• Michael Boalch

Our 30 day van conversion to motorhome

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

Why a 30 day van conversion? This wasn’t a challenge that we wanted, it was a requirement by our insurer. After a long search for a company that would insure us, we found one but with a catch! We had to 'convert' our van into a motor caravan within 30 days or our insurance would be cancelled.

Should we have got a different insurer? Unfortunately it wasn't that easy because of our lack of driving experience, lack of no claims bonus and the fact that our van would be parked on the street in one of the most expensive car insurance postcodes! Read about our motorhome insurance search here.

The insurance company we chose to insure our van was Staveley Head. They were by far the cheapest we found and on top of that seemed enthusiastic and were very quick to respond to our several queries. They offered a “Motorhome in conversion insurance” which covered us during our 30 day van conversion. From then on it had to be a recognised motorhome.

Did we need insurance? We had to insure the van as we kept it on the street, some van converters have off street parking or land they can keep it on, we don’t have that luxury.

What would happen if we didn’t convert it in time? Our biggest concern was that the policy would be cancelled and how that might effect us in the future. We had read that: “Insurance cancellation is something you’ll have to declare with every new insurance provider. A cancelled policy serves as a red flag and you may struggle to find a mainstream insurance provider to cover you. Alternatively, you may end up paying a lot more for your policy.” This was something we definitely did not want to happen.

Before purchasing the van, Staveley Head offered us two ways of validating our conversion. The first was by getting official sign off by the DVLA (which is a standard procedure) and reclassifying our vehicle on the V5C registration certificate. After contacting the DVLA we were told that it could take up to 28 days to go through their system (despite people telling us it can happen much faster). This was too much of a risk, we would have to spend a max of 2 days converting it before having to apply for the conversion and even then it might not come in time! (We planned on getting it officially reclassified anyway, read about our DVLA conversion here).

The other way was by getting sign off from a local garage, we were sent a tick box form for the garage to fill out. The requirements were the same as the DVLA standards, but had slightly different wording. As we have a few garages close by it would be much faster and more reliable than waiting for the DVLA. After feeling more confident we called some local garages, most of them had never heard of this before! After talking to around 5 found a garage that seemed happy yo tick the boxes for us and the following week we went in to discuss the form and what we were after. This seemed to go well and we pressed ahead. The main danger with this was that the garage might not want to sign something off that isn’t exactly up to scratch. The form is very arbitrary and it would come down to the mechanic’s interpretation…

28 days after purchasing the van after working every weekend and almost every night after work our phase 1 conversion was complete! (We call it phase 1 as this first part was just to get it up to the standard to satisfy the insurers requirements. We always planned to continue working on it to make it perfect.)

The following photos were taken the day we took the van to the garage for sign off (note, this is not our final van conversion!)

As some of the criteria were open to interpretation, we wanted to make sure that each standard was met in the most robust way possible. On the other hand we needed to do it quickly and didn’t want to do too much that might effect the completed design after phase 2.

To summarise the phase 1 van, we had the following features:

  • Plywood bench seating either side of the rear living area

  • A fixed table base (with removable top)

  • The table top and additional board combine with the bench seating to form a mattress base

  • White painted plywood walls (kept and reused from the original van fitout)

  • Plywood cupboard and worktop with fixed gas powered hob, supply pipe and gas tank (as we were on a budget we used a camping gas cartridge!)

  • A water container fixed to the cupboard with straps

  • Rear and side doors with fixed side window

  • The morning of the engineers inspection arrived and we were both really nervous, it felt like the morning before an exam. We were terrified!

Luckily the engineer we took it to was satisfied (despite the wobbly table) and signed the van off! Annoyingly this cost us £48, but we didn’t really have any other choice.

Our 30 day conversion passed the test!

With the completed form and photos we sent these off to Staveley Head, a few hours later we received our certificate. We did it!

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