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Discussion Starter #1
Naturally, the more miles on a van... the cheaper the van become, which is a bonus on price.. at the cost of mileage...

So I am just wondering at what number of miles on a used ProMaster would you say, "Forget it. Not worth converting into a camper van."?

Are we talking like 30k? 50k? 80k? 110k?

I'm assuming I'd want a used PM under 100k miles - but I'm very interested to hear opinions on if you would go above that or stay way below that.

Please and thank you!
-Sara
 

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I think it depends a lot on how fancy a conversion you are thinking about.
People here have reported on conversions that cost anywhere $3K to $20K depending on how many features and how fancy the materials.

I'd not hesitate to put $3K into a van with 100K miles, and these simple, low cost conversions can be very nice to use and very functional.

Gary
 

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I think it depends a lot on how fancy a conversion you are thinking about.
People here have reported on conversions that cost anywhere $3K to $20K depending on how many features and how fancy the materials.

I'd not hesitate to put $3K into a van with 100K miles, and these simple, low cost conversions can be very nice to use and very functional.

Gary

Touche, Gary, touche. ;)
 

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^^ Agree.. The more money and time you plan on putting into the conversion the more it makes sense to buy something new or with low miles. The build costs are the same whether the van has 1k miles or 100k miles.
 
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That was my reasoning. If I was going to put 10-15k and a year of weekends into a conversion, I didn't want to buy an older van that was going to need to be replaced that many mile sooner -- the equation for how much more I wanted to pay for the van, and how much more I'll spend to keep it running over the long term is very much changed vs. an everyday car.
 

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I think it depends on how you intend to use it too. Taking it on a road trip to Mexico or staying within towing distance in your area?

In my earlier years I used to own an 86 vanagon westfalia. From a mechanical perspective it was the most god awful vehicle I could have possibly owned. After many breakdowns in which id limp or get towed to the nearest shop and then attempt to have rare parts fedexed from germany so I could get home I finally decided I would only use the van within towing range. One time the flatbed guy let me and my friends stay in the van on the flatbed for the 2 hour trip home which was fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
All great things to be thinking about, on top of the 101 other great things I’m already thinking about. :ROFLMAO:

But this is all helpful in narrowing down the right execution plan based off my strategy/lifestyle.


  • I will mostly use my van for long weekend getaways, anywhere from 100-400 miles from home, 1-3 weekends a month
  • I will also use my van for semi-cross and cross country road trips a few times a year
  • I do not plan to live in my van full time (at least not at first, but that could always change).
  • I am not a mechanic whatsoever and I plan to do at least 50% of my traveling solo, so reliability and peace of mind is top of mind
  • I do not plan to have a basic conversion, nor do I plan to have a fully fancy conversion either (I’m still doing research on wants vs needs and where I can save vs where I should invest to help me determine a realistic budget)
 

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Hi @Sara

We purchased new & did a simple build. For us it is more about “the adventures” than the van. The major drivetrain warranty is for 5 years @ 100,000kms. In 2 years we have done a little over 20,000kms per year, thus our warranty will probably be “miled out“ before the 5 years.

We are not #Vanlife nor do we intend to live in our van.

I am an advocate to buy new, but understand that is not In everyone’s budget.

You are asking a question all of us DIYers have asked ourselves before we purchased. It really comes down to personal decisions.

This is our very 1st RV & I had never camperized a van before. Once we mile out our 2018, we will buy another van new & DIY #2 van. I estimate it will only take me about 30% to 40% of the time to build van #2. This is due to the research & learning curve of building van #1. That is all part of the fun.
 

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To some extent it depends if you can move the items to your "next van".

A) Relatively easy to move:
  • A good refrigerator
  • A modular electrical system and battery pack
  • Cooking appliances
  • Possibly solar panels, but might not be worth it
  • Simplistic water system
B) Things that can be difficult to move:
  • Bed
  • cabinets
  • wall / floor interior decoration related items
  • complex water system
Often the major cost items are in (A) so they can outlive the original van project.
 

