Ultimate Guide To Camper Conversions

Added: 08 August 2018

Camper conversions are a fantastic solution for anyone that is considering trying their hand at van life but would prefer to have their own bespoke vehicle instead of a store-bought one. They can be tailored to even the smallest of budgets and suited to individual needs. Although there are plenty of options when it comes to recreational vehicles, such as a standard VW campervan, van conversions are perfect for those that are too unconventional for a conventional camper.

Planning and budgeting for campervan conversions

Planning and Budgeting for Campervan Conversions

You wouldn’t want to get halfway through your conversion only to realise that you’ve missed out a vital step or run out of funds to complete it. That’s why, the first step of converting a van into a camper is one of the most important – planning and budgeting.

Before making a start on the build, or paying a professional team to do so, you need to consider a variety of factors: the cost of buying the van, the necessary installations, the length of time needed to complete the build and the legalities of van conversions – all of which should be included in your plan.

If you do decide to take your van to a professional van conversion company, your requirements and budget should be outlined during your initial consultation. Its important that you build the van around your requirements and needs.

So, first things first, how much does a campervan conversion really cost?

How much does a campervan conversion cost?

One of the many benefits of converting a van into a campervan is that you can build a van to your requirement and also keep control of your budget. This differs to buying a new campervan where, in most cases, you ether need to compromise on quality to stay within budget or you’re required to increase your budget to get what you want.

The cost of a van conversion is dependent on a numerous things – the main reason it can be easily tailored to your budget. For example, converting a larger van in to a camper will usually cost more than opting for a smaller van. The total cost is also determined by your chosen layout and materials: Choosing to have a high end van conversion with an elevating roof will be much dearer than having a partial conversion on a standard van.

We’ve done some research into the average cost of van conversions and showcased our findings in the table below!

Cost of buying a VW T5 and VWT6 van:

Type of Van Average Price - New (inc VAT) Average Price - Used (inc VAT)
Panel £24,877 £15,400
Kombi £27,649 £20,000
Shuttle £33,213 £19,298
Caravelle £43,155 £24,990

Cost of VWT5 and VWT6 van conversion:

Specified Job Cost (exc. VAT)
Baseline conversion (units, windows, electrics, gas, bed, swivel seats, roof) £15,500
Roof £4,700
Bed £2,300
Windows £600

Although there is an average baseline cost for any campervan conversion, the overall cost is ascertained by personal preferences and the complexity of the conversion. As shown above, a standard van conversion usually refers to units, windows, electrics, gas, beds, swivel seats and a roof. However, there is the option to add extras such as exterior fixtures.

The price of VW campervan conversions decreases if the van being converted already has windows installed, factory leisure battery or has been partially converted.

How long does it take to complete a campervan conversion?

If you’re planning on taking on the daring task of a DIY VW camper conversion, it’s likely that the entire process, including planning and budgeting, buying materials, adding the necessary installations and testing, will take several months to complete. However, if you instead decide to pay a team of professionals to convert your van, the process is much quicker and can be completed in as little as a month.

In most instances, when using a professional van conversion company, an initial consultation takes place in which you can discuss your requirements in a van. Most companies will want to find out more about your lifestyle and family dynamic so they can determine the best vehicle build for you.

Once the consultation is finished and a design and layout is decided on, you’ll then select the materials, colour scheme and units of your choice. The materials will then be ordered and the roof created in time for the vans arrival.

The total time to complete the build is usually around 4 weeks, although, this depends on the chosen specifications.

Finding a van for van conversions

Finding A Van

The first major step after planning and budgeting for a van conversion is finding and purchasing a van. Vehicle selection is the step that many people find overwhelming with the number of vans available to choose from, but choosing the right van is vital for full conversions.

Before purchasing a van, spend time carrying out some thorough research into vans that are within your price range and suited to your specific requirements. Doing this will give you an idea into the best van for the job.

