7 Easy DIY Van Roof Rack Ideas That Won’t Break The Bank

By Carrie Wilder | Last Updated: August 9, 2021 

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Want to watch the sunset from the roof of your van? Consider building a DIY van roof rack! 

A DIY van roof rack saves money, provides storage space, and most importantly: provides support and a great place to hang out at the end of a long day. 

Let’s take a closer look at DIY van roof racks here. 

How Much Does a Custom Van Roof Rack Cost?

A custom van roof rack can easily cost $1,000 or more. And this is typically just for the roof rack bars, it doesn’t include any kind of flooring or decking material – if that’s what you’re looking for. 

A custom van roof rack is expensive… but you don’t have to pay custom prices to get a custom rooftop deck! You can DIY it instead and save yourself a huge chunk of change. 

Benefits of a Camper Van Roof Rack

There are tons of benefits to having a roof rack or rooftop deck on your van. 

First of all, it gives you extra storage space. Whether you just have bars or a full deck on your van roof, you now have a lot of extra room for stuff like a rooftop storage box, surfboards and kayaks, and a flat surface for mounting solar panels without drilling into your roof. 

Additionally, a roof rack is a super cool hangout spot! The idea of hanging out on top of a van to stargaze or watch the sunset sounds dreamy, but you can’t just hang out on the bare metal. A bare van roof buckles under weight, so having a rooftop deck is essential if this is something you plan on doing. 

Related: Best Fridge for Van Life: Best 12v Fridge Options For Your Conversion

7 Easy and Cheap DIY Van Roof Rack Ideas

I’ve put together 7 easy and cheap DIY roof rack ideas for any camper van. Each of these roof racks are under $500. Check them out!

1. DIY Sprinter Van Roof Rack Under $200

The Van Kookz built their own custom DIY Sprinter van roof deck for under $200! 

This simple and cheap DIY van roof rack consists of carriage bolts, lightweight aluminum framing, waterproof deck planks, and countersunk bolts. 

This is an excellent DIY roof rack idea for anyone who wants a deck to hang out on, a roof rack to strap stuff to, or a flat surface to mount solar panels. 

Related: Want a Diesel Heater for Van Life? Check Out the Best Portable Diesel Heaters Here

2. No-Weld Aluminum DIY Van Roof Rack on Ford Transit Van

This no-weld aluminum Ford Transit roof rack is a great solution for a simple and easy camper van roof rack. 

You can put anything you want on this roof rack! Use it for fastening solar panels, adding wood planks for a deck, a rooftop storage box, and much more. 

The aluminum framing for this DIY roof rack is cut with a miter saw and joined together using rivets. The end result is a beautiful and functional lightweight roof rack ready for anything. 

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3. Solo Female Vanlife DIY Roof Rack Deck

Hannah built a rooftop deck on her van using gutter clamps, aluminum bars for framing, wood planks, and carriage bolts. 

This is a super simple DIY van roof rack that doesn’t require many tools or construction experience, and it definitely won’t break the bank! 

The most expensive part of this entire roof rack was most likely the gutter clamps – but you can get them for under $200!

Hannah has a Ford Econoline Van similar to mine. Check out 7 awesome Ford Econoline camper van conversions here!

4. DIY Simple Roof Top Sun Deck On Camper Van for $280

This simple roof top van deck is made with strut channels, aluminum framing, and 1×6 wood planks. 

This simple DIY van roof rack was modeled after the Van Kookz, but it has a few different spins on it. For example, this roof rack uses real wood, the strut channels had to be installed, and it cost around $280. 

Related: 15 Best Van Conversion Companies

5. $50 DIY Van Roof Deck

This $50 van rooftop deck was made with pressure treated decking lumber with wood framing, a railing, and an existing bar from a Yakima roof rack. 

This rooftop deck was built in 2019, so lumber prices will vary, but this is still a great DIY van rooftop deck idea for those that want to do this on the cheap!

6. DIY Camper Van Roof Rack for $37

This DIY roof rack uses wood instead of aluminum for support. The wood planks are screwed directly into the roof of the van. 

Depending on how many holes you want to put into the body of your van, this may (or may not) be a good option for you. The actual planks for this roof deck look to be interlocking pieces of laminate flooring. Because the wood supports are spaced so closely together under the flooring material, there should be plenty of support for these laminate planks. 

This is a really cheap roof deck option, but I have a few issues with it. 

First, I wouldn’t personally want to put that many holes in the roof of my van. Second, the wood planks don’t look to be weather-treated, and the holes securing the planks were not sealed with caulk or sealant. Lastly, the laminate flooring isn’t weatherproof either. 

With a few extra steps to weatherproof this setup and seal the holes, this could be a great DIY roof deck. As is, it seems like a recipe for disaster in just a few years time. 

7. DIY Dodge Ram Promaster Van Roof Rack 

The DIY roof rack built onto this Dodge Ram Promaster van requires NO HOLES. The couple used super struts and pressure treated cedar planking to build a functional and beautiful rooftop deck for their Promaster van. 

DIY Van Roof Deck Basic Design

Most of these DIY roof racks follow the same principle: a frame made out of some material: wood, aluminum, or struts. Then, it’s covered by a decking material: wood, composite, and I’ve even seen people make them out of plastic pallets. 

You don’t have to follow any one of these tutorials, and every van roof is different. There are a few things you should consider, like: 

  • Does your van already have rooftop framing? 
  • Mounting: does your van roof have channels for bolts? 
  • Or, does your van have rain gutters?
  • Do you want to drill holes in the top of your van? 
  • Is your material weatherproof? 
  • What is your overall budget? 

Taking these factors into consideration will help you decide on what route to take with your DIY roof rack. Always keep in mind the factor of water and weatherproofing: metals rust, wood rots, and water can damage everything if you don’t seal it properly. 

Related: What is living in a van really like?

Do You Need A Roof Rack On Your Van? 

Do you need a van roof rack? They’re convenient, allow for more storage, and give you a flat surface to hang out and mount solar panels. 

I think that DIY van roof racks are a great idea, they’re lightweight, and they don’t cost a lot when you do it yourself. 

Carrie Wilder

Carrie has a passion for location independence and nomadic lifestyles. After traveling full-time in an RV and living the van life, she created Making Money and Traveling to help others make the switch to a remote lifestyle. Learn more about Carrie on the About page or connect on social media below.