So after watching tons of lots of videos about people and their vans online, and to be truthful thinking about my retirement options, I have decided I really really really want to do van life. I am completely happy to down size, have just a tiny place for me and a dog. But, and its a BIG BUT, I have no idea how to get started.
I’ve seen so many builds and conversions, and think I am edging towards the Luton Box van, but honestly I have no DIY skills and on a very limited budget so I guess I’m just looking for advice.
Greetings & Welcome!
Generally speaking, people suggesting you build your own are looking for suckers. Without years of experience, and adequate skills, building your own camper is rarely a good choice. The promoters who push this sort of nonsense are doing it for their own gain, not yours.
Used campers in excellent shape can be found for a fraction of the price of building your own, and they are move in ready. Many older rigs have very low mileage, have seen very minimal use, and can be purchased much cheaper than building your own which will be far less feature rich, and far less comfortable.
DIY conversions have many down sides which the promoters always fail to address. They can be a nightmare to insure, and even if you can get insurance, the odds are very high that they won’t pay out anyway. The resale price of factory campers is almost always higher than the resale price of a DIY one. This means you’re gambling against a huge loss on DIY conversions, versus risking very little on a factory built unit.
Hope this helps,
Thanks for replying so quickly, it was great to see a notification waiting for me this morning!
Your advice gave me pause for thought because as well barely being able to hammer a nail, I never even gave insurance a thought. What a absolute rookie mistake DUH!
I am not absolutely fixed on building my own as I think given my lack of skills it would be a difficult, probably mistake filled process. However as this is going to be my home I’d like it to have the features I want in it.
Where is the best place to look for used campers? Do you have any suggestions? I’d be happy to buy a ‘ready made’ camper or van if it suited my needs.
Thanks again for your time and guidance Van_Dweller
Where are you located? With that info, I should be able to do a little research for you.
My guess is UK since he mentioned Luton Van, a specific box van body type.
That’s what I was thinking too…
If that’s the case, google “camper van for sale UK”, or replace UK with proper location to find places online to look.
Thank you for replying again, both Van_Dweller and KLF. I am in the UK, Scotland to be precise.
I googled up Used Camper Vans and looked at ones that came up on auto trader, Ebay and Gumtree. Also came across Quirky Campers, who have some vans to sell.
I saw some vans that were converted, some had various certifications such as DVLA registered, weight, gas etc and some that had none? Are those the kind that would be difficult to insure?
For the older actual camper van is it just a case of pay, insure and go?
Sorry if these are really stupid mundane questions but besides desire,I really don’t know where to start…Nevertheless that said I really still want to do van life just trying to get some knowledge behind me.
Thanks for your time and much needed assistance.
Yes, factory camper vans should be a piece of cake, home made stuff can be a can of worms, especially if it isn’t already registered as an RV.
In addition to insurance, I believe at least in London there are restrictions where you are allowed to drive depending on the type of your car/van/rv.
Likewise top speed allowed on certain roads changes depending on vehicle type and some ferry costs also differ if you are driving a commercial cargo van or rv, even if the physical chassis is same.
I don’t know how inspections are done in UK but as an example if I would want to have gas bottles and hob in my vehicle it would have to be professionally installed and tested and regularly inspected/tested for leaks.
Thanks again KLF and Van_Dweller, I do appreciate your knowledge and experience.
Can I just ask though, as a novice, there seems to be loads of conversions out there and actually on the road, in use for living and travelling. If its difficult to get insurance and permissions etc how come so many folks are out there living their lives in these vans?
I don’t think it’s difficult, in some sense it might be more expensive but then again you don’t have to pay for physical house/apartment. In some things there are more hoops to jump through but nothing is impossible.
Few days ago Gadget John made video about living fulltime. He is youtuber from UK so I think you would benefit from his knowledge. Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFcfBrwRNNkvyYKXxZ4HH1g/videos
“Services and costs of full time van life”
He makes a good point about having a physical post address. As an example there is a service that receives your mail and then either forwards it to your current address or scans your mail and emails it to you.
He has also had a van conversion before and now a factory made RV, there are lots of videos that should interest you. I see on the list even a comparison between three types of RV’s (I haven’t watched all of them, I actually found his channel because he reviewed some tech thingy I was interested in).
oh wow KLF thanks so much!!!