What's the best van for campervan conversions?

Although there are thousands of vans available to choose from, such as Mercedes, Nissan, Citroen, Renault, and Vauxhall, some vans are more suited to van conversions than others. Personally, we believe that two of the best options on the market are the Volkswagen T5 and T6 Panel and Kombi vans. VW vans are not only a fantastic choice for a base van, they also provide enough room to create a stunning conversion and a beautiful living space.  

VW T5 and VWT6 Panel Van

VW Panel vans are a great option for van conversions as they provide plenty of space for the whole family. Volkswagen offer their Panel van with two different wheel bases and three roof sizes to choose from, all of which have common-rail direct injection diesel engines as standard. VW Panel vans have power outputs between 84ps and 204ps along with a 5/6 speed manual gearbox.

VW T5 and VWT6 Kombi Van

Similarly to the VW Panel van, the VW Kombi van is available with two different wheel bases and three separate roof heights. The Kombi van has a diesel engine as standard with power outputs from 84PS to 204PS as well as a 5/6 speed manual gearbox.

Best places to buy a van

There are numerous places you can visit to start the search for your perfect van, whether that be in store or online – it all depends on whether you’re looking for a brand new van or a pre-loved one.

- If you are having your van converted professionally your chosen converter should be able to help with the purchase of a van. They will also know all about the vans and be able to help you avoid any purchasing mistakes.

- Van dealerships usually offer both new and used vans and they can provide a guarantee and finance options. 

- Ebay Motors is also great for finding second hand vans online. Although most sellers will be happy for you to test drive the vehicle, try to avoid bidding on vans that you are unable to test drive. Otherwise, you could end up with a van that doesn’t work correctly.

- Autotrader Vans has brilliant search facilities that allow you to filter the vans listed based aspects like mileage and age. It then displays the vehicles that are in line with your search criteria. Currently, it’s the UK’s number one website to search for vans.

Once you’ve checked out some of the best van dealerships in your area and have done some research into the best van for your requirements, you should end up with a shortlist of vans you’d look to view and test drive.

Before purchase check list for camper conversion

Things to check before buying a van

Before you take the step of purchasing a van for your campervan conversion, it’s vital that you check the vehicle thoroughly. To help you out, we’ve put together a checklist. Although these checks might take some time to complete, they could potentially save you thousands in future repair costs.

MOT

The first thing to check is the duration of the current MOT. This will highlight when the vehicle last underwent an MOT and will make you aware of when it’s due for its next one.  Another benefit of checking the MOT is that it will show any advisory defects with the vehicle that may require attention in future. Bear in mind, however, that if the vehicle is brand new, it does not require an MOT for the first 3 years. If it is under 3 years old it will have remaining warranty on it so you buy with some added piece of mind.

Service History

Check the service and repair history of the van you are planning to purchase. This provides a good indication of any problems that may continually repeat themselves and prepares you for possible issues that may need fixing again.

Timing Belt

A timing belt is a rubber toothed belt that is part of an internal combustion engine. If the timing belt fails, this results in major engine failure and renders the van undriveable. Ensure that the timing belt and water pump has been replace at the correct intervals. 

Mono or Multi Rib V Belt

Everything from the power steering to the air conditioning stops working when the mono or multi rib V belt breaks. That’s why checking it is extremely important before purchasing a van.

Tyres

Check the tyres on the van for any general wear and tear or damage. Replacing a full set of tyres can be expensive so buying a van with tyres that are in good condition could save you a few hundred pounds.

Oil Leaks

Oil leaks are never a good thing so when checking over the van, make sure that there is no oil on the floor, in the engine bay or on the bottom of the engine. In most cases, oil leaks are easy to fix and relatively cheap, however, it’s better the purchase a van that requires as little repair work as possible.

Bodywork

Inspect the bodywork for any damage or rust. Dents and scratches could indicate that the vehicle was involved in a collision. In some cases, bodywork damage is superficial, although, it could mean that there are subsequent issues with the vehicle internally.

