A Minivan Camper Conversion – our Dodge Grand Caravan Conversion

Converting a minivan into a camper is one of the best decisions we’ve made during our time on Working Holiday visas in Canada! We travelled and lived in it for over 3 months and explored places we never would have reached with public transport. Even better, we sold it for way more than we bought it for! Check out our Dodge Grand Caravan camper conversion, including the total cost, and get ideas for your very own minivan camper conversion!

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Our Dodge Grand Caravan Camper Conversion
Our Dodge Grand Caravan camper conversion – you can’t really tell from the outside though, right?

Before you buy a van to start your minivan camper conversion

There are some things you need to figure out before you start your minivan camper conversion, especially if you’re converting a normal passenger van to a campervan. There are the obvious things, such as making sure you buy a reliable vehicle, of course, but you also need to decide what you’re going to do with the interior. If you want to completely convert your car into a camper, you need to figure out if you want to get rid of the seats in the back. If they’re foldable, you might be able to store them in the van. Since this minivan is a Dodge Grand Caravan, 2004, it doesn’t have foldable seats. So, our choice was pretty simple – we took the seats out.

A minivan camper conversion
We started our minivan camper conversion by removing all the seats and seat belts in the back of the van.

The guide to our Dodge Grand Caravan camper conversion

We loved working on our minivan conversion! We really had a lot of fun and it became our little project. In total, it took us about 2-3 weeks working around 4-5 hours on it per day.

We started planning and sketching until we had a pretty clear picture of how we wanted it to look like. The most important thing for us was comfortability and functionality – it had to be planned smartly. We wanted a kitchen, living room, bedroom and plenty of storage room, all together in a pretty small place. Was it doable? Yes.

To be able to do this, we knew we needed a foldable bed. But first, we decided to start from the bottom – the floor.

Installing a floor in your minivan camper conversion

Installing a floor in a minivan isn’t hard and doesn’t have to be expensive at all! We decided to go with a laminate floor and really liked the way it turned out. It’s also really easy to clean!

Floor in your camper
For being the first time doing a minivan camper conversion, and generally laying a floor in a car, we think the result was pretty good!

How to make a bed frame for your van

We found this to be the perfect minivan bed frame – it was stable, gave us plenty of storage room and didn’t weigh too much. With 6 legs, all attached to the floor, the construction wouldn’t move when we were driving. We didn’t attach it to the laminate floor only, but to the “real” floor in the car as well. To be able to do that, we used angle brackets and special screws for metal.

Under the bed, we wanted to have storage boxes – we made sure they would fit by making the legs a bit taller than the boxes we wanted.

A minivan camper conversion
This is the bed frame. On top of it, we put a piece of plywood and then the mattress.

For the bottom that we put the mattress on, we used plywood. Since we wanted to make a foldable bed, we split the plywood into 3 pieces and put them together using hinges. There had to be some space between the pieces of plywood so it could fold, so we made each piece just under 60 centimetres – but the total length with the hinges was 180 centimetres, the length we wanted for our bed.

We also made one hole at each side in the back of the second piece of plywood, right in front of the hinges, and put a rope through it underneath the plywood. By pulling both sides of the rope, the second piece of plywood would rise and we could easily turn the bed into a couch within seconds.

Our Dodge Grand Caravan Camper Conversion
The piece of plywood is split into three. They’re put together with hinges, which allows the bed to fold into a couch.

Adjoining with the bed frame, we also built some shelves where we could store our things, mainly to make use of the extra space at the sides.

How to build shelves in your van

The shelves are connected with the bed frame. We simply put them together with screws and glue.

Our Dodge Grand Caravan Camper Conversion
To get even more storage room, we built some shelves next to the bed. In this photo, you can also see the rope that we used to easily turn the bed into a couch.

Make a foldable bed for you camper

Next, we started with the bed. We already knew the mattress had to be 180 centimetres long, just as the length of the plywood. If you want to make the bed foldable, you should look at buying a tri-folding mattress or be ready to cut a normal mattress into three pieces. We went with this tri-folding memory foam mattress.

Cutting the mattress
We measured the mattress and cut off a bit to make sure it would fit.

The point with the foldable bed was that we wanted to be able to convert it into a couch when we weren’t sleeping. To do that, we had to push the bed backward, with help from the ropes I mentioned above. It’s automatically locked in this position, but we also made a “stop” (see photo below) so it would stay in place when we had the bed folded down and was driving around.

Foldable bed in camper
Here is the result of the foldable bed. You can use it as a couch or a bed and it’s super easy to change between the two different set-ups.

