We bought a relatively small and efficient RAM ProMaster bare cargo van (a US version of the popular European Fiat Ducato) and we did a simple but fully functional conversion that includes: paneling and flooring, insulation, a full electrical system with solar charging, galley with stove, fridge and sink, fresh and grey water systems, a toilet and other odds and end.
We have documented our build in a LOT of detail. See the Table of Contents just below. In each section I’ve tried to include 1) how we arrived at the design, 2) the details on the build or install, 3) and what the cost, weight, and labor were.
In a nutshell we wanted a camper that drives and parks like a car, is comfortable to be in, drives well on back roads, has all the essentials, gets good gas mileage with low CO2 emissions, and is completely self-sufficient.
Comments, questions and suggestions and ideas are most welcome — there are comment sections on every page.
Table of Contents
Planing and Design
- Electrical and Solar
- Plumbing and tanks
- Composting toilet
- Propane system
- Running boards
- Spare tire carrier for door
How Well Did it Work Out?
Cost, Labor Weight?
Lifetime Fuel and Emissions
Odds and Ends
Objectives for the Conversion
We have enjoyed RVing over the years, but lost our last RV in a highway crunch.
One thing we did not enjoy about RVing was the 10 mpg gas bills and the 2 lbs per mile of CO2 emissions. So, this project is about getting back into RVing with a smaller footprint.
These are our main objectives for the conversion.
- We wanted the fuel efficiency to be good (20+ mpg).
- We want it to drive and park as much like a regular car as possible.
- Comfortable beds for two without too much hassle to convert to seating.
- We want to be able to operate independent of electrical hookups, and preferably on solar power.
- We want the interior to feel open and pleasant to be in.
- We want it to be able to handle rough back roads.
To try to achieve these objectives we ended up picking the RAM ProMaster cargo van, which has an efficient, lighter weight, front wheel drive layout, and relatively efficient power plant. Within the ProMaster line, we picked the shortest version that would give us just enough space for what we needed. And, after estimating what the van would weigh after the simple conversion, we picked the lowest gross weight version of the ProMaster to get the lower final drive ratio that it comes with. We kept a strict eye on adding weight and ended up well below the allowed gross weight.
Our last RV (a Coachman class B Ford van conversion) suffered a lot from the try to cram every kind of RV feature known to mankind into a tiny envelope problem. We ended up tearing out a lot of the interior and revamping it into a simpler form that put a lot of emphasis on a good bed, descent storage, and minimal cooking facilities. This made the RV a lot more useful to us — it was more open to be in, and more comfortable to live and sleep in. This was the starting point for this new RV conversion of the ProMaster — keep it simple and open and practical.
While we ended up picking the ProMaster van as the base vehicle for our conversion, there are other similar vans that are used (a much wider choice just in the last couple years). These include the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, and the Nissan NV. These are all similar in that they offer full standing height versions with enough room for all the essentials.
Lots of back and forth on which of the above is the best choice for a base van. A good place to get first hand information from the owners are the online forums:
I’ve found the information and discussions on these forums to be very helpful.
There are some commercial RV’s available or coming out on the ProMaster, Sprinter, and Transit chassis. These may suit some well, and are certainly worth taking a look at, but for us they are too big, too fancy, have more “stuff” in them than we want, don’t get the gas mileage we want, and are too expensive. I think that people in Europe have more choices and might well find a commercially made Ducato or Sprinter based RV that fits well. A video that shows some of these…
There are also other more compact vans, vehicles and trailers that can be used as a base vehicle and will do even better on fuel economy. I plan to try and cover some of these the site develops — if you have a favorite candidate, please let me know.
Comments, questions and suggestions are most welcome — just keep them civil and no spam.
Older Comments — this site had its start as a few pages on my solar website, and that site used the Disqus comment system. This site is done under the WordPress umbrella and they have their own comment system which I’ve decided to use. This leaves the problem of what to do with the accumulated comments on the old site — I don’t want to drop them as there were many good comments and questions. So, what I’ve done for now is to copy all the old comments to a page here. You can read them (well worth doing!) but not add new comments. If you have a question or comment that stems from the old comments, just enter it in the new comment section below.
