Building out a van for van life can be a significant part of the adventure, but what if you just want to hit the road without the building pains?
Van conversion companies offer a hassle-free, though pricey, way to get a custom van with all the features and fixings you could ask for without requiring any building knowledge or skills with a hammer.
Below we’ve put together a list of some of the best van conversion companies out there and included a general guide on the benefits vs costs of using a van converter.
1. Van Life Customs – Best Highly Customizable Van Conversion Company
Van Life Customs is one of the best custom van builders today. They lack the scale of some of the biggest van conversion companies but make up for it in attention to detail and willingness to work with you to make your vanlife dream a reality.
As their name suggests, they offer one of the most customizable build processes of any van converter. The process of building each Van Life Customs van starts by speaking to a conversion consultant who goes over every detail of your perfect van.
They charge a small fee for the in-depth consultation, currently $150, but if you decide to go ahead with the build, it’s deducted from the total cost. Given how incredibly specialized they are willing to go with the customization options we think it’s a good call on their part.
Ninety days before the build begins, you lock in your color, material, fixture, and other option choices, and they start placing orders. What makes them stand out is how totally customizable the process is. They have preferred suppliers and items they recommend, but they’re willing to work with you on just about any part of your build to create your perfect solution.
Working with Van Life Customs is the best of both worlds. You get the customization and personal touch of DIYing a van while also benefiting from the expertise and experience of a great builder.
One cool extra they offer is the ability for DIYers to schedule a customization session with one of their consultants. It allows you to get highly actionable feedback and advice for your van build that benefits from Van Life Customs’ years of experience.
Location: Arvada, Colorado
Pricing: Average $60k – $80k for full conversion (not including van)
Types of Vans Converted: Sprinter, Transit and Promaster
Average Turnaround: 8 – 12 weeks
Warranty: Three-year/36,000-mile warranty on craftsmanship and materials (fridge and other appliances subject to manufacturer-specific warranties)
2. TouRig – Best Rugged Adventure Rigs
TouRig specializes in building adventure rigs from several designs. Their basic van styles are Agent, Renegade, Trooper, and Commander, with some customization available for each.
TouRig doesn’t do nearly as much customization as our number one pick, but their vans are beautifully designed and seriously rugged, so we can give them a pass on that. They’ll work with you on things like fabric choice, basic styling, etc, but the bones of the van are pretty much set.
That’s not for everyone, but every TouRig van we’ve toured before has been beautifully done and highly functional. Their vans include everything needed to hit the road and explore just about anywhere under any conditions.
They’re designed by actual engineers and built by technicians and craftspeople with tons of experience.
Location: Golden, Co
Pricing: Starting at $175K (including van)
Types of Vans Converted: Sprinter
Average Turnaround: 6-12 weeks build process
Warranty: 3-year warranty on products and workmanship
3. Sportsmobile – Best RV-Style Van Conversion Company
Sportsmobile is by far the oldest and most successful van conversion company in the US. They’ve been around since 1961 and have converted tens of thousands of vans.
Their bread and butter was Econoline style passenger and cargo van conversions, particularly with 4WD, but they’ve since expanded into many more types of vans. You can now get partial or complete Sportsmobile conversion done on Sprinter, Transit, and Ford E-line vans at one of three locations across the southwest.
One thing to keep in mind with Sportsmobile is that they aren’t nearly as customizable as others. The quality of their work is excellent. They offer a vast range of trims, packages, and appliances, but in our experience, Sportsmobile conversions wind up looking more like an RV van than do vans from some of the other conversion companies on our list.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but something to know going into the process. One major benefit of this is that they have the facilities and know-how to offer many plumbing options, including fully plumbed indoor showers, that other van converters don’t want to mess with.
Some other benefits of Sportsmobile’s scale are the turnkey nature of the transaction. Sportsmobile can order the van direct from the manufacturer, complete the conversion in their facilities, and deliver it right to your doorstep without you ever having to leave your home.
