Checklist For Planning A Motorhome Conversion

We all have our own thoughts on what the ideal motorhome should look like – so why settle for something that doesn’t quite fit the bill? That’s the beauty of a motorhome conversion; you start with a blank canvas – and use it to create your motorhome, your way.

So, where to begin? Here’s an essential checklist for keeping a motorhome conversion project on track.

1. Draw up your list of priorities

You need to be as clear as possible on your desired specifications of the motorhome. This will guide you on all of the other important decisions you’ll need to make later on, such as how to allocate your budget, what type of base vehicle to use and how much outside help you’ll need with fitting out.

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Start with the essentials:

  • Number of berths. To accommodate four in reasonable comfort, you are more likely to be looking at a vehicle with a longer wheel base. If you only require sleeping space for a couple, there’s generally greater scope for more leisure features and storage options.
  • The type of sites you will be staying at. Are you happy relying on communal wash blocks? If not, a separate shower, toilet and washbasin compartment is likely to be a top priority.
  • When and where you will be touring. For year-round UK holidaying, diesel-fuelled heating might be a welcome feature. Especially if you plan to tour the continent in the summer months, air conditioning becomes more of a priority.

Also, draw up a wishlist of desirable features…

  • Kitchen facilities. The basics are usually a two or three-burner gas hob and galley basin. If home-from-home cooking is a priority, additional features to consider include a combined oven/grill, in-built microwave and more in the way of kitchen surfaces.
  • Habitation layout. Do you want to be able to stand up and move around freely within the unit at all times? If so, you will probably be looking to incorporate an elevated roof; something that can also open up possibilities for sleeping arrangements.

2. Take a closer look at your options

For fact finding and for an overview of what’s possible (and how far your budget will stretch), it can be worth heading to a national or regional motorhome show. The exhibit list for these events usually includes plenty of conversion specialists – and nothing beats being able to see a range of conversions ‘in the flesh’ for inspiration.

3. Budgeting for the fit-out: how much – and how will it be spent?

Crucially, you need to factor in if and how much outside input you are going to need with the conversion project.

If the bulk of the work is going to be done at home, look closely at conversion flatpack specialists (examples include Eclipse and Retro Tourer). A good kit provider will provide you with general guidance on fitting – along with scope to customise your design and finish. But of course, responsibility for ensuring the kit is fitted rests with you – so it’s important to be realistic about your capabilities.

Gas and electrics work will need to be certified – so areas where you will almost certainly require outside help will include shower room and galley appliances. You will also want to avoid a botch job on the panel and floor work; if the conversion is going to incorporate an elevated roof for instance, a pop-top specialist such as Austops might be the way forward.

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4. Budgeting for the vehicle: avoid false economies.

If you are yet to get hold of a van for your project, here are some points to consider as you scan the market:

  • Will it go the distance? That 20-year old Transit might seem like a bargain, but realistically, how many years’ use is it going to give after you have ploughed time and money into converting it?
  • Is it a conversion-friendly model? In other words, will you be able to readily obtain furniture kits and everything else you need for your desired conversion? Popular models with conversion specialists at present include the VW Transporter range, closely followed by Fiat and Renault vans.
  • Is it just for holidays – or for real life too?  That long wheel base might give you scope for a spectacular conversion, but how practical is the van going to be for the weekly shop or school run?

5. How to cover the legal and insurance formalities

Conversion will require you to change the official categorisation of the vehicle (i.e. from van to motor caravan). This process is explained in the DVLA’s guide, Registering a DIY Motor Caravan.

From the outset, it’s also important to ensure your investment is safeguarded in the event of theft or accidental damage. Imagine finding out after all the time and money you have put into the project, that none of this is going to be taken into account in valuing your van after a prang!

Speak to a motorhome conversion insurance specialist to avoid this – i.e. one that really ‘gets’ what self-built motorhome conversion is all about. Go down this route, and you should be able to put a policy place that meets your specific requirements.

Follow these steps and the end result should be a motorhome conversion you’re happy with – without the project running out of control.

This content is sponsored by Shield Total Insurance.

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