Looking for info on starting a Sprinter van conversion

coastcamper

New member
Hi, I am interested in buying a Sprinter van and converting it into an RV. I am located in N.C. and I'm trying to find out what is needed to be installed to be able to get it legally reclassified as an RV since my insurance company wants to charge me an unreasonable amount of money to put full coverage on the van with it's present classification. What are your recommendations on what I should install in my van and where should I purchase the items ? Does anyone have a rough idea of what it would cost to purchase everything? I just want to keep it simple and start with the basic stuff, I am thinking about a shower, toilet, small microwave, bed, table, refrigerator, simple interior lighting, several small cabinets which I will probably build myself. I am definitely open to suggestions and advice since this is my first time doing anything like this. Thank you very much for reading this and any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Eric
 

Shawn182

Active member
Registering it as an RV and insuring it as an RV are two totally different standards.

DMV varies for each state, but regiserting as an RV is fairly easy. Insurance on the other hand typically has a very specific equipment list to qualify to be insured as an RV regardless of what some broker sells you. Slapping a bed in a van does not make it insurable under a RV policy. Be sure to read and understand the fine print or you may find your self uninsured should the time ever come.

Youtube is the best source of information...zillions of build and budget videos on there and the options are endless.
 

Kajtek1

2015 long/tall limo RV 2.1l
Once you have can converted - you take it for DMV inspection and reclassification.
I did my conversion using old truck camper parts. Very cheap and decent quality parts.
 

coastcamper

New member
Thank you for all your replies, I really appreciate everyone's input and info. Unfortunately I don't even know what is required to have it inspected. I contacted the DMV in Raleigh, N.C. asking for a list of things that are required and haven't gotten na answer yet. Yes, I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos. Do you have any recommendations on who to watch, I have seen people doing lots of things differently. I will definitely check out your link you provided. This forum is a great source of information and I will continue trying to learn as much as I can here. There's a lot to learn and I am determined to do this. Thank you.
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
DMV and Insurance are completely different subjects.

DMV has certain requirements to change registration to a RV. Each state probably has different requirements. In Ca. there are 4-5 items that need to be in the van to register it as an RV. I kept my registration as a commercial vehicle because there was not enough difference in yearly fees and keeping the commercial plates allows me to park in yellow loading zones in the city.

My insurance company required the RV to have a RV manufacturer registration plate before they would insure it as an RV. In other words a DIY conversion did not qualify.

If you want some conversion ideas there may be some that are useful on my conversion web site:

 

RVBarry

Active member
My insurance company required the RV to have a RV manufacturer registration plate before they would insure it as an RV. In other words a DIY conversion did not qualify.
Hi, how did you resolve that? New insurance carrier?
 

Tripol

Member
I'm in North Carolina also. I'm not at all surprised that the DMV hasnt gotten back to you yet, ha. So right now I have insurance on a 2018 sprinter cargo for under 70 dollars a month from state farm- there is another vehicle on the plan so that may make a difference. However it seems reasonable. I'd probably talk to an insurance agent over the DMV, as they actually want to talk to you? Perhaps switch out insurance carriers, some might be better than others.
As others said, re- registering through the dmv is another thing, and I cant remember exactly all the issues with NC..
 

Roamers

2020 4X4 170 Crew
Hi, how did you resolve that? New insurance carrier?
My insurance company wants nothing to do with a DIY RV either. I ended up with a standard auto policy with a stated value customization endorsement. Registered as a passenger vehicle (crew).
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
Hi, how did you resolve that? New insurance carrier?
Did not resolve it. Van is insured as an empty commercial vehicle. Insurance would cover the vehicle but not the conversion costs. In effect I am self insuring that portion of the vehicle value.
 

Kajtek1

2015 long/tall limo RV 2.1l
Thank you for all your replies, I really appreciate everyone's input and info. Unfortunately I don't even know what is required to have it inspected. I contacted the DMV in Raleigh, N.C. asking for a list of things that are required and haven't gotten na answer yet.
I did not want my conversion registered as RV as those have parking restrictions in certain jurisdictions.
So I took it for the inspection with dinette and cabinet installed, but no shower and no sink.
The inspector wanted to classify it as van conversion, but on my protest he agree to classify it as limo.
Yet final papers show classification as TES
I googled TES for no results, so finally emailed question to NV DMV.
2 weeks later I got answer Truck Extended Sport van
There is no limit how government can complicate our lives.
But on the 2nd tough, living in CA in the past, I have seen lot of city ordinances restricting RV parking, restricting commercial vehicles parking, but no TES restriction. :dance:
 

coastcamper

New member
Thanks again for all your replies and info, all this is good info. Yes, I will talk to my insurance agent and see what my options are. They also wanted to know how much I was planning on adding to the van so they could calculate how much extra coverage I would need. I am glad to see that there are some people from N.C. on here. I live in the S. E. part of the state. I will definitely check out your website and I am sure that it will be very useful information since I am just getting started with all this and still need to learn a lot. Your right about the government, they do like to make things difficult sometimes but what can you do ? I am looking forward to doing my van conversion, I think that it will be fun. Thank you.
 

