This post will give you the right answers (and questions to ask yourself) to decide which you will enjoy more – converting your car into a car camper, buying a ready-made camping box (car camping conversion kit, boot jump) or buying a micro camper.
Read on if you are asking yourself these questions:
- Is it worth spending money on a micro camper / teardrop camper (trailer)?
- Are there other – cheaper alternatives to buying a micro camper?
- Do I get more space in a micro camper or by converting my estate car into a camper?
- How much does a mini camper cost?
- How much does a car camping conversion cost?
- How much does a car camping box (car camping conversion kit) cost?
What is DIY Car camping (car camper conversion)?
A DIY car camper is any car that you convert into a camping car. Basically, any car that’s a decent size (i.e. you can lie down in the back and sleep with its rear seats down and possibly front seats pushed forward on smaller cars) can be converted into a car camper. That’s what this website is all about! 🙂 DIY Car camping is about sleeping in your car as comfortably as you like it.
Who is it for?
- Are you on a budget? Don’t want to spend more than a few hundred (or less)?
- Or do you like a good DIY challenge and getting your hands dirty?
Then a DIY car camping conversion is for you. It doesn’t take much – just pick a good car for camping, get some plywood and a good mattress and you’ll be off in no time. You’ll find plenty of inspiration in our DIY section.
🏆Best cars for camping 🏆
- Fiat Doblò camper XL, High Roof 🇪🇺 4.0/5
- Honda Odyssey 🇺🇸 4.0/5
- Volkswagen Sharan 🇪🇺 3.9/5
- Caddy Maxi Camper (Life) 🇪🇺 3.8/5
- all under your control – layout, materials, cost
- built exactly to fit your needs & car type
- you can make it permanent – no need to put in/remove a box every time (like my Sharan conversion here) – a 24/7 camper & everyday car in one
- you decide the height – not everyone needs a lot of storage and small headroom
- you have to do it all yourself
- the finish quality depends on your DIY skills
- time consuming
- possible trial & error needed until you have a good product
- might not be removable – stays in the car or fits only this specific car
How much does a DIY car camping conversion cost?
You can get by for free by just lowering the rear seats, throwing any mattress long enough for you down and using your standard camping sleeping bag and off you go. A soft, dry flat surface to sleep on in a safe hard shell – that’s all you need really. Of course, you want to take some camping essentials, make it a bit more comfy and enjoyable. That’s where the need for more storage and other clever solutions comes in – hidden sinks, water, gas canisters.
You can still spend about 100 EUR and get a good level of storage and comfort – see my VW Sharan DIY Camping conversion or any other from our DIY section. Generally, you will need some kind of flat surface that’s foldable (to hide it away when not needed) and storage underneath it. Drawers or boxes, compartments with sinks, gas hob etc. A good mattress of course and some window covers for privacy.
Of course, the upper limit depends on your requirements – what kind of material you use (plywood, higher quality wood, other), what mattress you’ll pick and what essential camping gear or some cool gadgets to top it off.
The size of your bed & living area in the back depends on the size of your boot, but generally is around 1m wide, 1.7-2m long and 0.8-1.3m high for estate cars or SUVs (The Sharan & Caddy are the winners in terms of size).
What is a camping box (campingbox / car camping conversion kit, boot jump)?
A camping box is a cleverly built box/module that works as a bed/kitchen/storage all in one. You insert it into the boot of your car and it will extend into a car bed + hold most of your gear, usually a sink and other useful extensions. Camping boxes make it easy to camp/sleep in any decent size car (think estate, SUV and bigger) with practical solutions for preparing your food, washing up or yourself, storage, cooking.
Who is it for?
If you prefer spending a bit more rather than do it yourself to save money, or are pressed for time and/or don’t like DIY, and you don’t want to tow anything behind your car – then this is the solution for you. It offers practical solutions that might be hard to make yourself, good craftsmanship and finish.
They are also easy to take out of your car when not needed for an extended period of time (i.e. winter).
Camping box sizes are usually made to fit the trunk of estate cars, SUVs and small vans (like a VW Multivan) – about 0.9-1m in width, 1.8-2.3m in length and the height depends on your car.