September 11, 2015
I’m not sure if someone asked this.
Your over bed cubby storage, what is behind the wood to keep things falling down? I used that space to run wiring for my rear camera and it seems that there is space for things to drop down…
Inside each cubby is a shelf that is just made for Polyiso insulation sheet glued in place with Great Stuff.
The shelf sits just below the cubby opening to discourage stuff from coming out the cubby opening when braking or going over a bump.
We just put a few odds and ends there, mostly when sleeping.
50 a breaker between van battery and house battery keeps tripping off. When I drive less than 65, it works fine and doesn’t trip. But get caught up in the 70+ mph traffic and it trips off. Is this all due to that alternator charging curve that says increased rpms give more amperage, and above 65 mph I reach the critical amperage. So do I just drive slower or replace the 50 a with a 60 amp? Or do they make a current limitor?
You don’t say what kind and size of house battery you have? Maybe fairly large AGM?
The way the charging tends to work on my system is that if the batteries are low when charging starts, the initial charging rate is high, but after a short time, it drops off to around 30 amps or so. So, not sure that your charging pattern is normal — it seems to me, that by the time you get up to the rpm for 65 mph that you should already be up to max charging rate already, so maybe its worth checking that your alternator is working OK.
If you have AGM batteries rather than flooded lead acid, they have lower internal resistance and therefore charge at a higher rate.
What I would recommend is that 1) find out what the manufacturer of your battery recommends for max charging rate, 2) measure the charging current to the house battery with with a meter you permanently install or with a clamp on DC amp meter.
This will tell you if you are charging at such a high rate that the battery life will be decreased.
If you find that the rate does not exceed what the manufacturer recommends, and that your alternator is not out of adjustment and charging too fast, then you could go up on the breaker as long as the gage wire you used is good for the higher amperage. I think that 8 gage or bigger would be OK for a 60 amp breaker.
Hello, Great job on your conversion and sharing! I see one of your objectives/requirements was to have a vehicle that could handle rough and gravel roads. How is the front wheel drive van working out with that? This is probably my main concern with the ProMaster as Dirt, Gravel, and minimal Off Road is a major part of my travel. Thanks!
We have done several thousand miles on gravel roads — including the Dempster Highway in the Yukon https://www.buildagreenrv.com/the-big-yukon-trip/
It has done well. FWD seems to be fine. Durability seems to be fine. Only thing I would call a negative is the on heavily washboarded gravel roads, it can be pretty rough riding, and a slow speed is pretty much mandatory. I think this is do mostly to the stiff rear suspension. We have found that replacing the rear shocks with a better quality shock helps as does lowering the tire pressure. Some people have gone a step further and removed the “helper” spring, and say that the rough road drive gets better with this — has been discussed a lot on the ProMaster Forum.
Don’t want to make this sound like a big issue — its really just a small annoyance on a small fraction of back roads.
The ground clearance under the rear axle looks low, but its nearly 8 inches and has been fine for us.
In the winter, good traction tires make a world of difference on snow.
edit: Oops – the ground clearance under the rear axle is actually a bit under 7 inches. Still, we have not found it to be a problem.
After you completed your conversion, how did you insure your camper van?
Our company is State Farm.
Before the conversion was done, it was insured as a commercial van, which was a bit pricey. With the conversion completed, it is insured as an RV.
Fantastic Job, hope all is still going well.
Looking to build ours also on the Promaster.Hard question, your opinions on the seat comfort driving (especially several hours or more at a time) also hanging out.
It can be a tricky question being everyone’s back, spine & buttox have differing opinions, some seats are horrid after an hour or so others you can go for hours and hours and all is good.
Stay Safe & Thank You!Kevin
Yes — lots of opinions on the PM seat comfort.
I like the seats. At first they seem a bit hard, but on long trips (for me) they prove to be quite comfortable.
My wife is not so impressed, but has managed to add a little extra cushion behind her back and does OK with them.
The ProMaster Forum has a lot of discussions on seat comfort, so maybe do some searching there. A common opinion is the same as mine — that the seats seem a little stiff and first but are good for long trips.
