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HomeFinance NewsTogether with Freedom, Van Life Comes with Prices. We Clarify

Together with Freedom, Van Life Comes with Prices. We Clarify

If you happen to search the #vanlife hashtag on Instagram, you’ll be rewarded with greater than 7 million photos. Widespread themes embody sunsets over the ocean, cozy-looking campfires, and inside van designs that might make you drool with longing.

Oh, and canine. If one factor’s sure about #vanlife, it’s that tons and tons of canine live it.

Van life appears to vow an expertise that’s concurrently lovely, liberating and reasonably priced — in any case, in the event you’re residing on the highway, you most likely aren’t paying lease or a mortgage.

However what goes on exterior these fastidiously framed photos? What does it actually price to dwell life on 4 wheels?

How #VanLife Actually Works

Though there’s some reality to the footloose-and-fancy-free notion of van residing, there’s additionally loads of work that goes into making the approach to life possible.

If you happen to’re contemplating hitting the highway your self, right here are some things it’s best to know in regards to the realities of van life, each monetary and in any other case.

Even on the Street, You Nonetheless Have Bills

Simply since you gained’t be paying for housing doesn’t imply you gained’t have bills. Similar to every other life-style, to be able to make van life work, you’ll have to create a price range.

Abigail and Natalie Rodriguez have been residing on the highway full-time since February 2019. Other than the acquisition and conversion of their 2004 Dodge Sprinter van — a undertaking they dealt with themselves — they’ve loads of different common payments to pay.

Amongst different issues, the couple budgets for:

  • High-notch car insurance coverage with roadside help
  • Telephone invoice, together with web hotspot
  • Web site area
  • Adobe (to allow them to edit movies)
  • Automobile upkeep — together with, ultimately, a brand new transmission since they bought an older car

These prices, together with their largest bills — meals and gasoline — run the Rodriguezes about $2,000 per 30 days.

That mentioned, one of many coolest issues about cellular residing is that it’s versatile: You’ll be able to select to spend much less on gasoline by not touring a lot for some time, and in the event you don’t need to pay for a flowery campground, you may boondock on BLM land.

You may as well curb your funds by spending your time in one of many finest states for van lifers — ie. those the place life is reasonable, the climate is sweet, and free tenting is plentiful.

And regardless of how or the place you grasp your hat, it’s virtually all the time attainable to save extra money on groceries.

The before and after photos of a renovated van that a married couple live in as they travel the USA.
The Rodriguezes spent a yr and a half constructing out their Sprinter van — which additionally afforded them time to save lots of up for happening the highway. Photograph courtesy of Abigail Rodriquez

You Can — and In all probability Ought to — DIY It, Even when You Don’t Know How

Together with the month-to-month prices of residing, there’s additionally the van itself to contemplate. If you are going to buy a {custom} van model new, you could possibly simply be taking a look at $100,000 or extra. Most of us don’t have that sort of money mendacity round.

Constructing out your individual conversion will help you save a boatload of cash whereas additionally supplying you with the chance to personalize your house on wheels. That’s why the Rodriguezes spent a yr and a half constructing out their early-aughts Sprinter — which additionally afforded them time to save lots of up for his or her new nomadic life-style. (Extra on that in a minute.)

Jeff Chow, one other vanlifer who catalogs his beautiful journey experiences on Instagram, hacked the system: He bought a reasonably new car — a 2017 Ram ProMaster — after which constructed out the inside himself.

With its detachable insulation, photo voltaic wiring and dual-zone fridge, his van has a “fairly minimal construct.” That’s to say, it isn’t as fancy as a few of the #vanlife eye sweet. But it surely’s dependable and well-suited to his wants.

Chow spent $28,000 on the van buy, however solely $2,500 or so on upgrades. And since the van is a more recent mannequin, he isn’t as anxious about main engine upkeep and restore prices.

By the best way, in the event you suppose you might want to be a DIY genius to tug it off, suppose once more. Many vanlifers, together with the Rodriguezes, have little in the best way of prior development expertise. They determine it out as they go, contemplating it a part of the journey.

How do you work it out?

“YouTube College is your good friend,” wrote Natalie in an e mail. “Belief me.”

There are additionally a number of notable web sites like Parked in Paradise providing DIY-guides galore.

It’s Not Gonna Occur In a single day

One factor you may’t seize in an Instagram put up: the passage of time. And it does take time to show a van right into a villa in the event you do it your self.

Not like the Rodriguezes, who did most of their construct earlier than leaving their hometown of Charleston, S.C., Chow started residing in his van earlier than making any upgrades, slowly turning it into the house he needed over the course of his time on the highway.

And even in the event you do get a custom-made van recent from the producer, if there’s one factor that’s sure about life on the highway, it’s that you just’re going to run into just a few surprises. Constructing and rebuilding is an ongoing actuality for many vanlifers, so don’t count on an effort-free fortunately ever after. Anticipate some upkeep prices the identical manner you’d in a home.

This quad of images shows a married couple's daily life while living inside a van and traveling the USA.
Natalie and Abigail Rodriquez saved up about $25,000 so they might get pleasure from their first yr on the highway with out working. They’ve visited locations reminiscent of Colorado, prime proper photograph, and Utah, backside left photograph. Photograph courtesy of Abigail Rodriquez

You Don’t Need to Be Wealthy, However You May Need to Sacrifice

There’s a notion that almost all of vanlifers are digital nomads, making their residing on-line — or that they’re younger retirees who’re independently rich.

However that isn’t all the time the case. The Rodriguezes, as an example, saved up about $25,000 forward of time so they might get pleasure from their first yr on the highway with out worrying about working. Since starting their travels, they’ve  began to earn model ambassador revenue by their social media channels.

In fact, saving up that sort of money is hard, and it takes some robust decision-making. Natalie, who had labored as a sous chef, and Abigail, who owned her personal images studio in Charleston, needed to make some fairly radical modifications to construct their nest egg.

The couple downsized from a 1,500-square-foot home to a small studio, which allowed Natalie to place away half of every paycheck. In addition they gave up their Comcast web subscription, restaurant eating behavior, and even — gaspNetflix.

It’s Price It

Make no mistake: #vanlife takes time, work, and cash. But when it’s the approach to life you need, it’s nicely well worth the effort.

“We get to continually journey, see new issues, expertise new landscapes and cultures each time we wish,” wrote Natalie. “It’s absolute freedom and fixed training.”

Chow, who was motivated partly to tackle this life-style due to a power well being difficulty, mentioned it’s modified the best way he experiences his life. “I could be bedridden for months at a time,” he mentioned. “If I’m going to be bedridden, I’d moderately be bedridden with — proper now, I’ve a view of the Sierras,” he mentioned by cellphone.

All of which is to say: in the event you really need #vanlife, go for it.

“Sit down, perform a little research, make a plan, make a aim, and act on it,” Abigail mentioned in her YouTube video — chatting with the digital camera from contained in the van she’d constructed alongside her accomplice with nothing however their 4 palms, a dream, and loads of laborious work.

Jamie Cattanach is a full-time freelance author whose work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Put up, The Motley Idiot and different retailers. Study extra at

Contributor Larissa Runkle contributed to this report. 



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