Paying For Van Life | Bankrate

Key takeaways

  • The common price of a home within the U.S. is about $357,300, whereas a brand new camper van begins at simply $130,000.
  • The price of buying a van varies considerably relying on the make and mannequin and whether or not it must be transformed.
  • Present van lifers spend round $1,000 to $3,000 per 30 days in month-to-month bills, making van life a extra reasonably priced way of life.

The variety of van lifers in the USA has elevated by 63 p.c within the final couple of years, going from 1.9 million in 2020 to three.1 million in 2022 — and it’s simple to see why.

In addition to the enchantment of having the ability to change areas everytime you crave a change of surroundings, van life is considerably extra reasonably priced than shopping for a house. In keeping with Zillow, the common price of a home within the U.S. is about $357,300. A brand new camper van, however, begins at simply $130,000 and that quantity can go down considerably in the event you select to purchase a used mannequin.

That stated, van life isn’t grime low cost both. There are some vital prices that adventurers have to be able to finance earlier than taking the plunge.

Van life statistics

  • The variety of American van lifers has elevated by 63 p.c during the last couple of years, going from 1.9 million in 2020 to three.1 million in 2022.
  • The most well-liked live-in vans have a mean sq. footage of 126 sq. toes.
  • The common price per sq. foot of a brand new live-in van is $268. That signifies that the common live-in van prices about $33,768.
  • The common price of an older, used camper van is $25,000 or much less.
  • California, Colorado, Florida, Oregon and Washington are among the many states with the biggest inhabitants of van lifers within the nation.
  • The beginning value of a DIY van conversion is somewhat over $2,000, whereas skilled van conversions begin at round $30,000 — excluding the price of the van itself.
  • Roughly 80 p.c of van lifers do DIY conversions.
  • Van life is especially well-liked amongst millennials and youthful Gen Xers. In a current survey, these between the ages of 35 and 44 accounted for 31 p.c of People who would take into account becoming a member of the van life after the pandemic.
  • Gasoline is the very best expense for many van lifers, consuming away between $200 and $500 of their month-to-month funds.
  • A brand new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, one of the well-liked live-in vans, prices about $45,800. In the meantime, the common value of a house in Youngstown, Ohio — one of many least expensive cities for homebuying — prices $115,000. That’s greater than double the value of the Sprinter van.

Boats, RVs and vans

Housing items have expanded additional than vans, with boats and RVs coming into the fold. From 2011 to 2016, items counted as housing remained virtually even, however there was a pointy enhance between 2017 and 2021.

How a lot does a van price?

The price of shopping for a van can range dramatically, relying on the make and mannequin of the automobile and whether or not it must be transformed.

You’ll find older, used vans for beneath $10,000 on common. Nevertheless, a brand new van can set you again by $80,000 or extra, relying in your need.

Nonetheless, shopping for a van is extra reasonably priced than buying a house. As an illustration, the common value for a brand new 2023 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (a moderately well-liked van mannequin) is round $45,800, in keeping with Automotive and Driver. Against this, the common value of a house in Youngstown, Ohio, one of the reasonably priced locations to purchase a house within the U.S., is $115,000.

Different well-liked van fashions amongst van lifers embody Dodge Promasters, Ford Transits, VW Vanagons, buses and funds cargo vans. Price range cargo vans are typically the most effective for van life, as they’re a less expensive choice to convert. Some well-liked manufacturers embody Ford Econolines, Chevy G Sequence, Chevy Categorical and Astros. These automobiles are usually older and require some work to transform into residing areas.

Automobile sort Common price new (2023) Common price used (2016)
Sprinter Van $45,795 $39,950
Dodge Promaster $40,635 $15,999
Ford Transit $43,455 $28,997
Bus $90,000 $7,000

RV life prices

One other well-liked different to conventional housing resides in an RV. Though these are usually dearer than most vans, they’re additionally extra spacious and might be simpler to finance, as there are loans particularly for them.

  • The common price of an RV ranges from $35,000 to $300,000, relying on the automobile’s class and facilities featured.
  • Not like vans, which might be purchased with no down fee, RV firms require you to offer not less than 10 p.c down of the price of the automobile, though many choose a 20 p.c down fee.
  • Fifth wheels and journey trailers are probably the most cheap RVs, with new fashions beginning at $10,000 and $15,000, respectively.
  • Class A RVs are the most costly, with some fashions costing about $1 million.
  • The common month-to-month fee for an RV mortgage ranges from $225 to $650 — between two and eight instances cheaper than the common mortgage fee for a home, which is $1,811.

Making ready for van life

Earlier than deciding to take the leap into van life, it is very important take into account all it is advisable do to organize. Other than getting ready your van to be livable and making the right lodging for revenue, you have to determine what to do along with your present residence and the place to retailer any possessions you’ll be able to’t take with you on the highway.

Present residing house

Should you hire your present residence, you solely want to fret about when your present lease ends and communicate along with your landlord.

Should you personal a home or condominium, you might take into account renting or promoting the house. There are lots of components to think about when deciding whether or not to hire or promote your property. Take into account whether or not your transition to van life is non permanent or everlasting, if it is advisable faucet into your property fairness sooner or later, and whether or not you wish to tackle being a landlord and present residence values in your space earlier than deciding to hire or promote your property.

