Here you’ll find a breakdown of all our costs to get on the road, including base van, legal and conversion. Our total ‘on the road’ cost, including a full year service and insurance came in at under £6,000 GBP (around $8,000 USD).
We still have a bit more to spend, but even taking that into account, we managed to save 50% on our original budget and turned that saved cash into a passive income stream. You can read more about that here.
Pie Chart: Total 'on the road' costs
The figures shown in the tool tip are in GBP.
As you can see, around 65% was spent on the ‘base van’ and ‘legal’. Below the table, I’ll pop in another chart so you can see more clearly the conversion costs.
Table: All our legal / van / conversion costs
|wdt_ID||Item||Category||Cost (GBP)||Approx USD|
|1||Van||VAN – BASE||2,000||2,760|
|2||Windscreen||VAN – BASE||150||207|
|3||Service & pads/discs/belt||VAN – BASE||300||414|
|4||Drive shaft||VAN – BASE||60||83|
|5||Mechanic (inc MOT test)||VAN – BASE||200||276|
|6||Fuel cap||VAN – BASE||13||18|
|7||Spare key||VAN – BASE||120||166|
|8||2 Swivel seat bases||VAN – BASE||237||327|
|9||Soldering Iron Kit with Digital Multimeter||TOOLS & FIXINGS||23||32|
|10||5M measuring tape||TOOLS & FIXINGS||3||4|
|11||Drill brush/sand bits||TOOLS & FIXINGS||3||4|
|12||T handle ratchet wrench tool||TOOLS & FIXINGS||11||15|
|13||Copper grease||TOOLS & FIXINGS||4||6|
|14||Socket set||TOOLS & FIXINGS||15||21|
|15||Masking tape, rollers, degreased||TOOLS & FIXINGS||13||18|
|16||Drill bits, brackets and screws||TOOLS & FIXINGS||20||28|
|17||Circular saw & Workmate bench||TOOLS & FIXINGS||80||110|
|18||Everbuild EVBPCHEATSIL Heat Resistant Silicone Sealant||TOOLS & FIXINGS||8||11|
|19||Malayas 4PCs Hex Shank Self Centering Hinge Drill Bits||TOOLS & FIXINGS||8||11|
|20||15 pcs/Set Pocket Hole Screw Jig||TOOLS & FIXINGS||15||21|
|21||Fireangel CO-9D Carbon Monoxide Alarm||SECURITY / SAFETY||20||28|
|22||Smoke Alarm||SECURITY / SAFETY||11||15|
|23||Fire extinguisher||SECURITY / SAFETY||10||14|
|24||Fire blanket||SECURITY / SAFETY||10||14|
|25||NJ Domino-302G Built-in Gas Hob||KITCHEN||120||166|
|26||OUTDOOR DOIT Stainless Steel Inset Square Sink||KITCHEN||50||69|
|27||Mobicool MT48W (fridge)||KITCHEN||92||127|
|28||Whale GP1002 Standard 12V Submersible Electric Pump-White, 10 litres||KITCHEN||13||18|
|29||Kitchen Sink Tap Pull Out Sprayer||KITCHEN||26||36|
|30||Induna Heavy Duty 25l Water Container Blue & Natural X2||KITCHEN||14||19|
|31||OSB Board & wood||KITCHEN||44||61|
|33||Folding kitchen brackets||KITCHEN||13||18|
|34||Hose barb tap hose connector||KITCHEN||5||7|
|35||24 Pcs shell cup handles||KITCHEN||7||10|
|36||Tax – 6mth||INSURANCE / LEGAL||292||403|
|37||Insurance – 12mth||INSURANCE / LEGAL||405||559|
|38||Breakdown – 12mth||INSURANCE / LEGAL||55||76|
|39||Window themal foil 10m||INSULATION, SOUND & HEAT||27||37|
|40||Diall insulation wool||INSULATION, SOUND & HEAT||16||22|
