In this guide we will look at the complete process of converting a campervan in Ireland. Where to purchase your van, where to buy supplies, how to do the conversion, and how to navigate the tricky politics of getting it on the road!
I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for years; I'm the author of Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan, writer of The Van Conversion Newsletter, instructor of The Van Conversion Course over at Udemy. And full-time vanlifer for 4 years!
Now let's jump in and have a look at how to convert a campervan in Ireland!
Note: The most important section (the 8 chronological steps to get your campervan on the road in Ireland) comes at the very end of this blog - so please read right through to the very end.
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The Irish Campervan Boom
The #VanLife movement has exploded in Ireland over the past few years. People are seeking freedom and simplicity, in a time when everything seems hard and complicated. Spurred on by social media and travel bans, 1000's of campervans were bought and sold in Ireland in the past few years, bringing in a new age of domestic wandering.
And what better to place to own a campervan than our very own, very beautiful Emerald Isle ☘️
Legal & insurance requirements
Before launching into your van research, there are a few admin things to think about first. Notably, it's important that you check the legal and insurance requirements first (this guide is here to help - though it may not contain absolutely everything).
Imagine the heartbreak if you bought a van only to find that you weren't able to convert it...
So before doing anything, do these two things:
Look up the legal regulations / conversion - here are Revenues requirements.
Research the requirements of the campervan insurers in your area, ring them up if there is any doubt as to their requirements.
Here are the 4 campervan insurers in Ireland:
Dolmens require a walkway between front and back, but don't require 5 years no claims.
Stuarts insurance requires 5 years no claims, but doesn't require a walkway.
The Motorcaravan club of Ireland (MCC) simply require 'bodily access' to the front of the van, however they are about twice the price. All insurance suppliers have the same requirements as revenue (window, cooking facility, bed, etc). Note that only the motorcaravan club will insure you if your roof is less than 6ft high.
As of the second half of 2021 there is now another insurer: Richardson's. Richardson's used to be the insurers for the MCC, but recently parted ways and are now doing it themselves. The MCC now uses Petrona for insurance.
How much is campervan insurance in Ireland?
Insurance will cost you anywhere from €350-€1000 per year, depending on your age, driving experience, accidents, etc.
A little horror story…
In Ireland, the campervan insurers require 'bodily access' between the cab and back of the van. Well, naively, I had finished my van conversion without consulting a single insurer! During the build, I had installed the kitchen unit across the front of the van, blocking access to the cab. So, I was declined insurance by EVERY insurer... I ended up having to approach an insurance ombudsman at Insurance Ireland to help me get insurance. I ended up paying nearly three times the price for my insurance! Learn from my mistakes, and do your research first.
What's your budget?
The depreciation rule
I'm not going to beat around the bush, converting a van into a campervan in Ireland can cost quite a bit of money. As a rough rule of thumb, you want to spend half the cost of the van on the conversion itself. So, if you spend €10,000 on your van, you should strive to cap your conversion spend to around €5000. This is due to the depreciation of the value of the van as you clock up the miles.
Determining your build cost
To determine the estimated build cost make a list of all the things you require in the campervan and price them. Then, whatever the total amount comes to, add on 30% wiggle room. That is the spend on your van conversion. At the end of this section, you will find a complete list of supplies for a van conversion.
Building your van is one thing, but getting it on the road is another. Don't forget about the cost of road-tax, insurance, or vehicle inspection. This can easily add another couple thousand to the total cost.
The average (median) cost of the base vehicle for a van conversion was €9000 per the Roaming Home 2023 Study
According to the same study, the average (mean) cost to convert the van was €8500. Most conversions cost between €4000 and €10,000.
How much should you spend on a van for camper conversion?
The 2023 Roaming Home Study gave us some excellent insights into how much people are spending on the base vehicle for their conversions. Unsurprisingly, we found a tight correlation between the age of a vehicle and its cost. A work van reduces in cost by about €2000 per year. Though it should be noted that the cost of a van that is two years old or less is quite a bit higher. The best value may be found around the three year mark.
