A growing number of van lifers are converting a secondhand ambulance into a camper rather than a consumer or work van. It is not yet widely used, but it is a rising trend.
Former ambulances make excellent vehicle adaptations. They have a lot of storage space and a lot of living space inside the box. Any full-time van resident should think about them as a viable choice for a mobile tiny house.
They aren’t particularly discreet or simple to park in a major city, but if you devote a lot of time in and among nature, you’ll surely appreciate such a roomy house on wheels. When traveling between cities, you could always just pull into a Walmart parking lot.
In this post, we will look at the benefits and drawbacks of ambulance campers, as well as how to choose the best vehicle to convert. We also show you 8 cool setups you should view before starting your own construction.
Pros and Cons of Ambulance Conversion
Even a skillfully converted rig is not without flaws. Any vehicle you choose for your project has advantages and disadvantages; you just have to decide which inconveniences you’re willing to accept based on your needs and preferences. After all, going on adventures entails getting out of your comfort zone.
Old ambulances have several advantages and disadvantages. We discuss them below so you can determine if they’re right for you.
- They are less expensive to purchase than Sprinters and other popular van variants.
- They aren’t hard to find right now because not many people buy them.
- The cab’s box design is easy to customize and large, making it suitable for full-time campers.
- They’ve been well-kept throughout their service years.
- The roof is quite large, so plenty of solar panels and a deck may be accommodated.
- There is already a lot of storage, such as cabinets.
- Ambulances are outfitted with electrical, seating, and other features.
- The cab has excellent insulation.
- They’re as wide as a car, so you can sleep sideways.
- On many ambulances, the headroom is enough.
- They are made of highly strong materials.
- There are numerous conversions can be found on YouTube and Instagram.
- Ex-ambulances are not discreet.
- The electrical system is intricate and will very certainly require some repair and adjusting.
- Much of the interior area has already been furnished.
- Ambulances aren’t particularly nimble or easy to park.
- The laws and regulations governing the operation of decommissioned ambulances are hazy and vary among states.
- The walls are thick, and cutting into them can be difficult.
- When cutting into a wall, cables, ducts, and structural support are frequently encountered.
- You will most likely install a lot of equipment, so it will be a high-maintenance RV.
- Because they are classified as business vehicles, the paperwork might be difficult.
There’s one more thing that’s both a pro and a con: ambulances use diesel engines. This implies they are more dependable and last longer; nevertheless, not all technicians can repair diesel engines, and diesel is more costly in America than gasoline. Concerns about the environment may also influence your decision.
If you’re willing to learn the rigorous rules and regulations and aren’t afraid of subtracting the current furniture to create a blank canvas, an ambulance transformation could be the vehicle for you. The wide and towering cab allows you to travel for months at a time.
Professional ambulance conversions
If you have a bigger budget and are in a hurry to get started, you could consider an expert conversion. There are companies that buy used ambulances and convert them into RV campers that are capable of traveling. AmbuNet and SIV Ambulances are two of them.
Their vehicles aren’t cheap, but you get to bypass a lot of tedious and time-consuming tasks, such as looking for a suitably used ambulance for sale, dismantling and replacing furnishings, installing a new electrical system, and more. If you select one of the vehicles on hand at these dealerships, you may be on the road in a matter of weeks.
The disadvantage is that the floor plan will have been determined, so you will have to adjust to how it is set up.
Decommissioned Ambulance Turned Camper Van
Many van lifers are resorting to decommissioned ambulances for a one-of-a-kind and efficient DIY camper van conversion.
Refurbished ambulances are long-lasting business vehicles. Ambulances have a lot of advantages for van life and very few disadvantages. These tough trucks frequently have diesel engines, have regular fleet maintenance, and have durable construction and built-in outdoor storage possibilities.
A gutted ambulance is a blank canvas with plenty of interior room and, in many cases, a boxy style that makes laying out a camper conversion much easier. Because there aren’t as many people looking for secondhand ambulances as a platform for a DIY camper conversion, they can be less expensive than cargo vans like Ford Transits, Ram Promaster, or Sprinter vans.
The disadvantages of decommissioned ambulance conversions also provide a lack of stealth, increased difficulty moving and parking the vehicle, and sophisticated electrical systems and sirens installed that make the gutting process more challenging.
If you’re thinking about converting an ambulance into a camper, check out these ten creative ambulance camper modifications. They may inspire you and assist you in determining whether a used ambulance RV is the appropriate model for your van life journey.
Practical Ambulance Conversion: By @amandalemay.ca
Amanda turned her 2006 Ford E-350 Cutaway ambulance into a full-time camper van. Amanda’s father assisted with the conversion, which took seven months. She spent roughly $10,000 buying the car and another $10,000 on converting it into her little home on wheels.
