Shopping for a Custom Camper? This New Site Is Better Than, Well, Anywhere

Conversion Trader aims to be the best clearinghouse for connected sellers of camping rigs to buyers.


Vanagon fans have the Samba, but otherwise where do you go to find unique, customized, #roadlife-ready vehicles? You know, the ones where someone else has done the work, eliminated most of the gremlins, and is just, finally, Over It? Not so many places, really, but now there’s Conversion Trader, a vehicle marketplace that connects sellers to buyers.

The site was launched by Gardner Skinner, who also runs Ski Resort Jobs. “There was just no central exchange for the work. So we built one. A place to look at pictures and get ideas and find great innovation and sell to a more educated crowd than the local Craigslist.

“After the success with Ski Resort Jobs, we were joking but it wasn’t really a joke that if you want a career in skiing, or to live in a mountain or beach community, your only shot is to drive or tow your housing into town with you. Custom RV work is finally getting the attention it deserves. Look at the Westy culture, the skoolie culture, full bus conversions. They’ve been this cool, aspirational subculture for over half a century. Now the Sprinter acolytes are doing so much innovative work. And every few months another raw vehicle is revealed that would make a cool tiny home.”


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The problem with Conversion Trader—and it’s a big one—is that it puts ideas in your head that just shouldn’t be there. Ideas like: that 2017 Dodge Pro Master would be just the ticket. Or like: No, not the the ProMaster, the $90,000 Sprinter that’s been done soup to nuts. Or: No, what was I THINKING? It’s the 1976 Dodge Jamboree for only $9,000!!!

“A lot of people have been fine-tuning the craft and it’s paying off,” said Skinner. “Solar finally works well, propane tanks are disappearing, insulation and creature comforts are better than in some stick-built homes. You’re off the grid, maybe, but never have to be disconnected.

“The next generation, we all know, isn’t buying houses or starter condos. They understand the digital culture and how to make money remotely. The vanlife movement is a hell of a lot more than owning a van.”

Well, yes. It feels like a complete societal shift. And whether it spirals into insignificance as people grow older, grow up, and move to the house and kids routine or continues on a vibrant and growing track, #roadlife is going to have a legacy of amazing and unique vehicles.

“The move is just going to continue to grow, and not to be a tool about it, but it seemed better for someone who respected the culture to build a marketplace for it rather than one of the corporate-owned mega-sites. Our rates are dirt cheap. I will return your email. I don’t want advertisers unless they are directly part of the outdoor culture.”

A six-month ad costs just $7 right now, while parts ads costs $5. But it costs nothing at all to browse, nothing at all…until you write that check.

 

Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal. Follow him on Instagram at @stevecasimiro.
Showing 8 comments
  • Randi
    Reply

    I’m 48 year old woman, going on 2yrs in my DIY conversion. Just “retired” from my airline gig to hit the road full time. My kids are grown and while I will work again, the things I want to do are the things my contemporaries did in their early to mid twenties while I had small children. I stayed fit and the time is now to reap the rewards. Once able to buy a home I realized I don’t want to! See you on the trails and mountain tops.

  • Trevor
    Reply

    Apparently Adventure Journal articles generate quite a bit of traffic. Or at least enough to take down the site in this article.

    • Steve Casimiro
      Reply

      That’s right, baby—the power of AJ readers! (Sorry, sorta…) 🙂

  • GS
    Reply

    Gotta admit (and it’s on a good server) the story put it on the ropes, but when the AJ email came out, it tapped out. Back on its feet now thanks to digital PEDs.

    • Steve Casimiro
      Reply

      As problems go, that’s a good one.

  • Richard
    Reply

    When we were in our 20s, it was 2 in a VW bug with a roof rack. In our 40s, it was 4 in the “last of the air” VW Vanagan campers. In our 60s and 70s, it is 2 in a Nissan NV 2500 Sportsmobile. Dogs over the years could be found in all 3.

    When will it end? Probably when we can no longer manually push up the pop top or maybe not manage the step up…

    Sportsmobile (3 locations) has a preowned link. They are not all 4×4, $100,000 vehicles. SMBs built in the 90s are affordable and build quality is dated but good.

    Conversion trader is a bit clunky at this time and less about van camping than I expected. Still it is a resource.

  • Marc L
    Reply

    Stoked to add Falcor to the site. We’ll miss her, though.

  • Marc L
    Reply

    If the owners are reading, could use a “furnace/heater” checkbox, as that’s a big deal in ski country 😮

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