the cost of your van conversion? We actually kept a close eye on this number during the build process and used a spreadsheet to track every expense.

We know it's helpful for others who want to convert a van to see real world numbers. So, instead of just sharing the full cost, we're breaking it down by categories and sharing some of the details.

Keep in mind that this was a full DIY conversion. Instead of using a professional conversion company we did every bit of the work ourselves, with the exception of having some upholstery done. A professional build can cost anywhere from $30,000 into the hundreds of thousands.

If you're planning out your dream van conversion then keep scrolling through our price breakdown. We hope it's a useful tool in helping you estimate what your van build will cost.

Total Cost Breakdown

The Van - $40,293

We purchased our 2020 Ford Transit High Roof Extended at the beginning of 2021. The total cost of the van, including tax, title and fees, was $40,293. It was in pretty excellent condition for a used cargo van, with only about 25,000 miles on it.

The upfront cost of getting into van life has been steadily going up for the last several years.

At the time of updating this post, in January of 2024, the going price for a comparable used cargo van doesn't seem to have dropped any. When we were on the hunt for a quality used van we had to search far and wide before finding the right one without breaking the bank.

You can read through all our tips on how to choose the right van, including the decision between popular models like the Transit, Sprinter, or ProMaster and whether you should shop new or used.

A white Ford Transit campervan parked in front of a beautiful mountain landscape

Prep Work - $188.22

This is a step we wanted to get right. What's the sense in spending thousands to convert a campervan if it's just going to rust out from under you?

We didn't have much rust in the van, but we made sure to remove every little bit we could find.

We started with a deep clean of the entire van, then primed and painted any bare metal.

On the planning side of things, we spent $40 for Far Out Ride's wiring diagram, which was really helpful in wrapping our heads around the electrical system.

Cleaning Supplies & Rust Prevention Shopping List

Degreaser

GooGone

A scrub brush

Rust prevention primer

Rust prevention paint

Sandpaper

Close up on a woman's hand rolling a piece of Kilmat sound deadening onto the ceiling of a cargo van

Insulation & Sound Deadening - $1787.34

Our choice of insulating material throughout the van was Havelock wool. While it's far from the cheapest option, we were sold by its eco-friendliness and the ease of installation.

When it was time to insulate the floor of the van we planned ahead for both warm and cold climates.

To keep heat from escaping through all of our windows (eight, to be precise), we invested in some professionally made covers from VanEssential.

We had to make our own custom insulated covers for two of the windows that we added to the rear though, because we couldn't use magnets to attach them and there were none available in the exact size we needed. We might have saved some money here, but we wouldn't recommend it unless you're very comfortable with a sewing machine! We're not.

Insulation Shopping List

Minicell foam

XPS foam

Spray foam

Havelock wool

Insulated window covers

Before the Havelock wool could go in, we applied some Kilmat sound deadening material on the wall and ceiling panels of the empty van.

This stuff isn't real expensive, but you can save some money by applying it properly. The manufacturer recommends only 25-30% coverage, rather than putting it all over the entire van.

Sound Deadening Shopping List

Kilmat

Roller

Kitchen - $2161.59

We built custom cabinetry for our kitchen, with lots of storage, including toe kick drawers and a sneaky little sponge drawer in front of the sink. We splurged a little on fixtures and appliances, but some non-negotiables for us were a decent size fridge and a deep sink for hand washing all our dishes.

We also chose everything in matte black finish to keep a cohesive look throughout the van.

Having a full size pantry also added a bit to our bottom line, but we definitely feel it was worth it for all the extra storage.

One place we did save some cash was on our countertops. We wanted a similar look to butcher block, but the weight and price wasn't worth it to us. Instead, we bought large pieces of Aspen, cut them to size, including the opening for our undermount sink, and sealed them.

We still love the look, but the wood is a bit soft and susceptible to scratches and dents.

One pro tip to help budget for your van: early on, make a list of non-essential purchases that might make great van life gifts. When someone wants to buy you a gift, it's one less thing you have to purchase for the van. The kitchen is a great place to start on this.

Kitchen & Pantry Shopping List

Shop our whole kitchen

Kitchen sink

Faucet

Push to open drawer slides

Flush mount slam latches

TruckFridge Refrigerator

Ninja Foodi

Induction cooktop

A woman preparing food at the kitchen counter in a campervan with the side door open to a forest landscape

Bathroom - $2645.95

Another non-negotiable for us was having a full bathroom on board. Since we'd be living full time in the van and spending long periods out in the middle of nowhere, we wanted a comfortable bathroom and shower.

This is one way to really trim the fat on your build and stay within budget, since it's not entirely necessary. Our toilet alone caused some sticker shock, but we knew we were paying for convenience.

There are lots of different DIY solutions out there for composting toilets and some really creative and space-saving shower designs.

