Custom Caravan Conversions
Custom Caravan Conversion Ideas
It’s never been easier to complete your own camper van conversion. Parts, tools and kits are widely available and there are many used vehicles ideal for conversion. Suitable vehicles are plentiful and cheaper than ever before, so undertaking your own conversion can be a cost effective and more satisfying than buying a camper van. This is often the best option if you have specific requirements, eg if you want the vehicle for when you go motocrossing or surfing.
You may be surprised to hear that you do not need a huge amount of skill to complete a conversion, as long as you choose the right base vehicle to start with. There are specialist companies that can provide kits, furniture, accessories and so on, and can also help with the trickier bits of the conversion.
The most important thing is to choose the right base vehicle for your camping needs, budget and maintenance and DIY skill level. There are a few options: -
These are popular as they are spacious and ideal for medium to large conversions. There are plenty for sale at very reasonable prices. Vans that were previously owned by delivery companies may have a high mileage but probably have a service history whereas builders’ ex-vans will have been battered and abused, but therefore maybe cheaper. Some will have high tops so that standing inside is possible and they come in a variety of wheelbase lengths. Parts are readily available and fairly cheap.
Many mini-buses are panel vans but with windows, so these are ideal if you want lots of light and it is easier to block up unwanted windows than add windows. They will also have seats already fitted, so you can remove and rearrange seating for dining or living areas and sell any you don’t need. Mini-buses have usually been treated better than vans and their mileage is often motorway mileage. Parts are often the same as vans as they are made from the same components.
These are small, easy to drive and cheap to run. These vans are essentially a car with a larger van-type back. There is limited space so only really for weekend camping for 1 or 2 people and particularly when you will be outdoors most of the time. They are made from the same components as cars, are easy to work with and can be driven every day.
Luton or box van
If you want plenty of space then these, which are wider than a panel van, could be the answer. The base vehicle is often a common make so parts are easily available and cheap. The box part is usually made of fibreglass, which is light but noisy. You will need to add insulation for strength, warmth and to reduce noise. Some have opaque ceilings, which give light but are very noisy when it rains. You may wish to insulate them leaving holes for the light to penetrate. Adding windows is tricky on older models as the walls are so flimsy but newer ones have thicker walls. Many have service histories too.
There used to be many of these as conversions as they were cheaper to buy than panel vans, nowadays this is not the case. These are good for people with the skill to convert them as they are already well-designed for the job with insulated interiors, high-powered engines and upgraded suspension. Medical equipment will obviously have been removed but there will still be a lot of lines and wiring including boxes and junctions still in situ. It best to remove any that you will not be using as they can add considerable weight to the vehicle. Parts can be expensive as they are custom made for the vehicle.
A bus is suitable if you are looking to make a permanent home and if you have the space. They are not normally expensive to buy but parts and fuel can be. Obviously, there biggest advantage is the masses of room inside the vehicle. You can build proper bedrooms, kitchen and living areas. You can also have roomy storage areas for bikes or motorbikes for example. Driving is not a problem as you can follow bus routes but parking and access to beach areas, villages and campsites can be difficult. You always have to plan ahead as to where you can park especially overnight. They are cheap to buy as plenty available but few buyers and are very reliable. Parts can be pricey and hard to fit, but do last a long time.
Always meticulously plan your layout using precise measurements well before you start or buy anything, it could save you money and headaches. What do you actually need in your conversion? What is your conversion primarily for? Plan for these requirements before you add in what you’d merely like. Many companies can provide kits such as for the kitchen area, beds and roof elevations to name a few. Camping fridges, ovens, furniture and soft furnishings are all widely available too.
There are also many professional companies that can carry out the conversion for you. They are specialists who deliver an excellent standard of work so, if you can afford it, this would be the best option. They can convert almost any vehicle and will work to fit your needs and your budget.
After converting a registered van to a motor caravan you will need to inform DVLA that the vehicle needs to be reclassified. They may ask to check the work carried out or photographic evidence may be adequate. Reclassification is beneficial to you as ‘leisure vehicles’ pay less road tax, MOT charges and insurance than commercial vans.
To comply with DVLA’s classification of a motor caravan:
- There must be a door that provides access to the living accommodation.
- There must be a bed which is a minimum length of 1800mm (6 feet) long.
- There must be a water storage tank or container in the vehicle.
- There must be a permanent seating/dining area in vehicle.
- There must be a permanent fixed means of storage.
- There must be a permanent fixed cooking facility using electricity or gas.
- There must be at least one window on the side of the accommodation.
Websites diymotorhomes.co.uk and campervanlife.com have excellent advice on carrying out conversions, related legal matters and conversion insurance. They also have a guide to big pitches for bus or large conversions.
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