Box Truck Conversion Homes: Trucking Through Your Best Life

box truck camper conversion


If you’re looking for the easiest way to live tiny, a box truck conversion might be the way for you to go. Box truck conversions are a good gateway vehicle conversion for DIY beginners and those new to the alternative dwelling world.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

As I’ve gotten more and more acquainted with the tiny house movement and community, I’ve learned it’s about more than simply living small. Converting and restoring old vehicles into simplistic living is something that has definitely piqued my interest over the past decade!

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Is A Box Truck Conversion And Why Try It Out?

What Is A Box Truck Conversion

A box truck conversion is any truck with a large cargo area that has been turned into a mobile dwelling. The most common type of box truck conversion is typically done with a U-Haul moving van, but it’s possible to use many different box truck styles, sizes, and types.

box truck camper conversionWith a lot of vehicle-to-house conversions, it can be challenging to create individual rooms. But box trucks are already divided into two sections (the cab and the back), which expedites the building and layout process. One of the reasons box truck conversions are so savvy for beginners is due to the way that the interior shell is already fully built. Box truck homes can be simple ADUs or fulltime dwellings, with full bathrooms and showers.

Additionally, box trucks have extremely straight surfaces. This makes adding insulation, adding wood to the ceiling and walls, and adding utilities a smidge easier than other builds. It’s also worth noting that box trucks are able to conceal things easier than other conversion types like cargo vans or skoolies because of the built-out walls. It makes it easier to tuck away things like roof vent fans or solar panels from sight.

tiny house interiors

Design Inspiration For Box Truck Camper Conversions

Design Inspiration For Box Truck Camper

There are so many different ways to design a converted box truck. The biggest factor that will change how your dwelling is designed is the way the shell of your box truck is already laid out.

This isn’t a brand-new build, it’s a conversion. Therefore, it’s highly likely that there may be some features already installed in the box truck that could positively or negatively impact your overall design options.

Featured Design Inspiration For A Box Truck Conversion

There are many adventurers and dreamers out there that have already pressed the gas pedal on their own box truck conversions. I love taking a look through the design choices that others have made and pulling inspiration from other box truck builds.

Box Truck Conversion Interior Examples

A huge part of what you can do with a box truck conversion depends on the original design of the truck. One element that most box truck shells have in common is there is typically a sliding door on the back wall of the truck where the cargo is brought in and.

This is pretty ideal to use as a backdoor! If I were to convert my own box truck, I would open this sliding door all the time and let the sights and sounds of nature trickle in.

Most box truck interiors are entirely open with an attached kitchen nook and living room. It’s pretty common for box trucks to have a sleeping loft raised vertically if there isn’t room for an entire bedroom.

box truck camper conversion inside
box truck conversion interior

Bedroom Sleeping Loft In A Box Truck Camper

In my opinion, the best sleeping lofts have raised storage surrounding the sleeping nook. This could be shelves, cabinets, or a simple rack. It’s just nice to incorporate a space for essentials so you don’t have to climb up and down the loft to get what you need for the night.

box truck conversion sleeping loft
box truck conversion bed

Box Truck Connected Living Room And Kitchen Space

Most kitchen and living spaces are connected in a box truck camper. You can place your couch in the corner of the box truck and have it wrap around the van. You can also align it horizontally against the wall.

box truck conversion living room
box truck conversion living space

I think it’s smart to place the kitchen in the corner of the camper truck. You can put the oven, stove, table, and cooking furnace all at different heights.

box truck conversion camper kitchen
box truck conversion kitchen space

Box Truck Camper Office Nook

I love the idea of integrating an office nook into your box truck conversion. If I had my own box truck van, I could definitely work from home in this kind of office nook, surrounded by plants and huge exterior windows

box truck camper conversion office space

Exterior Examples For A Box Truck Conversion

The exterior design of your box truck will also greatly depend on the type or style of box truck that you choose to purchase and the way the exterior is already laid out when you purchase it.

