how much does a custom camper van conversion cost_

Written by Matt

So you decided you want to give this van-life thing a shot and hit the road but now you’re a little worried about what this lifestyle and specifically what a camper van cost. These big ol’ vans aren’t cheap but just know that people build out there vans in thousands of ways. Some cost more than others. This is our build and our experience and we think it turned out awesome and is a good balance between cost, functionality, and quality.

If you want details on how much it costs to live in a van check out this video by clicking here

if you want to know what we would change about our build check out this video by clicking here

Let's start at the beginning. Before you can convert a van, you need a van. This is Clifford! (our van- see below) We bought him off of Craigslist in LA for $8,800 from a guy who was using him in his business to haul autoparts. He was the second van we went to look at and we fell in love with him. I would caution you not to rush into buying a van, we dove in with both feet because we had already put in our notices with work (expecting to buy an RV) until we found van life. It put us in a bit of a time crunch which led to us rushing this purchase a little bit.

We didn’t get Clifford fully checked out because we saw him on a Friday afternoon. I was able to talk to his mechanic on the phone who said he had gotten a new engine and turbo recently and more or less vouched for him as being a solid van. Fast forward a month later and we were required to put in ~$4,500 worth of mechanical work into him to get him operable (he had a warped head gasket). Learn from our mistake and don’t rush. Get your van checked out by a mechanic if you are buying used and take your time to find a good deal. This will be the most expensive part of your build so take your time with this one!

*UPDATE* We ended up having to replace the transmission,  belt, tensioner, pulleys, and alternator in September of 2018, which cost us around $5,000 also.

The first day we bought Clifford!
The first day we bought Clifford!



First step was cleaning him out, repairing rust, fixing lots of little things we didn’t pay the shop to fix. We installed a little bit of Noico sound deadening mat, Focusing on the front of the van where we wouldn’t be insulating to quiet it down a bit during driving.

Sliding Door Hardware:

Sliding Door Lock:

Noico Sound Deadener:


We then moved to Insulation. A heavily debated topic in the van community. We used PolyIso boards with spray foam to glue them down. We used the foam board on the walls and ceiling and used gym mat rubber for the floor. We also used a little bit of mineral wool insulation on one section of the van that our wood burning stove’s flue pipe would pass through. It took a LONG time and was a lot of work. If we were to do it again I think we might go with commercial spray foam.

Spray Foam (you’ll need a lot of this): - $60 worth or so

Gym Mat rubber: - $70

PolyIso - Get this locally at your hardware store. -$300


We installed our 2 maxx air fans and used Butyl Tape and Lap Sealant to make them water tight. We replaced our rear weatherstipping and side door weather stripping to help make Cliffy water tight as well.

Rear Door Weather Stripping: - $50

Slider Door Weather Stripping: - $50

Lap Sealant: - $12

Butyl Tape: - $13

Maxx air fans: - $290ea

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After he was repaired and insulated we moved onto framing in the bed. We used plus nuts and other hardware to secure the bed to the body of the van. We bought a 6” memory foam mattress off Amazon and cut it up with an electric turkey carver (it seriously works great) and then upholstered them ourselves with fabric from Joann's

Memory Foam Mattress: - $200

Electric turkey carver: - $12

Table Stand: - $150

Plus Nuts: - $65

Joanns Fabric - $120

Lumber was all lumped together for the project so it's really hard to allocate to each piece. You’ll see our Lowe’s and Home Depot totals at the bottom!

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From the bed, We moved to framing in the kitchen and upper cabinets. Cabinets were made from 1x2 and 1x3 lumber with ¼” plywood faces. We used some ½” plywood for the upper cabinet doors. Major components of the kitchen were: Fridge, Stovetop, Sink, microwave, RO water system, water pump, accumulator tank, jerry cans, vinyl tile stickers, cabinet pulls, propane tank, propane bulkhead, gas line, trash cans,  and a small Insta-pot.

Norcold Fridge: - $750

Suburban Cook Top: - $110

Sink (don’t get this one- it’s too small): - $70

Microwave: - $60

RO Filtration System: - $200

Vinyl Tile Stickers: - $75

12v Water pump: - $65

Accumulator Tank: - $30

Cabinet Pulls: - $19

Towel Hanger: - $8

Fire Extinguisher: - $13

Fruit Hammock: - $13

Propane Bulkhead: - $13

Propane tank: Get this at Walmart or Hardware store

Propane Grill Adapter: - $12

Insta Pot: - $60

Trash Cans: - $75

Jerry Cans: - $40



We got a small wood burning stove from Cubic Mini Wood Stoves, We built the stand for it from scratch and had to put a few other pieces together which got a bit tricky. The hardest thing to find was the flue cap which we ended up with an adjustable cap as we could not locate one that fit properly. Most of this material was sourced locally from local metal suppliers.

Grizzly Wood Stove:  - $500

Flue Pipe : $100

Dektite fitting: - $30

Rain Cap: - $35

Flue Cap: - $9

Stand Materials: $60


Electrical is pricy and a good chunk of your money will go towards this part of your build. It also depends on how much electrical equipment you put in your build. We have the fridge, water pump and our computers are the big users. We also sized it so we can run the microwave and Insta-Pot but don’t use them all the time.

420Ah of Batteries: - $175ea (batteries are heavy and expensive to ship. We found ours at a forklift service center for cheap)

Solar Panels: Purchased off Craigslist- $300

AIMS 2000w Inverter: - $300

Solar Charge Controller: - $200

Inverter Remote: - $25

Battery Monitor: - $35

Charging Relay: - $15

Negative Bus Bar: - $15

Propane and CO alarm: - $70

Circuit Breakers: - $10 ea

12v Socket: - $7

Romex 12/2 wire: - $50 (don’t use this, get stranded wire!)

LED Lights: - $30

LED String Light: - $20

Charging Timer - $10

VHB Tape: - $30

Solar MC4 Connectors: - $25

Cable Glands: - $10


Stuff you need in the van but wasn’t really part of the build

12v Vacuum: - $25

“Life they loved” pillow: - $10

Thermometer: - $18

Camp Chairs: - $50

WIFI Booster: - $40

Safe: - $25

Map Decal: - $25

Toilet: - $90

We bought a carsoft OBD2 scanner to make sure we could identify any codes that came up while we were traveling. We also bought our trailer hitch and some seat covers.

Carsoft Scanner: - $150

Curt Trailer Hitch: - $160

Seat Covers: Found on Ebay

It feels like we went to Lowes or Home Depot 50-60 times throughout the build. We needed all kinds of stuff and it all got lumped into these totals. It was hard to separate out and honestly would have taken me way too much time and bandwidth to sort while I was really focused on finishing the van.

Lowes: $955 - Hardware (stainless bolts, washers, nuts) Flooring (~$120), Paint for cabinets and the whole interior, Lumber (way better lumber than Home Depot in my area) Electrical wiring (~$100 for some big wire for batteries)

Home Depot: $840 - Lumber, Insulation, Drawer slides, Tools (pocket hole jig, drill bits, saw blades, sand paper ect.) Stain, Glue, Plumbing connections, Reflectix

Walmart: $370 - I don’t even remember what we bought at Walmart…


TOTAL COSTS: $8,145.72 plus the van $8,800 plus mechanical work $9,500 equals $26,445.72


It's not the most expensive and it's definitely not the cheapest way you can live in a van but it was our way to live in a van. If you have questions about any of the products we used or our experiences with anything leave us a comment below. Hopefully this post was helpful to see how much our build out cost so you can draw some conclusions about your own build!

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