Van Life for 2020

My name is Daryl and I joined this forum looking for advice, experience and information about van building. I plan to by my van in the Spring or Summer of 2019 and convert it mostly myself. I am really encouraged by the videos of women who convert their vans by themselves. Though the electrical (solar set-up) will be done by an electrician, I am planning to do the rest by myself; hence the reason for joining this forum.


Greetings & Welcome!

Those beautiful vans aren’t really practical in real life. They’re built by people hoping to make money off their followers. Real life builds that are comfortable and convenient just don’t look like that.

Financially, cheap older RV’s probably make the most sense, especially if you’re planning to use parking lots in towns. Vans only make the best sense if you’re planning on doing a lot of on street parking. For vans, window vans make the best sense because life without windows really sucks.

Forget solar, that’s a huge expense that most people regret. Charging your house batteries while driving, with a generator, or with shore power are all betteer and more reliable options.

Camper vans can be both cheap and easy to “build”. Buy a cheap passenger van, remove the rear seats, and simply move your new furniture in. My bed is a house style futon sofa/bed, just moved in and secured. Many things can be used for kitchen cabinets ranging from plastic drawer sets with a wood top added, to recycled kitchen cabinets, to shelves or desks, you are only limiteed by your imagination. Toilets, showers, and sinks are all simple and easy with no plumbing involved. Heating, cooling & power are equally as cheap, simple, and easy. No building skills are even needed. Just move stuff in and secure it.

I can talk you through everything if needed.


"Homelessness is vandwelling minus the romanticism. " ~ Terri Travels

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Hi and thanks for the reply. My concern about camper vans is the headroom. I want to be able to standup in my home. I take your point about city parking but I am planning on boon docking. For the first year, I only plan to be out for 3 or 4 months then back home so this is not leaving sticks and bricks for a van but building a travel home for 6 months of the year so I can follow the Canadian geese and fly south.

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Here’s something we used to help us with our build:

There’s a couple more, but I can’t remember their websites. I’m sure if you do a little digging you’ll come across more guides like this. I also used Pinterest because lots of people post amazing and helpful information on there

Thank you very much! I have not seen this one before.

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Hi, welcome here. I also try to manage my vanlife but would ignore to mention the efforts of my husband and family.

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For mostly boondocking I would go with a cheap, older Class C. They can be found cheap, but still in excellent shape, and move in ready. Over the years I have bought several in the $1,000-$1500 range.

For back roads, the duallies are nice, they are much less likely to get stuck. Get one with a generator and you can stay out indefinately. Get one that everything works on it, and it’s roadworthy, then don’t spend any more money on it other than regular upkeep. It’ll save you a fortune in the long run.


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

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Good for you!!

I wouldn’t worry too much about the build (and/or those who tell you early on you can’t do it… that is just how society tends to work).
You just like many before you and many currently underway, can do anything you put your mind to and are willing to work for… including having a beautiful and extremely comfortable/livable van that you built yourself!

There are TONS of resources out there just like this forum and you can pick and choose which projects you want to do on your own vs which to hire/trade out for someone else to do.
Enjoy the journey and the process to get there!! :+1:

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Hey Daryl! Congrats on your new adventure!!

I have a 2012 Nissan NV2500 that I can stand up in and in my opinion being able to stand up is an absolute game changer. My van feels like a tiny home on wheels and since I work remotely and spend a lot of time at my desk in my van, I prioritized comfort over freedom of having a completely stealthy vehicle.

If you’re planning to build yourself and are a beginning contractor, I recommend doing something temporary first. Putting in a basic bed frame with room for storage underneath and mattress on top. Maybe even container bins for storage initially to see how much space you need for storage before committing to a floor plan. My friend Anouk built out her cabinetry in her van and it’s simple but very efficient-- check her out on Insta @frenchyinavan.

I hope this helps!! Thanks, Lisa