What to Consider When Searching For a Van to Live In

When it comes to finding the perfect new home for your #VanLife, there are a lot of different factors to consider.


Do you want something pre-built or do you feel comfortable converting a van to live in?

Do you want something large and flashy like a brand new Class B Winnebago with all the bells and whistles, or do you want something closer to the super stealth Ford campervan that we have?

What is your budget?


Making a decision can be incredibly hard, but if you ask yourself these simple questions, you’ll find your perfect new van dwelling in no time!

Who Is Going To Be Living In The Van With You?

I’ve said before that if I could do it all over again, I would have moved into a car much sooner. During my single years I lived with a plethora of roommates to save money and often sacrificed amenities because I’m an introvert.

For example, in the house I shared with 7 other people, I would refuse to use the kitchen if anyone else was home. But when you live with 7 people, someone is always home. So I just never used the kitchen.

I was basically already living in a van if you think about it.

family living in a bus
If the Partridge Family could do it…

Say what you will about me being a weirdo, but I think that If you’re a single person and don’t have much stuff, your options are pretty much unlimited when it comes to vehicle living. While a van would be awesome, you could also pull it off in a car or a small SUV.

If you’re looking to move two or more people into a vehicle then you’ll definitely want to upgrade into something a little roomier. If you’re a couple, then a standard cargo van would probably work. It won’t be tall enough to stand up in, but you’ll have plenty of interior space to live. If you’re a family with kids or pets, then a sprinter van, or something with similar interior height would work better.

It was only when I coupled up, that the van came into my life, and for two people it’s PERFECT! We have just the right amount of space for all of our things, and are still able to move around inside freely.

How Simple Are You Willing To Live?

Ill admit, when my boyfriend suggested living in a van, I was in.

minimalism vanlife
I could do without the couch…AND the TV

I’m not the type of girl that owns more than two pairs of pants, so cutting back a little further was fine for me. For others, it’s probably going to be a bit of an adjustment.

Personally, I love the concept of successful people owning minimal clothes and wearing uniforms. Not only does it save space in their closets, but they also don’t have to spend any excess energy on trivial things, like outfit selection.

Mark Zuckerberg wears the same outfit every day and he’s doing just fine!

There is an art to being able to pair down for #VanLife, you just have to decide how far you’re willing to go.

Can you give up your selection of ironic cat mugs in favor of having one cup you drink everything from?

If the answer is no, then maybe living in a van isn’t for you.

Where Will You Be Living?

Where you plan on living will be a huge factor in the type of van you’ll want to buy. We live in an overpopulated city so for us having something that blends into the background works best. If you’re planning on driving all over the country through a mix of terrains however, you’ll want something a little tougher.

things to consider when buying a van
I guess this means we’ll be staying here for a few days

For as beefy as our van is, it is not very off road friendly. It can tow ANYTHING, but if there is a puddle of mud or slight elevation in snowy conditions, we are helpless.

Rear wheel drive and small tires will do that.

For all the beautiful things we’ve seen, and the mountain snow adventures we’ve had, we’ve also had to rely on the kindness of strangers far more times than I would like to admit.

I’m not saying we couldn’t just buy new tires, but since we don’t have those types of adventures every day, its not a priority right now. We chose to be stealthy for city living, over having some tricked out monster truck that stood out like a sore thumb.

How Much Money Do You Have To Spend?

I bet you saw me list the Winnebago Class B up there and thought,

I wonder what that looks like

how to convert a van into a campervan
Nah dude, 80 bucks won’t cover it

…Did you nearly crap your pants when you saw the 120k price tag? I know I did. Sure, it has all the things you need, but at 120k, it’s almost like just buying a house.

Depending on your budget you can get some great deals as long as you’re willing to put a little bit of work into them. For me, I didn’t care about the interior at all. I just wanted to know that everything under the hood was up to snuff so that we had a reliable transportation and a roof over our heads.

I figured, worst case scenario we could put an inflatable mattress in for a while and work on making it livable ourselves. While I am very handy with interior stuff, I am not a mechanic and if something went wrong with the transmission, we would be screwed.

Whatever you decide to buy, make sure its mechanically sound. Sure, cars break down every day, but if you’re starting out with a van that’s not in the best shape, you’re going to have a bad time. Interiors can be done on the cheap, but if your radiator blows up, it’s probably going to cost you a pretty penny.

Can a Mechanic Easily Fix It?

My van is fairly standard, but there were some mods done to it by the previous owner that make it tricky to be worked on by someone who isn’t familiar with it.

finding a reputable mechanic
Don’t give this dude all your money

Unless you’re super handy, I would stay away from weird custom jobs. Some mechanics will just outright say no to them, and if they don’t, there’s a good chance they’re going to overcharge.

Also, you never know if the person you’re buying from actually knew what they were doing. Putting in walls is one thing, sealing questionable electrical work behind them is another.

So you have to ask yourself:

do I really need this van that has the catalytic converter ripped out and replaced with a carburetor?

The answer might be no. You might want to go with a simpler van initially and upgrade it yourself so you know exactly what is inside and how it works.

Home Sweet Home

No matter your choice, always make sure to have it checked out by a professional before you spend the money. And, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself in to when it comes to the cost of maintenance.

If you buy a bare bones van and just want to do it cheap, you can follow some tips in my Cheap DIY Van Conversions For Your Tiny Home post to help start you on your journey.

If you want something ready to live in straight out of the box, then looking into a Class B type RV might be more your style. Since more and more people are starting to choose vehicle living over traditional housing, manufacturers seem to be changing their designs to offer more of the things we are looking for.

Either way, educate yourself on repairs and have fun! Living in a vehicle can be an awesome adventure and save you tons of money if you’re ready to take the plunge. Good luck!

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