Everything You Must Know about Van Life in 2024

If you are excited about the opportunities that van life offers, you probably have a basic understanding of what it means to be a van dweller. For decades, people have been adapting vans into comfortable places to live. So, what should everyone know about van life?

Van dwelling is a lifestyle in which people trade some of the conveniences of a stable house for freedom from expectations and expenses. Van dwellers are able to travel wherever they want while taking advantage of free parking and other amenities so that they can live a more free lifestyle.

Here’s a summary of everything that you need to know about van life in 2024.

Van Homes

In today’s world of mounting bills and expenses, the van lifestyle is looking more appealing than ever. For hundreds of years, people have lived on the road to avoid the difficulties that come with owning and maintaining a normal house. Now, with higher house prices and even more expectations and expenses, more and more people are interested in van life.

Van life offers all of the essentials of truly living. You have a shelter and a mode of transport. But even more than that, you have the freedom to go wherever you want to with no one to answer to. You can change towns or even states on a whim, appreciating everything that the different places of the world have to offer. (Source)

Van dwelling gives you so much more control over your life. You don’t have a landlord or a boss that you always have to answer to. You don’t have to constantly pay for your water and electricity. Furthermore, because your expenses are so low, you have the opportunity to be truly wealthy.

Van dwelling lets you set your own schedule and plan a course for your own life. Each day can be something new, as you aren’t bound by expectations or the same routines. Now in 2022, there are more van dwellers and more support for the van lifestyle than ever before.

Though there are many advantages to van living, there are some tradeoffs that van dwellers make. They trade away the security of an everyday routine and a 9 to 5 job for a lifestyle that is more variable. The comforts of a large home and many possessions are traded for simplicity and self-sufficiency.

Converting a Van

The first thing that you need to do in order to succeed at van living is to acquire a van to live in. Thankfully, just about anything can work. Some people use old Volkswagen Westfalias, standard passenger vans, or cargo vans. Others use repurposed public transport busses or school buses (nicknamed ‘skoolies’ by the community). There are even some van dwellers that have repurposed military vans and vehicles to make their homes. You can purchase a van for relatively cheap, although the cost will vary depending on the year, quality, and the size of the van.

The process of converting a van into a good home depends a lot on what you want out of it. Van homes vary wildly in what they offer; some people get by with just a bed in the back and power from the car’s engine, while others fill their van with everything from a bathroom to a kitchenette powered by solar panels. How much you put into your van depends on the space available and what you are looking for.

Though van homes vary wildly in what they contain, there are a few things that are always going to be needed. The first thing that you will need to install is a workable set of walls, floors, and ceilings. Van homes need proper borders in order to insulate them against the cold and the heat. You will also want a vent fan system that will keep your home from getting too hot or humid.

In order to be effective, van homes need to use all of the space available to them. Compact storage areas, desks, and beds are a must for vans. In order to save as much space as you can, plan out the complete conversion of your van before you start on it. Each van home is unique, and a lot of inspiration can be drawn from other van dwellers as to how you can best retrofit your vehicle.

When it comes to powering your van, solar panels are one of the more popular options. Other van dwellers charge a battery from public outlets and others get by using only the power from the van’s engine. What kind of power source you end up with will probably depend on what your needs are. If you are trying to power a small fridge, for example, you will need a good power source and a battery.

Another important consideration to make while planning to convert your van is if you will have a bathroom or not. You can buy bathroom and even shower systems to install in your van, though they can be expensive. Many van owners keep a portable toilet or a full bathroom rig but the majority try to avoid using them to save themselves the effort of emptying them. Thankfully, there are free bathrooms everywhere in America so you can just keep a portable toilet around for emergencies.

All in all, converting a van is an exciting process that gives you the freedom to express what you want in your home. Most conversion processes cost between 5,000 and 15,000 dollars, depending on what you want in your van (though some conversions can be cheaper or much more expensive). As long as you plan out your conversion well, you should secure yourself a great place to stay long-term while you travel the road. (Source)

Expenses of Van Life

One of the biggest advantages of van dwelling is how low your expenses are. Because you don’t own a house, you don’t have to pay for rent, electricity, or water. Because you probably don’t have a 9 to 5 job to work, you don’t have to drive to work every day and buy gas. You also spend a lot less on possessions when you live in a van. After all, you probably won’t have a lot of space for them anyway.