Fairmont

2019 3500XD 170EXT
Coastcamper, I am in Raleigh and am in the middle of building my second van. I learned a lot from the first one and would be happy to help you navigate all the options if I can. I did not register mine as an rv with dmv but I did insure it as one with USAA. I had enough into the conversion components that it would have been a tough to pill to swallow if the van was wrecked and I was only covered for the vehicle portion. USAA had a list of things that needed to be permanently installed to meet their criteria like a toilet and kitchen. It probably varies from state to state but your insurance company should be able to help you out.
 

sunride_tribe

2013 170" HR Bluetec
Did not resolve it. Van is insured as an empty commercial vehicle. Insurance would cover the vehicle but not the conversion costs. In effect I am self insuring that portion of the vehicle value.
You could also look into a renters insurance or some kind of personal property insurance to cover the contents. That's what we're hoping to do. We have friends who self converted an old trailer and that's the route they took.
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
You could also look into a renters insurance or some kind of personal property insurance to cover the contents. That's what we're hoping to do. We have friends who self converted an old trailer and that's the route they took.
I do not need to insure the contents so save money not having the contents insured.
 

coastcamper

New member
Fairmont,

Thanks, I really appreciate your help, I think that it would be an awesome idea. I can just imagine how much you learned doing the first one and I would greatly appreciate your assistance and advise on how to get started. Raleigh is not too far from me, I am in the Wilmington area about 2 hours from you depending what part of Raleigh you're in. I just want to do this right and not make a bunch of costly mistakes. I hope that you have taken a lot of pictures of conversions, I am sure that your van conversions look good. I agree that all your conversion components add up to a lot of money and need to be covered, I am sure that things can add up quickly. I am planning on buying the 1500 Cargo Van 144 wheelbase. I know that the payload ratings vary depending on the model you get. It's going to be interesting to do this, I can't wait to get started. Thank you.
 

Fairmont

2019 3500XD 170EXT
For some reason I thought you were closer to Raleigh. It would be very difficult to suggest what to put in your van, only you can make that determination. I would tell you first to come up with a reasonably defined “product definition “ before you go spending a bunch of money. What are you going to use the van for? Will it be a full time camper or do you need to convert it from a weekly work van? How many people will you carry? If more than 2 where will they sit? If you don’t buy a crew or passenger van how will you install more seats? Do you need to carry motorcycles? If so where does the bed go? You said you wanted to start simple but the things you want are not so simple. You want a shower but where does the water come from? Where do you store it? Hot shower? How does the water get hot? What kind of toilet? Where does the pee go? Where does power for the microwave come from? Power for the lights? See what i’m getting at? I would make a list of the things you want and think of each of them as a separate system that can be done in a simple way or a complex way depending on how refined you need them to be. Once you decide how complex each system needs to be you can start researching and pricing components to build it. Are you handy with electrical/plumbing/carpentry/metalwork? If you have to pay anybody to do these things for you the costs can get out of hand quickly. I’m not saying you can‘t just start throwing something together and see where it leads you, that’s half the fun, but you need to have some idea about what the destination looks like.
 

Tripol

Member
I purchased my 1500 144 van in Wilmington- I've never been there, the dealer just drove it to me (central NC). I had to get it quickly for job reasons, and there never seemed to be a good used van out there. They would get snapped up before you even got to the used car lot.

I dont know if this helps, but this is what I'd do differently-
- I'd get a non white van, just looks more stylish to me.
-dont waste money on certain add ons, like the plastic walls of the cargo or maybe the floor. The omb floor is actually decent, but personally I'd get my guy in Raleigh to do a half inch wood floor for $500.
- do get some add ons from the factory- maybe the roof rails, and the espar d5 might be great for hot water. how to use that is on this site, if you want to go that direction. There might be other things to add. I believe that would save money, as adding later is just more expensive.
- Just out of curiosity, I'd ask if there was any difference in insurance rates or any other fees/taxes depending on the crew or cargo. I honestly dont know. If there was an advantage to the crew, I'd make do with that if there was a good deal- this is pertaining to your original question.

This would only be if you are buying new. Good luck if used, happy hunting!
 

coastcamper

New member
Fairmont, Thanks for your reply and your concerns. Yes I am pretty good at electrical and carpentry, I have built a small storage building and wired it for 110 and 220 v using a 60 A breaker off my house panel. I also have been into Amateur Radio since I was in high school. What I would like to do is install a shower and use the required water and waste water tanks and use an instant on propane hot water heater. My kitchen would contain a microwave, small sink, and some storage for food and basic plates, and other stuff to eat on. I am still trying to learn about how to set up a solar off grid system so I would probably use a generator for some of my power and do a dual battery system for basic lighting and small power usage. I would use it for going to the amateur radio hamfests and I would really like to do a few trips out west and enjoy this country, I really want to go up to Oregon and down to S. Utah to see the Arches National Park. This is basically just for me and my 2 dogs , I really don't need a lot of room. It would also be really nice to be able to go down to Fl. in the winter time and get away from the cold weather here. I want this van for emergency communications as well, I have assisted in several hurricanes and other disasters. This forum is really great, I have learned a lot so far and the more I learn the more I realize that I have a lot to learn. I also want to get a pure sine wave inverter and I am thinking about getting a 2,000 watt. I really need to figure out what my load will be with everything I want to be able to use and then figure out how much capacity I need with my batteries. How extensive is your conversion? Thank you.
 

coastcamper

New member
After a lot of searching and communication with the DMV here in N.C. I finally found out that I needed to go to my local N.C. State Highway Patrol Station and see the officers in the License and Theft office. They gave me a list of what was required. I will post the list if anyone needs it. Now I have lots of questions to determine what items that I should buy from reputable companies.

I am going to need the following:

A roof air conditioner.
Cooking facilities (they did not specify what )
Refrigerator
Self contained toilet
Portable water system including a faucet and sink
Separate 110-125 V electrical supply or an LP gas supply

The 110-125 V supply will not be a problem since I can purchase a few 12 V batteries and an inverter. If you have any advice or suggestions on these items I would greatly appreciate your input. I also need a wiring diagram that I can use. Most of this has already been successfully done before and I just want to do something that has already worked before. Thank you.
 

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