A simple way of building a table

No couch without a table! We thought about this one for a long time, since we couldn’t decide how to make this table. In the end, we decided to just let it hang down from the coat hooks in the ceiling. It was very stable for just “hanging by a thread” and we usually had breakfast at the table when it was raining outside.

A minivan camper conversion
We loved having breakfast here while watching a movie on a rainy day!

What you need for a perfect minivan kitchen

We couldn’t imagine living in this van not being able to cook our own food, so we decided to build a kitchen.

Kitchen in campervan
This is the kitchen!

It consisted of a small cabinet where we could store some food and water, a sink, a tap with running water(!) and a gas stove. We bought a gas stove from amazon (although we had one with 15000 BTU, which I can’t find on amazon at the moment). For safety, we made sure we only used the stove outside on our adjoining foldable table.

The tap is an electric one, that you can charge in the car by USB while driving. We bought one as good as identical to this electric tap. We barely had to charge it though, the battery was great!

Cooking outside was so much more comfortable with a table like this!

How to make an outside table

We’re really happy we decided to build this table. It’s very easy to make, we just connected it with two folding shelf brackets that we put on the kitchen construction. When you don’t need the table, it basically doesn’t take up any space at all since you just fold it down!

Foldable table for campervan
This is the other side of the kitchen cabinet. When the table isn’t used, it serves as a wall for the cabinet.

Buy a cooler for your van

We had this electric cooler which worked great and kept things cold even at night when we couldn’t run it. It was on while we drove the car and would work for approximately 2 more hours after that. We had to be careful and make sure the car battery wouldn’t die – that happened once, and we learned very quickly from it! Luckily, we had a portable jump starter that solved our problem within minutes.

A tip – if you plan on buying an electric cooler for your campervan conversion, remember to check that the power outlets are working before buying your car!

Cooler in campervan
The cooler fits perfectly between the front seats. We wanted to make use of all space, so this was a perfect find.

Sew curtains for your van

Of course, you’ll want some privacy! The curtains you see in the van are attachable with velcro. We could take them off while driving and put them on when we went to bed.

Other helpful gadgets for you camper

We’re really glad we decided to buy this car power inverter. Thanks to this smart gadget, we could charge our computer and phones while driving!

Total cost for our Dodge Grand Caravan Camper Conversion

The cost for our minivan camper conversion ended up being around 1000 CAD. That includes everything from building material to knives and forks. We bought most of our material at Rona and Home Hardware, which were the only stores accessible where we did our minivan camper conversion, and most of the other things at different dollar stores.

The car itself cost us 3000 CAD, so the total cost excluding insurance landed on 4000 CAD.

We put in a lot of time converting the van to a camper and we also fixed some smaller things on the car such as the radio and the AC. When we had to leave Canada, we ended up selling it for 5000 CAD. That’s probably equal to the amount we’ve put in!



How was it, living in a minivan?

Most of the time, it was amazing! Sleeping in a minivan turned out to be way more comfortable than I thought. We really wanted to make our minivan camper as spacious and functional as possible and we added simple touches that made van life so much easier!

One of those touches was buying a power converter – it allowed us to charge our computer while driving, which made it possible for us to have movie nights (or movie days…) when it was raining.

I hope you’ve found some ideas for your own minivan camper conversion and are excited about turning your car into a camper!

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This Post Has 57 Comments

  1. Pauline

    This is so cool! I would love to do this one day, especially in Canada! Super detailed and helpful post.

    1. Amanda

      Thank you so much Pauline, you should definitely try it out, it was such a fun project!

      1. Lawrence Butler

        Hello, Amanda,
        My name is Lawrence, and I have been considering a similar project with my minivan, a 2001 Mercury Villager. My compliments on your job, it looks very comfortable. Do you have any further photographs, perhaps more detailed for the bed/couch setup? I have already removed the seats from my van and used a sleeping pad on the floor; something like your setup would be very useful. Any additional information/details would be appreciated as well.
        My regards,
        Lawrence

  2. Nicola Lavin

    I’ve loved seeing the step by step transformation. I will enjoy following your travels in your little van xxx

    1. Amanda

      Oh thank you so much Nicola!

      1. lostwithjen

        Ahh this is so cool! I’ve really been thinking about doing this whenever I move back to the states. I’ve already been searching for a van to buy! I’ll definitely be saving this post for when I do 😉 thanks for sharing!

        1. Amanda

          Oh I’m jealous, that sounds wonderful – you’ll have such an amazing time! Thank you, I’m glad you liked it!

  3. Emma

    This is the most amazing thing ever. I wanted a camper van for so long but never dreamed of making one. You really thought of everything!

