20 Tips For Building Out a Sprinter Van from Someone who Just Finished Theirs
Get that moneyIf you are buying used, GET THAT MONEY, and then pay in cash. Depending on the vehicle of choice, you can expect to spend between $5k-$15k.
You don’t choose the van, the van chooses you.Not kidding. Set up an If this then that for craigslist in your area and wait for the emails to roll in. ACT FAST. Vans I have bid on have disappeared in less than 3 hours. Try not to buy anything with more than 300k miles on it.
Get a pre-purchase inspection. Do it.Costs between $60-$140 and will save you time money and sanity. Double check the glow plugs, and fuel injectors.
Vision board the crap out of your van.Get a Pinterest board, scrapbook, call your mom, draw, sketch, mockup, 3d model or whatever until you know exactly what you want.
Name your van. Obviously.Extra points for van related puns!
PLAN PLAN PLANGive yourself a timeline. Break the total project up into sections (floors, insulation, electrical, bed frame, cabinets, paneling, etc.) and then add at least a week to each section on top of what you thought it would take. Don’t forget to plan a party for the last week!
A cry for help is far overdue.Call everyone you know with any practical skills and see if they can be of assistance! You don’t want to do this project alone. Get your community involved and see what is out there! This will save you money, time and resources. Plus people love to help out if you buy them beer and pizza.
Floors firstI see people doing floors last and I don’t get it. Give yourself a good foundation and then build up from there. Or you know, don’t.
Then insulationDon’t forget to coat the inside of your van with a rubberized undercoating to prevent rust! I did not do this and I wish I did. Some good options are 3M Underseal and Rusfre undercoating. There are a billion ways to insulate your van, but it is important to know that because it’s a metal box with giant glass-filled holes it will never be 100% insulated. Just go with it.
Spend too much money on electricalYup.
To solar or not to solar?Solar, obvi. But if you are trying to be thrifty there are other ways to get electricity to your system. Like getting a battery charger to connect to ‘shore power’, or an isolator combiner to connect to your ignition battery and your battery bank whilst driving.
Got wood?Home Depot has the cheapest 2x4’s, but don’t turn your nose up at recycled wood or whatever you have lying around. The bed frame in my van is almost 100% leftover from other projects. Just sand it down and give it a new life as a bed post.
When in doubt, gorilla tape it.Yeah, that’s all I really have to say about that.
Cut holes in your van. Try not to cry. Cry a lot.Get fancy diamond tipped blades for your saw. Measure 14 times, cut once. Patch all mistakes with marine adhesive sealant and butyl tape. Install a fancy fan, and/or vent if you are also putting in a built in stove.
Paneling!It’s pretty! It smells nice! It finally starts to feel like a house! It’s a huge pain in the ass!
Tell yourself you are finished (even though you never will be)You still need to install a new speaker and replace the brake pads, and the backup camera only works 50% of the time, and that back drawer keeps falling out when you pull too hard, and there’s that one patch under the bed frame that just has some exposed insulation, and you really want to finish framing in that part of the paneling….
Learn how to pee in a jar. While driving.Yeah. You heard me. Learn how to do a lot of things while driving. Cruise control my friend.
Throw a huge partyYou will do a van tour at least 65 times that night, and someone will spill beer on your new floors and not clean it up. This is when you learn to stop pointing out all the things you still haven’t done because then everyone starts pointing out all the things you haven’t even thought about.
Drive away from your problems…And into the sunset! So long suckers! You’re off to read a bunch of Jack Kerouac and meditate in a metal box next to a beach. Glorious #vanlife awaits you! Your Instagram feed is gunna be so #blessed.
...Except Now you’ve got 99 problems and your van is literally all of them.And make sure to enjoy it! It’s a lot of work but it is 100% worth it.
This was a submission to the site Vanlife Explorers, check out the original blog post here!