Converted high top vans make for some of the safest, most fun, and easiest-to-drive recreational vehicles on the market today. These smaller campers or motorhomes can be suitable for full-time RV-ers as well as avid road-trippers.
High top van conversions are, today, available straight “off the shelf” with amenities more luxurious than those found in some (stationary) homes. Many brave and adventurous souls also set out to do their own DIY high top van conversions, however, including those who have no previous experience.
Just how much would it cost to get your vanlife started? Let’s take a very close look at your options.
How Much Does a Sprinter Van Cost For a Camper Conversion?
When most people talk about a sprinter van, they’re referring to a specific series of commercial vans manufactured by Mercedez-Benz — and though the most popular Mercedez sprinter is a cargo van, sprinters also come as passenger and crew vans.
Dodge sprintersand Freightliner sprinters, the same design but made in the United States, are also on the market, often at significantly cheaper prices.
In the camping and RV world, a sprinter van is any class B motorhome made with a Mercedez-Benz chassis, however. These are compact RVs converted from cargo vans. Like larger RVs such as fifth wheels, they’re often equipped with all the essentials you’ll need for RV living — RV washer/dryer units, kitchenettes, and small fridges, for instance.
How much does a sprinter van cost, you wonder?
- Sprinter Cargo Van prices start at $33,790
- Sprinter Crew Van prices start at $41,290
- Sprinter Passenger Van prices start at $42,990
The sky is the limit, and if you’re in the market for a new Mercedez sprinter, Dodge sprinter, or Freightliner sprinter, here are some examples of 2021 sprinter vans for sale today. All are ready to get you on the road in style with full amenities for part-time or full-time RV life:
- Sanctuary 19P sprinter van from Thor Industries, for $148,680.
- Winnebago 4×4 Revel sprinter van, starting at $193,272.
- Ultimate Toys Ultimate RV Mercedez sprinter, the most luxurious sprinter van on the market. This fully customizable sprinter van will set you back an unknown amount, depending on the features you opt for, but we can guarantee that it costs significantly more than the previous models.
Are those price ranges a little steep for you?
Fortunately, Mercedez sprinters, Dodge sprinters, and Freightliner sprinters can also be purchased on the second-hand market for much less.
On the lower end, you may find a second-hand sprinter van for as little as $49,000. It is certainly realistically possible to snag the Mercedez sprinter of your dreams for under $100,000, but even many used models are priced between $120,000 and $160,000.
A sprinter van conversion ranges anywhere from $10,000 to $100,00+.
What Is a High Top Conversion Van?
High top conversion vans are cargo vans — often sprinter vans — that were converted for RV living or other purposes, such as entertainment or as disability vans to transport wheelchair users more easily. The original roof of the cargo van is at least partially removed and upgraded with a fiberglass roof to offer increased height. High top conversion vans allow people to stand up inside and create more space to fit in the amenities you will need on the road.
It is important to note that not all high top conversion vans have a significantly higher roof than the cargo van’s original design, and the front and rear of the van typically retain their original roof to offer greater structural stability. People who are looking around for compact RVs or campervans should very much be aware that far from all high top vans were designed for recreational purposes. High top conversion vans designed for wheelchair users will lack all amenities, for instance.
Here are the main differences in the van roof heights between a standard and a high roof Mercedes-Benz sprinter:
- Standard roof sprinter: 96.3 or 102.8 inches
- High roof sprinter: 107.5 or 114.2 inches
Here are the interior dimensions for a Mercedez-Bens Sprinter Van:
- Min. – Max. standing height: 67.7 inches (standard) – 79.1 inches (high roof)
- Min. – Max. cargo bed length: 132.9 inches (standard) – 173.6 inches (extended wheelbase)
Are Van High Tops Good for a Camper Conversion?
Yes. High top vans are often converted to motorhomes or RVs. The higher roof of a high top sprinter van conversion makes it possible for RV-ers to stand up inside the van and to have sufficient storage space for life on the road.
Should you purchase a high top van with the intention of converting it into a motorhome, the cost of the conversion will depend on numerous factors. They include your budget and your DIY skills. With the right tools and technical know-how, you could certainly complete the conversion yourself and end up with a tremendous campervan!
Which Wheelbase is Best for a Conversion Van?
Sprinter cargo vans come in three different wheelbases:144″, 170″ or 170″ extended. Crew and passenger vans come in 144″ or 170″.
The extended wheelbase offers a generous addition of 15″ in length which makes the sprinter cargo vans the better choice for a conversion. The downside to having a longer van is its maneuverability and difficulty in parking in standard parking spaces.
Gas or Diesel Engines
If you’re after less maintenance and durability, consider a diesel engine for your Sprinter van. You can choose from:
- 4-cylinder diesel
- 6-cylinder diesel
- 6-cylinder diesel 4×4.
What Are the Best Vans for a DIY Camper Conversion?
The vans that you can stand up in are Sprinter Vans and Ford Transits. Mercedez sprinter vans, and specifically the cargo vans, are by far the most converted vans in the RV community.
In fact, it would not be amiss to describe Mercedez sprinter vans as the Ferraris of (DIY) camper conversions. Not only are these some of the safest vans you could possibly drive, sprinter vans are also equipped with many of the features that make conversion easier — like air conditioning, ABS, and large cabins.
Ford Transits are also popular but these cost between $20K-$40K second hand.
