LIVING IN A VAN – Your Complete Guide to Full-Time #VanLife

If you’re thinking about living in a van and hitting the open road, there’s a lot of things you need to know first. Our ultimate guide will help you learn everything there is to know about life in a van, the costs involved and hands-on experience with tips.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you are probably well aware of the van life movement that is taking over the world (and Instagram).

Living in a van has become immensely popular. Back in the ’60s, it was only hippies and drifters that lived in their camper vans and traveled around, often with shady backgrounds and looked down upon by society.

But today it is a legitimate and romanticized way of life.

People choose #vanlife to cut down on stress, save money, live as minimalists and to have the freedom to move your home to continually explore the world.

When you put it like that, who wouldn’t want to live in a van?

But chances are you’re here for a bit of a dose of reality too. Living in a van is not as luxurious and constantly care-free as social media portrays it to be.

Luckily that’s why here – to dive into all the nitty-gritty details of van living and show you how to live in a van from behind the scenes.

Living in a Van – The Ultimate Guide to Van Life

Ready to learn all about living in a van?

Awesome. Let’s get into it!

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What is Van Life?

Van life is the concept of exchanging the everyday norms that society puts on us (rent, mortgage, 9-5 jobs, etc.) for a life of freedom by purchasing a campervan, motorhome, caravan, RV, truck camper or something similar, and living out of it full time.

Van dwellers chase adventure, minimalism, freedom, community and simplicity. We explore the open roads with our home with us at all times, usually living on a budget and prioritizing experiences over material objects.

Living in a van is about controlling your destiny and choosing to do the things you want to do, the way you want to do them.

It’s about meeting people on the road and opening your mind to ways of life and accepting differences. And creating lifelong friends with people who share a similar mindset.

Now enough with the spiritual enlightenment – essentially van life is buying a campervan and traveling around, living out of it semi-permanently.

And trust us when we say, it’s awesome!

Us Living in a Van
There’s no better feeling than living in a van! Our post will tell you everything there is to know about this incredible lifestyle.

Why Would You Want To Live In A Van?

Vanlife does of course involve living in a van. And since van lifers may not be tied down to a lease or a mortgage, they tend to have the freedom to travel more and save money at the same time.

That means you can change your view regularly and not have to worry about the usual commitments or responsibilities your colleagues may have.

You can constantly change your location and seek out new adventures and gorgeous landscapes.

Every day you have a different view for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, if you work out of your campervan, you will have a new office view every day as well.

Sounds great? That’s because it is.

We’ve been traveling and enjoying life living in a van off-and-on for years, and can’t recommend it highly enough.

Pros of living in a Van

Don’t just take our word for it though. Here are 5 reasons that living in a campervan may be for you.

Save Money

As long as you are disciplined with your budget, you can really save a lot of money by living out of a van.

By choosing to free camp as much as possible, your expenses come down to just fuel, food, activities and maintenance.

More Freedom

Perhaps the best reason to hit the road in a van is to have a sense of freedom in your life. You can literally wake up and go just about anywhere you want, whenever you want.

Personal Growth

It’s a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and the things you want to achieve in your life. When you take on a minimalist lifestyle, you figure out what’s really important.

Make New Friends and be Part of a Community

The van life community is open and welcoming, and if you’re looking to make friends you’ll have no issues connecting with people on the road. Alternatively, if you just seek solitude, you can very easily mind your own business.

Live a sustainable life

It’s easy to be eco-conscious and sustainable when you live in a van. If you are using solar panels and a battery system, you’re pretty much off-grid. You really cut down on water consumption. Your waste cuts down to basically just food items. And your carbon footprint, if you travel slow, is extremely low.

Don’t forget to follow us on social media, where we share the real story of what it’s like travelling and living in a van full-time!

Cons of Living in a Van Full Time

Living the #VanLife is not as glamorous as Instagram might have you believe. In fact, it is often more challenging than living in a brick and mortar home.

But if all of the pros of living in a van appeal to you, we want to encourage you not to let these cons take that away. We just want to be real with you and let you know these 5 things you’ll need to consider before you buy a van and set out on the open road.

Van Life is Time Consuming

Everything takes more time when you live in a van. From making the bed (to sleep or when you wake) to making your favorite meal, life on the road is filled with tedious tasks.

