are inspired by the van life and want to make it their own. While it is wonderful to hear such enthusiasm, the one question that most people have is,
“Where do I begin?””
Some may find this question uncomplicated because they have previous van life experience. However, there are questions that novices must ask, considerations that must be made, and efforts that must be taken in order to make the most of van life.
When shopping for a car to live in, there are numerous options and variables to consider. You must examine not just the model and size of your van, but also your lifestyle and intended use of the van.
Start a discussion on our forum if you need help finding the proper car to live in, and our community of professionals will gladly assist you. But first, please read this blog!
For example, if you want to experience the van life for a short period of time before returning to your regular life, your ideal vehicle would be very different from the van you would need to establish a full-time home.
When looking for a home on wheels to live in, consider your mechanical skills, finances, and the van living experience you want to pursue.
Be honest with yourself about your needs and desires if you want to live a fulfilling van life. With your requirements and preferences in order, you won’t have to spend a fortune to escape the hated 9-5 grind, rebel against the norm, and live life on your own terms.
This guide will provide you an outline of everything to think about while making what is possibly the most important decision of your life: choosing a van.
It goes without saying that selecting a mobile home is a tough, tiresome, frustrating, and time-consuming task.
Considerations Before Purchasing a Van
Before you buy a car, you might want to think about some of the following:
This may be the most crucial element to examine first since, whether you have a tight budget or not, buying a vehicle that leaves you with a little extra cash in your pocket is guaranteed to make you happy. The goal here is to select the right blend of quality and features for your financial situation and preferred lifestyle.
For example, you might get a wonderful deal on an older vehicle, but it may require extensive repair to get it working properly. You may also come across your dream home on wheels, ready to be driven away into the sunset, but it may cost you all of your cash.
You want to discover a nomadic car that you adore while simultaneously saving money for emergencies, modification, and general living expenses out on the road. If your budget is limited, start with the necessities you can comfortably afford and increase as your income grows.
Budget will still play a factor in your decisions once you’re on the road, and your car will dictate some of that budget. Consider the following: petrol, maintenance, miles and terrain covered, food costs (cooking in your van vs. eating out), parking fees, storage costs for items that do not fit in your van, and so on. Many of these factors are discussed more below.
Are you able to fit yourself and your belongings in a mobile home? Experimenting with limits is fascinating until you, well, exceed them.
Most of the time, van life is something you pursue for an extended period of time. As a result, your van should be kept in the finest possible shape. Some van drivers overburden their trucks owing to negligence, unanticipated events, or bad preparation.
Though it may appear innocuous at first, adding stress on your mobile home can lead to higher maintenance expenditures and breakages in the long term. When looking for a car or planning your conversion, keep in mind the projected weight of all the things and requirements you will be transporting.
To help you imagine nomadic living, try this easy experiment:
Begin by determining the dimensions of your ideal car. Use these measurements to build a “van” living space in one of your home’s corners. The idea is to make the environment as lifelike as possible. You can partition it with drapes or dividers. Then settle in. Yes, you read that correctly – live in a small part of your house. Cook, sleep, and use the restroom in your fictional van; do everything you normally do at home.
Make room for your clothes, food, electronics, tools, recreational equipment, and so on. Remember that some vans might not have enough place for standing.
Evaluate your feelings after some time in the corner. Were you at ease living in a van-sized space? Was there enough room for you to cook? Is there enough room for a bathroom? Did you feel safe in your sleeping quarters? This activity will help you determine what size vehicle to look for.
You can also live the van life by hiring a campervan.
When selecting a vehicle, one of the most important factors to consider is fuel economy. Van living should be as cost-effective as feasible. If you choose to drive an RV, you may only get 5mpg, but a car can get up to 50mpg.
There are numerous internet tools for viewing gas mileage statistics; try www.fuelly.com to begin your study on vans of interest. Maintaining your van while on the road will help keep your home operating well, allowing you to use the least amount of gas and save money.
You’re all set for a camping weekend if you have a good campground, a gorgeous small picnic table, and a fire pit. When it comes to full-time van life, two concerns arise: toilet and shower.
