Sunday, May 19,2024 8:51 pm EDT

Van Life For Beginners: A Manual to Living on the Road

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Introduction to Van Life for Beginners

van life for beginners- man in black jacket and pants standing on white van during daytime
Photo By Leo On Unsplash

Van life for beginners can often seem like a daunting transition, but we want to make this easier for yourself and everyone you bring on your adventures. Your home on wheels provides the freedom to roam while maintaining all the comforts of a stationary home. Van life’s popularity has been on the rise, especially among digital nomads, retirees, and adventurous spirits who value experiences over material possessions.

If you are an avid social media user, you have probably seen many photos of vans that have transformed into a new home on wheels. On platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, users spend months transforming and filming their van’s transformation into a cozy living space.

In this blog post, we aim to guide you through the multifaceted world of van life for beginners while hitting the open road. We’ll dive deep into what exactly van life is and its rising impact on many lives. We will also uncover some reasons why so many individuals have started buying and transforming their vans into new homes. Finally, We will cover the best vans for those considering the switch to van life and the legal aspects/advice for how to live in a van.

What is Van Life?

white van on beach during daytime
Photo By Thom Milkovic On Unsplash

At first, you might be looking at your van or van driving around and wonder “How on earth could anyone live in that?”. Although it is not for everyone, Living on four wheels has become a nomadic lifestyle for some, especially in today’s housing market. But what does this really entail, and what changes and commitments does it require? Let’s delve deeper.

The Core of Van Life

The thought of going where you need to go without leaving your home sounds crazy, but van life makes this thought a reality. It’s about breaking free from societal norms of stationary living and choosing instead to call the open road your home. Van life revolves around turning a van, bus, or any other vehicle equipped with essential living facilities, and making them feel like home.

While this might sound like a very, very long road trip, van life isn’t just your normal weekend getaway. Van life is about taking your average day-to-day life that most are familiar with and providing a unique perspective that not a lot gets to witness. . From waking up to a sunrise over the mountains to falling asleep under a blanket of stars, these small things become a lot more important the more you are able to live them out by spending time away from home.

Lifestyle Changes and Commitments

The switch from living in a house to a van is significant in many ways that might be overlooked by some. Firstly, the sure size change from a home to a van can be a change that doesn’t sink in until you live it. Most homes have many rooms that provide a level of comfort and privacy that so many are used to. With the switch to van life, you will have most of your new home in one small area. This change works for some, but not for everyone.

Living in your van also requires a commitment to flexibility, adaptability, and knowledge of living on four wheels. Factors such as weather, vehicle maintenance, and availability of resources can cause normal everyday plans to be adjusted slightly or significantly. tasks such as cooking and showering are a part of everyone’s daily routine, but the switch to van life can lead to challenges in doing these tasks effortlessly.

The decision to adopt van life is not one to be taken lightly. It demands a strong sense of independence, problem-solving skills, and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. At the end of the day, van life for beginners puts up a challenge to redefine what the term ‘home’ and ‘road trip’ means to you in a new and exciting way.

Why Choose Van Life?

van life a woman sitting on a bed reading a book
Photo By Clay Banks On Unsplash

Everyone has their own goals they wish to accomplish in their lives and have a way they would like to get there. For some, this means doing so in the comfort of a traditional home that stays in place. For others, they seek the thrill and excitement of wandering new places and camping spots. Either way, there are a few reasons why van life might be right for you.

Freedom

Van life can provide the level of freedom that so many seek and desire. There are so many negative factors that come with living in your traditional home that van life is able to erase. Think about it, you’re no longer bound by permanent addresses, neighbourhood rules, or even the rising costs of rent and mortgages. Instead, you have the liberty to travel wherever your journey takes you, live in different landscapes, and experience diverse cultures. This experience and freedom are hard to accomplish through living in a traditional home.

Adventure

Finally, the call of adventure is a significant motivator for many van lifers. There is something special about being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want and being able to bring your home with you. Maybe you decide you want to explore a few national parks and camping spots, or maybe you want to spend time on remote beaches. Van life allows you to experience these adventures, with half the planning.

Types of Vans Suitable for Van Life for Beginners

If you are thinking of making the change to van life, the most important factor is picking the right van that meets your wishes and needs. After all, this van will become your new home. Luckily, there are a few options to choose from that have been proven to be great options for those looking to have their own home on wheels. Let’s take a look at some of these options.

