Van Life: A Simple Guide to Designing Your Dream Van Conversion

The lure of the open road and the freedom of van life have been capturing people’s imaginations for generations.

As more people turn to a mobile lifestyle, the need for designing a van conversion that suits your needs has never been more critical.

This guide will walk you through the steps to create a perfect van conversion, from DIY to professional conversions, interior layout, space optimisation, and the installation of essential amenities, all while choosing eco-friendly materials and designs.

DIY vs. Professional Conversions

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make when embarking on your van conversion journey is whether to do it yourself or hire professionals.

DIY Conversions

If you’re handy or willing to learn, a DIY van conversion can be an immensely rewarding project.

It allows you to customise every aspect of your van to suit your exact needs and preferences. Additionally, it can be significantly cheaper than hiring professionals.

However, a DIY conversion requires time, patience, and a certain level of skill.

You’ll need to be comfortable with carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work, or be willing to learn.

Professional Conversions

On the other hand, hiring professionals can save you a lot of time and stress.

Professional converters have the skills and experience to transform your van efficiently and effectively.

They can advise on the best materials and designs to use, ensuring your conversion is safe, durable, and well-suited to your lifestyle.

However, professional conversions can be costly, and you may have to compromise on some of your design ideas due to feasibility or budget constraints.

Van Conversion Estimated Costs

Here’s an approximate breakdown of the costs for both DIY and professional van conversions:

DIY Van Conversion Cost

Note: These costs can vary widely based on individual choices and circumstances.

Low-End Estimate

  • Van Cost: $5,000 – $20,000 (used van)
  • Insulation and Paneling: $200 – $600
  • Flooring: $50 – $300
  • Bed and Seating: $100 – $500
  • Kitchen Setup (Sink, Stove, etc.): $100 – $300
  • Electrical System (Solar, Batteries, Wiring): $200 – $800
  • Water System (Tank, Pump): $50 – $200
  • Storage and Cabinets: $100 – $400
  • Miscellaneous (Paint, Hardware, etc.): $100 – $300

Total Low End Estimate: $6,900 – $24,400

High-End Estimate

  • Van Cost: $10,000 – $30,000 (used van)
  • High-End Insulation and Paneling: $800 – $1,500
  • Premium Flooring: $300 – $800
  • Custom Bed and Seating: $500 – $1,500
  • Upgraded Kitchen Setup: $300 – $800
  • Advanced Electrical System: $800 – $1,500
  • Comprehensive Water System: $200 – $600
  • Custom Storage and Cabinets: $500 – $1,200
  • Premium Miscellaneous: $300 – $800

Total High-End Estimate: $13,300 – $38,800

Professional Van Conversion Cost

Note: Professional conversion costs can vary based on the conversion company, location, and level of customisation.

Low-End Estimate

  • Conversion Package: $10,000 – $20,000
  • Van Cost (Included in Conversion): $5,000 – $20,000 (used van)

Total Low-End Estimate: $15,000 – $40,000

High-End Estimate

  • Conversion Package with Premium Features: $20,000 – $40,000+
  • High-Quality Van: $20,000 – $40,000+

Total High-End Estimate: $40,000 – $80,000+

Remember that these estimates are rough guidelines and can vary significantly based on your location, the type of van, the materials used, labor costs, and additional customisation choices.

It’s recommended to research and gather quotes from van conversion companies or suppliers to get a more accurate idea of the costs involved.

Consider Your Van Life Goals

Before you begin designing your van conversion, consider how you plan to use your van.

Are you planning to live in your van full-time or use it for weekend trips?

Will you be working from your van, or will it mainly be used for leisure?

Will you be travelling alone, with a partner, or with a family?

The answers to these questions will significantly influence your van conversion design.

Choosing Your Van

photo of commercial cargo van isolated over white background

The type of van you choose will also significantly impact your conversion design.

Different vans offer various amounts of space, features, and driving capabilities.

Some popular choices include the Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter, and RAM ProMaster.

Research each option carefully and consider factors like size, fuel efficiency, reliability, and cost.

Designing Your Van Layout

Once you have your van and a clear idea of your van life goals, you can start designing your layout.

Here are some steps to guide you through the process.

Step 1: Identify Your Van’s Interior Dimensions

Measure your van’s interior or look up its dimensions online.

This will give you a clear idea of the space you’re working with.

Step 2: Determine What Elements You Need

List the elements you want to include in your conversion, such as a bed, kitchen, bathroom, and storage.

Remember to consider your van life goals during this step.

Step 3: Play Around With Different Layouts

Use a software tool or simple pen and paper to sketch out different layout options.

Experiment with placing the elements in various positions until you find a layout that feels right.

Step 4: Consider Storage Space

Storage is critical in a van conversion.

Think about where you can incorporate storage solutions into your layout, such as under the bed or in overhead cabinets.

Step 5: Plan for Large Items

Ensure your layout accommodates any large items you plan to bring, such as bikes or surfboards.

You may need to design specific storage solutions for these items.

Step 6: Finalise Your Layout

Once you’re happy with your layout, it’s time to finalise it.

Make sure everything is to scale and that all the elements fit comfortably in the space.

Choosing Eco-friendly Materials and Designs

When designing your van conversion, consider using eco-friendly materials and designs.

This could include using reclaimed or sustainably sourced materials, installing solar panels for power, and choosing energy-efficient appliances.


Designing your dream van conversion can be a fun and exciting process.

By considering your van life goals, choosing the right van, and carefully planning your layout and amenities, you can create a van conversion that perfectly suits your needs.

Whether you opt for a DIY or professional conversion, the result will be a unique and comfortable home on wheels that’s ready for adventure.


  • Zero & Zen

    Dedicated to the cause of sustainability and eco-friendliness, our mission is to raise awareness about the importance of eco-conscious living.

    We firmly believe that individual actions can spark collective change and recognise the need for sustainable living to be tailored to your unique circumstances and pace.

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