You’re ready to take the plunge but do you need a guide on how to live the van life? Maybe you just stumbled upon this new phenomenon and want to learn more. This is the place for all of that.

Table of Contents

What Is Van Life And How To Start?

Basically, it’s the idea of converting your vehicle, usually a van because it’s the most practical, into your home. It has all the necessities of your house in one neat-to-go package on wheels. Imagine your home sweet home and home away from home all in one. That’s the literal sense.

What it means to most people who choose this lifestyle is minimalism. According to Moneyunder30 “Minimalism is all about living with less. This includes less financial burdens such as debt and unnecessary expenses.” Living in a van or any vehicle is just a means of achieving that.

Living in a van is like boiling your life down into a concentrated concoction of your wants, needs, and desires. You get to pick what those are and how you want to get to them. Plus, you get a never-ending project car. Now, what gearhead doesn’t want that?

Why Van life and not RV Life?

Okay, I know what you’re thinking Van life sounds a lot like an RV life. I guess in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter because what we’re after is freedom but, in the literal sense there are reasons why people choose vans over recreational vehicles.

First, Nobody is going to stop you from living in an RV. For starters, they can be great full-time homes if you get an all-season version, or if you don’t plan on experiencing harsh winters. I’m sure a lot of Van lifers are doing just this and having a great time of it. There are some cons though.

For one, RVs aren’t meant to be lived in year-round. They’re designed for sprints and trips rather than continuous use. It’s more like camping in a tent vs living in a cabin.

The key thing is weather capability. Van life builds (usually) are designed for all-weather and all seasons, as your permanent house (hopefully) would be. More insulation and heavy-duty construction make this happen.

So what vehicle should you get?

Vehicle Choices

Van life is just one part of the minimalist movement, you can replace the van with anything. Literally, choose any vehicle and live in it full time. SUVs, Pickup trucks, vans, cars hell even boats. Check out this great list of pros and cons for different types of vans and vehicles at Gnomadhome (click the link).

Importantly, people choose vans because they offer the most amount of space, flexibility, and adaptability. These characteristics become more important when you concentrate your living quarters to a micro-level. Having something you can build out to your needs allows you to really focus on how you want to live your life.

The most common Van life choice is the Sprinter. You can find the sprinter badged by 3 different manufacturers Dodge, Freightliner, and Mercedes- Benz. In actuality, they are all the same van made by Mercedes-Benz.

Mechanically and physically the same albeit some cosmetic badge engineering differences. The Germans used some clever business practices in the early 2000s to avoid paying taxes on the European-made Sprinter.

They made some licensing agreements, shipped the van in pieces, reassembled it in North America, and rebadged the car. So if you’re looking to buy one of these, don’t worry about the badge they’re all the same.

Wondering when the best time to buy a used car is? You can find out about that here.


You’ll see tons of different layouts and designs for this van because of its worldwide availability. From super-low budget to high-end luxury builds it’s really the go-to choice. People love it because of its tall roofline, different wheelbase availability, flat load floor, and reliability. Even the limo industry has been using them for luxury rides called land yachts. Check out Outsidevan for examples of killer sprinter build-outs.

Sprinter’s popularity makes it so that parts are commonly available too. This is a major bonus when you need to fix something on the go, especially when it’s your home.

Benefits Of Van Life

So what are the benefits of this style of living? Flexibility for one. Say you have an active lifestyle and like to travel to far and distant places. Accommodation might be tricky right? Van Life = Boom; accommodations with you.

Maybe you’re looking to downsize because you just want to get away from it all. Depending on the size of the van you build, you can get downright cozy.

Perhaps you have a job where you’re on the road all the time, spending a ton of money on a house just may not seem worth it.

The benefits start to stack up quickly.

Caveats Of Living The Van Life

Now, one possible benefit I didn’t mention is cost. You Can build on a tight budget. Additionally, recycled materials and freebies can keep things super cheap as long as you get creative. Heck, you can even save on the base vehicle if you’ve already got a van!

On the flip-side, you can be full glam and get as expensive as you want to. Custom cabinetry, lights, tech, onboard water, solar and battery power, exterior, and interior outfitting; the possibilities are literally endless.

Moreover, because all things bespoke are unique, costs will vary. Labor, materials, base vehicle cost all impact how to live the van life.

I’d bet, however, that you can probably build a much nicer van than any house with the equivalent budget.

Take Aways

I wouldn’t be surprised if more and more people adopt the Van Life. It’s downsizing in its purest form, shrinking everything down to vehicle size.

Whether it’s from necessity or curiosity, how to live the van Life can adapt to a variety of lifestyles. So is it the right one for you?

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