The Best DIY Minivan Camper Conversion Ever – Under $350!

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When it comes to DIY campervan conversions there is no better vehicle than a minivan for a camper. Once you get past the fact that it’s a minivan you’ll quickly see it’s the best DIY camper for just about every type of camping trip or even long-term living. Here is our design for the best Minivan Camper and we have road-tested it for more than 30,000 miles and 150+ nights over two multi-month trips and lots of weekends.

We converted a 2006 Honda Odyssey minivan into a campervan with a full-sized mattress, 7 under-bed storage drawers, a nicely equipped kitchen, cooler, and power charging station. We pulled off this conversion in about three days and under $350.

Take a tour of our Minivan Camper Conversion

This video gives you a quick look inside of our minivan along with some sweet music. The video doesn’t go into depth on the actual build, but all of that is described below and one of these days we should make another video on more about the minivan to campervan conversion process.

Picking a minivan for your Minivan to campervan conversion

We choose a minivan for our project because they are much more fuel-efficient than full-size vans and would give us the most amount of space for the money. We bought our 2006 Honda Oddessy for $6500 with just over 100,000 miles.

Things to look for in a minivan camper:

  • Good mechanical condition – check service records and have it inspected before starting a long trip.
  • Room for a full-sized bed (or close) – which is 54 inches, ours was about 51-52″ between the narrowest point but we used a flexible mattress which fit nicely.
  • Consider a good condition minivan around 100,000 miles – After a minivan passes 100,000 miles the price drops to a very affordable level.

How to convert a minivan into the best campervan ever

We are going to take you step by step on how to make your minivan into the best campervan possible. Since everyone might be working with a different van the dimensions of your camper will be different. So, instead of giving the exact measurements I used, I will give suggestions on how much room between different parts of the build I would leave, and things like that instead of my exact blueprints.

Tools Required for this campervan conversion

  • Drill with Phillips screwdriver & a 1/8′ drill bit
  • Tape Measurer
  • Circular Saw or Table Saw or just a hand saw if that’s what you have
  • Level
  • Other general hand tools would be helpful but are not required

Supplies Required for this campervan conversion

From Building Supply Store:

  • 2 – sheets of 4′ x 8′ plywood for the top of the bed platform and kitchen storage unit
  • 10 – 2″x 2″ pine studs
  • 1 – Box of screws to build the bed frame and kitchen cabinet frame
  • 1 – Roll of reflective windshield shade material custom cut to fit the front window
  • 1 – Roll of standard duct tape

From Amazon, we found the best prices on Amazon and it’s delivered right to your home:

Step 1. Remove the Minivan 2nd and 3rd-row seats

We started our conversion by removing all of the back seats of the van. We will be traveling as just two people so more seats while isn’t necessary. Honestly, a minivan camper is probably best for 2 people at most, if you are planning a trip with more people a bigger van might be a better option.

If you have a van with a third-row seat that folds flat, still consider removing it and using that pocket for additional storage. We used this space to add about a 12″ deep by the width of the van of extra storage space. I was tempted to leave it in there and make building the minivan camper easier, but the extra room was great.

Step 2. Building a platform frame for the bed

We rented a campervan for our trip to New Zealand and it had storage under the bed which was great but in their design, you had to lift the mattress up to access to storage. We wanted quick easy access to the storage and to have it divided and also cheap and easy to make.

We used 2″x 2″ pine studs to make the supports for the frame and a piece of cheap OSB roofing plywood for the top of the platform. We built the platform to raise the bed and frame high enough to slide bins in that we bought.

Start just behind the front seats to put your first bed platform frame member. Double-check to make sure to make it high enough for your storage bins to fit underneath including any part of the frame. After the first one is the get a level and set the height of the back frame member.

The reason I did this is that the floor of our van was all kinds of different heights. The floor was higher and lower in many places so to get the bed level I would suggest setting the front frame support and then the back with a level, and then build each of the rest to fit your van floor.

Step 3. Adding under-bed storage

We built out a platform tall enough for a bunch of plastic bins to slide under. Using plastic bins didn’t require building and tracks or complicated systems, just slide them in and go. We have used 7-inch tall bins since we did the camper conversion a few years ago, but next trip we are planning on raising the platform for more storage. Always, always build in as much storage as you possibly can, it will make trips in your campervan much more enjoyable.

