DIY Campervan Info

how to buy the right van

Buying the right van for you

The first things to consider when starting a DIY campervan project is what model of van to buy.  Considerations that will influence this are-

  • How many people will be travelling in the van (how many seatbelts are needed)
  • How many people will be sleeping in the van, or will some be using tents.
  • How much Storage will be needed for luggage, sporting equipment, musical equipment, tools etc

Once you have decided on the van capacity and size needed it's time to do your homework, if you skip the research phase of this procedure you could be stuck with a van that costs a fortune to fix, is prone to breakdown or costs an arm and a leg in fuel costs. Don't Rush out and buy a van that wont suit your needs or that need too much work to get on the road. Do it yourself campervan projects take alot of time and money so the planning is very important.

The internet is a wonderful thing and all products have reviews and forums so I strongly advise to spend some time finding a van with a good reputation of reliability and fuel economy. The lower your running and maintenance costs are the longer you can travel.

Here are some links to help with the research-


Now that you have researched which vans are suitable for your needs and are reliable you need to find the market value so you dont get ripped off. Look on as many sites as possible-


Key things to look for when buying the perfect DIY campervan-

  • Low km, can be slightly higher in a diesel as the engines last longer. but consider that all the other parts will be worn and need replacing sooner.
  • Rust- if you can see rust in photos then i would try to avoid unless your budget is very low
  • Service history
  • Tyres, ask how long since they have been replaced. All these things will cost you money if they need replacing and can be used as leverage when negotiating the price
  • Year model

Once you find one that meets all the above requirements you will need to go and have a physical inspection. When you look at a van don't get excited and let your emotions make the decision for you. Some important things to look for when inspecting a van are-

  • Rust, this is a big one and can be hidden from view if you don't look closely. Look particularly closely around window seals, under wheel arches and on top of the roof. Rust will kill a car before the engine dies so if you plan on keeping the van long-term avoid rusty vans at all costs.
  • Seating, make sure that the amount of seats on the van matches the rego papers or you will have trouble re registering the van.

Any minor problems that you can find you can use as leverage to negotiate the price lower. Don't show too much excitement as the seller will see this and know that he/she doesn't need to lower the price. Don't be embarrassed to offer low prices, this is a part of the negotiation process. Just remember to have integrity in your deals, be truthful and honest.

Try not to rush the process of buying the right van, the more time you spend on this the more informed you will be, therefore more likely to get a good deal which will save you time and money in the long run. Happy hunting!!

Budget and early considerations

It is important to know how much money you want to spend before you begin the design and planning stage of the diy campervan project so that you don't end up with a half finished or poorly made camper.

Once you have come up with a budget you can start pricing materials, services and equipment. Several things that should be considered to include in a van fit out which will add value and comfort to the van are-

  • Gas for cooking
  • Water tanks
  • Sink
  • Secondary battery to power lights, water pumps, inverter fridge
  • Window and ventilation hatch installation
  • Awning Instalation

It is important to decide on these things before the work commences because the layout of the van will have to be designed with space for the requirements of the gas, battery etc.

To legally carry gas in a van you must have an airtight box fitted that opens to the outside of the van. This is a specialized job that is best done by a professional as gas is very dangerous in confined spaces.

The fitting of a secondary battery adds some great improvements to a diy camper. It gives you the opportunity to-

  • Run lights without draining your cars main battery
  • Run a water pump from water tanks to have flowing water
  • Run a 12 volt fridge eg
  • Run a 12 volt to 240 volt inverter to use 240volt devices( phone and computer chargers etc)

Installing a ventilation hatch is important in a van that doesn't have any opening windows accessible from the back of the van, as vans heat up with the morning sun and ventilation is required.

Windows can be installed to add ventilation, light and a view. The difficulty of the installation varies from van to van as some have panels that can simply be replaced with windows.

The gas, electrics and water must all be considered, researched and planned before the rest of the van is designed so that any required certifications can be priced and acquired. This will ensure that the van is fully safe, legal and will pass any registration requirements each year.

Just remember when deciding on what you include in your van that most processes will take longer and cost more than you expect. so the more quotes and definite prices you can get the better.

Designing the layout for your DIY Campervan

This is the fun and creative part that allows you to come up with positioning and solutions for-

  • Clever storage ideas
  • Sleeping areas
  • Cooking areas
  • Gas storage
  • Water tanks
  • Batteries and electrical board

This is where you have the freedom to make the fit out your own personal design that will fit your individual needs. You can essentially make the inside of the van feel like your home.

The more research and planning that goes into this the more functional and aesthetically pleasing the fit out will turn out. Instagram has some good pages to get inspirational ideas, these are a few I have found interesting-

  • vanlifers
  • vanlifediaries
  • vanlifeexplorers
  • project van life

Once you have all your ideas and inspiration, get a pen and paper and start drawing the layout. Try not to get stuck on your first idea. Draw as many different ideas as you can, get creative using hinges draw slides and other space saving ideas. Try to only include things in the design that you know you will use.

I have found in the past that if something takes more than 10 minutes to set up it will rarely get used. So don't overcomplicate the design.

A few things to keep in mind in during the early stages of design are-

  • If you intend to have a secondary battery installed make sure that you locate it and the power board in a position that is easily accessible. This is so that if you want to change or add things to the circuit you don't have to pull the van apart or squeeze into an uncomfortable position. trust me on this I have learnt this one from experience!
  • Remember to position the gas storage box that opens to the outside as close to the stove as possible.
  • Position the water tanks close to the sink.
  • Storage

Measure the inside of the van and try to do some scaled drawings to figure what will actually fit.

Make sure that you have the correct sizes of the important components

  • Bed- 1.9m long
  • Sink
  • Stove
  • Necessary storage


As with any small living spaces smart storage is essential . You want your DIY campervan to be as comfortable and organized as your home. The first step is to list all the things that you will need to store-

  • Tools
  • Musical equipment
  • Sporting equipment
  • Clothing, shoes, hats
  • Cooking and cleaning gear, pots pans
  • Cutlery, plates bowls etc

Once you know exactly what needs to fit in you can go about deciding on a place for each thing and the type of storage solution to use.

  • Draws
  • Cupboards
  • Straps

If you want to install big draws which slide out the entire length of the draw you will need to install draw slides, these are quite expensive but utilize the space in a very efficient way. Draws with draw slides can be weight loaded meaning you can use the draws not only to store heavy objects but also to incorporate parts of the design of the camper to slide out of the van. for example a kitchen unit that slides out the back or side door of a van.

I hope that the information that I have provided will be helpful for your DIY campervan project. If you have any questions or need any campervan work done please get in touch.

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