Brand new Mercedez sprinter vans are on the market starting from $36,355, whereas used models will set you back much less. Mercedez sprinter vans will cost you more in maintenance terms, as parts are fairly hard to come by, but because sprinter vans are so popular, they do have another marked advantage.
Most do-it-yourself campervan conversion kits — which make carrying out your own conversion much easier, but more expensive — are designed for these vans.
This essentially means that Mercedez-Benz sprinter vans, whether used or new, are the easiest vans to convert for vanlife if you have no previous experience with this adventure.
Mercedez sprinters aren’t, on the other hand, the only vans that make great candidates for a DIY camper conversion. Other options to consider include:
- The Ford Transit cargo van. One of the most budget-friendly vans on the market, the latest of these very reliable and safe models start at $35,270. Consider this van if you’re looking for height, rather than width, and an energy efficient vehicle is a top priority for you.
- The RAM ProMaster City cargo van, starting at $25,065, is a more basic option that does have the notable advantage that it is the widest van for sale today, making it possible to sleep more passengers. The fact that the RAM ProMaster doesn’t come with a lot of bells and whistles means you can convert it in exactly the way you want. It’s great if you want to buy a brand new van to convert, but less so if you are in the market for a second hand van.
- For folks who are looking for smaller campervan conversion options with a large towing capacity, the heavy-duty Nissan NV cargo van, starting (brand new) at $30,640 is a solid option.
Just how do you do it?
There is no doubt that complete “DIY virgins” who’ve never done as much as replace their own basement window, build kitchen cabinets from scratch, or who’ve had trouble even when assembling an order from IKEA, should turn to professionals instead.
A botched conversion job is money down the drain, after all. For the rest of you, seeing conversion examples in action can really help you get motivated. So, check out this DIY sprinter conversion time lapse.
As well as this full van conversion made by folks with no previous DIY experience.
If the thought of going full do-it-yourself on your campervan conversion still intimidates you, know that you don’t have to go in completely blindly. Numerous van conversion kits, including full conversion kits from Zenvanz that contain pretty much everything you’ll need, are on the market to help you out.
How Much Does it Cost to Convert a Sprinter Van?
You know what they say — you either have to have time and skills, or money, to get a job done well. It helps if you have all three of these important assets, of course, but you really need only either time and skills or have a fairly generous budget to get your camper conversion done and to begin enjoying life on the road.
Folks who possess ample DIY skills and don’t mind spending up to a year tinkering on their van can convert a sprinter van to a comfortable RV for as little as $5,000, assuming that they already have the right tools and are willing to buy used equipment or get creative and “freecycle”.
It also helps to have a lot of friends with excellent skills, or a helpful community, on your side. Whenever someone is able to donate their labor and knowledge, perhaps in return for your own, you can bring the costs down.
Having a sprinter van converted by a team of professionals can set you back anywhere from $30,000 to over $100,000, depending on how demanding you are about the van’s interior and amenities.
A professional conversion can be custom, meaning that you already have the van you want to convert to a camper and you outsource the conversion process. You can also buy a converted sprinter van “off the shelf”. As we already looked at a few examples earlier, you’ll know that these conversions can set you back anywhere from $100,000 to… an amount you may not even know how to pronounce.
Whatever option you choose, it is crucial to be realistic before you start the process. Whether you buy a new or used high top or cargo van, that purchase is going to be a significant investment for almost anyone. You don’t want to mess it up.
It is possible to learn how to convert a sprinter van to a camper or small motorhome yourself even if you have no prior experience, and some people have gone through exactly that process with extremely satisfactory results. There will be a steep learning curve, however. Be prepared for it. If you know that you don’t have what it takes… please outsource your van conversion to the professionals instead.
Is it Worth Converting a Van To Camper?
Is converting a sprinter van, or similar cargo van, to a camper worth it? That very much depends on your goals.
If you have been dreaming of being a full-time nomad, or spending your time on the road for a large part of the year, the answer may well be a resounding “Yes”!
Van conversions offer you the same maneuverability as any unconverted cargo van, making them easy to drive, including in urban areas and without regular access to campsites. They are more compact than large RVs like mid-profile fifth wheels, however, making the question of whether converting a cargo van to a camper is worth it a matter of how you envision your future lifestyle.
If you have the budget, you can, of course, order a custom high top conversion van. While some folks lack the money for that kind of endeavor, others crave the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing it yourself. If you’re able to spend full-time hours converting a van (without prior experience), it could be as fast as two months. Others who have walked this road before you have often spent up to 12 months converting their vans, however.
So, is it worth it?
Your converted camper will give you absolute freedom — so answer that question for yourself!
Do Conversion Vans Hold Value?
Do you mean resale value? Yes, they do!
That’s not to say that you should purchase a cargo van and convert it with the sole intention of making a profit by selling it once you’re done, but just head for some of the most popular RV living platforms on the internet to discover that conversion vans absolutely sell for more than it cost you to do the conversion.
A Final Word: How Much Will a Conversion Van Cost You?
If your late Uncle Tod left you his old sprinter van and you happen to have a pair of rather skilled hands, it may be no more than $5,000 to $6,000, including some used RV appliances. If you’re after a luxury custom van conversion that’s ready right away, you’re looking at more than some houses cost (think over $180,000).
Most people will take the middle road, spending anywhere from $30,000 to $120,000 for a high top conversion van that will, if they want, enable them to spend their entire life on the road in relative comfort.