Private belongings

Transferring right into a home on wheels additionally entails downsizing, and you might marvel what you need to do along with your belongings that received’t slot in your van. It comes all the way down to how important these things are and the way doubtless you might be to wish them sooner or later.

You possibly can hire a storage unit to accommodate your belongings if it is advisable preserve them. Promoting or gifting away what you don’t want is probably going a more cost effective possibility.

Van conversion

Shopping for and changing a automobile to stay in might be costly. Some vans have already been transformed; these used automobiles can deliver down the prices of a automobile.

Paying in money might be the simplest route for getting and changing a van. It may be cost-effective to promote your property and/or different automobile(s) and use the income. Many individuals don’t have the money required for a serious mission like this readily available. Should you don’t have the money to fund this mission, take into account asking the vendor who offered you your van about financing choices.

If the dealership is unwilling to finance the automobile conversion, there are additionally RV loans and unsecured private loans accessible:

  • RV loans are secured loans designed particularly for the acquisition of leisure automobiles, utilizing the automobile itself as collateral. Lenders provide fee plans with time period lengths as much as 20 years.
  • Unsecured private loans should not backed by collateral, which means you don’t run the danger of shedding your van in the event you can not repay the mortgage. The rates of interest for unsecured private loans are usually larger, particularly for these with poor credit score. You possibly can take out a private mortgage for any objective, making them excellent for a big leisure buy like this.

Getting and changing a van

The price of van life is greater than the preliminary price of the automobile. Changing a van contains shopping for constructing supplies, home equipment and options and, relying on whether or not you propose to do the work your self or not, labor prices.

The quantity you spend relies upon totally on the facilities you select to incorporate, the place you purchase your supplies and the kinds of supplies. Prices additionally rely upon whether or not you rent an organization to handle the conversion or in the event you plan on doing it your self.

DIY conversions are usually inexpensive than skilled conversions. With the DIY method, you may spend as little as $4,000, whereas skilled firms can cost upwards of $100,000 to get the job finished.

A contemporary van conversion that features fundamental facilities usually prices between $5,000 to $15,000. That is simply an estimate, nonetheless. Costs for top-rated van conversion firms are inclined to vary from $12,000 to $35,000. The corporate you select and the way a lot work must be finished will affect the price.

The facilities you’ll be able to embody in your automobile will rely upon its capability for plumbing and electrical. Photo voltaic panels are usually the biggest expense for van lifers, with an off-grid photo voltaic setup starting from a mean of $1,500 to $4,000. Greater objects like fridges for campervans and dealing plumbing additionally are usually bigger bills.

Van life bills

Upon getting transformed your automobile, on a regular basis bills of van life additionally have to be thought of. These bills will largely rely upon private wants and habits.

Your weekly and month-to-month bills rely largely in your consuming and touring habits. Some are simpler to plan for, similar to a health club membership to bathe in the event you don’t have one within the van. Others come up relying on how a lot fuel is at a given time or the place you go to eat.

Present van lifers are inclined to spend anyplace from $1,000 to $3,000 on their month-to-month bills, together with insurance coverage, tenting and leisure charges and miscellaneous bills, in keeping with RV Blogger. Though these figures could seem surprising, it’s vital to notice that the price of many items and companies has risen significantly as a consequence of excessive inflation during the last two years.

Weekly/month-to-month van life bills Common price
Gasoline $200-$500 every week
Paid campsites $300-$3,000+ (relying on the world/facilities included)
RV insurance coverage $80-$165 a month
Gymnasium membership $20-$30
Groceries/meals $400-$1,000

Insurance coverage

Taking out an insurance coverage coverage in your automobile is vital, including a month-to-month expense to your funds. Insurance coverage for leisure automobiles varies by supplier and particular circumstances, however you’ll be able to typically count on to pay between $80 and $165 a month for automobile insurance coverage.


You will need to plan for the worst if you find yourself residing life on the highway, and which means placing cash apart for automobile repairs and every other emergency bills which will come up. Having not less than $500 put aside for emergencies is mostly a good suggestion. It’s higher in the event you can put aside half a 12 months’s price of residing bills as an emergency fund.


Paying state taxes might be difficult whenever you stay in a number of states all year long. It might be a bit simpler if a particular employer employs you, however freelancers who stay on the highway might wish to take into account hiring knowledgeable to assist kind out their state taxes.


Whereas probably the most economical alternative is discovering free campsites in your space, this will likely not all the time be possible. Paid campsites run on a mean of $10-$30 an evening, which means that in the event you keep at a paid campsite each night time for a month, you’ll doubtless pay between $300 and $900 complete.

The underside line

Van life has grow to be extremely well-liked over time, solely growing in reputation because the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a actuality of on a regular basis life. Individuals need to discover journey, freedom and enjoyable in a socially distanced manner.

The phenomenon of widespread distant work has given these with the monetary freedom to take action a singular alternative to hit the highway completely. Nevertheless, shopping for, changing and residing in a leisure automobile is dear and might be cost-prohibitive for a lot of.

If you’re enthusiastic about taking the leap into van life, just be sure you are conscious of all the prices and can be capable of keep your monetary well being and revenue alongside the way in which.

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