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How to Convert a Van into a Camper Van (Guide!)

How to Convert a Van into a Camper Van

If you are the type that loves living a van life, you may want to get more out of the current life you have chosen.  Will it interest you to know that you can easily convert that van to a camper van?

This is exactly why the information here is put together; to open your eyes to how to convert a van into a camper van. If you think this is not possible, you may want to think again. It is a very possible project and it will also not take long before you can complete the conversion.  

If you do not have the money to buy a camper van but already have a van, then you do not need to look for extra cash to carry out the conversion. All you need to do is to find a way to get that ordinary van converted to a camper van.

How to Convert a Van into a Camper Van

You will learn pretty well about how to convert a van into a camper van in the next section of this write-up.  The beauty of it is that you do not need so many tools before you can get the job done. If you do not have the few tools required or you do not have the experience needed for this, you can simply hand them over to experts. 

How to Convert a Van into a Camper Van

In case you cannot spare the fund to pay the handyman, you can simply get things done by yourself.   You can even complete the entire project with very little guidance and this is why the information on how to convert a van into a camper van is provided in this write-up. 

The information we offer here is very easy to understand. So, you will not have a problem following to create a camper van out of your ordinary van.

How difficult is the project?

It is not a difficult project at all and you can even complete it fast.  If you have a van already, you can just go ahead with the conversion or you can even buy a new van to get the job done.

Bear in mind that the cost of buying and converting an ordinary van to a camper van is not up to the cost of buying a camper van. So, getting a camper van this way will help you to save a lot of money.

Continue reading to learn more about how to convert a van into a camper van.

Get the Van Ready

The first step to take is to buy a van. If you already own a van, you will not need to worry about this step.  If you do not own a van already, then make sure you look for the perfect van for this project. You can cut costs by buying a used van. 

So long as the engine is sound, a used van can work perfectly.  You can then transformer the used van into something livable to make this possible, you need to get all the campervan essentials ready first.

Your budget can help determine how much you can afford to spend on the van.  Whatever the case may be, you will not need tens of thousands of dollars before you can get a good van that can be used for your project on how to convert a van into a camper van.  

When talking about budget, your focus should not just be on the cost of producing the van, but on the cost of completing the entire conversion project.  Generally, the cost of the van should be about 2/3 of the cost of completing the entire project. This means that the conversion itself will take up about 1/3 of the cost.

Before you buy any used van when looking for how to convert a van into a camper van, you need to check the Kelly Blue Book. It will give you an idea of how good the van is.  It will also give you an idea of what the cost of the van should be. 

There are several models of vans out there today and each of them comes with its unique height and size.  Before you choose a particular height and size of a van on how to convert a van into a camper van, first ask if you will be living in the van temporarily or full-time. 

If you will be living in it full time, then you need to go for a big and tall van so that you can have adequate space in the van. You will most likely need a big van if you have a hobby that requires a lot of space for storage.

In such a situation, you will need a van that can make space for camping gear, climbing equipment, snowboards, skis, kayak, SUP, or a surfboard. You can save a lot of space in the van by not including large equipment that will not be required while camping. 

You may also go for a large van if you will need a private bathroom.  If you are the type that loves driving large vehicles, you can also go for a very big van on how to convert a van into a camper van. 

Additionally, you need to consider the number of people that will be occupying the camp van feature conversion.  Will you be keeping pets in the van?  All these can help you to decide the size of van to go for.