Learn about all of your options for showering while on the road.
If you are in Canada or the United States, you are well taken care of because Walmarts are incredibly convenient; you wake up with a spotless restroom next door. Other vanlifers may not be as fortunate.
There are two approaches you can take. You have two options: find a van with all of the necessary amenities and conveniences, or install them yourself. This is one area where your money and preferences will determine your alternatives. If you want to install a bathroom yourself, there are literally hundreds of guides available online.
Parking and Stealth
Where will you keep your vehicle when it is not in use? Where will you park your vehicle when it is in use?
Parking is an important consideration before purchasing a van. In certain regions, storing your vehicle or simply parking it for the night charges money. Furthermore, a number of places are enforcing regulations that make sleeping in your vehicle unlawful, so it is critical to understand where you can park and how much it may cost.
Your possibilities will expand significantly if you choose a van with excellent stealth. For example, if an RV is parked outside a store overnight, it can attract a lot of attention. A van or a car, on the other hand, will be less visible as a home on wheels, especially if the van appears to be a business vehicle on the outside. Remember this while you look for your next adventure mobile.
Repairs and maintenance
How well do you know mechanics?
This is not to argue that technical skills are required for van living, but they can help minimize stress and make your life on the road a little easier. Many travelers are compelled to conclude their journeys early due to minor or significant technical troubles that may have been prevented with a little mechanical know-how.
Aside from slowing you down, mechanical troubles might be costly to your finances, especially if you are on a tight budget. The sort of van you choose and the budget you allot for it have a significant impact on the overall experience.
If you are purchasing a used van, it should go through mechanical examinations before you make the purchase. During your journey, you will encounter difficult roads, and your van must be dependable.
Assuming you’ve already planned your trip, it’s a good idea to find out ahead of time whether spare parts for your van are available in the countries you intend to visit. Nonetheless, you should always include extra parts, especially those that are difficult to find in other places.
The type of drivetrain you will require for your van life is determined by your budget and intended use. There are three alternatives available to you:
Four wheel drive (4WD) is the most expensive and is suited for difficult terrain and terrible highways. When replacing tires in 4WD cars, you must replace both axle tires.
AWD – All wheel drive (AWD) is found in tiny and low-cost vans such as the Astro or minivan and employs a computer to detect road conditions and deliver power to the wheels that require it the most. When replacing tires in AWD vehicles, all four must be replaced.
2WD – Two wheel drive vehicles are not well adapted for van living in rugged terrains and wet driving conditions, but they will suffice if your lifestyle and travel plans allow. Although replacing tires in pairs or all at once is preferred, you can replace a single tire in this powertrain as long as it is the correct size.
The more windows you have on your van, the more vulnerable you are to peepers. Fewer are better because colder climate windows are difficult to insulate.
Engine size is a separate discussion. Each manufacturer makes a trade-off between the advantages and disadvantages of their engines. Smaller engines, in general, are good for reducing fuel consumption. However, if your itinerary involves mountainous or rainy places, a larger engine may be preferable.
Diesel vs. gasoline
Diesel vans use less gasoline, have greater torque, run longer, and have more power. However, they are more expensive to buy and maintain.
The Ideal Van?
A van that meets all of the above criteria is like the diamond necklace worn by Rose Dawson when the Titanic sank – there’s a chance it exists, but has anyone ever seen it? A cheap spacious vehicle with the proper weight and size, comforts, and spare components that can be found anywhere is a pipe dream.
Make a Checklist
This reduces everything to trade-offs. By organizing your plans and needs, you’ll find there are features you don’t really need, and you’ll be able to make a decision based on what best suits your lifestyle and preferences.
When you set out to seek for your home on wheels, you will be able to organize and conveniently refine your searches if you create a checklist. This will greatly simplify the process of selecting the appropriate automobile!
You can begin shopping now that the first step has been completed.
Vehicle Types for Van Life
The market for van life is massive. A simple Google search for “best van to live in” yields thousands of results, many of which are useless to novices.
