Man beside lake with his van conversion

Everything you need to know about converting a van

Everyone has a little wanderlust – dreaming of hitting the road and never coming back. Whether you are looking to live off the map forever or have the freedom to get away to somewhere new every weekend, van conversion could be for you. The variety of people who have turned to living and travelling in a van is wide, from people looking to spend their holidays adventuring, to people looking to wake up to a new sunset every morning, and you can be one of them.

Is van life for you?

Wondering whether van life is for you? Whether you are looking to create a space that will act as your permanent accommodation, or just want to be able to get away on a whim, we look at some of the perks of a van conversion.

Talking about the benefits of van living, Charlie & Dale from Climbing Van explain: “Van life provides an opportunity to focus on the things that really matter and put experiences ahead of things. It allows you to live a life with less – less ‘stuff’, but also less stress, less complication, and less impact on our planet.”

Dee & Simon from Wild Van agree, telling us how having a campervan to hand gives them increased independence: “Our favourite thing about owning a campervan is the flexibility it gives you. We love that we can go away on a last-minute holiday or trip to visit family and friends without having to spend any time planning or booking accommodation. We have everything we need packed and ready to go at the drop of a hat, which means we make the most of our precious free time and are able to spend our holidays purely focussed on enjoying ourselves!”

Dee & Simon suggest hiring a campervan to test the waters: “If you feel a desire to start living the #vanlife dream but are apprehensive about owning a camper then a great way to dip your toes is to try hiring a rental campervan. There are campers of all different sizes and specs available for hire across the UK and this can be a great way to get a feel for the van, try out all the features and figure out what your perfect van would be like.”

If you are just looking to use a motorhome a few weekends of a year, you might be better placed borrowing one from a friend and getting temporary motorhome insurance to cover you for your trips.

Cooking food in van conversion on stovetop

How to get started with van conversion

If you are sure that a van conversion is right for you, the next part is often the hardest – getting started. With all of the will in the world, it can be hard to pull the trigger on an idea and take that first step, however, once you do, we are sure it’ll be so rewarding.

This is something that Dee and Simon offered to us as advice for anyone on the fence: “Our advice to anyone thinking of converting a van really is to just do it! We spent many years contemplating whether it would be right for us and when we finally finished our conversion, we wondered why we hadn’t done it sooner! We’ve learnt from years of travelling and living full-time in our van that you can always make changes if you find that something isn’t working or if you discover a new way of doing something. Our campervan has given us so many amazing experiences, we really can’t imagine life without it now.”

Set a budget (and stick to it)

The important starting place with this journey is to set a budget and stick to it. It can be tempting to splash out during a conversion but making sure you start with a clear budget in mind will mean that you don’t end up with an unfinished project parked in your driveway that isn’t suitable for your needs.

Buy your van

The most important part of the whole process is buying a van. There are plenty of options available and people have converted everything, working on small renovations to existing motorhomes to converting school buses into homes on wheels. When buying your van, look for something that’ll offer you enough room, fit within your budget and that is also going to be reliable for as long as you need it. Once you’ve done this, you’ve taken the biggest step.

Create a plan and timeline

Just as it’s easy to blow your budget on fancy luxuries, it can also be easy to get caught up in the conversion process and spend a lot longer on it than needs be. Once you’ve secured your van it’s time to create a plan and a timeline. This plan can include ordering all of the materials you’ll need, creating a timeline for when various elements of renovation should be done by and even scheduling in your first trip.

Commission a van or buy a pre-converted van instead

Alternatively, if you don’t want to invest your time into renovating a van or aren’t confident with your skills, there are myriad companies who are able to complete a professional conversion for you and may be able to offer a quicker turnover time than if you were to do it yourself in your free time.

Wild Van are one such company, Dee & Simon tell us: “Through our conversion business, we enjoy designing bespoke campers that are specific to each customer’s individual needs. Incorporating hand-built furniture made from organic materials, we create custom interiors that reflect our customers’ tastes and personalities, to make vans that are homely and unique.”

Van conversion parked up on Adriatic Coast, Croatia

Tips for van converting and van life

So, you’ve started your van conversion adventure? We spoke to some notable van life bloggers to get their advice on everything from van life living to your van conversion.

Always leave space for emergencies

When renovating a van, it can be tempting to utilise every inch of your van with the things you want to have but it’s important to have space for equipment you may need in emergencies.

David from Van Life Academy stresses this point, telling us: “Even though space is at a premium, always make sure to leave room for emergency tools and equipment. Especially if you’re the adventurous type that spends most of their time away from cities and towns.”

This can also apply to planning trips. For longer trips as well, make sure to not have a stiff timeline that can’t be changed in case of a flat tyre or if you just want to spend more time at a location you find.

Take some test trips

It can be tempting to plan a large expedition for your first trip, however, make sure you aren’t running before you can walk and take your conversion for some smaller, more local trips first.

Sam from Strawberry Squeeze recommends this, telling us: “Make sure you go on a handful of weekend getaways locally before you decide to go on an epic road trip abroad. When you’re living in your van and using it every day, you’ll learn so much and probably encounter some problems you hadn’t even thought about. Believe me, it’s far easier to order a plumbing pipe replacement from eBay when you’re at home than it is when you’re in the mountains in Switzerland with no postal address.”

Learn from those who went before you

Van conversions are incredibly popular things as people look for ways to increase their independence, and as such, there is a lot of first-hand information online. So, whether you are looking for the perfect stovetop to install or are looking for a stunning route for a UK road trip, make sure to look at van life blogs and social media accounts to get their suggestions. A great place to start is with the bloggers who have contributed to this article!

We hope you can start your van life soon. If you are looking to test drive a van, our temporary van insurance can cover you for as little as one hour behind the wheel, perfect for finding your future campervan.

For more tips and advice, make sure to visit our news page.