Would this do for a self build?

Hi everyone

Looking at all the posts and reading all the ideas and taking into account the different points of view that everyone has I decided to re-evaluate my search criteria whilst deciding what to buy as a first build.

I’ve had excellent advice from Vandweller and although he did say to go for a “move in now” “built for purpose” vehicle, I did see that he advocated buying a passenger van over a cargo.

Ive been looking around Auto Trader today and it came up with some very reasonable vehicles which weren’t that expensive.

here is one that kinda caught my eye and this would be typical of something I would seriously consider buying, when the time comes

Is the general consensus in favour of getting a vehicle like this over a cargo van and are passenger vans more likely to have been looked after seeing as they have had to carry passengers, and does that make them good candidates for a self-build conversion.
I kinda like the idea of building my own but doing it on the cheap, this to me would be very satisfying I could plan the layout how I wanted it and I could do it over time.
If I bought a camper, yes it would be built for purpose yes, I could move in and yes it would have all the amenities in place, but it would also have stuff I don’t really want (shower etc)

I’m happy to self-build and confident I could do it with some help from tradesmen for the electrics and some carpentry etc . .

What do you guys think . . .


That looks like a good van, the interior is already finished, so that will save some big bucks. Since it has opening windows in the back, a $20 fan will save you $500 worth of roof vents, and you don’t have to worry about the leaks they cause.

Make sure it is mechanically sound, drives good, and inspect it for rust. A pre-purchase inspection from a trusted mechanic would be a good idea. It does look like it might need new tires. Make sure it will pass any required inspections before purchase too. You also may be able to sell the seats you remove.

Keep the interior floor, walls, and ceiling. Use throw rugs for warmer floors that are washable or replaceable. For the tiny expense of a portable shower, I wouldn’t go without one. I use my portable shower for many things, not just showers. I even use it to wash my van, power wash my rugs, floormats, outdoor chairs, picnic tables, muddy shoes or clothes, and much more. Add a dollar store hula hoop for a shower curtain rod, dollar store shower curtains, and something to catch the water in if using it inside, and you have an indoor/outdoor shower. My shower is also my toilet enclosure, so it really doesn’t take up any unnecessary room either. I think the whole works was under $20, and a very good investment for me.


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

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hey thanks

So this is where I am at the moment.

Thanks to all the advice I’ve received on here I’ve really narrowed it all down now.

The van I posted would be typical of the kind of vehicle I intend to buy, and at the moment I’m deff in the planning and sorting stage, it’s quite exciting!

Yes, I would get an inspection done no doubt about that, there are quite a few very tidy passenger vans for sale here in the UK and I’ve set a max budget of around £7,500 that gets me a very tidy vehicle with under 100,000 miles on the clock.

That type of vehicle is very roomy and I figure I could convert it to be very comfortable with lots of storage, and live quite well.

I rang an insurance company today just to see where I stood with the premiums, and as I have no car at present I do have to start from scratch but hey that’s ok. it is what it is, the worst-case scenario is around £1000 per year.

I’ve done some preliminary calculations on my monthly expenditure and I’ve found that if I went fulltime in the van (once it’s finished) and I’m still doing my despatch job (until I can source some other online income which I’m working on now) Taking everything into account; ins’ and road tax for both van and bike, repairs fund, food, parking, internet, fuel for both vehicles, I can live very comfortably on £400 per week (£1600 per month)

Thats saving me a ton of money on rent and utilities which all goes into someone elses pocket!

Now it’s going to take a couple of years to get to that stage, but that’s ok I’m hoping to quit the despatch job if my wedding photography business takes off, and I could do it part-time on my mountain bike if I needed to. I can earn that kind of money in 2/3 days. This takes the bike out of the equation saving me even more money!