Windows

Check all the van windows and the windscreen for any chips and cracks. Windows become weaker when chipped or cracked and therefore will need replacing to prevent further damage being caused. Factory Kombi windows also have a tendency to leak so look for signs of water on the internal door cards.

Electrics

All electrics such as the headlights, horn, internal lights, wipers and windows should be in full working order.

Doors

The doors of the van should all open and close with ease and all of the locks should work correctly.

Underside

Finally, spend time checking the underside of the van and keep an eye out for any visible damage. This includes things such as leaks, rust, dents or loose parts.

Places for vehicle inspection

If you have a good understanding of what things to check for when buying a van, take some time carrying out the checks yourself - and remeber, the van you choose should be of a high quality. However, if you’d prefer to leave it to the professionals, you can always get a qualified mechanic to look over it. Doing this does incur a fee, although, it may set your mind at ease before you take the next step and purchase the van.

It’s also a good idea to use a website such as mycarcheck.com to run data checks before any money changes hands between yourself and the seller. Websites like mycarcheck.com can show whether a vehicle has been stolen and whether it has any outstanding finance.

Test driving a van

Why test driving the van is vital

After completing your research into the vans that are most suited to your needs and viewing and checking the vans on your list, you’ve most likely found one that’s ticking all the boxes so far. At this stage, it’s time to take the van for a spin, giving you the opportunity to observe it whilst in motion and test areas such as the engine and suspension.

Another reason for having a test drive is because it gives you the chance to experience driving the van you’ve chosen and see whether you find it comfortable and easy to drive.

Suspension

One of the first things to look out for when test driving the van is the suspension. The drive should be relatively smooth and the suspension should respond to any bumps or potholes in the road. Each time the van goes over a bump or pothole, the suspension springs absorb the jolts. Shock absorbers are also in place to counteract this motion and prevent a disproportionate bounce. When the suspension isn’t working correctly, the vehicle will bounce excessively when going over minor bumps.

Clutch and gears

When driving, you should find it easy to access all the gears without experiencing any crunching. Additionally, if the biting point of the clutch seems higher than usual, it could indicate that the clutch needs replacing. Modern vehicles are fitted with a device called a dual mass flywheel  which connects the clutch to the engine these can be expensive to replace, and when worn produce a juddering when accelerating under load i.e going up hill or when the engine is working hard. Its worth checking for this on road test.

Whilst on your test drive, makes sure you try out all the gears multiple times, including reverse, to check for any issues. Furthermore, be sure to listen out for any over-revving of the engine because this is a sign that the clutch is slipping and therefore needs replacing.

Engine

Before your test drive, check that the engine is completely cool – this will give you a better indication of how it performs after not being used for several hours. Whilst driving, make sure that the exhaust isn’t spitting out too much fuel or that it’s releasing a significant amount of smoke. Also, listen out for any unusual mechanical noises such as clanks or rattling.

Once you've finished your test drive, leave the engine running for a minimum of 5 minutes and then check the temperature of the engine. If the vehicle is overheating, it could be a sign that the engine isn’t working in the way it should.

Brakes and steering

The steering should be fully responsive and smooth when turning and being held steady. You can check this by turning the steering wheel to full lock both clockwise and anticlockwise. Pay attention to any noises, vibrations of stiffness that could highlight any problems with the steering mechanism.

Also check that the brakes are in full working order by stopping and starting the vehicle and carry out an emergency stop. Listen out for any load noises when the brake is pressed.

layouts for campervan conversions

Consider layouts for campervan conversions

If you’re struggling to decide on a layout for your conversion, plenty of inspiration can be found on Pinterest and Instagram. Having a look at other bespoke camper conversions should help you come up with ideas on how you’d like to lay yours out. It will also help you see the type of layout options available for vans of all shapes and sizes. The plus side to bespoke conversions is that you have bery few limitations regarding the layout of your campervan. 

