Van Build Timeline - From Payment to Hitting the Road (How Long Does It Take?)

So, you've decided to complete your own van build. There are plenty of advantages to working on your own van conversion — you can save money, develop construction skills and customize every inch of your van to your liking. With these benefits, it's no surprise that so many people decide to turn vans into campers on their own.

All images sourced from Instagram and credit given below :



So, you've decided to complete your own van build. There are plenty of advantages to working on your own van conversion — you can save money, develop construction skills and customize every inch of your van to your liking. With these benefits, it's no surprise that so many people decide to turn vans into campers on their own.

If you're considering a van conversion, you might be wondering: how long will the project take? The van build timeline varies depending on the following factors:

Your skill level

How complex the van build out is

How much time you spend working

The simplest vans can be completed in just a few weeks, while more complex models may take months or even years to finish. In this step-by-step guide, we'll explain how to build your own camper van and how long you can expect each stage to take. The more knowledgeable you are, the faster you can complete the project.

Step 1: Shopping for and Buying Your Van (~1-3 months)



Before you can convert a van into a camper, you need to find a vehicle to work with. While you may be able to locate a van at a local automobile dealership, it's much more convenient to look online. This way, you can tailor your search to meet your precise preferences. There are two main types to choose from: pre-built and custom vans.

Pre-Built Vans

Pre-built vans are ready-made and can be quickly purchased and delivered. Since they're already constructed, you may have to compromise on a few elements (such as dimensions or the model).

Custom Vans

Custom vans are created specifically for your needs. You can customize every element, from the size and internal layout to the model and external appearance. If you're wondering how long custom vans take, there's no really no clear answer — it depends entirely on the seller. However, you can expect most custom vehicles to take over a month.

Which Van Should I Choose?

Before picking a van, consider the following factors:

Size: If you plan to live in the vehicle full-time, or if you're sharing it with other people, you'll need a medium or large van. Conversely, if you're living alone or using your van part-time, a small model should suit your needs.

Make and model: The make and model of your van will influence its appearance and functionality. If you're unsure what you're looking for, try researching popular brands and studying their features.

Budget: How much money can you spend on your van? Keep in mind that there will be other costs while you complete the conversion.

Van build timeline: Think about how much time you're willing to spend on this step. Can you wait for your ideal van to go on sale, or would you rather buy something quickly and get started immediately?

In general, pre-built vans arrive quicker and are less expensive than custom vans. However, a custom vehicle will be more geared towards your preferences. Depending on the type you choose (and how much research you do), this step can take anywhere from one to three months.

Step 2: Planning Your Van Build (~1-3 weeks)



Before you can convert a van into a camper, you need to plan out your van build. The more you strategize now, the easier it will be to complete the conversion. As you develop your camper van plans, consider the following:

Budgetary needs

Your desired layout

Amenities (heating, air conditioning, electrical system, plumbing)

Draw a diagram of your van, then plan out the desired layout. To do this, consider where every amenity is going to go. Where will you connect your power system? How will you spread the wiring throughout your van? Where can you put the water tanks? Then, when you're done, ask yourself: does this layout align with your budget?

While this step doesn't sound too complicated, it may take longer than you'd expect. Turning a van into a camper requires optimizing a small space; you may have to draw up multiple van layouts until you find one that works.

Step 3: Installing Your Van Fan and Heating (~1 week)



Now that you've got your vehicle and have established some plans, it's time to begin the conversion. The first step is installing your van's fan and heating system. While not every van owner needs heating and cooling, it's definitely helpful if you travel in different weather conditions. Let's take a closer look at both these systems.

Van Fan

A van fan will keep you cool during hot summer months. It's attached directly to your van roof and needs to be installed as easily as possible. Otherwise, you'll need to remove the ceiling to incorporate it. Thus, if you decide not to include a van fan, make sure you're 100% sure of your decision.


A heating system is essential if you're driving in cold weather. Unlike van fans, heating is not time-sensitive; you can install it now or wait until you've finished the floors and ceilings. While there are different heating options, the most common one is a diesel heater; it's affordable, efficient and easily accessible.

Step 4: Installing Your Van's Insulation, Flooring, and Ceiling (~1 week-1 month)



One of the most important steps of converting a van to a camper is installing the floor and ceiling. You'll want to start by insulating your van — this involves covering cracks to prevent hot or cold air from infiltrating your van (which helps control temperatures and reduce energy costs). Insulation should cover the following:

Van walls

Van flooring

Van Ceiling

Once your insulation is finished, you can conceal it with wooden planks, plywood or whatever materials you intend to use for the floors and ceilings. The most difficult step is installing the base floor — once this is done, the rest is relatively easy. Depending on your speed and expertise, this step can take anywhere from a week to over a month.

Step 5: Running Your Van's Plumbing and Electricity (~1 week-2 months)



Most vans turned into homes feature plumbing and electrical systems, which enable the owners to enjoy everything from functional toilets and showers to lighting and appliances. The strongest, highest-quality option is a 12v power inverter with an electric pump sink, full lighting system and outlets — however, this will also take the longest. If you want to accelerate your van build timeline, consider using the following amenities instead:

Solar generator

Strip lights or fairy lights

Manual pump sinks or gravity-powered sinks

Relying on solar energy, battery-powered appliances and manual-powered sinks will save you time and money. However, these devices are less convenient than a fully installed electrical system. If you plan to live in your van full-time (or if comfort is a major priority), spending the extra time and money on electrical systems may be worth it.

Step 6: Building and Installing Your Van's Furnishings (~1-4 months)



Once your HVAC systems, insulation and electricity are in place, you can move onto the last step of converting a van into a camper: installing the furniture. Here are a few things you'll want to include in your van:





Kitchen countertops

The length of time this takes depends on whether you're buying or building your furniture. If you buy furniture, you can probably find everything you need in as little as a month. However, if you'd rather custom-make furniture, it can take a while.

Whether you're constructing a bed or cabinetry, you should always start by making a frame. For example, if you're building your van kitchen, you should create frames for your cabinets and storage space. Then, after you've installed these frames, you can add in any other elements (such as countertops and backsplash). Making your own furniture will extend your van build timeline, but it can help save costs in the long-term.

How Long Does It Take to Convert a Van?

Completing your own van build is no easy project; however, the outcome is definitely worth it. If you dedicate time and effort to every step, you'll wind up with a high-quality, comfortable van that's customized to your needs.

(Not sure if you’re up to the task? Find a van builder)

While most van builds will take between three and 12 months, this is just an estimate; for some owners, it can take up to two or even three years. For instance, buying a pre-built van, using battery-powered appliances and purchasing furniture will be much faster than buying a custom van, installing an electrical system and building your own furnishings.

Whether it takes you a few months or a couple of years, the end result is always a well-stocked, cozy vehicle that you can call home. Once your van is complete, get behind the wheel, hit the open road and get ready for an adventure!