Hi! Just turned 69 and I refuse to just sit in my apartment, spending money on rent, waiting to die when I retire in a year. I want to feel life, people, and nature. I’m not very handy, so I’m grateful for this forum to get me headed in the right direction for my van conversion. Thank you!
Greetings & Welcome!
Why a van conversion? Older motorhomes in excellent shape can still be found a whole lot cheaper than converting a van, and they’re move in ready. Many of them have spent their lives getting used only a few weekends a year, before which they were taken in for total maintenance to get them ready for the year.
Over the years, I’ve had factory motorhomes, camper vans, and trailers, and self converted vans, buses, step vans, and more. I’m a pretty firm believer that older factory motorhomes are the best choice for newbies. They can be the cheapest, and absolutely the best way to get your feet wet. They also hold their value well if you don’t get silly and remodel it, or paint over the beautiful woodwork etc. etc. Many come with generators, and even air conditioning. Floorplans are everything, and there’s floorplans to suit everybody perfectly if you’re patient.
Once you have experience, if you’re not happy, and know exactly what you want, that is the time to consider a self conversion, keeping in mind that any money you put into it to convert it will likely be lost when it comes time to sell it. If your conversion isn’t as nice as a factory unit, the selling price is rarely higher than an empty van, and if it’s new enough to not be fully depreciated already, it will be losing value constantly until it is fully depreciated.
Don’t get suckered into expensive upgrades either. You don’t need solar panels, or expensive batteries, etc. etc. Use them as they were intended, and you’ll be much happier and money ahead. People promoting all this stuff are just after your money, and could care less about your happiness or your well being.
I try to start saving money beginning with the initial purchase price. I have bought countless rigs in immaculate shape for under $2500, move in ready, and road ready. I’ve also bought road ready vehicles to convert for as low as $500, and spent as low as a couple hundred to convert them, and I’m not talking about the garbage you see in online either, I’m talking about with as many amenities as a factory motorhome. I don’t believe in only using public toilets, or paying for a gym membership to shower. I don’t want or need expensive solar panels etc. because I’m parking in the shade during the summer. Nearly new batteries, tires, and more can be found at junk yards dirt cheap. My point is that you can do this on a shoestring budget, risking very little, without compromising on your quality of life.
I’m not a big gambler or risk taker. The promoters convinced me to gamble once, and I lost over $30k in a year, and in nearly 50 years of living on wheels, that was the most miserable year of the bunch. The cargo van sucked, and almost all of their advice was the worst choices possible. All of their advice was designed around them making money at my expense.
I have come to the conclusion that cheap, simple, & reliable, while remaining safe & comfortable is the route I prefer. My current camper van is full featured micro apartment on wheels. 11 years ago, I bought a gutted 1973 Dodge high top camper van for $700, then I spent maybe $300 to rebuild the interior from scratch, but it is what would be called a “No Build” build. That means that everything is moved in then secured, rather than built in. I have a comfortable sofa/bed, full kitchen, toilet & shower, comfortable seating with working/dining space, year round climate control (heating/cooling), unlimited hot water, and unlimited power. All for under $300, which is MUCH more than I had in that promoter inspired cargo van for over $30k just for the camper build part.
As you can see, a van and the conversion can be done cheap, but that was with years of experience, and knowing exactly what I wanted & needed. For newbies, I still recommend a cheap factory camper to start with.
Good luck & keep us posted.
Good on you, it will be a fantastic experience. I am 63 and although not living in my van full time I am travelling all over the UK. Just doing her up at the moment and will be picking peoples brains for ideas. Keep us updated I would love to see some pictures (if that’s allowed) I’m a newbie too so unsure about that. I get that you want to do the conversion. I brought my van and am now stripping her out and rebuilding her to what I have learned over the last two years that I actually need and don’t need inside.
This is inspiring!! Thank you for sharing… Looking forward to seeing your progress