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Hi @Sara

Once we mile out our 2018, we will buy another van new & DIY #2 van. I estimate it will only take me about 30% to 40% of the time to build van #2. This is due to the research & learning curve of building van #1. That is all part of the fun.
That's what I thought! I'm technically on Van #1 still, but a near-complete teardown means I'm doing a rebuild from almost scratch. ...and it's taking me more than twice as long. o_O
 

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All great things to be thinking about, on top of the 101 other great things I’m already thinking about. :ROFLMAO:

But this is all helpful in narrowing down the right execution plan based off my strategy/lifestyle.


  • I will mostly use my van for long weekend getaways, anywhere from 100-400 miles from home, 1-3 weekends a month
  • I will also use my van for semi-cross and cross country road trips a few times a year
  • I do not plan to live in my van full time (at least not at first, but that could always change).
  • I am not a mechanic whatsoever and I plan to do at least 50% of my traveling solo, so reliability and peace of mind is top of mind
  • I do not plan to have a basic conversion, nor do I plan to have a fully fancy conversion either (I’m still doing research on wants vs needs and where I can save vs where I should invest to help me determine a realistic budget)
Your needs sound similar to mine though I will never end up living in my van (I like my household) and I travel by myself.

Due to the long-distance travel involved (North America is huge and I will be crisscrossing it), including to remote places, I went with max reliability and ordered a new PM. A big bonus is that I got to configure it exactly the way I wanted (or thought I wanted, but that's a different topic).

I am not a mechanic either (as well as not an electrician, plumber, carpenter, etc.) But I'm pretty mechanically inclined and have a good curiosity about how things work and are done. So I research how to do things a lot, including asking for help from the great people on this forum. And for the most part, it has worked out really well.
 
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Hi Sara - I grappled with your question for a few months. I looked at a lot of vans. Many times I was so thankful for a Covid face mask to hide my shock and surprise as to what was out there! Ultimately I went with a low-mileage (27K) in fantastic condition, inside and out, 2017 2500 159 . I do plan to live in my van in a few years while I explore the US, Canada, and places north. Who knows, it may be my home for some time as I Iove to travel and will have the time to do so.

I agree with HarryN that the larger components would be easily moved if you should choose.

I figured 20K in the cost of my build which will be easily gobbled up. The process, even for an almost-senior female, is surprisingly doable, thanks a lot to the direction of the good folks here and careful hiring out of those things way over my skill set. I do not have family close by to help. Honestly, the hard work has kept my body and mind busy in my free time during a very difficult period of my life. I'm learning and enjoying the fruits of my labor, as you will too!

Sometimes writing down your ultimate goals for your build, financial limitations, use of the van, and factor in vehicle cost and maintenance, time frame - maybe on paper those answers will help direct you to what's right for you.

You can enjoy your van without the build being even close to done! I'm about to embark on a cross-country road trip with polyiso adorning the walls, a porti potty and refer being unboxed this morning and a house battery hopefully being figured out next weekend. I have no water, no heat, a make-shift galley with no sink and I can't wait to leave!!

I can tell you with a fair amount of miles on me, not to wait until the situation is perfect. Life changes so very fast. If this is something you want to do, figure out what works for Sara and make it happen. The van is the most important piece of the puzzle. Good that you are examining the details of that purchase and I wish you a wonderful journey! Keep us all posted!

Anne
 

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Anne,
$20k cost to build out a van is ridiculously high (if you’re doing it yourself) you should have no problem doing a full, high quality, conversion for about $5k!
 

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Anne,
$20k cost to build out a van is ridiculously high (if you’re doing it yourself) you should have no problem doing a full, high quality, conversion for about $5k!
Where I believe you KOV; A $5K budget is tight (Labour Excluded).

I mostly used tools I already had, & I still managed to spend about $1k on tools alone (of course one can buy cheaper tools). I spent an excessive amount of money on rivnuts & other fasteners as I was tired of running to the hardware store or waiting for orders to come in.

