A Camper Van Conversion That Won’t Cost a Mint

Maryland-based brand will build you a spanking new adventure rig, van included, for less than you’d think.

If you’re in the market for an adventure van but you’re lacking the time, inclination, mechanical know-how, tools, or workspace needed to kit out a van yourself, you’re also staring down the barrel of a stomach-churning $100k purchase price, or thereabouts, for a custom-built off-the-grid capable van. Rear-wheel drive and 4×4 vans are already expensive as it is, and that price shoots way, way up into the stratosphere when you start fitting them out with sinks and beds and solar panels.

But now there’s a Maryland-based company that promises a selling price dramatically less than the mortgage for a house, for a custom-made adventure rig.

Off Grid Adventure Vans is building camp-ready vans for around $60k. And they’re taking orders.

Started by Aaron Fensterheim, a sound engineer who’d spent years living in vans himself, the idea is simple. Build (relatively) inexpensive adventure vans for people who aren’t sitting on piles of cash. He also wanted to focus on the east coast market, figuring there were already plenty of #vanlife options out west.

Off Grid builds their rigs primarily on the Dodge Promaster platform, both the 1500 and 2500 models. Fensterheim likes the Dodge because it’s front-wheel drive and a bit cheaper than the 4×4 models lots of #vanlifers run; the base van itself costs only about $30k. The build out is another $30k, depending on options.

The local dealership Off Grid gets their vans from also finances the van plus the conversion, putting one of these rigs in reach for people who don’t have tens of thousands of dollars in cash just lying around.

The conversion looks well-thought out and well-appointed too. That $30k gets the buyer: Full-size bed, wood-paneled living/dining area that can seat six, full kitchen with sink, Dometic fridge/freezer combo, propane tank, composting toilet, two-burner stove, and a 200w solar kit, among other goodies.

The vans are built in Maryland, but they’ll deliver them wherever you like. Though, a van like this really needs to be driven back to your home, preferably in a trip taking weeks, touring plenty of public lands.

Photos: Off Grid Adventure Vans


Showing 23 comments
  • Kevin

    Good to see this on the east coast. Thanks for sharing.

    • Tom

      30 grand for that build is fking ridiculous

      • Bob N

        Not saying you are wrong — but break down of the cost of the additions, and how many hours are required — if it is still high, then your commet has some legs, otherwise it is an emotional meaningless rant.

  • Colin M Nelson


  • Clutchngrab

    Having just driven my new OGAVANS.COM van from Maryland to my home in Canada, I can attest to the quality of the build out as well as the integrity and service of the company. Well done Aaron, and here’s to continued success!

  • Zindi Evans

    Wow! Keep us in the loop!

  • warren trout

    You can buy the new VW California for about that price

    • Jason Shipley

      $62,000 USD for the VW California. Not sure where you have seen them for $30,000.
      I’d be more happy with a cheaper version DIY. But for those who need it all $60,000 may work for them.

    • Frank Tiedeken

      I thought that the VW California isn’t available in the US

    • John

      That van is not coming states side I thought.

      • Bob N

        Based upon everything I could find, there are no current plans to make this available in the US.

  • Ed murray

    Does it hav ceiling fan led lights ?

  • Earl J. Jones

    That looks very nice and what I like in a small space.

  • Randi

    The only issue I have with the dodge is the axel is about 3 inches off the ground.. okay that’s a slight exaggeration but not by much . Next time you are behind a dodge van see for yourself. So I wouldn’t call it adventure.. National Park Camping.. sure forestry roads not so much. I have a Nissan NV Cargo low top with BF Goodrich’s All Terain TA’s and while not all wheel drive it can go nearly all the places my Subaru’s did with nine inches of clearance. This van is built on a Nissan Titan frame and gets an average 18 mph.. New mad used NV’s won’t break your bank either.. Happy Vanning

    • Keith

      I’ve been looking at a new NV 4×4 convo with Aluminess gear in the $60Ks. But that’s not including anything on the inside. I’m also concerned with how short they are compared to other vans. I currently have a 96’ E250 XL but the $20k 4×4 convo is a bit unsettling for the year it is.

  • John J Sepulveda

    Interested..need more info

  • Ben

    I’ve been driving a Promaster van for three years, cross country, off road, up to 26mp with diesel. It’s my daily driver to work, mountain biking, hauling building materials, etc

    I did my own customization, far les expensive, far easier to make it fit your life. Great van.

  • Kait

    Is it possible to come and visit to discuss build options. Yes Aaron,I am a newbie Sound designer/engineer living in Maryland that aspires to build out a van. Would love to connect

  • Larry

    I am intrigued. Where are you located in My. I am originally from Towson and am planning a trip to the area late September. Thanks.

  • Steven B Hadley

    About time we had something on the East Coast.

  • BY

    It’s very pretty at a glance, but as others have pointed out, I see a few glaring issues. It’s absolutely NOT an off-road-friendly rig, and there are no modifications to address that. Such a big vehicle with such low ground clearance makes me nervous, and without 4WD, your options beyond the pavement seem limited. The build-out price starts at over $32k, which I’m simply not seeing in materials, labor, or even niche/boutique-appliances. No question that a well made prefab kit can save endless headaches, man hours, and shoddy DIY elements that someone might otherwise be stuck attempting to implement on their own – convenience is commodity worth whatever one is willing to pay. But I see a lot of blank space, a design that caters to the modern Millennial infatuation with vaguely Nordic-minimalist aesthetics, and a luxury item that still leaves most of us “dirt bags” in the dust. Now, I understand the reasoning being, “well, in theory you’re not going to be paying rent/mortgage if this is your home, so it translates into relatively low expense,” but since they quote you $71k on the FAQ page total cost, I’d want a lot more bang for my buck, and a much more adventure-worthy rig. On the plus side, they do say they’ll convert your own vehicle (specs permitting), so that might be the more reasonable option.

  • Pete

    Maybe its different over the pond but $30K is a lot of cash for a van with a bed in it. Most of my friends have self converted vans and use them for weekends and weeks away mountain biking, surfing skiing etc. I actually think self converting is half the fun of it and like when you make a surfboard, you become super stoked to use it.

    My van VW T5 cost $6000 + $1000 for a good service. (had 68K miles on the clock)

    Sound proofing $300
    Insulation $300
    lining $200
    I put a swivel double seat in it for $400
    I put electrics with leisure battery and split charger, fuse setup for $300
    Extra two windows with fitting for $800
    Kitchen area, we use gas with extraction, £500
    Bed area seat pulls out into double bed for $200 for wood + $matress (memory foam) $300 (its good to sleep well)#
    Electric post surf shower $100 with water tank.
    Wetsuit cupboard with extraction $200

    TOTAL 10K

    That leaves 20K for adventures! (Presently in Mallorca doing a lot of climbing!)

    • BY

      The total cost on this OG Van is actually about $65k for the finished vehicle – they claim $30k+ for the van AND another $32k+ for the conversion, plus tax etc. So your DIY rig, by comparison, has more like $50k in savings. A used vehicle obviously knocks a lot off the starting cost from the get-go vs. a brand new commercial van. But I still think they’ve drastically over-valued their conversion build-out price. Something about shelling out $65k for an adventure rig feels antithetical to the spirit of van life – why not just buy a full on motor home at that point. This is verging on apartment rent/mortgage.

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