My $5000 Tiny Van Conversion: The Complete Cost Breakdown

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My $5000 Tiny Van Conversion: The
Complete Cost Breakdown

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Vanny Devito is now my tiny little home, but once upon a time she wasnothing more than a silver van. The entire van conversion process was stressful at times but mostly it was pretty exciting.The following post documents, in detail,  every cent I paid for the conversion of Vanny. As I said in my earlier post (steps to living in a van) I completed some DIY projects but most of the conversion was done professionally. I did tons and tons of research for the conversion of my tiny van! The following products are what I used in my actual van conversion. I hope this post provides some kind of guidance and reference for those trying to take on a van conversion, or perhaps just curious!

My $5000 Tiny Van Conversion

Related Posts:

Steps to Living in a Van

Vanlife Essentials

Why its Okay for a Girl to Live in a Van

My Vanlife Fails (so far)

Vanlife Resources

The full breakdown of my van conversion was as follows:

Professional Conversion: $3,634.80

Noise Insulation: $127.80

Portable toilet: $33.55

Renogy Inverter: $245

Renogy Solar Panel: 196.99

Lights: $27.79

Tapesty: $10

Headliner Clips: $9.99

Bedding: $45.99

Utility Scissors: $8.00

Utility Knife: $10

Fantastic Vent: $150

Installation of Vent: $30

Sealant: $4.50

Applicator: $5.58

Grand Total: $4,539.99

Disclaimer: The prices I list were the prices I paid in May 2016. The cost of some products may have increased or decreased since then.

The Exterior

Fantastic Vent: $150

Installation: $30 (taskrabbit)

Sealant: $4.50

Applicator: $5.58

This is pretty much the overall consensus for the best vent in any van conversion post I ever read during my research phase, and I agree! I attempted to complete the installation myself but it was not going well, so I hired someone from taskrabbit rabbit to complete the actual sawing off the roof. I plan to make a post specifically about the shit show that entailed from me trying to do this on my own in a future post, but for now, just know that a nice 50 year old handyman in LA from taskrabbit really helped me out and it all worked out in the end.

When you purchase the vent, it’s offered with other products that go along to help with installing and sealing. Honestly, I don’t remember why I did not get the bundle and opted to purchase things separately, but I’ve heard that the products bundled work pretty well. I just picked the cheapest silicone sealant on amazon. I did however initially just purchase the tube of silicon and spent an hour trying to figure out how I would get the sealant out, only to find you need this giant applicator thing to get it out (oops). Overall, the vent works really well and it’s lovely to have fresh air brought into the van without having to open a window or a door!

Solar Power

Renogy Inverter: $245

Renogy Solar Panel: $196.99

From the get go, I knew I wanted to have solar power when starting this whole process. I did not want to depend on electrical hook ups for power. I searched around and decided to go with Renogy, they had some of the best reviews out there. I also found it convenient that they sold kits for the installation of their products for RVs/vans making it easier to make sure I had purchased everything I needed. Their customer service is amazing and helped me figure out how much power I needed for what I wanted to power in my van. I have not had any issues with these products and would strongly recommend for your tiny home solar panel needs.

The Interior

Before

After

Bedding: $45.99

I ordered a gel foam mattress extra long twin for my bedding. This was recommended by other van lifers and it worked pretty well. At the time this was the cheapest one I found. I have no problems with this mattress pad, with the exception of how it reacts to cold weather. When nights started getting a lot colder, the mattress pad became noticeably stiff, hard, and uncomfortable. To be fair, I don’t believe it’s meant for outdoor weather. I am looking into a more multi-purpose weather option but haven’t found anything yet.

Portable toilet: $33.55

I have to be honest, I only used this toilet 2x since I bought it. Once on the Alaskan-Canadian highway somewhere in the middle of nowhere British Columbia and one time when I was very sick in a Walmart parking lot. With my bed up in sleeping position, it’s difficult to get to and it’s kind of gross to clean up. In order to stop my tiny van from smelling I have to get rid of the waste within a few hours.

I bought this because I thought I needed it, but I really don’t think I do. Since I work full time and use gyms and work facilities for showers, I pretty much have facilities to use most of the day. I am thinking about just getting some kind of small container to use for emergencies that are a lot easier to access and takes up a lot less room. However, I do think this is the most useful, smallest and portable toilet out there. If you desire to have a toilet in your tiny living space, this is definitely the best option. It can also double as a stool when camping!

Utility Scissors: $8.00

Utility Knife: $10

The utility scissors and knife were a random purchase I found on another van blog post and I have used them for almost every DIY project regarding the van. I used the scissors and knife to cut the headliner tabs out of the headliner in order to pull down for the vent installation. I also used the knife for cutting holes back into the headliner in order to hang lights and fabric up. I still use them frequently for random projects and have not had any issues. I would recommend keeping items like these handy in your van.

Lights: $27.79

Tapestry: $10

Headliner Clip: $9.99

My $5000 Tiny Van Conversion

cozy ceiling

I saw these on another van conversion blog and was intrigued by how cozy they looked, and I’m all about cozy! They also required the least amount of power for string lights I could find on Amazon. I love them and everytime I show someone my van, the “wow” comes from turning the lights on with my purple and green tapestry. The tapestry I found when I was selling a bunch of my stuff on Offer Up and 5 miles . A girl was moving and selling it for $10, I jumped on the deal because when looking online they cost up 2-3x the amount I paid. I love it and its 100x more cozy with the little bright lights behind it, rather than just the tan headliner.