Furthermore, professional van conversion companies can offer expert advice and guidance on different layouts that will make the most of the space available whilst meeting your needs.

What to consider when deciding on a layout

Deciding on a layout doesn’t just come down to budget and personal preference, it also depends on a variety of other factors such as the amount of storage space required and the number of people that will be travelling in it.

Space available

For starters, it’s important to think about the space your van of choice has to offer. If you have a large van that provides plenty of room, you will have more layout options. However, having a smaller van and therefore less space to work with will mean you’ll have to be creative with your layout. One way to do this would be having couches that fold down into a bed – a common characteristic of many campervans.

Number of people using the van

Another consideration is the number of travellers that will be using the van. For example, if you are a lone traveller or only travel with one other person, one double bed will provide plenty of room. On the other hand, if you are planning to travel with children or other adults, more than one bed will be required. Simply determine what your needs are and choose the layout that is going to utilise space.

Storage space

Storage space is something that any avid camper needs – especially when planning to be on the road for a long time. As with all other considerations, the amount of storage space you need is determined by the number of people the campervan is for. Cupboards, shelving and hidden compartments are all brilliant places to store any necessities and sentimental items.

Personal preferences

Finally, although the layout of your campervan conversion has to meet your needs and provide enough space for you and other travellers, one factor you need to think about is your own personal preference. You may have a specific style in mind or you might want to create a certain atmosphere within your camper – it’s completely up to you.

Campervan flooring options

Whilst looking for layout ideas, you may also have come across different flooring options that could be suitable for your conversion. Whether you’re planning on creating a rustic and cosy environment or whether you’re opting for the modern and luxurious feel, there are numerous flooring options to choose from.

When considering which flooring to opt for, it’s important to think about which type is going to be the most suited to your requirements. For example, if you plan on travelling with children or pets and spillages are likely, it might be best to choose hard flooring because it’s easier to clean. On the other hand, if you are a lone traveller or are travelling with other adults, carpet could be just what you need.

If you are allowing a professional van conversion company to convert your van and you are unable to decide on which flooring to choose, they should be able to offer suggestions on which one they think is the right choice for you.

Campervan wall and ceiling options

When it comes to the wall and ceiling options, in most cases, wood is the best choice because it provides stability and acts as a good base for paint and wallpaper. Some campers prefer to leave the wood exposed because of the rustic, homely feel it provides, whereas others choose to paint or wallpaper over it.

The materials you select for your walls and ceiling will not only depend on personal choice, but also your budget. The more expensive the materials are to buy, the more the van conversion will cost. It’s best to speak to the company converting the van to find out which wall and ceiling options are the most affordable.

health and safety for van conversions

Health and Safety

Adhering to health and safety regulations is vital when completing a van conversion to ensure that the vehicle is road legal. It’s also important to make sure that the individuals travelling in the van are safe – especially when it comes to gas and electric.

A variety of certifications and checks are needed before gas supplies and electrical items can be installed in a campervan and there are several regulations set out by the government and health and safety bodies that must be adhered to.

Gas safety in the UK

Due to the fact that gas is a fire hazard, precautions have to be taken to makes sure that canisters are installed correctly, in the safest way possible.

What gas is used in campervan conversions?

The most common type of gas in the UK is LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) which comes in two types: Propane and Butane.

Propane is lighter and much less dense than butane and still works in temperatures of -40 degrees. Furthermore, it is the best type of gas for campervans that will be running several appliances such as fridge freezers.

Butane is more efficient than propane which, in layman terms, means that it will take less time to heat a pan or boil a kettle. Along with being more efficient, butane is also denser than propane meaning a bottle of the same size holds more, however, it can only be used in temperatures above zero degrees because it freezes like liquid.

It is important to bear in mind that some appliances may require a specific type of gas, so be sure to check this before purchasing one type or the other.