Thank you for the reply on the seats very helpful, Kevin
Maybe your next “green rv” will be one of these: https://www.autoblog.com/2019/04/30/maxwell-rhev-prototype-review-first-drive/
That’s pretty amazing that they could get that all to work and can sell it at a pretty reasonable price.
I’ve often wondered what could be achieved in mpg for a clean sheet of paper van and hybrid powerplant focused on the the simple RV role.
Maybe somewhere in the 30’s?
Awsome information here. Thanks for all this. One question: Do you know if I want to install windows that open, can I buy a 2018 (new) Promaster that already has the factory windows in the right side sliding door and the rear doors. Can I replace these (non-opening) factory windows with windows that open or should I try to find a van that has no factory windows?
I don’t know.
I think the factory windows are glued in, which might make removing them a challenge, but it must be possible as they could be broken in service and need replacement.
I wonder if you would be better off to order no windows and then cut the holes for the vented windows? But, not sure at all.
So this was the promaster 2500 159″ wheel base with the v6?
I’m not sure which PM Fred is talking about, but nine (pictured at the top of this page) is a ProMaster 1500, 136 wheel base with the V6.
Again…most excellent site. And where do you find the time to be so helpful????
Two quick questions:
1. Trying to troubleshoot why my Tripp lite won’t put out AC current? where would you test the negative end when using a voltmeter?
2. Love your hardboard paneling for the sidewalls, but cannot find anything close, even on line. where did you get it or who makes it?
I’d put the DC volt meter between the two large wires coming from the battery (via fuse) to the inverter.
My Tripplite has a little slide switch on the front side that has to be in the right position in order for it to put out AC — check to make sure its in the correct position. You might also actually have to attach a load to it for it to produce the 120 VAC — ie plug a light or something in.
maybe try customer support if you can’t get it to work — I’ve had good experience with them.
The paneling is from DPI (Decorative Panel International).
They have some nice stuff — even after 3 years, I still like our wall paneling (can’t say the same for the ceiling).
We got it from a local lumber yard here in Bozeman called Kenyon Noble — they had a whole book of sample patterns they could get. Took about a week for it to come in.
2019 update on the paneling.
It has developed some what look like condensation stains around some of the windows and frames — pretty unsightly.
See the page on paneling for pictures.
Still like the patterned wall paneling, but would try to find something more stain resistant if doing it again.
Awesome info. quick question. Using two deep cycle 12 v batteries at 100 amp each connected in parallel. Got a Victron BMV 700 and trying to figure how to connect the batteries to the battery terminal shunt for monitoring. Do I need to run a separate lead from each battery to the Shunt terminal, or connect neg pole to neg pole to battery side shunt. (probably makes no difference?????) . By the way, you are inspirational.
I think either way is fine.
Its just important that all of the current goes through the shunt — that is, no direct connection of return wires to the negative battery terminal.
I’m a single woman that would love to purchase a preowned commercial van that gets decent mileage, and go green with a built out travel van. I live in New Jersey and don’t know of anyone that could help me customize it for cross country. Can you help, recommend anyone? Thank you so much. Veronica
That sounds very feasible.
Buying a preowned van makes sense to me — we would have done exactly that except that the PM was just out and not really any used ones available.
I don’t have much firsthand info on professional van converters, but it seems like most areas have some local people that do this kind of work. A couple of ones that have a good reputation are Sportsmobile and Morehead Design, but this may involve driving the van a long ways to get to their location.
There is also a new outfit that will convert your PM van is just a few hours — its a simple conversion that is also very fast. Can’t think of the name of the outfit right now, but its been discussed on the ProMaster forum not long ago, so maybe search there.
Another thought would be to do the conversion yourself, or maybe do most of it yourself and find some help for parts you don’t feel up to doing on yourown. There are some conversions that are pretty simple — you can find completely packaged electrical systems that come in one box (eg Yeti 1000) and plumbing systems that just use 5 gallon plastic jugs for fresh and grey water and that just fit under the galley cabinet. One place to look for ideas is our conversions page https://www.buildagreenrv.com/diy-rv-conversions/diy-van-conversions/
While simple may seem like a compromise, I think in most cases the simple solutions are best.
There are at least a couple single women van converters on the ProMaster forum.
