To the surprise of no one, our next rig (since it’s just me and my doggo) will be a campervan! We prepped the Airstream and it’s ready to hit the market. It’s time to downsize. The more recent major question has been whether or not to use a DIY campervan conversion kit or hire a company that specializes in custom builds.
When we made this decision to downsize from our 25-foot Airstream Argosy, it was primarily because we were not making good use of the storage space. We want something that makes it easier to head out on a spontaneous weekend trip. Smaller vans make it possible to pack quickly and hit the open road.
Doing the Research on Campervans
This means we’ve been diving into the world of #VanLife for a while now. We did a ton of research. Then we did some more. There’s a lot to learn, from the best ways to plan, types of kits, floor plan options, and DIY skills required.
One option we’ve found fascinating is the van conversion kits I mentioned. You can order an entire kit with almost everything you need to build out a van on your own. One of the reasons it’s such a great option is the lower cost compared with hiring a professional van conversion company to do the job.
When you’re researching the options, you’ll find there is a long list of factors to consider, including (among others), the following:
But before we get to the list of conversion kits, I want to go over some of the most popular models for campervans on the market to help you understand which van to buy before searching for a conversion kit.
Wait, Don’t Forget the Insurance
Whichever chassis and conversion kit option you choose, we highly recommend you do some research before choosing an insurer for your campervan.
There couldn’t be anything much more stressful than getting in a major accident before finding out that your insurance carrier is not going to cover all of the costs because of your “unique” vehicle! Don’t let this happen to you.
The good news is there is a new entrant on the insurance block. We recommend taking a moment to check out Roamly, an insurance company built by RVers for RVers. They take care of the many headaches you may potentially face when submitting an RV insurance claim.
In select markets, Roamly can provide coverage on DIY campervans and upfitted Class Bs that have historically been very difficult to insure as an RV. If you’re curious, get a free quote to check your options.
Ok, let’s get to that list of the most popular campervan models.
Popular Campervan Models
RAM’s Promaster is a great choice for campervan conversions. The main reason is because, unlike its competitors, the Promaster is designed with squared corners. Most vans have rounded corners.
As an Airstream owner, I can personally attest to how painful renovations can be when dealing with rounded corners everywhere. Largely for this reason, the Promaster has been one of our most intriguing choices since we started looking for modular kits and selecting a van model.
The largest Promaster offers a wheelbase of 159 inches, which depending on whether you choose the regular 159 or the extended 159, you’ll be getting roughly 240 inches of living space from nose to tail, give or take a few inches.
The Promaster has a lot going for it, including a reasonable price and high durability. I definitely consider this van to be one of our best options. We will like save a lot of money compared with our other options. I expect we will save both on the cost of converting as well as any future repairs. Especially when compared to its competitors (we’re looking at you, Sprinter).
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van
Despite being one of the most expensive vans to buy and maintain, the Sprinter van is a popular choice amongst van lifers for a variety of reasons.
Many Sprinter Van Options are on the Market
Whether you’re looking for a used or luxuriously new van, there’s a high likelihood that there is a Sprinter out there that will fit your wants, needs, and expectations.
Since Sprinters have been around for a longer period of time, you can often find a good deal on a used Sprinter van if you look hard enough. But if you’re more interested in high quality van living, a new Sprinter van generally offers all you need and more.
Of all the campervans on the market, the Mercedes Sprinter offers one of the longest wheelbases. The largest Sprinter van measures 170 inches wheel to wheel. which allows for more living space than most other vans.
Of course, with more space and luxury comes a higher price tag. Like I said earlier, you can usually find a good deal on a used Sprinter if you look hard enough, but with van life becoming increasingly popular, used Sprinters don’t stay on the market for long.
Keep your eyes peeled if you go this route!
Ford’s Transit is offered in a variety of sizes but it maxes out at 147.6 inch wheel base. But don’t let that discourage you from checking it out for your campervan conversion!
My Personal Opinion of the Ford Transit
I have had first-hand experience inside a Ford Transit campervan. In truth, I loved every second of it. There are two reasons. As someone who likes a small but homey space, the Transit can offer a great layout with just enough room for two or three people to spread out. That’s not always the case with a wheelbase of this size.
The other reason I really like the Ford Transit is because of the smooth ride. Compared with other campervans I’ve been in, this one is more enjoyable for both on-road and off-road experiences.
Estimated Kit Cost
Though it’s a little more expensive than a Promaster, I think the Transit van is a great option because it’s almost like an in-between design of the Promaster and Sprinter vans. It’s not too square and not too curvy!
The Best Campervan Conversion Kits
Now that you know all about the most popular van choices for van-living, it’s time to dive into the campervan conversion kits. Let’s take a look at some of the conversion kits on the market right now.
The Walt Campervan Conversion Kit
A Wayfarer Van conversion kit is designed for the varying sizes of Ram Promaster vans. The Walt Campervan Conversion Kit is meant for the 159” wheelbase and includes everything you need to make your van feel more like home.
- Cargo management tracks
- Paneling and insulation
- Kitchen area with 5 gallon fresh and grey water tanks and a hand-pump sink
- Van bed platform with cushions
- Bench and boot boxes with cushions
- Slide-away table
- Privacy paneling for the windows
This setup is pretty traditional and offers you everything you need to get started with van life. You can easily add a tabletop burner to the kitchen setup, too, if you’re interested in cooking inside the van.
