How to start building your van

Living on the road is a growing trend. For the best experience, you should have equipment that meets your needs.

There are plenty of pre-built RVs and vans on the market, but many people choose to build their own. If you’re planning a build, make sure you think through the entire process before starting.

Below are several considerations to get you started.

Set budget

When planning a vanlife build, set a budget before making any purchases. Equipping a van can get very expensive if you’re not mindful of your expenses. Budgeting in advance will help you decide what kind of van to buy, how much you need to DIY, and how elaborate you can get with the interior. You can also detail prices for what needs to be done before you start traveling and what can be budgeted for overtime.

Determine needs

You must make a list of your must-haves. This list varies by person, where you plan to travel, how long you will be on the road, and how self-reliant you want to be. You will only have about 100 to 150 square feet of space. A big debate tends to be storage versus amenities.


Think about how many people and pets will travel with you. You must plan everything you need to bring. This includes clothing, food, water, kitchen utensils and equipment for outdoor activities. Now consider how much space you’ll need to store everything. It is vital that everything has a place. You don’t want your van to get messed up or have items shifting while you drive.


Unfortunately, the more storage space you need, the less room for amenities. Decide if you need a large bed, flush toilet, full kitchen, and shower. Some people are creative with amenities using outdoor showers, outdoor suspended cooktops, camping facilities, or bathing in gyms.


The more amenities you include, the more independent you will be. Being self-sufficient can save you a lot of money in the future because you won’t always need to be in an established camp. As long as you have a bathroom, kitchen and power supply, you can find affordable or even free places to stay. Good options for those who are self-employed. BLM areas or Harvest Hosts.

Select Van

You will invest a lot of time and money in building it. Make sure you get it right starting with the best base. There is a lot to consider when selecting the type of van you want.


No matter what age the van you choose, there are pros and cons. Newer vans will have a higher price, but you’re likely to go further before they need service. This can be especially good if you’ve spent all of your extra funds on construction. Classic vans, on the other hand, are more affordable at first and come with character. If you choose an older model, be sure to add a repair fund to your budget.


Vans come in a variety of interior heights. Most people who will live in their camper van want something they can stand on. You can plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, but the weather doesn’t always allow for that. Your back will thank you for the ability to stand upright while trapped inside. However, if you are on a tight budget, a standard height van will be more affordable.


You should research repair information before purchasing a van. Some makes and models are hard to find and have more expensive parts. It’s also worth checking which mechanics are willing to work on your rig. Some vans must go to dealerships or specialty stores to be serviced.

Fuel Economy

No trailer will be extremely fuel efficient, but some are better than others. Note that better fuel economy often means less power. Weigh your options while considering how many miles you plan to drive and what terrain you will cover. You may be willing to give up a few miles per gallon if you plan to spend a lot of time driving in the mountains.

Plan Layout

You must plan your layout carefully before starting your construction. Poor planning can result in wasted materials, overspending, or a project you don’t like. Three simple steps will help you get it right.


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One of the best ways to start your planning is to see what others have done. It’s great to see photos online, but it’s even better to see campervans in person. Consider taking a tour and picking the brains of those who live in your vans.


Measure carefully when designing your layout. You need to take into account the space occupied by insulation and interior walls. Also be sure to leave a comfortable passageway between your closets, but you don’t want to waste space.


It’s a good idea to outline your project. You can write all measurements on your drawing to help avoid mistakes. Draw everything, wait a few days and look again. Make sure you’re 100% satisfied with the way things fit together.

Building your van is an adventure in itself. Drawing up a budget, determining your needs, selecting a van, and planning the layout are the first steps to life on the road.

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