One of the most common inquiries around van life is, “What is the Cost of living in a van per month?” It’s also one of the hardest questions to answer. The reality is that it is situational. The way people live and how much they pay for things vary greatly from person to person and location to location. It all boils down to whether you approach van life as a holiday or whether you keep to the same budget as you would if you were living in your regular house.
You have the option of keeping things simple and living out of your van on a tight budget, or you may spend more money on extras like paid campsites with amenities, eating out, paid excursions and activities, gym memberships, and so on. You can manage van life on a budget by preparing your own meals, sleeping at free camping sites, and more. We’ll discuss more about how to save money when traveling.
living in a van cost– Things To Consider
There are two types of charges or expenses that we should be aware of. One is a one-time expense with a fixed nature, while the other is a monthly cost with a variable or recurring nature that you must take care of.
First, let’s look at the one time expenses.
- A Camper's Purchase Price & cost of conversion
First and foremost, the RV you purchase will be the most expensive initial investment. There are a lot of things that one has to consider while buying an RV. Have a look at RV buying complete guide Part 1 and Part 2. Some individuals choose to keep their existing vehicles and make the switch. They convert very little, if at all, and are quite content with their way of life. Some people invest around $40,000 on a 4WD Sprinter van. In addition, $15,000 is needed for hi-tech motorhome conversion.
Note:- These are not to consider the cost of living in a van per month. These two are of fixed nature and hence, should be treated accordingly.
Remember that conversion may cost as little or as much as you desire, just like buying furnishings for your home. Self-contained toilets, solar electricity, and freezers are all nice-to-haves, but they aren’t necessities for the lifestyle. Build within your financial means and set aside money for unexpected expenses.
The cost of converting a van may vary greatly depending on who is doing it. Here are some approximate figures for the new unit of vans, which are quite popular for van life conversion projects.
- The Dodge Promaster panel van, which starts at about $33,000, is the most affordable option.
- The base price of a Ford Transit is $37,000.
- The Mercedes Sprinter, which has a four-wheel drive and costs approximately $56,000, is the most costly model.
Purchasing and registering a van incurs taxes, which are often overlooked as a cost. For instance, sprinter Van owners in Utah spend $700 a year in registration fees and an additional $2,000 for an extended warranty on their vehicles.
It’s obvious that purchasing a secondhand RV may save you money, whether it’s totally empty or one that has already been transformed.
- DIY Conversion
You can estimate the cost of your van conversion after you know how much your empty vehicle will cost. Again, costs differ based on whether you do the conversion yourself or pay a company to do it for you. People have reported doing their own vehicle conversions for between $10,000 and $20,000 on the cheap. To accomplish this, you’d have to search around for supplies to get the greatest deal, use used materials wherever feasible, and do everything yourself. For this budget, I’d expect a simple design without a lot of extraneous components.
If you have more money to spend, consider outsourcing the portions of the construction you’re not as familiar with, upgrading your power system or how your water system gonna work, and improving the level of detail in your layout.
- Hire a conversion company
The cost of hiring a conversion company will be determined by a variety of variables, including the company’s degree of expertise, the complexity of the project, and the quality of the materials and parts they are installing. If you’re looking for a newer conversion firm, expect to pay between $40,000 and $60,000. In other words, if they charge more than that, and they don’t have any prior experience, you should proceed with caution.
The cost of a complete conversion may range from $125,000 to $175,000 for more experienced businesses with a larger portfolio of vehicles. Despite the fact that this seems extravagant, vans of this grade produced by reputable manufacturers tend to retain their value.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there is no specific correct way to live in a camper. It doesn’t matter how you live your van life as long as it doesn’t put you in financial peril. It’s true that people who choose to live in a basic van and stick to a limited budget are happier than others who spend a lot of money on a fancy van. Also, some van owners believe the money they spent on their vehicles was well spent. Regardless of what others say, you should be content with your decision as long as you are pleased with it.
Now, there are some major categories to calculate the total cost of living in a van per month.
Buying full van conversion insurance has proved to be time-consuming and costly. This does not, however, imply that it is not healthy for you! When the correct person answers the phone at the right moment, you’re miraculously protected for a reasonable price.
So, what’s the price? Some customers pay $60 a month, while others shell out $250 a month. Even though the industry hasn’t completely embraced the van life lifestyle, there’s a broad range of options available. Unfortunately, this provides a lot of room for ambiguity and wide ranges of pricing.
cost of insurance: ranging from $60 to well over $250.
- Payment for the Van loan
This is an additional cost of living in a van per month to consider if you have a van loan. There are a number of options to get a vehicle without taking out a loan. However, if you are certain that this way of life is right for you, you may want to consider getting a loan to make it happen.
