Adding a pop top to your van allows you to comfortably stand up inside, which makes things like cooking and changing infinitely easier. Pop tops often also include a lofted bed, meaning you can sleep up top and save your van’s floor space for other amenities, or you can have two beds and bring the whole crew on adventures.
A pop top also gives you extra space when you camp for the night without affecting your fuel economy or the vehicle’s handling while driving. Adding a pop top is a great option if you already own a van that you want to convert into an adventure-mobile. There are several companies that offer pop top installations, or, if you are so inclined, you can do it yourself.
So, how much does it cost to put a pop top on a van? If you choose to have a company professionally install a pop top on your van, expect to pay between $7,500 and $15,000. The exact cost depends on what type of van you have, and whether you want bells and whistles on your pop top, like a penthouse bed, custom paint, all-season insulation, a vent fan, and so forth. If you can salvage a pop top for very cheap or even free and have the skills to install it yourself, you can complete the job at a very low cost.
Let’s take a look at some companies that install pop tops:
Sportsmobile has been in the pop top game since 1961, and their current iteration of the Penthouse Pop Top is extremely durable and spacious. Their pop top raises level, so you will have about 30 inches of additional height throughout the whole space. Five large screened windows provide excellent views and ventilation, and have covers to provide privacy whenever you desire.
You can opt for a bed up top, with shelf space around the perimeter for drinks, phones, or other necessities, and LED lights to provide soft light. Finally, you can add a roof rack on top of your pop top, which can hold up to 200 pounds.
The top of the Penthouse is made of reinforced fiberglass, and an optional 12-volt motor effortlessly raises and lowers the top (or you can do it manually with minimal effort), which is supported by Sportsmobile’s patented dual-U-tube elevating assembly. This system is over-engineered so that it never fatigues and can withstand moderate wind.
The main roof ribs of your van are left in place, and the cut-out is reinforced with 14-gauge steel to maintain (if not actually increase) the structural integrity. The Penthouse has been subjected to vigorous FMVSS 216 roof crash testing and passed with flying colors, so you know you’ll still be safe and sound.
Sportsmobile Penthouses can be installed on Ford, Dodge, Chevy, VW, and Mercedes-Benz vans, although only on low-roof van models. They require a $2,000 deposit prior to scheduling which will be applied to your final balance.
Depending on the vehicle make and model, the base price for the Penthouse ranges from about $8,000 to just over $9,000. If you opt for a motorized lift system, custom paint job, and a Penthouse bed, you can expect to pay about $2,000 more on top of the base price.
More info: sportsmobile.com
Colorado Camper Van
Colorado Camper Van also offers pop top installation, although their service is significantly more expensive than Sportsmobile. For Transits, Promasters, Sprinters, and Nissan NVs, the base price for a pop top is $11,500 for low roof models and $12,750 for mid and high roof models.
For Ford E-Series vans, Chevy Expresses, and GMC Savannahs, the base price is $11,500 for regular body models and $12,750 for extended body models. If you are looking to add a pop top to a Eurovan, Westfalia, or Winnebago van, the price starts at $9,800. Colorado Camper Van also offers custom pop tops for other types of vans, but pricing starts at $15,000.
They also offer several add-ons, like a remote-controlled fan ($900), optional four-season insulation ($950), custom paint matching ($2,160), uni-strut roof rails ($450), custom roof racks (around $3,000), or an exterior ladder ($900).
If you have the tools and know-how to install a pop top yourself, you can purchase a DIY kit from Colorado Camper Van. The pop top comes pre-wired with a finished interior, and although no welding is required, this is not a project for beginners.
Pricing on DIY kits varies by vehicle model, so you must call their customer service reps to obtain an exact price for this option. Colorado Camper Van also offers to cut the roof opening for you for $780, to make the installation even easier.
More info: coloradocampervan.com
GTRV offers several conversion packages, including just the installation of a pop top. This service will run you between $8,500 and $10,000, depending on the make and model of your van.
This is a fairly reasonable price, but when you consider that they offer a Weekender conversion package for $15,000 or a full Westy conversion for $30,000, it almost seems more reasonable just to have them do the entire conversion at once.
The Weekender package includes the pop top, bench/bed system, and screened windows, while the full Westy package includes those amenities plus a kitchen area and storage cabinets.
GTRV will work on both new and previously owned vans, so whether you are starting from scratch or you already have a van that you want to convert, they’ve got you covered.
More info: gtrv.com
Recon Campers offers a pop top as well, but their version pops up at an angle rather than flat, so there is significantly more headroom towards the front of the van.
It has three zippered windows with screens and a bed space that is 83 inches long and 40 inches wide, so two people can comfortably sleep up there. Their pop top also has roof rack tracks, so you can add a rack for additional storage up top if you choose.
Their pop top installation starts at $7,500, but you can also choose to add extra features, like a solar ventilation fan or roof rack crossbars.
More info: reconcampers.com
North Westy will only add factory Westfalia pop tops to VW Vanagons, but they have honed their craft to perfection.
Their pop top conversions cost around $10,700 and include a factory fiberglass pop top (which they install much the same way the VW factory does), a brand new Sunbrella canvas piece with three windows and custom colors available, fresh pop top seals, Westfalia decals, an updated headliner, and stainless steel fasteners and luggage rack loops.
For additional fees, you can choose a color-matched top or smooth sanded top. These pop tops open at an angle, so there is much more headroom at the front of the van, but adding any type of pop top to a Vanagon gives you a ton more room in general. It can also increase the resale value of your van.
More info: north-westy.com
ModVans does not advertise that they offer a standalone pop top installation service, but they do add pop tops as part of their conversion packages. Their pop tops open flat to provide maximum additional room and have several windows for views and ventilation. Latches hold the pop top down while you drive, and then a rocker switch raises and lowers the pop top when you are stopped.
The pop top can be set up in either ‘bed mode,’ where the bed is in place and accessed through the permanent opening towards the front of the van, or ‘stand mode,’ where the bed is attached to the pop top roof which gives you more than 6 feet of interior height.
The folks at ModVans are proponents of low roof vans, for the ease of parking (especially in garages) and driveability, so adding a pop top makes their van conversions excellent for both city driving and boondocking.
More info: modvans.com
Or, You Can DIY
As we mentioned briefly in the Colorado Camper Van section, you can get DIY kits to add pop tops, or you can go full MacGyver and fabricate your own, pull one from a scrapped van, or otherwise improvise a pop top.
Of course, this requires cutting a very large and potentially devastating (if you screw up) hole in the roof of your perfectly good van, so this should only be undertaken if you are extremely confident in your abilities.
However, this is a great way to save money! If you don’t have ten racks to drop on a professionally installed pop top, DIYing is a feasible alternative. As with any project that involves cutting, make sure to measure twice (or ten times if you really want to be safe) and cut once.
Some people have gotten creative with their pop top installations, adding salvaged Volkswagen pop tops to all kinds of vans, including Sprinters, Ford E-Series vans, and Chevy Express vans. If you have the skills and imagination, the sky’s the limit for what you can do with a van and an old pop top mechanism.
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