As companies offer more remote opportunities, living in a van has become an attractive option for many people. But how do you decide which van to buy?

The adventure van you choose to live in plays a role in your level of comfort and your lifestyle as well as how much personal storage you need. How much does it cost to live in a van? The overall cost of van life, both in terms of the initial cost and ongoing expenses such as gas, maintenance, and insurance depends on the van you choose. Another factor to consider is the cost of van conversion. Some people prefer to do a DIY van build, while others prefer using a van conversion company specializing in custom vans. Both ways allow for some creativity and the use of some good van living ideas. Either way, the type of van that you select will impact the cost of the van build. 

So what is the best van for van life? Let’s take a look at a few popular varieties of vans to help you determine the perfect fit.

1. Cargo or Passenger Vans

According to a survey from Outbound Living, cargo and passenger vans are far and away the most popular among van lifers. And it’s easy to see why. These types of vans are roomy, sturdy, and feature higher ceilings.

It’s worth noting that there are a few minor differences between a cargo van and a passenger van, but they’re similar enough in shape and size to be considered as one category.

  • A cargo van tends to have fewer windows and may be slightly shorter than passenger vans, depending on the cargo space.
  • A passenger van has the extra length but tends to come with rows of seats and might require more effort to convert into a livable space.

The biggest difference to a van lifer often comes down to the windows. On the one hand, windows provide more natural light. On the other hand, they offer less privacy.

If you’re looking for a mid-sized van for year-round living at a moderate price, a cargo or passenger van will be right up your alley. Used cargo vans go for as little as $6,000, while new passenger vans can set you back $40,000 or more. While there are many types of passenger and cargo vans, one of the most popular is the Mercedes Sprinter van, which comes in both cargo and passenger variations. Another popular one would be the Ram Promaster series of vans. 

2. “Classic” Vans

So-called “hippie vans” have been around and lived in for decades, so it’s no surprise that they make a terrific vehicle for van life. The classic van is stylish, relatively spacious, and easy to drive and park in cities—perfect for exploring.

The flexibility of van life has attracted the freelancers and influencers of the world, and the iconic hippie van is the perfect subject for photography. Creatives will love the vibrant colors of these old vehicles, such as the VW bus or the Chevy Astro van.

Because they’re no longer in production, well-maintained classic vans can be costly to buy, and parts may be difficult to find. If you plan to purchase a hippie van, it’s best to have some basic mechanical skills—or at least know a good mechanic.

3. Buses

While they’re technically not vans, old buses have become a favorite in the van dwellers community. By converting an old school bus or transit bus into a home-on-wheels, van-dwellers can enjoy square footage that rivals some New York City apartments for a fraction of the price.

Despite it being cheaper than NYC apartments, there are still factors to be aware of. Filling up your school bus gas tank can cost a small fortune, and (underground) parking or traveling becomes more tricky due to roof height and vehicle length. 

Buses are best for van lifers who plan to drive less or who aren’t roving the tight streets of Manhattan.

4. Minivans

A minivan outperforms all the other van types in one crucial factor: fuel economy. If you plan to rack up the miles in your van-turned-home, a minivan may be your best choice as they get the best gas mileage of the vans that we have mentioned.

They may seem smaller, but you’d be surprised how much you can fit into one with a little creativity. Take out all the back seats, and you have space for a bed, some shelving, and moderate storage space.

Minivans — with their reduced footprint, fuel economy, and affordable prices — are perfect for the short-term, road-trip-of-a-lifetime van-dwellers. With that said, you could easily live in a minivan full-time with a few adjustments — as long as you don’t mind the smaller space. Minivans win out thanks to their availability and their low cost. Used minivans can be found around the $4,000 range.

5. RVs or Motorhomes

Once again, while these vehicles may not be true vans, they embody the spirit of van life. At its heart, van life is about flexibility, mobility, and simplified living. RVs check all of these boxes, and they provide levels of comfort that some of these other options cannot.

One of the best parts of buying an RV or motorhome is that it’s ready for you to move in from day one. There’s no need to spend weeks planning, cleaning, building, and customizing—the bed, kitchen, and bathroom are already included.

RVs can be cost-prohibitive, with some costing more than a small home. That said, you can often find used motorhomes at reasonable prices. Besides, if you plan to live in something full-time, it may be worth spending some extra cash to be comfortable.

Make the Most of Your Space with Price Self Storage

Whether you plan to live the van life part-time or full-time, travel extensively, or stay put, one fact is sure: You’ll want to maximize your space and store anything that doesn’t make it into your new four-wheeled home.

For all those possessions, there’s Price Self Storage. With well-lit facilities, security cameras, and individual storage unit door alarms, you can travel the country in your van with peace of mind. Price Self Storage has many different storage sizes to fit any need. 

Get in touch with our Storage Concierge today to learn more about our storage solutions!


Outbound Living. Van Life Statistics Report.