Box Truck Camper Van With Stairs And Ramps

Adding removeable or foldable stairs or a detachable ramp is a wise idea when designing the exterior of your box truck camper. It can give you more overall accessibility to all aspects of your box truck house.

box truck conversion exterior
converted box truck exterior
box truck conversion camper design

Box Truck Camper With Wooden Exterior

I personally find lining part of your box truck camper entirely in wood to be one of the classiest options for your camper. This can be as simple as a wooden finish to the back of the camper van or lining the entire box truck walls and floors in a nice warm wood.

converted box truck wood exterior
converted box truck camper ideas
box truck conversion design ideas

Pros And Cons Of Converting A Box Truck House

Pros And Cons Of Converting A Box Truck House

Like any alternative building style, there are pros and cons that come with choosing to convert a box truck camper into a tiny home. If you’re thinking of diving into this build, be sure to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before investing your time and resources.

Box Truck Conversion Pros

  • Easy to create multiple rooms, space is already divided
  • More room for storage storage than cargo vans
  • Fully mobile
  • Cost-conscious
  • Insulating & finishing made easy with straight edges

Box Truck Conversion Cons

  • Driving and living spaces disconnected
  • Have to be in the front of the truck in transit
  • More limited weight capacity than other dwellings
  • Can easily become overheated
  • Obtaining building materials can be a challenge

How To Convert A Box Truck Into A Tiny House In Five Steps

Steps To Convert A Box Truck

If you’re ready to undergo your own box truck conversion, there are a couple of building steps that you’ll need to undergo. I am a huge believer that anyone can be a DIY builder if they put their mind to it, are willing to learn, and are willing to put in the time and effort to make the build happen.

tiny house building checklist

1 Select A Box Truck Floorplan

First, select a design and floorplan for your box truck conversion. Make sure you have the length and width of each wall written down and that the measurements are to scale on your floorplan. Also, if you plan to include doors and windows in your build, indicate where these will be located in your initial floorplan.

2 Outline The Box Truck Conversion

Now, it’s time to mark up your used camper van to match the floorplan that you’ve drawn up. I’d recommend using chalk, paint pen, or masking tape to mark where each of the additional features will go in the camper van.

Include the placement of the bed and sleeping loft, the bathroom, and the kitchen. If you plan to make changes to features already within the used van, mark those changes as well.

3 Start Building The Walls Of The Box Truck

Once you have the visual markings in place indicating where everything will go, it’s time to begin your building process. Start with the walls when converting a standard box truck. I recommend using 2” x 4” lumber to frame the walls of the box truck. Use 3-inch deck screws and PU adhesive to construct and attach the wooden walls to the original metal walls of the truck.

tiny house tools

4 Install Box Truck Windows And Doors

Now it’s time to add in your doors and windows. You can also use 3-inch deck screws to fasten the door frames to the walls that you’ve already constructed. My opinion is that pre-hung hollow core doors are the best for a box truck home. You can typically find these at a local hardware store.

Use deck screws to install the windows as well. When cutting holes for the doors and windows, you may want to invest in a circular saw.

5 Install Utilities In Your Box Truck Camper

Once the shell and bones of the entire truck has been completed, the last step is to install your utilities. Depending on the style of box truck that you’re converting, it’s possible that basic insulation, moisture protection, or solar panels are already installed. However, this isn’t a guarantee.

You’ll also want to make sure that you have access to fresh water since you can’t connect your box truck to a permanent water source. My best recommendation for this is to use a freshwater tank.

tiny house plumbing

FAQ: Common Questions About Box Truck Camper Conversions

FAQs About Converted Box Trucks

Converting a box truck into an RV might feel like a huge endeavor, so make sure you have all your questions answers and know what you’re getting into before biting the bullet and starting your build!

How Much Does It Cost To Convert A Box Truck Into A House?

Box truck conversions tend to cost somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000, including the initial cost of your truck. At this price, you can typically build a full mobile house with all of the embellishments, interior finishings (floors, walls, and ceilings), full utility installation, furniture, a sleeping loft, and a full kitchen.

However, if you plan to scale back your conversion and take a simpler approach, you might be able to get your total cost down to between $15,000 and $20,000. It truly depends on how many features you add and what your vision is.

What Are The Biggest Potential Challenges Of A Box Truck Conversion?

The biggest challenge with a box truck is hands-down managing the insulation. I have a pretty good friend who converted a U-Haul box truck and talked with me about the challenges of having to insulate heavily to combat the metal walls that heat up intensely in the sun.

