How to Convert a Step Van to a Motorhome

by Steve Wager

Converting a step van into a mobile home makes a fine alternative to purchasing a new or used RV. The sweat equity savings are yours to enjoy while exploring the open road. Conversions can vary from spartan to luxurious depending on budget and time available, but with your own conversion, you will have a one-of-a-kind custom perfect for you.

Convert your step van into a motorhome.

Find a van. Resources abound for finding the perfect step van for your project. Certainly, eBay.com and Craigslist.com are a good start. For best results, expand your geographic search and research prices on completed auctions. Also, be sure and look into your local government auctions for fleet vehicles as they will usually have strict maintenance schedules. The time you invest here will be well-rewarded with a fair price, low miles and top condition.

Now it's time to take a good long look at how you intend to use your motorhome. Make long lists on everything from driving distances to number of people you'd like to be able to entertain and berth. Think about heating and cooling, bathroom facilities, seating for passengers, lighting, cooking and food storage, ventilation, storage, as well as utilities like batteries, LP gas, and water and sewer tankage. If you want your conversion to be a perfect fit, do not skimp on the planning.

Your next step is to sketch your layout. Referencing manufacturer Web sites and eBay auctions will help, but you can also work outside the box. A surfer who plans to sleep on the beach with no need for indoor plumbing might enjoy an oversized bar for entertaining and little else. If you can't bear the thought of a public bathroom, set aside half of the vehicle for your own private spa. Be sure to think about weight limits for your vehicle, and keep the modifications within your skill set.

One of the best parts about building your own motorhome is that you can allocate some of the money your are saving to new tools. You're going to need everything from measuring tape and hand tools to power saws and a volt meter. If you are planning serious alterations to the vehicle, such as mounting tankage, you may even need to invest in welding equipment. If you are contemplating tools you will only need once, consider renting equipment or farming select jobs out to local tradesmen.

A professional fabrication shop might complete a conversion in a matter of weeks or months; a weekend warrior might take years to complete a complex conversion. It's easy enough to make plans and sketches, but you will need time and dedication to keep your conversion project from becoming a half-completed hulk in the driveway. Consider buying a used mobile home that you can start enjoying right away if you are not sure you have the means to complete the job. Even a fully finished RV will always have plenty of maintenance and customization projects to keep you busy for the long haul.

Tip

  • check Keep an eye out for deals on non-running RVs or old camping trailers; a VW Westfalia will have high-grade cabinets, seating surfaces and appliances perfect for your conversion.

Warning

  • close Always consult a professional whenever you are modifying a vehicle. Follow all manufacturers instructions when working with tools, and always wear eye and ear protection. Secure all additions to your vehicle carefully and thoroughly.

Items you will need

About the Author

Based in North Carolina, Steve Wager began writing in 1995 as a professional Internet consultant and copywriter. His work can be found online for the blogs The Greener Truth and Leisure Life Time. Wager brings life experience to his writing based on years of professional work with cars, arcade amusements, boating and more. He studied psychology at the University of Georgia.