Location: North Huntington, IN, Austin, TX, Phoenix, AZ
Pricing: Partial conversions start at $40k
Types of Vans Converted: Sprints, Transit, Promaster, E-Line
Average Turnaround: Build time averages 3 months, the total process usually takes around 8 months
Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles on materials and workmanship
4. Outside Van
Outside Van is another newer van conversion company specializing in ultimate customization and adventure-focused van life. Their vans offer attractive style options plus all the extras and addons you could want for gear, cooking needs, comfort, and anything else.
They offer two build options known as Peak and Fusion. Peak is the total customization option. It allows you to customize nearly every aspect of your build to get a perfectly personalized van for your needs.
If you’re looking for something a little less custom and a bit faster and more affordable, fusion might be the way to go. It has a seriously cool process that starts with a virtual configuration simulation that lets you get a basic idea of what your perfect van looks like based off their pre-configured designs.
In either case, you end up with a lovingly crafted and adventure-ready van.
What’s really cool about Outside Vans is how much they do in-house. Where many conversion companies are just installers, Outside Vans has carpenters, upholsterers, and all kinds of other specialized craftspeople on staff to turn your vision into a reality.
They’re certainly not cheap, but their work is top-notch and built to last a lifetime.
Location: Portland, Oregon
Pricing: Starts at around $90k
Types of Vans Converted: Sprinter
Average Turnaround: 3-5 months after order finalized
Warranty: 36-month / 36,000-mile limited warranty on the conversion, parts, and components.
There are some substantial benefits to using a van conversion company over DIYing. Below are the ones that stand out to us most.
No Problems or Hassles – Take it from someone who built out their own van, there are always unexpected problems, parts that don’t fit, or things that don’t work the way you thought they would during a DIY van build. Going with a professional conversion company takes all those headaches, surprises, and hassles out of the equation.
The problems you have to solve are reduced to payment, financing, and pickup. The van conversion company handles everything else.
Uniform Style – Many DIY vans you see out on the road are absolutely charming. By that, we mean that they’re a total hodge-podge of styles, ideas, and parts thrown together however their builder could fit them in.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not what everyone’s looking for in a van dwelling. A professional conversion company will make sure everything fits into a unified style. The components, wiring, hatches, shelves, etc, will all go together as perfectly as possible.
Better Build Quality – Let’s face it unless you’re a carpenter or have similar construction experience building out your van will probably be the biggest project you’ve embarked on. It certainly was for me, and while I enjoyed it tremendously, certain areas of my van showed that I was learning as I built.
A professional van converter has the experience, know-how, and the proper tools to do the job right. Their techs and mechanics have extensive experience working with specific van types and the appliances, fixtures, furniture, and other items needed to convert them correctly.
Out of the hundreds of vans I’ve toured and generally checked out, it’s always obvious which ones were DIY and professionally converted.
Safety – While it isn’t often discussed in the van community, some DIY rigs I’ve seen had no business being on the road. If you’re going to drive a vehicle 70 mph down a highway, you should darn well know that everything in the back will stay put if something should happen instead of flying around.
A professionally converted van is built with a safety-focused mindset, and every cabinet, chair, seat, and component is designed and properly installed to be safe during any mishap or collision on the road.
Greater Resale Value – Brands carry weight, and they tell people specific things about what they’re getting. DIY vans are as individual as the people who built them, and the charm of that becomes a pretty noticeable downside when you’re trying to resell down the line.
With a DIY van, you have no idea how things were put together, what materials were used, or whether it will hold up for the long term. A professionally converted van from a well-known conversion company makes it more likely that your van will hold its value over time, making it easier to resell should you want to someday.
Where there are benefits, there are also downsides.
Cost – Paying to have your van converted is significantly more expensive than doing it yourself. How much more expensive depends on the specific converter, the level of trim package, and the cost of the van itself.