The following tips will help you to make the right choice when buying used vans

  • Check the mileage on the van and verify it
  • Properly inspect the tires also. Check if they are worn and if you will need to get new ones
  • Check the seatbelt. Check if the seat belt is torn. If so, you should consider changing it. A torn seatbelt can be an indication that the van was involved in an accident.  Also, check if the seatbelt is working properly  
  • Check the oil gauge also. Find it if its level is right. You should consider changing the oil if it looks very dark.
  • You should never overlook rust when inspecting the used van. Check for major rust spots on the van you should also check the underside of the van.  The undercarriage and wheel bearing signs of rust is not a good sign.
  • Do not forget to check if the AC is working fine. Also, check if the heat is responsive. Turn the AC full blast to check how it is working.  You do not want to drive around in a camp van with bad AC. It can make your journey on a sunny afternoon a very uncomfortable one.
  • Check also if the flashers and lights are working well.
  • You should pay special attention to all the electrical components of the van to know if they are working fine or not. Check the windows, radio, and other electric components before you buy
  • How effective is the lock? This should also be considered when inspecting the van. You need to make sure that the locks in the doors are working. This will help to keep your valuables in the camp van safe.
  • Do not forget to test drive before you buy a van for the project on how to convert a van into a camper van. Test driving will help you to know if the brakes are working perfectly.  It will also help you to detect any untoward noise from the engine. Furthermore, test driving will help you to see how smoothly the van accelerates.  Test driving will help you to get a general understanding of how the van feels when driving.
  • It will not be a bad idea if you discuss with the owner to know if there is any issue that you need to know about the van before you buy the van on how to convert a van into a camper van.

If you do not know how to inspect the van, then make sure to employ a mechanic to help out in this regard.

Do the initial work

It is expected that a used van will not be in perfect condition. So, you may have to carry out some tasks before you can start your project on how to convert a van into a camper van.  You will need to remove some of the seats installed in the van first.

Make sure all the parts that will not be needed are unbolted and taken out.  You may have to rearrange some of them also to fit into your new plan.  The work is not so interesting but important.

The beauty of it is that you can sell off some of the items you remove from the van and the extra cash can help with the project of how to convert a van into a camper van, you cannot proceed with the conversions until you have removed everything that can stand in the way of the conversion. Craigslist is one of the best sites to sell off any item you remove from the van.

After you have removed those things you will not need, go ahead and clean the interior of the van. Make sure the carpet is properly scrubbed n and the window properly cleaned.  The extent of cleaning needed can be determined by how long the van had been packed without being used by the previous owner.  

A vacuum cleaner can be of help in this regard, same for a cleaning solution. Deep cleaning products will always produce better results.  You can also make the interior smell nice by spraying an air freshener in it.  You can then leave the door open for some hours to make the interior smell very nice.

What to put in

After the cleaning, the next thing is to start measuring to start the next stage on how to convert a van into a camper van.  You need to first take note of the length, width, and height of the van and this will help you to know the dimension for each of the compartments.  

The measurement will also help you to determine what to put into the camp van.  Some of the essential things to consider for a camp van when working on how to convert a van into a camper van are:

  • A working kitchen
  • A sleeping area consisting of a full-size bed
  • Storage compartments
  • A space for relaxation
  • A desk for work
  • A space for a pet

You need to work on the space that each of these items will occupy in the van. This aspect will take some time and some thinking.  You may get exhausted along the line too, but you just must keep at it.  You can even check the internet for van layout templates that can help you to get things done perfectly.

Start building

This aspect of the project on how to convert a van into a camper van will get you very dirty.  It will require a lot of work.  You can start by creating a bed space in the van based on the measurement you took initially.

After marking out the space to be occupied by the bed, you can then proceed to create a kitchen counter. Make sure the kitchen counter is created in such a way that it can conveniently hold a stove, a functional sink, and cutting boards.       

How to make a bed platform for your camper van

You can go for a real mattress if you can find it or you can opt for thick foam padding or a futon mattress for the camper van.  The plywood needed for the platform should not cost you much money.

 The following materials will be needed for building a bed platform in the camper van:

  • What is the dimension of the space where you want to install the bed?
  • One sheet of plywood
  • One piece of lumber that is 84 inches long and 2 by 6 cm
  • Three pieces of 2 by 4 lumber for the bottom platform ribs
  • Door screws 2 inches long
  • Pencil
  • Triangle straight edge
  • Measuring tape
  • Circular saw

 You can simply replace the 2 by 6 lumber with  2 by 4 lumbers. The purpose of the lumber is to provide support for the bed.

