Buying an RV is one thing. But what about building your very own — from scratch?
Not only is it possible, it’s a pretty commonplace occurrence these days. And one of the most popular ways to DIY an RV is to find a cargo trailer for sale and then perform a camper conversion.
Cargo vans don’t come pre-installed with any of the things you need to make an RV comfortable and homey. But they do have a whole lot of room for imagination and development… which means they can be anything you want them to be. That’s just one of the reasons this is becoming such a movement within the camping community; building your own enclosed trailer conversion means you not only get a totally custom rig but one that’s a whole lot more affordable than anything you’d buy on a traditional lot. Imagine getting a better product for less — and yeah, that’s why it’s such a thing right now!
In this post, we’re going to start by showing you some beautiful and inventive cargo trailer camper conversions to ogle and get your own brainstorming process going. Then, we’ll close out with some FAQs to help you get further along in the process if you’re seriously considering doing your own conversion project.
Let’s dive in!
Cargo Trailer Camper Conversion Ideas
Without further ado, here are some of the most stunning and creative cargo trailer camper conversions we could find.
1. A 6×10 Dream
One couple profiled over at TinyHouseTalk converted a cargo trailer into a simply stunning camper. The rig is wired for solar and has adorable LED lights on the exterior, and includes an onboard composting toilet, propane grill, and cozy looking bunk. Best of all, they started from scratch which means they got *exactly* the camper they wanted… all without overspending for a prebuilt model!
2. Chatfield Court’s Surprisingly Luxurious Rig
3. Stumbles and Fumbles Home Away from Home
They say they purchased most of the materials from Home Depot and Amazon, making this an eminently achievable project for any would-be camper converter.
4. Steve and Kelly’s Rustic Rig
Steve and Kelly, who blog about their travels and experience at their website, initially were on the market for a traditional, prefabricated travel trailer. They had a pretty lengthy list of “musts,” though, including a GVWR of 4,000 pounds or less, good ground clearance, a maximum length of 17 feet, a queen bed and self-contained onboard shower and toilet.
Suffice to say it’s not that easy to find all those components in any trailer on the market, and when you do, you may be paying dearly for them. So the two decided to go the DIY route and converted a cargo trailer into their very own, custom home away from home. The finished product is rustic but charming, and includes a clever bench that doubles as hidden storage.
5. Ed’s Man Cave on Wheels
Bob Wells is a long-time vandweller who blogs about his travels at Cheap RV Living. Recently, he spotlighted a friend of his, Ed, who converted a cargo van into what can only be called a man cave on wheels.
Filled to the brim with tools and not skimping out on the television square footage (because after all, catching the game is non-negotiable), Ed’s cargo trailer camper conversion is simple and effective. We also love how much storage space he built in, using shelves and premade baskets to line the walls. Living in his cargo trailer conversion camper allows Ed to escape the cycle of spending and consumerism, he says, which is one of the main motivating factors for many who take on the tiny house philosophy.
6. A Stealth Camper with Rugged Charm
One of the coolest things about cargo trailer camper conversions is their “stealth” aspect; if you’re full-timing or looking to do some urban camping, it’s a lot easier to street park a cargo trailer than an out-and-out motorhome. Not only are they smaller, but they’re also generally more accepted by the populous as something you might need to park on a street for a while.
This conversion, highlighted over at Small Trailer Enthusiast, is a nice marriage of rugged sensibility and charming touches. We love the way the creator used glass tiles to create a stunning shower and kitchen counter. Very nice! (Psst: if you like the look, but can’t imagine doing your own glass or tile work, check out these easy-to-use stick-on versions.)
7. A Generous Trailer for Less than $7,000
We love this time lapse from adventurer Jonas Marcinko, who converted a 20×8 Wells cargo trailer over the course of just two weeks, and for less than $7,000. It’s a total steal — and a beautiful, well-designed camper at any price point.
8. A Cozy Cabin for Off-Grid Camping
If you really want to get away from it all and camp without hookups, cargo conversions are ideal; you can simply carry your drinking water along with you and potentially invest in a composting toilet (or other portable toilet option), and you won’t have to worry about finding a developed campground.
TinyHouseTalk spotlighted this lovely little 7×12 insulated cargo van, which its owner lovingly converted to be used for solo getaways (or potentially a two-person trip — but certainly no more than that). Although it doesn’t have onboard bathroom facilities, it does feature a propane-run Coleman stove and simple gravity plumbing with a hand pump.