Step 4. Build a ‘Kitchen’ Storage Cabinet

Here is where you can get as crazy as you want, but we wanted to keep it simple. Our kitchen is primarily for storage and we cook and clean everything on a small fold-out table. When we are camping we find we end up cooking on this table or a campsite picnic table and doing washup here as well. So we didn’t want to add a sink because it adds a lot of costs and they never really work that well.

A 12v refrigerator cooler would be great if you are on the move a lot, but if you are going to stay put for days at a time a normal quality cooler is probably better.

Step 5. DIY Camper Window Shades

As funny as this sounds widow shades can make or break your camper build. Our first design of window shades we a total disaster and we were constantly fixing them. Our van has side curtain airbags in the back around most of the windows so we couldn’t screw in and mount anything to hold sliding fabric shades. So, we tried to attach brackets to the windows themselves. Note nothing expoy-ed, sticky velcro-ed, or anything suction to windows in a campervan will ever be permanent.

Optional – Blackout shades for a DIY Campervan

Last summer we drove to Alaska during the solstice and we knew we needed to get some sleep during the 24 hours of sun so we build blackout shades for our minivan camper. We did this cheap and easy, of course. We bought a black poster board from Walmart and then with the windows open we held the poster board inside the van and traced out the shape of the window best we could. We cut them out using an Exacto knife.

This got the blackout shades close, but then we took 2″ wide (standard size) duct tape a taped the perimeter with pieces of the tape laying half of the width on the board and half hanging over. then did the same on the other side sticking both sticky sides of the tape together. This made up for any errors we made while tracing and created a flexible edge to really seal out all of the light. These worked out really well, we were even able to sleep in the middle of the day for a nap when we started out late taking photos or slept in bright parking lots – these are great for stealth camping for both privacy and blocking out the light.

Step 6. Basic 120 Volt Charging Station (wall/house power outlets)

All minivans should have several 12v power outlets or cigarette adapters and with a low-cost power inverter $29.99 you can charge or power most household things. This takes a lot of power and should really only be used while driving or the van is turned on.

Last step. Put the mattress into the minivan camper

We put our mattress in right after building the platform and it constantly got dirty and sometimes damaged as we finished the campervan conversion. After you finish the bed platform make sure the mattress fits, but then leave it out of the van until the very end, it will keep it a lot nicer as you finish building your campervan.

Additional pieces of kit to consider

Portable Jump Station If you plan to be in some remote areas it’s best to be prepared. You might forget to turn off a light or cold temperatures at night can make a weak battery not start. With this unit, you can jump-start your camper without having to use another car. We bought this portable jump station with an air compressor for $45.

Things that worked and didn’t in our minivan camper

Stuff that worked:

The Bed – Our bed was actually super comfortable, I would rather sleep on this mattress than a bunch of hotels I’ve stayed in. We measured the inside of the wheel wells and they were about 2-3″ too narrow for a ‘real’ full-size mattress, so we were pretty confident that a premium futon mattress would squeeze into the space and it did. A spring mattress might have but it would have been a tighter fit. Plus the mattress was only $123 shipped right to our door.

The Kitchen – It works well mostly for storage, the cooking we do is usually on our fold-up table or on a picnic table.

Stuff that didn’t work:

  • Suction cups to hold anything on the windows long term, with heat they will fall
  • Command strip hangers on the window, when it gets over 100° they fall off
  • Cast Iron pots and pans, unless you are cooking over a fire a lot, they are too hard to clean and keep from rusting when you can’t wash them right away (or maybe we just got bad quality ones)
  • Our first window shades – Our biggest problem we the window shades, we are seriously thinking about having the windows heavily tinted in the back to help with this and give us more privacy. We wanted to keep the van as close to a normal condition because we wanted to resell it after our big road trip, which for the most part worked.

The stuff we wished we had:

Portable battery operated fan for hot nights.

The van has been busy so far, she has brought us on a three-month US road trip, a 6-week road trip to Alaska, and many other short trips around the country.

If you have built a DIY campervan share your story in the comments, or if you have any questions about building your own minivan camper ask us below.

38 thoughts on “The Best DIY Minivan Camper Conversion Ever – Under $350!”

  1. Hi, excellent looking, functional build! Thank you for sharing. Curious if you wound up attaching any of the frame to the floor of van , and if so, how?

  2. What nationwide gym did you join for workouts and showers? This is a very cool build compared to others I’ve seen in the same price range. Well done!!

