Dissecting the Pros and Cons Of Commercial Camper Vans and DIY
If you’re interested in joining the van life movement, you’ve got a decision to make. Will you buy a pre-made camper van from a dealership or buy a used van and renovate it yourself? The argument of conversion van vs. Class B RV is a tricky one because each vehicle type has its own pros and cons.
Camper vans are gaining in popularity due to their adaptable size and fairly efficient fuel usage. These facts are true whether you buy or convert the van. There are several differences between these two vehicles though, even if they sometimes look similar on the outside.
Below, we’ll break down some important differences, as well as the pros and cons of a conversion van vs. Class B camper vans. Both types can work well for customers, so take your time to think about which setup would be best for you.
First things first, you must consider the price. A lot of people prefer vans over larger RVs because they are more affordable. If you want to buy a pre-made Class B RV, the price will vary depending on the size, brand, and amenities that are included.
In general, you can expect a Class B RV to cost between $80,000 and $100,000. On the cheaper end, they may be closer to $60,000, while the most luxurious models can be $300,000 or more. This price point is cheaper than many other types of RVs, but it will still put a considerable dent in your wallet. After all, you’re basically buying a new vehicle and a new home all at once!
On the other hand, conversion vans tend to be cheaper upfront. You can buy new or used vans and gut the interior. Sprinter vans are usually used as the base for camper van conversions. If you buy one of these new, the price will be between $35,000 to $45,000. Of course, older models will be cheaper, while newer ones will be more expensive. The condition of the van will also be a determining factor in the price.
The issue with conversion vans is that they are cheaper when you initially buy them, but you will now have to spend money on the conversion process. There are always ways to save money, but you’ll have to remember that the price of the van is only one cost you’ll have to consider. Van conversions usually cost between $5,000 to $25,000. If you end up on the pricier end of that scale, the price ends up being somewhat comparable.
However, at the end of the day, van conversions are cheaper than Class B RVs.
Conversion Van vs. Class B Customization
Next up, let’s talk about a conversion van vs. Class B RV in terms of customization. A lot of people who are drawn to van life find it appealing due to the freedom to travel and live as they see fit.
With a custom-built conversion van, you have the freedom to completely design and build your living space. You can choose the things you want to include, as well as the things you can live without. You can create custom furniture pieces and make the spaces you want.
On the other hand, Class B RVs tend to be pre-built without much room for redesigning. Everything already has a place and function within the vehicle, so it’s harder to truly personalize the space.
This can be a good thing for some people! While some prefer the freedom to build and design, others lack the skills (and desire) to do this for their own living space. If you want a functional vehicle/living space out of the box, a Class B RV is perfect for you. However, if you want the power to make your ideal van design, a conversion van would be better for you.
Next up, there’s the matter of availability. Class B RVs are gaining in popularity, so there are a variety of brands that now manufacture them. Whether they’re new or used, you should have plenty of options close to your location. Another benefit of Class B RVs is that they come in several shapes, sizes, and layouts. Not only is there probably one near you, but it’s also likely to fit your needs pretty well.
On the other hand, it’s a bit harder to find Sprinter vans close to you. There’s likely to be a smaller stock at dealerships (if they carry them at all). You may also need to have it delivered to you, which will be more expensive. Used vans are also hit or miss due to the broad range of their price and condition.
You may be able to find a conversion van that has already been renovated by its owners. In this case, you have to roll the dice and hope that the design is one that you like. There’s no guarantee that another person’s dream van will work well for you.
In general, it’s easier to locate a suitable Class B RV than it is to find a suitable Sprinter van. With a bit of work, though, you should be able to locate either one. This factor isn’t the biggest consideration in the conversion van vs. Class B RV argument, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Hardiness/Lifespan of a Conversion Van vs. Class B RV
Another important thing to think about is the lifespan of your camper van. If you plan to live in it full-time, you’ll want a vehicle that can last for quite a while. A brand new Class B RV can usually last for 200,000 miles (or about 20 years). On the other hand, new Sprinter vans have been known to last for 300,000 miles!
Of course, these numbers will be affected if you choose to buy a used RV or conversion van. Be sure to always check the miles so you can know how long you can expect these vehicles to last. They are both pretty hardy though (as long as they are well-maintained and properly designed). Make sure you take good care of your van once you have it, and try not to go over its weight limits.
Online services, like RV LIFE Maintenance, allow RVs and vanlifers to build, schedule, track, and manage RV maintenance online, keeping their ride in top condition – saving them time and money so they can maximize their RV lifestyle. The online application works to make you the expert on what maintenance your conversion van or Class B RV needs and when.
The conversion effort is one of the major differences between a conversion van and a Class B RV. If you buy an RV that already has insulation, furniture, appliances, water tanks, etc., you won’t have to do much to make it feel like home!
But if you plan to perform a serious renovation, you’re going to have to invest a lot of time and effort. Although some vanlifers perform conversions with little/no experience, it’s better if you start the project with some DIY know-how.
When you undertake a van conversion project, you also have to accept the fact that things might go wrong. You may have to redo certain parts of the vehicle if you mess up, which will cost you time, money, and materials. This stress and personal responsibility isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so make sure you’re up for the work if you plan on converting a van.
Resale Value of Conversion Vans vs. Class B RVs
Finally, think about the resale value of a conversion van vs. Class B RV. If you plan to live in these vehicles for the foreseeable future, maybe this isn’t a concern.
But if you plan to resell it one day and get your money back, you may want to opt for a Class B RV. These tend to hold their value better because they have been made by tried and true RV brands. There also isn’t the risk of DIY designs failing over time.
Conversion vans are popular due to their versatility and custom designs. However, even though you may love your van, there’s no guarantee that a buyer will feel the same way. On the other hand, someone may love your design enough that they are willing to pay extra to have it! It’s a roll of the dice, so make sure you keep this risk in mind.
Conversion Van vs. Class B RV? What Do You Prefer?
Are you the owner of a conversion van or Class B RV? Share the ups and downs of living and traveling in your van or rig in the comments below and help shed some light on the subject for those still on the fence about which unit to get.