As the price of real estate across the US increases, many are opting to leave the traditional, plant-your-roots way of life behind and choose to live in a van instead. Not only does it save on living costs, but the idea of cutting loose and living in a van also has an adventurous appeal. Some people are turned off by the lack of personal storage and the potential costs.
Some are buying vans to live a nomadic lifestyle, while others are looking to use their vans as road trip-style vacations. Whether your reasons for becoming a van lifer are financial or not, one big question remains: How much does it cost to live in a van?
To help you decide if the van life is right for you (and suits your budget), we’ve crunched the numbers. Read on to discover the actual cost of living in a van full-time.
What is the Cost of Van Life?
To best explore the costs, let’s break your typical expenses into two main categories: initial and recurring.
Prices can vary depending on your location and needs. These prices are based on the California average and assume a minimal lifestyle, so you could end up spending more. To minimize costs, check out some van living ideas!
Anything required to begin your life in a van is considered an initial cost. These purchases are typically the most significant hurdle in becoming a van-dweller, as they can be relatively high upfront.
Here are the one-time, upfront purchases that anyone living in a van should have.
Van – $4,000+
First things first: you’ll need a van to live in. The cost of the van can vary wildly and depends on your current financial situation, the type of van you’re looking for, and the level of comfort you expect. It can be difficult to find the best van for van life.
Some nomads are content with a 15-year-old used work van and its $4,000 price tag. Others may choose a new, $40,000 camper van to call home. While that may seem like a lot, it’s still much more affordable than a condo. It can be worthwhile to purchase a more expensive van and pay for it in installments—think of it as a more affordable mortgage payment.
If you opt for a cheaper used van, be sure to have it inspected. It should be safe, well-maintained, and comfortable. It is your home, after all.
Conversion – $2250+
Unless you purchase a van that has already been converted for van life, you’ll have to do some work to make it liveable. What you choose to add to your vehicle will depend on your lifestyle, but common additions for a van build include:
- Bed – $700
- Stove – $100
- Curtains – $80
- Storage solutions – $220
- Desk – $150
- Solar panel – $500
With these expenses, you may be able to use items you already have instead of buying new ones. And of course, the amount you spend on a van conversion is up to you. Whether you do a DIY conversion or go with a professional van conversion company for your van build will impact how much the van conversion costs.
Add at least another $500 on top of the listed items above to account for personalization.
Total Initial Expenses – $5,750+
Costs that recur regularly, such as monthly bills, include the following:
Vehicle Insurance – $150/month
When you live in a vehicle, you need vehicle insurance. Rates will depend on your age, driving history, and location, but on average, full-coverage insurance in California can cost you around $1,800 annually, or $150 per month.
Phone Plan – $40/month
Having a data plan on the road is essential for maps, working, and keeping in touch with loved ones. Phone plan pricing varies depending on your needs, but a 5GB plan can cost about $40 per month.
Gym Membership – $36.50/month
Unless your van has a working shower, you’ll need to find somewhere else for a good scrub. Many fans of van dwelling use gyms to clean up and stay healthy at the same time. A membership to a nationwide chain of gyms can cost as little as $36.50 a month.
Groceries – $225/month
Monthly grocery bills for one person in California total around $225. Of course, van living allows you to shop for groceries anywhere in the country, so your monthly cost may end up lower than this.
Storage Unit – $115/month
Van dwelling is all about minimalism, but there may be things you want to hold onto that won’t fit in your van. A storage unit is a terrific solution. A small storage unit at Price Self Storage can cost as little as $115/month.
Gas & Maintenance – $250/month
Your gas costs and maintenance bills will depend on how much you drive the van around. If you’ll mostly be parking your home on wheels, these costs can be negligible. Gas prices also fluctuate based on the state that you are in. For those intending to take full advantage of a truly mobile home, gas, oil changes, and other maintenance averages out to a monthly cost of at least $250.
Total Monthly Expenses – $816.50
The Cost of Living Uncluttered
With a potential upfront cost of around $6,000 and less than $900 in monthly bills, van dweller life can seem incredibly appealing and doable. The lower cost of living that comes with van living allows you to enjoy the little things without a mortgage and a house full of possessions. And of course, spending a little extra money can improve your comfort and overall lifestyle.
At Price Self Storage, we understand the value of living a simple, uncluttered life. Price Self Storage has many different storage sizes to fit any need. If you’re planning on making the switch from a home to a van and need somewhere to keep your stuff, give us a call today!
Forbes. Home Prices Will Increase In 2021. Here’s Where You Might Find Value. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/mortgages/home-prices-outlook/
ValuePenguin. Average Cost of Car Insurance (June 2021). https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-cost-of-insurance
Balancing Everything. Average Food Cost per Month – In-Depth Analysis and Trends. https://balancingeverything.com/average-food-cost-per-month/