Van Build | Choosing a Van & Layout

So we made the biggest decision we've ever made... to move out of a high- rise apartment Downtown Chicago and into a 2011 Mercedes Benz Sprinter. But we didn't make this decision over night, and it took an un-freaking-real amount of research to figure out exactly what van would best fit with what we'll be doing, and how we wanted to lay the whole thing out once we had it. This is essentially our first home, and we want to make it as comfortable as possible (with less than 100 sq ft).

For anyone else planning a similar adventure or anyone interested in ours, this is how we chose our van and what she'll look like! These were the things that we found most important for us.

Van Model & Make

First, we made a list of the things that we knew we wanted with our van.

1. Fit into any parking spot for convenience

2. No windows in the back so weirdos can’t watch us sleep

3. HAD TO BE WHITE.. No reason, we just like it better

4. Roof had to be 6 ft. or higher because we want to be able to walk around inside

5. Empty cargo - No passenger seats to have to rip out

6. Under 100k miles, we know we’ll be putting enough miles on it as is

7. No more than $20,000 (financed) because that’s what fit into our budget

We began looking at all different makes and models. The ones we found best suited for us and the above requirements:

Ford Transit

Dodge Sprinter

Mercedes Benz Sprinter

- Dependable
- Newer model which means less miles
- Beautiful van

- Least expensive make and model
- Many years available which can lower the price even more
- Cheap parts when need fixed or repaired
- Tons available in most states

- Low-Moderately priced
- Dependable
- Many years available helping with price
- Beautiful van

- Expensive! Newer model also means newer price

- Not the most dependable
- Most have SO many miles
- Not the prettiest in our opinion (to each his own)

- Expensive repairs and fixing
- Not many available in our state (IL)

Because of the price, this one was out. Most we found were about $25k-$30k.

Because most of the ones we could afford had 150k+ miles on it, this was out as well.

Winner!! Low miles, moderate price, beautiful van.

After weighing our options, the Mercedes Benz Sprinter was probably our best bet. It's a great- looking van, moderate price for slightly older ones, low miles available, and it's diesel! We ended up finding a 2011 MB Sprinter 144" Wheelbase for $18,000 with only 99k miles on it.


Once she was ours, we needed to figure out exactly where wanted everything. There are SO many options when it comes to the layout even in something with so little space. Right away, we knew that we wanted the kitchen towards the front and the bedroom in the back, but everything else we needed to figure out. I highly recommend looking at Pinterest and Instagram for lots of random ideas from different vans/tiny homes and combining them to make the perfect one for you.

After doing just that, this is what we decided that we wanted...


-Lots of counter space with cabinets and shelving underneath

-Latched cutting board behind D/P seat that can go up for easy walkway from front of van to back of van

-Cabinets along the top for additional storage

-Induction cooktop

-Regular mini fridge (need A LOT of solar power for this and the cooktop)

-Sink with 12V pump for running water and two jugs (one 5 gallon for clean water and one 6 gallon for used) in cabinet below

Bedroom/Dining Table and Benches

-Queen size bed at night (which ended up being too small so we added extra 6" foam making a king!)

-Overhead cabinets along the sides and overhead book shelf along the back

-Benches NOT elevated in order to avoid hitting our heads on those cabinets

-Floor in the middle of benches (below table) IS elevated 6 in. to add a low, thin drawer

Solar Power

-400 Watt Solar Panel Kit that mounts to roof


-Two Marine Deep Cycle Batteries  

I hope this answered any questions about what our van will look like! If you are looking to build one out, please let me know and I will provide contact information for our builders. I will be updating the blog every week now all about the build, how we have been able to do this, and anything else you are curious about. Please ask any questions on the contact page that you have!