Official gas safety body

The official gas safety body in the UK is the Gas Safe Register. The Gas Safe Register promotes safe practice, registers and tests all UK gas engineers and educates professionals and the public on gas safety. More information about the Gas Safe Register can be found on their official website.

Gas safety regulations

The standard that specifically applies to motorhomes and campervans in the UK is BS EN 1949:2001 + A1:2013. A full copy of this standard can be found online, however, here are some of the key points included:

- Gas cylinder compartments must be sealed from the inside of the living area within the vehicle and should be accessible from the outside.

- LPG cylinders have to be kept away from all heat sources to minimise the risk of possible explosions.

- Gas cylinder compartments must also be designed in a way that means cylinders can be kept securely in place to prevent them moving whilst the vehicle is in motion.

- Access to changeover valves, connections and pressure regulators must be unobstructed and therefore easy to reach.

- The replacement of gas cylinders must be possible without needing to disturb any installations.

- No appliances, components or fittings are allowed to be installed in the gas cylinder compartment.

- Any devices used to secure the gas cylinders in place must be able to be opened and closed without the use of tools.

Top tips for gas safety whilst on the road

Just to make sure that you’ll be as safe as possible during your travels, we’ve put together some top tips on gas safety that you can follow whilst on the road.

- Turn off all gas supplies before moving from one destination to another.

- Ensure you don’t carry more than two 10 litre gas canisters at a time unless your van conversion has a rotating rooftop device.

- Make sure you keep all flammable gas canisters upright at all times.

- Install a carbon monoxide alarm within your campervan to monitor carbon monoxide levels.

- When travelling in thick mud or snow, make sure that no vents are blocked.

- Avoid using an open flame as light when checking for any leaks.

- Make sure you have a fire alarm and several fire blankets and extinguishers on board your campervan that are within reach.

Electrical 12v & 240v Certification

In most motorhomes and van conversions, there are two electrical systems: 12v leisure battery and a 240v circuit.

The 12v battery system supplies power from an onboard leisure battery. This power is used to run the water pump, air conditioning system, 12v strip lights, a toilet pump, and the gas part of the water heater. On the other hand, the 240v mains electric system supplies power through 3 pin main sockets and only works when connected to a campsite. It powers items that use more electricity such as 240v lighting, storage heaters and smaller electrical items like hair dryers.

The main difference between 12v leisure batteries and 240v mains systems is that leisure batteries are used for low wattage items whereas, the mains system is used for larger and higher wattage appliances.

Campervan installations

Campervan Conversion Installations

One of the biggest parts of any campervan conversion is installing the necessities such as gas, electric, water, windows and a waste tank. Although you should be able to pick up spare parts for this step of the conversion from scrap yards, we would recommend buying new products for safety reasons.This is one of the most challenging and time consuming stages of a van conversion and requires a lot of patience.

Before getting started, make sure you research into the process of fitting and setting up all these components, and seek advice from electricians and plumbers if needed.

Electrics

Fitting electrics in a van conversion is a much simpler process than fitting electrics in a home, and therefore doesn’t require an electrician. However, there are still a number of things that need to be considered such as which cables should be used and why you need a fuse distribution unit.

Cables

Firstly, we’d recommend using flexible 3 core mains cables when installing campervan electrics. This differs from a household cable because it is made up of numerous strands of fine copper which offers more flexibility. In turn, this makes this type of cable safer and more suited to vehicles.

Mains unit

The mains unit should consist of a double pole switching residual current device, mains circuit breakers, and a test switch. To earth the mains unit, a green and yellow earth wire from the mains unit earth bar should be fitted to the chassis of the campervan.

Site polarity

Some campsites’ electrics use reverse polarity which means electricity enters via the neutral instead of the live wire. This can be extremely dangerous because it causes the socket to stay live when switched off.

