How Much Does It Cost
To Convert A Cargo Van!?
This is our honest-to-goodness summary of what it cost us to turn a 2016 Ford Transit 250 into Nanook. It is entirely reflective of what our vision was for a comfortable and practical day-to-day ‘vanlife’. There are many ways to outfit a camper, and it could cost much more or much less than what it cost us. This, however, should help you to sort out your own unique ‘guess-timate’ when organizing a build budget. Note that all funds are in $ Canadian Dollars $ and that we completed our build while living fairly rurally (which meant ordering many items online, extending prices to include delivery).
…The Stratford Chiropractic & Wellness Centre, Apple Auto Glass, Holloway Automotive Supply, Pro-North Auto, Accountable Automotive, In Her Manor, Leslie Motors, Agribuff, Woodfield Canada, Bill Damen, Victoria Mungall, Lindsay Pickering, The Olbach Family, The Lauzon Family, The Cubberley and Oud Families, Totally Spoke’d, and quite honestly, anyone who showed interest, bought or stored our possessions, celebrated, high-fived, encouraged, and loved us through it all. We wouldn’t be here without all of you.
Where possible, we chose to support local businesses in our home town of Stratford, ON.
A special thank-you goes out to the following people and businesses for all of their help, guidance, support, and friendship as we worked through the challenge of literally building the foundation of our lifestyle change:
Bickell’s Flooring, Ideal Supply, Campout RV, Hoffmeyer’s Mill, Guelph Solar, Cubberley Plumbing, Artefacts, Sam’s Home Hardware, Watson’s Bazaar, Fabricland, Revel Cafe, Damen Family Poultry, Fastenal, The Re-store, Stratford Family Health Team, Halibut Woodworking, Hunter Steel…
The Almighty Budget
Gently used 2016 Ford Transit 250 (6000Km) Vehicle Budget: $28,000 Actual Cost: $38,544.30
Build Budget: $12,000 Actual Cost: $24,658.45
Not including accessories and equipment bought specifically for life in and around the van. Good thing we sold our house… yikes… Guys, if there are two big things we have learned in all of this: You will spend twice your budget and thrice the time.
Why did we go so far over budget?
Comfort - There was no plan B here. We sold the house. We didn’t want to get out to the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland & Labrador only to smell to high heavens, have everything brake, feel miserable and unrested, and run out of food and water. We wanted to stay clean, warm, safe, dry, healthy, fed, and extra comfy. No expense spared - within reason. Also worth noting: we bought most of our building materials locally and paid a lot of duty and shipping on what we didn’t.
The funds were there - Of course, we wanted to save as much as possible for the day when we inevitably decide to settle down (or a miracle happens and Ryan says yes to buying a boat). We saved where we could, limited the purchase of ‘what if’ items, bought quality parts, and invested in a vehicle that we felt would hold its value (for the most part) and help us out in the re-sale department - should we ever let her go. Honestly, it would be very hard to give up our rig. It’s seriously awesome.
Here is where the money went:
(yes, we saved every little receipt)
Electrical - all electrical parts, appliances, solar equipment, and lighting materials… $5,769.40
Building Materials - all hardware, wood materials, tools, sliders, fluids, sealants, adhesives… $4,766.68
Insulation - batt insulation, Reflectix, tuck tape, silver tape, and rigid foam… $810.33
Propane System - tank, copper pipe, connections, manifold, adaptors, regulator… $442.78
Water System - fresh water tank, tubing, connections, sink, tap, intake, drain, catchment… $928.09
Finishing - tin tile, decorative pieces, vinyl flooring, door pulls, upholstery, hooks, rugs… $1007.95
Other - mattress, Hypervent underlay, fire extinguisher, fire and gas alarms… $1013.53
Wedgewood 3-Burner Cooktop $276.88
Propex HS2000 Heater (imported) $1,059.98
MaxxFan & Install $486.82
Norcold 2.7 cf 2-Way Fridge $1,594.37
Eccotemp L5 Portable Shower $202.27
Berkey Water Filter System $488.87
Tires - 5 x Michelin LTX All Terrain m/s $1,360.00
Roof Rack - Ranger Rack System from Woodfield Canada $466.33
Window - CR Lawrence T-Vent Sliding Door Window - installed $935.06
Swivel Seat - Swivels R Us Passenger Seat Adaptor $629.17
Bought During Travel
Tire Chains (Konig) 378.60
Insulated Window Covers (Strawfoot) 1,395.40
Weather Tech Mats (Cap-It) 199.35
New Propane Regulator (Bluenose RV) 45.70
Accessories (not included in total)
optional and entirely personal non-build items such as: dishes, backpacks,
clothing, storage baskets, bug screen, vacuum, Maxtraxx, tire repair kit, etc…
What Would You Do Differently?
We, like anyone doing this for the first time, bought things we didn’t need, broke things we couldn’t replace, lost things we said we wouldn’t and have discussed how we would do it better next time. Would there be a next time? Time will tell. Did we do a good job? YES. Did we need 100% of what we bought? No.
As a rule, start simple and add when necessary. It’s good to be prepared, but remain practical about how you will use your new abode. If you spend too much on your rig, you might find yourself afraid to take it to the places you dreamed of taking it. If you spend too little, you may find yourself without water, power, and fuel. It’s a balancing act and you will find out your needs vs. your wants and what-ifs quickly once you’ve spent some time actually living on the road. Be prepared, but don’t go crazy with options. Invest in a good base, don’t cut a thousand holes in it, insulate like your life depends on it, and go for quality on the essentials.
Have a burning question? Connect with us in the contact section.