Social media is rife with photos and stories of people living their dreams and traveling the country in converted vans. If you've been bitten by the travel bug and want to build your own van, you may be intimidated by the cost of the project. With careful shopping, a fair amount of planning, and the courage to DIY, you can save quite a lot of money on this fun hobby. Don't let the price hold you back; consider these money saving tips to when planning your build. If you keep your plans simple you might be pleasantly surprised how cheap you can get the van of your dreams.
10 DIY Curtains
Curtains are a necessity for any conversion van. They provide privacy, they block out the light while you're trying to sleep, and they can help insulate your windows against extreme heat or cold. Premade van curtains can be very expensive. The potential savings of making your own curtains is massive. Depending on the materials you choose and your design, you could cover all of your windows for the price of one premade curtain. Consider how much light you want to block out of your windows and the climate.
9 Plumbing Alternatives
The options for water use on a conversion van are limitless. Many conversions have expensive, elaborate plumbing systems that allow for sinks, bathrooms, and even showers. If you're willing to settle on a simpler design, you can bypass some hefty expenses by opting for a cheaper and less complicated solution. Draining wash basins make a great budget option for washing dishes, clothes, and even hair. They require no installation and can be mounted into a small counter as well. If you don't require large freshwater tanks, you'll save money on a pump as well. The price of your water system depends entirely on how much you can live without.
8 Outdoor Cooking
If you install a kitchen in your van and intend to cook inside, you'll have a laundry list of things to consider. An exhaust fan and vents will be necessary to clear fumes, smoke, and moisture. You'll need to decide on a cooktop and fuel source as well as purchase and install your equipment. There's plenty of opportunities to save money by opting to cook outside. You can do this in any number of ways such as over an open fire, with a portable grill or with a folding camp kitchen. Consider what your needs will be and choose an option that gets you outside.
7 Larger Propane Tanks
Many vanners find themselves using several types of propane devices. If you have an elaborate plumbing system, you may have a propane hot water heater. Propane is the most common cooking fuel for vans as well. Whichever application you choose, be sure to purchase a 10 to 15-pound propane tank. The upfront investment will pay for itself. There are plenty of smaller options for propane canisters, but these smaller purchases will add up over time. One large tank will last for many weeks of use and pays for itself within a few refills.
6 Refurbished Appliances
Most conversions will include at least one appliance. You may have a refrigerator, a water heater, an air conditioner, or something else entirely. No matter which type of appliance you choose, you can save a significant amount by choosing a refurbished model. Refurbished appliances look and perform like new. They've been gently used but restored by professionals to stand in for new models at a reduced price. Shop carefully for the best deals; you may find a high-end appliance for a steal. Watch out for scratch and dent sales too. Many retailers will mark down floor models and cosmetically damaged items at a discount.
5 Used Batteries
If you're designing a power system for your van, then you'll most likely need a battery bank. Quality deep cycle batteries can be pricey. You'll want something durable that will last for many recharges. Don't be afraid to look for gently used batteries that may be available for a lower price. They don't have to be brand new to provide years of power. Check your local online market places for batteries that still have life in them but won't break the bank. This can be a huge area of savings with careful planning and some good luck.
4 Repurpose Items
It doesn't get much cheaper than free. When you first begin your van conversion, take inventory of the things you already have. Think outside the box to repurpose items you already own into your build. A sideboard could be used to create a kitchen. You might have curtains that could be customized to fit your van windows. Part of what makes van conversion so fun is that there is limitless opportunity for customization. Using items from your home also breathes your own personality into your build and can be a comfort on long trips.
3 Buy A Van With Racks
There's one thing every conversion van owner needs, and that's more space. Many vans have rooftop storage systems including rails and storage containers. These systems can be expensive, many times the containers alone are more than $100. There are plenty of vans for sale that are gently used. Choosing one of these can save you an enormous amount of money on its own. If you shop carefully you may be able to find a van that already has one installed. When you've found a van for sale consider the value of the upgrades like roof storage while you assess the price.
2 Holiday Gifts
There's one way to save money on conversion materials that are often overlooked. There are many gift-giving occasions each year. From birthdays to holidays, these are all opportunities to ask your friends and loved ones to contribute to our build. Consider adding van components to your wedding or birthday registry. This is a great way to knock the last few items off of your shopping list without spending a penny. Consider asking for donations toward a larger purchase or even the purchase of the van itself in lieu of gifts.
1 Budget Lighting
Every van requires some sort of indoor lighting for night time use. You could easily spend a great deal of money on brightening up the interior of your van. If you're willing to use a simple design, you can tighten this part of your budget up considerably. Consider taking advantage of some cheap spotlighting option. You could use magnetic rechargeable lights to provide task lighting in one spot. If you're looking an ambient glow, you could use LED string lights. These provide a warm glow and add to your decor. String lights are an inexpensive option that adds a lot of visual punch.