Is Van Life Expensive?: How Much Does Van Life Cost? A Breakdown of Costs in 2023

Ever dreamt of hitting the open road, exploring new destinations, and living a life of freedom and adventure? Van life might be the answer you’re looking for! But the question remains: is van life expensive? Is it a budget-friendly lifestyle, or will it break the bank? In this blog post, we’ll dive into the costs involved in van life, from initial investments to monthly expenses, and provide tips on how to save money while living this exciting lifestyle.

Key Takeaways

  • Van life offers freedom and unique experiences but requires an initial investment, ongoing monthly expenses, and lifestyle choices to be factored into a budget.
  • Cost-saving strategies such as finding free or affordable camping, minimizing fuel consumption, and budgeting for food can help reduce van life costs.
  • It is essential to have a budget set aside for vehicle maintenance & repairs. Health & medical expenses. As well as exploring options like remote work/freelancing & seasonal jobs/workamping opportunities in order to maintain financial stability while living the van life.

Is Van Life For You?

A couple in a van, enjoying the view of a mountain

Van life can seem like an idyllic way to live, offering endless opportunities for adventure and exploration. However, pondering the pros and cons before committing to this lifestyle choice is a wise approach. One key factor to consider is the cost of van life. From purchasing or converting a van to monthly expenses such as gas, insurance, and campsite fees, having a clear understanding of the financial implications is crucial. Moreover, don’t forget about personal preferences and the fact that living in a van might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

There’s no denying the appeal of van life, with its promise of freedom, flexibility, and adventure. On the other hand, it also comes with challenges such as limited space, lack of privacy, and varying costs. From entertainment options like national parks and ski passes to more mundane expenses like showers, laundry, and propane refills, van life costs can add up quickly. That said, there are ways to save money, and for many van lifers, the positives far outweigh the negatives. To help you navigate these challenges, we’ve put together a van life cost faq.

What to Consider

Before embarking on the van life journey, you must carefully contemplate the associated costs. The initial investment, the monthly expenses, and your individual preferences should be taken into account when determining if you want to live in a van. One of the most significant decisions you’ll face is how to obtain a van. You can purchase a new pre-built campervan, acquire a van and customize it yourself, or find a second-hand van. The costs of these options can vary dramatically, with DIY conversions potentially being the most affordable but time-consuming choice.

Apart from the initial investment, you should also be aware of the typical monthly expenses associated with van life. Gas, insurance, and campsites are the main expenses to keep in mind. In addition, food, entertainment, and personal expenses will also impact your overall cost of living. Conducting thorough research and formulating a realistic budget that aligns with your unique needs and preferences is vital.

The Good and Bad of Van Life

Living the van life offers the unparalleled freedom to explore new places and enjoy unique experiences. Many van lifers take advantage of National Parks Passes, ski passes, and surf rentals as sources of entertainment while on the road. Personal expenses, such as souvenirs, gifts, and even gym memberships for access to shower facilities, also add to the overall cost of van life.

However, van life also comes with its fair share of challenges. Some of these challenges include:

  • Limited space
  • Lack of privacy
  • Varying monthly costs
  • Finding reliable internet access for remote work
  • Dealing with vehicle maintenance and repairs

These challenges can add stress to the already unpredictable nature of van life and may make it a less-than-perfect lifestyle choice for some.

Nevertheless, for many, the positives outweigh the negatives, making van life an adventure worth pursuing and a van purchase a worthwhile investment.

Understanding the Costs of Van Life

A van parked in a campsite with a view of a lake

To comprehend the cost of van life, one must become familiar with the various types of expenses involved. These can be broken down into three main categories:

  1. Initial investment (buying or converting a van)
  2. Monthly expenses (fuel, insurance, campsites)
  3. Lifestyle choices (food, entertainment, personal expenses)

By having a clear understanding of these costs, you can create a realistic budget and make informed decisions about whether van life is the right choice for you.

Initial Investment: Buying or Converting a Van

The initial investment required for van life can vary significantly, and you might question how much does it cost? Well, it ranges from a few thousand dollars to more than $100,000. This depends on factors such as whether you choose to purchase a new or used van, and if you opt for a DIY conversion or hire a professional. Conducting detailed research into the costs associated with each option is a key step in determining the best path for your budget and preferences.

