Total Cost and Labor: DIY Camper Van Build

Cost and Labor

Total Cost and Labor: DIY Camper Van Build

How much does it cost to build a DIY Camper Van for vanlife? Well, it varies greatly with the number of added features and quality of components used during the conversion. But to help answer that question, we tracked and categorized the cost of our entire DIY camper van conversion. Hope that helps!

A few notes:
– Installation hardware cost is included in major components below.
– The hours shown are hands-on time spent building the van; we probably spent over 400-600 hours of research and planning which is not accounted here…

Logo-FarOutRide-512px-(novbr-2019)

OVERVIEW

ACTUAL COST

$US 20,150
  • Climate Control $3700
  • Electrical System $4515
  • Living $11135
  • Other $850

ACTUAL LABOR

HOURS 640*
  • Climate Control 168
  • Electrical System 86
  • Living 370
  • Other 15

*In fact, it’s probably close to 1000 hours. Why? There is ALWAYS hours lost here and there that we did not account for…

IN DEPTH

CLIMATE CONTROL

Click on any items below to access their Build Journal Post!

ELECTRICAL SYSTEM

Electrical System Design: faroutride.com/electrical-system

ACTUAL COST

$US 4515
  • Solar Panels 600$
  • Batteries (lithium) 1900$
  • Charge Controller 225$
  • Battery Monitor 205$
  • Inverter 370$
  • Battery Charger 215$
  • B2B (alternator) Charger 400$
  • Others (wiring, switch, fuses, etc) 600$

ACTUAL LABOR

HOURS 86
  • Solar Panel Installation 6
  • Main Electrical System 40
  • Lights, Pump, 12V Sockets, etc 40

OTHER

Click on any items below to access their Build Journal Post!

ACTUAL COST

$US 850

ACTUAL LABOR

HOURS 15
  • Van interior removal & preparation 2
  • Black Plastic Cladding Fasteners Sealing 1
  • Interior Rust Proofing 1
  • Surprises! TBD

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Monthly Vanlife Cost since 2017

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about us

Nice To Meet You.

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

31 thoughts on “Total Cost and Labor: DIY Camper Van Build”

  1. I love everything about your life and am super impressed with how you documented every detail for others to see. I’ve been having similar thoughts to this sort of lifestyle as a fellow engineer, mtb’r and dirtbag rock climber but have one detail I struggle with, if the goal is full time living why a van and not an RV? You can get a super rad used Class C RV for under $20k ready to go that probably has twice the inside space in a 25′ length version and you dont have a spend 1000 hours converting it. I’m well versed in Sprinter Van culture and personally have a full sleeping setup in the back of my pickup truck but it seems the livability of an RV every day would be well worth its lumbering size driving down the road. Is stealth camping worth the small package or road nimbleness that much of a limiter for you? I’m currently leveraging my 4×4 capabilities on my weekend adventures but transitioning to a 4×4 sprinter is pretty pricy and it seems 2wd is inevitable.

    -Best

    Reply
    • Hey! We would love the space of an RV, but it would be too much of a compromise on off-road capabilities (summer & winter); we use our van for trail access and shuttling quite a lot as this is our only vehicle. Some roads are steep and rough, an RV definitely wouldn’t make it. Also, we benefit from being stealth quite a lot, especially as sleeping in vehicle becomes prohibited more and more everywhere.

      Hope that helps!

      Reply
  2. Amazing resource!
    You guys did an incredible job documenting everything.
    We (me and wife) are in the “planning phase” (july 2020). We work as engineers for the Aerospace Industry and definitely will use this site as a major source of ideas, solutions etc.
    Thks a lot.

    Claudiano Araujo

    Reply
  3. wow ! I mean WOOOOOW ! you have created an amazing resource. I am just starting my 170xt build. I am 68 retired . two years ago I lost EVERYTHING in a hurricane (living in US Virgin Islands) gone …
    it has taken me two years to recover. Now I am ready to take on another adventure. I am doing some very simple but unusual things in my build (don’t we all !). the rear will be completely framed in with top “awning style” windows and a louvered fan and access to lower cabinets for propane water and electric (both inside and out). the side slider will open to have an interior wall with a door and windows. removing pax seat and building platform with crate for my 4 dogs. metal oem bulkhead will be used with a small access for dogs and a louvered fan. this van is for me and my 4 dogs. anyway …I have thought about your comment re creating a “square” interior. if you cut into that plumb line you can reclaim that space ! ??? anyway I plan to study your website. it is amazing ! THANK YOU ! I plan to hit the road Dec 1 and head south to warm weather. YAHOO !!

    Reply
  4. Isabelle & Antoine,

    Thank you both so much for all the hard work and effort you have put into this amazing project. I recently purchased all of your diagrams and guides, they are so incredibly helpful and I am using them to build my Promaster 3500. I have some modifications for my needs and I feel your plan allows for a lot of flexibility, which is extremely useful/practical. Again, great work!

