Please check me on my "plan"

Hello All!

This will be my first entry into van life and I have spent a good amount of time researching and building my “plan” for entry into this adventure. Here is what I have come up with. This is all based on a budget of 5k or less to include the purchase of the Van. If anyone can provide feedback on the feasibility of this plan, that would be awesome. I am trying to keep this plan realistic and “under-ambitious” since we all know execution of a plan is usually harder than coming up with it. :sweat_smile: The point is to get out and enjoy the lifestyle. Not spend a year building it.

  1. The Van.

This is my first van and will also be my first experience living in a van. This is not intended to be a full time living arrangement but rather a weekend/extended weekend traveling solution. I have toyed around with the idea of buying a E350/250/150 cargo van and doing a complete build out, but it seems to me that this would be a rather ambitious entry and might not be the most time/cost effective method. While I do have the skills to manage this type of project, I don’t feel like it’s the right direction for me based on the other options out there. Instead, I am looking to find a ford conversion/passenger van for my starting point since much of the “work” has already been done. I would still do some small buildout items such as installing a permanent bed with storage and counter space but that would be about it. Thoughts on this? Any benefits of a full build out that I might be missing? I have had my eye on the early to mid 90’s Ford Econoline conversion Vans or the G20/30’s. Any thoughts or recommendations on either of these models? Is there an ideal year that I should be looking for? I have searched around online for common mechanical issues with these vans and it looks like there isn’t to much outside of regular age wear and tear.

  1. Solar Vs Generator.

I have looked at some “turn-key” solar options with battery banks and while this looks like a manageable endeavor for install, I don’t see the point of the effort if I’m already not doing a full buildout. Instead, I have been looking at some generator/portable battery bank options out there that would still get me through a long weekend of traveling but is a little more cost effective and realistic for what I am looking to do with my van. Thoughts on this? Any input or recommendations on a generator vs a battery bank. I have developed a list of electrical items that are important to me to have in my van and that is, climate control (A/C for sure) somewhere cold to keep food, power for lighting and charging/running small appliances (Hot plate, small espresso maker, coffeepot, etc). Would a generator setup be able to provide me with the ability to support these things?

  1. Running Water.

I do want some kind of “running” water option in my Van. I have been looking at some foot pump/hand pump options with a 5 gallon potable and dirty setup. Seems fairly simple to setup and realistic to use. Any experience with these types of setups?

  1. Insulation.

If I start with a conversion/passenger van, are they already insulated enough or will I need to add extra insulation? If so, to what extend would I need to. Would really hate to dig into the already finished headliner and walls.

I am open to all opinions and feedback on my plan. You all are the experts and Im just here trying to learn. Thanks for taking the time to help on this!


My advice before you do anything is check you can get insurance on the type of van you intend to buy then go from there once you have that sorted we can help you.

You don’t say where you are located

Thanks for the response! Good point. I hadn’t thought about insurance being a possible issue although I was able to verify I would be able to get coverage through my current insurance company. (USAA) quite easily on somthing like an econoline. I currently live in Virginia Beach.

ah ok . . . .

the reason I mentioned that was because I had done lots of looking and planning on a particular type of van only to find out that I couldn’t insure it.

I think the insurance aspect should be the first port of call for anyone wanting to do this.

Check you’re entitled to drive the vehicle as well that’s an issue most don’t even think about.

I live in the Uk and I had originally planned to get a minibus type vehicle but anything over 3 seats is just a nonstarter

I then wanted to go for a 7-5 ton cargo lorry and again I had started the plans only to find out that the DVLA won’t reclassify that vehicle.

So I’m now looking at a Luton box van and I’m all good to go I’ve got commercial insurance lined up that ain’t too bad considering and once it’s all done I will have to get it reclassified as a campervan with the DVLA and then I can insure it as such.

Not sure if these issues affect you folks across the pond but I think the points are good enough to consider no point in doing all the work only to find you cant insure it or drive it

stay safe out there


Passenger/Conversion vans are a great options. They come with a pre finished interior, and opening windows can save you from the need to install roof vents. Those 2 advantages alone can save you $1k+, not to mention a ton of time. No added insulation is needed either.

Solar Vs Generator.

Your desire for A/C and other high power items pretty much is going to make a generator the best choice for you. This will also allow you to have a minimal battery system to handle the lower power loads. With an isolator to charge while driving, and a battery charger to plug into your generator, you should be well prepared power wise.

