50 DIY Cargo Trailer Conversions - Inspiring Ideas & Plans For Campers (2024)

10 Reasons to Build Your Own Cargo Trailer RV Conversion

There are many benefits from building your own camper trailer compared to purchasing a travel trailer.

Before we get to look at great examples of cargo trailer campers let’s have a look at the benefits of a cargo trailer conversion vs a travel trailer RV.

Or you can skip ahead if you are already sold on the idea.

Skip Ahead To The Cargo Trailer Campers

1. It Will Be a Lot Cheaper

You can buy a brand new 7 x 12 enclosed cargo trailer for under $3000. For comparison travel trailers start at an absolute minimum of $10000 and can go above $60000.

Even an old used travel trailer will probably cost more than a brand new high-quality box trailer that you can remodel to your exact design.

Travel RV’s are over-engineered because fancy features sell. But they often include expensive solutions for simple problems.

Old used travel trailers can often have problems i.e. water damage, dry rot, leaking tanks, problems with appliances. The ongoing cost of maintaining a travel trailer RV will be significantly higher than a conversion box trailer.

2. You Can Insulate and Spec Out to a Higher Standard

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Often professional travel trailer manufacturers build to lesser standards than you might have. They anticipate you will use the travel trailer in an RV Park that will have electric hookup.

When you have electric hookup you can run an electric heater. So not all travel trailers have the best insulation.

They don’t think you’ll need it and also it’s a way for manufacturers to cut costs on something this is hidden inside the walls.

If you are building a camper trailer from scratch you can specify the level of insulation you want.

Cargo trailers have straight walls and are easy to insulate. You can put 2 or 3 inches of foam on the walls and 6 inches on the roof. Your super-insulated trailer conversion will be warm inside without expensive heating systems.

Also, with the cargo trailer RV electrical system, you can build something much better than what comes in commercial caravans.

With your own conversion, you can install a high-spec solar system so you can go off-grid, explore more remote places, and save money on RV parks.

3. It Will Be More Durable & Last Longer

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Aluminum cargo trailers are built to last. They are simple, and even if they do need a repair it will be cheap. They won’t get scrapes from tree branches.

If you do the conversion yourself you will learn how everything works. This will mean you are confident and able to fix any small issues without paying money for expensive repairs.

You can every buy a cargo trailer with a 1 piece aluminum roof that is never going to leak and won’t need resurfacing.

You can expect to use a good cargo trailer for decades.

4. It Will Weigh Less & You’ll Get a Better Gas Mileage

You’ll get more miles for your buck with a lighter travel trailer. You’ll also cause less stress on your tow vehicle.

Even a small cargo trailer can make a great home with clever planning.

The whole point of a camper trailer is to get some freedom. But if going on vacation costs crazy amounts on gas then it starts to be very restrictive.

Getting better gas mileage will mean you can finally take those long-distance road trips you’ve been dreaming about.

5. You’ll Be Able to Take it Off-road

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In a narrower and shorter mini cargo trailer camper, you will be able to get off the beaten track more easily.

Even a large box trailer can have a greater ground clearance to allow you to go places you can’t with a travel trailer.

This will open up a whole new world of low-budget camping possibilities.

6. It’s a Blank Slate

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Commercial travel trailers often come with features that you don’t need.

Black tanks are a good example. Why would you want to drive around with tank full of poop in your RV? And force yourself to need to find an RV dump station to empty it.

In Europe all RV’s use a cassette toilet system. You remove the cassette every week or 2 and empty it in any restroom toilet. You can put the whole cassette inside a backpack so nobody even sees what you are doing.

You can buy a porta potty for under $100. Simple, cheap and effective.

Alternatively, you could install a composting toilet in your box trailer camper.

There are better ways to do things that the system that has evolved using black tanks, sewer hoses and dump stations.

Your cargo trailer conversion RV can have the exact setup that you want and utility trailers come in all shapes and sizes.

Commercial RVs also have a tendency to use fabrics and materials that are not what you would have in your own home.

Cheap laminate wood is used frequently in travel trailers when you build your own cargo trailer camper you can have the furniture that you want.

Why let someone else choose the furniture and the decor of your own home? That’s what happens with a typical RV travel trailer. While there are some beautiful looking high-end commercial trailers they tend to have a high-end price too!

With a cargo trailer conversion, you have the opportunity to have it looking exactly how you want it. You can go create a bare-bones budget cabin or a luxury suite depending on your budget and taste.

You can even use the same wallpaper that you have at home!

7. Cargo Trailers Hold Their Value & You’ll Add Value By Converting

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Rather than losing money buying a travel trailer, you’ll add value by doing your own cargo trailer conversion.

A lot of people are scared away from doing simple tasks like wiring up a 12v solar electric system.

But with a few basic DIY skills and youtube to help you’ll transform an empty shell into a livable, off-grid cabin on wheels.

And rather than depreciating your cargo trailer will go up in value.