Polarity tester plugs can be used to check whether a campsite uses reverse polarity. If this reading is positive, simply use a polarity reverser connection. This counteracts the reverse polarity.

Fuse distribution unit

Finally, a fuse distribution box is required to safely supply electricity to appliances with a fuse that will blow if the circuit becomes overloaded. Some fused distribution units can also contain switches that can be used to turn off the power supply to an appliance without having to remove a fuse.

Top tips for installing campervan electrics

When fitting electrics in your van conversion, you will need to cut a hole in the side of your campervan for the input socket. Sealant will be required to ensure it is watertight. It’s also a good idea to fix the cables throughout the van with regularly spaced clips whilst leaving space to easily access it in case fixes need to be made in future. 

Furthermore, another thing to consider is that the leisure battery will charge more efficiently the nearer it is to the alternator – something to bear in mind when deciding on the layout. Batteries can spark if they fail so we recommend enclosing the battery in a vented compartment with the fuse fitted outside of the compartment.

Water supply

There are a variety of water supply options for van conversions: the type you choose depends on factors such as the size of your campervan and the number of people travelling in it. All options are relatively cost effective too which means they can be suited to the smallest of budgets.

Campervan water storage

There are three main options for water supplies which are:

- External portable units

One of the most simplified systems that’s favoured by many motorhome and van conversion lovers is external portable units for both water and waste. Transportable containers are low cost and can hold enough water for general day-to-day use. The only downside to portable units is that they need to be stored inside the camper when the vehicle is in motion which can take up valuable storage space.

- Fixed internal tanks

Fixed internal tanks are another option instead of external portable units. Fixed tanks should be located somewhere that is easily accessible and can be filled up from an external point. It’s also important to consider the placement to ensure weight is distributed evenly across the campervan.

- Moveable internal storage

For smaller van conversions that only one or two people will be staying in, moveable internal storage is ideal because it provides enough water and is easy to store inside the van. Only two containers are required: one for use and the second is ready for filling.  

Supply pipes and fittings

In campervan conversions, the most common type of supply pipe is flexible hose due to its versatility and easiness to install. A drawback, however, is that the pipe can become kinked which reduces the water flow causing issues. That’s why many campers strengthen the hose by inserting plastic pipes.

Campervan water pumps and switches

There are a variety of components that need to be considered when it comes to choosing and installing water pumps and switches for a van conversion. With so many options available, the option you choose ultimately depends on your requirements.

Pump switching

In order to turn a pump on and off when necessary, a pump switch is required. The two most popular types of pump switch are a micro switch and a pressure sensitive pump switch.

A micro switch will be included in each tap within the water system. When the tap is used, the micro switch operates the water pump, therefore providing water.

Water in the water system is kept at a certain pressure between the pump and the tap. When the tap is turned on, pressure is reduced. This drop in pressure activates the pressure sensitive switch which causes the water to run.

Water pump options

There are two different types of water pump to choose from when doing a campervan conversion. These types are non priming (submersible), and self priming (diaphragm). Non priming means that water is required in order for the pump to work. Self priming, on the other hand, involves a diaphragm pump creating a vacuum that draws water through the water system.

Here’s a few other difference between non priming and self priming water pumps:

- Submersible pumps

Submersible pumps are usually used in smaller caravans and the pump is simply put into the portable water container. The advantages of this type of pump are that it’s durable, has a low noise level and is less expensive than a diaphragm pump. You may, however, require a water level indicator to monitor the amount of water in the system. This is because the pump needs to be submersed at all times.

- Diaphragm pumps

Diaphragm pumps are most commonly used in larger campervans and van conversions. Diaphragm pumps are much more powerful and have a better flow rate that submersible pumps. The downside to these pumps is they must be used alongside a filter to prevent it becoming blocked, and they can be initially expensive to purchase.

Campervan windows

Every van conversion needs windows to take it from a standard van to a full blown camper. That’s why the next step in your campervan conversion is choosing and installing windows. There several stages involved when it comes to campervan windows.

