Converted Ambulances Offer Many Possibilities

There’s a craze going around today (and for quite some time) that centers on industrious do-it-yourselfers converting sprinter vans and various other large commercial vehicles, like a school bus, into their own personal spaces for a tiny home, small business or adventuring cross-country! Some use these converted vehicles for part-time recreation, while others enjoy them full-time, traveling across the nation! 

So, while a used ambulance conversion might seem like a crazy idea at first, we promise it has some unique benefits as a DIY project. And with RV, camper and sprinter van prices soaring, a converted ambulance might be just what you’re looking for as an alternative to getting out on the open road!

What Is An Ambulance Conversion?

An ambulance conversion is essentially an out-of-service Chevy or Ford E-350 ambulance that buyers convert into an RV – think of this type of repurposed ambulance as a cross between a Class B and a Class C motorhome

When embarking on this type of DIY project, first you must remove all decals that identify the vehicle as a legal ambulance. 

Some of our favorite examples of ambulance conversions include repurposing the vehicle into a portable spa or beauty bar (who would have thought)! Even though an ambulance camper/van conversion might seem like a crazy idea at first, we promise it has some great benefits. Old ambulances also carry a lot of options for a home on wheels/tiny house or can be the perfect space for a small business with road trip potential. (In fact, many of these types of businesses have impressive video tours of their ex-ambulance conversions into RV campers and other ambulance RV conversions). 

Here are some of our favorite aspects of considering an ambulance conversion:

Pros of a DIY Ambulance Conversion

1. Used Ambulances Are Cheap(er)

Many people rush to renovate old campers and RVs (and even Sprinter vans) but completely overlook the used ambulance market. The demand for used ambulances is relatively low, which helps to keep the price tag down. You’ll still have to do the work (just like you would with many old campers, buses and vans), but you’ll get a great price!

2. Used Ambulances Are Well-Built and Usually Well-Maintained

Ambulances are built to be safe, and they’re built to handle the road in less than perfect conditions. Their intended function was to get patients to the hospital (at high speeds) safely. Older, used ambulances have had routine maintenance (which is likely well-documented) and are built to last. 

3. Used Ambulances Have Living Space Amenities

Although they don’t necessarily look like campers or RVs, ambulances come equipped with many living space amenities by default, from cabinets that rescue workers used to house supplies to benches with hidden storage underneath. Ambulance interiors are even equipped with a wall’s worth of electrical capabilities for the machines that the EMT’s needed to work.

4. Lots Of Storage Space

As previously mentioned, used ambulances provide plenty of space for extra storage. Afterall, emergency medical personnel need lots of supplies to treat a lot of different emergency situations (therefore, having plenty of space to store those items is basically a requirement). It seems like everywhere you turn inside an ambulance, there’s a drawer, cabinet or shelf built to hold supplies with minimal wasted space.

5. Lots of Physical Space

Converted ambulances have lots of physical space for standing and moving around. Afterall, the medics need a good amount of space to stand up and work. You’ll have plenty of room to move in a converted ambulance, especially when compared to other comparative vehicle options, while still being inside a smaller sized vehicle. Ambulances are usually as wide as legally allowed, so though you’re still in a smaller space, you won’t get claustrophobic.

6. Usually 4×4 Equipped

Ambulances can do pretty well in off-road or in less than preferable driving conditions and most often, are four wheel drive equipped. It’s hard to find a Class B camper van or a Class C RV with 4×4 capabilities. Many 4×4 ambulance conversion enthusiasts enjoy building out their rigs for off-the-grid adventuring or “overlanding” as it’s commonly referred to. 

Cons to Converted Ambulances

1. Complex Electrical System

The electrical system that comes standard with an ambulance is not typically what you’d find in a camper or RV. You’ll likely need to make significant upgrades to your electrical system, including upgrading batteries, installing an inverter, and even adding a generator to make this an off-grid camping machine (or something that works to operate a small business). Be sure to dig into the electrical system of your ambulance to see if it can handle the stress that you’ll be putting on it. Some overlanding campers even use solar panels to run their interior supplies.

2. Hard To Remove Built-Ins

Most of the structures inside of an ambulance are bolted in and very sturdy, because you don’t want the inside of an ambulance to be falling apart while EMTs are trying to save lives! Keep in mind that it might take a bit of work to take apart the built-ins inside of a potential ambulance camper conversion.

3. Lots of Interior Is Used Up

A lot of the interior space of a converted ambulance is already used up with storage and seating, so if you’re able to build out your project incrementally using what’s already there, you’re good-to-go. If you are looking for a blank canvas, then it’s going to take quite a bit of removing things to get your DIY ambulance camper where you want it to be.

4. Hard To Know What’s Legal

Taking off all of the conspicuous labeling or stickers that say, “ambulance” or “emergency medical vehicle” is a priority. It’s highly likely that the lights and sirens will need to be disconnected or removed, too (this can vary state to state). Always be sure to err on the side of caution.

5. They’re Confusing To People

Because ambulances are almost always registered as commercial vehicles (though this is common with used cargo vans or big work trucks, too), you may have some extra red tape to clear for paperwork like registration and insurance before you familiarize yourself with van life. You’re usually able to clarify that it’s a former commercial vehicle registered for personal use, but it can take a bit more explanation than a simple camper van created from a DIY camper conversion.

Used Ambulances From Penn Care Make for Great Converted Ambulance Projects!

Although we won’t be able to convert your used ambulance for you, Penn Care is your trusted source when it comes to used ambulances for sale. We offer demo ambulances, specialty ambulances, and even pre-owned ambulances. (Of course, if it’s a new ambulance you’re after, we have everything you’re looking for there, too.) 

If you’ve been considering a converted ambulance DIY project, call Penn Care today to see what used ambulances we may have available. We’re more than happy to help guide you through your purchase!