Skip to Content

5 Reasons to Avoid Van Life

5 Reasons to Avoid Van Life

If you’re here reading this article, chances are you’ve heard about van life. 

The van life trend has been dominating the social media scene for the past couple of years. #Vanlife photos on Instagram look dreamy and serene – but is it really all it’s cracked up to be? 

Today, we’re talking about 5 reasons you might want to avoid this “picture perfect” lifestyle. Let’s dive in!

What is Van Life? 

Van life, or #vanlife, is a movement heavily documented on social media and YouTube. This lifestyle is all about living and traveling in a van, or any other kind of small vehicle. Van life is done full-time, part-time, or even just on the weekends.

Vanlife transcends age ranges and typical budgets. There are vanlifers who live and travel in very minimal DIY setups and travel on a strict budget, and there are others with hundred-thousand-dollar builds.

While the #vanlife trend may be relatively new on social media, there is nothing new about the lifestyle. Van life is all about the pursuit of minimalism and freedom that comes with the nomadic lifestyle.

5 Reasons To Avoid Van Life

Van life sounds and looks awesome, especially if you’re looking at the hashtags on Instagram. But, as with most things, there is so much more than meets the eye.

Vanlife isn’t all hashtag worthy, and the lifestyle comes with unique and difficult challenges. It’s not suited for everyone!

We’ll break down some of the biggest reasons why here:

Overnight Parking isn’t as Easy as it Seems

Vanlife influencers will have you thinking you can just roll up and park wherever you want. You may have the impression that as a vanlifer, you are free to explore towns, cities, and wilderness areas, and just park and sleep wherever you want! 

In reality, overnight parking is not so easy. Many towns and cities have ordinances and laws against sleeping in your vehicle. And, due to the rise of the #vanlife trend, most cities and authorities are very familiar with the van life crowd. Police have a keen eye for anyone who appears to be parked and sleeping in the wrong spot.

It doesn’t matter how stealthy your van looks – you can still be caught and fined.

So, what’s the solution?

The solution is taking the time each day to find a place where it’s safe and legal to park. And, in some cases, paying for a campground. But even there, you will run into obstacles. Some campgrounds don’t allow vanlifers, either. 

Cramped Quarters & Constant Rearranging

Vanlifers know this challenge very well: van life tetris. 

Whether you’re a weekender or a full-timer, you need place to put your stuff. In a van or other small space, there isn’t always room to keep everything! This results in a lot of shuffling, all the time. 

The bed serves as a great storage space for extra gear, clothes, and bedding while you’re cooking or driving. But, when it’s time to go to bed, you have to move it somewhere. 

And since most everything else is packed away, including things you’ll use often, you’re constantly having to pull it out, rearrange stuff, and put it back. 

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when it’s your full-time life this can become really cumbersome. 

Vanlife looks romantic…but is it in reality?

Using the Restroom and Bathing

Using the restroom and bathing is a unique challenge, and one that can be hard and uncomfortable to get used to. 

Many DIY vans don’t have a bathroom – or if they do, it’s often just a camping or composting toilet that slides out from under the bed. 

Some manufactured campervans will have a wet bath, bigger ones may even have a separate shower and toilet, but that doesn’t always mean that using the restroom or bathing will be easy. Because that means using up freshwater and frequently having to dump gray and black water. 

Many vanlifers get by just fine without a toilet. They do this by using public restrooms or finding appropriate places to go in nature. Some even just use buckets or coffee cans in the van. But, that’s not everyone’s cup of tea… or coffee.

Also, many van life enthusiasts swear by gym memberships for gyms like Planet Fitness, who have locations in cities all around the country, for showering. But, this isn’t always a foolproof option – like when the pandemic hit and everything closed. 

Breaking Camp to Go Explore

Living, traveling, and camping in a van differs from an RV in many ways. One of those ways is the fact that if you’re traveling in a van, you probably don’t have a tow vehicle. Your camper and your vehicle is all one thing. 

So, in an RV you might set up camp and then head to town to explore the area. But in a van, you can’t do that. If you want to go explore and your van is your main mode of transportation, you’ll have to pack up and secure everything to go have your adventure. 

Again, this doesn’t sound like that big of a deal.

But anyone who has set-up and torn-down camp before knows how long of a process this can be. And, like we mentioned above, there’s van life Tetris involved.

You will have your van set-up differently for camping then you will for travel, and everything has to be secured for movement. 

Breakdowns Leave You Stranded

Nobody likes to talk or think about breakdowns, but they can and do happen to the best of us – no matter how expensive or fancy the rig. 

If you have a breakdown as a van life traveler, you’ll be stranded without a vehicle or a place to stay. These problems can be solved with a hotel and a rental car, of course.

But that’s extra cost and hassle when you want to be exploring and staying in your own van. 

Luckily, some repair facilities will allow you to sleep in your van while on their lot, but this isn’t always the case. If you decide to do van life, be sure you have a budget and a backup plan in case of breakdowns.

Pro Tip: We talked to an RV mechanic, here’s what he says will break first.

van life

Is Van Life For You? 

Now that you know some of the biggest reasons to avoid van life, is it still something you want to do? That’s up to each person to decide for themselves. 

Van life isn’t all bad. If you can handle having to shift and change sleeping plans, minimalism, and seeking out public restrooms and showers, then van life could be right up your alley! 

Otherwise, maybe RV life is a more suitable choice for your preferences.

No matter what you decide, you can always change your mind. 

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

  1. Wagner Aguiar says:

    It was an awesome article… oneself with an open mind can always learning from everyone points of views… solutions are real in each situations… oneself must take a moment to think with a beautiful mind…

Comments are closed.