Living in a Van Full Time: Everything You Need to Know

Discover the Freedom of Van Life: Essentials for Comfort and Sustainability on the Road.

Top down view of a man relaxing on top of a DIY build camper van.

There’s a certain charm and allure that comes with the idea of living in a van full-time. The freedom to go wherever you please, whenever you want is an enticing prospect for many.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a novice adventurer, this comprehensive guide aims to provide you with all the necessary information and tools to make your van life experience as enjoyable, comfortable, and sustainable as possible.

With monthly costs ranging from $800 to $2000, van life can also be a financially viable lifestyle.

Buckle up and join us on this journey!

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Preparing for Van Life

St Neots, Cambridgeshire, England - July 22, 2021: White VW  Volkswagen Auto Sleeper Camper Van parked on camp site.

Choosing the Right Vehicle

Choosing the right vehicle for your van life is crucial. The type of vehicle you opt for will depend on several factors including your budget, the number of occupants, the intended use (weekend trips or full-time living), and personal preferences.

You should also consider factors such as fuel efficiency, maintenance, and repair costs, as well as the availability of spare parts.

Evaluating Your Options

Whether you’re looking at new or used vans, it’s important to conduct thorough research and evaluations before making a purchase.

Inspect the vehicle thoroughly, checking for any signs of damage or potential mechanical issues.

If possible, take the vehicle for a test drive to get a feel for how it handles on the road. Don’t forget to check the vehicle’s history to avoid any hidden problems.

Full Time or Weekend Warrior: What’s your Approach?

Family vacation travel RV, holiday trip in motorhome, Caravan car Vacation.

Before you embark on your van life journey, you need to determine what approach you’ll be taking. Will you be living in the van full time or only using it for weekend trips?

This decision will affect many aspects of your van life, including the type of vehicle you choose, how you outfit your van, and your budget.

Making Van Life Sustainable

Making van life sustainable involves careful planning and consideration.

You need to figure out how you’ll generate income on the road, how you’ll manage your resources, and how you’ll stay connected to the world.

Remember, sustainability doesn’t just refer to financial stability; it also encompasses physical, mental, and environmental sustainability.

For example, choosing reusable items over disposable ones can help reduce your impact on the environment.

Essential Tips for Living in a Van

Broken down camper vehicle on road.

Expectation Management

While van life can be an incredible adventure, it’s important to keep your expectations realistic. Not every day will be filled with breathtaking views and exciting adventures.

There will be days where you’ll face challenges like finding a safe place to park for the night or dealing with mechanical issues.

It’s important to remember that these challenges are part of the journey and often lead to valuable learning experiences.

Investing in a Mechanically Sound Vehicle

Odense, Denmark - 10 June, 2021: gray camper van in a modern garage up on the car lift  with a car mechanic underneath

A mechanically sound vehicle is perhaps the most crucial part of van life. Regular preventative maintenance can save you from costly repairs down the line.

Keep up with regular oil changes, tire rotations, and other routine maintenance tasks.

If you’re not mechanically inclined, it’s a good idea to learn some basic vehicle maintenance skills or ensure you have access to reliable roadside assistance.

Sizing Your Electrical System

Powering your appliances and devices is another critical aspect of van life. Depending on your needs, you might need to invest in a solar power system or a generator.

When sizing your system, consider all the devices you plan on running, their power consumption, and how often you’ll use them.

Also, consider your travel habits; if you plan to stay in areas with little sunlight, you might need an alternative source of energy.

Utilizing Paid Campsites

Campers parked side by side at campsite in early morning

While free camping spots can be a great way to save money, don’t discount paid campsites.

They often come with amenities like showers, laundry facilities, and Wi-Fi, and can provide a safe and legal place to park for the night.

Some campsites even offer long-term rates, which can be cost-effective if you plan to stay in one area for a while.

Test Driving the Lifestyle

Before committing to van life full time, it’s a good idea to test the waters first. Rent a van for a week or so and hit the road.

This trial run can give you a taste of what van life is really like and help you identify any potential issues or challenges you may need to address before moving into a van full time.

Navigating Parking Solutions

Camper and lighthouse at the dusk

Finding a safe and legal place to park your van overnight can be one of the biggest challenges of van life.

Familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations, and always respect private property and public spaces.

Websites and apps like iOverlander can be invaluable resources for finding potential parking spots.

Remember, the goal is to leave no trace and maintain good relationships with locals and fellow van lifers.

Maintaining Cleanliness

Cleaning Motorhome Camper Van Interior. Caucasian Worker in His 40s with Industrial Grade Vacuum Cleaner. Recreational Vehicles Theme.

Keeping your van clean is essential for both your comfort and health.

Regularly clean and organize your space, and consider investing in compact cleaning tools like a handheld vacuum.

Consider how you’ll manage waste disposal as well; keeping trash bags handy and disposing of your waste responsibly is a key part of maintaining cleanliness.

Long-term Considerations

Consider how you’ll handle things like mail and healthcare.

For mail, you might consider using a mail forwarding service. As for healthcare, look into telemedicine services and travel insurance options.

Also, think about your social needs; while van life can offer incredible freedom, it can also be isolating.

Keeping in touch with friends and family and making connections on the road can go a long way in combating loneliness.

Creating Your Living Space

Insulating Your Van

Insulation is an essential part of any van conversion. It helps keep your van warm in the winter and cool in the summer, making your living space more comfortable.

Additionally, proper insulation can assist in reducing condensation inside the van, which can lead to mold and rust issues down the line.

Best Practices for Insulating Your Van

There are several types of insulation suitable for van conversions, including foam board, spray foam, wool, and reflectix.

