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A Gen Zer who spends $180,000 designing luxury vans shares the biggest mistake people make converting them

Mikhaila Friel   

A Gen Zer who spends $180,000 designing luxury vans shares the biggest mistake people make converting them
  • Luxury van life is on the rise, with travelers opting for customized, high-quality amenities.
  • Lucas Ravizza, a van designer, said those looking to upgrade their vans should focus on aesthetics.

Van life, but make it luxury.

High-end travelers are turning to supervans with heated floors, Italian tiles, and home theatres, according to Lucas Ravizza, who builds and designs luxury vans for a living.

Ravizza, 24, told Business Insider that luxury vehicles have become increasingly popular over the past five years as they allow for freedom of movement without sacrificing quality accommodation.

He echoed comments made by Tom Ripert, CEO of private chauffeur and premium car-rental company Rolzo. Ripert told the Financial Times in March that high-end travelers are "seeking convenience, comfort and spaciousness."

According to the FT, manufacturers have targeted the luxury market to satisfy growing consumer interest. Meanwhile, some travelers are taking the luxury element into their own hands.

Van conversions have grown in popularity in recent years, taking off on social media after the rise of remote working during the pandemic. In 2023, the industry was worth $8 billion, according to Econ Market Research.

The hashtag #vanconversion has more than 1,369,225 posts on Instagram at the time of writing. Ravizza is among the many luxury van influencers sharing their designs online.

Ravizza said he usually spends $180,000 buying and converting luxury vans for clients who use them as vacation homes.

He said the first van he designed was purchased by a traveling nurse who lived there for eight months. But Ravizza said most of his clients use the vans for traveling or for "weekend getaways."

Though he enjoyed making and building things from a young age, Ravizza said his interest in vans didn't begin until 2020.

He said he realized building his own van would be a safe way to travel the US during the pandemic. He spent time researching how to build and design vans, watching YouTube videos, and connecting with experienced van builders, who showed him the ropes.

He recently spent eight months renovating a Mercedes 2022 Sprinter 170" 4×4 with self-heating lithium batteries, custom walnut flooring, a walk-in shower, and smart-tinted glass cabinets.

The van, which can host six people, is on the market for $295,000.

Ravizza said anyone can upgrade a van to add luxury elements, but there's one mistake they should avoid.

Cutting costs with cheap material

Ravizza, who is based in San Francisco, said the biggest mistake he sees people make is "not knowing which materials to use and which tools to use, and how to use them."

"Something as simple as not knowing what a pocket hole is can change the look and structure of your whole build," he said.

Ravizza said you should also be willing to dedicate the time (every van he designs takes around eight months to complete) and the funds to source the highest quality materials.

Ravizza said each van can cost up to $90,000 to purchase, and the materials usually cost a further $90,000.

"In terms of aesthetics, to get that feeling, you need to research materials and figure out what are the nice materials," he said.

"Here's one example: The laminate I use in my van is $350 per sheet when compared to laminate that I can go buy for $50 per sheet," he said.

Ravizza said he used Italian tiles for the shower that were "probably four times as much as they needed to be." Elsewhere in the van, he said he used real walnut hardwood which cost around $4,000.

"Most people would be a little scared of the price of wood, that's just an aesthetic and serves no other function, but that right there is what changes everything," he said, adding that you shouldn't sacrifice any of the smaller details.

"I think also you do have to be a little obsessed and passionate," Ravizza added.

"If you're passionate about doing things right and to the best of your abilities and you're willing to take a little extra time, then just getting into each little corner of the van and hyper-obsessing is how that comes to fruition — for me, at least."

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