Meet My Vauxhall Vivaro Mk3 (DIY Campervan Conversion)

Since I shared a few photos of my new van on Instagram (@beckythetraveller) I’ve had a numerous questions about my plans for the van, whether I’ve doing a DIY van conversion or getting someone to do it and loads more! Here’s a brief summary answering a few common questions about my new van, my proposed layout and the special name I’ve chosen for it 🙂

I’ll also be creating mini guides for the work I’m completing myself including my research, as well as a master tool kit list and my van conversion costs too. You can find those both on the website shortly (I’ll be updating them with new costs and new tools needed as I go along!)

If you have any other van questions then pop them in the comments below.

Watch my van tour here!

Vauxhall Vivaro Mk3 Van

Inside my new van, ready for converting!

About my Vauxhall Vivaro

Firstly, I’ll give you a few facts and figures about my Vauxhall Vivaro, then I’ll explain why I picked this van.

  • My Vivaro was registered in 2019 which means it’ll be 3 years old in October
  • It’s a diesel van
  • The Vivaro van is classed as a medium-sized van
  • It’s grey and has 3 seats!
  • The model is a Mk3, the newer model than Vivaro’s you may have researched (2019 onwards)
  • And mine is the L2 (the longer version)
  • The engine size is 1.5 Turbo
  • 6 speed gearbox 
  • 70-litre fuel tank
  • And the size in the van is 6.1 cubic metres

Now I’m not very techie, so that’s the main stuff, if you want to know anything more feel free to ask, although I might not have a clue!

Why did I chose the Vauxhall Vivaro Mk3 Van?

Picking up my Vauxhall Vivaro Van and jumping in for a photo!

I’ve been researching vans for a while now, searching on Auto Trader to see what options are there and popping into garages with a tape measure. For anyone starting out there van research it’s not an easy decision to make!

Everyone’s choices for the reason for buying a van will be different but I finally settled on these as my priorities:

  • I wanted a van that I could use as my day to day vehicle
  • One spacious enough to convert into a campervan for overnight stays but a few longer adventures too
  • 3 seats 
  • Low enough to fit through car park barriers
  • A newer model so I don’t have to replace for a long time!
  • No windows – even though I’m getting some added!

And these are the things that weren’t dealbreakers but more a nice to have:

  • Any colour but white (shows the dirt haha)
  • Low mileage
  • Van for sale near where I live

With the above points in mind the Vauxhall Vivaro Mk3 wasn’t a van that had been on my radar! I’d been looking at other medium sized vans, mainly the Ford Transit, Renault Traffic and Vauxhall Vivaro Mk2, as well as the Ford Custom, which is actually very similar to the Vauxhall Vivaro Mk3 but it wasn’t until I saw them next to each other that I discovered this!

In the end the Vauxhall Vivaro Mk3 I found ticked everything that I needed (and wanted).

What’s my new van going to be called?

This name popped into my head almost as soon as someone asked me what I was calling my van. And it seems fitting to share that name with you all and even more so today.

My new van will be called Dennis!

It’s named after my lovely Gramps who sadly died in 2018, and today it would have been his 95th birthday today (18th February) so ‘Happy Birthday Gramps’, I hope you like my new van :).

Planning my van conversion

Planning my campervan layout with tape!

Am I doing the work myself?

The short answer here will be yes! Although I’m happy to accept guidance, tips and help from people along the way, maybe borrowing the odd tool that I don’t have. It seems there are a lot of van owners out there who are happy to share tips.

Although for the first big job on the van I’ve decided to call the experts in straight away! 

I wanted a van with no windows but this didn’t mean I didn’t want any. The thing is you either get a van that’s full of windows or one without and then select where you want them.

Sarah from The Happy Campervan in Derby is going to be fitting my windows. 

And that leads me on to what why I wanted windows and which ones to have.

What windows to have on my campervan?

Vauxhall Vivaro Van without windows

Choosing to have windows on my campervan was my first big decision. Initially, after researching the pros/cons of having windows in a van I settled on a van with zero windows but soon after picking up I changed my mind!

