As remote work has become increasingly commonplace since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of Americans turning to the Vanlife movement. People are converting vans, buses and RVs into livable spaces and living permanently on the road.
Automakers that sell commercial vans have found that sales of this product have greatly increased during the pandemic. RV sales also increased as many Americans sought to get out despite social distancing mandates. Companies are selling vans and custom apps to help van residents find parking spots, and RV park conglomerates have seen a significant increase in inventory value.
Vanlife comes with significant costs that interested adventurers should be prepared to fund.
Even before the pandemic, Vanlife was booming. In 2019, the Census Bureau reported that more than 140,000 people in the United States lived in vans, boats or other recreational vehicles, up 38% from 2016. This trend is likely due to the freedom and adventurous lifestyle that Vanlife offers. As Covid 19 continues to be an issue over two years later, the Vanlife movement continues to grow exponentially.
Despite the initial expense and costly upkeep of these types of converted mobile living spaces, as well as the challenges of living in such a small space, it seems that Vanlife remains a strong trend in post-Covid America.
According to a survey by Outbound Living, the ten most populous states for Vanlife are:
- North Carolina
This information correlates with the latest data on the states with the most Vanlife-friendly spaces.
How much does a van cost?
The cost of buying a van can vary greatly. The make/model you choose, whether you are buying new or used and whether or not you will need to factor in conversion costs to make the van habitable will determine the prices.
Van prices can vary from $3,000 to $60,000 or more. The average cost to convert the van yourself into living space ranges from $5,000 to $15,000.
Some of the most popular types of vans among perpetual vans include Sprinter vans, Dodge Promasters, Ford Transits, VW vans, buses and budget vans.
Economy vans are generally one of the cheapest options when looking to convert a van into living space. Some popular brands include Ford Econolines, Chevy G Series, Chevy Express, and Astros. These vehicles tend to be older and require work to convert them into living spaces.
|Vehicle type||Average new cost||Average cost used|
Preparing for Vanlife
Before you decide to take the leap to Vanlife, it’s important to think about everything you need to do to prepare. In addition to preparing your van to be habitable and creating the appropriate living quarters to earn money, you need to figure out what to do with your current home and where to store belongings that you can’t take with you on the road. .
Current living space
If you are renting out your current residence, all you need to worry about is when your current lease ends and talk to your landlord.
If you own a house or apartment, you may consider renting or selling the house. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to rent or sell your home. Consider whether your transition to Vanlife is temporary or permanent, whether you may need to tap into your home equity in the future, whether you want to take on the responsibility of homeownership, and current home values in your area before deciding to rent or sell. your house.
Moving into a house on wheels also involves some downsizing, and you might be wondering what you should do with your belongings that won’t fit in your van. It depends on how important these items are and how likely you are to need them in the future.
You can rent a storage unit to house your belongings if you need to keep them. Selling or giving away what you don’t need is probably a more profitable option.
How to finance a van conversion
Buying and converting a vehicle to live in is an expensive business.
Paying cash is probably the easiest way to buy and convert a van. It can be profitable if you sell your house and/or other vehicles and use the profits. Many people don’t have the cash for a major project like this on hand. If you don’t have the money to finance this project, consider asking the dealer who sold you your van about financing options.
If the dealer is unwilling to finance the conversion of the vehicle, there are also RV loans and unsecured personal loans:
- RV Loans are secured loans designed specifically for the purchase of recreational vehicles, using the vehicle itself as collateral. Lenders offer payment plans with terms up to 20 years.
- Unsecured Personal Loans aren’t backed by collateral, which means you don’t run the risk of losing your van if you can’t repay the loan. Unsecured personal loan interest rates tend to be higher, especially for those with bad credit. You can take out a personal loan for any purpose, making them ideal for a large recreational purchase like this.
Obtain and transform a van
The cost of living the van is higher than the original cost of the vehicle. Converting a van includes the purchase of building materials, appliances and features and, depending on whether you plan to do the job yourself or not, labor costs.
How much you spend depends entirely on what equipment you choose to include, where you buy your materials from, and what types of materials. The costs also depend on whether you choose to hire someone to help you or plan to do it yourself.
The overall cost of a van conversion can vary, but a modern van conversion that includes basic amenities typically costs between $5,000 to $15,000. However, this is only an estimate. The prices of top rated van conversion companies tend to range from $12,000 to $35,000. The company you choose and the amount of work to be done will influence the cost.
The amenities you can include in your vehicle will depend on its plumbing and electrical capability. Solar panels tend to be the biggest expense for van lifers with an off-grid solar setup ranging from an average of $1,500 to $4,000. Larger items like RV refrigerators and working plumbing also tend to be larger expenses.
Once you’ve converted your vehicle, you also need to think about the day-to-day expenses of van life. These expenses will largely depend on personal needs and habits.
Your weekly and monthly expenses will largely depend on your eating habits and where you travel. Some are easier to plan, like a gym membership to take a shower if you don’t have one in the van. Others appear depending on the amount of gas at any given time or where you are going to eat.
Current lifers tend to spend anywhere from $800 to $2,000 on their monthly expenses, including insurance, camping and recreational expenses, and miscellaneous expenses.
|Weekly/monthly van expenses||Average cost|
|Gas||$200 to $600 per week|
|Paid campsites||$450 to $900 per month|
|RV Insurance||$50 to $100 per month|
|Gym Membership||$22 per month|
|Grocery/food||$600 to $800 per month|
It is important to take out an insurance policy on your vehicle, adding a monthly expense to your budget. Insurance for recreational vehicles varies by provider and specific circumstances, but you can generally expect to pay between $50 and $100 per month for vehicle insurance.
You have to plan for the worst when you live on the road, which means setting aside money for vehicle repairs and any other emergency expenses that may arise. It’s generally a good idea to have at least $500 set aside for emergencies. It is better if you can set aside half a year’s worth of living expenses as an emergency fund.
Paying state taxes can be complicated when you live in multiple states throughout the year. If you’re employed by a specific employer, it may be a little easier, but freelancers who live down the road may want to consider hiring a professional to help with their taxes.
Although the most economical choice is to find free campsites in your area, this is not always feasible. Paid campsites cost an average of $15-30 per night, which means that if you stay at a paid campsite every night for a month, you’ll likely pay between $450 and $900 in total.
The bottom line
Van living has become incredibly popular over the years, only growing in popularity as the Covid 19 pandemic continues to be a fact of life. People are looking to find adventure, freedom and fun in a socially distanced way.
The phenomenon of widespread remote work has given those who had the financial freedom a unique opportunity to hit the road permanently. However, buying, converting and living in an RV is expensive and can be prohibitively expensive for many.
If you’re considering getting into the van life, make sure you’re aware of all the costs and that you’ll be able to maintain your financial health and income along the way.