Also even empty used cargo trailers seem to hold their value well. That’s why it’s recommended to buy a new one to use for your conversion project. There is not much money to be saved by buying second-hand.

8. You’ll Save Money On RV Repairs

Once you how to build a travel trailer from scratch, you’ll know how to repair everything. This will save you so much money and give you confidence when using your trailer for camping vacations.

Keep some basic tools and spare parts in the RV and if something goes wrong during a camping trip you’ll have the skills and the knowledge to fix it yourself.

9. A Cargo Trailer Tiny House Is More Stealthy

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You can park places in a cargo trailer that when you would be moved on in a travel trailer.

Most cargo trailer conversion RVs look like pretty much like plain cargo trailers on the outside so they attract less attention. True it’s not as stealthy as a plain camper van conversion but you’ll still go under the radar more often than you would with a large RV trailer.

10. Your Box Trailer Can Be Useful For Many Purposes

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This last point is a biggie.

A conversion can be a much more all-purpose trailer than a regular travel trailer.

If you design it right you can still use it for transporting cargo when it’s not in RV mode.

If you have any particular sports or hobbies you can design your conversion cargo trailer to fit your lifestyle and use it as a toy hauler.

You might park a quad bike in the middle of your “living room” while touring and park it outside while in RV mode.

You could use your cargo trailer for going kayaking at the weekends and leave the kayaks at home when you go on a summer vacation.

For people that love the outdoors those big barn doors or ramp door that open fully really bring the outside in. A ramp door can make a perfect deck area.

You just don’t have these types of options with a standard travel trailer.

Cargo trailers are the most versatile RV shell that you can build upon and can be adapted to many uses.

Utility trailers give you all the versatility of a van conversion without the need to trade your vehicle for a van or to own 2 vehicles.

When you are back at home base you can park it in the backyard and it’ll make a great little home office. Or man-shed to escape to.

The variety of options for cargo trailer conversions are endless.

This video by Extreme Budget really outlines why converting your own cargo trailer to a camper is a great idea:

50 DIY Cargo Trailer Conversions - Inspiring Ideas & Plans For Campers (2024)


How to turn cargo trailer into camper? ›

Trailer Into Simple Camper
  1. Step 1: Think About What You Want. I was fortunate enough to stumble onto a great deal on a 5x8 v nose cargo trailer. ...
  2. Step 2: Add Electrical. ...
  3. Step 3: Add a Vent. ...
  4. Step 4: Make a Cot. ...
  5. Step 5: Add a Basic Sink. ...
  6. Step 6: Carpet & Door. ...
  7. Step 7: Use It.

Is it cheaper to build your own travel trailer? ›

As others have said, and I know from lots of experience, building it yourself will cost 3 to 4 times more than just getting a used one. You will spend more just buying individual components than you would on a new trailer. Get a used one, do a little fixing up and be happy.

Can you live out of a cargo trailer? ›

People are converting cargo trailers into a tiny home. If you are thinking about taking the plunge into the tiny home movement here are some things a cargo trailer can offer. Probably the biggest advantage of living in a converted cargo trailer is mobility. Don't like where you are living, then hitch it up and move.

Can you sleep in an enclosed trailer? ›

Tow Vehicle Considerations

The answer to whether you can sleep in an enclosed cargo trailer is a resounding yes.

Is it cheaper to live in a travel trailer than house? ›

Living in an RV can be cheaper than traditional home ownership because RVs require less space and utility usage, resulting in lower costs for heating, cooling, and maintenance. Additionally, RV living encourages a simpler and more minimalist lifestyle that can lead to fewer expenses related to possessions.

Why do travel trailers only last 10 years? ›

Although these trailers are built to last for years, shoddy maintenance and poor upkeep can render a model unusable in just a few years. Many budget-focused buyers often wonder if they should purchase a used travel trailer, and if they did, how long can they expect their model to last.

Is it hard to build your own trailer? ›

Most people with a reasonable mechanical aptitude, access to a welding machine, some basic tools and a sense of adventure, would have no problem building a trailer.

Can you convert a box trailer into a camper? ›

This great box trailer camper conversion is DIY done right

I know I don't. I just want somewhere comfortable to sleep, a quick set-up, and something to crank tunes through. Mathew has built just that with his DIY box trailer camper but with a few extras that are pretty cool.

How much does it cost to convert a cargo van to RV? ›

The cost breakdown for converting a Sprinter van can be quite extensive depending on the level of customization you want. Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 or more. The average prices for materials will vary depending on what features you want in your conversion.

Can you use a utility trailer as a camper? ›

No space to live out of – because of the small space and uncovered setup, you won't be able to live out of a utility trailer and will have to bring some sort of tent or other living space in addition. There are some enclosed utility trailers, but these don't have ventilation, windows, or power.

Can you put a camper on any truck? ›

Whether any camper can be used with your truck is dependent on your truck configuration (2WD vs. 4WD, standard cab vs. extended cab, etc.)


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