If you hired contractors to finish your conversion, your financial plan would fall under this category as well.
Cost of debts: If you took out a loan to buy your vehicle, you can anticipate spending around $300 a month. If you’re paying for the whole project out of your own pocket, expect to pay much more.
- Takeout + Alcohol + Groceries
As previously said, how you choose to eat greatly influences this figure. In addition, how much you drink (or don’t) will also have an impact!
However, I believe a fair rule of thumb is, with every member in your home (van holds), to anticipate spending approximately $60/week on food. All meals, coffee, and snacks are included. In other words, it costs approximately $8.60 a day for each individual. This is how you can make the easy calculation of the future cost of living in a van per month.
Just like it would be in a normal home, shopping for food & stuff becomes cheaper as the number of people increases. This is because bulk purchases make sense.
Eating out will, of course, raise that amount from time to time.
This figure doesn’t include coffee cafes. If you are working remotely from your van, it’s great to stop by a coffee shop for good internet access and spend a productive day. Of course, there is a price to pay. Let’s suppose you spend $5-10 every time you walk at a coffee shop. Be prepared to factor this in, since a few dollars here and there may soon add up!
Cost of living in a van per month for groceries & stuff: Depending on your preferences, expect to bill about $240/month to $300/month for one person and $400/month to $500/month for two people.
- Fuel Cost
This is the most dynamic of all the categories, for reasons I’m sure you’ve noticed. Expect this figure to remain low if you intend to spend all of your time in the same city. However, if you wish to run across the nation on a regular basis, this figure will rise.
This is also dependent on how much gas your vehicle uses. For instance, T1N 2006 Diesel Sprinter is extremely efficient, which is one of the many reasons for its popularity among vanlifers. However, this isn’t true for all vehicles. Remember, fuel consumption can accelerate your cost of living in a van per month, so plan it wisely.
As a result of the global epidemic, people are spending most of their time inside a 25-kilometer radius. This implies they won’t be driving much. Their diesel heater consumes more gasoline from the tank in the winter than it does in any other season. However, it burns $200-$250 a month on gas.
No need to mention but if you have a trailer, consider fuel consumption for your main vehicle.
cost of fuel: This is very dependent on your situation. If you’re going on a road trip, budget anything from $200 to $500 each month.
Netflix and Amazon are examples, as are gym subscriptions and roadside assistance.
Personally, I think that having a monthly or annual roadside assistance membership is one of the most underrated monthly expenditures a vanlifer can have. You never know when your vehicle may stop working and you will be stuck in the desert. Simply pay the $13-$18 monthly charge and relax! Such a subscription helps to make health plans on the cost of living in a van per month.
After the pandemic is over, a gym membership is another excellent monthly subscription. You don’t have to go to the gym if you don’t want to; instead, utilize it as a bathing option. It’s wonderful to arrive in a city with a gym and know that you’ll be able to sleep well that night.
Cost: Expect to pay about $30 each month for a few different subscriptions, depending on what you subscribe to.
- Internet + Phone
If you intend on working from your vehicle, you should think about your internet options. Either increase the data limit on your existing phone plan or invest in a mobile router.
Most individuals just utilize their phone’s limitless data to create a hotspot and use public wifi whenever feasible. Being someone who works remotely, it works great for them.
Cost: Depending on your requirements, expect to pay anything from $50 to $150 each month.
- Spending some Extras
It’s great to have a separate budget for fun things. Maybe it’s a piece of clothes from a store. Maybe it’s the time you need to pay for municipal parking and fill up your water tank. In any case, budgeting an additional $100 each month is a smart idea. And if you don’t spend it, you’ll get it back as extra money!
Cost of living in a van per month for some entertainment purposes: around $100/month.
Now for the last part, which many people miss. Maintenance. If you’re going to convert a van into a house, you should treat it as such. What exactly does this imply? It entails planning ahead and setting away money on a monthly basis in case unexpected costs arise.
You may set away $100 each month, or perhaps more, for unexpected emergencies. In addition, It is recommended that you set aside $50 each month for maintenance expenses. Oil changes, gasoline filters, and other maintenance items fall under this category. This is so that when unexpected expenditures arise, as they will, your financial account is not taken aback. Instead, be prepared and have a separate fund that will not drain your savings account or leave you weeping.
costs van maintenance: Put aside as much as your budget will allow. $100-150/month is suggested.
I hope you now have a better understanding of the fundamental expenses to consider while totaling up the cost of living in a van per month. These aren’t the only ones; there may be more but only you can encounter and deal with.
