HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO CUSTOM BUILD A VAN

how-much-does-it-cost-to-custom-build-a-van

For anyone wondering how much it costs to convert a van by yourself, here you go. We really wanted to show people how much it cost us to go the route we did. There are many cheaper options on how you can do your van, but we weren’t looking for the cheapest way to do it, we just wanted to make it exactly how we wanted regardless of cost. The only thing with choosing to live van life and to build a van like ours, you have to go all in. You have to commit and be ready to get rid of a lot of things you’ve collected over the years. Here is a post on what we learned from our first month living in a van.

So, we saved pretty much all of our receipts. We did not include tax on here, so just add Californias sales tax or even your own state to the total if you want to know exact amounts. We’re going to list out categories of things. Some stuff on our receipts we have NO IDEA what it was..so we added it to the accessories category.

Converting a van the way we did, was not a cheap endeavor. We decided this was our home and studio for the next two years, so we wanted to make it as comfortable as we could. We also wanted to do it completely ourselves.

Im first going to go over the main things we wanted in our van before we breakdown the costs:

LAYOUT Our decision to make the van layout the way it is, was because we needed to be able to live comfortably for long periods of time AND run our business out of it. We needed enough space for a table that we could both work on together, all of our office supplies and gear as well. 

For our bed setup, we are both pretty tall people; I'm 5'8 and Cody is 6'0. I happen to fit perfectly across the bed, its just Cody has to be either diagonal or hang his feet off the edge. Which is fine and works for us. The one thing we want soon is to upgrade our bed. We used a memory foam mattress topper and cut into four sections and added some covers. We are really wanting something a bit thicker, there is a company we heard of that makes custom Tempurpedic mattresses that we will be checking out soon. I believe its called Artisan Mattress.

POWER We also needed power. Like really good power. Because we need to be able to power our devices, charge our camera gear and edit videos for long periods of time. So power was our #1 priority. We also wanted to be 100% solar and not have to rely on an offshore charger. Although it would be nice for those cloudier areas.If you want more information on our solar panels and battery check out this post right here.

Adding to the power, we wanted to spend a little more for a super efficient refrigerator. One that draws a minuscule amount of amps per hour. We decided on this one right here and ordered it from this company. These refrigerators are not cheap, but we thought it was important. We also enjoy the fact that it opens like a regular refrigerator and not like this one here that opens like a cooler. We originally thought we wanted that one, but decided to go with the NovaKool. We love it. Its awesome and it fits all of the food and beer we could ever need. Plus, there is a freezer!

DESIGN Originally going into the design, we wanted to stick with the overall theme of Asian Zen blended with modern organic. Which is why we chose the color palette, fabrics, metals, etc.. Still trying to make it 100% the style we want, we have an interesting eclectic taste so its harder to stick with one specific thing. 

The countertop is granite. My aunt and uncles neighbor had scrap pieces of granite lying in his backyard for the last 10 years and this one we picked out was called black galaxy. Its black and has little specks of copper in it. So, we based our entire design off this granite, hence the copper accents. We got the piece of granite for free which was awesome. He had a friend that installs granite, so we brought it to him and got it polished, cut, and installed for $600.00. If you are wondering how much it weighs it originally was about 600lbs before we cut it. Once it was cut down, it was only about 150lbs/200lbs. So not too bad for adding weight to our van. We were a little worried at first, but we were determined to make it look badass with some granite.

Alright, here is our cost breakdown:

VAN: We wanted to purchase a new vehicle so we found a 2016 144’ Mercedes Sprinter Van. The van cost us $46,000. 

SOLAR: $1139.00

ELECTRICAL: $1302.40

LIGHTS: $75.00

INSULATION: 491.44

WOOD: $472.94

KITCHEN: $2240.46

TOOLS: $61.28

HARDWARE: $320.24

DECOR: $159.29

BED: $150.00

FLOORS: $151.72

ACCESSORIES: $656.47

PAINT: $230.75

LABOR: $670.00


TOTAL COST: $54,120.99

So, there you have it folks. That’s how much we spent. Before we bought the van, we sold EVERYTHING. Im telling you, everything we’ve owned. We sold it before our apartment lease was up. So for a couple months we had nothing in there. Some pillows on the floor and a small side table. It was actually hilarious because our friends would come over and be like “wow, you really weren’t joking about selling everything you own and moving in the van.”

The only things we kept we’re some kitchen supplies, clothing, blankets&pillows, camera gear, computers, and snowboarding gear. We also have four boxes of sentimental items stored away in our family’s storage. We had a decent amount of money saved, plus the money from selling our stuff and our vehicles. We started saving for our van at the beginning of the year in January, and we bought our van in June and started the build near the end of June. It definitely cost more than we thought, but the money we’ll be saving compared to living in Downtown Portland will add up over time.

Well worth it! 

Have any questions about van life? Just ask us!

PS: We started a vlog! Click the button below to see more behind the scenes of van life.

Van LifeLexi Smithpopular