Cargo Camper Conversion Cost
The average cost to convert a cargo campervan is around £6,500, including the cost of the van.
This is broken down as follows:
|Materials + Insulation
Use our FREE quick-buy cargo campervan parts list to easily find and purchase all the necessary accessories to build your own cargo campervan.
You can spend less on a more basic conversion or a lot more, depending on your needs, but £6,500 is a good middle-ground average for a cargo camper conversion.
This blog will explore the average cost of converting a cargo campervan, where the money goes, and how you can save money (or spend more).
Cost of a Cargo Campervan Vehicle
We’ve done a blog comparing the best cargo vans for a camper conversion to compare the pros and cons of different van makes and models.
You can spend upwards of £35,000 on a brand new little cargo camper or £1,000 on an old banger with dubious service history, but for a decent second-hand cargo van, we would estimate around £4,000 for a budget-friendly vehicle, but that’s not to say you can’t find a good vehicle for less.
Vehicle Cost: £4,000
Cargo Campervan Building Cost
Once you have your good condition empty van, you now need to convert the entire thing. This includes many steps like insulation, furniture, electrics, plumbing, heating, etc.
This is where you can seriously save money, depending on the materials you use and the spec you’re wanting, or spend a bit more for a more luxurious build.
We will split the build into sections, give you the average cost of each, and some tips on how to save money or when it might be a good time to spend a bit more.
Building Materials + Insulation
Materials + Insulation: £500
This section includes insulation for the build, all the wood, plywood and various other large building materials (like pre-made furniture pieces, countertops, and drawer units).
You may already have some scrap wood lying around that you can utilise, but if you’re starting from nothing and are going relatively basic, £500 is a good estimate.
Advice and money-saving tips for building materials and insulation
- With a cargo van, mixing fluffy loft insulation with PIR Insulation board is a good insulation plan
- Reuse the plywood that often comes with vans, even if it isn’t for the walls/floor, instead of buying new
- Buying thick pieces of timber and manually cutting them down often works out much cheaper
- Pallets are often free and a great source of wood after a quick sand
- Facebook marketplace, gumtree and charity stores are great places to find bargain furniture
- Pre-measure before cutting to pre-fit shapes on sheets of ply to reduce waste
Screws and Joiners
Screws and Joiners: £150
Everything that holds everything together and upright. Screws, brackets, fasteners, glues and tape.
Although only £2 a box, you’ll need every single size of screw (I guarantee). You’d be surprised how many go into a cargo campervan conversion.
Advice and money-saving tips for screws and joiners
- A lot of furniture comes will small screws inside the box; utilise these
- Buying a trade pack of screws (a big box with many sizes) is often cheaper than individual boxes
This £1,000 budget assumes a conservative electrical system, meaning you can go a few days off-grid but on the basics (lights, charging phones, water pump, etc…), with a small inverter (with light use) but no electric cooking.
To give you a good idea of how this £1,000 can be spent, here’s an example:
- £300 – 3x 110Ah Lead Acid AGM Battery
- £110 – 40A Battery to Battery Charger
- £230 – 200W solar panel kit (panel + charger + wire)
- £160 – Wire (various thicknesses and lengths)
- £40 – Battery Monitor
- £20 – 12V Fusebox
- £20 – Switchboard and USB plugs with volt screen
- £20 – LED light strip
- £20 – Additional USB sockets
- £130 – 1000W inverter
- £50 – Other (fuses, wire holders, wire crimpers)
This is still using AGM Lead Acid batteries. If you upgrade to Lithium batteries, these will cost significantly more. Nonetheless, the £1,100 budget allows for several batteries, solar, a DCDC charger and a small inverter.
Are all-in-one power systems any good?
The positive of this is that you can spend about the same (£1,000 for the big ones) and have everything you need ready to go, and in a portable box, no less! The downside is that if something goes wrong, you lose your entire electrical system, and you have to replace the whole thing. Not to mention you still need something/somewhere to charge it back up.