9. An Engineering Masterpiece
Not everybody can transform a 16-foot Haulmark cargo trailer into a stylish and inviting mobile home… but Bill Southworth can. An engineer by trade, he was looking for a way to make traveling with his rottweiler more doable — since many hotels didn’t accept his four-legged friend.
His hard work paid off, because now he has an 80-square-foot living space he can bring with him anywhere, and it’s 100% Fido friendly. Since he had so little space to work with, he installed innovative, convertible furnishings that allow him to transform the space from bedroom to dining room to living room in a flash. It also has on-board toilet and plumbing facilities, as well as a microwave! You can see it in all its glory over at Insteading.com.
10. Brian Rogers’ 2007 Pace
11. A Utility Trailer Built for Adventure
The bloggers over at Camping RV BC wanted a custom RV to house not only their sleeping selves, but their motorcycle. So they took a 16 foot Wells cargo trailer and made their own dreams come true, complete with cute lemon and lime fixtures that just beg visitors to sit and stay a while.
The couple was also able to add increased storage with a narrow cabinet along the side of the rig and a flip up table so they can eat meals but still maintain space between mealtime. Awesome ideas all around.
12. Kim Donaghy’s 7×20 Legend Explorer Series
13. A Traveling Musician’s Bachelor Pad
Cargo Trailer Camper Conversion FAQs
Now that we’ve gotten to ogle lots of finished cargo trailer camper conversions, let’s finish out this post with some answers to frequently asked questions about them!
What’s the best cargo trailer for a camper conversion?
No matter what kind of ideas you have about what your camper conversion will look like once it’s done, you’ve got to start from scratch — and there are a wide variety of cargo trailers available on the market. Along with different brands, you’ll also have to decide between different sizes, and keep model year in mind, too.
It’s hard to make objective claims about the benefits of one manufacturer or type over another, but you definitely want to ensure you’re looking for a vehicle that’s in good, working condition, free of any water damage, rot, rust, or mechanical problems that could spell repair needs down the line. Many cargo trailer conversions are completed on used trailers, which is fine, but be sure you’re looking closely at the quality and repair level of your prospective conversion while you’re shopping. You’ll also want to ensure the hitch setup and brake lights will work with your tow vehicle’s configuration, or make plans to add in those features after the fact.
How do you make cargo trailer camper conversion floor plans?
While many successful cargo trailer camper converters create their own floor plans from scratch, it’s also possible to find premade plans online, which can be especially helpful if you’re not super imaginative with a ruler or if you’ve already found an interior footprint setup you really like.
For instance, you can browse Pinterest boards filled with cargo trailer conversion floor plans… but do keep in mind that they’re optimized for specific sizes. There are lots of different sizes of cargo trailers out there — 7×12, 8×16, 6×14, etc — and you want to ensure your plans won’t leave you with a calculation error if your trailer is a different size!
How’s cargo trailer camper conversion pricing?
Like most DIY projects, one of the coolest things about cargo trailer camper conversions is that you have a lot of control as far as how much money you sink into them. The trailer itself might be purchased for as little as $1,000 or less, and then the interior materials are up to you! Some campers utilize reclaimed materials and found objects to drive down the overall cost of the project (while simultaneously recycling and adding character to their camper), but even if you buy things brand new, you can make a beautiful camper for less than $10,000.
What are the benefits of converting a cargo trailer into a camper?
Some campers are curious as to why someone would choose to convert a cargo trailer rather than simply buying one off the lot. But as we briefly touched on above, there are a lot of reasons converting a cargo trailer can be more satisfying than buying a prefabricated one!
For one thing, the cost is generally a lot lower, especially since many people are able to use used trailers and reclaimed materials. Plus, you get a totally custom rig — which is not something you can usually purchase without buying new and spending a LOT of money if you’re going with a premade motorhome or trailer.
Along with cost and customizability, cargo trailers can make stealth camping easier and make off-grid camping more accessible. In short, if you’re looking for a rugged adventure vehicle that’s ready to go wherever you want to take it, a converted cargo trailer can be a really satisfying project… especially if you’re DIY-inclined.
Can you do your cargo trailer camper conversion yourself?
Absolutely! In fact, the majority of campers do.
We hope you’ve enjoyed drooling over the cool camper conversions in this post — but if you’re curious about trying one out for yourself before you take the plunge and build one, head on over to the RVshare homepage to check out our RV rentals. Although we can’t guarantee there will be a trailer conversion near you, our network of private owners offer rigs of every shape, size, and type, including many DIY versions. It’s the best way to get an authentic taste of the RV life… even the converted one!
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