DIY Van Build Vs. Buying Class B Camper Van Motorhome: Which Is Better?

Are you ready to become a van lifer? The first step is deciding what type of van you want. If you check YouTube, you may find countless DIY van build tours. Shop RVs, and you’ll find various class B camper van brands and floorplans. So which is better? 

We’ll help you navigate the pros and cons of both. We’ll discuss the difference between a DIY van build and a class B camper van. Also, we’ll cover what kind of budget you may need. 

Let’s get started!

What Is a DIY Van Build? 

A DIY (do it yourself) van build is when you purchase a van, gut it, and convert the inside to a tiny home. People typically buy large cargo vans, including Sprinters, Ford Transits, or the Dodge Ram Promaster. DIY builds have varying floor plans. Some include showers, desks, bunk beds, wood-burning stoves, and other unique features. There are many possibilities when building a van yourself, especially if you have the proper skillset or can hire professionals.

What Is a Class B Camper Van? 

Licensed manufacturers build class B camper vans. Brands like Winnebago, Thor, and Airstream manufacture and sell camper vans with various floorplans. Most floorplans include a wet bath, bed, kitchen, and a small seating area. They come in diesel and gas versions. They’re the same type of vans you would use for a DIY build. 

Is It Cheaper to Build or Buy a Camper Van? 

Class B camper vans can cost anywhere from $100k to over $200k. The MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail pricing) on the Winnebago Boldt is $238k. It sits on a Mercedes Sprinter van chassis with a diesel engine. It has a wet bath, two twin beds converted to couches, and a kitchenette. The captain’s chairs swivel for more seating. 

In comparison, you can build out a Mercedes Sprinter van for a fraction of the price. All the materials, including wiring, solar, plumbing, cabinetry, etc., could run from $15k to $30k, depending on the type of material. Buying a used van can cost between $15-30k, or you can get a new van for $30-60k. It is possible to build a van for a total of $30-90k, which is significantly cheaper than a new class B camper van.

Is a Class B RV Worth the Money? 

The benefits of a class B camper van include a ready-made RV and the warranties that come with it. When you purchase a class B RV, you eliminate the challenges of building out your tiny home on wheels. Instead, you can rely on the existing floorplan and systems. If something breaks, you can take the van back to the dealership if you have a warranty. A DIY van build may still have items under warranty, but portions of it may be your financial responsibility. If you’re not willing to take that risk, then a class B RV may be a better fit. 

Are class B RVs worth the money? It depends on what’s important to you. If a warranty is a deal-breaker for you, then a class B camper van is worth it. It can be a hassle-free option for someone who doesn’t have the skillset to fix things or the budget for regular maintenance.

Why Are Class B Vans So Expensive?

Class B vans are expensive due to the manufacturing process. Unlike other RVs, a camper van comes with the van shell already in place, and you need to build the interior around it. Manufacturers construct other RVs from the inside out. In other words, they create the wiring systems, plumbing, cabinetry, and other interior components first, and the walls and structure are built around it, making it a more seamless production process.

What’s the Best Van to Convert to a Camper? 

The Volkswagen Transporter and Ford Transit may be the best vans to convert. They are boxier than a Sprinter van. The box shape allows for straighter lines, so building custom cabinets, beds, and other features are less challenging. In addition, the engines in these vans are well-built and often run past 200k miles.

Are Conversion Vans Worth It? 

Conversion vans are worth it, in our opinion. They’re a minimalistic way to get on the road. They offer a lot of flexibility and are easy to drive, maneuver, and park nearly anywhere.

DIY Van Build Vs. Buying Class B Camper Van Motorhome: Which Is Better?

When comparing a DIY van build and a class B camper van from a budgetary standpoint, a DIY van is the better choice. You will get more customization for your money if you convert the van yourself. However, you may not have the technology and features included in a more costly class B RV.

As far as livability and comfort are concerned, we would also go with the DIY van build. You’re able to customize your floorplan, features, and amenities to fit your needs and travel style. When you purchase a class B RV from a manufacturer, you’re getting their layout. You’re likely not going to want to spend more money to change things to your preferences. 

What Type of Van Is Best for Van Life? 

Whichever type of van you choose, make sure it fits your needs. High-top, extended-length vans have the most room for more features. A regular Ford Transit can be an excellent, less expansive option, but you can still add amenities like a wet bath and kitchenette. 

Are you ready for van life? We would love to hear about your van life journey. Drop us a line and tell us about your DIY van build or class B camper van!

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