Nice work on your van, and your dedication to providing a plethora of helpful information, tips and hints for people working on their own projects! This has been such an amazing community to dive into!
I am currently working on my Promaster 2500 159″ High Roof. My current debates are windows and vent fan location. I am considering two 48″x15″ sliders on either side in the back above where the bed will sit, and one roughly 34″x19″ galley window in the panel behind the driver. I was wondering if you like your window set up or if there is anything you would change. I am debating saving money and going with all three sliders versus the galley having an awning style opening versus slider for use in the rain. Also, wondering whether you feel that many windows was a good choice for you in regards to insulation summer and winter purposes. I will make insulating curtains, but just unsure and curious of your thoughts!
As for the vent fan, I was wondering how you feel about your choice of the forward location versus the back over top of the bed.
Thanks so much in advance for any and all opinions and advice on this, and once again thanks for putting together such a great resource!
Sorry about the slow response — have been without internet for a couple days.
Having lots of windows vs minimal windows is a very personal choice — some people like the wide open feeling of lots of windows, while some like a more cozy minimal window feel.
We do like our window locations, which are similar to what you describe. The only thing I would add is a window in the sliding door, which eliminates the pretty bad blind spot when you come to an intersection where the roads meet at a non right angle. We drove the van without the window in the slider for about a year and decided it was just not safe to drive without the sliding door window.
I’d also check to make sure the 19 inch window is not to too tall.
You do pay a penalty in both summer and winter for the greater window area, but its not huge — you can use the spreadsheet on the insulation page to see what the increase in heat loss/gain is. For use the better views and lighting were worth it.
There are more window choices out there now than when wee did ours — this page has some choices https://www.buildagreenrv.com/design-and-build-information-for-camper-vans/installing-windows/
The Tern windows look interesting to me, although I’m just a little hesitant about scratches on the plastic.
We used the flat spot on the ProMaster roof just behind the cab area, and it worked out well for us. Its near the galley for cooking odors and if you open the side windows in the back of the van, it provides good airflow through the van.
But, you can put it anywhere — Hein sells some custom made fillers that making installing the fan in the ribbed area of the roof easy http://diyvan.com/
I am looking at adding four scissor jacks to stabilize and level the van at a camp site.
Here is the product: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00Z13SWV0/?coliid=IK1RYA9MLM917&colid=2CPSVMJ22N8NC&psc=0&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it
Obviously we need to find a good location to mount the jacks. Do you think this is a good idea in general?
We started out with a couple wedges to level the van if needed. After not using them for the first half dozen trips, I stopped carrying them.
So, now we gennerally just pull into our camp spot and don’t attempt any kind of leveling. But, if that would result in our heads being downhill in the bed, we might back into the spot, or just flip the bedding around so our head faces the other way. This has worked for over 100 nites in the van.
The only time the slope was a problem was one night at Big Bend Chisos Basin campground in which the only site still available had a whole lot of slope — too much for levelers to handle, but they probably could have made it a bit better.
For us, I just don’t think the levelers are worth the bother, but some do find them useful.
I’d recommend that you give it a try without the levelers — you can always add them later.
My wife and I are in the market for a RAM ProMaster and will likely use your website as the primary source for our van conversion. I’m very impressed with your extensive work to document the process.
We found the rental car companies as a great source for cargo vans. The high roof models are running about $26,000 and the low roof models about $16,000. We test drove a low roof and think it might be fine for us. What do you think about the low roof option? It is 67 inches high inside. I didn’t remember you having many high cabinets other than over the sink. Any big reasons why it wouldn’t work?
The high roof vs low roof is something that gets quite a bit of debate on the ProMaster and Transit van forums — very strong opinions on both sides 🙂
We do like being able to stand up in the back of our high roof, but I can also see a lot of advantages for the low roof — like better mpg and less need to worry about low vertical clearance situations. I guess if we were choosing a van again, I think we would still go with the high roof. If you look on the ProMaster and Transit forums and search for the discussions on high vs low roof, you will get all the arguments for each.
There were some RV’s based on vans that had a lower floor in a limited area, so you could have a lower roof van but still be able to stand up in a limited area — always thought this was a pretty good idea. But, looking under the ProMaster, the opportunities to do this without major surgery look limited.
