Is Van Life for you? Only you can answer that. Do you enjoy all the luxuries that come with a home, space, and a huge walk-in closet? Well, maybe you won’t enjoy full-time life in a camper van. However, if you answer these 7 questions to help you decide if a home on wheels is for you, then maybe this is your next adventure in life like it was for me!
Why do you want a camper van or pursue van life?
Some people want to do Van Life because they think it will be cool for Instagram. However, if that is your only motivation you should quit before you start. While the lifestyle looks cool it takes hard work, sweat, or money if you want the luxury camper vans you often see on social media.
When I decided I wanted a campervan was about the same time I decided I wanted to travel fulltime and pursue my dream working remotely. I want a lifestyle that allows me to move and see the world while being close to nature/the outdoors. The flexibility of van life, where I could make almost anywhere my backyard immediately appealed to me.
Are you a digital nomad, fulltime traveler, weekend warrior, or minamalist? Ask yourself the needs you have and lifestyle you want and if it aligns with van life or pursuing buying a campervan.
By knowing what your use for the van will be it will help when customizing it and building it. If you are only going to use it on the weekends you will probably not need a huge water tank, full bathroom, or batteries.
What is your budget?
Another huge aspect that you can easily forget when you are dreaming about the van conversion process is the budget. Watching Youtube van conversion channels, and seeing beautiful van tours one can easily forget the work and price tag that goes into the van build masterpieces we see.
If you are looking for spending less than $10000 USD than a DIY conversion going to be the best option. There are also some conversion kits you can get as well, but many are basic and will not be custom. I decided that I wanted my van to suit a variety of things that I needed for my tiny home on wheels, so I wanted to build it myself.
Wayfarer vans and some other outfitters offer some killer kits that range from $5200-$12000 USD.
Check out my beginner power tool set by Ryobi:
What’s the best van to turn into a camper?
There are many vans you will see people turn into a campervan, from a minivan to an ambulance you will see people get very creative with their van builds. However, the three most popular vans to convert are probably the Dodge Promaster HighRoof, the Ford Transit, and Mercedes Sprinter vans.
I decided on the Dodge Promaster High Roof because they are less expensive than the sprinters overall. A brand new Promaster will set you back $27 K versus $34 K for the Mercedes Sprinter van.
Also, the overall costs of maintaining a Sprinter van is expensive. I am talking about $600 USD for an oil change expensive.
Also, most mechanics cannot work on Mercedes as it is operated on a complex computer system that only Mercedes dealerships can work on.
While Sprinters are 4 wheel drive, I will be able to bring my Promaster to any mechanic since I may not be near a dealership when driving through more remote parts of the country.
The Dodge Promaster is perfect for me in was the most economical choice, is fuel-efficient with 20 plus miles to the gallon, and the body of the van is box-like making it easier to convert. Another factor to choose a van is if you want to use diesel or gas. The Promaster is gas, while many sprinters only use diesel.
When do you want to get started using your camper van? Will you do a self-build or hire a company for a van build?
One thing when considering if you will DIY build or use a camper conversion company for your van build is your timeline. If you want to hit the road as soon as possible, then hiring a conversion company with predesigned kits.
If you want to have someone else do all the work and just pick up your van, then a van conversion company is your best bet. However, since van life has become very popular, many companies have waitlists of a few months. If you’re interested in looking for a company nationwide check Explore Van X’s directory.
Like me, if you want to build the van yourself, then as soon as you know you are getting a van start ordering some of the necessaries to begin your build, such as a MaxAir fan, solar panels, batteries, etc. Currently, some things are taking longer because of demand and also supply issues due to Covid-19. Also, creating a building schedule will hold you accountable to get it done by your goal date.
But if you know you are building your own van order things like a Renogy Solar Kit (here is 10% off), Havelock Wool for insulation, and other items such as a fridge you know you must-have for your build.
Are you ready for a minimalist lifestyle? What are your must-haves in a Camper Van?
To start off designing your build, it is important to have a list of everything you actually need. I realized I don’t need much to be happy in terms of materialistic things once I started to travel around the world with a backpack or carryon. So, when I saw what I could take in a van while traveling, it was an upgrade.
However, for people moving from larger homes or apartments it could take some adjusting. Every little space in a van build is utilized, so having a must-have list for your van will make it easier to design your van based on necessity. Will you have room for an indoor enclosed shower? Maybe not, however, you could opt for an outdoor shower that saves space.
Will you want to store expensive bikes, surfboards, etc? Then you may need to build a larger “garage”. A garage in van build terms is the space where you store things that you can access from the back. Will you have a toilet, or use public restrooms? While I plan to have a little toilet for emergencies, I also plan on using restrooms where I am located or campgrounds, etc. However, some may see having a larger living space with a complete bathroom as a priority. So you must ask yourself to “should I get a motorhome or campervan“?
Can you be creative to earn money on the road or work remotely?
Many wonder how can you make money on the road? There are many creative ways to make money on the road. Whether you have a full-time remote job, work as a freelance writer or designer, or are an entrepreneur there are many ways to make van life possible.
There are so many careers that you can do remotely from web development to social media marketing and blogging. Another option you can try is becoming a brand ambassador, using skills such as photography, and/or make a product to sell on Etsy.
You are only confined by the limits of your own imagination in terms of how to make money on the road. Don’t be afraid to do something different or turn that hobby into a career.
Are you comfortable with uncertainty? Where will you park your van?
While traveling around the USA by van, you may be surprised by all the free parking that is available. However, with free parking and looking for BLM land “Bureau of Land Management” to camp for free you may find someone has taken the spot you wanted. Also, if stealth camping in a city, one may get a knock on the door at midnight and have to pick up and find a new spot to crash. If you are ok with some level of uncertainty of where you will park at night, then you will be 100 % fine.
However, I would always like to have a plan A and plan B in the case I have to move for some reason at night. There are online communities as well as Apps that other vanlifers share camping spots, information about wifi, and available gyms/showers in certain areas. iOverlander and RV Parky are a few apps to help you find the perfect spot to stop for the night.
Many ask how I travel safely as a female traveler alone. Here is some advice on solo travel as a women that I wrote.
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