Estimated Kit Cost
This campervan conversion kit is roughly $11,000. This is a decent deal considering the van size and the amount of materials you receive!
Installing this kit is a great way to make your van comfortable for long road trips or full-time van life.
TrailKitchens Build-Your-Own Van Conversion Kits
TrailKitchens offers a variety of campervan conversion kits. What I like the most about TrailKitchens’s kits is that the individual pieces are sold separately for those who want to customize their vans a little differently. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of option.
Kitchen Layout Options
The campervan kitchen pod is perfect for most campervans and includes:
- Marine-grade water system
- Portable stove top
- Fridge/freezer compartment
- Storage for plates and utensils
Storage and Living Options
Outside of kitchen kits, TrailKitchens offers wheel well storage cabinets, a platform bed, extra water and an electrical system setup, as well as a campervan fridge slider and water system pod!
You can easily customize your order by ordering the pods you need or choosing kits that have a variety of options like the campervan wheel well cabinets!
The best part of TrailKitchens is that their kits are reasonably priced and are highly rated by DIYers and van builders, too.
ZENVANZ Bamboo Campervan Conversion Kits
This kit includes everything you need from a bed platform, kitchen setup, a foldout gear rack, and all the cabinets you need to turn your van into a living space. Other options you can add to your kit include ceiling, door, and wall panels.
You can also order custom-sized components to fit your floor plan, which is hard to find in a DIY kit. Take it from someone who has done enough research to know.
Bamboo and Aluminum Materials
The look and feel of this kit remind us more of home. Made of bamboo and aluminum, the design looks great. I love the look of these bamboo ceiling slats. It’s also durable enough for the bumpiest road trips.
Estimated Kit Costs
ZENVANZ’s Bamboo campervan conversion kit is a little more luxurious than other conversion kits, which will cost you more (starting at $18,000 based on the length of your van).
The best part about this kit? Its installation only uses factory holes to prevent you from drilling extra holes into your precious van. This allows you to keep your van intact and maintain its integrity. It also protects you from potential leaks and other major headaches.
Happier Camper’s DIY Adaptiv System Van Conversion Kits
Happier Camper’s Adaptiv System was originally made for their brand name travel trailer, but Van Lifers needed their own system, too!
This DIY kit has modular components designed to allow you to move things around inside your van. It’s bound to fit whatever your particular adventure demands.
Module Kit to Build on a Foundation
These DIY conversion kits don’t use glue or screws for most of its system. Instead, the designers chose to make each module fit snugly inside the fiberglass flooring that’s included in the base kit package.
Happier Camper chose honey-combed fiberglass for its modules to allow for better weight distribution and added strength for its on-the-go components.
Happier Camper’s Layout Options
Begin your conversion with the floor kit and then choose your upgrades, such as the wall kit and ceiling kit. There nearly endless options. The interior kit offers adaptive modular cubes that can be arranged in various layouts.
- Sitting and storage
- Bed module
- Nesting tabletop
- Cooler cube
- Kitchenette with kitchen sink, fresh and gray water hookups
- Bunk bed/couch
- Dry flush toilet
- Side wall and cube locking hardware
Happier Camper’s kit offers more design and layout flexibility to fit your style of adventure that other conversion kits don’t offer.
If you’re an adventurer who needs to adjust your campervan floor plan on longer trips to fit both work and play, the Adaptiv System is probably your best option.
Kits are Compatible with Multiple Vans
While the company does have plans to continue expansion to additional models and manufacturers, the Happier Camper kits are currently available for Sprinter 144″ Passenger, Cargo and Crew vans.
Estimated Kit Costs
A 7-piece base floor kit that includes everything to turn a Sprinter van into a modular campervan costs approximately $7,000. The wall and ceiling kit upgrade is an additional $7,000.
Note, however, that the wall and ceiling kit is not compatible with the Sprinter Passenger van, which has finished interior walls.
Happier Camper Travel Trailers
One final point on Happy Camper. They now manufacture the cutest travel trailers that is 100% compatible with their modular system. I know this post is about camper van conversions, but take a look, these trailers are so cute. And the flexibility of switching floor plans from play to travel to work has me dreaming!
Which Kit Best Fits Your Needs?
My First Choice for the Best Campervan Conversion Kit
At the end of the day, and after plenty of research, I would choose Happier Camper’s Adaptiv System. Even though I’m not planning on purchasing a conversion kit for my van, I love the idea of having ultimate flexibility within a tiny home. That’s what the Adaptiv System appears to offer van lifers.
I work remotely and also adventure pretty hard when I’m not working. The idea of being able to look presentable for virtual meetings while hiding dirty hiking gear on the opposite side of the van is a dream. That’s exactly what I would need!
Also, who could say no to playing with the Adaptiv module “adult Legos” in their van? Not me!
Erin is rooted in South Dakota, but wanders every chance she gets to see the beauty that nature holds. From hiking to climbing, there’s not an adventure she’ll turn down.
After renovating her 1976 Airstream Argosy, Erin knows the ins and outs of living life on the road and trailer maintenance.
Whether she’s on the road with her dog and partner or at home curled up with a good book, Erin is always planning her next adventure because life is meant to be lived outdoors.