VanDweller Community Forums

Full Version: Is converting worth it?
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2
I'm thinking of purchasing and converting a 2016 Sprinter van to live in and travel. I'm trying to decide if I should... If you have any answers, it would be really helpful in my decision making process.

Did you convert yours or have someone else do it for you?
Was it worth it (price and time) to do it yourself?
How many vans do you think are converted each year? With that, how many people do you think do them by themselves?
What was the most difficult part of converting it on your own?
If I do decide to buy one to convert and decide to sell it down the road, does it have a good resell value?

If you have any other information, it would help me to decide what I'm going to do!

Thank you!
My initial plan was to convert a Sprinter...the more I learned, the more I decided that Sprinters weren't the best choice for me. Much of that had to due with potentially expensive maintenance and repair costs, most stemming from a very complicated and over-regulated diesel emission system. There are plenty of other quirks...for example, my boss' Sprinter has not had doors that lock and working AC at the same time in the past two years.

All vehicles have quirks. I don't dislike Sprinters in any way. I decided that by the time I financed a Sprinter and dumped $20k savings into a conversion, I quite literally could not afford a mishap after that. Buying a new Sprinter would've had insurance against a $9k new engine, but was a lot more than I wanted to spend just on the vehicle. I really ended up looking hard at Transit gassers, and probably would've gone that route if there was any inventory of T350's long/tall available for a fair price.

Ended up going with a Ford E450 box van with a 7.3 diesel...barely broken in. And the longer I get into this conversion, the happier I am with the choice. You can watch all the YouTube vids and build logs you want, the fact is this stuff takes serious amounts of time. Building in what's basically a square box with wood floor and roof I can't mess up on is huge...if I were trying to build out the quality and function level that I'm after in a new Sprinter or Transit, I'd be losing my mind about now.

As for ROI, you will generally get your materials cost on resale, more depending on how well your design elements appeal to others.

I'm guessing you've already found it, but here's the Sprinter forum:
When doing your own conversion you may be at a disadvantage when it comes to insurance. The VIN will show it is a commercial vehicle, and a lot of insurance companies are reluctant to insure them or DIY RV's. It can be done, but I don't know at what cost.
A lot depends on your State as insurance is regulated by each State.
Google Sprinter problems. They tend to be expensive.
back when dinosaurs roamed the earth I would convert between 3-5 vans a week depending on options. you will never get back your investment 99% of the time. of course there is the 1%. it all depends on what you want out of your conversion, it's a highly variable and personal decision. highdesertranger
OP:  "I'm thinking of purchasing and converting a 2016 Sprinter van to live in and travel."

It all depends on whether you really want to do it, or not.  How much you do (or don't) is strictly up to you.  How other people feel about it is immaterial -- the only one you should be concerned about is YOU.

If you want to travel and live in a van, you'll almost certainly want a bed platform with storage underneath, as opposed to sleeping on the floor and continually be shifting stuff around in boxes and bags.  You'll want some insulation and venting, or when you are in many areas, you will either be too cold or too hot.  You may be willing to carry bottled water and cook on a portable rocket stove or small propane stove, or you may not.  You may prefer something that approaches a 'real' bathroom, or you may be perfectly happy 'roughing it', dropping your small bag of 'doodoo' in the trash can the next time you buy groceries or gas.

If you aren't 'handy', don't have or know how to use tools, don't have the patience to find out how to do the work, and think you'll still get it done in a couple of weeks, you'll probably need to have someone else do the work, or buy one that is already converted.  You will pay more, either way.  Nobody fixes up a van for free.  Many people wouldn't want what  you want, and wouldn't be willing to pay you for what it cost you to make it livable to your standards. 

You don't generally pay yourself to do the work, you 'donate' the time as the price of reaching your objective.  Is the final cost (either way) likely to be worth it to you, or not?

There is a ton of information on this website, for virtually every possible facet and level of preparing the van.

The bottom line seems to be whether the price or the value is most important to you, both regarding the van and your attraction to a life traveling to new and interesting places.
I am converting my second cargo van presently.

You get exactly what you want 

Takes alot of time... around 400 hours is my rough guess

Its not cheap. Buying all new materials from wood to screws adds up very quickly.
yeah I used to cheat, for all the common wood cutting we had patterns. I could do a basic pad and carpet the floor, insulate and panel the walls in less then 8 hours. I could install a window in about a hour. a roof vent in 1/2 hour. but I did it everyday. because I was good I would get the harder jobs, like high tops, custom cabinets, and plumbing. made pretty good money. highdesertranger
I'm just about done with a Ford Transit. Everything I've done except roof fan and shore power connection comes out easily. I never buy a vehicle with the intent of getting my money back as they depreciate the day you buy them. My lifetime average for keeping a vehicle I've purchased is 12 years though. Smile As far as cost...I had someone else install my fan and shore power, was too much of a coward to cut holes in a brand new van. Smile I did get as far as having the drill and saw on the roof though hahaha. All other work was/is being done by my brother and I. Just about done. Just waiting for my brother to have space in his shop. Here's an itemized cost listing so far, minus the plywood costs.

$. 374.00. Swivel Seat
$. 1072.00. Generator
$. 157.00. Fantastic fan
$. 98.26. Vent fan cover, battery box, French press
$. 96.00. Window shades
$. 850.00 Refrigerator, 2 milk crates, bed rest pillow, toilet, propane bottle, stove
$. 53.20 Skeeter Beaters
$. 25.00. Curtains
$. 80.00. Fan and 12v extension cord
$. 160.00. A/C and 2 year warranty
$. 43.00. Reflectix
$. 370.00. Custom made 9" memory foam Mattress
$. 891.00. Stowaway 2 cargo carrier
$. 329.00. 2" hitch
$. 318.00. Dog pens, charger, tank, step
$. 267.00. Mud flaps, rain guards, bug guard
$. 544.00. Install fan and shore power
$. 320.00. Battery and charger
$. 187.00. Inverter, fuse box
$. 120.00. Can cooker, rack, oil change kit for generator
$. 760.00. 200w solar system with MPPT controller
I'm converting an older van (1986 G30 Hicube) That I purchased in a military auction.   Is something that I'm doing for my own project for my own use.   A vehicle (any vehicle for that matter) is not an investment as they continually loose value, unless that vehicle is a classic.   The question you should ask, what is worth to you?   To me my vehicle is worth my time and money.
Speaking of insurance...I walked into ICBC (British Columbia's insurance monopoly) to transfer my F Superduty cube van from truck to motorhome. Had a stack of B&W build photos and my truck plates. It literally took 5 minutes and I went from probably a $4000 collision write-off value to $30,000 motorhome value (about what I have into it including labour) and saved $9.00 per year. Good stuff! I have been putting off doing it for 4 years now as I feared a paperwork nightmare, but nope!
Pages: 1 2