Conversion Vans & Tiny Houses

Finding conversion vans for sale can be a mixed bag. After all, the pure appeal of a conversion van comes in taking something more utilitarian in design, and creating something customized to your own tastes and lifestyle. Searching through a dealer inventory, you could expect to pay upwards of $30,000 for the the likes of a 2017 Express. In shopping a private sale, a prospective buyer is most likely to find something that had been pre-customized 20-30 years prior by the current owner; and a second-hand utility van is likely to show the wear of its commercial use.

That said, the resurgence in popularity of the conversion van indicates that such limitations are easily overlooked. A majority of today’s conversion van customers are cut from the same cloth as those homeowners driving the Tiny House phenomenon. A subculture motivated by three primary goals (i) reduce your belongings, and eliminate waste (ii) get out of debt, and (iii) do work that you love.

While some may correlate this mindset with “stoner” hippie culture it’s really anything but. Whereas the Baby Boomers found themselves transitioning from flower power idealism to capitalist 1980s consumerism, this new generation of (not-always) nomads appears to have successfully split the difference.

 

The Greatest Generation?

While there is an excess of data to support doing so, referring to them as recession-scarred millennials is both an insulting generalization, and inaccurate. This generation of problem-solvers looked on as their parents struggled to retain employment and make their mortgages. Challenged to pay off growing student loan debt while facing a shrinking job market, they began to think outside of the box and truly challenge the status quo.

Considering that these young adults grew up in a time of market volatility, why wouldn’t they be hesitant to belly-up to a $250,000 home, and a traditional 30-year mortgage? Traditionalists might view such resistance to the norm as escapism, but look at the pioneering results. Rather than over-extending themselves with a quarter-of-a-million dollar(plus) debt over their adult life, they identified an alternative. For a fraction of the financial burden, they could finance a home that provided mobility, adaptability and left a smaller overall footprint. With more than 10,000 Tiny Houses in the U.S. today, it’s a genuine paradigm shift – so much so, that previous generations (including Baby Boomers) have taken notice, with many following suit.

Thus, these innovative souls had achieved their goals. They had effectively reduced belongings and waste through a more conservative way of living, they had controlled their debt, and had the kind of adaptability and mobility required to do whatever type of work they found most satisfying.

 

Tiny…Vans

A USA Today Twitter survey asked the question, “What’s the smallest place you’ve ever lived?” and 39% of respondents confirmed they had occupied 500 square feet or less. With most Tiny Houses taking up 400 square feet or less, it becomes clear that many people require even less space. Factor in the growing desire to reduce clutter and increase mobility, and another alternative presents itself: the conversion van.

Sure, the conversion van had occupied some precarious real estate within our cultural mindset. From hippie-shag wagon to “Mystery Machine,” vans evolved to accommodate TV mercenaries as well as the plush carpeting and swiveling captain chairs of retirees. All but fading into obscurity within the 90s and early 2000s, the resurgence is both real and relevant.

Regardless of how mobile a tow-able Tiny House can be, it may be more than some people require. If mobility is a necessity for an individual’s success and they are comfortable in a smaller space, a conversion van might be exactly the kind of alternative they’d explore.

Assuming that it fits their lifestyle, consider the financial benefit. A $40,000 personal loan could secure a new Chevy Express, and provide $10,000 for modification of that van into a fully functional living space. Not only is this a fraction of the base cost of a home, but the repayment terms would be far more controlled. Considering that this would be a high-end estimate, securing a suitable used van acts to significantly reduce the cost.

 

Converting the Conversion Van

Even the act of converting a van oneself is an appealing step in controlling the overall cost. If you have a few moments to spend on YouTube, there is a wealth of content that displays the innovation of today’s do-it-yourself-ers.

With many videos detailing the process, you can see the full conversion from van to living space across as little as two weeks when performed by a single (capable) person. Aside from framing, electric and gas-powered heat, cooking and hot water, the innovation is staggering. Ranging from rooftop installation of solar panels, to low-drain LED lighting, it’s easy to see how it could become a perfectly suitable living space for a low-maintenance individual. Whether intended for daily living or weekend getaways, this kind of project is both informative and entertaining to watch.

 

Different Intentions / Same Mindset

Perhaps your search for a conversion van isn’t based around a desire to create a mobile living space, but the innovation remains the same. Even commercial use of a van doesn’t mean that it needs to be beaten up, with supply materials and tools shoved in haphazardly. Economical use of space can add to the versatility of your vehicle, and may even allow for it to include additional workspace or accommodate larger loads.

If you’re looking to do the work yourself, there is a wealth of inspiration found online. If you’re interested in a customization designed around the demands of your trade, many dealers offer pre-designed packages intended for the likes of electricians, plumbers and/or contractors. And the increasing Tiny House-van market opens up more bespoke possibilities, with countless designers specializing in the modification of small living and working spaces.

Finding conversion vans for sale is the first step. Find what’s right for you, and don’t be afraid to explore. The possibilities are almost limitless.