    1. Amanda

      Thank you so much Emma! We spent quite some time thinking about what we really wanted to have in our van, and then even more time figuring out how we’d make that happen! Such a fun project. It was really hard selling it, haha!

  4. travelingness

    What a great idea and I’m very impressed with the outcome! Looks functional and cozy, great job! 😁

    1. Amanda

      Oh, thank you so much! Yeah, I think we really managed to fit everything we needed in it so that was great, and it wasn’t too expensive converting it either!

  5. Wow! Totally impressed! My hubby and I lived on the road for 18 months BUT is was in a big RV, I salute you living in something this size, but I know it can be done! Have great road adventures!

    1. Amanda

      Oh thank you so much Andi! Yes, we lived in it for about 3 months which worked well, but I imagine you might want something bigger for a longer trip. Thank you!

  6. Andrea Peacock

    Oh my gosh I never would have guessed this would be possible in a normal van like this! You guys did an incredible job. I’m sure you’re going to have so many fun adventures!

    1. Amanda

      No I didn’t know that either haha, but yes, it worked out rather well! Thank you so much!

  7. zrznaceste

    You created such a cozy place, I love your tutorial, seems so usefull for people who would want to start to do this as well

    1. Amanda

      Oh thank you so much! It was a great home for some months!

  8. Ann

    This is so cool!
    You guys must have the best of imaginations 😀

    1. Amanda

      Thank you so much Ann! It was a lot of fun but it tooks us a while to figure it all out haha!

  9. m3gzm

    Wow this is absolutely incredible!! Makes me want to convert my parents old minivan!

    1. Amanda

      Ohhh you should do it! It’s such a fun project!

  10. Travelling Angel

    Interesting. It’s amazing that you can convert the minivan by yourself. It wouldn’t be easy! So, great job!!

    1. Amanda

      Thank you! It was actually easier than we thought, we’ve never done anything like this before!

  11. Rhonda Albom

    This conversion looks very well thought out. Touring New Zealand in a camper van is very common so I think this conversion would be applicable to similar vans here.

    1. Amanda

      It was a really fun project! Yes, I’ve heard that as well. We’re actually going to New Zealand next year so we might consider doing a conversion there as well!

  12. Snazzytrips

    Very impressive. You really thought of everything and planned it out really well. The bed is so practical being a couch as well. I love the little kitchen too.

    1. Amanda

      Thank you, so glad you like it! It was a fun little project!

  13. I want to do this so badly!! I’m SO impressed with how you put everything together and for such little money, too! This is exactly what I want to do (rather than buying an expensive van, a car is so much more affordable). I wouldn’t even know where to start with the “plumbing” though!

    1. Amanda

      Oh thank you so much, I’m so glad you like it! To be honest, we had NO previous experience, and we managed to do it – I’m 100% sure you could too!

  14. Lawrence Butler

    Hello, Amanda,
    My name is Lawrence, and I have been considering a similar project with my 2001 Mercury Villager. My compliments on your job, it looks very comfortable. Do you have any further photographs/details of the bed/couch setup? I have already removed the seats from my van and used a sleeping pad on the floor, something similar to your setup would be much nicer. Any additional information/details would be helpful as well. Again, my compliments.
    My regards,
    Lawrence

    1. Amanda

      Hi Lawrence, that sounds like a fun project! I’d love to tell you more about the couch/bed set-up, is there anything specific you’re wondering about? The easiest way is probably if you contact me on Instagram or Facebook, http://www.instagram.com/mybackpackerlifeblog or http://www.facebook.com/mybackpackerlifeblog – I think I might have more photos, which I in that case can send to you on Instagram/Facebook. Feel free to send me your questions there (or here if you don’t have Instagram/Facebook) and I’ll be more than happy to try and answer them! 🙂

      Kind Regards,
      Amanda

      1. Lawrence Butler

        Hello, Amanda,
        Thank you for your kind response. I don’t use Facebook or any of those social media sites, so hopefully this format will suffice. I have been looking at your photos more closely and have actually answered some of my questions for myself. I am guessing that the shorter section of the mattress (you mentioned cutting it) is toward the front of the van thus becoming the seat of the couch. It’s still not clear to me how you locked the middle section in the raised position, if there is a stop there,then it’s not obvious in the one view that shows that area. If you have any photos that show the view from the rear with the couch in position, then that might be helpful. I am thinking that your van may have been a bit longer than the one that I have, but I think that a similar setup would work. If you have additional photos that show the section in front of the couch from either side, then that would be nice as well. I realize that I may be asking for a lot, and absolutely understand if it is too much. Regardless, I do appreciate your consideration and am very glad to have found your posting.
        My regards,
        Lawrence

        1. Amanda

          Hi again Lawrence,

          Yes, of course, this works just as well! I’m glad to hear you’ve found some of the answers already, you’re absolutely correct about the mattress. We thought about adding a stop to lock the couch in its position, but we found out that it wasn’t necessary – in the right angle, the two pieces support themselves. I sort of think of it as building a house of cards, if you find the right angle, the two cards can rely on each other without falling down. I hope that makes sense but let me know if you need any more answers or tips! Unfortunately, I don’t think I have more photos of that area. However, if I find some, I’ll let you know!