Choosing the proper van might be as difficult as determining which house to buy. After reviewing all of your alternatives, it comes down to selecting the car that would best meet your fundamental needs.
Remember not to choose something simply because other people think it’s cool. The range of possibilities makes picking the appropriate automobile for you difficult.
We won’t be able to mention every brand and model because there are thousands of them. Even with so many van models to select from, there are a few that most nomads adore. These include the iconic classic vans, cargo and conversion vans, Euro design vans, and a few others that will be discussed.
Vans from the past
Many people appreciate classic vans due of their beautiful design. The Volkswagen Vanagon, for example, is ideal for a romantic weekend away. Some may be known by nicknames such as Vanagon, Westy, or Westfalia.
Despite their high purchase price, a Volkswagen investment is countered by inexpensive parts that are quite easy to find. If you are mechanically inclined, there is a large online community to inspire glamorous changes or aid you through difficulties. On the downside, VWs tend to break down frequently, putting safety at risk because they lack airbags and other contemporary safety equipment.
If you’re seeking for secrecy, a classic van might not be the ideal option. Furthermore, the motor is not very powerful, making ascending steep mountains with all of your possessions a slow challenge.
traditional vans have a traditional and photogenic design, as the name suggests.
Repairs and upkeep are inexpensive and simple if you have basic mechanical knowledge.
Spare components are frequently widely available and simple to obtain.
Because the majority of these vans have already been converted into residences, they require fewer major alterations.
As you commence on your life in a classic van, there is a vast community for networking and assistance.
These vans are often old and temperamental, which means they break down frequently.
These older automobiles frequently have poor fuel economy and lack contemporary safety features like airbags.
When you live in a classic van, there isn’t much room for stealth.
Vans for Cargo and Conversion
The Chevy Express, Ford Econoline, Chevy Astro, GMC Savana and G-series, and Dodge Ram Van and B-series all fall under this group. They are reasonably priced and contain parts that can be bought almost everywhere.
Cargo vans are commonly employed in many industries, therefore there are numerous options available when looking for a used van. Furthermore, because these vans frequently come from a business, they usually have all of the service records and usage details.
Cargo vans are classified into two types: passenger and panel.
Panel vans may not have seats or windows but may have metal storage. Passenger vans have rows of seats and windows. Because of their massive drivetrains and large motors, cargo vans provide a lot of bang for the money.
Their sturdy design is inspired by pickup trucks, so sturdiness is assured. Cargo vans are a blank canvas, allowing you to make as many or as few changes as you like.
Conversion vans, on the other hand, are full-size cargo vans that have been modified into family camping vehicles by third-party automakers. They are frequently designed with a back bench seat that converts into a bed, wide windows with coverings, and built-in cabinets.
Many conversion vans incorporate a high top roof as well as rear temperature control. They are slightly more expensive than cargo vans due to the increased comforts.
This type of van is relatively inexpensive.
Because the purchasing price is reduced, more money is available for customisation.
There are high-roof variants available, which allow for additional storage and built-in shelving. The added headroom also makes the interior of your vehicle feel more spacious.
Rather than a sliding door, most cargo and conversion vans have a barn-style door that swings out. This feature provides more choices for fold-out tables, mounted storage, or anything innovative.
Because of the availability of components and qualified mechanics, maintenance and repairs are easier and faster to accomplish. Older Chevy, Dodge, and Ford vans and parts are popular, and their design hasn’t altered much over the years. Most mechanics are capable of repairing these automobiles.
These vans may last for over 300,000 miles if properly serviced and maintained.
Cargo vehicles are incredibly quiet. Because they have few or no windows, it’s difficult to tell if it’s a camper from the outside. When compared to conversion vans, these vans blend in better and are easier to park.
Despite being an older model, conversion vans frequently have less usage and mileage. In many situations, conversion vans were only utilized once or twice a year as a recreational vehicle.
If you’re not particular about style, conversion vans are practically move-in ready. They provide everything you need, including a bed, privacy windows, and basic insulation. To start your simple van existence, you’ll need a cooler, an auxiliary battery, and a decent battery isolator. Other features and enhancements can be added as needed.
