Asked again and again “How Much Does it Cost to Convert a Van Into a Camper Van?” could quite simply be answered with “How long is a piece of string?” – and for good reason because everyone’s definition of what a camper van actually is can be different.
What’s the Definition of a Campervan
So let’s start with the law here in the UK and turn to the licensing authority – the DVLA – and ask the question “What’s the definition of a campervan?“. And we have to start here otherwise we need to consider a builder who might consider having a portaloo and a bowl for washing up with (and a wife to inflate a blow up bed) as also owning a campervan, but for the sake of the rest of this hopefully super-helpful article let’s turn to the DVLA’s definition from their website:
Exterior Features List
- 2 or more windows on at least one side of the main body (this does not include windows on the driver or passenger doors) to provide a reasonable amount of daylight into the living accommodation
- a separate door which provides access to the living accommodation of the vehicle (this excludes the driver and passenger doors); a window on this door counts as a separate window on the main body
- motor caravan-style graphics on both sides of the vehicle
- an awning bar attached to either side of the vehicle
- a high-top roof (this does not include a pop-top elevating roof)
Interior Features List
- seats and a table
- sleeping accommodation which may be converted from the seats
- cooking facilities
- storage facilities
For the latter it goes on to say:
“This equipment must be rigidly fixed to the living compartment; however, the table may be designed to be easily removable.“
So there you have it – windows, graphics, an awning plus a bed and some sort of kitchen are key.
What are the Associated Costs?
So let’s start with the basic no-frills conversion where all we have are the above facilities (which would presumably allow us to get our van reclassified as a motor caravan to help save on insurance and associated costs)…
2 or more windows
There are obviously different types of windows you can fit but for the sake of this budget costing exercise let’s pick the smallest cassette windows you can buy such as these:
They are £180 each at the time of writing, so that’s £360 (Here’s the ebay link)
Of course the guidelines are suitably ambiguous and of course there are no guarantees but here are some examples of the sort of graphics you could stick (temporarily while you take photos for your submission?!) to the side of your van from ebay:
All in all not a lot of money thankfully. Of course you could create your own and get them printed up using a service such as pixartprinting just like I did with Walt for about twice the price but for the sake of this exercise that’s approx. £40.
OK so this is where the costs start to add up. The cheapest awnings are the ones that you can slide into a channel that you either have to drill or pop rivet into the side of your van such as these:
None of the required awnings are particularly cheap but these do seem to go second hand on ebay for about £200 at the time of writing.
Seats and a Table
Using Occams Razor to keep costs down I’m going to suggest that the cheapest way to tick the ‘seats box’ is to build a seat box! (see what I did there?) Now this might cause problems in that any fixed seat in the back of a moving vehicle now needs seatbelts to pass an MOT… so, your options are to either build or buy a fixed seatbelt mounting frame around which to build your seat (not cheap) or instead fit swivel seat bases to your van cab seats if you can.
Here’s a double rear seat base and belted from from camperinteriors.co.uk… warning it costs £870!:
Swivel bases do tend to be cheaper but it’s hard to give you generic examples as they vary so much depending on your vehicle, and then of course there are other associated costs such as double or single seat base swivels, handbrake adjustment solutions, raised or lower seat base swaps, etc…
For me, in my current 2014 Sprinter conversion (which I consider to be budget) I swapped out to a single passenger seat, had to buy a new single seat floor mat for the whole cab, had to buy a raised cab seat (and sell my air-assisted one) and then fit the swivels. All-in I’d suggest that cost in excess of £500…
Sleeping Accommodation (which may be converted from the seats)
OK after all that this is slightly easier right? Well yes and no! OK so let’s fling a mattress in the back and take a photo of that… Well I’m not sure that will work as the guidelines specifically state:
This equipment must be rigidly fixed to the living compartment; however, the table may be designed to be easily removable.
So, you’re looking at either a dinette seating area that converts (maybe we could use that fixed rear seat box we just built to get past the previous point) or a fixed bed that either pulls out or is formed as part of a roof to a rear garage perhaps. Either way the cheapest way you are going to do this is out of wooden batten-work and ideally lightweight ply. Cost? Well nominally let’s just call it £100 as again there are so many individual details here. Then there’s the mattress and memory foam ain’t cheap! £200 total?
Cooking & Storage Facilities
OK we’re getting there, but once again demonstrating fixed cooking facilities is harder than you think. We could get all fancy here and have a slide out or removable kitchen pod which you can make or buy but is likely to get a bit spendy, so instead let’s just build a small 2 cupboard cabinet that can house a gas bottle and 2 jerry cans and fit a sink and a 2 burner hob. This should also suffice as ticking the ‘staorage facilities ‘ box too, surely! Doesn’t have to be as fancy as this image but you get the gist…
Job done for around £100 from second hand ebay bits.
How Much Does it Cost to Convert a Van Into a Camper Van
So there you have it – let’s total up:
2 or more windows £360
An Awning £200
Seats & a Table £500
Sleeping Accommodation £200
Cooking & Storage Facilities £200
Grand Total = £1,500
Over to you! Can it be done for this? Admit it – it won’t be much of a camper van with just these basics!
I’m converting my converting my 4th van now. Obviously prices have changed since I started this bizarre hobby in 1994 when I ripped out and rebuilt a MWB 508d Hanomag Henschel motocross van. Back then the only place to buy parts was from the Reimo catalogue (the converters bible) in Germany via Concept Multi-Car (CMC) in Hythe, Kent. But for the most recent full conversion I did from panel van to campervan I spent around £15k on kit and restoration and am expecting to pay £13k on my current Sprinter conversion.
Anyway good luck, have fun, and don’t forget that your first camper trip starts the day you start the conversion! Your first night camping on the drive is just a few weeks away! 🙂