          Good luck with your project!

          Kind Regards,
          Amanda

        2. Vicky

          Wow wow wow that looks incredible! This would be the dream to be able to do this!

          1. Amanda

            Thank you Vicky, it was a fun project!

      2. Lawrence Butler

        Hello again, Amanda,
        Once more, thank you for your reply. There is another thing that I intended to ask, and that is about access. What was your main access route to the back of the van? I was also wondering where you would be positioned when raising the back of the couch; could you do that alone or did you have a person on each side outside of the van?
        I realize that this exchange is not exactly the norm here for for this forum, and I do appreciate your patience and consideration in responding. After this I will leave you to your ventures with my compliments again for the job that you did with your van and my bidding of “Fair Passage” for your future adventures.
        My regards,
        Lawrence

        1. Amanda

          Hi again Lawrence,

          Don’t worry about it at all, I love helping out and sharing my ideas! We mainly entered the van through the right passenger door and we barely had to access the back since we only used that space for storage. If we needed something from there, we either put the bed into “couch mode” so we were able to reach our storage boxes, or simply just stepped out of the car to open the trunk.

          To raise the back of the couch, we had ropes through holes on each side of the plywood. By pulling them, the plywood would easily rise. We did this from inside the van, in front of the bed, and it can be done by just one person. I hope this makes sense, but please let me know if you have any more questions.

          Kind Regards,
          Amanda

  15. Ashley

    This is an awesome idea! I love it, you did a great job.

  16. Jackie S.

    A few years ago my husband I were thinking about doing this. We didn’t get a chance to renovate a camper van as we moved to Vietnam instead. However, this is still on the back of our minds when we return to the U.S. It’s helpful to see your process and how you converted the van.

    1. Amanda

      Oh wow, Vietnam must be an incredible experience though! But yes, I can highly recommend trying this out when you return to the US, it’s such a cool way to explore the country!

    1. Amanda

      Aww, thank you so much!! I’m glad you like it!

  17. alexbooze

    This is SO cool! My mom is retired and my dad probably will soon. They have an older minivan that they are trying to decide what to do with since they haven’t had payments on it for awhile I will let them know about this!

    1. Amanda

      I’m glad you like it!! Oh they should totoally convert it to a camper, it’s such a fun project. Wish them luck!

  18. Gary Grossett

    Iam at floor and walls and this time rebuilding a DodgedRam Camper 1985 RoadTrex. I finished gutting it to see the condition of the floors and walls and to my suprise it is like it just left the factory floor.Iam going to insalate the floors and walls as that is the only place that it does not have any insalation.Its just such a beautifull Van.So come summer it will be ready and iam leaving Ontario and moving out to someplace in BC or the Yukon.Its so much fun rebuilding this its not funny. Do it !!!!!!! Gary Room for one !!!!

    1. Amanda

      Sounds like an amazing project, best of luck!!

  19. Sarah Arnstein

    Okay I’m obsessed with this! I watch a lot of “van life” videos on YouTube, but those are all Sprinter vans. You guys made such great and creative use of small spaces!

    1. Amanda

      Thank you so much Sarah, it was a really fun project!

  20. Traveling in campers is not that common in Europe as it is in America, I’ve never actually heard about anyone doing it here. That’s why I had no idea you can fit so much in basically a car! Do you need some kind of licence to make this transformation?

    1. Amanda

      I agree, it’s not as common in Europe! I’m from Sweden and I don’t know anyone who does this back home. No, you don’t need any license, you can just take the seats out and start building!

  21. Cass

    This is awesome! Obsessed with seeing these sorta projects – can’t drive & travel solo right now but maybe an adventure for later so thank you for the inspo.

    1. Amanda

      Thanks, I’m glad you like it – I hope you get to try it out one day, it was such a fun adventure!

  22. roshni

    love the hanging desk, such a cool idea!

    1. Amanda

      Thank you so much, it was a fun project!

  23. Lyne

    That’s such a cool concept! I would to do this myself one day. Thanks for sharing

    1. Amanda

      Thanks Lyne, hope you get to try it out one day, it was a really fun project!

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