Cargo and conversion vans get roughly 15mpg or less on average.
Because of the curving walls, insulating your van may be tricky.
They are not tall enough to stand up within, despite the high-roof option.
When compared to other vehicle options, storage capacity is fairly limited.
Cargo vans may have logged a lot of kilometers as a company vehicle.
Due to the windows and leisure design of the vehicle, conversion vans have poor stealth.
Finally, when shopping for cargo and conversion vans, keep in mind how these identical vehicles are used differently. Because most cargo vans are utilized in daily business, they cover a lot of ground. When the cargo van’s condition deteriorates, which doesn’t take long for a commercially utilized vehicle, the owner chooses to sell it. You might be pleased to find this newer cargo van at a low price, but it may not be as reliable as an older conversion van at the same price. Shop around until you discover the greatest combination of age and miles for your needs and budget.
Vans in the European Style
The Promaster, Transit, and Sprinter vans are examples of Euro-style vans. Euro-style vans are often newer and chosen for their vast room, improved gas mileage, and dependability; nonetheless, they are expensive.
The Euro-style van, unlike cargo vans, has a distinctive design in which the cab is moved forward over the wheels to create extra space.
These are the vans that have toilets, huge showers, and plenty of storage. A Euro-style van, being the van with the longest lifespan, can be your full-time nomad home for years to come if properly maintained.
abundant and practical storage choices
square cargo area for easy construction
There are high-roof variants available.
frequently more recent
When well-maintained, machines are frequently more dependable.
Some models have more horsepower available.
improved gas mileage, 20-22mpg
less prone to corrosion (models manufactured after 1996)
expensive to buy and repair*
Typically, only certain dealerships provide service.
Technical maintenance is required.
When driving or parking in tunnels/garages, a high roof may be an impediment.
*Due to their extensive dealer network in the United States, transit vans are easier to service and repair.
Additional Nomad Vehicles
A former school bus may be readily converted into a large home on wheels and is a very inexpensive alternative because the majority of your conversion costs will go into accessories rather than substantial reconstruction. Buses are frequently more spacious than many RVs.
A converted bus not only provides space for several people, but it also has extra storage capacity and personalization. As a result, it is an excellent choice for families or groups of nomads. With so many options, you can make something truly one-of-a-kind.
Vehicles for Overlanding
Safari-style range rovers, lifted Tacomas, and sports mobile vans can travel great distances, whether on forest roads or across foreign nations. They are best known for navigating forested and damp locations and, unlike many vans, have four-wheel drive and comparatively higher ground clearance.
They are extremely pricey, and upkeep is vital if you don’t want to break down when exploring the backcountry.
Traveling in an overland vehicle is a lot of fun. If you are interested in overlanding rigs, you may join one of the numerous supporting groups and travel around with them to learn the basics.
Extremely Low Budget
If your desire to live a nomadic lifestyle is overwhelmed by your budget, don’t fret; you can use the car you already own.
Buying a secondhand vehicle entails risk, so using your current vehicle allows you to experiment with vanlife without making such a large investment.
Another advantage of driving your own vehicle is that you are familiar with its technical faults and how to operate it. With a little imagination and sacrifice, almost any vehicle can be turned into a mobile home.
Still not sure which vehicle is best for you?
We recognize that everyone’s situation and needs are unique. That is why we built our forum, where you can ask the ProjectVanlife community questions regarding living a nomadic lifestyle.
If you are already an expert, please join in and contribute some of your knowledge by starting informative subjects and assisting others.
To receive the best responses, use the following information when posting a subject regarding ‘what car you should live in’:
How much space do you require?
Who will you be living with?
Your personal preferences
The Road Ahead
Whatever vehicle you select, van life is all about the adventure and freedom of living on the move. It is nearly impossible to forecast exactly what you will require until you are on the road; examine these factors, shop around, and select something that meets your minimal demands and budget.
As you gain experience on the road, you can improve and customise your vehicle.