Is Van life cheaper than renting?

Nate Murphy
Cazzy and Bradley's Peugeot Boxer 435 Van Conversion

The #vanlife lifestyle has become highly glamourized, with pictures of girls in bikinis and mountain backdrops dominating the hashtag. The reality is, for some people, it’s a way of life that’s cheaper than renting a regular house. It depends on your lifestyle, but living in a van full time can be a clever way to save on rent and bills. Of course, there are other van life costs to consider - insurance, breakdown cover and fuel will be some of your major expenses. However, when you compare these costs to the price of renting an apartment, you will probably still be making a huge saving by living full time in a van. 

Are you homeless if you live in a van?

‘Houseless, not homeless’ is the motto of many van dwellers. Many full-time van lifers consider their van to be their tiny home. They have everything they need on board to feel comfortable and don’t even miss the luxuries of a traditional home. 

However, for some living in a van is a necessity rather than a choice. Full-time van dwellers who have no fixed address are technically considered homeless. Without an address, it becomes more difficult to do everyday things such as open a bank account, get insurance or register to vote. Where possible, van lifers use a friend or family’s address to register themselves and receive mail. 

In the UK, you're considered legally homeless if you live in a caravan or mobile home but have nowhere to legally park it.

In the US, vehicular homelessness is on the rise. Living in a vehicle due to loss of job or income is very common, and people in this situation are considered legally homeless.

Where can I park my van to sleep?

Finding a place to park overnight is one of the biggest challenges that van lifers face. The general rule is that you should never park on private property, or anywhere that prohibits overnight parking or camping. 

Depending on where you are located, there are different laws on ‘wild camping’. In some areas ‘everyman’s right’ laws allow you to stay overnight in a certain location, providing that you don’t disrupt any local residents. 

When you are somewhere without an abundance of great parking spots, there are always options for where to park for the night. Many van lifers use apps such as Park4Night or iOverlander to find nearby spots that have been added and rated by others in the community. Public carparks in retails parks, like at Walmart or IKEA, can be great options with plenty of space - but you should always check the restrictions for a specific location. 

There are also plenty of campsites and motorhome areas to stop over at. In many places, these can be found for free and often supply water, electricity and waste disposal facilities. 

How much does it cost to live in a van per month?

Where you live will obviously affect how much it costs to live in your van each month. As a general guide, we have broken down the main costs of living in a van:

  • $30-50 Van Insurance
  • $10 Breakdown cover
  • $150-200 Fuel if you drive every day
  • $10 (summer), $20-30 (winter) Gas for cooking and heating 
  • $20-30 Mobile data 

Other costs such as food, entertainment, and garage bills will all depend on your lifestyle. It’s important to set money aside in case you do end up having to pay for your van to be repaired. 

Check out the full breakdown of how much van life cost me over 6 months

How does Van life make money?

Van lifers often make money the same way as people who live in houses do! Many people do regular jobs remotely from wherever they park their van. Other van dwellers find other ways to make a living on the road by freelancing, starting their own business or doing seasonal work. 

Check out 10 remote jobs for van life for more ideas. 

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