To Buy or To Build?

Whether you’re dreaming about the freedom of the open road or you’ve already marked your favorite spots on the map, one of the first major decisions you face is whether to buy a fully manufactured van or take on the exciting challenge of building your own. Each option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. We’ll break down the pros and cons to each to help you make the best choice for your lifestyle.

Buying a Manufactured Van


Pros


1. Turnkey Readiness: One of the biggest advantages of purchasing a manufactured van is convenience. From the moment you turn the key, your home on wheels is ready to go. These vans come equipped with essential amenities and systems like electrical, plumbing, and insulation, all professionally installed and integrated.

2. Reliability: One of the benefits of opting for a manufactured van is the comprehensive warranty and customer support offered by the manufacturer and their network of dealerships. This coverage ensures that should any issues arise with the van or its components, repairs or replacements are typically covered under warranty. These vehicles are built to comply with safety standards and are often subjected to rigorous testing to ensure reliability on the road. Many manufacturers also make their wiring and plumbing schematics available online, along with a detailed parts list, so you’re able to do repairs on your own knowing which part needs replaced. 

3. Resale Value: A manufactured van may have a higher resale value than a self-built van because of the brand and model being well-known and recognized in the market. People are able to do research on the van and find out every detail beforehand with the amount of information that’s on the internet. Because a manufactured van is built by trusted professionals and is likely to have a more polished finish and higher quality, reliable components, they are more likely to have a higher resale value. 

4. Better financing options: Manufactured vans come with the advantage of being RVIA certified, which often makes them more attractive to financial institutions for financing. This certification can facilitate easier access to loans or leases when purchasing the van. On the other hand, self-built vans typically face more hurdles in securing financing. This is due to their lack of standardized vehicle classification and potential non-compliance with specific safety or legal standards, making it challenging for lenders to determine their value. Financing options may also help with resale value.

CONS


1. Higher Initial Cost

Manufactured vans can come with a hefty price tag. The cost reflects the professional workmanship, materials, and the peace of mind that everything is built and functions as intended.

2. Limited Customization

While some manufacturers offer customizable options, you might find the choices limited compared to a DIY build. If you have specific needs or unique design ideas, a manufactured van might not fulfill every checkbox on your list.

3. Dependence on Manufacturer Designs

You’re essentially buying someone else’s vision of what a travel van should be. These vans are built to appeal to the masses and to work for most people.  If you prefer to have everything just so, the pre-set layouts and designs might feel constraining.

Building Your Own Van


Pros


1. Complete Customization: When you build your own van, the sky's the limit. You can build every aspect of your van to suit your specific needs and aesthetic preferences. You can place every little thing where you want it to go - you know exactly where it would be convenient to have each electrical outlet, how big your cabinet should be to fit your coffee machine, what side of the van your refrigerator should be on so it’s easy to access, etc. From solar power setups to your storage solutions, your van becomes a true reflection of your personality and lifestyle.

2. Cost-Effective: Often, building a van can be more budget-friendly, particularly if you use a used vehicle and source second-hand materials or do most of the work yourself. It also allows for spreading out expenses over time, purchasing parts as funds allow. This allows you to start with the bare minimum and add things as you use the van so you know exactly where you want things pre-build. 

3. Personal Satisfaction: There’s an undeniable sense of accomplishment and attachment that comes from building your own van. It’s not just a vehicle; it’s a home you built with your own two hands. You’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into your van and that makes it even more special!

Cons


1. Time and Effort

Building a van is not a minor weekend project. It requires a significant amount of time, effort, and learning. You can end up spending hours on end deep diving into YouTube to learn how to become a carpenter, a plumber, and an electrician. For those with limited experience in areas like carpentry, electrical, or plumbing, it can be a steep learning curve.

2. Unexpected Challenges

Without the proper skills, tools, and workspace, DIY van builds can face numerous unexpected challenges and expenses, potentially ending up costing more than a manufactured van. 

3. Resale Difficulties

A self-built van might not have the same appeal to potential buyers as a professionally manufactured model, which could affect its resale value, unless you find someone who values the unique aspects of a DIY conversion. It is also harder to trust that a self-build has been done correctly with the proper components.

Making Your Choice


Choosing between a manufactured van or a DIY conversion ultimately comes down to your specific needs, style, and presence. You should take your budget, time, and skills into consideration when choosing the option that best fits you and your specific needs. If you want the convenience of a vehicle that is ready to go right away, buying a van may be your best option. However, if you want to be able to customize every aspect of your build and you have the time, skills, and tools to take on the project, building your own van may be the way to go. At Flarespace, we’re here to support you no matter which path you choose. We offer products that can enhance both manufactured vans and DIY projects, helping you make the most out of your mobile lifestyle. Whatever you choose, the van community will welcome you with open arms.