We also found a correlation between the odometer reading and the cost of the vehicle. 30,000km appears to be the best value for money - the sweet spot at which the cost drops dramatically.
Finally, we looked at the relationship between the vehicle’s age and its odometer reading. And whilst the correlation here is quite spread out, it is one of the most useful datasets we have.
We found that the average work van clocks up 13,940km per year. Accordingly, you should seek out a vehicle with a lower mileage per year than this - a sign that your van has not been overworked.
I'm going to let you in on a secret…
It is better to spend a bit more money up front buying a van that is in good condition rather than one of questionable quality. I spent €7000 on a 2012 Ford Transit with a fair bit of wear and tear and a lot of mileage on the clock. In the four years since, I have spent nearly €10,000 in maintenance. In contrast I have three separate friends who bought 2014 vans around the same time I did; they each spent about €11,000 on the base vehicle, but have spent practically nothing on repairs since.
On the flip-side, my Glaswegian friend (aforementioned, who was broken into twice) spent a meagre £3,000 on his van. Within a year it was in such disrepair that he gave up on his vanlife dreams and ditched the van. The poor lad had a tough time of it…
So don't cheap out at the beginning. Spend a bit more money on your base van and enjoy it for years to come!
Choosing your van
Now that you've thought through your budget, let's discover which van is best for your camper conversion!
My top pick is the Mercedes Sprinter (despite owning a Ford Transit). It is notably reliable, well-built, and comfortable. Though it comes with a higher price tag.
With that being said, in the Roaming Home 2023 study we found the Ford Transit to be the most popular van by a long shot. Interestingly, the smaller VW Transporter took the third spot.
Lifespan of a panel van
Data from a European Commission report indicates that the expected lifetime mileage for a commercial van is 224,000 km. The average age of retirement for a commercial van is 13 years.
This is not to say that a van will not outlive those statistics. Indeed, in our study, we found that many individuals had purchased vans with mileage way above those aforementioned.
We also found that as of 2023, the most common year of vehicle was a 2015 reg. This means that on average people are using a van that is 8 years old.
Best van for camper conversion in Ireland
My top pick for best van for camper conversion is the Mercedes Sprinter, which consistently ranks first in the FN50 van reliability survey.
The spec sheet below showcases the stats and dimensions of some of the most popular vans for camper conversion (with a European bias). This is based on the 2014 L3H3 model of each van. This should help demystify the selection process!
Note: The Fiat Ducato, Citroen Relay, Peugeot Boxer, and Ram ProMaster all have the same body sizes.
The size of a panel van is denoted by the letters 'L' (length) and 'H' (height). Its wheelbase can be either short (L1 / SWB), medium (L2 / MWB), long (L3 / LWB), or jumbo (L4 / XLWB). Similarly, its height can be low roof (H1), medium roof (H2), or high roof (H3). My van is a long wheelbase, high roof Ford Transit (L3H3). If you plan on spending any length of time in your van, I would suggest you seek out a high roof with at least a medium wheelbase.
Buying your van
There are three primary options on where to purchase your van from:
The best sites for purchasing vans online in Ireland are:
2. Used Car Dealership
Used car dealerships are scattered throughout the country, many can even be found selling through the online sites mentioned above.
Some dealerships include:
3. Van Dealership
If you have the cash lying around, it can be nice knowing that you have a brand new van which will last you a while. No inheriting other people's problems.
Here are some of the biggest van dealers in Ireland:
You could also think about buying your van from Northern Ireland, there have been some pretty good deals going up there since Brexit! Bear in mind, you will have to pay VRT for any vehicle imported access the border; for panel vans this is a flat fee €200. Check out some NI vans on AutoTrader.
Before Buying your Van
Before you hand over that cash to buy the van you've been looking at, there are a few questions that you absolutely must ask first. Let’s find out what they are…
“Do you have the logbook?”
This question is vital. If the vehicle does not have a logbook, this should raise alarm bells.
