Van Build

First, for full disclosure, neither of us have any prior experience with van conversions and aren’t exactly professional carpenters or mechanics, so this is definitely a process of trial and error! We tried to educate ourselves as much as possible reading various forums, webpages and other information sources, and tried to come to a conclusion that we thought would suit our needs, budget and skillset best. With that said, we’re sure that we’ve made mistakes. We will try to illustrate and describe the steps we took but would love to hear any comments and questions! The design and building of the van is all part of the overall adventure, and view it as a time to learn about design, mechanics and handy-work.

The Van:

In 2014, we purchased a used 2008 Sprinter Van 144wb 2500 High Roof Van (NCV3) with about 90k miles. It certainly wasn’t in perfect condition but didn’t require any work other than maintenance before we started the trip. Check out our maintenance page to see what we’ve had to repair over the last 60k miles.


Aside from a lot of google searches, the Sprinter forum has a ton of information and build guides that helped us with our build. We also made extensive use of the Sprinter conversion sourcebook, and highly recommend it. Hopefully you find some of our information helpful in your build as well.

The specifics:

How to:

Van Tour


  1. Hi, you guys are awesome! My wife and I want to do something like this and while I have a lot of questions two that I would ask would be 1: what is a rough estimate for cost of the build out not including van? 2: were there any specific resources that you would recommend to help with planning the build? Thanks

    • No, its just rear wheel drive. It has never been a problem, especially because the clearance of the Sprinter is quite good.

  2. Jakob and Nikki, I’d just like to thank you both for posting all this info. I know from experience that it takes a lot of effort to keep a site like this up. I’m currently in the final stage of my Sprinter Van build and your info has helped a lot. Keep up the great work and the adventures!

  3. Hi guys. We’re just starting our van build and are thinking about installing pine or cedar paneling. Do you have any squeaking from the paneling? Also, do you think it would be feasible to install the paneling directly into the metal, rather than installing furing strips? Thanks for being so thorough with your van build – you have great ideas!

    • Cindy,

      We don’t have any squeaks or rattles from the cedar paneling, even when the van flexes on bad roads. The cedar is actually quite flexible itself. You could screw it into the ribs of the van directly, but we chose not to do this because 1) we didn’t want to put a lot of holes into the metal, 2) you would have to either predrill into the sheet metal or use self-tapping sheet metal screws which seemed cumbersome, and 3) most importantly, there are already gaps / holes in the ribs of the van that would make it difficult to keep a regular pattern for the cedar panel screws. Adding the furring strips seemed like the best solution for us, especially since they’re only 1/4″ thick. To save some money we bought the wider (maybe 3 inch) poplar strips and ripped them in half on a table saw. Let me know if you have any questions, hope this helps.


  4. Hey guys,

    I am looking into buying a 2008 for my own conversion as well. How has the Sprinter treated you so far? How many miles when you got it and how many does it have now? Are you happy with the purchase? It is reliable? Any major breakdowns?



    • Ryan,

      We put about 50k miles on the Sprinter so far with no major issues. I think it’s important to take good care of the maintenance items and use only OEM-approved fluids for your oil changes etc. That has served us very well. We’re really happy with the van otherwise, it took us everywhere we ever wanted to go!


  5. Hey guys. I think a few months ago I saw an exhaust fan in the roof of the van. You all had a hyperlink to Amazon. I’ve searched for it on the blog and can’t seem to find it. Any way you could post that bad boy again?

    • We have a ceiling fan in our van, if that is what you mean. We installed a Fan-tastic Fan and are very happy with it. Here’s the newest version of it on Amazon.

  6. Hey guys,

    I am currently in the search for a van and plan to use a lot of the tips etc you gave. I was curious which order you did the build. Could you arrange the list above in the order of your build? Can’t wait to get started!


    • Jes,

      The order of build is completely up to you, that’s part of the fun. We actually made quite a few changes on the fly as we got new ideas, so I would say flexibility helps a lot when building out your van. Ideally, you would want to have everything planned out exactly how you want it, so that you can start out with the major installations, e.g. electrical system, heater, water system, propane, etc. This was not the case for us and I think we still ended up being fine. The furniture goes in based on your very specific build – for us it made sense to start with the bed frame and then build up cabinetry around that.


  7. Question about the cedar paneling: Since the furring strips (I’m assuming this is another term for nailers) add a little height to the paneling… 1/4in, when you came to the ends of the boards (say around the window, door, etc.) weren’t the cedar boards set 1/4in off the metal of the van due to the height of the nailer? Wasn’t there a little gap there? And if so, what did you do to hide it? It looks amazing, btw!

    • Hannah,

      we shaped the cedar boards on the sides to follow the contours of the van (it’s a pain). That way you can’t tell that there is a gap behind the cedar. We thought about adding edging to hide it some more, but never got around to it. I hope that answers the question!


  8. Jacob,

    I’ve read that 2007 and newer sprinters, NCV3 models, require a low sulfur diesel which is not available in central and South America. Did you have issues with this? I’ve even heard of people buying the NCV3 sprinters, decking them out and getting ready for South America, only to sell and buy a 2006, because of this low sulfur diesel. What are your thoughts?

    • Hey Charlie,

      Definitely something to consider before taking on a trip through Central and South America. The issue is with having a particulate filter (DPF) that clogs up from higher soot content. We’ve heard that the issue gets compounded especially in the Andes, where you have high elevation (low oxygen content in the air) and bad fuel quality.

      If you have an NCV3, you’ll probably have to remove the DPF and reprogram the ECU to avoid these problems on your way. There do not appear to be other problems with high sulfur diesel than the DPF. To remain in compliance with emissions, I would suggest reinstalling all emissions equipment once back in the US. From what I’ve heard 2008-10 are fairly easy to modify, 2011+ difficult.

  9. Hey Leika, sometime when you are taking a break from chasing sticks or that nap in the sun, could you ask your people what type of real world fuel economy/consumption they are getting from your portable dog house/van? Do they have the 2.1 or 3 liter motor? I hear my people discussing the pro’s and con’s of the 144 inch wb or the 177 inch wb sprinter 4×4 lately. I don’t have a clue what they are talking about but I think they can carry more bacon for me in the larger model. Thanks,

    • Hey John,

      My folks have the 3.0 liter engine – I always told them to get the 2.1 for better mpg, but apparently Mercedes didn’t start selling that until 2014 or so. Real world mpg with All-Terrain tires was about 18-20mpg south of the border, and about 20-22 in the US.

      I’ve had plenty of space in the 144 – they let me choose between driver seat, passenger seat, and dog bed every night! Best sleep was definitely in the passenger seat.


  10. HI Guys.

    Great VAn Build. We just bought a 2015 Ram Promaster Cargo and plan on using alot of your Ideas.

    Noticed nothing About Porta Pottie.

    Care to Share.


    David And Mary, South Carolina

    • David,

      You’re right – we didn’t have one. We found ourselves mostly in 2 scenarios: 1) easy access to public facilities (campgrounds, restaurants etc.) or in the middle of nowhere. We considered getting a foldable toilet just in case, but never ended up getting one. I know it sounds crazy not to have a toilet, but it was never an issue.


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