Having an additional miscellaneous category within your budget plan, which will always keep you secure, is a smart tip to keep everything under control.
Some practical tips to reduce the cost of living in a van per month
- Make use of free camping areas. It cannot be emphasized that camping for free is the most cost-effective method to save money on the road.
- Make a route plan. Consider remaining in one place for days–or even weeks–rather than crisscrossing the nation many times. You’ll save a lot of money on petrol this way.
- Prepare your own meals. It is nearly always less expensive to prepare your own meals than to dine out. Experiment with making simple meals or reheating leftover meals for breakfast the next day.
- Cooking with less fuel is a good idea. If you have access to free firewood, roasting food over a campfire is less expensive than heating with gas. When cooking, keep in mind the expense of fuel.
- When cooking food in a saucepan, use lids to keep the heat contained.
- If you’re using gas or electricity, avoid utilizing recipes with lengthy cook periods.
- Use your imagination when it comes to no-cook dinners (sandwiches, salads, snack mixes)
- Reduce your water use. There are many instances when you may get free water refills. If you can’t, try to save water as much as possible.
- When cooking, use as little water as possible.
- Instead of water, clean and sanitize using white wine vinegar.
- Reduce the number of dishes you have so that cleaning takes less time.
- Think about how you’ll store your food. Not everyone needs a $1000 Dometic refrigerator with a solar system to power it. With a big camping cooler, you can easily get by. When it comes to all major appliances, consider your lifestyle and consider your choices. Worse, wasting money and space by allowing food to spoil is a waste of both.
- Reduce your use of power. Every electric item you add to your camper will need a more powerful energy system. When you add an induction burner to your system, you’re not only getting a burner; you’re also getting additional solar panels and a bigger battery bank. Use anything other than a coffee machine to prepare your morning cup of joe!
- Wrap yourself with a blanket. Many people believe they need a heater in the winter, although this is far from the case. Unless you live in Canada, you can probably make it through the winter by wrapping up or sleeping near some hot water bottles.
- Use public spaces to your advantage. Have trouble keeping cool this summer? Buying an air conditioner is more expensive than walking around the mall during the day. Without investing in a mobile phone signal booster, you can access the internet on the road at Starbucks or the local library.
- Make use of memberships. Perform a cost-benefit analysis for all of your operations. For example, a US National Park Pass costs less than $100 a year and provides you access to dozens of parks and leisure sites, which is more than enough activity to occupy a day.
- Use a less expensive phone plan. There are other networks besides Verizon and T-mobile out there. Visible is a service that utilizes Verizon Network towers but at a lower cost. Make your study and locate the plan that best suits your needs.
- Purchase a pre-owned camper van. You may believe that financing a new car is the most cost-effective method to save money on repairs, but this isn’t always the case. You can save hundreds of dollars by learning how to look for a secondhand camper van and mastering some basic repairs on YouTube University.
- Maintain your van and drive safely. The easiest approach to minimize unexpected expenses is to have oil changes, keep your tires inflated, drive the speed limit, and avoid parking fines.
Final cost of living in a van per month (GRAND TOTAL)
Let’s pretend there are two tiers of vanlife monthly expenses for the purpose of calculating an exact total.
First Level: Getting a Glimpse of a Budget – Keep your cost of living in a van per month below $1000.
You’re attempting to save money and aren’t afraid to be a little creative. You don’t owe any debts, you got fortunate with low-cost insurance, and you own your vehicle entirely.
Expecting to spend on van life costs about $900 per month to live an adventurous life that enables you to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
Second Level: Excessive Living
You have a reliable source of income and have decided to finance your vehicle and convert it. You aren’t scared to spend a little more on some items. You have some debts and used to live in a reasonably priced apartment.
Expecting to spend on living in a van costs approximately $1900 per month to live a nice life that allows you to remain rent-free while paying off the construction and other debts.
Hopefully, you can see how situational your van life monthly expenditures may be. That, though, is the charm of van life. The freedom to choose how much you want to spend monthly and where you want to invest your money is what attracts so many people to the lifestyle. This style of living provides an unmatched level of freedom. There is no other style of life that enables you to travel about freely while yet having financial control over the life you want.
When it comes down to it, you’re the one who knows how to live. It’s great to believe you can spend thousands each month, but is it realistic given who you are and how you want to live? Only you are aware of this.
The fun part you can do is sit down with a pen and paper and be frank with yourself about your present spending patterns as well as your future plans. By doing so, you’ll have a good idea of what your cost of living in a van per month will be like and may prepare accordingly.
Comment Below:- What are your monthly expenses for van life and if you are thinking of starting one, what are the things that you want to add to the list?