Putting the Van in “Vanlife”

The first, and probably greatest, economic cost of vanlife is, unsurprisingly, the van itself. With a multitude of options to choose from, what type of van you get, and how much it costs, ultimately depends on what you want out of it.

Like apartments and houses, there are things like size, ceiling height, and overall style to consider.

Like with buying a car, you have to consider mileage, accident history, miles per gallon and more.

Selecting a van to renovate encompasses the challenges of selecting a living space and selecting a vehicle, so I probably should have known it would take a while.

After having searched far and wide across the internet, I’ve concluded there are two main types of vans:
1) An affordable van from the 1990s to mid 2000s with at least 150,000 miles on it.

Pros: Cheap

Cons: May or may not fall apart on you in the next year and are usually small

2) A nice, new van with low mileage, lots of space and tons of fancy amenities that costs between $25k-$30k

Pros: Good condition, more space, usually under warranty

Cons: $$$$$

Perhaps somewhere in existence there is THE van, the van that has low mileage, decent amounts of space and won’t cost you a small fortune. I haven’t found that van, and I doubt I will.

After much deliberation, I decided the following were what I value most in my future van/home:
-Security (no break downs or break ins)
-Space (not hitting my head on the roof)
-Good mpg (I’m getting a master’s degree in Sustainability, and I aim to avoid hypocrisy)

My biggest held pre-conceived notion was that I would not need much space. I’m 5’3 and have lived in a dorm for years. Surely I could be content in the back of a low-roof Ford Econoline or Chevy Express.

“Space isn’t that big of a deal. You can learn to live out of a backpack if you need to” Akshay, one of my van-dwelling coworkers reassured me.

Maybe that’s true, but sitting in the cargo hold of a used Chevy Express realizing I would inevitably be hitting my head on the ceiling regularly for the rest of my vandwelling days made me reconsider. That, and the fact that most of the ones I could find had too many miles on them and got 14 mpg on a good day.

So, taking all of these aspects into consideration, I’ve decided to (hopefully) purchase a high-top Ford Transit. They offer plenty of space, good security, and they get 24 highway mpg. I plan to go to the bank later this week to see about getting a loan. Until then, expect a major update in the next couple of weeks.

For more updates, follow @truecostofvanlife on Instagram!


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