Taking a second-hand van and turning it into a mini home is a dream for many of us. Traveling for minimal fixed costs and having the freedom to park up your new van home anywhere you want is the ultimate taste of freedom. The task ahead, however, is not a small side-project. It’s going to take hours of work, lots of headaches, and fixing mistakes.
Choosing The Right Van
Firstly, this is the part that differs the most due to budget differences. However, for those who are on a small budget (i.e., under $5,000 for the van itself), don’t be afraid of going up to 200,000 miles on the van. Just make sure it was a commercial van, as they’re known for lasting between 500,000 miles and some even reaching a million.
Other than the price, try and focus on the size. A high roof is always going to be preferable for those who are taller and wish to stand upright. Long-wheel base vans, however, are only really needed if you want to install a bathroom — keep in mind that it will be more challenging to drive and find parking spaces large enough, although this is more of an issue in Europe than North America.
Of course, you will also need insurance for the van, breakdown cover, and an MOT/full service.
Firstly, you want a good jigsaw. Getting a good quality one will be worth the investment, as you’ll be cutting through a lot of cladding and wood to fit joins and build the base of the van. A good drill is also, of course, a necessity, as you’ll be drilling into metal frames. Not only should you have a pocket full of bits when you start work, but it’s also worth having a good quality adhesive too, as this can fix a surprising amount of small issues with little effort. Lastly, you want a ton of stationery also, as you’ll be making a lot of diagrams, notes and jotting references down on tape and so on.
Materials, Appliances, And Electronics
This is perhaps the overwhelming part of the conversion. Precisely what you will need here will depend on your plans and the type of conversion you want. Here are two lists of things you need and something you may have as optional.
Things You Need:
- Fiberglass kit
- Cladding and insulation
- Batteries and an inverter
- Fuse box, lights, and wires
- Fresh and wastewater tanks
- Basic plumbing with a sink and tap
- Heater (propane or electric)
- Propane gas cooker
- Solar panels
Most of us aren’t knowledgeable in welding, carpentry, electronics, mechanics, and so on. This is your perfect opportunity to get better at all those things, but time is of the essence for some. Some jobs aren’t worth doing yourself if you lack experience, such as the electrics and fitting a window in. Hiring some local, reliable tradesmen should be welcomed, but not relied on totally throughout the whole project — there should be a hand-picked balance.