The first camper van we designed about built was all done with pen and paper, we had a notepad full of layouts and costings, pages full of corrections and scribbles and redrawn layouts and although we somehow managed to get the van finished there’s no chance I can go back and understand those designs or even suss out the exact cost of that first van from those notes. And this is where van design software and camper van design apps come into their own. For the next few vans we utilised a couple of campervan design apps as well as some productivity apps to help us not only design our camper van but also track the progress, costings and timelines for everything; it made for a quicker, less stressful and more successful van build. So here’s the camper van design apps we used and why they were so useful.
Before a single tool was picked up on our second van we bought Vanspace 3D for around £15. It’s an online modelling software which was designed by van lifers specifically for the job of making a 3D model of your van. It came with preset models of our make of van as well as premade templates for cabinets, beds, fridges and even cushions and plants that we could just drag and drop into our van and see how it would all look in 3D. Compared to other van design software Vanspace 3D is far quicker to start using and although you can use the free software SketchUp, it is not purpose built van conversion design software and it requires you to learn how to use it from scratch. On the other hand Vanspace 3D had me testing out various layout options straight away with it’s intuitive drag and drop interface and within an hour I had my first layout option tested.
Compared to pen and paper this camper van design app was a godsend, I was able to test out multiple camper van design layouts relatively quickly and decide on my final design and even as things changed during the build process I was able to quickly and easily update these changes in the app. Vanspace 3D was £15 well spent and has more than paid for itself with the additional conversions I’ve used it with.
When it came to staying on budget as well as tracking the costs for the conversion we found that using the app Monzo was a life saver. If you haven’t heard of or used Monzo before, it is a banking app that is managed via an app on your phone. Once you register they send you out an actual bank card which you can top up with money on your phone and then use like you would any other bank card. What makes it so great for your camper van conversion is that you are able to only add the money you have in your budget to your Monzo card so you can see exactly how much you have left and are unable to spend over that amount. In addition to this you can label each expenditure into categories via one click in the app, this means you are able to see exactly where the money has gone in your van conversion, whether it went on essentials or how much you spent on non essential items that you just simple wanted.
As a budgeting app Monzo was fantastic for us and our conversions, since we started using it we stopped going over budget on our builds and were able to stream line our expenses and cut out a lot of things which it turned out were unnecessary, saving us a fortune in the long run.
When we were using pen and paper for our van builds we would write down a list of jobs to do pretty much every morning, by the next day we’d realised we had forgotten or missed jobs off the list and so we had to write another list. It was an endless cycle and meant we had no real idea of what jobs were outstanding and what the progress was on ongoing jobs. That’s where Trello comes in, it’s a project management software that’s free to use and so simple. You create a complete list of outstanding jobs, everything you can think of for your camper can design and then create a bunch of columns which chart the progress of the jobs. Then as each task is completed you can move it along the columns so you can see what there is left to do, what is currently on going and what is completed. It was a great way for us to fully visualise how much there was to do and how much there was left.
Here’s an example of a simple camper van conversion Trello board so you can see how we set ours up and get an idea of how useful it can be. This example is a really simple one however our usual projects have hundreds of items as we break down everything into tiny little jobs for us to do and add far more detail to each task in Trello.
Camper van design apps
Hopefully those 3 apps will give you an idea of how we go about designing our camper vans, how we stay on budget and how we are able to complete the vans on time. For a total cost of £15 we have all the van design software we need and the project and budget management tools we can use to successfully complete a conversion, and what’s better is that we are able to use the same designs, same budget and same project plan time and time again with every new van conversion.