A woman in shorts and cute socks sitting with her legs out the back of her camper van enjoying van life.

Is Van Life Cheaper Than Renting?

You’re tired of the skyrocketing rental rates. Paying $1,800/month for a one-bedroom apartment makes your stomach churn. But what other alternative do you have?

Many millennials are turning to the van life. It’s not without its challenges, but it can be cheaper than renting. Let’s look at why this is an appealing option for many young people.

What Is Van Life? 

Van life is on the rise, becoming increasingly popular among younger travelers seeking adventure and a different way of life. There are various ways to do the van life, but generally, these travelers have chosen to live in a van, whether a Class B or a converted van.

These spaces might be tiny, but they open the door for unlimited adventure. They also provide ways to save money instead of spending thousands a month on rent.

Hot Take: RVs are way better than vans. Here’s why →

How Much Does It Cost to Turn a Van into a Home?

Just like the cost of building a house varies all over the country, the cost of turning a van into a home will also vary based on how you go about the process. If you want to save money, the cheapest way is to buy a used van instead of a new one, renovate the space yourself instead of hiring a pro, and furnish it with inexpensive items rather than high-end decor.

What you do during the renovation process will also affect how much it costs to turn your van into your home. If you want to add all of the bells and whistles of convenience, then you’ll spend much more than someone seeking a comfortable place to sleep and eat. 

Inside a modern, renovated camper van.

Installing multi-functional furniture is one of the best ways to save money. A sofa bed can double as a lounge area and a sleeping space. There are lots of YouTube videos and blogs that can teach you how to build your furniture as well. So you can create custom pieces to fit your space and function exactly like you need them to.

Part of turning a van into a home is also considering the cost of insurance, fuel, and maintenance. These are all part of the van life and expenses that you must add to your budget for a clear picture of how much it will cost you per year.

How Much Does It Cost to Live The Van Life? 

This will vary from van lifer to van lifer since people travel differently. Some like to stay in one area for months, while others want to move every few days.

Then there are variations in what people do. Some like to do the touristy things like visit National Parks, museums, amusement parks, and such while others just want to enjoy hiking outdoors.

Depending on how much you spend on food (including groceries and eating out), your budget will vary. And where you stay greatly affects how much it costs. If you stay at private campgrounds nightly, you’ll pay anywhere from $35-50 per night. If you’re frequently boondocking, the cost of overnight stays will be much less.

Hear about one van lifer’s monthly expenses.

Is Van Life Cheaper Than Renting an Apartment? 

Like mentioned above, your budget will be different from another van lifer’s budget. This is also true when comparing renting to living in a van. If you’ve rented an apartment in New York City for years, then the van life will be cheaper because the cost of living in New York is so high. 

However, if you’ve rented an apartment in a small rural town in Indiana, there may not be as much of a difference. It all comes down to how you plan to travel and what you do as you travel.

Is It Hard Living in a Van?

Although Instagram and TikTok make it look like the van life is glamorous 24/7, it’s not. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see the country and even the world, but it’s not all beautiful sunsets and spectacular views.

Living in a tiny space is difficult, and if you’re living with another person, it makes the space feel even smaller. It can be challenging for relationships.

You also have to deal with the stress that constant travel brings. Where will you stay next? What happens if your van breaks down? How do you repair a leak? 

Although it may look picture perfect, there are challenges, problems, and stressful days. But there are also moments of pure joy, peace, and exhilaration on the journey.

Hands up celebrating the freedom of van life.

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You can live in a van as long as you park where it’s legal. Most downtown urban areas don’t allow overnight parking on their streets, so don’t go setting up camp for the night in the center of Houston.

But as long as you stay in locations that allow overnight parking – whether it’s campgrounds, National Parks, or boondocking spots – it’s entirely legal to choose the van life.

A young boy and a dog look out the window in a camper van.

Is Van Life Worth It? 

If you want to travel the country or venture even farther to places all over the world, the van life may be for you. It’s absolutely worth it if you’re willing to make sacrifices. It’s not always easy, so you have to be flexible and adapt quickly some days. If you’re high maintenance and need structure and consistency, the van life may not fit your lifestyle.

But if you’re seeking adventure and are willing to deal with the challenges the van life brings, start planning your getaway today! Where will you go first?

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