Planning the windows

Before getting started on the installation, you need to consider the placement of the windows as well as their size and style. Adding the windows makes the campervan feel brighter and more like a home whilst providing a view of outside. The style, placement, and size of the windows is totally your choice, however, if they are too small they won’t let in enough light.

The two main types of window used in campervan conversions are acrylic and bonded safety glass. Acrylic windows are available in a number of shapes and sizes and offer a different aesthetic. Bonded safety glass windows a more suited to individuals want to keep the external aesthetic of their campervan simple.  Each type offers different benefits:

- Bonded windows

Bonded windows are single glazed windows that are fitted directly into the hole cut for the window using a bonding agent. They can be extremely fiddly to install because if the placement of them isn’t perfect, the seal can leak. If you’re feeling unsure about fitting them yourself, we’d recommend seeking the help of a professional.

- Acrylic windows

Acrylic windows allow you to be more creative with the external aesthetic of your campervan. Some can be purchased with built in fly screens and blinds, as well as having an opening mechanism for ventilation. This type of window has an internal and external frame that grip together when installed. If a small amount of sealant is used and the window is fitted properly, acrylic windows are unlikely to leak.

Cutting and treating the holes for the windows

Before diving right in and cutting out sections for the windows in your van conversion, make sure you’ve measured the correct size hole and use a template ensure the hole is the right size for your chosen window type.

If opting for acrylic windows, the hole you cut will need to be larger than the glass to accommodate for the inner and outer frame. On the other hand, if you’ve chosen to go for bonded windows instead, the hole will be almost exactly the size of the glass.

When the holes have been cut, you need to treat the metal panel to prevent any rust occurring. Simply file down any sharp edges with a file and then use a brush to apply a rust agent to the cut edges of the metal.

Fitting the windows

Now you’ve cut the correct sized holes for your windows and treated the metal edges with a rust agent, it’s time to fit the windows. You may need the assistance of another person if you chose acrylic windows – one inside the camper and one outside of it.

It’s best to look online about how to fit the windows you have chosen because each type will need to be fitted in a different way.

Waste tank and waste pipe work

Any water used in your campervan for things like washing up and showering will need to be directed into a waste water tank that can later be disposed of. This is one of the simpler parts of a campervan conversion but it is important to be aware of what’s involved when setting up waste tanks and waste pipes.

Waste pipe work

The average waste pipe diameter in a small campervan ranges from 23mm to 28.5mm which is usually plenty big enough for small amounts of waste water. A convoluted pipe is the most common type of waste pipe used, although, due to its shape, it can become blocked easily if there is too much waste water. That’s one of the reasons that larger campervans and those carrying more passengers should opt for a larger diameter pipe.

Considerations for waste pipe work

Here are a few things you need to consider when installing waste pipe work in your van conversion:

- All waste water pipes should be fixed to a fall to enable all the waste water to drain away with ease.

- Each piece of the pipe work should be securely attached to the inside of your van to prevent it from rattling and coming loose.

- When installing waste pipe work, make sure your van is parked on a level surface and use spirit levels to check the falls are adequate.

Waste tank options

There are several choices of waste water tank available for use when converting your van. The type you choose depends on the amount of water you think you’re likely to use whilst staying in your camper. For larger campervans that will be transporting more than two passengers, we’d recommend sing a larger waste water tank. For only one or two passengers, a smaller waste water tank should suffice.

Portable, internal, and under floor tanks can all be utilised to store waste water – it’s down to which type best meets your requirements. If using portable tanks, be aware that you will need room to store them inside your campervan which could take up some valuable space.

Internal tanks tend to take up less space but must be fitted securely to the inside of the living area and should be easy enough to access. Remember that if using internal or portable waste water tanks, they need to be kept away from any electrics to avoid the possibility or electrical fires and electrocution.

