The first time I ever thought about converting a vehicle into a camper, I thought of an ambulance.
I was only about 12 years old at the time, but I thought that as they already come with cupboards, and even a bed, it’s basically ready to go. Of course, that’s not quite how ambulance camper conversions go most of the time, there’s a bit more to it than that.
Let’s get into what makes an ambulance a good vehicle to convert into an RV, and what drawbacks it might have…
Pros & Cons of Ambulance Camper Conversions
The price of a decommissioned ambulance will vary depending on a number of factors such as the ambulance type, age, mileage and condition. You can expect prices for most models suitable for conversion to start at between $10,000 and $15,000.
⊕ Build Quality
Ambulances are robust. You can expect very high quality construction throughout. All cabinetry, ventilation, hinges, doorways and other amenities are built to a MUCH higher standard than you would find in a typical RV.
⊕ Prebuilt Fixtures & Amenities
Speaking of amenities, for some people, a big plus point to using an ambulance as an RV is that it already comes with so many fixtures and fittings an RV camper needs. This might include seating, cabinets, lighting, air conditioning, power inverters, heating and so many other features you’re likely to want in your conversion.
Another prebuilt amenity that I wanted to give a specific shoutout to, is insulation. Often one of the most structurally laborious tasks in a conversion project. Insulating a van is usually the first big and boring job that has to get done before the more fun parts of the conversion. With an ambulance, they are usually already very well insulated.
⊕ Safe Seating in the Back
Most DIY van conversion builders don’t bother with this at all, but the ability to safely transport additional passengers in the back of your van can come in very handy indeed. With ambulances, there are almost always some fully belted, safe passenger seats in the back.
An ambulance box is typically very wide. In fact, they are often built to be as wide as a vehicle is legally allowed to be. This gives you a lot of living space to work with, and can be especially useful for tall people who want to put their bed horizontally, which is sometimes not possible in regular vans.
But all this does not mean there aren’t any drawbacks…
⊗ Complex Wiring
Although there are a lot of existing electronics, if you don’t have some electrical knowledge, and honestly even if you do, it can be quite a daunting task to start to modify pre-existing electrics to suit your needs.
The photo above is way neater than you usually find, it’s about as tidy an ambulance wiring system as you will ever see. But even at that, it’s super complex. Many builders opt to pull it out and start over with a standard RV electrics setup.
⊗ Complex Build Structure
I talked about the robust build quality being a positive, and it is, until you want to remove it. The interior paneling is super customized and fitted, and when you get it off, you never know what you’re going to find it. You often find wires and ducts that go to who knows where.
⊗ Not a Blank Canvas
Because a lot of the interior structure is already fitted out, you are somewhat limited when it comes to layouts. That is, unless you rip everything out. Many choose this option, but it’s quite a big task. It’s just something to be aware of, with a regular panel van you start with an empty box you can build out as you please. With an ambulance box, there are limitation or extra steps.
⊗ Legal Complexities
Since ambulances are usually registered as commercial vehicles, you may have to go through additional paperwork as far as insurance and registration goes.
It may take you a bit more explaining than a simple camper van, that it is an ex-commercial vehicle now being registered for personal use.
You must also remove all the ambulance decals and disconnect the sirens, basically make sure it can no longer look or operate as an emergency vehicle.
If you’re still unsure whether an ambulance is the right conversion van for you, check out our guide to help you find the best van to convert into a camper.
8 Inspiring Ambulance to RV Conversions
Wandering Gambo – 2013 Chevrolet Express
Sarah & Francis, from Calgary, paid $13,000 for their used ambulance, and then spent an additional $16,000 on the conversion.
A lot of work has gone into this, as you can see. As the pair totally stripped everything down, re-insulated and built everything back to their own specification.
DIY Overlander – 4×4 Ambulance Conversion
Chris & Michelle are a couple who know how to work hard and get things done! Their DIY 4×4 ambulance conversion is one of the best budget overlanding rigs you will ever see!
It is not only decorated brilliantly, but also comes with all the bells and whistles to go along with it. This rig is truly one of a kind, from its self-regulating water heater to their DIY hot tub setup!
4×4 Ambulance Build For $13k
In this video Ben shows us his 1995 F350 ambulance, affectionately called “The Big Girl”! Ben didn’t try to reinvent the wheel when it came to this conversion. He made use of all the pre-existing storage and compartments. Friends and family helped him complete the conversion, which ended up costing around $13,000. Not bad for such a rugged adventure vehicle.
2006 Ford E350 Ambulance Conversion
Amber converted this ambulance into a camper over a 7-month period with the help of her dad.
Amanda purchased the vehicle of $10,000 CAD, and spent a further $10,000 CAD on the conversion. The camper is now fully equipped with a kitchen, fixed bed, work station, closet, composting toilet, solar power, and a wood stove. All set for any road trip or off-grid adventure.
1999 Chevrolet 3500 4×4 Ambulance Camper Conversion
I think words aren’t really enough to do this one justice. Just look at it, such an awesome conversion and on a pristine retired ambulance with diesel engine and just 59,000 miles, and had been kept in a temperature controlled garage before being converted. As well as the amazing interior the camper has 675 watt solar, 675 ah battery bank, 4,000 pure sine invertor, provides plenty of electrical power. Plus shore power connector, dual fuel and dual alternator. Check out their instagram here.
1995 F350 Adventure Ambo
This stylish conversion took just 3 months from base vehicle to completed conversion.
You wouldn’t know it from the amount of space on the inside, but there are six big locking exterior boxes. With tons of extra storage space under the bed and seats, the cabinets and a closet bigger than some apartments, there is more than enough room for all your gear.
Sprinter Ambulance Camper Conversion
This is probably the most unique of all the conversions I’ve included here. This off-grid home on wheels comes with a log burner, and they’ve even cut a hole in the roof to install an upstairs bedroom above the cab. I really love the upstairs bedroom, it’s a super ambitious protect for a DIY builder to take on, you must hit play on the video above to check it out.
Freightliner Ambulance Conversion
Check out the video above to watch a time-lapse video of a 2002 4×4 Freightliner being converted into an Ambulance Expedition Vehicle.
Is an Ambulance Conversion Right for You?
An ambulance can be a great base vehicle for a conversion for a variety of different scenarios. For someone not ready to put in a lot of work, and ambulance can be almost ready to go. Equally, it also suits those prepared to put in a lot of work, who want to start by gutting it out and building someone to their own unique specifications.
Ultimately, you’re going to be getting a vehicle built to a very high standard for a pretty reasonable price.
How to Buy a Used Ambulance
The first place to look are online classified sites like craigslist or ebay. This will give you an idea of what types of ambulances are available at what prices. And what sort of stock might be available in your locality.
Converting an ambulance into a camper is its own niche interest within the camper conversion community. So you will also find forums and communities specific to converting ambulances. As well as companies that specialize in locating and reselling ambulances ready to convert, such as Elite Ambulances & SIV Ambulances.