Amanda and her father attempted to utilize or reuse as much of the ambulance’s initial building as possible, utilizing the existing cupboards and covering them with peel-and-stick wallpaper to suit the inside style Amanda desired. A two-burner stove and oven are included in the kitchen. Instead of flowing water, there is a Berkey water filter device installed near the sink. A gray water tank of 26 gallons is installed behind the sink.
The elevated platform bed is anchored across the width of the ambulance modification and has plenty of space underneath. For work and dining, a slide-out table emerges from the bed frame, with a bench seat on one side. The refrigerator is hidden beneath the bed and serves as a second seat. Solar panels are also placed on the roof, as well as a full van-life electrical system. A door located at the front of the vehicle provides access to the cab. The living room is otherwise fully distinct from the cab.
Cost-effective Ambulance Camper Conversion: By Josh
Josh transformed an ambulance into a full-time residence. Many components of his conversion were salvaged or obtained secondhand, making this an extremely cost-effective and environmentally responsible project.
There are shelves in the inner space that can contain a small book collection and sentimental things. Josh sanded and re-stained wall pallets to use for the interior walls. He created a warm and distinct aesthetic by using several colored dyes.
Magnetic strips as well as small shelves just above the counter are used in the kitchen to store various cooking supplies and tools. A foot pump powers the kitchen faucet. A barrier separates the kitchen from the back of the van, creating a small wardrobe for hanging clothes.
The bed is supported by a futon-style structure that runs lengthwise on the passenger seat. Josh made the structure himself, complete with a pulley system for lifting it into sofa position. Under the bed is space for clothes, shoes, and winter gear.
The Dometic fridge is situated in a built-in section by the side door. The area is well-insulated and features a slide-up door. The ambulance camper conversion also offers exterior-accessible storage compartments. Josh keeps his tools, cleaning materials, and water tanks in these compartments.
Simple Ambulance Camper Van Construction: By Carl and Maddie
Carl and Maddie, van lifers, turned a 1997 Chevrolet K3500 ambulance into a full-time residence. The couple like the ample storage space outside the ambulance, which is utilized to keep climbing equipment, tools, water jugs, as well as other outdoor gear.
Because their ambulance arrived with all of the cabinets, they already had a terrific interior storage system built into the camper. The pair has a huge wardrobe in the living room for storing their clothing and shoes. To dispose of rubbish, there is a trash chute. The trash bag is kept in one of the sections available from the outside, but since the chute is located in the van’s inside, they can dispose of waste inside while maintaining it outside, which we believe is quite clever!
Throughout the day, the full-sized bed frame stretches lengthwise over the passenger side of the van and serves as a couch. The base beneath the mattress can be unfurled and stabilized by table legs placed beneath it at night. The mattress can then be pushed down to accommodate two people sleeping comfortably.
Pet-friendly Used Ambulance Conversion: By Kojo
Kojo is a snowbird who passes her springtime and summertime in Minnesota in an RV. She spends her autumns and winters traveling in warmer areas in a self-converted vehicle. The ambulance conversion includes numerous useful features such as two pieces of power equipment, air conditioning, and heater unit, and plenty of storage.
Kojo used cedar wood on the ceiling as a lightweight, aromatic option that adds warmth to the living space. She also travels alongside her cat and dog, and as such the air conditioning and heating equipment are useful for keeping her and her pets pleasant in the living area.
The ambulance features numerous storage compartments. Kojo chose a permanent bed platform on the back of the truck. The garage under the bed accommodates the cat bed, food and water bowls, and a litter box, giving her cat its own space. The alternative electrical system and a 12v portable fridge are also kept in the garage. A storage compartment operates as an extension of the garage on the outside of the ambulance’s back.
Other additions have included an awning on the exterior of the passenger side of the camper modification, a skylight and a Maxxair fan put on the top, and a doorway from the living room to the cab.
Ambulance Conversion: By @nanbulance
Nancy chose to have an ambulance camper and travel to explore everything she hadn’t seen before. She is in her 60s and did work for the majority of her life. She hadn’t been able to travel much and recognized that an inexpensive camper conversion was a cost-effective way for her to do so.
She bought her old ambulance with built-in storage and lighting all throughout the interior. She was capable of moving in without having to make any major alterations because of the camper’s ample storage plus counter space. This form of pre-built buy is ideal for folks who are unable to construct their own interior.
The majority of her electronics are powered by a portable power station in the conversion. She refills the power station while driving and has been able to run everything this way instead of using solar panels. Her bed is supported by a futon-style frame that doubles as a couch throughout the day. The frame may be pushed out at night, and the mattress slides down to rest flat.
Ambulance Camper Conversion: By @hippiehospital
Flower and Lorenzo purchased a 1987 Ford Econoline 350 ambulance featuring built-in storage. They were able to convert it into a campervan to reside and travel in with a few adjustments. They spent roughly $3500 on the ambulance as well as another $2100 modifying it, totaling a $5600 conversion.