While purchasing a pre-owned van or converting one yourself can be more cost-effective, there are potential drawbacks to consider. A used van may require additional maintenance and repairs, while a DIY conversion can be time-consuming and may necessitate more ongoing maintenance. Understanding the pros and cons of each approach will help you make the best decision for your van life journey.

Monthly Expenses: Gas, Insurance, and Campsites

Once you’ve sorted out your initial investment, you’ll need to consider your monthly van life expenses. Some of the biggest van life costs associated with living in a van include camper van costs such as:

  • Fuel costs: A van lifer can expect to spend between $200 and $600 each month on gas, depending on the fuel efficiency of their vehicle, the current gas prices, and the frequency of their travels.
  • Insurance premiums: Insurance costs can vary, with annual premiums for a van typically ranging from $1,000 to $2,000.
  • Campsite fees: The cost of campsite fees can vary depending on the location and amenities offered. So, how much does van life cost in total? It depends on your lifestyle and choices.

These are just a few examples of the expenses you may encounter while living in a van. It’s important to budget and plan accordingly to ensure you can cover these costs.

Considering the cost of campsites when planning your monthly budget is important. While some van lifers choose to boondock (camp for free on public lands), others prefer the amenities and security offered by paid campgrounds. The cost of these campgrounds can vary greatly depending on location, amenities, and demand. Researching campsite costs and budgeting accordingly can help you avoid unexpected expenses.

Lifestyle Choices: Food, Entertainment, and Personal Expenses

A picture of a van parked in a scenic location, representing the question is van life expensive

Your lifestyle choices can significantly impact your overall van life cost. Food and entertainment expenses, such as dining out or participating in paid activities, can quickly add up. By cooking meals in your van, shopping at affordable grocery stores, and limiting dining out, you can save money on food costs.

Additionally, prioritizing free or low-cost entertainment options and being mindful of personal expenses will help keep your van life costs in check.

Saving Money on Van Life Costs

A person looking at a map, planning their route

Finding ways to save money is key to optimizing your van life experience while minimizing costs. This includes seeking out free or affordable camping options for your camper van, minimizing fuel consumption, and budgeting for food and groceries.

By applying these strategies, you can relish in the freedom and adventure of van life without straining your finances.

Finding Free or Affordable Camping Options

One way to save money on van life costs, including rv insurance, is by finding free or low-cost camping options. Resources like iOverlander and The Dyrt Pro can help you locate free campsites, campgrounds, and RV parks. Additionally, many state and national parks offer discounted rates for seniors, veterans, and other groups. By taking advantage of these resources and camping options, you can significantly reduce your accommodation expenses.

Another option for affordable camping is to join networks like Harvest Hosts, which offers an annual membership fee of $99, granting access to over 3,000 wineries, farms, breweries, and golf courses in the US for free overnight camping. By exploring these various camping options, you can save money and enjoy a diverse range of experiences while living the van life.

Minimizing Fuel Consumption

Fuel costs are one of the biggest van life expenses, but there are ways to minimize your consumption. Here are some tips to help reduce your fuel costs:

  • Plan your travel routes efficiently
  • Camp for longer periods in one location
  • Choose a fuel-efficient van
  • Maintain a consistent speed
  • Avoid rapid acceleration and deceleration
  • Use cruise control when available

By following these tips, you can maximize your fuel efficiency and save money on gas costs.

By implementing these strategies, you can significantly reduce your fuel costs, allowing you to allocate more of your budget towards other aspects of van life. Remember, the more efficiently you travel, the more money you’ll save on gas, which can then be used for exciting adventures and experiences along the way.

Budgeting for Food and Groceries

Food costs can also add up quickly while living the van life. To save money, consider cooking meals in your van and shopping at affordable grocery stores. By preparing meals at home and avoiding dining out, you can not only save money but also maintain a healthier diet.

Additionally, stocking up on non-perishable food items and purchasing groceries in bulk can further reduce your food expenses, allowing you to enjoy your van life experience without worrying about overspending on food.

Preparing for Unexpected Van Life Expenses

A person doing maintenance on a van

Van life can be full of surprises, hence being prepared for unexpected expenses is crucial. Setting aside funds for vehicle maintenance, repairs, and health or medical expenses can help you avoid financial stress when unforeseen issues arise.

Planning for potential costs and maintaining an emergency fund equips you to handle any challenges that may arise during your van life journey.

