You may be toying with the idea of hiring a van conversion company and don’t know what to ask them and where to start. There are plenty of van conversion companies out there for you to choose from, but quality and experience among the businesses can vary. When you don’t do your homework and do proper research, you can get screwed. Asking the right questions is the key to making sure that your van can attest to time on the road.
1. How Long Have You Been In the Business and Their Warranty?
Asking this question will let you know the experience and skills that a van conversion company can offer. The more years they have in the business, the more vans they have built. Let’s face it, and you would be skeptical if you are about to hire a company that has less than a few van builds under their belt.
The only time that you can count on a company with less experience is if someone was able to recommend them to you or you have seen their work in person. A company that has been in the business for a couple of years is the ideal van conversion company to hire.
Experience is very important, especially when it comes to the electrical components on your van. Installing the power system with expensive batteries, solar panels, and an inverter will take knowledge and skill. Now, this is just one part of the build that you don’t want to go wrong. There are plenty of other parts of your van that you want to be built properly.
There may be caveats and plenty of new builders who are qualified, so you don’t want to undermine them. If the van company is owned by someone you know personally, or you are friends with someone who has had one of their vans built by them and speaks highly of their experience, then it would be a good qualifier of choosing them.
When choosing a van conversion company that doesn’t have much experience, it is important that you keep your build and layout as simple as possible.
Make sure that you ask about their warranty on every component of the van. You have to consider what will happen when there are leaks, or electric wiring fails. Most of the time, van conversion companies have different warranties, so you want to find out the warranty information on each component.
These would include the vehicle itself, appliances like refrigerators, batterers, heaters, and other components. It is best to choose a van conversion company that has a signed contract before you start the build or upon sale of the vehicle. The details should include the level of their commitment to fixing problems that they might develop over time while you are on the road.
2. How Is the Cost Estimate Better Than the Other Companies?
There are few van conversion companies that have been around for more than four or five years. You can expect plenty of new companies in this industry. Most established companies have some faults, and they don’t seem to be researching the latest technology and information when it comes to van conversion.
There are some companies out there that don’t seem to use the best methods of insulation or the safest standards when it comes to mounting seats. Plenty of them relies on the old obsession with laminate materials and plastic feel on the interior. You can also see in their advertisements that the cabinets don’t fit perfectly, and they often charge $20,000 to $60,000 or even more with younger companies.
Before buying a converted van, make sure that you compare the cost with plenty of research. Compare the solar panel, battery power, number of seats, and other features like bathrooms, etc., costs with different companies first. Always remember that younger companies are turning out less expensive with their camping vans nowadays.
3. What Designs and Custom Floor Plans Do You Offer?
There is a wide range of van designs that you can choose from, industrial style, modern, or rustic. Every van conversion company will have the style that you might want. You need to make sure that their style and vision will be in line with yours. You should also ask if they make custom floor plans that can accommodate the different ideas and needs that you have in the van.
There are some van conversion companies that have pre-designed floor plans that you can choose, while others will work custom design. If you want to go the custom build route, make sure the company has enough experience in making them.
4. Any Ideas that You Can Share With Me?
Before you choose a professional camper van conversion company, it is best to think about how you are going to use your van. You need to consider if you will only use the van during the weekend or will you use it full-time and bring along your family on your road adventures.
Aside from that, you need to consider how much storage you will need and whether you are planning to live in a warm or cold location. You also need to think about the road that you are taking, like driving on rough roads or will you need a bathroom while living on the road. Of course, the number one that you need to consider is how tall you are.
Make sure that you have a clear vision for your van’s purpose before you head out to different van conversion companies. Ask the company for ideas that they may have to make your van awesome and fantastic. You need to make sure that the company is innovative and they are familiar with different products that will outfit your van.
You will need a company that can provide extreme creativity in their work. They should be knowledgeable and can build you a better van than you could have ever imagined yourself.
Here, you would need a detailed conversation with the company so that they will have an idea of the company’s personality, experience, and whether or not they can do the work. Having a detailed conversation with the company will let you know if they are the ones that you are looking forward to working with.