If you are thinking that the low roof would fit in your garage, I’d take some measurements and check — I think that it will not fit in a lot of standard height garage door.
I do think that rental companies can be a good source for vans. When we bought our van, new was about the only choice since they had just come out, but would definitely by used now.
The biggest decision you will have to make once you get the van is what kind of internal layout to choose. I’d take your time with this and look at a lot of builds. Once you get it down to a couple good candidates, I’d take a little time to build a rough mockup out of cardboard and scrap wood.
Some people recommend starting with a very very minimal conversion and then try the van for a couple weekends to see how you like the layout. I think this is a good idea.
Please keep us posted.
THIS is an outstanding source of information. I’ve been traveling about and hauling a 22′ Airstream. I sold it three years ago and have been trying to decide between the Ford Transit and the Dodge Promaster. My brother is going to help with the buildout. This is the best site so far. Thank you for taking the time to lay all of this out for us Vangoes! 🙂
Thanks — keep us posted.
First thanks for all the info you have provided. Been van camping for many years but never had a new enough vehical to put money into it. Just bought a 2017 promaster left over for about 9000 off suggested price presently insulating. Waiting for warm weather to cut in windows. Bought the same windows you used you helped me find just what I wanted with more window ventalation. Same a you keeping it open and simple. Thanks again.
Should be fun — Keep us posted.
Hope that I am not to late with a few questions.
Did you consider getting a pop-up roof and using the bed that comes with some of those? And what about putting the front seats on swivels (legal?) and then doing a design that uses them as your dining seats. Thanks, it looks as if you have done a very thorough an informative post.
I did no seriously consider the pop-top.
I do like them, but I’m not too familiar with all the pros and cons. There are some pop-top builds on the ProMaster forum, and I’d guess on the other van forums.
Sportsmobile will do a pop top on vans — might be worth looking there for some more info.
The swivels are pretty popular. I believe that at least some of them are legal. On the PM they are available as a factory option. You can also retrofit them.
Some people really like them and feel that they gain a lot of useful space that is otherwise wasted.
They would not work very well with our layout — we would pretty much have to start over on the layout.
We do use the front seat area at night for all the odds and ends that we don’t need at night — jackets etc. So, its not totally wasted space.
Certainly worth considering a layout with swivel seats.
Hi David, You describe the very camper that we plan to build as soon as we can get our ProMaster low roof, 136 ” wheel base delivered to SportsMobile for a Penthouse with bed. We even ordered the swivel seats from Dodge. Only problem is Dodge seems to have lost our order so it is taking a long time for them to build the van.
If you embark on the same journey, maybe we can all share strategies!
My name is Beth. We are also building a camper van using a Promaster Van. I am looking for non-allergenic materials since I react to chemical smells. Any suggestions on paneling to use which is low on fumes and not made from PVC?
May I ask why you chose gas over diesel?
We started out looking for something like a used Sprinter (which would have been a diesel) for maybe $15K and when we could not find a good one, took a look at the ProMaster which had just come out. So, the $30K for a new PM was already twice what we had in mind to spend. The diesel would have been another $5K. That was probably the biggest factor for us.
There is quite a bit of discussion of the diesel vs gas on the PM forum. Both have their strong supporters. I have to say I’m impressed with the fuel economy of the diesel — the difference between the gas and diesel in mpg is greater than for many vehicles where both are available — about 19 mpg vs 27 mpg.
One thing to consider is that the transmission they have on the diesel is unusual and people tend to love it or hate it. So, have a look at that too.
Thank you – very helpful! I currently have my car dealer goddaughter on the search for a used ProMaster for me. I can’t wait.
I’m looking to get my 16’7″ hobie island adventure INSIDE my van conversion. That would mean I need the high top roof to extend over the cab. Is this still an option. I see pictures of this in the older conversions, and wonder why they don’t do it anymore
It looks like the cargo floor length on the longest promaster is 13 ft.
You could use the area/shelf over the driver and passenger seat to get some more length, but I’m not sure you could get an extra 3 ft 6 inches.
As far as I know, all of the high roof PM’s have the same over cab configuration — not aware of any option that provides more over cab room.