As part of my decision making I asked the question in a Facebook group, which had some funny responses then also asked my fab Instagram followers. Wow, I had no idea so many of them had vans! Thanks so much everyone who replied :).

Here’s a brief summary of the pros and cons for having a window or windows fitted which helped my decision making process.

Pros for having campervan windows

  • It makes it easier manovering and parking the van, particularly if you get a passenger side window fitted. 
  • A window with an opening is the perfect vent for your campervan and if you don’t have windows you will need a vent somewhere
  • Lets natural light into your van
  • Option to see the beautiful views from your window (if you’re parked next to them)
  • On hot days you can let the heat out (with an opening window option) without opening the doors
  • Being able to see who’s outside your van, without opening the doors 

Cons for having campervan windows

  • Less privacy, people can see in!
  • Windows = colder. For each window fitted you are unable to fit insulation as you would for the other panels
  • More windows = more condensation in your van
  • Feeling safer in your van without windows whilst in it
  • Better security for your van with less windows
  • Less storage space where your windows are

The pros are obviously all a win, especially being able to manoeuvre and park the van easily, as well as the natural light and being able to see who’s outside without opening the doors. This is certainly important to me as a female solo traveller.

Next, I looked at each of the cons to see how big an issue it would be for me, again this is personal preference and some factors are based on me being a solo traveller most of the time.

Less privacy and feeling safer – there’s an option to get tinted windows, however, apparently this means you don’t get ‘the best’ views and/or curtains or blinds to make your van feel more private when needed.

Making the van colder – there are couple of things to do to help with this. Option 1 is getting thermal blinds made for all the windows (this would also be beneficial for the windscreen and both passenger and driver’s windows). Option 2 is to get some form of heating, for example a diesel heater (something I may consider later). Or option 3, get a good 4-season sleeping bag to keep you warm (fortunately I have one of these for wild camping)

More condensation – however, having a window that opens would help with this.

Better security without windows – there are other things you can do to make your van more secure, for example, extra deadlocks or a Tracker.

Less storage space – by having a window on your sliding door you’re not sacrificing the space in the van and as regards to other windows you can plan the rest of the space to your advantage.

Another few things I’ve considered regarding the windows are the type to have – there are the traditional side windows and ones on the barn doors but a few other suggestions included having a skylight window and also port hole windows.

For improving manoeuvring instead of a window you could just get a reversing camera fitted!

And lastly, which was my original idea from the beginning was to simply open the doors if I wanted extra light, views or to see who’s there!

Vauxhall Vivaro panel van
Rear of Vauxhall Vivaro with one side door open

My final decision on windows

After all that, I’ve settled on one side window in my door side panel on the passenger side, for added views, extra light and to assist with   and parking. It’ll be a tinted window to give extra privacy and security, the window will also have a slide opener for ventilation. I won’t be having a built in kitchen so this will be completely fine for my needs.

My second window will be a single barn door window, again it will be tinted but this one won’t open.

What’s my van layout going to be?

I’ve had a few people ask me this and it’s difficult to describe, so I’ve added the latest picture of my planned design.

At the moment, I’m still not 100% sure of the plan, I’m continuing to research van layouts via YouTube, Instagram and Facebook!

My planning began with a list of what I wanted to use the van for, things that were important for me and things that I knew I didn’t want.

Plan of can layout
Draft plan for my van layout

Becky’s van essentials

Bed – A bed that is wide enough so I can use at any time. When I travel, especially longer distances if it’s late I do sometimes nap part way through a journey. It used to be fairly unsuccessful napping due to the size of my car, hence the reason for getting a van. I’d also like a option to extend maybe if a friend is joining me or if I want some luxury on a longer trip

Sofa – again wide enough and long enough so I can have a couple of people as guests to chill in the van, either socially or for work (Mountain Leader jobs).

Storage for hiking gear – Mainly my wet jackets, clothes and muddy boots. I want somewhere to hang up things to dry.

