Black camper van parked outdoors

DIY Van Build vs. Hiring a Van Conversion Company

In today’s episode of camper van craze, I’m here to help you navigate the age-old (I know it’s only been a few years, but it seems longer!) question: Should I choose to build out my own camper van DIY-style, or hire out a camper van conversion company to get the job done?

Over the last year, I’ve spent hundreds of hours looking through Pinterest, YouTube, and Google searches to help me figure out exactly what I should do when it comes to starting this new adventure in a camper van.

Van DIY or Van Conversion Company

As someone who has always loved DIYing the heck out of everything, I was pretty heavily biased before the research process even started, but I think my journey through camper van life research, digital planning, and the like definitely made me change my tune.

But before you click away because you’re a hardcore DIYer yourself, I want to showcase the good, bad, and ugly of each option and then tell you what I would do if I decided to go either route as I’ve had experience renovating a home on wheels (my 1976 Airstream) before.

It’s time to buckle up and get down to the nitty-gritty about what to expect whichever way you eventually choose to go with your camper van conversion…

RV Insurance

One quick side note. Whichever build option you choose, do some research before choosing an insurer for your campervan. Nothing is more stressful than getting in a major accident before finding out that your insurance carrier doesn’t cover all of the costs because of your “unique” vehicle! Don’t let this happen to you.

The newest “kid on the insurance block” we recommend you check out is Roamly. It’s an insurance company founded by RVers for RVers. In select markets, Roamly provides coverage on DIY campervans and upfitted Class Bs that have historically been difficult to insure as an RV. Get your quote online.

Considerations Before Choosing DIY or Third Party Conversion

After doing your initial research for your dream camper van, you should have a good idea of what you want from Van Life. If you’re not sure what you want to do, even after hours and hours of scrolling online, dig deep into your reasons for considering van life.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help determine what you want in an adventure vehicle:

  • How often do you plan on using your camper van? Every day, on the weekends, or only a few times a month?
  • Are you more interested in venturing off the beaten path or staying in “civilization”?
  • How many people do you expect to join you on your adventures?
  • What can you live with and live without inside a vehicle that’s also your home when you’re on the road?
  • How much time/money/resources do you have to work on a van today, tomorrow, and in the future (because it’s not a short process)?

You might have many more questions come to mind, but these are really the important ones that led me to my personal decision.

Erin’s Van Life Profile

Here’s what my Van Life Profile looks like as an example.

  • Erin, 25 years old female solo traveler.
  • Daily traveling companions = Rory, a 50 lb dog; sometimes an additional friend or family member, two visitors max.
  • Ideally, I want to get out on the road as soon as I can, but I also don’t think I want to throw down an exorbitant amount of time or money to get it done as I’m working full-time right now in Arizona.
  • I definitely prefer to be away from people as much as I can because silence not only helps me sleep, but also helps to focus on work every day.
  • My only must-haves are bike storage and a stove/oven. I love cooking and I think a stove/oven is the key to making van life easier (aka I can throw a frozen pizza in there on a bad day and still not starve!).
Solo Female Traveler

Now take some time to create your own Van Life profile. You know what you can and cannot live without more than anyone else, so make a list and check it twice.

Once you’ve made your list, let’s move onto the DIY or Builder debate.

The Debate: DIY or Hire Third Party

Before I dive too deep into each side, I want to say that there’s no right or wrong answer here. Either way, you’ll have a van that you can sleep, eat, and adventure in. Whatever you decide, just know that it’s not the end of the world and you can always dip a toe in and get a taste for each side no matter what option you start with.

DIY Van Build Breakdown

If you’re ready to DIY a van build, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Time: Most van builds take many hours of manual labor over several months.
  • Money: Building a van on your own can be just as expensive as hiring a builder, depending on many variables. Make sure you have a budget and stick to it.
  • Resources: You’ll need tools and a lot of them to get everything accomplished as a DIYer. In addition, you’ll need garage space (ideally) and probably some willing friends/family members to lend a helping hand.

The Pros of DIY


There are many pros to building a van on your own. For starters, you can make your van as custom as possible. This is probably the best part of doing the build yourself.

By comparison, most builders offer a modular-type system, which eliminates the opportunity for a fully custom build out. If they do, it will undoubtedly be more expensive than their “stock” options.

Take Your Time

You can also take your time and only build out what you need, live in it, and then build some more after you’ve experienced life on the road. As you move through the build process, you’ll learn a ton about your van which is important in case you need to fix something while you’re on the road.

Individual Accomplishment

In my experience, DIYing a project always ends with a sense of accomplishment that isn’t always felt when you have someone build or renovate something for you. You really fall in love with the project, it becomes a part of you, and you find yourself looking back at the process positively for years to come after you finish it.

DIY Van Build

The Cons of DIY

Takes Longer to Complete

You’ve probably already put it together, but doing a van build on our own will take lots of time, money, and resources. No matter how you swing it, you’ll find yourself investing dozens and dozens (or hundreds) of hours.

An Expensive Process

Expect to dole out more money than your wallet is comfortable with for longer than you expected. Yes, you’ll be purchasing unexpected tools and resources needed to get things done. That part can be emotionally exhausting and stressful.

