Vans & Van Life Thread

State of planning:
The base vehicle is an MAN TGE 180 (hp) 4x4, with super high roof (2800mm) and long chassis (6800mm). The passengers‘ area is separated from the loading area. The passengers‘ area has 5 seats, the two in the front row can turn around and there is a foldable table. I am still trying to figure out where the bed is exactly.

The loading area is where bikes are carried, I want to have a work bench, storage for tools, a cooler for drinks and food, a emergency (dry) toilette, a battery pack to power the appliances (2.6kWh) off-grid, and spare space for my turbo, so that I can train/ warm up in-side, if weather is bad. The loading area will have a roof AC for the hot days.

Base vehicle:

First sketches of loading area (things are a little simplified, but should give an idea, also the vehicles in the sketches is a lower roof version, the roof is a good 400mm taller than shown here)

Looking forward to your inputs.


Nice renders. Front wheel off gives you a lot more flexibility. Where is the coffee maker?


Any sleeping space?

Yes, i am currently fiddling around with a solution that drops down from the ceiling in the cabin.

Nice. Space for a kitchen also?

We’re building up a van with #1 priority being a family camper and #2 being a van for bikes.

Leads to a different layout that yours.

  • seating for 4
  • sleeping for 4
  • one bed in the back on an elevated platform above the “garage”
  • one bed in a pop top
  • bikes in the garage, and/or on a hitch depending on how much other stuff we are carrying in the garage
  • kitchen with dual burner, sink, fridge
  • outside shower; no built in toilet, but will have an emergency portable one
  • solar panels
  • AWD with a 2-3” lift

Base van: Ford Transit high roof. 310hp; 400 lb-ft torque


Yeah, standing room is key to enjoying the van!

1 Like

Here is my project. 1995 Horton Type 3 built on an E350 with a 7.3 Powerstroke.

Supposed to be a long term project. Slowly build out as I go, learning how I want things. Eventual goal is to potentially live in it (I currently live in a travel trailer with no running water or bathroom), but that may change if I buy a home in the near future. Covid, and my car being totaled a couple weeks ago, have kinda made things interesting for me.

Here is a photo of my GF cooking us breakfast in Arizona while we were busy being broken down.


Love this thread. Wanted a vw camper for about 20 years and never got round to one

Not a van, but an RV that is our home, office, and bike garage, full-time. Love the remote life. Never going back.


Wait what? :astonished:



The jeep is the toad. “Toad” in retired RV’er-speak = the vehicle you tow behind the big RV.
(I’m not retired. I work in the back of the rig and wife works too, up in the front)

2007 Newmar All Star 4153
1996 Jeep Cherokee

Hope that helps with any confusion!

what kind of budget do you need for something like this? Any prebuilt vans? Also RVs, I’d guess they are pretty expensive?

Can’t speak to all companies but Sportsmobile who built mine start around $80K and goes up. I heard about a $200K Sprinter build. Right now they’re hot and over-priced. I saw almost the exact build and year I have sell for $40K more than I paid in 2016. Could have been someone with too much money.

1 Like

The smaller builder market for class B vans is crazy hot right now. Lots of people on youtube who built one van and then got offers to build for individuals. even finding vans on the dealer lot is hard in some places. The cheapest commercial Class B would something like a Pleasure Way Portofino, around 80k. A 4x4 Winnebago Revel is now something like $180k. Smaller builders charge between $20k and $150k - plus the cost of the van.

A functional DIY can be under $4k, most are probably $5k-$10k and if you get very fancy in a DIY you might spend $25k (but that would be hard to do). But a DIY can take as much as 1000 hours, and you need some tools. The first van you build takes way longer then the second one.

1 Like

Someone I know personally, rebuild an old ambulance for that juicy Van Life. They toured through Scandinavia the second half of last year. No heating in the Van brrrr. They are now somewhere in the south of France in search for some sun.
Maybe not the best time for a tour of Europe, but they yolo it I guess :smiley:


The Winnebago Solis is one of the better priced new vans with sleeping for a family of four. $100-130k depending on the model.

The downsides of the Solis IMO are 1. Lack of interior storage space in the “garage” under the bed (I want to be able to fit bikes in there and 2. The Promaster chassis (FWD, low ground clearance, weaker engine). 3. Interior space taken up by shower and toilet.

But the above are personal preferences. I’m sure work well for some.

We’re getting a van built on a Transit chassis. The end cost will depend on how much we add to the custom build. Probably end up in the $60k range. Plus van for $60k.

1 Like

Don’t undersell the Promaster. The issues you cite would only apply to a tiny number of people who want to go really off road. FWD and plenty of ground clearance for most places one would take 8,000 lbs van. Not sure what you mean by weak engine. Plenty of torque for getting up to highway speeds. OTOH, I agree that most commercial RVs (even the Revel) don’t have enough garage space for bikes. They have “enough”, but not enough for us.

True. We live in Colorado though, and want to be able to use the van for dispersed camping. And the high mountains can get snow probably 9 or 10 months a year. So want the van to have decent ground clearance + AWD.

The promaster has 280hp and 260lb-ft. That’s not much more than our minivan (266 and 245). The Transit has 310hp and 400lb-ft. Better for Colorado mountains and a loaded van.

Plus, when spending a lot of $, worth spending a little more to get what you want - just like bikes!

The Promaster has great interior space. And it’s the most square of all the vans, so if I was doing a DIY build, the Promaster would probably be the easiest to work with.

Yep. The Winnebago Ekko is another nice van, but no garage space. The Revel is pretty nice - but can’t sleep 4 so is a dealbreaker for us.

1 Like

Our RV was $97k. After tax and remodel and battery and solar install, (and ~200 hrs of my own labor), it totaled closer to $135k. Jeep outfitting with 2 water tanks, bike rack, roof rack, hitch rack, tow-bar, and light kit for flat-towing was another $5k.

If anyone wants an amazing Class A toyhauler to do the same thing with, there is one on RVtrader right now that is a year newer than mine and $20k less than I paid for mine.

I would purchase it without even seeing it if I didn’t already own this rig.

1 Like

And here I was expecting a thread for the cheap and easy van life!