Sprinter Van Tour | Built On A Budget
Hey guys! I finally realized it was probably best to put together a very detailed tour of the van with pictures and explanations. So this will get kind of word-y and explain-y, but there are a fair amount of people that I think will benefit from a real tour with every corner and crevice. If you still have questions by the end, please go to the contact page and send me your questions there! We really are passionate about nobody feeling alone within the community even during the build. So here we go, step-by-step.
Induction and Fridge: We chose to have an induction burner because it means we never have to buy propane, and it looks really nice and sleek installed in the counter. Induction does work a little bit differently so you have to have cast iron or stainless steel pots/pans in order for it to work. We went with cast iron because they last an eternity and never really get worn down. Along with this, we also chose to have a fairly large mini fridge inside the van because it was so much cheaper than the classic "insert infamous van life fridge/cooler brand here". To be honest, this is one thing that I don't think we would ever change. The fridge we have was under $200 and could probably be bought used on Craigslist for way cheaper. It has more than enough space and has a small freezer section at the top.
The placement of the fridge has been amazing for us because it allowed us to maximize storage space without having to build a wall across both backseats. I was pretty adamant about wanting to be able to get back and forth easily between the front and back of the van.
Sink and Faucet: Honestly, our sink and faucet are pretty standard. We went with a smaller sink and a pretty long faucet with two handles. Both can be found in the van build shop. We have a 12V pump that allows us to turn on the water and it just runs like any other sink.
Fresh/Waste Water Tank: Our fresh water tank lays on the side and is connected to the 12V pump. This lives under the sink and we store our pots and pans behind it as well as a light basket of toilet paper, paper towels, plates, etc. directly on top. The waste tank is a different story as it lives with our electrical fam...
All of our electrical lives in the cabinet under the stove which we haven't touched or opened since we left!
Batteries: I originally got standard marine batteries which a lot of van builders do. The thing with these are that you need like 6-10 of them for adequate power. This results in a much higher expense and takes up way more space. So we sent those back and got two HUGE marine batteries. These also can be viewed in the van build shop. These things have never caused us one issue and allow us to have so much power any time we want. I really recommend getting these batteries over the smaller ones. They are 95 amp hours versus a standard 30-35.
Inverter: I wish I could give a detailed reason as to why I got the inverter that I did but really, I just bought what I thought was right and it worked. Essentially, our fridge, stove, and outlets are 110V while the lights, water, and fan are 12V. So having the inverter allows us to run everything together.
Solar panels: The biggest hurdle for us was mounting the solar panels in a way that wouldn't require a roof rack. I couldn't get passed spending $400 on something that we didn't really need. So the builders found a way to just do a little weather stripping along with super high end silicone caulk. It's the type that it used for actual rooftops so it's very heavy duty. As for the actual solar panels, we bought a standard 400 Watt Renogy Kit off of Amazon. These work perfect too and fully charge even when it's pretty cloudy.
Waste Tank: Do you see that white square tank in the back of the cabinet? That's the waste tank. It goes behind the electrical and empties outside the van! So there is a spicket outside the van underneath that is directly connected to the waste tank inside. If we have the spicket turned on, the water when used will just drain right out. If we are parked somewhere that we don't want the water to just drain out, we close it and allow the water to just stay in the waste tank. Please forgive the filthy picture of underneath the van, it's not the prettiest part of any car.
Bed: We bought a memory foam mattress from Amazon and the cushion covers are from a lovely woman on Etsy. We just cut up our mattress to fit the bed which we ended up using the entire thing. So we have a complete queen size bed.
Bench/Overhead Storage: Most of our storage is in the benches and overhead cabinets. We each get a bench for our clothes and use the back bench as a garage type storage area. We also split the overhead cabinets so that he gets one side and I get the other. We typically keep all of our clothes in the benches while our toiletries and everyday clothing things go in the overhead cabinets. The bench doors stay open with these little metal pieces that we hook while we are digging for whatever we need. They were like $1 dollar at Walmart versus the expensive hinges that keep it open for you. (Note: The 2 images shown on the right are of the benches.)
Floor Sliding Drawer: We were pretty set on trying to find every ounce of storage possible. So we installed a 6 in. drawer that only belongs in the middle of the benches. It holds all of our first- aid stuff and a bunch of random things. We still have plenty of room for our legs while sitting at the table too and we are both 5'10". I will say that we installed another hook like the ones for the benches in order to keep the drawer from sliding while we drive (and sometimes slam on the breaks).
Front Cooler: There are only a few things we added to the front of the van. I really wanted a small cooler (it was free) where we could just throw some snacks and random things for when we drive. So I already had a tapestry and cut it up to make the cooler look a little better/cuter. So that sits in between us while we drive. I also keep all my jewelry and sunglasses on top of the visor on the passenger side just to keep it out of the way and use up all the space we have.
Cleaning Storage: The last thing worth noting is that we also have this huge storage space inside of the passenger seat. It looks like a small opening but it's the entire underneath of the seat. It's actually surprisingly deep and holds ALL of our cleaning supplies. This is where we keep extra paper towels, cleaning stuff, wet wipes, etc. It's actually super useful not to have any of that stuff taking up space in the back of the van.
By now you probably know our toilet situation, but I'll say it again for the ones in the back. We use a portable toilet that we bought for less than $100. It get emptied once or twice a week, and we only use it for numero uno. Everything else gets done at a gas station or business. We honestly haven't had an issue thus far with finding a place when we had to go. But some kind of toilet is essential for nightly use and for campsites that don't have bathrooms.
As for showering, we go to the gym. We also have a solar shower for the days we aren't anywhere near a gym. You simply fill it with water, set it in the sun (the material internally heats the water), and then you hang it from the back of the van or a tree and shower. It even has a hose and shower head which I honestly find to be kinda fun.
There you have it! That's our van. People often comment on how amazing it looks but I want everyone to keep in mind that we built this thing on a budget. We almost never opted for the more expensive version of anything. So when are in the building process, do your research and see what you can find. It does not have to be extremely expensive, and you can certainly save money in every area. I hope this shed some light on the hidden corners of our van that don't make it on Instagram. Let me know your thoughts and questions as always!