IIRC, you have built about 20 vans & I assume you no longer waste much money making mistakes or time figuring out what or how to do it. A newbie without tools or experience will make errors that will add to the build cost.

A massive factor of the build cost is the design. Part of my design was based around a $1,400 fridge & a $500 slide that it sits on. Some DIYers use a dorm. fridge.

$5k complete budget; sure no tools, no labour, buy inexpensive materials & components, and don’t make any errors in judgement (Not like I did 🤪).

Regardless; I know comparing a DIY Camper Van to a Factory produced one is like apples & oranges; but a new PM $40k plus $10k to $15k for a build budget ($50k to $55k DIY) vs $150K to $200K for Factory was a no brainer for us. For us it is not about posh, but about utility. As the platform (the PM) is the same, we can buy and build at least 3 vans for the cost of a factory one. That is 3 times the miles, 3 times the drivetrain warranty, & 3 times the fun.
 

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I’m not including tools in the $5k plus that is US $5k not C$5k😉
 
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Hi,
We spent $6K, but I do think if I were doing it again, we could get it down to $5K.

We could save some money on the electrical system as there is a lot more choice on components now, would use Polyiso instead of spray foam, skipping the running boards and use a simple step. Based on how little we use AC in the van an how few times we have ever used shore power for charging, I'd think seriously about dropping the Inverter/Charger.

We purposely did not include a shower or water heater and I've never been sorry for even a second on those decisions.

We never cut corners on quality -- we just kept it simple.
This is our 4th RV and each one has gotten simpler and better -- trying to cram every feature known to mankind into a little van is a big mistake.

I'd probably take more time on the fit and finish on the paneling, but we were antsy to get it on the road. The 6 months it took us seemed like an eternity :)

My point is, $5K can get you a very nice conversion that might well be better and more fun to live in than a $20K conversion. I don't think that a lot of people doing their first conversion appreciate this.


This is our cost breakdown.
ItemCost ($)Labor (hr)Weight (lb)
Insulating$360620Weight is based on what 1 inch of polyiso would weigh
Electrical incl solar$1,50724236batteries, inverter/charger, PV …
Windows5701236Window weight minus sheet metal removed
Curtains$10926EuroCamper on windshield, Reflectex rest.
Flooring$2042096Vinyl floor with polyiso insulation.
Paneling$1803699Hardboard wall and ceiling paneling.
Galley (incl stove, fridge, sink)$1,12024179Includes fridge ($630), sink, stove cabinets
Fresh and grey waters systems$2701042Includes fresh and grey tanks, plumbing and pump
Composting toilet/seat$821237homemade
Beds and storage$34924175Includes platform, mattresses, hinges, propane compartment
Ventilation fan$278412Fancy fan was $268
Furnace$430323Just furnace, no supports etc which are incl in galley cabinet
Running Boards$519645
Propane system$60228This is empty tank and plumbing (cabinet in bed weight)
Total$6,0381851034


Gary
 

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Wow! Awesome run down of numbers. I'm not comfortable cutting in windows and my MaxxAir fan. My destination of my crazy road trip across the US is to seek some hugs and help too getting those done from my son. My hard costs so far have been greater than your numbers but maybe 10K would do it. So Sara (not meaning to hijack your question) factor in your build budget, your skill set and/or labor costs and come up with your own number for what you want (mine includes a wet bath :))) ) then plug that into your van purchase. How much are you willing to put into an older van vs a gently used or brand new one? We all have our comfort zones. There, IMO, are no right or wrong answers, just individual opinions. Have fun regardless!!!
 

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Many people have NO idea of the cost or value of things and that causes them to over pay and get taken advantage of.
mother than a shower, my ‘20 van has just about everything one could need or want and I would put the quality on par and over with any other build, commercial or self and I’ve spent just over $5k but I’m a careful shopper and understand what is necessary and why and what isn’t and I (especially) never consider advice from uTubers😜!
 
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