Flower and Lorenzo operate a portable dreadlocks shop out of their ambulance. The flood lights on the ambulance are a nice addition since they enable the pair to see outdoors at night while working.
Once the van’s back doors are opened, the space can be converted into more of an outdoor shower. To give seclusion, a shower poll is connected to the door, as well as a shower curtain is hoisted up. Their water tank is hooked up to a water heater. It connects to the hose and nozzle for a simple shower solution.
The pair personalized the space with art, tapestries, plants, and stickers, giving the living space a distinct and pleasant appearance. The passenger side and back of the vehicle are lined with an L-shaped sofa. One piece of the sofa frame folds up on a hinge and increases the room to become a full-sized bed by withdrawing a cushion and utilizing a table for support.
4×4 Ambulance Conversion: By @lidia_rico
Philip and Lidia live full-time in a 4-wheel drive ambulance truck that they have modified. The pair had been living in an RV until the ambulance arrived. Downsizing to a vehicle with four wheels helps them to get to more isolated regions with less trouble.
Lidia intended to conceal the red lines crafted on the ambulance’s body, so she wrapped a portion of it in a cheetah pattern wrap, giving it a unique appearance. They contacted the ambulance manufacturer to obtain the wiring diagram, which helped them with the electrical wiring that was already in position as they proceeded on the conversion.
A modest range with a cooktop and oven is available in the kitchen. The sink is located beside the side door, opposite the range. A hose and shower head adapter attaches to the faucet and can be turned outside for a convenient outdoor shower.
The bed is placed width-wise in the camper’s back, creating a spacious carport beneath it. They may reach the toilet hidden under the bed from the inside of the van. They can reach the compartments used to store tools and equipment necessary to keep and repair the van from the exterior.
Ambulance Camper Build Plus a Hidden Shower: By @adventure_ambo
Ben spent roughly $13,000 modifying a 1995 F-350 ambulance. His rig contains a secret shower, a pass-through entrance to the cab, closet space, and a slew of other practical amenities.
RV enthusiasts adore the hidden shower, which can be accessed through the side door doorway. To enter the van conversion, there is a step with a doormat. Under the doorstep is a teak shower mat with a drain that cleans into the van’s bottom. The showerhead is hidden just above the side door on a retractable line. Magnets can be used to secure a shower curtain around this location.
Ben converted a storage container near the cab into a wardrobe by eliminating some shelves, filling it with cedar wood, and hanging clothes hooks on a wooden dowel. Above it is a box for small goods such as gloves, and under it is a shoe storage section.
Ben felt it was critical that he have a pass-through door to reach the taxi so that he can travel from the cab to the living quarters without walking outside – which is a nice alternative to have in a variety of situations.
Ready-to-go Van Life Ambulance: By @man_indievan
Mitch turned a 1997 ambulance he called Wanda into a full-time residence. He preserved the existing cabinetry including the electrical system with his ambulance, minimizing the modification while still having more than enough room for clothes, shoes, linens, and other goods.
Mitch is still renovating the kitchen in this camper transformation as he waits for a propane stove to be properly fitted. Because the ambulance previously featured a seat behind the cab, this space was ideal for installing a fold-down table. He was capable to utilize a tripod leg as a table leg to support the table for dining and functioning by reusing it.
Mitch chose to add an air conditioning system which he fuels with a generator, to preserve the ambulance fresh at night since he stays in the desert.
Mitch constructed a futon-style bed on the ambulance’s passenger seat. He disengages a locking mechanism on both ends of the futon and slides the frame out like a drawer to convert the space into a bed. For a straightforward sleep setup, the mattress just glides into place.
Camper Conversion with a Wet Bath: By @van_vida_travels
Paula became an empty-nester who journeys alone in Vida, her modified ambulance. This construction emphasizes safety by allowing entry to the vehicle from the living area and providing an inside shower alternative.
A pass-through door links the cab to the back box of the vehicle. The pass-through door was a crucial safety feature for Paula because it allowed her to leave areas quickly in an emergency while without drawing too much notice when the van was parked.
A huge storage box with shelving was located behind the driver’s seat. Additional storage container located on the outside of the vehicle in this portion stored all of the ambulance’s electric wires. Paula eliminated everything from these sections and converted the area into a wet bath with even a shower as well as a composting toilet.
Paula chose a table that is generally folded down in her kitchen since she also wished to save room. She has a table leg that she sets up for a simple and quick choice that packs out of the way whenever she needs to utilize the table.
A modified ambulance turned into a livable campervan may become a fantastic, large, and functional road vehicle. It’s very pricey, but it’s far more inexpensive than other popular vans of comparable size. If you buy a large vehicle and outfit it with solar panels, bike racks, as well as a deck, it will never seem stealthy. If you really want a converted ambulance of your own, think about it thoroughly and do a lot of research on how and where you can get your own ambulance conversion.