Minivan “NO BUILD” tips


I turned 18 not to long ago and realized that along with my current situation, renting will be too difficult.

The van I am looking to buy at the moment is a 2003 Ford Windstar

Aside from bedding and storage, how should I go about producing electricity, given I would pack a mini fridge, power station, and some basic lights?

I would watch some YouTube video’s on this because there are a lot of details in setting them up but I would definitely charge from the alternator. That’s a no-brainer on a minivan. You’ll need a DC-DC charger for this so you don’t burn out your alternator or damage your system. Solar has also become really affordable …if you don’t mind having panels on a minivan. A third way would be shore power (plug-in power via an extension cord) if you’ll have access to an outlet.

I would look into all of these and figure out which of these are best for you. I’m using all three.

You’ll want power station that is big enough it will last at least couple rainy days for your intended use.

Mainly charge during driving. Use foldable solar panel when you are parked to provide trickle charge. Over the windshield on nice days, underneath it on others. Works also as a shade. Eventually it might be necessary to top up at an outlet.

Greetings & Welcome @WGThunder!

Windstar’s are notorious for engine & transmission problems, I would avoid.

Power stations can be spendy…

My main power setup cost under $100 total:

A) Used 100ah deep cycle battery from junkyard: $20.00
B) Heavy duty set of jumper cables for wiring the isolator & house battery: $20.00
C) Continuous duty, 100a, normally open, Solenoid (for isolator): $18.00
D) Battery cable ends: $5.00
E) Marine battery box: $8.00
F) Battery to 2x acc. port adapter: $5.00
G) 2x Acc. port to 4x acc. port adapters @ $5.00ea. : $10

Total: $86.00

That gives me 8x acc. ports on the outside of the battery box, more than enough, each fused, and with a separate switch. 50a/600wh of usable power, enough to last me a week. A similarly powerful power station would likely cost you in excess of $1,000. No solar required and under an hour to build including the isolator installation.

For a backup plan, I also added an el cheapo no name generator for $100, and a $29 battery charger. The battery charger will work from either the generator or shore power, so I always have plenty of power even if I’m not driving enough to charge while driving.

In the end, my total power solution cost just slightly over $200. Everything I use regularly runs on 12v power (laptop/phone charging, fan, swamp cooler, heated seat cushions & blankets.) [All my lights run on rechargeable AA/AAA batteries, or are fuel powered. A solar powered battery charger, sat in a window, always keeps a set of fully charged batteries available for my lights, radios, etc.], and on the rare occasion that I need shore power, the generator can provide it.

An ice chest requires no power and won’t break down on you. It’s easier to conserve power than it is to produce it. If you put the ice in a separate bin beside the food, the food never gets wet, and if you use a block of ice, it’ll last a week. (It cost me about $50 a year for ice.) Simple, cheap, & most importantly reliable.

What are your plans for cooking, heating, & ventilation? You can have EVERYTHING you need on a shoestring budget. It’s possible to build a very full featured no build camper van in a single afternoon for a few hundred dollars. Since I both lived in and worked from inside my van, 4 season climate control, reliable power, and complete comfort & convenience were high on my priority list.

I lived very comfortably in a $700 van with a $300 “build” for over 10 years. I’m sure that’s over $100k savings in rent for that amount of time, and it allowed me to bank all of that & more. Cooking my own meals, and having my own toilet/shower, saves me even more, is more convenient, and I eat better too.

Let’s not forget a reliable income!!! This lifestyle isn’t free, and many people pay more per month than if they were renting. There’s no shortage of jobs or ways to make money and a very wise man once said: “MONEY FIRST, then everything else is easier.” He was indeed a VERY WISE man! We live in the land of opportunity, and the sooner we start on the road to financial freedom the better.

I prefer to start saving money with the initial vehicle purchase, the build (if needed), and then finally my living expenses. For less than rent + deposits, You can become a proud owner of a comfortable home on wheels, bought & paid for in full.

Given the choice, a cheap, older motorhome might even be cheaper, move in ready, and with all the comforts of home. I have owned many, usually for under $2,500 and mechanically reliable. Oldies but Goodies, and the extra space makes them considerably more comfortable than a camper van. I usually only do vans for myself when there are no cheap motorhomes available at the time.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller

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Get yourself something similar to a jackery for power. And an alpicool for a small fridge. You can also hook up led lights to your power station.
I have dr prepare, 200watts and an aplicool. The alpicool connected to the dr prepare lasts 13 hours on a single charge. Still able to use my lights and a fan. I have a 100 watt solar panel to charge the dr prepare. Easy peasy.