    • Easy, DIY screens. Buy a roll of window screen. Hold it over your window and cut it where the edges all touch metal. Get the strongest strip magnets you can find on Amazon. Be sure you leave enough edge to fold over the magnets. You can either sew the magnets into the edge of the screen, or use a two-part epoxy or even hot glue will work. Now you have removable magnetic screens.

  3. We’re retired in Vegas. Want to Be Gone in summer, seeing the West and visiting family and friends. Will buy used mini with 7 year warranty. Well worth $ for us.
    Will use 4” tri fold foam bed to use for sofa too, fan and our 7” heater.
    ?- Will I be able to sit up in bed if it’s raised for 7” storage boxes?

    Will be putting up a square cover outside back for rain/sun. Bringing small tent for grandchildren.
    Also will buy or make a porta potty.
    Your build out is GREAT-simple logical.

    • Our under-bed storage is taller than 7″ and I was able to sit up and I am 6′-5″. Every van is different but I would assume you could. Personally I would skip the porta potty, it would probably be hard to manage and stinky. Bathrooms are pretty easy to find – parks, gas stations, campsites. Good luck with the build!

  4. A thought on the windows. Aluminum foil and water sprayer. Spray water on the windows, tear off a sheet of aluminum foil long enough to reach across the window, smooth the foil on to the windows. It can hold for days.

    • Thanks, for us we were looking for something to take on and off every night to sleep and off for safety while driving. We made some covers with poster board for our trip to Alaska in the summer that worked pretty well.

    • A way to darken your Windows is called perf. All screen printers and bodywrap people carry. You can see out perfect but people can not see in. You can but it same color as your van or have it printed on in a display you want.

      • Thanks for the tip, part of the problem is we wanted to reduce the amount of light coming in as well at night. For our second long trip to Alaska in the summer (when it is alway light out) we used black poster board cutout to fit the windows exactly – this worked much better for us.

  5. Just came across you blog… we have a 2008 Honda Odyssey that we semi converted to sleep in and we LOVE it…problem is…it has 185,000 miles on it and is starting to use/leak oil. Repairs (something to do with the rings) are way too expensive so we are wondering how road worthy it will remain if we just rely on carrying a couple quarts of oil with us. It is not a bad issue…maybe a half a quart here and there…but we really love to travel in this van! thoughts?

    • Our 2006 burns a little bit of oil as well, maybe a 1/2 quart in 3,000 miles. It happens with older cars. If that’s the only thing wrong I wouldn’t hesitate to keep using it. As long as you monitor the oil levels regularly and you don’t go low enough to cause damage you should be fine.

      We also follow the service schedule which calls for transmission flushes and other maintenance, it costs a few hundred dollars per year, but we hope to get a lot of miles out of our van. Hope that helps and happy vanning!

    • Great information. I am currently retired in Costa Rica and plan to return home and convert my VW Passat. I have watched endless videos and came upon your video. Love your ideals and trust me, I plan to follow your steps to the T…good luck with your road trip.

  6. Love your suggestions – and that you used an Odyssey. I have built ours with only taking out the middle row seats. We really like the idea of keeping the back row seats for lounging, so we are keeping them in place and building the kitchen, cooler and additional storage in the back. I took a piece of 3/4 plywood to make an and interlocking insert between the front seats and third row seats. We are also using the sterlite tubs under the bed. When not sleeping, we can roll the mattress and bedding forward, fold the bed platform into a coffee table for eating, etc. Fully packed we have a tent, lounge chairs, stove, water, clothing, food, utensils, solar panel, power station, fan, reflectix for windows, and blackout curtains for the front. I am so looking forward to taking our maiden voyage!

    • Sounds like you have quite the DIY Campervan! our design is pretty stationary, it works well but it would be nice to have more living space but we sacrifice some of that for easier setup and take down every day. Best of luck on your maiden voyage! Where are you off to?

  7. This is pretty much an impossible request for anyone but hey all you can do is say, “That’s impossible”. lol I have a 2013 Town & Country minivan, owe too much so can’t trade for a larger van. Here’s my deal. I am going to be virtually homeless in about 5 months. Working part time and trying to save money to buy a camper so I have a permanent living space. I have 6 (yes, six) small rescue pups that are with me always. No one will rent to me even with a stellar rental history and law enforcement background. Sooooo, looking to find ways to convert my mini van (seats tuck under the floor) so that if I have to be out sooner than 5 months, I can manage it. I need basics, my cot, a portable desk for creating my art, floor space for at least 2 cloth kennels. Any suggestions?

