Upcycling Furniture – The Best Way to Build a Budget Campervan

Budget Campervan Van Life - Offbeat Escapades

For us, the best budget campervan build is one that looks unique, tailor-made, and at the lowest possible cost. The best way to achieve this? By upcycling furniture!

There’s so much satisfaction in making your own custom curtains, building cute wooden shelves, or repurposing old kitchen cabinets. With the right tools and a few old pieces of furniture or wood, a budget campervan build can really become elevated and doesn’t have to look cheap! 

Here’s our top reasons why upcycling furniture is the best way to build a budget campervan.


Reuse existing furniture without much modification

Upcycling furniture is a great way to save time on your campervan build as you can use the existing structures of the original furniture. It’s also perfect if you lack some woodworking skills or don’t have many tools at your disposal. It is easier to transform than to build from scratch in many cases.

This pull out bed was made of an old pine mezzanine bed for the slats and partly for the bed feet.

An old bed frame for instance can easily be turned into a pull-out bed. You’ll just have to unscrew or remove the slats, and screw them on your next furniture base. You might also have to trim them but it will be way less work than building a bed from scratch.

The finished pull-out bed frame, even the mattress was upcycled!

Alternatively, an old pine shelf is a great base to make a storage box, a drawer, or a table top to give your van a rustic feel. The only thing you need to do is to unscrew, cut, and reassemble. Feel free to sand and repaint your final product to match your interior.

Unlike reclaimed pallet wood (which is also useful for a budget van build), this is less toxic, potentially lighter, and with a better finish.

We cut these shelf spaces with a jigsaw to create a storage crate. The base of the crate is made out of pallet wood.

Upcycling is a cheap way to build a budget campervan

To state the obvious, a budget campervan build has to be as cheap as possible. For us, we were able to create a campervan build for under 250 euros merely by upcycling furniture. 

Junkyards, thrift stores, side roads or your parent’s basement (haha!) are many places where you can find cheap or completely free furnitures or wood for your build.

While you might be concerned about the durability or look of the free furnitures, a little bit of sanding and painting can go a long way making it look rustic or good as new!

We sanded these planks before staining them to give this table a rustic feel.

It's easy to find inspiration when upcycling furniture

When it comes to DIY projects and upcycling furniture, there’s tons of inspiration, be it in existing van builds or in the home improvements boards on Pinterest. 

It gives you more ideas but also more confidence. Since you know what the final product will look like and that if it works for other people, it will definitely work out for your budget campervan build.

As for us, we got really confident making our own van layout based on existing campervan builds. Making an L shaped pull out bed and a  plywood chest with piano hinges were ideas we got from The Rolling Home, a British Volkswagen T4 build. There’s plenty of DIY inspiration to help you make the right choice for your needs. 

For the finishing touches, reusing things from thrift shops or basements will have the benefit to be unique to you. Think about door knobs, curtains, or a kitchen tap that no one else will have in their van.

DIY Inspiration from Pinterest

Ecological and good for the environment

While you have the personal satisfaction of giving a second life to an old cupboard or a shelf, it’s worth knowing that you won’t be contributing to the destruction of forests by upcycling furniture for your van. Producing wood panels and timber takes ressources, so does recycling it.

By re-using materials, you are making things better, twice! You might even make people happy by taking junk out of their basement. 

A chest (for storage and our clothes) completely made out of reclaimed wood planks.

 Develop a skill you didn’t realize you had

Upcycling is the ultimate way to develop woodworking or crafting skills without taking too much risk. You can get creative or afford to fail and learn since the piece of furniture or reclaimed wood you had was bound to be thrown away anyway. Using old materials is a great way to gain confidence!

Budget Campervan Van Life - Offbeat Escapades 5
Our first van build - Who knew we could make this with NO prior experience?

The first pallet shelf you build might not be the best but hopefully, you’ll end up loving what you created and get even more satisfaction from it as you made it yourself. Let your creative juices flow and even add your own personal touches to elevate that rustic vibe to your campervan build.