Running water…

Running water is a double edged sword. It’s nice, but plumbing can also freeze… So that’s a hurdle that needs consideration. I’ve opted for dollar store dish pans for sinks, and trigger spray bottles for water delivery.


"Don't be scared, BE PREPARED!" ~ Road Warrior

We have a very rudimentary plan for water. Pipe from jug directly to pump directly to faucet. Then from the sink directly out the bottom. No hot water and nothing special. The faucet is also acting as a shower head for us. We’ve been without it for a year now. At least with van #3. It’s not a necessity but a very nice to have.

I’ve researched lots of services for a van build and as far as the water supply is concerned I’m going with this

I don’t see the point of making stuff more complicated than it should be too many links in a chain will undoubtedly lead to a failure somewhere down the line



Have you considered how to block fumes coming up from the grey tank?


"Don't be scared, BE PREPARED!" ~ Road Warrior


My grey water tank is gonna sit outside underneath the box I shall drill a hole through the floor and use a pipe and sealant so im guessing i wont have fumes to worry about



Fumes come up through the drain. The P traps under the sink help prevent this, but in a vehicle can also be a freeze problem. Instead of piping, I use hose with a loop in it, so if freezes it can expand without breaking.


"Don't be scared, BE PREPARED!" ~ Road Warrior


So do you propose I use fairly thick hose for the fresh water as I intend to use a marine pump from the fresh water tank to the sink then run a hose from the drain plug through the floor to the grey water tank outside on the chassis



I’m just guessing here, but I think thin wall hosing might expand better when frozen without breaking…

A bigger problem might be making sure that the water pump doesn’t have water inside it to freeze. I’m not familiar with the inner workings of the pumps, and there may be various designs, but it seems like I read a long time ago where someone removed the backflow valve from their pump so the water would drain back into the tank when not in use to solve the frozen/broken pump issue. That would likely require a self priming pump too. Do they have freeze proof pumps?

I did find some Youtube vids about solving water pump freezing here:


"Don't be scared, BE PREPARED!" ~ Road Warrior

Im gonna use a marine pump would that freeze ? do they have problems i dont know about at all?

We used a marine pump and pex tubing. The pex should be fine frozen or not and is also crazy simple to work with. For the pump itself I’m not worried. You can always put a little light or 12v heater there on the pump to keep it warm. This is the pump we used.

Make sure you add an on/off switch to the pump. If you don’t and a leak starts in the system your pump will just run till the water is gone and then burn out. Both bad things.

We opted for no grey water tank and just a drain outside.


I actually just finished my “kitchen” area with my spout and sink.

I’ve gotten a lot done lately, really need to toss up some pictures on my build post… :laughing:

Anyway, I wanted to get away from requiring tons of power for everything even so I went with this guy,
(Not an influencer)

I went with an old fashioned pitcher pump! I took a hose, plugged it into my 55-gallon tank, and called it good! Took a few fittings and whatnot, but essentially it provides water from the tank without requiring any power.

For my “sink”, I went with what I consider to be a water conscious decision.

Yup, a Steel Tub. There is no drainage at all, the idea is that I wanted to be very aware of the amount of water I was using. I also didn’t want some nasty stinky jug sitting under my sink for who knows how long until I empty it.

So in the event of washing dishes, I pump some water, wash my dishes, and then when I’m done I find a plant that could use some water and help that little guy out. I figure if my water isn’t constantly draining down some hole I can be a little more conscious of just how much water I am using.


Ooooh… I love that! :wink:

My solution is similar but different, because like you I didn’t want a grey tank. I use dollar store plastic dish pans for sinks, and trigger spray bottles for water delivery. Very handy and very frugal on water use. Then I take my sink & shower water and water the flowers & shrubs at a nearby park wherever I’m at. Win/win for everyone.

I use 3 different spray bottles, one painted black for sun powered hot water, one for cold, and a third with a few drops of dish soap in it. Then I have 3 more spray bottles filled with vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and rubbing alcohol. I just love my spray bottles, quick, easy, & portable, and they really cut down on waste too. Between them, cleaning almost anything is quick & easy, even wounds.

For my shower, I use a hand pump weed sprayer painted black for free hot water, with a triggered kitchen sink sprayer nozzle for the shower head. Very water frugal with no waste. Sometimes I even use it to wash my whole van! Then I just use a hula hoop that I hang up for a shower curtain rod, along with dollar store shower curtains & hooks. Add a storage tote or an ice chest for a catchment base, and you have a portable shower for both indoor/outdoor use.


"Opportunities are everywhere, but only action makes it happen." ~ Van_Dweller

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