    • Sounds like a tight fit! A few thoughts on you minivan camper conversion – Can you take out the passenger seat in the front too? You could put your cot there and give yourself a few more feet? I would still recommend completely taking out the folding back seat it will leave you with a deep pocket that you could cover with plywood for things that you don’t use often. I don’t think anything is impossible, you just have to get creative with your space. Let us know how it’s coming along, we’d love to hear your DIY campervan solutions, it might help someone else out too!

    • Sharlene, I will be converting my 2009 Town and Country into a camper and it is an adapted Braun Entervan with a side handicap ramp. I found a tent option to connect at the ramp which allows me to take friends along. Check it out on Amazon….com. Skandika Breathable Esbjerg Unisex Outdoor Minivan Tent

  8. I just saw this and want to thank you both. You showed how to convert a minivan on the cheap. I am a retired widower and want to get to see some of this great country as a super long road trip. I already have a minivan with very low miles for its age and intended to outfit it kind of like the VW Westfalia I had 25 years ago minus the pop up top. Your van shows that would not be necessary. So in 2019, I’ll be off to see the country. First thing to do is to retrace as much of Rte 66 as I can find. I drove it end to end while it was still there. I am taking my cast iron though. I have had it for many years and I’m keeping it.

  9. I just wanted to take a minute and thank you for sharing your minivan conversion! It is something I have been dreaming of doing for myself for years. I have literally had 3 years to study different options, and this page is the one I come back to because it is exactly what I am hoping to create!
    I have my seats out, just confirmed that I can fit my mattress between the wheel wells, and am picking up lumber tomorrow morning. I have a solo week long trip from CO-WA in a few weeks, and some weekend adventures with my husband.
    I have a chronic pain condition, and the ability to take a comfortable bed with me, and not having to put up a tent, will just open up so many inexpensive adventure options that I can’t wait!
    Thanks again for taking the time to share your build. It is still helping people.

    • Thanks, glad we could help a little bit! We think this is the best way to camp on a longer road trip. Hope you have an amazing trip! Let us know how the build goes!

  10. Back in 2006, we hired a campervan in Australia to travel about in, and now we are spending the next few months driving through Europe (albeit by Porsche, so we’re staying in hotels, apartments etc). It’s a great way to see the world – you can go at your own pace, stop whenever you want to, and pull over just because the view is incredible/you need a pee/or your totally lost!

    No reliance on public transport is great – and as Mark said Macdonalds is probably the best wifi hotspot in the world 😉

    We’ve haven’t made the US yet, but are looking forward to keeping up with your journey and finding inspiration through your blog and on snapchat!

    Safe travels xx

  11. Hey Hannah and Adam,
    Sick idea! We met a couple that did this as well for a year. Prior to their trip they bought a conversion van and turned it into a camper. This van looks a bit small, just wondering if the bed is long enough for you both to stretch out.

    A couple of hints they gave us if we were to do this was to park at Wal-Marts and McDonald’s parking lots. McDonald’s apparently has free wifi and WalMart just has a lot of parking space.

    For the kitchen do you guys just have a portable stove? Also what you guys planning on doing for bathroom needs and showers? Just curious. I’m sure you’ve thought of all this and are already writing a blog post 😉

    Thanks again for the inspiration. This sounds so exciting.

    Love from Asia,
    Mark and Camille

    • Mark had a great question that went unanswered from 2015, and I would also like to know: what did you guys do for going to the bathroom and taking showers/keeping clean???

      • Our travels usually found us in national or state parks which generally have bathrooms with showers to keep clean. We also joined a nation wide anytime gym where we could use the facilities for workouts and showers. Bathrooms are easy to find just about anywhere – parks, fast food restaurants, gas stations. A longer term trip in a camper van can be as clean or carefree as you want.

  12. THIS IS EPIC! Can Adam build something for our beast? Wow. I can’t wait to see it in person. YOu guys are awesome – I want the back of ours a bit neater like this.

  13. How much do I love the headlamps placed around the back of the headrests to act as defacto reading lamps? SO MUCH! I can only imagine how sung and cozy it would be to curl up in your cozy nest and read late at night. At first I thought it would make more sense to bring a tent and gear for camping, as it would give you more space in the back of the van but the idea of having to set up and take down a tent every day, or in the rain, or in the cold quickly changed that thought.


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