Have you been thinking about diving into a van build?
Maybe you don’t have a van, but you’re interested in building out your truck camper, RV, ambulance, or boat. Right now there’s a lot of conflicting information out there about what’s needed for a van conversion and how much that conversion could cost you. We’ve seen everything from a $1,000 van build to a $100,000 van build. Where you fall in that range is entirely dependent on what features you want, the overall size of the build, the materials you plan on using, and the appliances you add.
And for every aspect of your build, there are about a dozen smaller components that come with it. It’s not JUST your lights - it’s the wiring to and from the electrical source, the battery bank, the fuse block, the fuse, the spade connectors, and the switch. Don’t even get us started on the tools you’ll need to install it all...
(If you already know you want to build a budget for yourself, skip the details below and check out our Van Conversion Budget Sheet).
We think having a project budget is critical. Here's why.
1. You can plan your purchases ahead of time to avoid over-purchasing, missing return windows, and extra trips to the hardware store
Because a conversion has so many layers, it’s important to have a way to keep track of all the pieces you’ll need and prepare yourself ahead of time for the amount of purchasing you’ll have to do. This will help you plan your purchase in batches and stages. What does that mean for you? It means you’ll have less trips to Home Depot, which is a bonus in itself. Having a full estimate ahead of time will also lead to less over-purchasing and less chances that you order the wrong item and miss your return window. Even though it’s exciting and one of the fun things you’ll buy, don’t buy your cabinet knobs first, only to realize 5 weeks later they’re the wrong type for the 6 doors you just fabricated and you can’t send them back.
2. You can plan each phase of the project ahead of time by making sure you already have all the things you need to complete it in a timely manner
By creating an estimate ahead of time, you also prepare yourself for each set of tasks. When you go to install your fan, because you built an estimate for yourself, you know that you already have the fan, tape measure, Sharpie, jigsaw, aluminum blade, butyl tape, lap sealant, rust protection paint, drill, drill bit, file, 14 gauge wire, and an interior trim ring. This will make you more efficient in each task, and more likely that you’ll finish what you start.
3. You set a realistic goal for yourself about how much this project will cost you
If those aren’t enough of a reason, having a detailed estimate will prepare you for exactly how much you might have to spend to get the van of your dreams. You might have a rough idea based on some of the larger expenses, like your batteries, solar panels, appliances, etc. However, we’ve found that the little things really add up and could surprise you if you’re not planning ahead for them. It’s the adhesive, sandpaper, extra drill bits, cleaning supplies, specially-sized hole saws, sealant, screws, shipping, sales tax, brushes, safety goggles, gloves, ladders, and snacks that are often overlooked until the very end. Do yourself a favor and try and set a really realistic financial goal for yourself.
4. Insurance and resale are much easier with a detailed breakdown of your conversion and the cost
Maybe none of these reasons are applicable to you. Maybe budget isn’t a concern and this project is a casual side hobby that you want to work on leisurely. In these cases, a project estimate might not be what you’re looking for. However, having a very detailed breakdown of everything that was purchased for and installed in your van is going to be incredibly important when it comes to insurance. By creating and keeping up with a project budget, you will have an exact document listing everything that goes into your van, should anything ever get stollen, as well as establish an estimate for how much the van is worth. This will also come in handy if you ever want to sell your campervan.
If you couldn’t tell, we’re big proponents for staying organized! If you feel so inclined to be just as organized before your next project, take a look at our digital downloads, including our favorite Van Conversion Budget Sheet.