Mercedes Sprinter

mercedes sprinter van converison

Cost: $30,000 – $60,000+

Despite its larger price tag, the Mercedes Sprinter is widely known as one of the best vans out there for van life for beginners. This van is a very roomy option for a home on wheels, with different-sized models available to meet the requirements you need to live comfortably. On top of this, the Mercedes Sprinter is a very durable option, with 4×4 availability for dealing with tough road conditions. The downside to this van is that maintenance costs can be quite expensive for Sprinter and a Mercedes dealership is often needed to require parts and services.

Pros:

  • 4×4 availability for rough road conditions
  • High roof roof size available
  • extremely durable

Cons:

  • A more expensive option
  • Mercedes dealerships often require for repairs

Dodge Ram Promaster

dodge promaster camper van conversion

Cost: $25,000 – $45,000

The Doge Ram Promaster is an ideal option if you are looking for the maximum space in a type of van, as it is the largest van that can be used for van life for beginners on the market with a 190 cm total width. The Promaster is a great option for cost as well. Not only is the total cost more affordable than other vans, but it also gets 20mpg, making it a fuel-efficient option with increasing fuel prices. On the downside, the Promaster doesn’t have a 4×4 option like other vans, making rough road conditions an inconvenience with this van.

Pros:

  • More affordable option
  • Overall size
  • Fuel Efficiency
  • Service/repair options widely available
  • different high and length options

Cons:

  • No 4×4 option

Ford Transit

ford transit camper van conversion

Cost: $20,000 -$45,000

The Ford Transit is another affordable option for van life for beginners that provides everything you need to live comfortably, with its very spacious interior. The Transit is also one of the easiest vans to drive, with many positive reviews from those who have been behind the wheel of this van. The Ford Transit is also one of the safest vans available on the market, with features such as collision warnings.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Not as fuel efficient (14-17 mpg average)
  • 4×4 only available in newer models

Volkswagen Westfalia

volkswagen westfalia camper van conversion

If you are looking for an Older looking van that’ll turn heads as you go by, Volkswagen Westfalia will make that a reality. Although these vans are no longer in production, the Westfalia has become an icon in the van life industry. Since these vans are no longer made, only used models are available, which means a relatively low cost to purchase one of your own.

Pros:

  • Vintage look
  • An affordable option for used vans
  • Options for pop up roof to increase living space

Cons:

  • No longer in production
  • Parts can often be difficult to find
  • not very fuel efficient

Buying vs. Converting a Van

Now that you might be considering van life for beginners, it is important to decide how much time, money, and effort you want to put into this home on wheels. this brings up the question of if you should buy a ready-to-go van, or if you should buy a van and convert it into a home. This section will guide you through the cost and practical aspects of both options, helping you make an informed decision.

Here’s some suggestions from a lady who did her own van build and what she would change if doing it again:

Van Tour After Two Years Of Full Time Van Life ~ 136 Ram Promaster (Things *May* Be Falling Apart)

Evaluating Costs and Practicality

The choice between buying a ready-to-use van versus converting one is largely influenced by your budget and personal preferences, just like deciding between buying or renting an RV. With a van that has already been converted into a home with all the necessities ready to go, you won’t have had to buy a bed, kitchen, bathroom, etc. At the same time, you might be paying more for the van, as the original owner might want to cover their own cost of converting the van.

On the flip side, you might not pay as much for the van itself, but the cost to put in the various components and appliances can add up in a hurry. However, this will give you more control of the quality of these components and you are able to put in appliances that meet your budget and standards. Converting will also take a lot of time and effort, so make sure to plan accordingly and seek assistance when needed.

Creating a Checklist

Regardless if you decide to purchase a ready-to-go van or embark on a conversion project, it is important to make sure you have everything you need to live comfortably and happily. For this reason, we recommend creating a checklist of everything you need in your camper van. Let’s face it, It would be a real headache to purchase a van and realize you don’t have a bed, a toilet, or an awning. Although these can be purchased after the fact, being prepared with a checklist can save a lot of unnecessary time and stress down the road.

Legalities and Logistics Van Life for Beginners

Although Van Life for beginners is able to provide an opportunity for freedom and adventure that you can’t always get from your traditional home, being a part of the Van Life community still comes with its share of struggles along the way. The legalities and logistics involved in living within a van can pose significant challenges. This section will delve into these aspects, providing you with essential insights to help you navigate your journey effectively and legally.