5. Is It Possible to See Some Examples of Your Previous Work?
It is pretty obvious that you will be asking for examples of the van conversion company’s previous work. When they agree with you, make sure that you pay close attention to the details of the work that they have done before. Check if the drawers open and close smoothly.
You should also check whether the curtain is easy to put up whether the plumbing is straightforward and make sense. Also, make sure to check if the bed is comfortable and notice if the company has cut corners.
At this point, you need to ask a lot of questions about the van build. When they are not able to show you a van personally, you can ask for photos of vans that they have built.
6. How Much Will My Van Build Cost?
Always get clarity on the van build price since this is a crucial part of the buying process. If you are a first-time van buyer, it is best to understand how the price is calculated. Most of the time, van conversion companies only provide top-line numbers unless you demand it after the build is done, which is not the ideal process to have.
The cost should be very clear, and at the conversation where you explain your van design, you should already receive an invoice with the breakdown of the cost for every line item that is included in the build. When you want a particular component upgraded, the line item should be updated, and you should get a new invoice.
It will be appreciated knowing exactly what you will be paying for when it comes to your van conversion. You should always know what you will be getting for your money’s worth.
Now, most van conversion companies will require you to have some sort of down payment or even a full payment in advance. When a company is well established, full payment is their standard policy, and it shouldn’t be a cause for your concern. However, if it is a newer company asking for all of the cost upfronts, then it is best to pause for a minute.
In this case, it is best to ask for a payment schedule where payments are made as to the van conversion progress. When you have this setup, it will give you peace of mind.
7. Am I Going to Be Included in the Decision Making Process?
It is important that you are included in every decision-making process that involves your van conversion. When the time comes to choose your fridge, the van conversion company should let you know what options you have and what are the pros as well as cons of each type of fridge. If the company decides to go with a certain fridge brand, they should tell you why. This should be the case in everything that they will put in your van conversion.
If you are deciding on the electrical system of your van, the builder should educate you on the different components they are installing. You should know how they work and the different options you have for meeting all of your needs as a van user.
When you have been informed of the different options, you should always have the final say in what is purchased or installed in your van.
Once the entire conversion is done, if the builder has purchased the products, you need to make sure they provide you with copies of the instruction manuals of every product they have chosen. It can be hard to fix any issues that you might face while on the road without the manuals.
Remember, if you are on the road full-time, you won’t be able to access the internet for help. So, it is still a great idea to have hard copies of every instruction booklet of each item inside your van.
8. What Is the Expected Time for My Van to Be Finished?
You should choose a van conversion company that will be honest about the timeframe of when they will be able to finish your van. They should let you know if there are other jobs already in line ahead of yours. When they start working on your van, you should know how many weeks or months they will devote to creating your van.
Make sure that you are aware that full conversions can take some time, but you also want to ensure that yours will be delivered on the promised timeline that they provided. The timeframe should be one that works for you and your upcoming travel plans.
9. Can You Provide Different Reference for Me?
For you to know if the van conversion company checks out, it is best to ask them for references and make an effort to talk to at least a couple of people on the phone. You need to make sure that the references they provide are legit and they are not just the builder’s friend or relative.
Make sure that you ask the references specific questions about the van conversion company, such as how are they as a builder to work with and how many miles are already on their van. You can also ask them how their van is holding up on the road and if there are any changes that they noticed in their van. The most important question that you need to ask them is if the money has been worth it when it comes to their van conversion.
Another way to scout references is to browse through their company website or Social Media. There are times the customers tag the van conversion company in photos. You can easily send them a message about their experience with the van conversion company.
10. What Power Do You Use for the Van Builds?
The best thing about your van conversion is it runs on solar panels and battery banks where you can cook coffee in the morning, cook meals, take a hot shower, charge your devices, and have lights during the night. Different companies can offer a wide range of power options for your van. With big companies, they tend to offer shore power plug-ins, assuming that you will always be staying in campgrounds or RV parks.
Newer van conversion companies offer different solar options for boondocking or off-the-grid camping at normal campgrounds or in urban parking lots with stealth camping. However, solar-powered camping vans don’t offer enough batteries or solar panels to cook your full meal while on the road.