|41||Window insulation/blackout||INSULATION, SOUND & HEAT||10||14|
|42||Sound deadening mats||INSULATION, SOUND & HEAT||25||35|
|43||Gas regulator / butane Calor||KITCHEN||7||10|
|45||New full butane gas 4.5kg||KITCHEN||38||52|
|46||12v heater 150W||INSULATION, SOUND & HEAT||15||21|
|47||2.5mm² – Wire (Red + Black) 10m||ELECTRICS||19||26|
|48||50 Amp Circuit Breaker, Fuse||ELECTRICS||10||14|
|49||Switches Panel IP65 5 Gangs w/Voltmeter, USB||ELECTRICS||33||46|
|50||10mm² Black, 1 Meter||ELECTRICS||6||8|
|51||10mm² Red, 1 Meter||ELECTRICS||6||8|
|52||10 Gauge (approx 6mm²/ 60A) 10 ft Black & 10 ft Red||ELECTRICS||14||19|
|53||12-Way Fuse Box with Negative Bus||ELECTRICS||18||25|
|54||1200 Pcs Crimp Connectors, Insulated Wire||ELECTRICS||15||21|
|55||Battery cover clips||ELECTRICS||9||12|
|56||Battery charger 12V 8A||ELECTRICS||23||32|
|57||2 X 12V 130AH EXPEDITION PLUS Deep Cycle AGM||ELECTRICS||304||420|
|58||Bosch Car Battery 12V 95Ah Type 019 S4013||ELECTRICS||105||145|
|59||Chinese diesel heater||ELECTRICS||84||116|
|60||Split relay kit||ELECTRICS||65||90|
|61||Multifunction voltmeter for leisure batteries||ELECTRICS||12||17|
|62||Electrician – safety & split relay||ELECTRICS||250||345|
|63||Hammerite Kurust 250ml||BODYWORK & REPAIRS||11||15|
|64||Hammerite Direct to Rust Metal Paint Black 250ml||BODYWORK & REPAIRS||10||14|
|65||Hammerite Direct to Rust Metal Paint White 250ml||BODYWORK & REPAIRS||10||14|
|66||Spray paint and primer||BODYWORK & REPAIRS||45||62|
|67||Paint and Rust Remover Pad||BODYWORK & REPAIRS||3||4|
|68||Holts Cataloy Knifing Putty 100g||BODYWORK & REPAIRS||3||4|
|69||Paint wipes||BODYWORK & REPAIRS||1||1|
|70||Side panel clips||BODYWORK & REPAIRS||20||28|
|71||Masking tapes & brushes||BODYWORK & REPAIRS||10||14|
|72||Sanding sheets||BODYWORK & REPAIRS||6||8|
|73||Fire pit||ACCESSORIES / OTHER||13||18|
|74||12V laptop charger||ACCESSORIES / OTHER||31||43|
|75||12V dual cigarette lighter USB/voltmeter||ACCESSORIES / OTHER||14||19|
|76||Brifit Wireless Temperature Humidity Sensor||ACCESSORIES / OTHER||11||15|
|77||Duct tape||ACCESSORIES / OTHER||8||11|
|78||Van key cover||ACCESSORIES / OTHER||5||7|
|79||Thetford Portipotty 365||ACCESSORIES / OTHER||86||119|
|80||Reversing camera||VAN – BASE||30||41|
|81||Ronseal ultratough clear varnish||KITCHEN||19||26|
|82||IKEA blinds||INSULATION, SOUND & HEAT||50||69|
|83||CT1 adhesive for solar panels||ELECTRICS||12||17|
|84||Waterproof Butyl Rubber Foil Tape (for solar)||ELECTRICS||12||17|
|85||Battery consumption monitor for solar||ELECTRICS||14||19|
|86||XINPUGUANG 200W 12V Solar System Kit 2pcs 100 watt Flexible Monocrystalline||ELECTRICS||200||276|
|87||2 x tyres: Nankang 225/65 R16 T (112)||VAN – BASE||185||255|
|∑ = 6,424|
For some reason the table won’t total the approximate USD cost – it’s around $8,000. There are also probably some bits I missed…will come back to this at a later date!