Not sure if the Transit or Sprinter vans offer any more length?
Gary, I really appreciate the time you took to post all these details on your build. I am a couple years away from retirement but I want to build one similar to what you did. I cannot justify paying all that money for a fully loaded already built one.
Sounds like a good retirement project — it was for me 🙂
The prices for commercial RV’s is pretty staggering.
Hi Gary do you mind sending me details on the LP detector you use? It seems like they use quite a bit of power so I have beem neglecting buying one.
I had been using this combination propane and CO detector:
We changed it out because it was giving a lot of false alarms. On a hot day just sitting in the driveway, it would go off on its own and stay on for hours until someone walked by the RV and noticed the noise.
I don’t know how much power it used.
We have switched over to an Atwood propane detector:
Have not had this in service long enough to say how reliable it will be.
It says to replace it in 7 years.
I’ll see if I can get a current reading on it later today.
Have also replaced the fire detector and CO detector with a combined CO and fire detector that has its own lithium battery and does not use power from the house battery. It has a life of 8 or 10 years, at which time you have to replace it.
Seems like a nice solution if it is reliable from a false alarms point of view.
The new propane detector from Atwood uses 71 millamp when running. This would be about (0.071 amp)(13 volt) = 0.92 watts and (0.071 amp) (24 hrs) = 1.7 amp-hrs a day.
Not too bad — about 1.5% of the usable battery capacity per day.
One thing to be aware of on the Atwood propane detector is that when its hooked up, it starts with a blinking red light, and this goes on for about 5 minutes until it turns green, indicating normal operation. The red light stays on so long that I was thinking that maybe I got a defective one.
the brand,and where to purchase the windows you used .They look beautiful thanks
They are the CR Lawrence “universal” windows:
Much more on the windows on this page:
We have been happy with them, and I do think they look nice.
I’m adding a window in the sliding door, which is same model as the others. Ordered from Carid this time but DK Hardware is also a choice. CR Laurence does not sell direct.
CR Lawrence also make a frameless window for the PM that matches the look of the factory window. They are kind of pricey and they are too big to ship UPS, so freight adds quite a bit.
Amazing job. And amazing web site !
Would you be able to describe exactly which ProMaster model you purchased? There seems to be a lot of configuration and sizing options for that vehicle: wheelbase, roof height, chassis height, engine size and type (gasoline or diesel), etc.
And can I assume that you bought new? (It looks new.)
136 inch wheelbase (the middle length)
high roof (full standing headroom — they also make a low roof model)
3.6 liter gas engine (they offer only this gas engine and a diesel engine)
Currently has 31K miles on it.
I did buy it new in 2014 after looking unsuccessfully for a good used Sprinter.
The 136 wheelbase offers 10 ft of floor behind the seats, and to us, this seemed like the smallest size we could get a comfortable and compact 2 person camper in. A lot of people opt for the 159 inch wheel base to provide some more space — especially if you want to do a bathroom with shower.
Thank you so much for your efforts to document and share this information! You did an outstanding job. I have been thinking about doing a conversion for about a year now and I am about to pull the trigger on a 2014 Promaster. The hints, tips, and advice you’ve given here will be invaluable to me.
You obviously chose to not go with an AC unit but I can’t find any where you might have discussed considering and dismissing it. Do you have any thoughts about adding a roof top ac unit to a build like yours?
Thank you very much.
Oops! I found it at the end of the heater discussion. Thanks
I do plan to put up some more on adding a “real” AC unit.
We don’t camp much in hot weather, so its not a real big issue for us.
Its a real challenge to have a real AC if you don’t want to have a generator and don’t want to be tied to shore power all the time. I really dislike generators, so have been trying to work out some way to run the AC part time on just batteries.
There are some people who have taken small 5000 BTU window AC units to camper vans. Its a bit of a challenge to get them in without looking kind of goofy, but probably possible. I think that for a well insulated van with reflective plugs in the windows the 5000 BTU should be OK — especially for a white van.
The power draw for a 5000 BTU AC’s is low enough that it could run off an inverter and a largish battery pack for a few hours a day (I think).
