Hey, one of the many questions we get asked about building a van ourselves is the cost. This question is quite subjective because it will depend on what material you use, what features you’ll have on the van, how much water/electricity you’re planning on using etc… Our van build is almost done today. We only have a couple extra shelves/storage boxes to make and it’s all bonus work at that point. And reaching this point, I can safely say we managed our budget quite well.
So in a matter of transparency and because it’s always useful to people who get started on their own build, here is what we spent on each component of our build – which I consider low cost but beautiful.
- Tools and cleaning supplies = $209
This could be $0 for you if you already have a garage full of tools in your house. In our case, we did not have ANYTHING when we started, not even a proper drill. Therefore, we really had to go and buy everything (drill, sander, jigsaw, hammer…). We bought most of the things second hand on letgo.com and/or at Walmart.
2. Ventilation = $546
This includes our RV window + our Maxxair fan as well as butyl tape and other misc we needed to install those. A very important category for us, knowing our dog would be in the van. We wanted to make sure we can control the temperatures in the van at any time – which we can!
3. Electrical and solar = $1,246
Yep, solar panels/batteries/wiring are all quite expensive. Our system is made of 2 x 100 w solar panels, a 200amph acid lead battery, a 20A MPPT Charge controller, LED lights, extra wiring, wire hooks and all kinds of small things such as a crimper, a soldering kit…This is an expense you won’t be able to downsize much except if you don’t do solar at all.
4. Plumbing = $242
We have 3 x 26L (7gal) fresh water container + 1 x 6 gal (23L) grey water tank. This total also includes our sink (which we had already and repurposed), the foot pump, the faucet, our solar shower and all other small plumbing items.
5. Insulation + Sound deadening = $370
Sheep wool, rockwool and killmat but also foam and polyiso board insulation. We used a lot of different things and it seems to be working great until now. I would say the van remains quite pleasant between 0 and 20 degrees Celcius (37 to 70F). After that we need AC and heat, which we have in the cab.
6. Appliances = $512.86
This includes our fridge, our stove and other furniture pieces such as our hammock chair. The fridge was obviously the most expensive and we did not get a Dometic…
7. Wood = $1,410.75
This is obviously our bigger expense because it includes the framing around the whole van, the floor, the walls, our cabinets, our boxes, our kitchen structure and doors, the ceiling and any shelving/benching around the van. It also includes our table and our kitchen counter.
8. Decoration & Misc = $289 + $289,75 = $578,75
This is paint, stains, screws, latches, curtains, sheets, material to make our window covers, our bug screen, new pans for the kitchen, small hooks, nails, door knobs… it adds up :).
Please note, we reused and repurposed anything we could. Our sink and our bed mattress for example. But we also had a foam mattress in the apt that we used to make our own cushions.
All these expenses come to a grand total of $5,073.14 for a full build. I would say it’s a safe bet to plan the same amount for your build even if you do a lighter one, especially on a high roof van (takes more wood and more work overall than a low van in which you cannot stand in). And by being extra careful like we were, you could probably spend around $6,000 and have a full toilet ($100 at Walmart) + a shower. Or you could add a solar panel and/or a full electrical water pump.
If you’d like to see exactly what we bought throughout the build, I invite you to visit past articles on THIS page and select the highlighted links.
Also if you want the exact detail of each expense, here is my pretty excel table 😉
Hope this helps! Let me know if you have questions, we would be happy to help with your own build !
Bobby & Coco
COPYRIGHT: All pictures belong to Fanny Cohen Sanchez, @fannychn on Instagram, Three Times Nine 2021.
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