Keep in mind that in addition to the infrastructure, you need to purchase (or borrow) tools for installation.

Overall, the amount of time, money, and resources you spend is probably the biggest con of DIY building. I know we planned for a hard budget last time we renovated the travel trailer and still went over by the end of the project (most of which was unavoidable).

Bottom line is that you should always expect that it will take you longer and cost you more than you initially expected, because a project like this never goes exactly according to plan. Trust me on this one.


Expect that the DIY van build will take longer and cost more than you initially expected.

Seek Help When Needed

In addition, you often don’t have the knowledge needed to build out everything in a van. For my particular situation, I have no clue about hooking up electricity to solar power and that’s one big reason why I knew I wanted someone to take care of that portion of my build even if I chose the DIY route.

It’s often better, and less expensive in the long run, to ask someone for help and get it right rather than doing it yourself and running the risk ruining expensive equipment and components along the way.

That’s especially true when it comes to electrical system. Hire a licensed professional for that part of the DIY.

DIY Conversion Kits

Remember also that camper van conversion kits are an option. Kits give you the hands-on experience of DIY while providing the confidence of knowing that you have everything you need upfront.

It’s definitely an option you should not overlook in this decision-making process as it sits between the DIY and Builder options.

Related Reading: Camper van Conversion Kits for DIY Build

The Pros of Hiring a Camper Van Builder

Best Van Conversion Companies
VanDoit – a Missouri-based camper van conversion company

Hiring a professional van conversion company has plenty of benefits, especially for those who want to get on the road sooner rather than later. Hiring a van builder allows you to go about your life and wake up one day to a fully built van that’s ready for the road, and this normally happens on a predictable schedule.

Peace of Mind

Not only will you have a van that’s ready to rock and roll, but you can feel comfortable with the work that’s been done instead of wondering as you head out if every piece of the install is done properly.

Make it Your Own

A van builder gives you the opportunity to customize certain aspects of the van layout. If you go that route, expect it to be more expensive than kits and stock options. This option makes it ideal for those who want something to perfectly fit their lifestyle without having to source out every single item on their own dime and time.

Financing the Build

The biggest thing about hiring a van builder, for me anyway, is that you can often obtain a single loan that covers the purchase of your van and its conversion. Since living in a van is just a smaller version of RVing, you can register your van as an RV and secure an RV loan. The terms are typically 10-15 years, depending on the amount financed.

This will provide you with more manageable payments and not require a huge lump sum payment upfront for the conversion itself. So be sure and check into this before rushing out and getting a vehicle loan just for the purchase of your van.

Van Conversion Companies

Cons of Hiring a Conversion Company

Top-Rated Builders are Often Booked

Not all builders are created equal. Like anything else, you’ll want to make sure you’re picking a trustworthy and reliable builder. Sometimes the most reliable builders are busy months in advance, which means you’ll have to wait it out for a short period of time before your van will be ready to roll.

Standard Options Only

Hiring a builder can also mean that your build won’t be “fully-custom” despite the fact that builders showcase their builds as that. Most builders only source materials from a few select partners.

Because of that, you won’t always have the option to install something you’ve been eyeing unless you source it yourself and bring it to the shop. And even then, installation by the builder can get more expensive. Any installation that is not part of their standard process usually takes up more of their time and labor is expensive.

Higher Costs

Builders also charge a bit more for their work, and rightfully so. You will normally pay more (for their time and expertise) than if you were DIYing a build. This is definitely where DIYers compare the numbers and realize they can do it cheaper, but you can’t expect builders to work for free either!

My Personal Choice

Now that you have all the pros and cons, what would I pick, you ask?

I’ve spent endless hours and days over the last year trying to decide what I wanted to do. In the last two months, I finally decided I wanted to use a camper van conversion company for several reasons.

My biggest reason was that I wanted to build out my van correctly and also be able to get on the road in a short amount of time. As someone who spent 8 months renovating an Airstream years ago, I knew I didn’t have that kind of time to get my life together and on the road. If I could get a builder to knock out the build in a matter of weeks, I would choose that over slaving away in the Phoenix summer heat for months on end.

I have huge respect for builders out there after renovating my Airstream, so paying the extra cash not only makes sense to me, but also allows me to keep working and creating cash flow to cover the cost of the build simultaneously.

Another reason I decided to hire a builder is that I would be able to source the van and wrap the conversion costs into a single RV loan. As someone who plans to live on the road for a longer period of time, I wanted to lower my overall monthly payment and still get the quality I needed to make this lifestyle work for me in the long run.

What is Your Choice?

In the end, your choice and my choice can will likely be different on any given day, month, or year. There’s no right or wrong answer here when it comes to building out a van as long as you have fun with the process, you can afford it, and you are happy with the results.

Choose whatever works for your situation to help you get out there and adventuring as soon as you reasonably can!

Let us know if you’re planning a DIY build or hiring a conversion company. I know our readers would love to hear your story and learn from the experience.

Contact us if you would like to share your camper van build out experience on TREKKN!

DIY Van Build or Van Conversion Company

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