Campervans have become increasingly popular in recent years with many people using them as a quick getaway without the expense of holiday homes or hotels.
The downside is that investing in a fully kitted out motorhome or campervan can require quite a costly outlay. In addition, if you are not happy with the interior, there is little you can do to change the layout.
The answer may lie in buying a van and converting it into your own campervan, this can then be tailored exactly to your needs.
Here is an overview of how to convert a van into a camper, as well as the type of campervan insurance you might require.
What is the Difference Between a Campervan and Motorhome?
While both campervans and motorhomes are mobile homes, there is a significant difference between the two.
Campervans are assembled on a van chassis and are based on existing van models to create a compact living space. This can range from a bed being added to the back of a van all the way up to a full professional conversion.
Motorhomes, on the other hand, are built on the original bus or truck chassis, enabling them to be larger in size than campervans. Motorhomes also often have a divider between the driver’s cab and the living area.
Both campervans and motorhomes also have their own specific insurance policies, so you need to be clear about exactly what type of vehicle you own before you arrange a policy.
Is a Campervan Conversion Right for You?
Whilst converting a campervan might work out cheaper than purchasing a ‘ready-made’ version, it can still cost a substantial amount of money as well as take up plenty of your time.
There are three main ways to convert a campervan:
DIY campervan conversion: if you have some time and you are good at DIY, doing your own van conversion can save you money and give you control over the final result.
Van conversion kits: a van conversion kit will allow you to choose from a variety of flatpack kitchen, wardrobe, and bed units which are then relatively easy to install.
Campervan conversion companies: if your time is limited, or you lack the necessary skills to be able to do a complete camper van conversion, there are many companies that provide this service, though it will be costly.
Whether you choose a conversion company or do it yourself may ultimately come down to your budget, skillset, and time constraints. A simple DIY conversion could cost between £3,000 to £5,000 plus. Larger vans, more complex interiors or employing the services of a professional company could push you into five figure sums.
Big or Small Campervan?
This generally depends on how many people and pets you want to transport in your campervan. Each person who travels will need a proper seat and an M1-tested seat belt.
Deciding what equipment to take with you on your travels can help you to choose the most suitable van size. If you are the outdoors type, you will want to consider additional roof or bike racks.
How do you plan to use the camper? At a minimum you will need a bed, basic cooking facilities, as well as table and seating. Having a fold-away bed can be convenient if you need more space during the day and will maximise floor space for things like a fridge, sink and cooker.
If you plan to stay at campsites, there should be a ready supply of electricity as well as a shower and toilet. If you love going ‘off-grid,’ you may have to think about van space to install a toilet and even a shower.
Safety and Comfort Elements
Before you can get started on your conversion, you will need to design the layout of your van. This can be done from scratch or by searching online for pre-designed layouts. You will also have to consider some of the safety elements.
Windows: If you have chosen a panel van, you should consider fitting some openable windows for light and ventilation. Windows are also required by the DVLA if you want to re-register from van to campervan status.
Ventilation: A ventilation system will help to remove water vapour and heat from the interior.
Electricity and gas: If you are not a qualified gas or electricity engineer, engage the services of a professional to do a safe installation.
Insulation: Insulating your van can help to improve the temperature and reduce any noise issues. This can include such materials as regular house insulation used under panelling, or modern foil or foam insulation panels that can be glued on directly.
Fresh and wastewater storage: Fresh and wastewater storage will need to be a consideration if you have a shower, toilet, or sink.
The Vehicle’s Load-Carrying Capacity: There will need to be checks to make sure that all the van’s new furniture and gadgets is not taking it over its load-carrying capacity. Overladen vehicles could land you with fines or even penalty points on your licence.
Re-Registering Your Campervan Conversion
Once you have converted your van into a campervan, you might want to investigate having it re-registered with the DVLA. Your vehicle status will change from a ‘van’ to the general classification of ‘motor caravan.’
The DVLA is strict about the changes you must make and has a list of the full criteria on its website at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/converting-a-vehicle-into-a-motor-caravan.
Whilst re-registering your van can seem a bit of a chore and is not strictly necessary, it might provide some of the following benefits:
Increased speed limit: Vans weighing under 3050kg unladen have a speed limit of 60mph on a dual carriageway. This rises to 70mph for campervans less than 3050kg unladen.
Slightly cheaper MOTs: Registered campers between 3,000kg and 3,500kg are assessed under the less costly and restrictive Class 4 rules.
Can I Insure a Campervan Conversion?
Yes, you can insure a campervan conversion. You will need to provide the insurer with details about the conversion so they are clear about the modifications and the cover that may be required. An insurer may also request a copy of the gas certificate as well as photos of the campervan interior and exterior.
It may also be easier to get campervan insurance if the vehicle has been re-registered with the DVLA as a motor caravan or a van with side windows. It is illegal to drive without campervan insurance and can lead to an unlimited fine and a driving ban.
What are the Levels of Campervan Insurance?
In terms of motoring insurance, like any vehicle there are three main levels of cover for your campervan:
Third-party: The minimum level needed to drive your campervan in the UK. This covers the cost of any damage to another person’s vehicle or a personal injury claim if an accident was your fault. It does not cover your own campervan.
Third-party, fire and theft: In addition to third party, your campervan will be covered if it is stolen or damaged by fire.
Comprehensive: This is the highest level of cover for your campervan. This includes third-party, fire and theft as well as insuring your campervan for damage in an accident where you are to blame.
What is included in campervan insurance?
In addition to motoring insurance, some of the following cover may be available depending on your insurance company:
· Optional breakdown cover · Contents (Optional Extra)
· Gas explosions
· Keys and locks
· Personal possessions · Awnings Optional Extra)
· European travel cover (up to a certain number of days)
Before deciding on a campervan insurance policy, it might be beneficial to obtain several quotes to establish the right cover for your travel needs. It may also be worthwhile looking at policy to cover you whilst you are converting your van just in case of accidental damage, vandalism, or theft.