I’m going to look at the building process over the next few weeks and have a look around to see if I can find tradesmen to do the major jobs such as laying the floor and building the wooden infrastructure, frame, cabinets, bed, storage etc, then maybe get an electrician to sort out the wiring, I’m gonna keep it simple, no onboard shower (looking into a portable hanging one, plus there are loads of places to shower in the uk)) run all the electrics of a deep cycle house battery (having a spare on standby) have a generator for backup, basically, I will have a bed at the rear with a “garage” underneath for my mountain bike, tools generator, tent and camp bed, storage lockers etc
one side of the van will house the sink, cooker and cabinets for utensils and food whilst the other will be for seating for working on laptop, eating, storage for clothes etc . I do intend to install a safe for my camera equipment that will be hidden and bolted to the chassis should I get broken into.

Two fairly large containers under the sink for water clean and “grey” and a refillable gas bottle for the cooker.

Not sure about a fridge I would like one but I shall have to research this a little more.

Ive gotta sit down and write up all the gadgets im going to use to determine the output and what size batteries to buy. I have a desktop computer with a large screen for my editing ( but I could just buy a better laptop for this) and gaming, a TV maybe look into an electric blanket for the winters and some charging solutions for my phones.

toilet wise i think its just best to keep it very simple, pee bottle with bucket and waste bag plus kitty litter for the other, tie it up and dispose asap responsibly

I will draw up a floorplan and make it practical. I shall be putting in a partition to separate the cab from the living area with access between the two. with a hefty thermal blanket to drape over in the winter.

Bull bars on the front and a hefty towing bracket on the rear to help with getting rear ended.

Heating is yet to be finalised, but I figure I have a couple of years now to research all this, and to put together a final plan and work towards making that a reality.
I can park the van up on a reserved parking spot on a rolling monthly contract and take off on the weekends to wherever I want to go

Now that to me sounds a whole lot better than sharing a house with other people and constantly being forced to move around coz people suck . . Im to old now to ever own my own house but I can own my own rolling home all paid for, no worries about being homeless, no having to put up with other peoples shit.

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that sounds like the perfect reason why so many pple own their own “rolling home”! :smiley:

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I am so happy to see people taking their time and putting thought and research into their plans rather than blindly jumping in unprepared.

One of my favorite amenities are my 12v heating/cooling blankets and seat cushions. I believe they are peltier powered, and they circulate heated/cooled liquid through them. They have a thermostat, and are very power frugal. I’m having difficulty finding them available online, but I got mine many years ago at a truck stop. I thought they were a little spendy at the time, but I have to say if I had to pay a whole lot more to replace them, I would gladly do it. I also have a pair of coveralls that work similarly, and I love them too.

As hopefully a helpful tidbit, I would like to add that I am a firm believer of having all of my essential systems, or at least backups for them, that require no electrical power. Batteries die, or electrical systems can malfunction, it’s a fact of life. For this reason, I have all of my essentials (heating, cooling, ventilation, cooking, refrigeration, lighting, sleeping, and working/lounging) covered either normally or as backups that don’t rely on having power, only fuel. Fuel can run out too, but with proper planning it can buy you a lot more time than a dead electrical system.


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

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Yes, i agree . .

Heated blankets are definitely on my list !!

I’ve been looking at the various “systems” ( washing, heating, power and cooking) I need to be able to live and I shall tackle them one by one.

I’m not a carpenter or an electrician but I have built structures in the past and one thing I shall be doing whilst saving hard for the van is getting some practice in making some of this stuff and getting used to using various tools. I already own a cordless drill and I need to make a list of various tools such as a jigsaw etc . .

Just looked at generators WOW! Honda! WOW ! the price but they do seem to be the best I have always ridden Honda bikes so I know what Im buying into, its a lot of cash but hey buy cheap buy twice.

I’ve started to compile a list of youtube videos in a dedicated folder that covers everything I am going to need building wise.
I’ve looked at tons of clips now covering insulation, beds, floors, electrical systems etc.

I’m going to keep it very simple so as to minimise what could go wrong . .

My sink unit will consist of two x 10-gallon containers one for clean one for greywater, operated by a simple marine foot pump. see that here . .