In our experience, you’re looking at a minimum of $40,000 for a full conversion from bare metal, with partial conversions costing a little less and premium conversions costing significantly more. That’s way more than the cost of a basic DIY.
In a lot of ways though, you get what you pay for. A high-dollar conversion will give you a high-quality van with all the fixings that does everything you want it to and will hold up well over the long term.
Finding a Company – All the companies on our list are long-established and have stellar reputations, but they might not be convenient or match your needs. Finding the right company is one of the biggest hurdles to using a van conversion company.
We recommend you check out several, physically visiting if possible, and ask plenty of questions about
Wait Time – Many van converters have a long pipeline of projects already booked and may take quite a while to complete yours. Unless you’re willing to pay a steep rush charge, you’re looking at months to over a year for a complete van conversion from an in-demand company.
The average wait time we saw while writing this article was about 3-5 months, with as long as 14 for some highly-in-demand companies doing top-quality work.
Less Customized – While van converters are always willing to work with you on the trim, styling, etc, that you’re looking for in your van, there are limits. A DIY van can have a scavenged seashell wall with shag carpeting, recovered murphy beds in the walls, and your grandma’s old kitchen table as a counter.
A professional van converter will have a list of standard options to choose from and offer some flexibility in special order items, but generally, one professionally converted van will look very similar to the next. That’s not always a bad thing, as the build quality from that kind of model shows through, but it’s definitely something to think of.
Less Knowledge of Your Van – One great thing about building your own van dwelling by hand is that you know it intimately. You screwed every screw, hammered every nail, and ran every wire and tube yourself. If something breaks or stops working you know just where to look to troubleshoot and have firsthand knowledge of what it’s supposed to look like and how to make repairs.
Professionally converted vans have fewer issues, but when even something tiny goes wrong you’re often stuck on a customer service line asking for help with troubleshooting.
Modifications Become More Complicated – Much like with troubleshooting, if you decide to change something about it after conversion, it becomes more complicated and potentially more expensive. A professionally converted van fits together like a glove, so changing one thing out can mess up other things or leave you with mismatched parts that don’t work well together.
You should always ask a few key questions when comparing different companies. Make sure to do your research before speaking to a representative too, as much of the information may be available online.
Many van conversion companies specialize in specific brands and models of vans. Two popular ones are the Mercedes Sprinter and Ford Transit, with most major companies working on those two.
Find out precisely what vans they work on, and what designs they offer for different configurations. The larger van converters usually have several set designs that they can customize to one degree or another, with many smaller companies offering more of a free-form approach.
Look for specific options available, including trip, materials, upgrades, etc, and if possible ask to see examples of their build. Most will have completed vans you can tour as long as you can easily get to their facility.
Find out what the build process entails. Some builders can provide the van, or at least source it for you, while others require you to bring your own van to their facility. See if they’ll let you tour their facility to check out the build process and if they’ll allow you to see the process of your own van’s conversion.
- A critical question to ask is their average and expected lead times. Depending on the builder you may be the 20th van in line for a process that takes several months at the best of times.
Get a firm completion date in writing as part of your contract and find out if they’ve been having any issues procuring parts or equipment. Another great question to ask is how many vans they’ve converted and what type they were.
- Someone who’s building out their 7th van has some idea what they’re doing, but someone building their 700th has a lot more experience.
Any reputable van converter will stand by its craftsmanship. Ask about guarantees on different elements of the build itself and definitely find out if they offer any kind of warranty.
Depending on the parts, appliances, and fixtures they used some manufacturers may offer their own warranties. Make sure to ask how those transfer and what kind of labor coverage they offer.
Another good question to ask is whether they have any testimonials from previous clients. It’s not the end all be all, but hearing what genuine customers thought about their work is a great way to learn more about the whole process.
Using a van conversion company can be pricey, but their work is top-notch. If you love the idea of van life but don’t want to DIY it a van conversion company is a great option to get just what you want in your van without the hassles and headaches that can come from building it yourself.