The three portions of the bed platform are:

  • Bottom platform
  • Pillars
  • Top platform

The bottom platform is against the floor of the camper, while the top platform will be under the mattress. The pillars provide support for the mattress.

To build the bed platform, you need to first build the bottom platform. When working on how to convert a van into a camper van, make sure you consider the shape of the van’s interior before you shape the bed.   This will ensure that the bed platform can fit perfectly into the shape of the interior. 

Also bear in mind the floor of the van is rarely flat. The design will be similar in the bottom and top op of the platform. The pillar between the platforms will not only provide support for the mattress but can also create space for storage under the bed.

Check below for some of the campervan essentials

The campervan essentials refer to the gears and compartments that you will need to put into the camper van to make it effective and useful for the intended purpose.

We will mention each of the gears one after the other in the remaining part of this write-up.  

The information given here is very important for those who are looking for how to convert a van into a camper van.

Camper kitchen

As expected, the kitchen in the van will not be big. You should bear the available space in mind when working on how to convert a van into a camper van.    This is one of the essential compartments in a camper van and the camper van will never be complete if this compartment is absent. 

When looking for how to convert a van into a camper van, make sure that the kitchen is put together in a useful and practical way. In fact, you should be more concerned about practicality than aesthetics.

At your level of design, you may not know much about how to put an aesthetic touch on things.

Be that as it may, make sure that you put the kitchen together in a practical way so that the camper van can serve the intended purpose. 

Make sure that the kitchen is put together in a way that will make cooking on the move very easy for you.

You need to first fit the kitchen counter and also create a space for storage. You can create storage space under the counter or above the sink against the wall of the van.  

Make sure that only essential things needed for cooking are put into the storage spaces so that there will be adequate space for all essential things.

Some of the essential things to include in the kitchen during the construction are as follows:

  • Campervan kitchen sink
  • 2-burner stove: It is important since it makes it possible to cook two things at the same time. When using the burner stove, however, make sure the windows of the converted camper van are opened.  You can also remove the burner stove and use it outside placed on a picnic table at the campground.
  • Insulated cooler: You need an insulated cooler that can keep ice in a solid-state for a very long time. It will be cool if your cooker can keep ice solid for a minimum of 3 days.
  • Soap: You will need to wash things in the camper van kitchen and this is why you need soap. It is better to opt for liquid soap.
  • Dish sponge: You will also need a sponge together with the liquid soap for washing
  • Propane for the burner stove: It will not be a bad idea to have an extra supply of propane in case the one in the burner runs out and there is no way you can get to town to get a refill quickly enough.
  • Lighter: This is essential for obvious reasons
  • Trashcan: When thinking about how to convert a van into a camper van, you should also not forget to include a trashcan in your plan. At least, you need to keep the interior of the camper van clean at all times. It is not enough to install the trash can in the camper van, but you must keep it secure at all times. This way, it will not be tossed around when the van is in motion. You can secure it to the counter in the kitchen using a bungee cord.  You can also sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the trashcan to prevent it from smelling one other way to prevent stink is to place a dryer sheet on the bottom of the trashcan before you line it with a plastic bag.
  • Tiny stool: The stool will make for a sitting space in the kitchen while you are cooking.

Cookware and utensils to consider

  • Pot of different sizes
  • Dining set
  • French press
  • Mixing bowl
  • Spoon, spatula, and tongs
  • Wine opener
  • knives
  • cutting boards

Make sure that the sink in the kitchen fits very well so that the kitchen can be functional.  The entire process will rarely take more than about 2 hours of your time.

Create your curtains

You can decide to use the curtain to cut out the light or let the light flow into the van.  It all depends on what you want. If you are one for natural light, then you should consider using a thin curtain. 

Things even get better if you have big windows on your van.  Those that desire to cut out daylight can use thick curtains to cut out the light. 

 If you are trying to sleep during the day, for example, thick curtains draped across the window can help keep out daylight you should always bear this in mind when working on Building your camp van kitchen

As expected, the camp van kitchen in the van will not be big. You should bear the available space in mind when working on how to convert a van into a camper van.   