Another challenge with a box truck conversion is getting the building materials you need into the actual truck during the build. To tackle this, my friend purchased a lift gate that he was later able to use as a porch on the end of the box truck camper.

tiny house insulation

Do Box Truck Conversions Work Well For Long Distances?

Box truck campers work fantastically for traveling long distances. Traveling cross country is what these kind of vehicles were designed to do. A typical box truck with a diesel engine can last somewhere between 250,000 and 155,000 miles, while a classic gas-powered box truck lasts around 155,000 miles.

The only downside to traveling cross-country in a converted box truck van is that the cargo area of the truck — your living space — will likely not be safe for long distance travel. It’s recommended that both the passengers and the driver alike sit in the cab section of the box truck when it’s in motion.

What Are The Different Body Style Options For A Box Truck?

Box trucks are any type of truck with a front cab and back cargo area. There are many different styles of box truck campers that can be converted into tiny houses. Each box truck style can have a different cab style as well. Some box truck builds and cab styles are more ideal for conversions, while some may be harder to turn into a full-time home.

Box Truck Styles That Can Easily Be Converted

  • Standard Box Trucks
  • Utility Box Trucks
  • Refrigerated Box Trucks
  • Landscaping Box Trucks
  • Flatbed Box Trucks
box truck designs that are easily converted

I personally think that utility box trucks and refrigerated box trucks are the best styles for converting into a house. Standard box trucks and landscaping box trucks are fairly standard and mediocre for conversions. Flatbed box trucks are the weakest option because they do not have a fully built cargo trailer. They require more labor and extra building steps than the other styles.

Box trucks with utility beds have many advantages. They already have side dividers and pivoted backs built into the body of the truck. These can easily be converted into storage spaces or individual rooms. Most utility box trucks also already have small compartments, floor storage, and small drawers in the cargo area built in.

best box truck for camper conversionConverting a refrigerated box truck can be a gold mine. Refrigerated box trucks typically already have insulation installed in the walls used to keep vegetables and produce cool. Buying a used refrigerated box truck can save you on insulation costs. Refrigerated trucks also usually have a vapor barrier already installed to prevent the produce from rotting.

This can save you thousands of dollars during the building process. However, buying a used refrigerated box truck to convert can be a gamble because it can be hard to guarantee that all of these features still work and are fully in-tact.

How Much Weight Can A Converted Box Truck House Carry?

A standard 24-ft. to 26-ft. box truck can carry up to 10,000 lbs. of gross weight. For context, a standard tiny house with wooden walls, cladding, full-size windows and doors, tile or wood floors, and all interior and exterior finishes might weigh somewhere between 3,000 and 14,000 lbs.

The small end of this range is typically a 10-foot, shed-like tiny house and at the large end is something like a 34-foot, double-decker tiny home. Keep this range and the average 10,000 lbs. limit in mind when designing a box truck home of your own.

how much does a tiny house weigh

Is It Legal To Live In A Converted Box Truck In The U.S.?

Living full-time in a converted box truck in the United States can unfortunately get a bit dicey and fully depends on the laws in the specific state and county you plan to live in and travel to. If you plan to mount your box truck on foundation, it shouldn’t be a problem legally. The issues mainly arise when you make your box truck van mobile.

Many states have laws in place around being parked in an RV, converted van, or other type of mobile home for more than 30 days in an area that isn’t designated or approved for RV living. So, if you plan to travel in your converted box truck, your best bet is to move locations monthly. If you plan to stay somewhere longer than a month, look into what RV parks in the area allow long-term residency in a mobile camper.

where are tiny homes legal

Are Box Trucks The Best Choice For A DIY Conversion?

It’s difficult to choose one type of DIY or converted build that is best overall. All builds have their pros and cons!

I personally think a box truck is awesome for an individual, couple, or small family looking to travel the open-road without taking up too much space with their home. Box truck conversions are an energy efficient, cost-conscious, tiny way to travel far while still having access to all of the daily luxuries needed to enjoy day-to-day life.

Your Turn!

  • What makes a box truck RV conversion appealing to you?
  • What features will you include in your box truck conversion?
1 Comment
  1. I don’t have the ability to DYI a box truck conversion. Are there any people or companies (NOT Contravans) you know of who will do this work for me? Looking for anyone in Texas, but willing to travel, if I have to.

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