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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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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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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