Showering can be a tricky subject and here in the Uk there are lots of places to take a shower at various outlets ie; motorway services, gyms but after some research, I’ve found a solution that is very effective, cheap and foolproof! This system I have actually used albeit on a smaller scale on weeds in the garden so I can vouch for the effectiveness. Combined with a portable shower curtain and a little privacy it will solve the problem of keeping clean with minimal fuss with very low tech. Water can be heated on the stove and regulated with cold water for the desired temperature and I believe this to be the most cost-effective way to keep clean. All for £26 from Amazon
Another tip I’ve come across is to fill a spray bottle with soap/water mixture and “spray” yourself down and rinse & repeat! Yay!!

Watch the you tube clip here

Portable shower tent here https://www.amazon.co.uk/ClookYuan-Portable-outdoor-replacement-Convenient/dp/B083NTR6SX/ref=sr_1_52?dchild=1&keywords=portable+shower+curtains+for+camping&qid=1580208378&sr=8-52
Adding a rubber matt on the floor.

Similarly my cooking will be gas fed from a refillable bottle, just a simple 4 hob and oven with grill, this is still research in progress at the moment but I’m confident I shall find something suitable.

Electrics are pretty tricky but I’ve found a site that does conversions and this clip really breaks it all down and makes it easy to understand. I’m fairly sure I shall opt for a leisure battery that can be charged whilst driving (or from a generator) solar as you have pointed out is just too unreliable (ha we are in the UK after all) I just need to sort out the size of the battery now.

I’m probably going to insulate the floor if nothing else to just deaden the road noise and I’m sure it would help insulation wise? but as you have pointed out keeping the van well ventilated and running an efficient heater is probably the most practical solution as I don’t really want to have to address condensation and mould issues that will result in tearing up the floor or the sides at some later date.

Heating again very tricky I know you advocate kerosene but some argue it smells too much so again its a work in progress as far as more research goes I did, however, find this clip on a diesel heater they are pretty expensive but there are now Chinese copies that have been getting good reviews.

I will look into having all the locks upgraded as I’ve heard its too easy to break into Fords.

My main problem, to begin with, would be laying the floor with a wooden frame so that I can build upwards for the bed and cabinets on both sides that is where I may seek out a carpenter to help me.

Its been a hell of a week just trying to process all this stuff. Having made the decision and looked at the primary hurdles such as Insurance and cost of parking whilst still working and last but not least the actual van itself. I’m fairly confident now that the choice of van is the right one for the job.
I’ve given myself three years to do all this allowing for hiccups along the way.

The next step now is to design the layout and try to make it as efficient and as practical as possible. utilising space and designing something that looks nice, having the windows will certainly make it easier to live in creating the illusion of a bigger space and providing as much light as I would need.

There is still a way to go in deciding what’s going to work best for me but luckily with youtube and forums such as this that task is made so much easier.

Many thanks for your continuing support and valuable contributions

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It can definitely be a daunting task, but due diligence pays off in the long run.

I loved this message, with lots of good resources for our readers! THANK YOU!

I will make a comment about generators though… I’ve had my $99 el cheapo, no name, 4 stroke inverter generator for over 10 years now.

I added a quiet Honda muffler to it for I think $18. It has been extremely trouble free and reliable. As much as I like Honda bikes, I think

their generators are extremely over priced.


"Proper Planning is preferable to premature failure" ~ DreamLife

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I wonder if you could have one like these for your bike

I mean, I don’t know if they are even legal in UK…

Regarding computers, there are pretty powerful laptops that can be powered from 12V socket with USB-C PD car charger. Also at least Philips makes 12V 22" TV with an IPS screen ( Philips 22PFS5403/12). USB-C PD hub with hdmi out -> one cord docking solution with second screen.

Chinese copies of a russian copy of german webasto diesel heater are robust and quite good (once you find one that actually works) and you can tap one directly to your fuel tank. Highend solution in similar spirit would be Wallas XC Duo (I’ve heard they are pricey, since they are marine units originally). Its a diesel powered cooktop that doubles as a heater = less overall space and weight.

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