The Easy Way to Build Your Own Class B Camper Van
Class B Camper Vans are the fastest growing motorhome segment in the RV industry. For the size, they pack a lot of features into an easy to drive and gas mileage-friendly platform.
Major RV manufacturers like Winnebago, Thor, Coachmen, and Airstream have introducted Class B Van Motorhomes with many of the same features of larger Class A and Class C motorhomes.
Yet the price at the MSRP is in excess of $100,000 and not a lot of variety of floor plan options. This has left a niche for small custom van builders and for the development of modular camping units that will allow van owners to transform their cargo or passenger vans into fuller-featured camper vans.
An Affordable Camper Van – Modular Camping Units
What the RV market is missing is the successor to the venerable VW Bus-Camper Van, an affordable camper van that doesn’t require a second mortgage on your home to acquire! While the big motor home manufacturers have been slow to fill this need, a number of smaller enterprises are offering a nice range of options for floor plans and camper features at affordable prices. The most flexible design and price options are offered by enterprises who have designed modular camping units for basic transport Vans offered by Dodge, Ford and Mercedes Sprinter Vans.
I’ve done some research into what is available and have come up with three good options for an affordable Camper Van with lots of choices in floor plans and amenities. Some involve some basic DIY work; others give you the option to pay the modular camper enterprise to build your unit for you. But even this option saves you quite a bit of money over what you’d pay for a mass manufactured unit and you have more floor plan and amenity options.
Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado WayFarer makes “. . . pre-assembled, plug-n-play camper kits for the Ram Promaster City Tradesmen and the Ram Promaster, 136″ wheel base, high roof. These units allow the Van owner to transform his cargo van into a camper van in the space of a few hours.”
A typical conversion kit could include: “. . . flooring, with integrated cargo management tracks, wall and ceiling paneling with 100% natural wool insulation, perimeter shelving, a kitchen galley with 5 gallon fresh and grey water tanks, sink and hand pump, bed platform that measures 54″ wide x 6’1″ long with cushions, bench box and boot box with cushions, hideaway table, and privacy paneling for the sliding and rear door window areas.” And you can add other accessories according to your needs.
In addition to getting a camper van for a lot less money, you have the option of multiple uses. You can clear out all the modular units and use it as a freight van to haul stuff like furniture or a load of lumber from the lumberyard. Or you can use only some of the units, like the galley, for a day trip where you might want to haul a kayak or a set of bikes inside the van.
The Wayfarer kit provides lots of garage space under the bed for tons of gear and toys like bikes. Beyond underneath the bed, the Wayfarer design concept is a fairly open, going with some basic floor seat/cabinets for stuff you’d like to store away but for everything else is open shelving units all around the upper perimeter of the van that have bungy-cord style bands to help secure whatever you place on the shelves.
The units slide into and lock in place along tracks built into the floor, making it very easy to quickly remove units for use as a cargo hauler or to change your design layout as needs change. Wayfarer has also assembled a list of tested recommended camping accessories that compliment their basic conversion kits.
The kits can be packaged and shipped to you for easy DIY installation, or you can visit the factory in Colorado Springs, Colorado and they will install your kits for free.
Contra Vans is another Colorado modular camping unit manufacturer. Like Wayfarer, they offer build options for the Dodge ProMaster, but also for the Ford Transit and Nissan Van.
They offer bed and bench dinette seat units, slide out kitchen galley units, wall and ceiling panels, electrical systems, storage systems and other accessories like awnings, bike racks, and solar units.
Like the Wayfarer options you don’t get all the amenities like you get with a full-featured manufactured camper like the Winnebago Solis, but you get a decent upgrade in amenities from the usual tent camping experience at a reasonable price. Plus you have the flexibility of removing all the modular units for carrying stuff or just using it as a passenger van.
Missouri-based VanDoIt offers the widest range of modular camper van setups and price points. The build their units for the Ford Transit Van. In fact VanDOit is more than a modular camper unit builder, they are also a van sales and leasing company. So you actually buy your Ford Transit Van from them and then they turn it into a camper van according to the options you pick. You get the van and the camper setup as one package price.
Their modular system is the most comprehensive that I’ve run across. It’s the swiss-army knife of modular design. While Van DO It sets up the Van and mod units according to your specs, it is a very flexible platform so you might start out with a very basic setup and then add new modules later, switching things around. It’s modular foundation is very adaptable.
So while there are similarities to going to a custom camper van builder, I suspect that you can get whatever features you desire at a slightly lower cost than going to a conventional custom van builder. My sense is VanDoit’s plug-and-play system is just a more efficient method of creating the custom van than conventional construction.
And a bonus is you retain the ability to transform into a cargo van or a straight passenger van as the need arises because the Van DO It van build uses modular units. And as noted further customizing later is much easier because of the modular platform.
Depending on the sophistication of your unit the total price can range from $48 K to a little over $100 K. They also offer financing and take trade-ins.
VanDOit offers what I think are the most sophisticated conversion options. Check out the video below for an idea of the systems they offer.
More Modular Camper Van Options
Are you pretty handy with tools and have the time to build your own custom van from scratch?
“With VanSpace #D, you create your custom van conversion design in 3D first so you can design your build with your lifestyle and hobbies in mind, and tweak things until it’s absolutely perfect.
A Company called Van Space 3D has created a Software Van Design System that includes templates for over 100 models of furniture and materials for building your own custom van that are made specifically for Van Conversions.
Play around with different layouts and designs (Just drag and drop pre-made vans, furniture and textures onto the screen) and ultimately decide on the best van conversion for you, based on your needs.”
The Ultimate Money-Saving Van Conversion
If your Camper Van Conversion budget is really tight and you are willing to make some “style” compromises, outfitting your van with products from IKEA is a possibility. Here’s an interesting article with photos from a couple who created a camper van from IKEA for about $1000.00.
Modular Units for Mercedes Sprinter Van
We’ve omitted from consideration some modular builders who build only for Mercedes Sprinter Vans. Here’s our rationale for doing so. We think an important selling point for the modular Camper Van concept is saving some dollars. However, the Mercedes platform significantly pushes up the total cost of the finished camper. So a Mercedes with only the basic modular camper amenities would be about the same price as Dodge or Ford camper that is tricked out with many more camping and living accessories.
More Class B & Class C Motorhome Reviews
- Winnebago Travato Class B Review
- The Best Class B Motorhomes
- Winnebago Fuse Class C Review
- Plateau XLTS Class C Review
- Class C Motor Home Reviews
- Best Compact Space Efficient Motorhomes