With the rising cost of housing, along with the increasing prevalence of remote work, it’s becoming more popular for young people (especially those without children) to consider downsizing their possessions and living on the road. Not only does it challenge the notion that we have to wake up in the same place every day and commute to an office job we may not like, but it also provides the opportunity to see a lot of places as part of your normal routine, rather than just what our PTO allows us to take each year.
While living on the road initially drew interest because it seemed more affordable, like anything, there are people who are spending $100k+ on their depreciating sprinter vans (looking at you, Instagram influencers), while others are going the more frugal route and spending a fraction of that. This lifestyle can be achieved within a reasonable budget if you’re willing to forego some potentially unnecessary luxuries.
So you might be wondering to yourself… Is it really a savings when it’s all said and done? It’s hard to say, since budgets for this lifestyle vary so greatly. Depending on where you want to park, you can sleep at gas stations or Walmart parking lots for $0, but if you’re hoping to stay at various campgrounds throughout the United States, you can expect to pay $15-$30/night. Not to mention, most of these vans aren’t exactly fuel-efficient.
Other line items you might have in place of normal home expenses include: gas, repairs, vehicle insurance, roadside assistance, license & registration fees, propane, campground fees, parking, tolls, gym memberships (if you haven’t outfitted a shower), dump station fees, storage lockers & season tires (depending on the region). You’ll also be more limited in how you can grocery shop, so your food budget will likely look different. In many cases, this lifestyle can cost just as much as the traditional brick & mortar homes, but the tradeoffs are positive enough for some people to make it worth it. Check out this perspective on 10 reasons why vanlife makes you happier.
People who make a life out of it claim that they really are happier. But, like many decisions, it’s extremely personal. It depends on what your priorities are, and what you’re willing to sacrifice. Not every life decision has to be motivated by whether or not it’s financially advantageous (if the tradeoffs to you are worth it). Beware though, social media tends to glorify this lifestyle and doesn’t often show the challenging parts of it. So, do your research and maybe even give it a trial run with a rental so that you don’t end up in a situation that’s more than what you gambled for.