 Why not make your own curtain to make the issue of choice a lot easier for you? It will not cost you much money or time to make your own curtain. 

You can visit the thrift store for affordable sheets. You can also buy items like Velcro, screws, picture wire, and thread there.  Getting the fabric from a craft store can increase the cost.  

Aside from blocking out the light, the curtain can also provide privacy in the room.  The size of your windows can also determine the size of the curtain go for.  Curtain for the van will also not cost you a lot of money to make and neither will it take much time for you.  You can equally opt for an insulated window cover instead of an ordinary curtain.  

The insulated windows cover gives more privacy than the curtain.  It will also help to block out the light more effectively than a curtain.

 You may consider using it when thinking about how to convert a van into a camper van.  

Additionally, the insulated cover can insulate the van, which is one thing that the ordinary curtain will not do.  

While it has so many benefits, the insulated cover is somewhat expensive.  Making it can also be more time consuming than making the ordinary curtain

The two of them are great choices, depending on what you want to achieve when thinking about how to convert a van into a camper van. Be that as it may, the insulated windows cover will give you far more benefits and the quality is higher than that of an ordinary curtain.

As mentioned above, you can visit the thrift store for curtain materials.  It is cheaper that way. This is very important for those on a tight budget. The ordinary curtain may offer privacy, but it will never insulate or control the temperature in the van. 

Even if you decide to use insulated window covers, you can still make it by yourself. It will not also cost you a lot of money, but it will cost more than an ordinary curtain.

 When thinking about how to convert a van into a camper van, always remember that the benefits of the insulated windows cover are far more than that of the ordinary curtain.  

Since the insulated window cover can keep the temperature in the van low, it means that it will enable you to save money off power use. 

 Aside from privacy, it can offer incomparable comfort in the van. Its simplicity is also worthy of consideration.    

Setting up the bathroom

The common plan is to set up the bathroom opposite the bedroom with the kitchen in between. This means that the bedroom and the bathroom usually occupy opposite ends of the camper van.

You need to bear this in mind when working on how to convert a van into a camper van.  The bathroom should also contain the toilet.

If you can spare the extra cash, you can use a curtain to further demarcate the bath area from the toilet.  This will offer more privacy. It is an important choice if more than one person will be using the camper van.  

When setting up the bathroom and toilet, always use materials that can be easy to wash. You can even use the materials used in home bathrooms.

However, always bear the size of the van in mind when installing the bathroom and outlet. The toilet and bathroom should have doors and the doors must be able to close tightly.

This can offer privacy and also ensure that no smell coming from the bathroom can enter into any other part of the van.   

To make the toilet and other parts of the camper van a lot more conducive for all occupants, it is better to fit air freshener in the toilet.   

Basic things to always bear in mind

When thinking about how to convert a van into a camper van, there are certain basic things that you must always bear in mind.

For example, you should think about how you can get power for charging and running the electronics in the van.

One of the best ways to do this is to install a power inverter in the van.  You can also go for a battery pack and it will do a good job of it. 

Some electronics only require power banks to charge them.  Some people even go as far as installing solar panels on the van.

The solar panel can attract the energy that can charge the bank of batteries during the day and the batteries will power the electronics at night.  

Solar energy will cost you at the initial stage, but it will pay for itself over time. So, investment in solar energy is a very good investment choice.

Lighting the camper van

When thinking about how to convert a van into a camper van, you should also think about how to light up the van at night.

Daylight may provide all the light you need during the day, but the case is different at night. You, therefore, need a good source of energy for the night.

To light the camper van at night, you can decide to buy a pack of battery-powered push lights for the van.

Bear in mind that the lifespan varies from one brand and type to another. Some can last for as long as 3 months, supplying light to the van all night long.

Another method is to buy a solar-powered lantern. The lantern can be charged by the sun during the day and it will supply light all night long in the van. 