Its really important to pick an AC unit with as high an EER or SEER as possible — a lot of the small AC units are not very good in this department, and this just means they pull a lot more juice from the battery pack for a given amount of cooling. If anyone knows of a small AC with a really good EER or SEER, please let me know.
My wife and I just traveled with my parents Vista Cruiser Sprinter, and loved it. So now we have the bug. First off, your website is very, very informative. Currently trying to figure out which van to purchase, I am going back and forth between Transit and Promaster. I like everything about the Promaster, but am concerned about reliability. How has yours been? And how did you decide on the Promaster versus the other vans out there? Thank you.
When we decided on the ProMaster, the Transit was not yet available, and while we knew it was coming, we did not want to wait. We actually started looking for a used Sprinter, but it was hard to find a good one, and we were put off a bit by the stories of high maintenance costs.
Our PM has been fine. The only significant problem was squeaky brakes, and while it took quite a while for RAM to come out with a fix for this, the new pads are fine with no squeak. My dealer has been very good. It seems to me that Fiat/Chrysler is not that responsive to problems — not sure if Ford is any better this way — too bad Toyota does not make a suitable van 🙂
I’m just not sure about the relative reliability of the Transit vs the ProMaster — there are certainly plenty of opinions on both sides.
If you have not found the forums for the Sprinter, ProMaster, and Transit they are great sources of information. But, its hard to get solid data on reliability as you tend to hear from the people who have problems and not from the ones who don’t.
How is your all electric fridge working for you so far? any regrets about not having the lp option?
Fridge is working fine – very happy with it.
On the trip we are on now, have had to deal with a number of not level spots – LP fridge would not have worked on any of them – LP fridges are a pain.
Gary – Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with your van conversion.
I’ve been looking for the right ProMaster (miles, price, layout, condition) for about a month now. I found one that has windows on all sides. I live in northern Virginia/DC area it gets very humid here in the summer, and I plan on doing insulation as you did, if only to protect the interior of the van.
Can you (and perhaps others that may see this) help me in identifying Pros and Cons of having windows on all sides?
– Natural Light – big plus
– extended viewing (similar to the large window in the cab) – big plus
– factory installed – less likely to leak
– better sound protection that self installed camper windows
– easy to break a window so not as secure
– lack of “wall space” for storage – I can work around this though
– windows do not open
I think you pretty well covered the pro-con.
For your climate particularly, it seems like the non-opening windows and the heat gain through lots of window area could be significant?
You will probably want a roof fan for ventilation, but when you can’t open a window to complete the ventilation path, the fan won’t be as effective.
Hey! I live in the DC area and am in the process of converting a Promaster. https://imgur.com/a/qn6RV
Just thought I’d share. I don’t have much to add with regards to the pros and cons of having windows all around. My biggest concern would be the lack of wall space. In the high roof model there would be some space above the windows for overhead cabinets and some base cabinets but not much else.
Thanks for sharing the pictures.
Like the frameless windows — were they difficult to install?
Nice job of insulating.
I love this site and what you have done. I believe our objectives are quite similar. Unfortunately our talents are not.
I would like a RV just like yours even slimmed down a touch but would like just to buy one.
Where would you suggest I start looking?
Please respond to:
When I first started looking into a van conversion, my first thought was to find a used Sprinter van. While I was looking to start with a bare van and do the conversion myself, I did run across a couple of vans that already had been converted, and the prices were pretty reasonable. So, that might be one place to look. There might be more choice now in that the ProMaster and the Transit were not really out yet — I think that with these new vans, there are more conversions going on and a few of these people will decide for one reason or another that they want to sell their conversions.
Craigslist is pretty good for this.
Another option would be to find a van conversion outfit that will do a simple conversion and just include what you want. One outfit that has a reputation for doing this is Moorehead Design http://www.moreheaddesignlab.com/
There are probably lots of others, but this is just one I happen to have heard about.
You might try posting on the PM, Transit and Sprinter forums that you are looking for a simple and already completed conversion.
Others may have some ideas on this?
Great job with the build, I’m building a Promaster currently, and I was wondering if you considered any additional floor insulation? My insulation of choice for walls/ceiling is a first layer of reflectix followed by rigid polysio/spray foam for cracks, been debating whether I should do a layer of reflectix on the floor, or go right for the polysio and subfloor like you did.
