Holidays have been few and far between this last year. Rooms in traditional hotels and guest houses have been on and off sale and the prospect of getting on a flight still seems too risky an option for some. It's no surprise then that the demand for camper vans has rocketed, offering the perfect way to get around the restrictions and enjoy a hassle-free break away.
Buying a new campervan is a significant investment for it just to sit on the drive. Fine for those who can commit to extended road trips or those who wish to hit the road and commit to van life. For the majority the option to convert an existing van into a camper presents a more affordable solution.
We’ve highlighted areas to consider for a successful DIY camper conversion.
Planning, preparation and priorities
As with most DIY projects, planning and preparation are key. Before buying your van you need to determine what your conversion needs to accommodate. If you’re planning on taking the whole family on your adventure you will need the ability to cook and entertain in the daytime with the flexibility of sleeping arrangements for the evening. If it’s just the two of you then you can opt for a larger van and a more spacious living space or a smaller vehicle to suit a reduced budget.
As a starting point, there is a wealth of internet resources available offering suitable plans that are vehicle specific that you can use as inspiration or adapt to your requirements.
Generally, clever design with elements of your camper performing multiple jobs will bring the most benefits. Incorporating front seats that will swivel round to face into your camper avoids the need for more, whilst bench seats that offer storage space and also double up as beds provide the level of flexibility you need.
If you will be staying overnight at recognised campsites then you might not need to consider a toilet or shower in your camper. However, if you are looking for the ultimate, off-grid adventure and are considering living in your van, then you will need to factor these into your design.
Ventilation, insulation and services
Good airflow around your vehicle is not only good practice but will also add to your experience of living in your camper. Adding windows and skylights close to your cooking and sleeping areas will bring some ventilation, but installing a recognised system that not only removes water vapour but also heat from your interior will provide a more comfortable living space. Needless to say ventilation is essential if you’re adding a shower and toilet facilities!
Equally as important as ventilation is insulation, particularly if you’re planning trips all year round and in the UK! It can be a tricky balance between the two but good insulation will not only keep you warm but also offer some noise insulation and therefore privacy when you’re in your camper.
For services you may want to employ experts for this part of your conversion as naturally there are safety considerations here. Also to consider is that electric, gas and a fresh water supply require storage of batteries, gas canisters and water tanks which need to be factored into your design in a way that they can be changed easily.
Depending on what you want to include and your overall finish a conversion will probably cost you upwards of £6,000 on top of the initial cost of your chosen van. There are companies that will convert your van for you, and suppliers that offer standard units purposefully made for campers. These can save you a lot of time, but there may be challenges with supply given the popularity of conversions at the moment.
Which vans are best to convert?
If you just need a bolthole for extended fishing or cycling trips then a Ford Transit Connect can easily accommodate a bed and plenty of storage underneath for cooking equipment and other essentials.
The square shape of the ‘cargo’ area makes converting simpler than other models and it can be a very cost effective way of starting your van life dream.
For larger conversions the Ford Transit Custom is a natural choice. As Britain’s most popular van it’s easy to manoeuver and offers great fuel economy, whilst being spacious enough to offer family accommodation. With short and long wheel base vehicles, enough roof space to incorporate solar panels or a pop up sleeping option, it offers perfect flexibility for your camper van conversion.
At Pye Motors we offer a range of new and used vans, see our current offering on our website.