Pie chart: Conversion costs
Base vehicles were hard to come by and whilst we were on the lookout for a ‘clean slate’, we ended up acquiring a 2004 Renault Master ex-ambulance that someone had started to convert.
There were some advantages and disadvantages of this base van which I’ll cover in another post. With regards conversion costs; the floor was good and so we kept it, the walls were moulded plastic and had decent insulation, so we kept them too. There was also some stuff we could re-use, at least for prototyping.
This was our first van conversion and we made the decision to ‘go budget’ and spend the savings on developing passive income streams, which you can read more about here. So what we did in terms of conversion/spend was to fit that ‘budget’ narrative.
The above chart is simply the top chart, minus the base van costs and legal/tax.
As you can see, we spent a fair amount on electrics; mainly batteries. Two large AGM leisure batteries and we also upgraded the vehicle starter battery to ensure the split relay charger would be effective.
Being an ex-ambulance, there are gazillions of cables, so we also paid for an electrician to give it a once over.
Areas we saved (money) on
The flooring and walls/insulation already being in good enough condition to use was a big saving. We also recycled and used as much as possible of the stuff we pulled out. That saved money, but cost a lot of time!
For the kitchen, we built with basic roughcut wood and OSB board (cheaper even than ply!). Lots of sanding, painting (cheers, da!) and varnish did the job.
Old wardrobe doors form the base of our bed (cheers, granny!) and the mattress was salvaged from the original van — old caravan-style foam and surprisingly comfortable.
We decided against fitting hot water and a shower, however we installed a large sink.
We also decided against an inverter and a fancy fridge. You can read up on our batteries and power calculations here.
Things still to buy/build
We’ve still got about £1.5K remaining from our estimated £7.5K budget (that we slashed from £15K!) and there ‘s a few things still to do…maybe!
- Bench/table: we have a prototype, mainly built out of random wood. As a minimum, it needs a tidy up or possibly a complete rebuild. This will cost more time than money. Probably about £40 for wood and maybe £100 for foam/furnishings.
- Cab divide: we’re just using an old hippie throw for now. Need to get some blackout. Can probably have that done for about £40. More if we decide to get something for the front windows too.
- Skylight blackout: it’s currently way too bright in the morning.
- Insect nets: keep out them bugs.
- Some odds and ends for storage: Again; more a time cost than money.
- Rain gutter &/or awning: stop the water dripping in the siding door and possibly a bit of outside shelter. £40+
- Wifi router/extender: we haven’t had any issues so far but are looking into this with antenna. Estimate £100.
- Water inlet/outlet etc: we just have basics for the moment. Need to consider hose inlet & outlet plus upgrading tanks. TBC
Solar power:this is up for debate. It was budgeted for but again probably not really required for this van and our planned usage. Could probably do something decent for around £300. UPDATE: added 200W at a cost of £250. BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres…hmm! At around £700 these were not in original budget and I doubt this is worth the spend, especially if this van is only for the year. Also, we have air suspension, so I’m doubtful there would be enough clearance to accommodate them. Common sense says don’t do it. But damn, they do look good! UPDATE: replaced 2 tyres at cost of £185.
The 'time' cost
Whilst the monetary cost may seem low, the time cost has been massive.
I probably would not try to re-use wood that’s all different sizes again; right-angles are difficult enough for us newbie wood-workers!
Nor would I attempt to build a kitchen (in fairness, everywhere was shut due to lockdown so didn’t really have much choice!).
Cleaning and bodywork also take ages, especially when you don’t have a sheltered work space.
And, whilst the moulded plastic roof and walls have their benefits, it’s also a nightmare trying to find anything to attach stuff to.
So that’s where we are for now on DIY van conversion #1. Hope it’s been useful!
I’ll link some of those items through to Amazon at another time 🙂