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Old 09-12-2019, 10:34 AM   #1
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Complete newb about to travel the country in a DIY van conversion

Hey guys!

Glad I found this place, my name is Andy and I'm in the process of planning a cross country solo trip and after looking at a lot of different options, my plan is to build a Ford Transit into a custom camper van and travel indefinitely.

I haven't bought the van yet (I'll be looking this weekend) but I'm trying to figure out what kinds of things I'll need to build to enjoy some creature comforts while also keeping a fairly modest budget (<$2000 hopefully).

I'm fairly handy with working on cars and 12v electrical systems but mostly from working on custom cars and car stereos, so I could use some help learning how to install a secondary battery system and inverter so I can power things like an electric heater and possibly a microwave and mini fridge.

I'm not sure if I'll have room for a sink, but that's something I'm considering adding as well.

Plan is to build a bed that can convert into a couch with storage beneath is but I haven't figured out the exact layout yet.

I am completely all ears and open to any and all suggestions and advice you can throw at me! I look forward to learning from all you knowledgable folks.

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Old 09-12-2019, 11:14 AM   #2
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It sounds like you want a DIY Class B. Not a whole lot of support here for ground-up DIY although I've seen a few posts on conversions (mostly school buses).

A couple things to be aware of - insuring a vehicle you have self-converted, and titling it may be "interesting". You should contact your state's DMV office regarding the latter.

In order to title a vehicle as an RV it needs to have food preparation and sanitation facilities - so you need a sink, toilet, cooking appliance, and refrigerator. These need to be permanent, in that they are attached to the vehicle and not merely sitting inside it.

As for the cost of conversion - I think $2000 is very, very optimistic. I looked into doing my own conversion 20 years ago and the price tag for anything that would be more than a vagrant's fish camp van was much more than $2k.

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“To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.” - Dr Suess
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:32 AM   #3
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I haven't seen any threads on this topic on several RV sites. However, a few things to think about which I have seen posts on.
1. Electric heaters use massive amounts of power. To run off batteries, you will need a very large number.
2. Same on the refrigerator and water heaters, this is the reason a majority of RV have propane powered units. Most RVs have dual powered units - propane and shore power. There are a few 3-way refrigerators, but they are small and won't run long on batteries.

3. I have yet to hear of someone powering a microwave off an inverter. Normally they only work when connected to external AC power.

I suspect you would find helpful information by searching for posts on boon-docking, that is camping off grid where you are camping without hookups to power and water.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:33 AM   #4
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You would be lucky to buy a decent van for 2000 dollars. The cost to add all the stuff you will need will be more than just buying an older camper already done. Older 70s and 80s campers are still out there. I would look for one of them. Here is an example for 6000 cdn.http://www.fordcamperclassifieds.com...-vancouver-bc/ Here is another for 3000 http://www.fordcamperclassifieds.com...n-whistler-bc/
Here is a 1997 c class for 3700 US that needs some work. https://phoenix.craigslist.org/nph/r...977097344.html
This is just a quick search. There are many of them out there. Some people think they are old and have no value, so they sell them cheap. To many people like yourself, they are still very viable and functional. Good luck.
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:00 PM   #5
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Thanks for all the responses!

To clarify a couple things:

My total budget is not $2000 - that's my proposed budget just for the conversion (building a bed, storage, extra batteries, inverter, etc) and does not include the cost of the van itself.

Here's an example of what I have in mind (mine probably won't be as polished, but something similar)


another example:

It sounds like a microwave is something I can do without. Maybe a propane camping stove is all I need. Mini fridge would be nice to have though.
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:45 PM   #6
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I still say look at your total budget, and look for one already built. The older ones are a dime a dozen. Many have low miles, and in pretty good shape. They go for cents on the dollar sometimes. People buy newer stuff, and don't feel the old one owes them anything. A friend passed away last year. His older bus went to another friend for 5000 dollars. It had a new motor put in it the previous year for 20,000 dollars. The deals are out there. You just gotta do some leg work. Buying a new inverter and batteries will eat up half your budget. A new propane stove and heater the other half. You get the idea. Let us know what your total budget is, and where you live. Someone might have a lead for you. Cheers
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Old 09-12-2019, 04:21 PM   #7
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Thanks again! Solid advice.

Budget for the van is around $10K with $2K of modifications so ~$12,000 total.

If I could find something in that price range that was ready to go I’d definitely consider it.

I’m in the Lehigh valley in PA.
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Old 09-12-2019, 04:33 PM   #8
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Hi ! Welcome to IRV2! We're sure glad you joined the gang!

Good luck, happy trails, and God bless!
Joe & Annette

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Old 09-12-2019, 04:52 PM   #9
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Here an example. I don't know anything about it, other than its on craigslist. New paint, new tires etc. Im guessing, they put all that work into it that it is in ready to go shape. I could be wrong. Just an example. Was 15, now 9. Probably get it for 7500.Resell it when your done. Good luck https://lancaster.craigslist.org/rvs...975210117.html
2000 coachmen santara 370 5.9 cummins isb
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Old 09-13-2019, 07:13 AM   #10
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Welcome to the forum.

You are joining a good group of folks here with good info to share. You have gotten some great advice so far. I think you need to re-think your plan. Buying a used unit may be ticket for you.

Good luck and enjoy the adventure!

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