Budget-Friendly Adventures: Exploring Cheap Camper Vans and DIY SUV Conversions

Exploring the open road in a camper van is a dream for many. This guide will show you how to get a cheap camper van, including buying new, unsold models, and converting SUVs. We’ll also provide specific examples from across the U.S.

Introduction to the Theme

Camper vans offer the flexibility to travel at your own pace, with the convenience of having your accommodation and transportation rolled into one. However, the cost of camper vans can be prohibitive. New, high-end models can easily exceed $100,000, which is out of reach for many people. Fortunately, there are several ways to obtain a camper van at a more affordable price. This article will explore different methods to find a cheap camper van without compromising on the quality and essentials needed for a comfortable travel experience.

Buying New and Unsold Camper Vans

One of the first places to look for a cheap camper van is among new and unsold models. Dealers often have unsold inventory from previous model years that they are eager to clear out to make room for new arrivals. These camper vans are typically brand new but are sold at a significant discount compared to the latest models.

For example, the 2023 Winnebago Solis, a popular compact camper van, originally retailed for around $90,000. However, unsold units can sometimes be found for as low as $70,000, especially towards the end of the year or during major holiday sales events. Checking with local dealerships and attending RV shows can help you find these discounted models.

Another option is to look for demo units. These camper vans have been used by the dealership for test drives or as display models. They often have very low mileage and are in excellent condition but are sold at a lower price than brand-new models. For instance, a 2023 Thor Motor Coach Sequence, which usually costs about $85,000, might be available as a demo unit for around $65,000.

Turning SUVs into Camper Vans

If buying a new or unsold camper van is still outside your budget, consider converting an SUV into a camper van. This option can be significantly cheaper and allows for customization to fit your specific needs. SUVs are generally more affordable than traditional camper vans and offer a good balance of space and drivability.

To convert an SUV into a camper van, you will need to make a few modifications. Here’s a basic outline of what you might need:

  1. Sleeping Platform: Build a raised platform in the back of the SUV for a sleeping area. This can be done using plywood and some basic carpentry skills.
  2. Storage Solutions: Utilize the space under the sleeping platform for storage. Plastic bins or custom-built drawers can keep your belongings organized.
  3. Ventilation: Install window vents or a roof vent to ensure proper airflow.
  4. Power Supply: Consider adding a portable power station or a second battery to power small appliances and charge devices.
  5. Portable Kitchen: Equip your SUV with a portable stove, a small cooler or fridge, and basic cooking utensils.

The cost of converting an SUV can vary widely depending on the level of customization. However, a basic conversion can often be done for less than $2,000. If you already own an SUV, this can be a very budget-friendly way to create a camper van.

Examples of Affordable Camper Vans Across the U.S.

To provide more concrete examples, here are ten specific affordable camper vans available in different districts across the United States. These examples highlight a range of options, including both new and used camper vans as well as SUVs suitable for conversion.

  1. Los Angeles, CA: 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan – $18,000
    • This minivan offers ample space for a basic camper conversion. It has low mileage and is in excellent condition.
  2. Houston, TX: 2020 Ford Transit Connect – $22,000
    • The Ford Transit Connect is a popular choice for van conversions due to its compact size and affordability.
  3. Chicago, IL: 2018 Ram ProMaster City – $20,500
    • A slightly used model that is perfect for a DIY camper conversion project.
  4. Miami, FL: 2019 Nissan NV200 – $19,000
    • This small cargo van is ideal for solo travelers or couples looking to convert it into a cozy camper.
  5. Phoenix, AZ: 2017 Chevrolet Express – $25,000
    • A full-size van that offers plenty of space for a comfortable camper conversion.
  6. Denver, CO: 2020 Mercedes Metris – $23,500
    • The Metris is known for its reliability and is a great candidate for a mid-range camper conversion.
  7. Seattle, WA: 2018 Toyota Sienna – $21,000
    • This minivan is spacious and versatile, making it a good choice for a budget camper conversion.
  8. Boston, MA: 2019 Honda Odyssey – $20,800
    • The Honda Odyssey is a reliable minivan with plenty of room for a camper setup.
  9. Atlanta, GA: 2020 Chrysler Pacifica – $22,500
    • A newer model with modern features, ideal for a comfortable camper conversion.
  10. New York, NY: 2018 Ford Transit – $24,000
    • A slightly used Ford Transit that offers ample space for a full camper conversion.


Finding a cheap camper van is entirely possible with a bit of research and creativity. Whether you opt for a new and unsold model, a slightly used van, or decide to convert an SUV, there are plenty of affordable options available. By considering the tips and examples provided in this article, you can embark on your camper van journey without breaking the bank. Happy travels!