Ensure the logbook credentials match the van (registration number, owner's name, vehicle classification)
“Do you have the service history?”
A prudent vehicle owner should always keep a service history for the vehicle. A vehicle with a service history is more likely to have been cared for.
If you can obtain the service history you can see when the last service was (if it was a long time ago, you may well be in for a nasty surprise).
“What did the previous owner use the van for?”
Most used vans will be retired work-horses. ie. construction, carpentry, electrician, etc.
Understanding what the previous owner did can help you know how much love was given to the vehicle - was it a sole trader or larger company?
Ideally you want a van that drove longer distances (across counties / countries), rather than shorter stop-start distances in cities. The more a van stop-starts, the more wear and tear is put on the vehicle.
“What is the mileage and age of the used van?”
These two things are intrinsically linked. A new van with a heap of mileage will have been put under far more strain than an older van with the same mileage.
As a general rule of thumb, try to source a van with <100,000 km on the clock.
“Why are you selling the van?”
Are you buying someone else’s problems?
“Has the van ever been in an accident?”
A bad crash can have a lasting impact on a vehicle.
“Has the van got it's MOT or equivalent (Mandatory vehicle inspection in Europe)”
This is very important. If the van does not have its MOT, you will have to put your hand in your pocket to pay for it yourself. It will also be very likely that repairs will be needed in order to pass the MOT (which you will also have to pay for)
A van with an MOT certificate is a very good thing.
“Has the van got an up to date tax disc?”
If the van doesn't have a tax disc you will need to put your hand in your pocket to pay for this year's tax (and potentially back tax!)
“Is the used van registered in a foreign country?”
If the van is registered in a foreign country you could be in for a hefty tax bill for importing it when you buy it (Vehicle Registration Tax). Better to buy local.
“Can you reduce the price?”
“Hmm, the van looks really nice - I'd love to buy it, but the price is too high for me unfortunately… The max I could afford is X”.
If you have chosen to buy your van online or from a used car dealership, make sure to do your due diligence.
Background checks before buying a van in Ireland
There are a few background checks you should do before buying a van for conversion. Most if not all of these checks can be done on a website like AutoCheck.com. To do a thorough background check on Autocheck you will need the vehicle registration number and the VIN (vehicle identification number). You will need to ask the vehicle owner for the VIN.
If everything checks out (and you're using AutoCheck), you should see a message like this appear:
Has the van got any finance on it?
Take care here! There could be an unpaid loan on the van which you are about to purchase. That loan will become yours to pay if you buy it.
Is the van stolen?
Don't buy a stolen van. Obviously... You will lose the van and all the money you spent when the police come knocking.
How many previous owners has the van had?
Figuring out what a vehicle has been used for by the previous owners will help you get a feel of the current state of the vehicle.
Get an auto-mechanic to check the van
Get an auto-mechanic to check the vehicle before you buy it! I received a very detailed report from a mechanic who drove out to Sligo to check out my van for me. The inspection cost about €120 - it was well worth it. I brought up some of the issues with the dealership, and they got their mechanic to fix the problems before I bought the van.
Ideally before you get the mechanic to inspect the van, you will have headed over and looked at the vehicle yourself - but that is not totally necessary.
When building out your van, you will be purchasing supplies from two places: online and from physical stores. As a rough guide, you should spend about half the price of the van on the conversion itself.
You can find the complete list of supplies for a van conversion in Ireland (all the supplies I bought) here: supplies list. And, you get get up to 40% off your Renogy electrical system here.
I purchased most of my van supplies online. Everything from the fridge, to the solar panels, to the wiring. Here are the sites which I used:
There were many things which simply couldn't and shouldn't be purchased online. From the enormous amount of wood needed, to the insulation, to the mattress for the bed. I used the following physical stores
Chadwicks (For pretty much everything)
Woodies (More expensive than Chadwicks, but needed sometimes)
Ikea (For making the van feel like home)
Cosy Campers (for campervan specific gadgetry) - I believe they are now closed unfortunately :'(
I bought most of my supplies brand new, but obviously this isn't necessary. Pallet wood has become very popular due to its rustic look. You can also pick up used supplies from Adverts, DoneDeal, or the array of other second hand sites out there.
