Van Life

Van Conversion Companies vs DIY

So you’re ready to take the plunge into owning a van — congrats! But now for the hard part: choosing whether you’ll do the conversion work yourself or have a professional van conversion company take it on. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of both.

 

Do-It-Yourself

Depending on the complexity of your van buildout, converting a van is usually a lot of work. If you have the technical knowledge, building knowledge, time, and think you’ll enjoy diving into the process, doing it yourself is a fulfilling way to get the van of your dreams. If money is a concern, you can budget accordingly and even build out your van out in phases. Some companies even offer DIY kits, where they’ll provide certain components that you install yourself.

Things to keep in mind when planning to build out your own van:

  • Workspace: As you already probably know, vans aren’t small. Having a secure, large space to store your van, tools, and all your materials is extremely helpful to streamline the process. Plus it will protect you from any weather elements.
  • Timing: You’ll want to overbudget your time since builds tend to take longer than expected, especially during times when materials and components are difficult to obtain due to supply shortages.
  • Budget: Be sure to have some leeway in your budget. Your build could be at least 10-15% more expensive than you’ve planned. Even though we always strive for excellence, mistakes happen and rework will have to be done.
  • Research/Planning: There are many details that go into successfully building your own van and you can’t just build one out of the blue. Do you know how to properly insulate your chassis, install a safe infrastructure, or wire your electric? These are some of the many things that go into pre-planning a van build.

Pros

  • You’re 100% in charge of the budget, timeline, layout, and materials.
  • Personal enjoyment and satisfaction.
  • Ability to make changes to the build at a later date.
  • The systems and functions of the buildout will be very familiar to you, so making repairs down the road will be easy.

Cons

  • A very wide range of in-depth knowledge isn’t required, but more than necessary when building a successful van conversion. From designing a functional layout to correctly installing the proper componentry (ie: electric, plumbing, ventilation, insulation, etc).
  • It can be extremely frustrating if you’re not completely comfortable with the things listed in the previous point.
  • Sometimes the process can be very time-consuming and take longer than anticipated.
  • If things go wrong down the road, you’ll likely have to fix it yourself.
  • Resale value tends to be lower than a van built by a professional conversion company.
  • Finding a chassis can prove difficult and the waitlist can be long, especially if you’re looking for a 4WD Diesel Sprinter or an AWD Ford Transit.
Source: Far Out Ride

 

Source: Far Out Ride

 

 

Using a Professional Van Conversion Company

Hiring a professional van conversion company is a great choice for anyone who doesn’t have the proper knowledge or free time available to build out a van themselves. As we’ve said before, building a van is usually a LOT of work, and sometimes it’s best to leave it up to the pros. But before you fully commit to ANY van builder, be sure to do the proper research.

Some things to keep in mind as you research van conversion companies:

  • How long have they been building vans and how many vans have they built?
    • Generally, companies that have been in the industry longer and have had a larger portfolio have a better final product. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but successful practice makes perfect. This takes time. They’ve been through the process numerous times, identified weak points, evolved, and dialed in their production quality. They know what materials work and what doesn’t work, and if they’re a completely custom company, they can help you design a layout that perfectly fits your needs. Don’t be fooled by a company’s fancy website and Instagram page — just because it looks good doesn’t mean it’s actually good.
  • Does the company offer a warranty and/or support after you’ve picked up your van?
    • What happens if your heater stops working, a cabinet starts rattling, or there’s a leak in your plumbing? You’ll want the full support of the company that built your van if any issues arise down the road so you’re not left high and dry.
  • Do other people recommend them?
    • Checking for reviews, reading customer testimonials, or even talking directly to a past customer is a great way to feel out whether a company is producing a great product and has quality customer service.
  • Are they building with safety in mind?
    • Materials tested for flammability, weight-conscious components making sure your van isn’t overweight, weight distribution, installing smoke/CO2 alarms, etc, are important safety related attributes to look for when choosing a van builder. Ensure that the company has a clear understanding of the chassis GVWR and advises the correct chassis to build on.

Pros

  • Peace of mind knowing that your van is in capable hands, as long as they’re a proven company.
  • If they’re a completely custom van conversion company, the sky’s the limit with your layout and design!
  • Time is money — Your free time will not be consumed by building out your van.
  • Warranty coverage and support if components fail down the road (if offered).
  • Resale value is usually higher than a DIY van. A proven name can go a long way with resale.
  • Finding a chassis — Conversion companies that assist with chassis purchasing can be extremely beneficial. Finding a diesel 4WD chassis can be difficult at times and taking this step out of your hands will make your conversion experience easier.

Cons

  • Higher upfront cost.
  • If they’re not completely custom, you could be limited to a set layout that may not fit your needs. Model-based conversion companies limit the options available which may not fit exactly what you or your family deem essential.
  • Layout and materials are sometimes restricted by what the company offers.
  • With the popularity of van life finding the right conversion company takes A LOT of time and research. With a high priced purchase make sure you choose wisely.
  • If something goes wrong down the road, if you’re not familiar with the systems and set up, it’ll be harder to fix on your own.
Source: Outside Van

 

Source: Outside Van

 

Source: Outside Van

 

Whether you choose to build out a van yourself or hire a professional van conversion company is all up to you and your comfort level, but there’s no better feeling than hitting the road in your very own home on wheels!

If you’d like to discuss any points in this article or have any questions about choosing Outside Van as your van conversion company, reach out to [email protected] or 800.971.8830. See you on the outside!

 

Reference: Bearfoot Theory