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Is Living in a Van Cheaper Than Renting?

Living in a van down by the river was once seen as a negative choice. However, many are making it a goal to live that very way.

Younger Americans, in particular, have discovered that the lifestyle can provide a tremendous amount of freedom and simplicity.

But, it’s safe to say, all ages are jumping on the van life bandwagon to fulfill their sense of adventure. However, is living in a van cheaper than renting? Let’s take a look and see!

What Is Van Life?

Van life is a relatively modern term used by many to describe someone who travels in a van converted to accommodate their lifestyle. While many use their van to travel full time, van life can also represent those who simply enjoy traveling.

How Much Does It Cost Monthly to Live in a Van? 

Much like every aspect of life, the monthly cost of living in a van depends significantly on your specific situation. If you convert a van for very little money and spend most of your time boondocking and not traveling great distances, the costs of living in a van can be minimal.

Those that purchase top-of-the-line vans, travel longer distances, and pay for camping accommodations have significantly higher monthly expenses. 

Most people find themselves somewhere in between these two extremes. The cost to live in a van will likely fall between $500 to $2500 per month. However, you can live life as modestly or luxuriously as you like.

Pro Tip: Unsure if van life is right for you? These are 5 Reasons to Avoid Van Life.

Woman playing ukulele in van
Depending on where you want to live, van life can be much cheaper than renting.

Is Living in a Van Cheaper Than Renting?

Costs to rent vary significantly from city to city. Those living in more prominent cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Nashville may find themselves paying over $2000 a month for simple studio apartments.

However, if you’re renting in a rural region of the country, you may be able to find apartments for under $1000 per month.

Van life has some unique expenses that those renting an apartment or house don’t have to consider. Unless you’re paying cash, you’re going to also have a monthly payment on your van.

How often and how far you’re traveling will also cause your fuel budget to be somewhat unpredictable. You’re also going to need a place to park your van, which means either owning land, paying campsite fees, or researching free camping locations.

Van life can be cheaper than renting, but not always.

What Are the Benefits of Van Life?

Van life allows you to live life on the move. You have the advantage of your entire home being mobile. This is especially useful for those with traveling jobs such as travel nurses or others who have short-term contracts, as many construction workers do. Being able to pick up and go without leaving everything behind is something you can’t get when renting a home. 

One benefit of van life includes the potential for a life of adventure. When your home fits into a standard parking spot, touring the country is a pretty great way to see and do some incredible things.

Vans are easy to drive and can go places that larger RVs typically cannot, making them an excellent option for travelers who want to move often and head out to remote locations. 

Van with kayak on top parked next to ocean.
There are many pros and cons to van life. Is it right for you?

What Are the Downsides to Van Life?

One of the biggest downsides to van life is the lack of space. Even the largest vans are still very limited in living and storage space. While many have gotten very creative with using their tiny spaces, there is no way around the fact that you will need to live a minimalist lifestyle. There is little to no additional room for extras, and you’ll likely need to leave some stuff behind or donate it to charity.

Another common downside that van lifers site as a challenge is the loneliness they experience on the road. The nomadic life can be isolating. It can be hard to form deep relationships when traveling every few days and constantly meeting new people.

Pro Tip: Need some inspiration for your van? We found 10 of the Best DIY Camper Van Builds to get your creative juices flowing.

How Can I Make Money Living in a Van?

Thankfully, in this day and age, remote jobs are a realistic option. Many jobs now allow you to work remotely as long as you have reliable internet and phone service. This is good news for people who love their jobs but want to take it on the road. If this interests you, have a conversation with your company to find out if your position could be remote. 

If you are looking for a career change, turning your lifestyle into an income is a goal of many nomads. While it isn’t as easy as it may appear, gaining a social media following can be a fun way to share your life, help others, and make some income at the same time.

Starting a blog, a YouTube channel, an Instagram account, or TikTok are all great ways to find your community and start the process of making money from the road. 

Is Living in a Van Worth It? 

Living in a van can be worth it if you’re looking for a sense of adventure and freedom. The constantly changing landscapes and experiencing the diverse cultures around the country can be exciting. Getting to connect with other like-minded people can be inspiring and challenge you to grow in ways you never imagined.

However, the lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Jumping into van life without a plan or doing adequate research can cause significant issues. Do your research, investigate the pros and cons of the lifestyle, and make an informed decision. 

What aspect of van life do you think you would enjoy the most? Tell us in the comments!

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  1. Marcie says:

    I own a campground I think portraying that someone could live cheaper than an apartment is a little deceiving. In northern Minnesota campsites go for 800 a month on average plus power so a person with a larger camper is spending about 1200 a month in the winter at neighboring campgrounds they tell me last month they spent an average of 1500.00. If a person is going to drive their van from place to place they will be spending a phenominal amount in gas and in this Duluth area campgrounds other than koa do not take guests for short term. I had a young female call about a week ago wanting to live year round in her van and have a seasonal spot this would work out better in a warmer climate not one that hits 30 to 50 below zero

  2. Jimmy D White says:

    @Marcie, Many people living van life are doing so off grid. I know what you are saying and fully agree with you in your area. There are a huge number of folks following the weather to stay in a good range while working remotely or seasonal jobs. IE working winters in Florida or Arizona.

  3. StephenM Harvey says:

    Yes it is cheaper. You don’t have to pay rent, deposit utilities and deposit. You still have insurance but it is less than home owners no property tax to educate the kids of those that do not work .the only real problems are the idiots jacking up price of gas. You have the maintenance of your vehicle but not as expensive as home could be.