The best type for you will depend on various factors, including your budget, the climate you’ll be traveling in, and the amount of space you have to work with.

Regardless of the type of insulation you choose, ensure that it’s properly installed to maximize its effectiveness.

Designing the Interior Layout

Installing Floors, Walls, and Ceiling

The installation of your floors, walls, and ceiling will largely depend on your specific needs and preferences. When deciding on materials, consider factors like weight, cost, durability, and insulation properties.

Ensure your floor is level before installing anything on it, and remember to measure twice and cut once when fitting your walls and ceiling.

Building Furniture and Securely Attaching Them

When designing and building your furniture, prioritize functionality and space efficiency. Consider versatile pieces that serve multiple functions, like a bed that converts into a seating area.

Also, think about storage solutions to help keep your space tidy. Remember, everything in the van must be securely attached to withstand the rigors of travel.

Setting Up Your Power System

Solar Panels and Battery Systems

Solar panels are a popular choice for van life as they provide a renewable source of energy that’s perfect for powering appliances and charging devices.

You’ll also need a battery system to store the energy produced by the solar panels.

The size and capacity of your solar setup will depend on your power needs, so make sure to calculate these before making a purchase.

Managing Power Off-Grid

Managing your power usage is crucial when living off-grid. Monitor your power consumption and adjust your usage as necessary.

Invest in energy-efficient appliances and devices, and try to use natural light as much as possible.

Also, consider having a backup power source, such as a generator or power bank, for emergencies.

Selecting Essential Appliances

Eureka! Ignite Plus Portable Two-Burner Camping Stove

Choosing the right appliances can greatly enhance your comfort and convenience on the road. Some must-haves include a cooking stove, a water filtration system, and a cooler.

For cooking, the Eureka Ignite Plus camp stove is a great option, while the Clearsource RV Water Filter provides clean drinking water.

The RTIC Soft Pack Cooler keeps your food fresh, and the Aeropress Go Travel Coffee Press ensures you can always enjoy a cup of coffee no matter where you are.

Other essentials to consider are a durable blanket and a portable shower.

Health and Hygiene in Van Life

Planning for Sleeping Arrangements

Point of view of the legs of friends inside a car enjoying together. Adult women enjoying a vacation in a camper van. Van life.

A good night’s sleep is essential, so investing in a comfortable bed is a priority. Consider the size of your van and your sleeping preferences when choosing your bed.

Some opt for a fixed bed, while others prefer a convertible bed that doubles as a seating area during the day.

Don’t forget about bedding – choose materials that are easy to clean and suitable for the various climates you’ll encounter.

Solutions for Washing and Personal Hygiene

Keeping clean on the road can be a challenge, but it’s absolutely doable. For washing, consider portable showers or, if space allows, installing a small shower inside your van.

For personal hygiene, wet wipes, hand sanitizers, and biodegradable soaps are practical options. Many van lifers also utilize public facilities like gyms or community centers for showers.

Handling Waste Disposal

Connecting sewer hose to RV holding tanks, to dump wastewater and sewage

Waste disposal is a critical aspect of van life that shouldn’t be overlooked. For solid waste, some van lifers opt for portable composting toilets, while others prefer to use public restrooms whenever possible.

For greywater (wastewater from sinks and showers), consider a tank system that allows you to dispose of the water at designated dump stations.

Always follow the leave-no-trace principles and dispose of all waste responsibly.

Staying Healthy and Happy on the Road

Young man piggybacking his girlfriend near the coast with camper van in the background

Maintaining good physical and mental health is crucial when living on the road. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleep habits are key.

But it’s not just about physical health; keeping mentally healthy is equally important.

Stay connected with loved ones, take time for hobbies and interests, and make sure to take breaks and relax.

The Social Aspect of Van Life

Meeting New People

One of the joys of van life is the opportunity to meet new people and form connections along the way.

Whether it’s fellow van lifers, locals in the areas you visit, or people you meet during your travels, these connections can greatly enrich your van life experience.

Joining the Van Life Community

The Vanlife community is a tight-knit and supportive group of individuals who share a love for the van life lifestyle.

Joining online forums, and Facebook groups, or attending van life gatherings and meetups can provide you with a sense of belonging and a wealth of knowledge and resources.

It’s a great way to connect with like-minded individuals and learn from their experiences.

FAQs about Van Life

How Much Money Do You Need To Live in a Camper Van?

The cost of living in a camper van can vary greatly depending on your lifestyle, location, and personal choices.

Some van lifers manage to live on as little as $800 per month, while others may spend around $1500-$2000 per month.

It’s important to carefully budget and plan for expenses such as food, fuel, campsite fees, maintenance, and emergencies.

Is Living in a Camper Van Cheaper Than Renting?

Living in a camper van can be significantly cheaper than renting an apartment or house.

With lower monthly costs and the ability to travel and explore different areas without the need for accommodations, van life can be a more cost-effective option.

However, it’s important to consider other factors such as vehicle maintenance and repair costs, insurance, and unforeseen expenses.

Is it Possible to Live in a Van Full Time?

Absolutely! Many people have successfully transitioned to living in a van full time and have found it to be a rewarding and fulfilling lifestyle.

However, it’s important to thoroughly research, plan, and prepare before making the leap.

Consider factors such as downsizing your possessions, choosing the right vehicle, and creating a sustainable income source.

What is it Like Living in a Van Full Time?

Living in a van full time offers a unique and adventurous lifestyle. It provides the freedom to explore new places, connect with nature, and live a simpler, more intentional life.

However, it also comes with challenges such as finding suitable parking, managing resources, and adapting to a smaller living space.

It’s a lifestyle that requires adaptability, resourcefulness, and a love for adventure.

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