There are a few routes you can take to build your own epic adventure van (check out our previous article, Van Conversion Companies vs DIY in case you’re still deciding how to approach your van build!). Using a van conversion company is a great way to get a quality rig built by a professional. However, it’s very important to fully screen potential companies prior to committing to avoid any potential headaches. Here are some points to keep in mind while researching a company.
Years in business / Number of vans built:
Companies that’ve been in business for more than a few years usually have built vans conversions that have been on the road for more than a few years (or around 30,000 miles). Any shorter amount of time and you have no way of knowing how their vans hold up over time, especially to the wear & tear that some adventure vans go through. Keep in mind that most 4WD conversion vans go through rigorous off-road adventures along with time in extreme elements. A company with a successful history usually means they’ll be sticking around for a while, so they’ll be there for you if anything happens with your van down the road. Established companies usually have a warranty program, covering their work for 3 years or 30,000 miles. Think about what you would do if a company were to close after you got your van – who would help with any potential problems with the build that may have been the fault of the builder? Choosing an established company that has your back down the road is a very important aspect when picking a van builder.
With time also comes experience. If the company has built more than a handful of vans, that means they’ve gone through the process many times in the past and worked through any possible problems with production. It also means they have solid experience with electrical systems, plumbing, cabinetry, metalwork, and other kinds of fabrication. If a van builder is inexperienced, they may struggle through the process, especially if your custom build has aspects that they’ve never worked on before, like an enclosed shower. Every piece of a van must be meticulously produced, or else big problems can pop up, usually at very inconvenient times. So choosing a van builder that has experience under their belt is key.
Design style and ability to customize:
Everyone has a different/unique style and your van can reflect that. You can go with a natural and rustic style or maybe go with a tactical approach with limited frills. Whatever it might be, make sure the conversion company you choose aligns with your personal style. Some companies have pre-designed layouts with materials you can choose from, while others take a completely custom, sky’s-the-limit approach (you want a gold ceiling with blue walls? Sure thing!), so be sure to seek out a company that aligns with your personal wants and goals.
Advice and ideas:
A good conversion company will listen to your ideas and wishes for your van, but then recommend any changes or tweaks to make your ideas even better. They won’t let you astray, and thanks to years of experience under their belts, they usually know what’s best and what you can fit inside the limited size of a van chassis.
Pricing and timelines:
It’s best to choose a company that’s upfront with their pricing and timeline. An experienced company will have each item priced out so that there are no surprises when it’s time to write the final check. They’ll also be able to give you a realistic timeline for completion. If a company isn’t forthcoming with this information, that’s a sign that they haven’t given either of this information much thought and will most likely be winging it as they go along, which could be problematic for your budget and plans.
Just like when choosing a restaurant to dine at, check the internet for opinions from other people! Past or current customers are the best way to get an honest assessment of a company. People are usually very honest about their opinion, whether good or bad. You can also reach out to people directly by asking the company for references. Ask questions like; how was the builder/company to work with? How many miles are on your van? How is it holding up? Is there anything you’d change? Has the van been worth the money you paid for the conversion? You can also usually meet people who own vans from certain companies at tradeshows or meetups, where you could get an in-person tour!
Choosing a van conversion company to build your dream van is not an easy undertaking but hopefully these points can help you make a well-informed decision. If you plan to build a van with Outside Van, our dedicated design team will spend the much needed time with you to help you make the most informed decision tailored to your specific needs. Please reach out to our team at [email protected] or 800.971.8830 if you have any questions!
Reference: Bearfoot Theory