In order to make the cozy ceiling I had to attach lights and the tapestry to the headliner. Headliner clips are the most ridiculous tiny pieces of plastic I have ever encountered. In order to get the headliner down to install the vent, I ended up using the utility scissors and knife to cut them out because pulling them out didn’t seem to be successful at all. I saw two other vans on instagram use the headliner clips to attach lights and tapestry, so I followed suit and it worked!. I found it best to use the utility knife, cut an “x” in the headliner and the attach the tapestry and the clip. Then, I wrapped the string of lights around the headliner clip, viola!, a cozy tiny van.

Noico Insulation: $127.80

The day after I bought Vanny, I was driving to work in Los Angeles and a few small rocks from a semi truck hit my van and the sound was so loud that it made me let out a little startled scream. I thought, “Crap! That was loud.” A few days later, a rare occurrence of rain was happening in Los Angeles and the sound was deafening against the exterior of my van, I couldn’t hear myself think. I started to realize how annoying the sounds were going to be when I was living full time in the van. I decided to invest in some noise insulation. Noico had many positive reviews so I decided on purchasing, and I don’t regret it. Some of my favorite nights in the van were when it was raining; with the noise insulation and regular insulation the sound is not painfully loud, but very comforting and cozy.My $5000 Tiny Van Conversion

Professional Conversion

Alliance Van Conversions

Professional Conversion: $3,634.80

In an earlier post, I talked about how I was almost ready to throw a sleeping bag in the back of my van and call it a day after getting ridiculous quotes from conversion companies (link to Steps to Living in A Van). I was getting quotes like $30,000 and so on for the most simple design and most inexpensive materials out there, I was over it. Then a google search lead me to a van conversion company called Alliance Van Conversion in Van Nuys, CA. I called and met with the owners, told them what I wanted and why I was doing this. They wrote down everything I said and told me they would get back to me with a quote. I drove off fully expecting I would get a disappointing email from Alliance stating that the conversion would cost $20,000 or more.

I was delightfully surprised when I got a quote of under $4000. I was incredibly relieved that I could actually afford a tiny van home. The crew at Alliance Van Conversions is quite wonderful. I was even advised on how to decrease the cost of the conversion by buying some of my own materials (ie, solar panels, inverter, etc.). I even received emails from the owner with links to amazon where I could find the most cost effective items I needed. I knew because of this I was dealing with good people. They even allowed me to leave my van with them for a month while I flew back to the east coast for a few weeks before starting my vanadventure. Overall, they were able to deliver what I asked and I would highly recommend to anyone who might need a good quality and affordable van conversion.

Included in the professional conversion of my van was the following: noise and insulation installation, cabinets and shelves installation, manufactured and built in platform bed, installation of auxiliary battery, solar panels with inverter and installing flooring and paneling.

A las, a Tiny Home!

Introducing… Vanny Devito

My $5000 Tiny Van ConversionI bought Vanny in May 2016, the complete conversion and organization was completed in August 2016. The actual professional part of my conversion only took 3 weeks. The complete conversion took longer than I planned as I flew back to LA and then immediately had to start driving to Alaska to start my new travel job. I stayed with a friend in Alaska for 2 weeks until I finished everything I needed to do before I started living van life full time.

So one more time, the full breakdown of my van conversion was as follows:

Professional Conversion: $3,634.80

Noise Insulation: $127.80

Portable toilet: $33.55

Renogy Inverter: $245.oo

Renogy Solar Panel: 196.99

Lights: $27.79

Tapesty: $10.00

Headliner Clips: $9.99

Bedding: $45.99

Utility Scissors: $8.00

Utility Knife: $10.00

Fantastic Vent: $150.00

Installation of Vent: $30.00

Sealant: $4.50

Applicator: $5.58

Grand Total: $4,539.99

I was able to complete my total van conversion for less than $5000 (not including the purchase of the actual van). I’m sure someone who has more carpentry and handy skills could complete a similar conversion for even less than $5000. Again, I got a very basic buildout, and as many vanlifers will tell you, your van evolves over time. I like my setup; it’s optimal for storage space, but I am starting to think of ways to possibly add on. I would like to have some type of designated cooking space as well as a more comfortable place to sit and lounge in the van when not laying down.

Overall, I’m ecstatic with how Vanny turned out. The very first night I spent by myself in the fully (completed) converted van was in a Lowe’s parking lot in Kenai, Alaska and it felt like home. It was such an amazing feeling to know that all my ideas about this tiny van had come to fruition and I was ACTUALLY doing it!

 

If there are any questions that you might have about converting a van that I did not answer in this post, please comment below and I will answer! What kind of layout would you want in your own converted van home?

About the Author
Sarah

Sarah

Sarah is the creator of Tiny Van Big Living. She is a traveling Occupational Therapist and lives in a converted camper van (Vanny Devito). She is collecting experiences not things and enjoying the simple life while slowly climbing out of the giant hole that is student loan debt.

3 Comments on “My $5000 Tiny Van Conversion: The Complete Cost Breakdown”

  1. Pingback: How Vanlife Is Helping Me Conquer $172,000 of Debt

    1. Sarah

      Exactly! I would love to have a tricked out van if I could afford it. I feel like most people move into a vans to save money , not to spend 10s of thousands of dollars.

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