    I do have a question about tools. As a person with no tools, could you recommend a kit (see link) that has most of the big tools you needed/wanted? It doesn’t have to be with this company, just looking for something that covers “most” items. Thank you for the help!

    https://www.homedepot.com/b/Tools-Power-Tools-Power-Tool-Combo-Kits/RYOBI/N-5yc1vZc2ecZm5d?storeSelection=4411,4401,8583,4408,4414

    Reply
    • I’d say the MUST HAVE tools are:
      – Power Drill
      – Right Angle Drill (for small spaces)
      – Circular Saw
      – Jigsaw
      – Orbital sander

      I think that covers the basic, you’ll probably have to get a few other tools along the way 🙂

      Reply
  5. Thanks for creating such a professional resource. Your web site is truly one of the best!
    You guys are so smart and articulate, and your web skills are very impressive.
    Robert,
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
    p.s.
    Your data is a reality check. Time and cost is usually tripled from my optimistic estimate.

    Reply
      • 30 hours for a floor? I’ve installed 1,200 SqFt of flooring in a basement in 1.5 days or about 15 hours.

        40 hours for an overhead storage? I’ve done afternoon projects of about that size. 40 hours is an entire work week.

        Sorry I really am not trying to be rude, I am just having trouble fathoming how you are spending that long on these types of things. I am trying to figure out if I would be able to gain a head start enough in 1 month of work on a van.

        Reply
        • Remember, there’s not straight line in a van. Everything is curved and you can’t just screw anywhere. Many people start by making everything “square” (by boxing the interior) to make the build easier, but that’s a huge waste of livable space. We wanted to take advantage of every inch, so we worked with the curvatures at every step. It’s very different than building a house!

          That being said, we had no experience building anything really; and we had just the basic tools. I’m sure if you have the tools & you’re a handy person you’ll do it faster than us. We answer dozens of questions each day, and it seems most people building vans are in a similar situation than us (newbies), so we believe most people can relate to the time listed on our page.

          Cheers! Happy build!

          Reply
          • Agreed with Antoine.
            Building my first camper and it for sure takes time.

            No matter how much time I have spent looking at forum and reading DIY, i’m still struggling from time to time to find the right solution.

  6. Hey Antoine,

    I wanted to thank you for all of the amazingly helpful information. I also had a question, I’m in the process of remodeling a 2018 Ford Transit and was wondering which wires you removed in the interior of the van, besides the lights, before starting your build process?

    Thanks,
    Scott

    Reply
  7. Thanks guys! This is an incredible resource. This it what makes the internet a special place. We pick or transit highroof ecoboost in a few weeks!

    Reply
  8. Hello,
    Did you come up with an estimate for the time it took to panel the interior? It says “TBD”, so wondering if there is an update. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Oh that’s a good question! I honestly can’t remember sorry 🙁

      While paneling, we had to route some wires, install the lights, the wall fan, light switch, etc, etc.; so it would be hard to calculate…

      Good luck!

      Reply
  9. Would you be willing to duplicate another van like yours for a price? If so what would that be approx amount. I have the Ford Transit 350 High Roof Extended. It’s a cargo van but passenger glass all around.

    Reply
    • Hi Jim,
      Right now at this very moment, we’re not interested. We just started our one year (or two years) journey and we’re busy living our dream 🙂
      Of course eventually we will run out of savings, so we will have to go back to our cubicle life; at that time, it will be a different story! We could picture ourselves building a van rather than sit in our cubicle…

      Let’s pretend we’re interested. I’m just thinking out loud here:
      There are the fixed costs (materials); you’ve seen the approximate price on this page. Then there are the hours; it says 505 hours as i’m writing these line, but it’s not completed (as mentioned in the intro). It’s probably more like 800-1000 hours. Let’s say 800 hours X our hourly salary. If I go back to my cubicle, I can get about 50-60$ per hour. I’m willing to work for a lower hourly salary building a van, but the question is how much less?

      Sorry for the confusing answer, but right now this is my best guesstimate 🙂

      There are a bunch of dudes/dudettes our there doing custom vans: freedomvans, kestrelvans, etc, etc.

      Thanks for inquiring, you’re welcome to add your inputs 🙂

      Regards,
      antoine

      Reply
  10. When you post the labor hours, are they taking into account your combined effort?
    If you spent 100 hours working together, do you count that as 100 hours or 200 man hours since it’s two people?
    I’m trying to figure out how long it’ll take me to complete a build by myself.

    Reply
    • We first wanted to account for the man-hours, but we realized it would be too difficult to track. The hours shown on this page are not man-hours they’re estimated combined effort. For example, if it took us the whole day to install the Maxxair Fan, we entered 8 hours in the table. That being said, I don’t think that two people is twice as efficient, so don’t multiply the time by two! Also, we did our best to provide accurate time, but as we work part time on the van it’s very difficult to track… hours might be a little off…

      Good luck with your conversion!

      Reply

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