Not watched yet but I’m sure it will be super helpful so can’t wait to hear what he has to say. A couple of days ago I was feeling downhearted but its nice to get advice from helpful people, so I am more cheery now x
Hang in there, the best choices are also the cheapest and easiest.
Aw jeez Van_Dweller, that’s kind!
What about buying a second hand camper van and just modifying a bit of the interior? Say like taking out the dining area with seats and tables and adding more counter/storage place?
I want peace and quiet, a space for me, just for me …oh and dog…don’t intend hosting dinner parties; if people want to visit it’ll be sitting round a camp fire.
Oh gawd that sounds antisocial
The thing about factory campers is that there are many floor plans to choose from, and almost all of them have far more storage than the DIY ones.
I generally suggest people use them as is for a while before they consider making changes. Most often, they discover they like the layout just fine. Modifications also greatly hurt the resale value.
In many past rigs, I’ve had dinettes, and even with just me, I found them quite handy. I’d have my computer set up on one side, and eat on the other side, or work on other projects. If I had guests, it also folded down into another bed. One motorhome I had slept 8, and there were occasions when I had a full house even though I was traveling alone. Bad weather and many other things can happen, and being able to offer shelter to neighbors can be great for both them and you. I’ve made many life long friends because of such mishaps.
I once saved a number of neighbors when all our furnaces quit during an arctic blast. Luckily, I had a kerosene heater for a backup plan, and it literally saved all our lives. Somebody dubbed our group “The Survivors” and 30+ years later, we still try to get together occasionally. Our little group has grown to over 40 with all the kids and grandkids… They’ve created a family that I never had…
You’re getting a lot of advice, but most of it’s pushing you in a similar direction. Just want you to know that there is in fact more than one path. Obviously a road-legal and insured vehicle is one way to go… but at least hear in the states the vast majority of people living in vans are living in vans that are legal/insured as just that… a van. What is happening behind the drivers seat is typically outside the legal/insured description entirely (though I highly recommend insuring the build after you’re done if possible as accidents do happen and it’s your home we’re talking about).
The idea that you shouldn’t do the build on your own because you’ve never done it before is preposterous. Ignore every word.
If we lived in a world where the only people who were allowed to try something were those who had already done it, it’d be a pretty boring world indeed.
You know yourself and whether you have the time, skills and/or ability and patience to learn as you go. Buying a camper that already is built out but needs a reno is one good option because you can learn by fixing the systems and updating the finishes that exist… but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. There are plenty of people who built their first van with almost no experience.
Listen to yourself and trust your own judgement.
This lifestyle was built by people willing to take risks and live outside the norms and ignoring the negative ideas that we are all supposed to fit into the same “path”…
Certainly don’t let a few posters here (or anywhere) make you feel like you should join the lifestyle by choosing a path that fits their ideas/preconceptions rather than your own.
Enjoy your build!!
I just saw your reply as it’s been kinda hectic in my life and I haven’t been back here in a while.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me with a different point of view. I have to admit I was slightly downhearted looking at so many vans that were ‘ready made’ as either I loved them but couldn’t afford them or the were a good price but would need a lot of work.
Then out of the blue up popped a van that was converted already, in a style that I liked at a cost I could manage. I don’t know if you believe in stuff like fate, karma or the power of visualisation but it felt to me like the universe reached out to me in the shape of a sprinter van!
Its done a lot of miles but that’s ok because I am not planning on travelling the world.
I still need to do wee bits to it before I move in so I’m getting on with that at the moment. Once I’ve moved in I will be saving a lot so will be able afford to do some adaptations in terms of adding some overhead storage.
Once again thanks for your time and sorry I never got back to you sooner but I have to say I really like your attitude about being brave and following our own paths.
Good for you!!
Not only do we believe in Karma, we named our dog (and now our boat Karma)!!
My experience has been that in many many cases asking for advice online is likely to lead to people telling you “you can’t” rather than helping you figure out how “you can”… Just take it all with a grain of salt and pave your own way. Thats not to say there won’t be hurdles, breakdowns and other frustrating issues along the way, but you’ll figure those out too (and be all the stronger for them).
Good luck with the tweaks/revisions and smooth path forward.
Keep listening to your soul and following your own happiness and there’s no way it can go wrong!! =)