Making your own dream motorhome


A secondhand VW van (here the Type T3) with a large tailgate and sliding side door has become the classic choice for upcycling into a motorhome. — dpa

Want your own motorhome, but don’t have the cash? Even so, your dream of freedom on four wheels can still come true if you have some DIY skills.

The first thing is to find a vehicle to convert, says Constantin Hack, technology editor and motorhome expert at Auto Club Europa (ACE).

He advises people to search car sale websites using their available budget and the appropriate vehicle class – usually it’s something like a van.

If you do find a suitable vehicle, you should bring along someone who’s familiar with the class before buying or else have a used vehicle check carried out.

Suitable models for converting into motorhomes include the Mercedes Sprinter, the Ford Transit, and especially the Fiat Ducato, which can be bought cheaply.

For a smaller motorhome, you can turn a VW Caddy, a Renault Kangoo or a Ford Tourneo into a micro-camper.

Sometimes you can get a bargain when a delivery company’s fleet is being sold off. Auctions of government vehicles are another option.

Classic delivery vehicles with or without windows are very suitable for conversion. Windows can always be retrofitted.

Something a little out of the ordinary is to buy an all-wheel drive vehicle. “A Unimog can be the right vehicle, for example, or a smaller Mercedes truck, ” Hack says.

Before you embark on a conversion, you should check out the vehicle regulations in your country to ensure that your DIY motorhome will meet the legal safety requirements.

“Otherwise there can be a rude awakening when I am inspected, if I am denied registration as a motorhome, ” Hack says.

The expert warns against trying to make savings in the wrong places: “Many try to implement their ideas with the simplest possible means and forego more expensive components from specialist dealers.” However, that can easily backfire.

For example, your domestic refrigerator doesn’t belong in a motorhome where it will be exposed to vibrations and may end up, depending on parking, being occasionally at an incline. That’s why you need a model designed for such conditions.

Some people don’t bother fitting a toilet and bathroom in their DIY motorhome, but that can be a problem if you can’t access sanitary facilities elsewhere.

Hack estimates that with a minimum budget of around US$5,000 (RM20,190) for the vehicle and US$2,000 (RM8,075) for the conversion, you can build yourself a decent motorhome, assuming a few compromises are made in terms of comfort and provided that you have the necessary DIY skills.

However, he says the majority of DIY motorhome builders invest between US$10,000 (RM40,365) and US$20,000 (RM80,730) in the vehicle and another US$5,000 (RM20,190) to US$10,000 (RM40,365) in the conversion. – dpa/Andreas Koetter

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