Okay, this weeks blog’s title might not be totally accurate: Hielke is converting a van and I am doing the cooking and trying to unburden him as much as possible so he can make progress on the van. Hielke and I had been fantasizing about converting a van ourselves for quite some time, but it was when we became pregnant that we decided to make this dream a reality. We are really looking forward to all the trips we are going to make with our little baby in this van, but first we have to finish it. This is the first blog in a series about converting our van. This series will be a little bit different than you are used from me, as it will not have as many “pretty pictures”, as we are currently still in the process of renovating the van, which means a lot of dirty clothes and wood filling pictures and more text heavy blogs. Later in the year we hope to make the first trips with our van, we probably will start with a domestic trip to the flower fields and we hope to explore Europe as soon as the borders open up again!

First picture with our van, when we just picked it up

Why did we buy a van?

We love to watch van life videos on Youtube so we were romanticizing the lifestyle a little bit, but it wasn’t until we were expecting a little baby before we seriously considered buying a van. I had always been hesitant to become a mother as I found it something that would sternly limit my freedom and our way of traveling. Over the past few years we have tried to visit as many exotic destinations as possible, even going on a three month sabbatical at the end of 2019, but as my passion for photography surged I have taken on a newfound hunger for exploring Europe as well. Traveling with a kid will be much slower than the pace at which I usually like to travel, but doing it in a van seemed the most comfortable way to do it. In the van I can bring all the baby essentials without needing to sacrifice space for my dresses 😉

Why convert a van?

We could have bought a fully operational van, but we simply didn’t have the money in our bank accounts. We wanted a bit of a luxurious van and they often sell for € 60-70k, which we found a too expensive hobby. On top of that, we like our van to be personal and designed to our needs. As we want to be able to travel with a kid, our needs are much different than what most converted vans have to offer. Hielke is super handy, so we had to design and convert the van ourselves. When we started searching for a van to buy we had the following wishes:

Not too big: We wanted a compact van that we could park in (historic) city centers, so we can easily visit friends with our van or head into a city when it is raining. We don’t just want to travel during the high season, so we will not always have the best weather and when it is raining we want to be able to go visit a museum in a nearby city.

Sustainable: As you might remember, we rented a retro VW van during the summer of 2020 and did not have the best experience. The van had an old engine, so we gassed everyone who came near our van. We felt really embarrassed about that, so we knew we did not want that experience again. We wanted a van that was clean enough that we are allowed to enter city centers.

Triple seat: When we discovered that it was possible to buy a triple seat, this immediately had our preference. Buying a triple seat means that we don’t have to install an extra chair in our van, so we won’t have to undertake an extra inspection of this chair. It also saves up a lot of space in the van itself, when you can sit in the front with three people.

Which van did we pick and why?

After doing a ton of research we ended up buying a 2017 Peugeot Boxer which had already driven 74.000 kilometers. This was the most modern van that we could find that was still within budget. We would have loved to buy a Mercedes Sprinter, as those are considered the best in their class, but the price difference was too big. When you buy a more expensive van, this usually comes with more expensive motor parts and repairs as well, so in the long run we hope to save some money by buying a decent but not the most upscale van. The Peugeot Boxer is actually the same van as the Fiat Ducato and the Citroen Jumper and these vans have often been converted into campervans. This means that there are lots of “accessories” available for those vans to make the conversions as easy as possible (such as windows and cables).

The Peugeot Boxer is available with different heights and lengths and we bought the L2H2 edition, which fitted our needs the best. Before we searched for a van we made a rough sketch of how we wanted the layout of the van and we decided that a L2 should be long enough for us. Longer vans obviously provide more space inside, but are more difficult to park and drive and use more diesel. L2 means that we have an inside length of 3120 mms that we can use for living. The H2 is 1932 mms high, which is just enough for Hielke to stand after insulating the van.

We bought our van from an official dealer with a guarantee on the large motor parts and were able to negotiate a little bit.

Practical information

Here you will find some practical information regarding regulations that you incur when buying a van in The Netherlands. Make sure to check the local (tax) regulations, so you won’t be surprised after buying a van.

When you buy a van you often buy a van that is used for business purposes, which means that it is not registered for private use. The registration comes with an additional tax called BPM which you need to pay to the tax office after you buy the van. This can be pretty costly depending on the price and age of the van. The BPM is a percentage of the new price of the van and is depreciated over the year. The tariff for our 2017 van was 37,7% and about 60% of this could be depreciated, which meant that we still needed to pay about 15% BPM tax of the new price. This is definitely something you want to consider when you buy a van. The older the van, the more BPM is depreciated but the less sustainable it will probably be. You also need to pay this tax when you import a van. You can find more information on the website of the tax authority. The garage where we bought our van declared the BPM tax for us, so we only needed to pay the invoice afterwards.

The road tax for a camper van is only 1/4 of the road tax of a regular car, so the sooner you convert your van, the less you will pay in road tax. There are some strict rules that you need to comply with if you want to pay less road tax, for example you need a fixed kitchen and a sleeping area. After converting the van, you can plan an examination to see if you meet the rules. For more information, you can have a look over here.

You can also chose a different insurance for a camper van than a business van, so this is something you also need to research.

Van inspiration

To give you a little bit of an idea what is still coming to the blog, I will input some links here to Youtube channels and Instagram van lifers, which provided inspiration to us in designing our van.

Youtube channel: Eamon & Bec. These Canadians have recently converted a new van. I love their bohemian style, combined with pastel color palet. They are both tall like us, which is not easy when you want to do van life, but did give us much inspiration!

Instagram: Vanlife Sagas have a super cozy van, not too big, just like ours. I love the custom cabinetry in their van. Louis the Van: This couple has started a new business during the pandemic and they are now fulltime converting vans, doing the most incredible layouts. They have gotten so good at renovating vans, that I now find the vans a little too fancy, but good inspiration nonetheless!

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