Transforming an Ambulance into a Camper: Weighing the Advantages and Limitations
Want to do a camper van conversion, but looking for something different than your typical cargo van build? Our ambulance camper conversion guide offers an exciting alternative.
These builds take an old ambulance and turn them into one-of-a-kind campers with tons of individuality. In our ambulance camper conversion guide, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of these unique campers, plus what to consider before doing your own conversion.
The Pros of Converting an Ambulance into a Camper
So, why do an ambulance camper conversion instead of a more traditional van conversion? In fact, there are quite a few benefits to doing so.
- Unique ride – It doesn’t get much more unique than an ambulance camper. Your build is sure to stand out from the rest and will have plenty of people asking you about it.
- Built to last – Ambulances, by virtue of being emergency vehicles, are built to be highly durable and reliable. Even better, ambulances are typically carefully maintained over the years, ensuring you’re getting a solid vehicle that still has plenty of miles in it.
- Affordable – Because demand for used ambulances is fairly low, these vehicles are affordable to buy and easy to find on sites like Ambunet. That’s a major advantage over typical vans, which are increasingly expensive and scarce due to high demand.
- Storage – Ambulances come with tons of pre-built compartments. That means you can get tons of storage without any extra effort on your part. Talk about convenience!
The Cons of Converting an Ambulance into a Camper
Of course, like anything else, an ambulance conversion isn’t without its downsides. With a unique vehicle come unique challenges, after all. The two biggest factors to consider will be layout and design challenges and mechanical and maintenance challenges.
Layout and Design Challenges
One of the biggest challenges when converting an ambulance into a camper is the layout. Because the interior has already been built out, you’re either stuck with the current layout or stuck with a lot of work converting it. Worse still, thick walls are difficult to cut into, and you’ll likely run into various cables, ducts, and structural supports along the way.
Ambulances also aren’t designed for living in, which presents some major challenges. They’ll typically have few windows and little insulation. While you can install both of these yourself, it’s a potentially difficult task.
The exterior design of the unit can also present a challenge for stealth campers. Because emergency vehicles aren’t typically parked in residential areas, your van is likely to stick out like a sore thumb.
Mechanical and Maintenance Challenges
Mechanical and maintenance challenges are also a major consideration when building your ambulance conversion.
For one, the vast majority of ambulances you’ll find will have very high mileage on them. While they’ll still run and have likely been well-maintained, they’re still well-used vehicles. That means you can expect more frequent maintenance and repairs.
Ambulances are also highly specialized vehicles. That means that when it comes time to find a replacement part, you may have a harder time sourcing the part than with other vehicles.
Weight distribution is also a potential issue. Because an ambulance is designed to carry weight differently than a typical camper, you’ll have your work cut out for you to properly balance your build.
Because of these reasons, it’s essential you follow an ambulance camper conversion guide. This will help you overcome the various unique challenges of doing an ambulance conversion.
Essential Considerations for an Ambulance Conversion
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons of an ambulance conversion and decided to do one, there are some essential considerations to make. Here’s our ambulance camper conversion guide of what to consider for your build.
Inspection and Maintenance
You should always do a thorough inspection of any vehicle before buying it, but it’s especially important for a vehicle like an ambulance camper conversion.
Start by getting the VIN and running a Carfax report to get the rundown of the vehicle’s history. This should show a thorough maintenance history and zero history of accidents. Next, have a local mechanic do a thorough inspection for you.
Keep in mind that all this will only be focused on what’s under the hood. For the rest of the vehicle, you’ll have to do your own inspection.
Look out for things like broken door latches, air conditioning that doesn’t work, and electrical issues. Keep in mind that most ambulances will have some issues, and as long as you’re confident that you can fix them, it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
The next consideration in our ambulance camper conversion guide is to consider the layout.
Unlike with a cargo van, your ambulance won’t be a blank slate to build out as you please. Instead, your ambulance will have unique structures and a pre-existing layout that you’ll need to build around.
The good news is that, while the unique layout can present a challenge, ambulances are fairly spacious – considering that they usually have multiple people laying down and also working when they’re in use. So you can definitely still get the build of your dreams. It will just take a bit of creativity.
Finally, we have to cover some legal considerations that are unique to ambulance conversions.
For one, you’ll typically need to remove anything that implies your vehicle is an active ambulance providing emergency services. Be sure to remove emergency lights as well as exterior features like the Caduceus or words like “Ambulance.” Until you do this, it’s likely you won’t be able to register your vehicle (be sure to check with your local authorities for the specifics).
You’ll also need to consider insurance. Because of their unusual nature, plus the fact that they’re custom-built, insuring an ambulance camper conversion can be a challenge. Be prepared to shop around a bit.
Ambulance Camper Conversions: A One-of-a-Kind Build
If you want a unique, custom-built camper van, it’s hard to beat an ambulance camper conversion.
With an ambulance camper, you’ll get a spacious, sturdy vehicle that’s likely been very well maintained over its lifetime. Plus, because demand for used ambulances is much lower than for cargo vans, they’re easier to source and typically more affordable.
Of course, like anything else, there are downsides. Ambulance campers are likely to be high mileage and present unique mechanical and design challenges due to how they’re built.
If you don’t mind these downsides, however, doing an ambulance camper conversion is a great idea. Plus, with our ambulance camper conversion guide in hand, the process will be that much smoother.
Embarking on a van life journey is more than just a lifestyle choice; it’s a commitment to freedom, adventure, and self-reliance. From choosing the right camper van to budgeting for your build and ongoing improvements, each decision you make shapes your experience on the open road.
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