As well as internal and portable tanks, under floor tanks are also available. Under floor tanks take up the least amount of storage space but can be fiddlier to access. They should be fitted away from the axles and moving parts as well as away from any heated components such as the exhaust system.

A drain tap is required to empty the drain tanks in a hygienic way. Some individuals also prefer to include a hose so that, when emptying the waste water tanks, the waste can be directed away from the vehicle and into a drain point.

Van conversion finishing touches

Finishing Touches for Campervan Conversions

A campervan conversion wouldn’t be complete with adding the finishing touches and truly making it feel like a home away from home. With hundreds of camping stores selling thousands of different products and camping accessories, you certainly won’t be spoiled for choice.

Campervan accessories

The accessories you choose for your van conversion will depend on your lifestyle and the type of camping trips you take. It’s worth spending some time shopping around online and in store at some of the options available. A few accessories we’d recommend are:

- Sun canopies

Sun canopies are a great way of ensuring you have access to shade at any time during your road trips and they create a space that’s perfect for deck chairs and a table. They are relatively simple to set up and store and can be purchased from almost any camping shop for a reasonable cost.

- Bike racks

If you’re planning on exploring the destinations you visit in a more intimate way than with just your vehicle, adding bike racks onto your van conversion means you can bring your bikes along on any road trip.

Personal touches

Adding personal touches to your van conversion is what makes your campervan unique to you. Whether it be adding in several family photographs and a few sentimental items, or painting some artwork on the outside of your van, adding personal touches allows you to get creative and really put your stamp on things.

Whether your van conversion will be used purely as a holiday vehicle, or whether you've made the lifestyle choice to switch to vanlife permanently, personal touches can really make a difference to how homely it feels. You can also add van accessories to personalise your camper even more, such as awnings or bike racks. 

Maybe try adding in some funky cushions and throws to introduce a few extra pops of colour. Just be aware, however, that any fixtures and fittings will need to be securely attached to the inside of the van to prevent them from coming loose whilst the vehicle is in motion.

Legalities for campervan conversion

Legalities of Campervan Conversions

Upon completion of your campervan conversion, there are several legalities that need to be sorted out before you can begin hitting the road. We’ve provided an overview of what you need to know and the process of re-registering your newly converted campervan.

DVLA classification change

It is a legal requirement for all UK vehicles to be classified correctly on the VSC log book. Campervans, motor caravans and motorhomes all come under the DVLA category of ‘Motor Caravan’; however, there is a variety of criteria that needs to be met in order for a vehicle to be classified as a motor caravan. You can find more information about these criteria on the DVLA website.

If a van has been converted into a motorhome, a VSC form must be completed and sent to the DVLA for a body amendment. It is important to note that the DVLA will only reclassify the van conversion as a motor caravan if the exterior aesthetically looks like one.  They may also request to see further evidence of the conversion such as a list of the changes made, photographs of the vehicle, and any receipts for materials.

Campervan insurance

Van conversion insurance is now widely offered amongst several insurance companies in the UK which is why the best option is to speak with your insurance provider. Some insurance companies will provide 90 days of 3rd party fire and theft insurance to cover your vehicle though the conversion process, but after the 90 days, you will need to amend your current policy or set up a new one.

In order to qualify for campervan conversion insurance, your van conversion must be complete and a revised VSC document from HMRC must be provided within 90 days of the policy being incepted. The VSC form must show the classification ‘Motor Caravan’.

Once all of this information has been submitted to your insurance company, you will be able to set up insurance for your campervan and get driving!

Why Choose Wessex

At Wessex all our conversions are carried out to the highest standards by qualified technicians in a secure fully insured unit. Electrical & gas work comes with safety certification.


Over the years we have listened to our customers needs and developed many of our conversions around their requests. We are passionate about making sure our customers leave us with the vehicle of their dreams rather than compromising as we appreciate how much of a commitment and lifestyle choice it is.

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