Vehicle Maintenance and Repairs

Allocating a portion of your budget for vehicle maintenance and repairs is crucial for avoiding financial stress when unexpected issues arise. Regular maintenance, such as oil changes, tire rotations, and brake pad replacements, can help prevent more serious problems down the line. Furthermore, it’s wise to save funds for any unanticipated repairs, such as engine or transmission issues.

By having a dedicated budget for vehicle maintenance and repairs, you can address any issues quickly and efficiently, ensuring your van remains in top condition throughout your travels. This not only helps maintain the value of your van but also provides peace of mind knowing you’re prepared for any unexpected challenges that may arise.

Health and Medical Expenses

When living the van life, it’s essential to ensure you have adequate health insurance coverage, as well as auto insurance. In addition to insurance premiums, set aside funds for any out-of-pocket expenses you may incur, such as co-payments, deductibles, or medications. By having a budget for health and medical expenses, you can avoid financial stress and ensure you receive the care you need when you need it.

Preparing for health and medical expenses also means taking care of your mental and emotional well-being. Living in a small space and constantly being on the move can be challenging, so it’s essential to prioritize self-care and make time for relaxation and personal growth. By taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health, you can fully enjoy the van life experience and all it has to offer.

Earning Income While Living the Van Life

A person working on a laptop in a van

Embracing the van life doesn’t necessarily require sacrificing your income. In fact, there are several ways to earn money while traveling and enjoying this unique lifestyle. Some options include:

  • Remote work
  • Freelancing
  • Seasonal jobs
  • Workamping opportunities

These options can provide the flexibility and income needed to support your van life journey.

Exploring these various options enables you to maintain financial stability and sustain your road adventures.

Remote Work and Freelancing

Remote work and freelancing offer the flexibility and ability to work from anywhere, making them ideal options for van lifers. With the rise of digital nomads and an increasing number of companies embracing remote work, opportunities in various fields are becoming more accessible. However, working remotely while living in a van can come with its own set of challenges, such as finding reliable internet access and staying focused amidst distractions.

Establishing a dedicated workspace and creating a balanced schedule of work and leisure time is fundamental to succeeding in remote work and freelancing while living the van life. By setting boundaries and managing your time effectively, you can enjoy the flexibility and freedom of van life while still maintaining a steady income.

Seasonal Jobs and Workamping

For those who prefer short-term employment opportunities while traveling, seasonal jobs and workamping options may be the perfect fit. These jobs often provide a unique way to explore new locations while earning income to offset van life costs. Examples of suitable seasonal jobs for van lifers include:

  • Ski technicians
  • National park workers
  • Summer camp counselors
  • Campground rangers

Our affordable subscription plans, starting at just $9.99 per month, offer a wide range of features and benefits to suit your needs. With our user-friendly platform, you can easily manage your account, track your progress, and access valuable resources. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to invest in your personal and professional growth.

By taking on seasonal jobs and workamping opportunities, you can:

  • Gain valuable work experience
  • Make meaningful connections with people from all walks of life
  • Have ample time to explore your surroundings
  • Fully immerse yourself in the van life experience while living in a van full time


In conclusion, van life offers a unique opportunity to embrace freedom, adventure, and a more minimalist lifestyle. While the costs of van life can vary greatly depending on factors such as initial investment, monthly expenses, and lifestyle choices, there are numerous ways to save money and make this way of living more affordable. By carefully considering the costs, preparing for unexpected expenses, and finding ways to earn income while on the road, you can fully experience all the benefits that van life has to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it cheaper to live in Van Life?

Overall, living in a van full time can be a cost-effective solution, as it eliminates rent and some bills. However, other costs like insurance, breakdown cover and fuel should also be taken into consideration before making the decision.

How to afford full time van life?

Save and cut unnecessary expenses, prepare to do any job, travel with someone, sell what you don’t need, swallow your pride, eat better, be resourceful, and manage your time better to afford a full-time van life.

How hard is it to live the van life?

Living the van life is a full time job that requires a lot of intentionality and effort for even simple tasks like finding water and parking spots. It also requires knowledge of dump stations if an RV toilet is in use.

What is the average cost of van life?

The average cost of van life can vary significantly, depending on the initial investment, monthly expenses and lifestyle choices. It’s important to create a budget that works for you.

Can I work remotely while living the van life?

Yes, it is possible to work remotely while living the van life – freelancing or remote work provides the flexibility needed. However, it’s important to have reliable internet access and a dedicated workspace.

Sign up for our money-making tips and insights newsletter

Get Hustling!

Don't worry, We never Spam