Hi I'm Dave... *solid fist bump*

Just thought I’d introduce myself. I’m looking to build out a van (and live in it) over the upcoming fall, in Florida. At the planning/budgeting stages right now (definitely on a budget!), and honestly could use any help I could get! I traveled around a bit with bands, and love life on the road, can’t wait to travel again now that things in America seem to be opening up and safer. I’m thinking of financing a new Dodge Promaster with the high roof, any thoughts? I have budgeted around 5 grand for the build… been pricing out things I need. Really curious how much people have spent on tools, nobody seems to mention that?

Greetings & Welcome!

I’m not really a fan of buying a new van, financing, or self builds, when you can buy used and move in ready for a fraction of the price. Let somebody else take the huge hit on depreciation. Times have changed, and new rigs are often full of problems too.

Tool wise, it can run the gamut. I’ve built whole beautiful interiors using nothing but a hole saw, a coping saw, a hacksaw, sandpaper, and screwdrivers. Power tools are quicker, but not as accurate. The most important part is understanding how to work with intricate curves and uneven shapes. This is one of the major failure points in self builds, because nothing starts out square, straight, or level.

Another large failure point is cargo vans. People tend to learn the value of windows, especially opening windows, too late. Living in a box without a 360° view is for the birds. The view, the ventilation, and temperature control are priceless.

Builds can go from cheap to extremely expensive, full featured to extremely lacking, from comfortable to horrible, and from efficient to a royal pain where a pill won’t quite reach.

The best value for most people is to purchase a cheap older factory camper van or motorhome, keep it original, and use it as it was intended. Don’t add solar panels or lithium batteries, and don’t remodel or paint the interior. The resale value is in keeping it original.

When building your own, I’m a firm supporter of no build, builds. Keeping everything portable and modular, but secured. My current camper van cost me ~$300 to convert 11 years ago, and has kept me comfortable, safe, and happy all this time. I have every amenity that an an expensive motorhome would have, with the exception of a microwave, and I could have one if I wanted one, but I can’t justify the space they require for how little I’d use it.

I have everything I need or want, a very comfortable sofa/bed, a toilet & shower, full kitchen, hot water limited only by my carrying capacity, a swivel rocker/recliner, ample storage, heating, cooling, limited battery power charged while driving, and unlimited power from a cheap $99 generator. I have other goodies that aren’t included in my build cost, but you get the general idea.

We all have the ability of going cheap but full featured if we ignore the promoters, the university of youtube, instagramscam, etc.

I suggest people stay under $5k all in to start with, and without giving up your current life or housing. Try it out first and cheaply. This life isn’t for everybody, and things are constantly changing for the worse for full timers. Many things that were easy 20 years ago, are much more difficult today. Most things are still possible, just much harder. The backlash against the bad actors affects us all.


"Be a credit to the human race, and make the world a better place." ~ Off Grid

1 Like

If you can find a good makers space, that is your best bet. Pay a monthly fee and use all they have to offer. These can be hit or miss depending on the city, but they’ll have things like a proper table saw that you’re going to need if you want to make it nice. You also won’t have to spend and arm and a leg on specialty tools that you might use once and then are stuck with.

Obviously there are some tools you’ll want for yourself that are nice to have and will be nice to have on the road as well.

If you were to pay $50 a month and got your build done in two months, then you’d have spent a total of $100 on tools.

1 Like

Oh, wow, thanks! That is alot of information.
Much appreciated! That’s definitely a great deal to consider. Thanks!

Thanks Bretly!
I’ve never heard of a makers space. I was considering renting a bay in an industrial park, but this sounds way better. Any idea how to find one?

1 Like

I’m interested in a makers space too in the NYC or Hudson Valley area. @Bretly any info would be very appreciated. Thanks!

Greetings & Welcome!

You can google “maker space near me”.

Good Luck!


"Those who believe money can't buy hapiness, don't have either."
~ An Anonymous Vandweller