Living in a van has its perks. With rent higher than what most people make in a month, many younger adults have decided to hit the road. Besides, why pay to live in a place you don’t really like when you can live anywhere you want? Side note: America needs a “Boogie Van” resurgence.
A Total Van Build Will Cost Around $10K
Depending on how old and how well kept the wagon is, it may even cost you less. Most vehicles that run “great” cost upwards of $7-$8k. Typically, these also have the minor conversions already installed, so instead of buying a one for 3k and putting another $3-$5k into making it run and another $2.5-3k in sprucing it up, you can buy one outright. It’s easier than putting all the work in.
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One of the hardest parts about buying a used van is finding out how much you’re going to spend and how much you’re going to get out of it. I’ll never forget my first friend who bought a 1993 Chevy van. We stripped everything out of the back. All we had was a table that we half-ass drilled into the floor. That was it. The van cost us $800 and a little under that to have it registered and ready to go. It got us to Arkansas and back so we definitely got our money’s worth out of it. For those who like to plan ahead a little bit more, then searching for the right one might take some time.
Finding the right one can be a hassle and you might need to drive a bit further than you expect. If you have to drive halfway across the country then you want to make sure the van is well-equipped to make the drive home on the day of sale. That might be a little over the $10k mark.
For most places (like Los Angeles) rents are way too high. I get it, the idea is to squeeze out lower-income renters to make room for the people who have the money to pay for it, but… let those people have it. You can have a sweet van to live in. But if we’re going to do the math:
The overall upstart cost of living the van life is going to be $10k. Now, for the next year (and depending on how many miles that you drive) your expenses are going to fluctuate. I would add another $10k in expenses to your yearly list. Still, this comes out far lower than the minimum $1500 at least for a single bedroom in LA. For your first year, after your build, you’ll be spending slightly more. BUT after that first year, you’ll have everything set up. Adding the cost of maintenance and repairs you’ll be looking at roughly $9-$11k/year. When replacing things like the alternator, battery, and starter, you’ll have the option for a lifetime warranty on those (you’ll want the lifetime warranty).