News Home & Design Young Couple Builds Sprinter Van Home for $8,000 This van conversion project saved money by using reclaimed materials. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published November 15, 2021 04:00PM EST Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Tiny Home Tours Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive A common theme with people choosing to live the van life is they are often looking to travel on their own terms. More often than not, "vanlifers" either work remotely or leave behind dull desk jobs in search of new adventures. Each story is different, with its own quirks and thought-provoking lessons for others who are interested in taking a similar path. For American couple Austin and Becky, their initial goal was to save up money to build a tiny house. However, when the pandemic hit last year, they decided to divert those savings into a van conversion project, which would allow them to travel and see more of the United States. To keep costs down, they meticulously planned and documented their project down to the last penny, and used recycled materials whenever they could to keep costs down. We get a tour of their thoughtful van conversion via Tiny Home Tours: Prior to embarking on their van journey, both Becky and Austin had regular 9-to-5 jobs: Becky was a project manager and Austin was a construction engineer. However, Austin left his job after he was seriously in a motorcycle accident, and both chose van life when they realized that life was too short for living on other people's terms. To start, the couple purchased a used plumber's cargo van for $17,000—specifically, a 2010 Freightliner Sprinter. They then set about creating some 3D models in computer software to help further refine their design ideas and layouts. Tiny Home Tours One of the best features of this former work van is the sliding door that separates the driver's cab at the front from the rest of the living space in the back. Because the couple insulated the partition that divides up the van, the interior stays cool in the summers and warm in the winters. The van is powered by four 100-watt solar panels and incorporates a system of Renergy solar power and Samlex battery charging equipment. The kitchen is laid out along the wall opposite the entry door. Here, the couple chose to include a secondhand sink they bought at a garage sale for $5, as well as a two-burner propane stove. The lightweight counter is from IKEA, which looks like concrete, but is actually made of laminate. Tiny Home Tours The backsplash is made with real subway tile, which the couple calculated to be cheaper than the popular peel-and-stick tiles. To minimize cracking, they grouted the tiles with flexible silicone instead of the usual grout. To reduce on-counter clutter, they use a wall-mounted magnetic strip to store their kitchen utensils. To save water, the couple uses a foot-operated water pump, as well as a set of large water containers for their freshwater and greywater. The idea was to keep things simple and modular so that if anything breaks, it's easy and cheap to replace. Cabinets overhead and below help to provide ample storage space, while inside the cabinets, sliding metal bins and plastic containers help to keep things organized and easy to access. The bins have no-slip mats underneath, while some of the cabinets and the refrigerator have child safety locking mechanisms in order to prevent things from flying out when the van is in motion. As Becky explains, much of the kitchen was designed around the overhead cabinets, which were purchased for cheap from a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Tiny Home Tours Right across from the kitchen, we have the van's seating area, which features padding and fabric covers that the couple cut down to size, as well as storage built in underneath. Tiny Home Tours There is a long table that pulls out from under the raised bed platform that serves as a multifunctional surface for eating and working on. Tiny Home Tours Right below that there is an access door that leads into the van's "garage" where various bits of equipment and propane tanks are stored, as well as the portable toilet. The couple designed a custom-built, sealed, and vented locker for their propane tank, located in this "garage" in order to maintain the van's stealth factor. To stay safe, there are several different detectors for monitoring carbon monoxide and propane in the living space. Tiny Home Tours Directly above that sits the bed, which has storage cabinets for clothing to one side, and two windows to either side for cross ventilation. The couple initially designed the bed so that they could sit up comfortably. However, their initial specifications for a 5-inch thick mattress proved uncomfortable, so with the addition of a 3-inch mattress topper, they can still sit up in bed, albeit less straight. Every inch in a small space counts, and sometimes it can be difficult to gauge how to allocate those precious inches without actually living in it first. Tiny Home Tours This is a well-designed and carefully considered build, and by using reclaimed materials and furniture, the couple was able to spend only $8,000 for renovating the van's interior. Since moving into their van home, the couple continue to travel around the United States, and you can follow their journey on their Instagram and YouTube channel.