You can just place the lantern on the dashboard all night long to provide adequate light in the van.

One other way you can consider when lighting up the camp is a LED powered light.   There are different types and you need to keep this in mind when working on how to convert a van into a camper van.    

Make sure you read reviews about the different types before you buy any of them.     

Doing laundry in the camper van

One other important thing to consider, when working on how to convert a van into a camper van, is how to do your laundry in the van, especially, if you are going to be away from home for several months. You can use any Laundromat you see while on the journey in the van. 

You can also wash the clothes by hand in the sink. The sink usually comes with a drain stopper to make it useful. You can also wash them in the restroom.

When choosing a good detergent for your laundry, you should go for a biodegradable one that can last for a very long time. 

You can also create a laundry line in the van by making a laundry line using clothes strung together.  You can also secure the clothes on the line by using clothespins.

Keeping cool on hot days and warm in winter

It is also important to think about the interior temperature of the van when working on how to convert a van into a camper van. 

The van interior is expected to be hot during the summer and cold during the winter since whatever happens outside the van will undoubtedly affect how the interior is.

If you want to keep the temperature in the van cool in the summertime, then you can install fans in the van.

A good example of a fan you can use is the USB fan. You can use this one to circulate fresh air in the van at night. It can run all night and help to keep the interior of the van cool.

You should never forget this when working on how to convert a van into a camper van.

Another option is the chargeable fan.  This fan can keep on working once you charge it.  It can also be portable and easy to move around. 

You do not need to plug it into a power source when using it since the battery would have been charged.

However, the rechargeable fan cannot last for as long as the USB fan. Having the two handy can make the interior of the van to be cool in the summer months.

To keep the temperature in the van under control, you can install an AC unit in the van. It will do the job of cooling the van when there is heat and warming the van when there is cold.

Bear in mind that the AC units come in different capacities.

Shop for essentials

There are certain items that you must always get ready when you are working on how to convert a van into a camper van. These items can make the van a lot more interesting than ever. 

It is not enough to install sleeping space, kitchen, and restroom in the van; you also need to shop for essential items that will make your life in the van a lot more interesting and endurable. 

Check below for some of the items to bear in mind.

  • Large cooler
  • Pots
  • Camping chairs
  • Cast iron skillet pan
  • Cutting board for camping
  • Durable cutlery
  • Spatula
  • Camping bowls and plates
  • Propane

Everything you can do to save some money when getting the items above must be done. So, you should choose where you shop carefully.  It is better to go to a thrift store to buy the items above.

The costs will be very low at thrift stores.  Shopping there will help you to save a lot of money while working on how to convert a van into a camper van.  However, bear in mind that the items sold at thrift stores are rarely new.

Most of them are used items.  Be that as it may, many of them will still be in perfect working conditions and can serve your purpose perfectly at all times.

 If you do not mind using items that are not new in your camper can, then it is in your best interest to shop at thrift stores to enable you to make some savings.

If you insist on buying the items listed above as new, you can still get reasonable prices on each of them from Wal-Mart. You can even get quite a lot of camping gear at a highly affordable cost at Wal-Mart.

Find a place for everything

You must make sure that everything in the camper van is well organized when working on how to convert a van into a camper van. This is the only way via which the camper van can give you good value for money. 

Functionality is everything and a proper arrangement will ensure you can get more functionality out of the van.  It is not a cool idea to live in a van that is chaotic and cluttered. 

So, make sure that you use the storage spaces in the van judiciously.

Aside from judicious use of your storage spaces in the van, make sure that you only bring onboard items that are very essential.

You should not consider items that you will no need for months lest they take up space necessarily.

Under the bed is a very good place to use as storage space in the van.  You can store items like camp chairs and clothes there. 

It is better to put the items to be stored under the bed in a clear plastic container.  This way, you can easily identify the contents without removing them from the bag first.  

Kitchen supplies can also be held using an organizer behind the door. The vertical space in the kitchen should also be used with care.  It is in your best interest to make the interior of the camper van feel like home as much as possible.     

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