Bathroom Shopping List

Shower pan

Shower drain

Fiberglass reinforced plastic board

Waterproofing membrane

Composting toilet

Shower head

Shower rough in

Shower trim

Retractable shower door

Living Area - $6442.75

We're lumping a lot into this category. Our bench area and bed - what we'd call the living area - take up more than half of the van, but we're also counting the ceiling, flooring, cabinetry and walls.

Some of our biggest expenses were on the Baltic Birch plywood that went up 220% in price during our build. We also had to open up our pocketbooks for the custom upholstery work on our couch/bed cushions. Remember when we said we're no good with a sewing machine?

Flooring Shopping List

1/2" Baltic Birch plywood

Sheet vinyl

Vinyl adhesive

Bench & Bed Shopping List

Sunbrella outdoor fabric

High density foam

Euro style comforter

Table swivel mount

Cabinetry

Hinges

Friction latches

Gas struts

Decor Shopping List

Fruit basket

Wall mounted plant holders

Fake succulents

Throw pillows

A woman sits on the edge of the bed in a campervan with both rear doors open in front of her

Electrical & Internet - $11,309.33

Our heavy hitter. We built this van around the electrical system. Knowing we didn't want to carry propane, we beefed up our system to handle all of our cooking, as well as our heating and remote work needs.

We have 620 watts of solar power on the roof and 400 amp hours of lithium batteries. To handle our two kitchen appliances, we have a 3000W Victron Multiplus, that can also charge our batteries when we're plugged into shore power.

A third charging source is our Orion B2B, which uses our alternator while we're driving.

It was also important to us to use high quality components. We're not experienced with electrical systems, so we didn't want to take any shortcuts and have a rolling fire hazard. We were also investing in the longevity of our van, since it'll be our home for several years and afterwards we'd like to sell it while recovering as much of our money as possible.

Electrical Shopping List

Solar panels

Lithium batteries

Bluetooth battery monitor

Inverter/charger

Alternator charger

Solar charge controller

12V busbar

Shore power inlet

12V distribution panel

AC breaker panel

Ceiling lights

LED light strips

Under cabinet lights

Internet

We have two ways of staying connected off-grid: our cell signal booster paired with a mobile hotspot, and Starlink.

For the first year of our travels we did fine with just the hotspot, but we found that in some really remote places, where we love to camp out, it wasn't enough. So, we upgraded to Starlink and we just turn off the service off when we don't need it. That system also runs on 12V now, since we made some pretty awesome modifications to it.

Internet Shopping List

Cell signal booster

Mobile hotspot

Starlink

Birds eye view looking down on the roof of a campervan covered in solar panels

Heating & Plumbing - $4502.94

Having on-demand hot water is nice, but it also comes at a cost. Our hydronic heater is a European model that we had to import, but it handles both our air and water heating.

We have a 30 gallon fresh water tank. It's stored in one of our benches with the other components of our water system, with some PEX runs to the bathroom and kitchen sink.

Under the van is a 15 gallon gray water tank. We used some space saving waterless traps on both of our drains to keep bad odors out without having to worry about freezing.

Heating & Plumbing Shopping List

Hydronic heater kit

12V water pump

Fresh water tank

Gray water tank

Water filter

Waterless trap

Exterior Upgrades - $8265.48

Major upgrades to the exterior included adding three T-vent windows and a roof fan. We also custom built a roof rack with aluminum strut channel, and used it to mount a light bar over our sliding door.

The roof rack is also how we attach our very simple awning, which is basically a waterproof tarp clipped to two anchor points.

On the rear of the van we added an accessory rack with a storage box for all the dirty stuff we'd rather not put inside the van. We can also mount our bike racks above the box.

We put on BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires and installed some SuperSprings suspension upgrades. These have made a huge improvement, but even so with 2WD there have been adventures where we had to leave the van behind.

Exterior Shopping List

Windows

Light bar

Waterproof awning

Accessory rack

Storage box

Bike racks

All terrain tires

SuperSprings

SumoSprings

A campervan parked on the beach with an exterior storage box, bike racks, and awning

Tools - $308.05

Fortunately we owned most of the tools we needed during the build. We did buy a few specialty items that added up.

Instead of naming every tool we used, we're including a list of what we think would be the bare essentials and then some tools that just make life a lot easier.

Basic Tools Shopping List

Drill

Jig saw

Circular saw

Pocket hole jig

Rivnut tool

Premium Tools Shopping List

Impact driver

Table saw

Metal cutting shears

Plunge router

Oscillating multi-tool

Brad nailer

Hinge jig

Close up on a man's hands using an impact driver to assemble a drawer box

Misc. Supplies & Materials - $651.95

Some miscellaneous building supplies that don't fit neatly into one particular category.

Total Cost of a Van Conversion

That brings the total to.. $78,556.60.

$40,293 for the van itself and $38,293.60 on the campervan conversion.

Let us know in the comments below what you think about the total price. Is it more or less than you expected?

Pin this post to help with your budget!

A campervan parked on a sandy beach during sunset with text overlay that says 'How much does a van build cost?'

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