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Van Life on a Budget: 6 DIY Conversions to Spark Your Creativity

van life on a budget
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With a focus on affordability and practicality, we’ve put together an inspirational roundup of self-built conversions for your van life on a budget.

Some of us yearn for a more nomadic lifestyle. It’s a primal, deep-seated part of us, no matter how many polished hotel rooms or plush apartments we may have seen.

Digital nomads are becoming mainstream, and an increasing number of people are taking to the road in pursuit of freedom, fulfillment, and adventure. As such, van life on a budget becomes more than just a fantasy for many of us.

A great conversion can turn a rusty old vehicle into a home you can be proud of — and that dream of yours into reality. Our six featured van conversions involved surprisingly little time, money, or compromise, and each was passionately self-built.

6 DIY Van Life on a Budget Ideas to Spark Your Creativity

van life on a budget inspiration

Ideal for Adventures


Before Ezra bought it, this spacious home-on-wheels was a Ford Transit. A freelance filmmaker and climber, Ezra converted it into the perfect travel companion.

His van features a solid partition between the cab and living area, for both insulation and security. The wood-paneled interior gives the van a cozy, cabin-like aesthetic. With cleverly devised storage compartments, there’s even room for a hangboard and bouldering mat.

The van and conversion cost just $11,000. This solid machine has already traveled around Spain and has been Ezra’s full-time home for several years. You can follow Ezra and his van on Instagram.

Budget Meets Luxury

This classy full-time home, affectionately known as Alan, is built on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis. The camper was converted by Becky and Austin for just $7,800. The couple set out on the conversion with the intention of “budget luxury,” and they certainly succeeded.

With tiled surfaces, plush seating, and soft, modern spotlighting, this perfect conversion demonstrates that van life doesn’t have to mean compromising on comfort. Additional nice touches include a sliding bulkhead door and a large extendable table and work area.

You can follow Becky, Austin, and Alan on Instagram.

For Long-Term Living

After traveling and living in a bus for a couple of years, Mariajosé and Chase decided to downsize further and bought a Sprinter. They converted it into this high-end full-time home with all the comforts and conveniences.

This conversion is a bit pricier, at $35,850, but this figure covers absolutely everything. It includes the 2016 Sprinter and a solar power system. There are some premium appliances as well, such as entertainment and tasteful wooden trim.

Luxurious and spacious, this conversion features an airy feel, cozy lighting, and even an indoor shower. Furthermore, the owners suggest that similar results could be achieved on an even smaller budget. For a closer look, check out their Instagram.

Best Super-Low Budget

Martin’s converted ex-airport transfer coach demonstrates that almost any limitation — financial or practical — can be overcome.

Martin’s van features a unique log-burning fireplace as well as intricate woodwork. Clever additions include brilliant space-saving innovations, such as an underfloor storage compartment that can even fit a kayak.

Thanks to second-hand and reclaimed materials, this project cost just $2,500 including the vehicle itself. Martin did the conversion with no prior experience.

Follow his adventures on Instagram.

A Student’s Solution

Van life on a budget certainly has something to offer everyone. In this case, instead of renting typical student accommodation, Rosie took $5,000 from her student loan to buy a van and build it out.

‘Rosemary’ began life as a Ford Transit LWB with a high-top. It now features a desk area for completing university work, an under-bed wardrobe, and ample storage space.

This van is an inspirational example of how a simple, functional conversion can be done on a minimal budget and with little experience or know-how. Rosie’s main concern is how she’ll cope with returning to a house after university.

Sustainable Living on the Road

Undeniably, financial freedom is the draw for many van-dwellers. Heather and Curtis found that by living in what was once a rusty Sprinter, they could have the time they needed to pursue their artistic endeavors.

As such, this conversion was done using many repurposed and reclaimed materials. The result is personal, homey, and functional.

Home to Heather, Curtis, and their cat, this DIY conversion cost around $15,000 ($10,000 for the vehicle), and has been named ‘Charles Darvan’ for their favorite explorer. Check out Heather’s Instagram.

DIY: Van Life on a Budget

van life

In van life — as in life-life — there are many varied hurdles to overcome. But the above examples show that even if you have no experience and are working with a shoestring budget, the ideal conversion can be achieved.

So, if you’ve got the bug, don’t deny yourself the freedom that comes with taking to the road — or the satisfaction that comes with designing your own personal home on wheels.

If you’ve got a bigger budget to play with, consider the 4WD Sprinter-based REKON. Considering a professional conversion? Take a look at the Vandoit-converted GearJunkie custom camper.

Additionally, some vans featured above were made with the help of The Van Conversion Guide, which you can find here. Good luck with your own builds!

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