Emergency Shelter: Ambulance to Tiny House Conversions

Ambulances are similar to a box truck in terms of layout, headroom, etc., but ambulances are preferred among outdoor enthusiasts because the numerous exterior compartments are great for gear storage. (For that matter, the numerous interior cabinets can save you a ton of buildout time and cost if you design your living space around them.) They’re also more rugged than a standard vehicle and can be lifted and turned into 4x4s, allowing them to be taken off road.

This is a pretty standard build for an ambulance or box truck. Do note, however, that this is their second build in this ambulance. They did something much more basic to start with, traveled in it for a summer, and once they figured out what they liked and didn’t like, then they spent the money to do a more complete and permanent buildout and also to convert it to a 4×4. Also of note is their portable hot tub (an option if you really miss taking a bath sometimes, or you need a hot soak for arthritic joints).

This is a simple ambulance build which is very useful and livable, but unlike the rest on the list, it doesn’t modify the ambulance itself that much. Jump seats/benches and most of the cabinetry were left in tact, meaning a lot less construction. The shower in the entryway is an innovative design, allowing dirt, mud, and snow to fall off (or be rinsed off) before coming inside. One thing that’s missing, especially if you are spending time in cities instead of wilderness camping, as he does, is a toilet. I would put mine inside the bench seat by the door, or else put it on a pullout tray in the compartment next to the refrigerator. (You could still access the garage from the rear doors.) For the ambulance itself, plus the additional equipment and construction materials, he spent a total of $13,000. When you compare that to the cost of rent and a car, even if you have to pay to stay in a campground most nights, you’re still coming out way ahead.

This ambulance build has the most awesome dry bath that I have seen on any build out. It’s really crazy that this is at the front of the rig and the pass through to the cabin is through the shower. It also has a very large kitchen (if having a lot of room to cook is important to you) with a good-size, pull-out pantry and a neat refrigerator (I haven’t seen one like this before). Plus there’s room for entertaining. The desk setup is also great if you are a digital musician, artist, or otherwise work from home. The tradeoff is that the bed has to be set up every night and it’s not that large; this is definitely for only one person to live in. (The thing about building out your own space is that you can prioritize the things that are important to you and save space by minimizing the things that are less important.)

The walls and components are actually made with aluminum framing with wood facing, so if doing carpentry joins intimidates you, this might be a better construction option.

This custom-built ambulance is way too expensive for a budget-conscious nomad to buy (or even replicate), but there are all sorts of neat features, like the drip-dry dish cabinet over the sink, and good tips (put your equipment that will need maintenance or replacement in the outside cabinets for ease of access), so there are some ideas you can take away from it, even if you can’t afford to hire this man to build you a bougie rig just like it.

Are you interested in a commercial vehicle as a potential home, but can’t get your hands on an old ambulance? Check out these other options: Adapting Commercial Vehicles for Affordable Long-Term Living

Want to be nomadic, but don’t want to buy a commercial vehicle? Check out: On the Road Again – Exploring Nomadic Housing Options

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