However, money is still an important part of life. You still need to buy food and pay for gas when you want to move around. When it comes to food, you won’t be able to purchase very much of it at a time, so you can’t buy in bulk. You will likely be tempted to eat fast food often, which gets expensive fast.

Repairs might need to be made on your van or something in it, and some places cost money to park in, like a paid campsite. You will also have to pay for car insurance.

Altogether, most van couples have monthly expenses that range from 800 to 2,000 dollars. Depending on what your needs are and how well you budget your expenses, you can save a lot of money. However, you will still need a steady source of income to keep moving.

Income From a Van

Van dwellers make money doing all sorts of different things. Most van dwellers are always on the lookout for odd jobs and seasonal work that can keep them going. Some spend one part of the year working and saving money so that they can spend the rest of the year traveling and seeing new places. As a van dweller, you can quickly pick up on all sorts of skills while working different jobs.

Historically, van dwellers didn’t have much security when it come to income because of the risk of not finding a job everywhere you travel. However, nowadays in 2024, there is so much more freedom and so many more ways you can make money while traveling apart from finding jobs in warehouses or parks. Most of these opportunities come from your freedom to work online.

Thanks to the internet, there are dozens of ways that you can make an income while traveling. Many van dwellers keep a blog of their travels and their adventures. If blogs are popular enough, they can become profitable as you sell, add space, and the like. Other van dwellers keep a YouTube channel, showcasing the van dweller lifestyle or exploring different places or hobbies. (Source)

There are hundreds of van dwellers that make their money as writers of books or website pages. Successful website pages and books are a source of passive income that can keep you moving from place to place. You can also work as a transcriptionist, an editor, a proofreader. Other Van dwellers make money as artists or as graphic designers, selling their work from their personal laptops.

You can also make money on the road by selling products online and in person. These products range from handmade jewelry and art to things like essential oils or fancy candles. Selling products to friends and the people you meet on the road is a great way to supplement your income and help you meet new people.

One of the other most common and most promising ways to make a steady income is by working as an online teacher, tutor, or translator. As a native English speaker, you can learn another language and then teach people who speak that language how to speak English. You can also translate books or other things into different languages. You can offer online courses, teaching people how to do whatever your particular skills are. Teaching can be a rewarding process that helps you keep a steady income all year round.

Apart from these jobs, you can also work at more typical jobs online. As long as your work can be done from anywhere, you can stay on the open road. Some examples of this include working as a software developer or as a social media manager. Depending on your particular job and your circumstances, you can live as you would like to from your van.

Public Amenities

One of the staples of van life is the use of public amenities. If you want to be a successful van dweller in 2024, you need to be aware of what is available to you and you need to know how to best take advantage of these sources. Doing so will save you time and money while also making your life more convenient.

The most important consideration for you to make is where and how you are going to park. Many cities prohibit van living in order to avoid vagrancy and other issues, so be aware of what the limits are. Los Angeles in particular is very strict about not allowing people to live in vans within city limits.

That being said, many places, like Walmart for example, allow anyone to park in their parking lot all night if they need a place to keep their car. Even in a city like Los Angeles, Walmart or Home Depot can be a safe spot to stay the night as long as you are careful. Wherever you park, you will want to be discreet to avoid any misunderstandings or other problems. Campsites can be good options if you don’t have a better place, but they will probably cost money.

Wherever you go, you will probably want to take advantage of public restrooms. Doing so will save you from having to empty or clean out whatever toilet accommodations you have in your van. Unfortunately, it is much harder to find a way to shower. While some truck stops and campgrounds will have showers, they aren’t reliable and will often cost money. In order to solve the problem, many van dwellers recommend getting a gym membership, as gyms have good showers.

The best gyms to get a membership with are those that have lots of locations in whatever area you are traveling in. Planet Fitness, for example, has thousands of locations around the United States. You can use your membership to keep in shape while traveling around and also to use their showers whenever you need them.

As long as you prepare for your van-dwelling experience, you can embrace true freedom in your life on the open road.

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson

Josh is a freelance writer and avid outdoorsman. He graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.A. in Political Science and has done his best since to live location-independent. He's been a firm supporter of the tiny movement, new homesteaders, and sustainable alternative living and used his knowledge of these topics to convert a 1999 Dodge Ram van to explore as much of Wild America as he could reach.
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