Would Living in a Van Be a Good Fit For a Student?

If you’re in a hurry and need this answered quick…

YES! Van Living Would Be Perfect For A Student!

Got a few minutes?

Great, let’s talk about what makes it so perfect.

College Student Lives In Car. Hates Self.


With the cost of higher education always on the rise, van life is starting to look like an attractive option to the undergraduate crowd. With the average campus housing coming in at 10k a year on top of already overpriced tuition, its no wonder students are starting to look in to other options.

I know for me personally, when I attended college, I never spent time at home. When I wasn’t in the library studying, I was at one of my two jobs. The time I actually spent at home amounted to about 6 hours a day, and that was spent either showering or sleeping.

I shared an apartment with my cousin at the time because it cost slightly less than on campus living did. The only downside, was that we lived about a half hour away. So I saved money on rent, but paid that back and more in gas and the time it took to drive back and forth.

If only I had known how easy it was to live in a car back then!

Maybe I wouldn’t have had to work my second job, or just maybe I could have given up those twice weekly plasma donations.

The Benefits To Living On Campus

Here’s a helpful hint, all that stuff they give to kids who live on campus, well it’s available to the kids who live off campus too!

Escape from mom and dad's rules...priceless!

You can have all the same amenities of student life by just parking in the area. College campuses often have late night dining, a pool, fitness center, library, and all kinds of social activities. Just because you don’t live on campus doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage, your student ID is all you need.

A fitness center or pool also means free showers and bathrooms if you’re van dwelling. Just walk in and use them.

Another perk is, you’ll probably have lots of friends you can mooch off of for food from meal plans, you just have to ask. Sometimes a parent will choose the meal plan option which includes 3 square meals a day. But, when you’re a kid running around to classes, it’s easy to skip breakfast or lunch and not even think about. My experience is that if they have those meals left over, they will gladly let you have them. At the end of the week, whatever isn’t used is usually lost, so why not take advantage if you can.

College is a huge expense and universities will charge you an arm and a leg for the privilege of putting their name on your resume so you might as well take them for all they’re worth. Look into everything they offer and make sure you take full advantage. After all, you are paying (probably too much) for it.


After Graduation

If you go to a 4 year university, living in a car could save you up to 40k. If you’re working during that time in addition to going to school, you’ll be so much better off than the rest of your class when it comes to starting your new life in the real world.

Welcome to Adulting!

While your peers will be entering a tough job market with 80k in debt and no savings, you’ll have half that debt and some money in the bank. They will end up living with roommates well into their 30s while you’ll have the option of having a nice apartment to yourself, or even having a down payment for a house.

Of course, you could continue to live in a van for a few years, pay off your loans completely and be a productive debt free member of society.

Perhaps you could start investing all that extra cash you saved, or you could just live the rest of your life worry free knowing that your retirement is set and you’re taken care of.

My Story

student live in box truck to save money on housing
Look at all the space I would have had!

When I was 26, I decided to put myself through college because I thought it would lead me to a higher paying job. Unlike some of my peers, I had to pay for the whole shebang out of pocket. I had two jobs that I worked whenever I wasn’t in class, and didn’t have a day off to myself for over a year.

If I had an hour between classes, I would often take naps in my car in the parking lot of Target because I couldn’t afford to go anywhere else and I was just so tired all the time.

When the jobs didn’t cut it in paying for gas to get to work, I ended up having to donate plasma. If you are afraid of needles, this is NOT the way to go. Sure, they pay you 40 bucks a pop, but the needle is basically the diameter of a drinking straw…

If I had known about this lifestyle sooner, it would have saved me years of worry and set me on a much better path in life.


As with anything, there are going to be some downsides. Depending on where you go to school, finding parking can be difficult. Of course, most colleges these days will sell you a parking pass for their lot…but they generally patrol those lots pretty frequently and won’t be happy to find you living there.

college kid lives in rv instead of campus housing
Kids are weird

I’m not saying it’s not possible, but I am saying you have to be extra careful. My post on Stealth Living 101 will give you some good pointers on how to stay out of sight.

Also, when you sleep on a normal side street, you’ll have your fair share of pedestrians or traffic going by; a college on the other hand, will have rowdy students roaming around. If you don’t have ear plugs, you might find yourself being woken up by drunk students in the middle of the night.

Last, everything is just more expensive when it’s located near a college. From convenience stores to gas stations, you’ll pay for the privilege of living close.

Of course, with the money you’ll be saving on housing, you might find that student van life is well worth it. I know I sure would.

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1 thought on “Would Living in a Van Be a Good Fit For a Student?”

  1. Hey,

    First of all thank you for the insightful blog. Second, do you know of any reliable company to purchase camper vans?

    I am an international student commencing a masters program in February 2019. I will be attending the University of Melbourne and the cost of tuition plus rent is looking daunting, hence the idea of living in a van.

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