There are solar vans that use diesel water heaters and propane stoves for cooking. Also, some use solar for charging and lights. or running air conditioners. Running efficient air conditioners will require power stored in one particular lithium battery per hour, and it costs about $1,000 for each.
Keeping all these factors in mind, you need to make sure that the company you choose can cater to your needs. Make sure you ask them plenty of questions on the power that the company uses for your van.
11. What Type of Insulation Do You Use?
Your van would need insulation to keep you cool during the summer and warm during the cold winter seasons. The insulation should have a high R-value that can provide a buffer to both heat and cold. It should also be water-resistant, so whenever it gets wet, it repels the water and dries it out. Lastly, the insulation should be light enough so it will not add too much weight to your van’s limited payload.
Van conversion company offers plenty of choices when it comes to materials for insulation. There are plenty of pros and cons of the different types of van insulation materials. Some offer plywood panels while others offer materials like recycled jeans which is, by the way, a terrible choice.
Recycled jeans material for insulation is most likely to retain moisture, grow mold and be heavy for a van. There are other companies that use chemicals or insulation products that can be very expensive, highly toxic, and are made by highly polluting companies.
Other van conversion companies won’t share what type of insulation materials they use as they only say it’s ‘proprietary.’ Now, you don’t want to go this route because you want to make sure you know what materials the company is placing in your van.
Your van insulation should be light enough but made with quality materials and comes at an affordable price.
12. What Type of Installation Plates Will Be Installed in My Van’s Seats?
Now, vanlife seat safety is kind of crazy as they don’t offer seat belts for rear passengers or seats that are placed at side angles which can be unsafe during a crash. Regular vehicles are required to have tested seat belts as well as rigorous crash testing. With van conversions, you will find lounge chairs and seats facing sideways with no seat belts, but you will only find the chairs bolted to the floor.
In case of an accident, passengers in the back are going to be thrown around without any type of protection. Seats will rip out the floor, and it is going to be devastating during an accident.
Different van conversion companies use different kinds of methods for installing seats behind the front driver and passenger seats. It is important that your chosen van conversion company will install extra metal plates and large washers that won’t pull the chairs or beds through the floor during a crash.
When you care about the safety of your family and friends while riding on your van, make sure to ask the van conversion company about how they install their seating. Take a look under the chassis to ensure that there are metal plates and four-inch or larger washers that are holding down the seats.
13. What Is the Weight of the Entire Build, and Is There Extra Room Left in the Payload?
Van conversion companies use vans that are designed for hauling cargo or passengers, so they assume that these vans can pile all the weight without any worry. However, this is not true. Every van model comes with a payload limit which is the maximum weight it can carry without adding extra strain to the engine as well as impacting the mileage and the vehicle performance.
There are some companies where they don’t pay attention to the payload, but it is one of the most important factors when you are building your van. They use heavy materials in the van, such as all wood paneling, inch-thick cabinets, heavy mattresses, and AGM batteries.
Make sure that you ask the company about the payload left over for passengers and any additional gears that you may have. Believe me when I say there are van conversion companies that leave literally no payload for people, bags, food, and other things that you may want to bring along with you on the road.
Look for a company that uses lightweight materials like bamboo, wool, and cork. These materials are not only more eco-sensitive but are also cheap, readily available, and more durable. You would want to have about 800 to 1000 pounds available in the payload designated for passengers and gears.
14. What Are the Different Options From the Vehicle Manufacturer?
Every van manufacturer provides different safety options, such as including the top level of safety options from Mercedes that includes backup cameras so that you can see behind the van. There are also vans that have Active Brake Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, and other features that can come in handy.
Now, it may add a few thousand to the cost of the van itself, but it will be a great asset to your safety while on the road. Make sure that your van conversion company provides you with a full list of details on the safety options that are available for your vehicle.
Van conversion is like buying a new home, and you have to know everything that comes with it before you purchase the unit. With the right questions to ask, you will know what quality you are paying for at the same time it meets your needs as well as wants while on the road. If you want to know what questions to ask yourself before building your van, here is an article that I have written for you. Happy van building!