Budget Campervan
Since our first van build, we've added a few more wooden additions with cladding to be completely finish this summer.

Conclusion: Upcycling Furniture for a Budget Campervan Build

Budget Campervan

These are the advantages of using recycled materials for your DIY budget campervan build. Don’t worry, a budget build doesn’t have to be 100% upcycled. Sometimes you just need light and specific materials that you can scrape off of furniture or get for free.

We did still buy a few materials for our van such as timber to build the base of our bed frame and kitchen, OSB pannels for the floor, as well as pine cladding for the ceiling.

Upcycling furniture has truly helped us cut down the costs of building our campervan to under 250 euros. We were quickly be able to  go on adventures with our van this past Summer and Fall because of this simple and affordable van build method!

Are you convinced that upcycling furniture is the best way to build a budget campervan? Let us know to which extent you have already done so or plan to do so for your van!


22 thoughts on “Upcycling Furniture – The Best Way to Build a Budget Campervan”

    1. Thanks so much Christine, it’s only the beginning of our van project and we’re upgrading a few more things before the Spring warmth hits. Stay tuned 😉

  1. I really enjoyed reading this article. It is amazing what you can do with used furniture. Upcycling is something that I might definitely have to try. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Danik the Explorer

    I am actually thinking of doing something like this, so I can drive from the UK all the way across to east coast of Russia (and then maybe ferry it across to Japan depending on time). ALways wanted to drive across the world. And doing it in a campervan seems to be the way to go to save on accommodation costs. Fantastic tips here, have taken note on some of them 🙂

  3. I think this is pure magic! I keep thinking of getting a bookshelf for myself but never take the trouble of making one myself. I guess this just needs some lessons and maybe I can try making a table for myself. I will check out Pinterest too.

  4. Looks great! And also so much fun! If we didn’t have kids I would definitely love to get one of these and go on a long road trip here in the U.S. Now we would need more like an RV and my husband is not so excited about that idea. But I think this would be a great way to travel.

    1. We guess you’ll have to convince him, Paula! We’ve seen families with kids using small vans (often with a pop-top) but we agree that RV’s are more comfortable for families (even if less discrete).

  5. This is really nice. How we wish we can make a similar project like this as I have always wanted to have a campervan. You just inspired me to go the DIY route. Thank you for sharing this.

  6. Building your own campervan is so cool! I mean yes sure it’s ecological but creating your own and trying your hand at something you never did before is so exciting at the same time! Thanks for sharing.

  7. For few years, we have been traveling with very different types of motorhomes and smaller campervans. We did not decide to build our own. We recently bought a ready-made campervan, which we start our next trip soon. But I really like your work. You have created a cozy interior. The use of ecological materials is also of value. I wish you a beautiful and safe journey!

    1. How exciting, Agnes! We wish you the best on your upcoming campervan adventures! Truth be told, it would be sometimes more comfortable to have an RV or a professional build, but ours is good enough for the weekend and holiday adventures. 🙂

  8. Blair Villanueva

    I agree with your strategies. Campervan lifestyle will make you spend less and there is no point in buying expensive new furniture. With a basic carpentry skill, you can do it! Plus there are many available affordable timbers and sometimes you can get it for free.

    1. We are so glad you think so, Blair! Travelling with a campervan means freedom, no plans and affordability (even during the build process)!

  9. Okay I just LOVE this concept! My boyfriend and I have been wanting to build out a van for as long as we’ve been together, and we are both very eco-conscious so this is a great option. I often upcycle old wood and more for art, but now I might have to start collecting for the van build!

  10. Wow great concept to use your old furniture and build a campervan. I never thought of this idea but your post has some wonderful ideas. Not only for campervan some ideas suits me for outdoor patio seating too. Your storage crate really looks light weight and trendy too. Now I will also try my hand on something to create from old furniture.

    1. We wish you the best of luck, Yukti! As you said, this is not solely for campervan build. We are upcycling everything in our apartment (coffee table, kitchen shelves, pantry,etc)

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