This has been a great source for me during the build, thanks a lot for sharing all the details.
Glad to hear the site has been helpful.
The Reflectix does not add very much R value if it does not face an airspace. That is, most of its effective R value comes from situations where one (or both) of its reflective face sheets face an airspace.
So, unless you can figure out how to put the Reflectix in with an airspace on one side or the other of, I’d go for using polyiso, and if you want more R value, then thicker polyiso would likely be more effective than polyiso plus Reflectix.
I am interested in reading more about van conversions that would work for single women who want to travel. I would LOVE a hybrid van. I’ve been looking a the Toyota Sienna as a potential conversion.
I just spent 25 days traveling in my Prius and loved everything but putting up and taking down my tent everyday.
It looks like the 2017 Sienna will be available as a hybrid (and 4WD) — good for 25 mpg. I would have hoped for a little better mpg, but certainly a really nice package.
Some other base vehicles to think about:
A full sized ProMaster (like mine) can get about 20 mpg if you are a bit careful about driving it — this is twice what our last class B Coachman got, so pretty good and very roomy. But it would be nice to do better.
The ProMaster City van and the Transit Connect van are smaller than the full size ProMaster or Transit, but still a lot of room. I think they get mpg in the mid twenties. I’d guess very easy to drive and maneuver.
There are examples of RV conversionos of these vans out there. Some examples on this page: https://www.buildagreenrv.com/diy-rv-conversions/small-van-camper-conversions/
This is probably a pretty economical way to go as well, as you could start with a bare van as a base for the conversion.
A Prius V might be a possibility with outstanding mpg. It would be a bit of a challenge on inside space, but I think it could be OK with a very careful layout.
There is a special tent made to extend the space in a standard Prius a bit — its shown on this page:
Teardrop trailers are making a comeback and seem like a good way to go.
They can even be pulled behind a small hybrid car.
This idea of trying to work out a practical RV that gets really good mpg is really interesting to me. I’d be glad to put anything you find in ways to get there on this site (or link to other sites that have good ideas).
Asking your questions on the ProMaster, Transit or Sprinter forums would probably get some interesting responses.
I am a single woman and went traveling for over 2 months this summer in my toyota sienna. Over 9000 miles from the west coast to the east coast. I had a couple slight camping conversions done to my toyota sienna. It would be so nice to meet another person to travel parallel with at times. I would be very interested in talking with you about this
Hello Robina and Jeanne – I am also interested in camping/traveling and looking into doing a ProMaster conversion.
I’m also a single woman wanting to travel and trying to figure out how simple or how complex of a conversion I would want to do and how much of it I can do myself with some help. Then asking for help for some of the more complex things like electricity and stuff. 200W solar panels with battery is what I am thinking.
I’ve been searching for about a month now for the right ProMaster for the right price – that would give me the financial room to do the conversion.
You did an amazing job with this conversion. I’ve always loved the idea of living in a small green mobile home. Thank you so much for all the tips!
Thanks Michael — glad to hear it was helpful.
I just want to thank you for sharing your information. This is very helpful to me if I try to tackle something like this. I like the way you show cut-out for the window. I didn’t read about the noise inside, do I really have to install that quiet stuff like fat maxx ?
One of the frustrating things about deciding whether to go with noise treatment or not is that is about impossible to get good data on how much good it does. So, you are left with spending several hundred dollars on noise treatment and really not knowing how much good it does.
On my conversion the only place I used the stick on noice mat was on the inside rear fender wells.
Just the insulation and paneling do reduce noise quite a bit and our conversion as it is is “ok”, but could be a bit better.
I did take some noise measurements on mine here: https://www.buildagreenrv.com/our-conversion/our-promaster-camper-van-conversion-measuring-noise-levels/
You might look this over and see what you think.
If you can measure your noise levels before and after conversion, that would be a big help to others trying to make this decision.
In hindsight, I would probably have paid more attention to noise reduction during the build if I were doing it over.
I still have a few places (eg inside the sliding and back doors) that are not treated or insulated and I plan to at least insulate these, and this may bring the noise level down a bit more,