Storage for food items – I’ll want to keep some dry food, maybe have an option for keeping food cool but I’d rather go simply with a plug in coolbox instead of a fridge, which I’ll need to power…

Power – I won’t have loads of things I’ll want to run in the van, my portable fridge, lights then a way to charge my phone and watch. I’d also like to be able to charge my laptop so I can work and travel at the same time. I’ll be researching the options between a leisure battery or a portable battery, I know which option I’m favouring… the easiest!

Becky’s van non-essentials

Kitchen – I have a couple of camping stoves for both wild camping and campsites and instead of getting a fitted cooker unit I’m happy to use my stove for any cooking I will do

Sink – I’ve looked at vans with sink, many of them seem so small they’d only be useful for washing a few items or brushing your teeth. I’d rather carry a water carrier and decant the water as and when I need it.

Toilet – Here’s another non-essential for me, I’d rather find toilets on route or have a simple container, maybe a she-pee or equivalent to use in an emergency. Not sure about a poo emergency, I don’t fancy shitting in a box and driving round with that in my van haha!

Do you have any more questions about my van conversion? Pop them in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer them.


12 thoughts on “Meet My Vauxhall Vivaro Mk3 (DIY Campervan Conversion)

  1. Dave says:

    Interesting read … been looking at one for a while …couple of things I have seen .. splitting the box the dedicated is on with piano hinges so it can fold flat against the side of the van in case you have to carry something big.
    A double front seat which can rotate. Outlet for the diesel heater which can blow past an area to hang clothes to dry them.
    Also there are a few places do pretty built cupboards which give a much fast build time

    • Becky the Traveller says:

      Ah thanks Dave, some useful suggestions, not sure I’ll ever want to carry anything big, I’ve never had to do that in either of my cars but a good shout. I thought it would be fun to make my own, although I might completely re-consider that once I get started haha! I need to do some more research into the diesel heater so I can plan in for if I decide to add one. Thanks so much for the ideas 🙂

  2. Irene says:

    One thing as a lone female traveller which I’ll be sure to do with my van conversion is to make sure I can get to the driver’s seat from the back without having to get out. Just in case I need to drive away from a situation that’s become dodgy. Will your layout let you do that?

  3. Erica says:

    Toilet. I use 2 containers with snap on lid. ( B&Q ready made plaster) 1 for wee and one for poo, although only needed to use this once when got tummy bug.

  4. Mark says:

    Interesting read. A couple of things to consider:-

    1. A 100W solar panel on the roof might save you the need to run the van to keep the leisure battery topped up. A 100W panel and little controller would be around £80

    2. Your power requirements all seem modest except the fridge / coolbox. A coolbox (solid state fridge) is much LESS efficient than a small fridge – but BOTH of them will take a fair amount of power from the battery (laptop, phone and watch charging will be insignificant compared to fridge).

    For an emergency loo, something as simple as a clean bucket (loads of other uses and takes up no space if other cleaning materials stored inside it). Can be useful in an emergency and if you line it with a swing bin liner and then knot it and double bag it after use, you end up with a squeaky clean bucket again and a double-bagged package of unpleasantmess to pop in the next bin!

    Please use a “charge splitting” device with your auxillary battery. This means when the engine is on, the battery can charge up – BUT when the engine is off, you can only run down the aux battery and not accidentally flatten the vans main “starting” battery.

    If you are on your own and in the “back and beyond” sometimes, consider a lithium jump starter (in case your main battery DOES go flat), and a can of “tyre fix” foam to get you moving again.

    The Chinese diesel heaters are surprisingly good – but they DO use a fair amount of electricity from your battery too. Also if it cmes with an an external tank and the supplied fuel line is green, replace it with something designed for diesel – the green ones go brittle and break / leak. You will need a small hole in the bottom / side of the van for the exhaust. Lots of info on youtube if you look for 5kw diesel heater.

    Enjoy your van!

  5. Tilly71 says:

    I’m thinking of getting a vivaro also. Do you think a bed going width way instead of sofa bed long way would work if you’re on the small side? 5’5”

    • Becky the Traveller says:

      Hi, I can’t imagine that would be enough room to sleep, but I guess it depends on how you sleep. I can’t remember the exact dimensions but I’d say sleeping widthways would not work for this van.

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