Designing your campervan
The two best resources to digitally design your campervan are SketchUp and Vanspace 3D. I designed my van before Vanspace was a thing, so I used Sketchup, the simple architectural software originally created by Google. It worked okay and was pretty easy to use - though took some time to work with.
If I were to do the project again I would definitely use Vanspace 3D as it is specifically built to design beautiful campervans, with pre-built layouts for pretty much every type of van and has awesome drag n' drop functionality.
Vanspace makes it easy to bring your van design ideas to life.
Here's a video on how to build out a van design using VanSpace:
You can a bunch more information on campervan design here.
How to build a campervan in Ireland
An entire guide to building a campervan wouldn't fit in a single blog post, so instead, you should definitely check out my book Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan. It's a 380 page book available in ebook/hardback format, with endless van conversion information tailored specifically to Ireland and the UK. Also... grabbing my book is the best way to help me continue creating free content for the Irish van conversion community! ☘️ I created a special 20% discount code just for my Irish brethren GOONYAGOODTHING.
I have also written many blogs which you may find used, in particular you may be interested in:
A complete guide to getting you van on the road (VERY IMPORTANT)
Once you have built your camper, you are about halfway there, the next step is to get it on the road. I'm not going to lie, the politics of getting your newly built campervan on the road can be a bit of a headwrecker and more than a little confusing, so here is a complete guide on how to do it! You can find revenue's requirements here.
The following steps are in chronological order:
Get an SQI Engineer to inspect your campervan, they will give you a certificate saying it is a safe build, and also some forms to send to revenue. I would highly recommend Cillian O'Cinneide (Based in Dublin).
Book a CVRT test for a month out (The waiting list is long and this give you time to get everything in order). The CVRT is the road safety test for commercial vehicles.
Send all documentation to revenue including:
SQI Engineer's report
10 photos of the campervan (6 inside / 4 outside)
Declaration of conversion (SQI gives you this) - you need to put the estimated total cost of the conversion on this form, ie. the total from all receipts of materials purchased.
Copy of ALL receipts of everything that was used in the conversion
4. After 10 days or so you should receive confirmation that revenue are happy with your conversion and a request to pay VRT by bank draft. The VRT is 13.3% of the estimated current value of vehicle (average cost of a van of similar age + cost of conversion). To give you an Idea, I paid €1600 in VRT, so they estimated my current value was about €12,300. Go to your bank, get a bank draft and send it by mail to Revenue in Rosslare harbour, Wexford.
5. After a couple days you should receive a confirmation of assessment of declaration of conversion form. Revenue have received your payment, wooop!
6. Time to insure yourself, we discussed the different insurers of campervans earlier in this article.
7. Next, you need to bring the van into your local Motor tax office so they can inspect it. You will need to give them the original vehicle registration certificate and sign the RF111 form. When they are happy, you will pay the motor tax and then receive the new logbook for the vehicle stating that the class has changed from Commercial (C) to campervan (M1). Lockdown Note: During lockdown, the motortax office was closed - they were only accepting forms by mail. You could send photocopies of the following to them: SQI report, photos of inside and outside, vehicle registration certificate (original), Checklist, RF111 form, Declaration of conversion.
8. Final step: go get your CVRT test. They need you to be registered as a camper class (M1) first.
Happy days. Stress over. Camper done.
Building a campervan is super fun, you get awesome DIY skills, it can be cheaper than purchasing one, it's totally custom, and you might be able to sell it for a profit. GO DO IT!
Let me know if the comments if you have any more tips or tricks for converting in Ireland!
Don't forget to subscribe to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion.
If you're looking for some guidance with your van conversion, you might be interested in Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan. I created a special 20% discount code: GOONYAGOODTHING. ☘️ In the 380-page book (or ebook), you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!
Until next time,