Lower cost alternative to a Van Conversion

cargo trailer

Excessive price increases caused by inflation, COVID and supply chain distress are posing a new threat Vanlife enthusiasts. With commercially converted vans base prices approaching $100,000, Vanlifers are looking for cheaper alternatives.

The COVID crisis of 2020 has done much to popularize van living and made it fashionable to live and work off-grid, while offering the possibility of an active outdoor lifestyle.

However Vanlife’s sudden popularity, combined with stressed vehicle supply lines and high inflation, have led to a disproportionate rise in vehicle cost.

The more recent trend of “Loud Budgeting” among the younger generations, may also indicate a desire to reduce spending overall.

“Loud budgeting” is a viral money trend that’s encouraging people to be more open about their finances.

Low-cost Conversion Alternative

As a cheapskate I have always promoted low-cost building practices by actively encouraging DIY Van Conversions. And even with limited building skills, a new or used van can be converted in a few weeks, into a (very) basic accommodation, that allows anybody to get a taste of the lifestyle.

Although realistically such a project involves many skills (electrical, plumbing, solar 12V/120V, etc.), a likely commitment for a year or more and an investment of up to $10,000 to complete the conversion.

Until recently, a $50,000 investment or less ($35,000 vehicle, plus conversion cost) could result in a virtual ’Tiny House’ on wheels; that is currently more than $75,000 and still rising!

Limited income and trends such as ‘Loud Budgeting’ that encourage less spending, are creating a greater demand for cheaper alternatives.

cargo trailer

The Cargo Trailer Conversion

Build on a chassis similar to that of travel trailers, cargo trailers are low-priced ($3,000 and up) and offer many inexpensive upgrades.

An additional advantage for the do-it-yourselfer are the vertical walls, which are rarely found in Vans. A similar $10,000 DIY conversion could result in a less than $20,000 total project cost; the obvious catch is the need of a separate towing vehicle.

That will bring the total more in line with a van conversion, unless you already have an appropriate vehicle (such as a pickup) or buy a used one.

Pre-built utility units (kitchen/plumbing, solar 12V-120V/electrical, etc.) can be bought or built and easily installed or removed, requiring a lower skill level for the do-it-yourselfer.

The availability of a rear ramp, offers new creative opportunities not found in van conversions and easier access to internal storage of bikes, boats, surfboards, etc. adds to the advantages of such an outfit.

If you do like the idea of a cargo trailer conversion, the use of pre-built utility units or have other opinions about the cost of conversions, please post your comments below. Enough interest in a cargo trailer conversion might persuade me to consider such a project, either for myself or an interested party.

*Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

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