Understanding the Legal Aspects of Van Life for Beginners

Once you begin your van life journey, it is important to understand the legal obligations that come with this new lifestyle. One overlooked aspect is where to park your van overnight, as parking on private property, causing disturbances, and trespassing can lead to heavy fines over time, not to mention the possibility of getting the van towed.

Also, Making sure your van’s registration and insurance is up-to-date is another important factor, as they are needed in case you are stopped by a police officer just like any other vehicle. Since you will be doing a significant amount of travelling in your new van, a lot of things happen very quickly. Anything from small damages to significant accidents can occur at any moment, Which is why having good insurance for your van can be a difference maker.

Managing the Logistics of Living on Wheels

Once you begin the van life journey, that means taking into account all the logistics of living within a van. These factors are often overlooked, as all traditional homes come with them and some assume it’s just as easy to acquire for your van. even the proper gear necessities can often be forgotten when transitioning to van life for beginners, such as….

Water

Water is a fundamental necessity. For drinking, cooking, and hygiene, you’ll need a reliable water source. Some who live the van life opt to use refillable tanks of jerry cans for their water supply, where they can be refilled. There are various areas where these tanks can be refilled, such as campgrounds, public parks, and gas stations, all easy-to-find places you will encounter along the way.

Electricity

Like any other come, electricity is also a necessity for comfortable living. Luckily, there is a different way you can have electricity in your van, such as alternators, solar panels, and shore power hookups at campgrounds if available. Keeping good battery management will be the key to having power when you need it and won;t lead to any headaches along the way.

Waste Management

Waste management is a crucial aspect of sustainable and responsible camper van life for beginners. It is an important part of van life with a top level of hygiene. you might be wondering how you can install a toilet in your van, short answer, you can’t. However, options such as portable toilets, composting toilets, or even using public bathrooms are good options to make up for not being able to install a toilet in your van. On that note, if you do opt for a portable or composting toilet, make sure to clean them regularly to avoid odours.

Great Tips to Van Life for Beginners

brown acoustic guitar on black steel stand
Photo By Clay Banks On Unsplash

Spending your time in a van can be a challenging change, especially if you are used to a traditional home. Luckily for you, we have a few tips to van life for beginners to help make this change to an alternative lifestyle go from an overwhelming experience to one that you wish you made sooner.

Managing Finances

The first and most important tip for van life for beginners is to manage your finances ahead of and during your journey. Of course, nothing in life is free, and van life is no different. Factors such as fuel, food, insurance, and repairs are some of the most costly elements of van life for beginners. It is important to make sure you have the budget for these before investing in a van, as well as making sure you can spend more time living your best van life.

Staying Safe

Right up there with finances, Staying safe is a crucial element of RV and campervan travel Let’s face it, Accidents can happen at any time and sometimes are completely out of your control. With that said, it is important to avoid accidents that are in your control. How do you do this? Make sure your van is in good working condition and perform maintenance whenever it is needed by doing it yourself or bringing it into your nearest service shop.

Where you choose to stay is also important. If the area you park in gives you an uncomfortable feeling or there are more obvious factors that create an unsafe area, make sure to move locations to one that is safe and sound.

Maintaining Personal Hygiene

One of the first concerns that come to mind when considering van life for beginners is how to maintain personal hygiene. Fortunately, there are many solutions available. For instance, gym memberships often provide access to showers across multiple locations, making it a popular choice among van lifers. Alternatively, portable showers or wipes can be used for quick clean-ups. To manage bathroom needs, consider investing in a portable toilet or plan your route around public restrooms.

Keeping Connected

You might be away from home, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave your friends and family back home behind. Technology has come a long way over the years and it has become easier than ever to stay connected no matter where you go. Consider adding an internet solution in your van, such as an internet satellite or a mobile hotspot, in order to stay up-to-date with news and entertainment and keep in touch with loved ones.

Conclusion – Is a Life in a Van for You?

Throughout this blog, we have covered the many aspects of living away in a van or van life camping. Now, you have a better knowledge of what van life camping is and why it could be a great option for your lifestyle. We have also covered the best vans for your van life adventure and whether you should buy or convert a van for road trips. Finally, we have made sure to have you covered with the legalities and logistics of living in a van, as well as some van life tips to enhance and expand your van life camping.

So, are you ready to get started with vanlife? That’s a question only you can answer. It requires careful consideration of your personal goals, lifestyle preferences, and willingness to adapt to a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. If the idea of waking up to different sceneries, living with less, and crafting your own unique path excites you, then van life adventures could well be your next adventure waiting to happen.

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