- ready, just put it in
- usually has clever kitchen & storage solutions
- good quality finish
- removable – you can put it into another car if needed or if you get a new one
- higher price + shipping
- they usually take up more space – leaving less space above (bed area) – sometimes not enough to even sit in
- needs to be removed if you don’t use it for camping (i.e. every day use)
- requires storage if not used
How much does a camping box cost?
The cheapest camping box I’ve found costs 900 EUR, but generally, they cost around 2000 EUR and top range ones will set you back around 4000 EUR. Then there’s plenty of accessories you can throw your money at too. The cheapest ones will get you a foldable car bed with storage underneath and maybe a sink. The mid-range ones will definitely have a sink, maybe a gas hob too. And the top-range ones will come with all the bells and whistles you don’t even know you need – a built-in shower, a good mattress, electric sockets etc.
What is a micro camper (microcamper)?
In general terms, you could call any small car that’s used for camping a micro camper. Yes – even the ones some of you might make in the first category – DIY Car camping. But mostly, when referring to micro campers, people are talking about small trailers you tow behind your car. Think an RV (recreational vehicle) but very small and just as a trailer – no engine. Basically a small bedroom+kitchen on wheels :). Sometimes they are called teardrop trailers because of their teardrop shape.
Who is it for?
The main difference here is that you have to tow it behind your car. Therefore you need a car that can tow things (i.e. strong enough to tow at least 1000kg, usually 1500kg and with a ball hitch (mount)) and be willing to drive like that. It’s generally ok until you need to reverse somewhere… it’s …shall we just say.. a bit trickier…
So if you don’t mind this and would like a completely separate room to sleep in with more luxury (more room, a roof window, better kitchen equipment, better airing/cooling, more room) and don’t mind spending several thousand – a micro camper is for you.
Micro camper sizes according to wikipedia are “ranging from 4 feet (1.2 m) to 6 feet (1.8 m) in width and 8 feet (2.4 m) to 10 feet (3.0 m) in length. They are usually 4 feet (1.2 m) to 5 feet (1.5 m) in height”.
How much does a micro camper (teardrop trailer) cost?
At the low end, where you’ll get basic interior with some built-in kitchen equipment, electric sockets/lights and storage, you’ll pay around 4-8,000 EUR. The mid-range is around 8-14,000 EUR and comes with a better interior, practical storage and kitchen solutions, possibly with some luxuries like a roof window, heating & cooling etc. High-end micro campers are anything above 14,000 EUR and their features differ depending on their specific target audience – more comfort, gadgets, solar power, better off-road, more rugged, retro & quirky etc.
Further reading: generalrv.com’s A Complete Guide to Teardrop Trailers: What to know before you buy
Summary – the difference between a DIY car camper conversion, a camping box and a micro camper
Who is it for?
DIY enthusiasts, if you’re on a budget or want a custom thing made for yourself. Pros: cheap, stealth (it’s just a car), easy parking and driving, make it your own. Cons: needs time, skills, tools, planning, shopping around. Only as good as your DIY skills…
0 – 1,000 EUR
(upper limit is really up to your requirements, but this is the cheapest option if you are clever & go for only the essential equipment)
No time for DIY, don’t mind spending 1000+ EUR on a ready thing, want more gadgets & comfort whilst camping. Don’t want to tow anything. Pros: stealth, easy parking and driving, good comfort, buy and go. Cons: higher price, can’t make it yours as much – it’s ready-made out of the box.
900 – 4,000 EUR
Micro camper / teardrop trailer
Want to separate camping from your car, don’t mind towing, want the most comfort out of your camping trip. Pros: high-end camping, equipment, solutions & finish, a separate room = higher comfort. Cons: extra length, harder to drive & park, especially reverse, need a stronger car, expensive
4,000 – 25,000 EUR
Which kind of camper are you?
Founder of NimbleCamper.com, avid traveler and outdoor enthusiast. Car camping and microcamping allows me to keep traveling and exploring with a much greater level of freedom & privacy – to go anywhere and sleep anywhere. I didn’t have 30K to buy a VW Multivan, so found my way to the world of everyday car camping conversions. Here I share my experiences and what I learn.