Advice and money-saving tips for electrics
- If you’ll be staying at campsites, an AC electrical adaptor is great to plug into campsite power.
- If you aren’t going to use any AC appliances in your van, the inverter is not needed.
- You can sometimes find offcuts of electrical wire for free online.
- Place your batteries and fusebox close together, and keep wire lengths as short as possible to reduce the cost of extra wire.
- You may find solar is not needed for your power usage.
When the electrical system starts to get this large, it can become overwhelming to figure out what sized system you’d need. That’s why in the A-Z of Vanlife Bootcamp, we put together a module specifically on understanding campervan electrics. Combine this with our FREE Electrics 101 worksheet, which should help you understand your 12V campervan electrical needs.
Plumbing System: £200
For a basic plumbing setup, you’ll only need a few things.
- £20 – 2 tanks, one for clean water, 1 for dirty water
- £10 – 12V submersible pump
- £40 – Sink and drainpipe
- £20 – Sink tap
- £50 – Portable pack-away shower
- £40 – Chemical toilet
- £20 – Other/Misc (shower curtain, water pipe)
This system doesn’t include any hot water. Stored hot water requires a few hundred extra for water storage – a Bobil vans hot water kit is a great option for this. But for the basics, it is enough to wash your face and teeth in the morning, do a quick dash of washing up and have an outdoor shower.
Advice and money-saving tips for plumbing
- Depending on your needs, a toilet and a shower might be unnecessary
- Some people choose to buy water in bottles on their trips and just have a tank for dirty water only
- Flexible gym memberships can be an easy way to take long showers whilst on the road, eliminating the need for a shower in your cargo campervan
- For easy hot water, a camping stove like a Jetboil is an excellent idea for teas, hot water bottles and washing up
- Automated laundromats are easy to come by and are brilliant for washing your clothes on the go
Heating System: £150
Although you can get away without any heating in a van, to be thorough, we’ve included the cost of a basic Chinese-branded diesel heater. This is mostly because they are very cheap, provide a lot of heat quickly and are beloved by many in the vanlife community.
These heaters are around £150, and for that, you get every need included in the kit. It takes a few hours of work to install it, and you have easy heat fueled by diesel, and your whole van is toasty warm!
Advice and money-saving tips for heating
- To avoid an additional fuel tank, run your heaters fuel line into your van’s diesel fuel tank.
- Hot water bottles, jumpers and a good bed are a cheap alternative to a heater.
- You can use the vehicle’s heater whilst driving to pre-heat your van on road trips.
Decoration + Homey Touches
Decoration + Homey Touches: £250
To make your cargo camper really feel like a home, you have to make it look all cosy. This means adding wallpaper, paint, stick-on tiles, and everything that makes a place feel like home to you.
Homey touches include rugs, pillows, curtains, a lamp, and other decorations. Whatever you fancy!
Advice and money-saving tips for decoration and homey touches
- A word to the wise, a campervan is a tiny home…do not go wild… pick your decor with intention… unlike this idiot
Appliances and Other
Appliances + Other: £150
Cutlery to fill your drawers, a picnic blanket for summer days, a portable gas cooktop, a coolbox, and maybe even a van window! This section is really up for interpretation and depends on your preferences.
Plus, there are always a few unexpected build costs which this section can cover.
Additional costs of owning a cargo campervan
£6,500 does not include costs for everything when it comes to owning a cargo campervan. There are ‘hidden’ costs, the same as owning any vehicle, and it’s best to know these upfront.
Extra costs of owning a cargo campervan are:
- Insurance. Specialist campervan insurance is usually needed, and this can be vastly different on your job, where you live, age, gender etc…
- Road Tax. In the UK, you must pay road tax on every vehicle you own. A campervan is no exception.
- MOT/Service. Ensuring your campervan is road legal and safe to drive is required by law, and has yearly costs.
- Tools. You may need to buy extra tools to convert your campervan. These can range from £5 to hundreds.