And then there are the times when you encounter uncertainty and adversity. Like when there’s nowhere to park for the night, you have a mechanical problem or you simply need to find a place to refill water or gas/propane. Finding solutions for your constantly changing needs takes time.

There is a Lot of Uncertainty in Living on the Road

One of the biggest pros of van living is being able to enjoy changing scenery. But a disadvantage of living a nomadic life is the fact that uncertainty can cause stress and consume a large chunk of your time.

If you are a happy-go-lucky person you’ll likely float through a lot of the uncertainty you encounter. But the one thing that is constant in full time living in a van is that things change and you have to adapt to that change. 

You’ll Spend Lots of Time Outside

OK, so spending time outside isn’t a bad thing. But when you can fit your entire life into the confines of your van you’ll find that you will live “out” of the van rather than live “in” it.

Sure you’ll drive, sleep, cook meals and occasionally binge on your favorite Netflix shows in your van. But that same comfort turns to discomfort if you think you’re going to spend all of your time inside the van.

Minimalistic Life has its Costs

So you’ve wanted to downsize for a while. And cramming into 75 square feet is certainly a way to show the world how serious you are about living the minimalistic life.

But wait until you’re craving a hot shower after a long hike, you realize you have to one-time buy a nice outfit for your friend’s wedding or you can’t fit your favorite surfboard into or on your van because you’ve got all your other fun gear taking up space. 

Being Unplugged from Your Social Network Can Suck

You’re definitely going to meet loads of new people on the road. And some of them may become lifelong friends.

But the longer you are on the road the harder it is to keep up with the friends and family you left behind. Plus the many people you meet on the road are likely to want to head in different directions than you.

You’re going to find yourself lonely at times and missing things like the weekly after-work happy hour drinks with your old colleagues and friends. 

Repairing Tyre
Sometime things might come up on the road unexpectedly. There may be delays or repairs that need to be done and that is ok. Such is van life.

Living In A Van Full Time

Before you embark on this epic adventure, you need to decide if you’re going to be a full-time van lifer, or just do it part-time.

This is one you really need to sit down and think about. There is no right or wrong answer to van living, and of course, not everyone can do the full-time van living thing.

Being a van dweller is all about knowing your limits and designing the life you want, then just going with it.

If you just want to do part-time, then find the perfect van and keep it for weekends away with your buddies, or mini-adventures.

If you plan on living full time in a van, then get ready for the adventure of your life.

It’s important to keep in mind that it can take a bit of getting used to. Finding a routine and small living will be challenging at first.

The other thing you have to consider is making an income while traveling. You can work as a digital nomad, pick up odd jobs on farms or restaurants, paint art or do just about anything in between.

Love the idea of full-time but don’t know if you’re ready for it? Why not just head out for a few weeks to start with. You’ll soon find out whether it’s the lifestyle for you.

And you’ll also have to determine if you have a partner or not. Check with them if they are also keen on being a full-time van dweller.

One of the best things that you can do before going all-in on living in a van full time is to rent a van and give it a few days or weeks seeing what it’s like. We’d hate for you to invest thousands of dollars into buying and remodeling a van only to find that it’s not for you.

Van Kitchen
One of our favorite parts of living in a van is having our kitchen with us wherever we go.

Best Vans for Van Life

Choosing the right campervan, RV or motorhome for you is perhaps the single-most-important decision you can make for #VanLife.

Do you want a small, budget-friendly and cozy campervan? Rather a tiny home on wheels in the form of a Mercedes Sprinter motorhome? Or are you ready to go all out and get a moving palace with a full-sized RV?

We recommend sitting down to work out a few things:

  • What is your budget?
  • How confident are you driving a big van or would you feel better in driving a smaller one?
  • Are you going to be a full-time or part-time van dweller? 
  • How much time do you plan to spend in the van?
  • Do you want a 4WD or a 2WD? Are you going off-road?

There are so many different vans from which to choose. And picking the best van to live in ultimately depends on you. 

Are you a minimalistic person? Or do you like space and want to be able to stand up in your van? Do you like to have your own shower and/or toilet? Or can you deal with using public amenities?

There are so many questions to ask yourself and figure out what you are looking for.

Will you be full time living in the van or only for a certain amount of time a year. Do you want a full kitchen or are happy with an outdoor stove?

Knowing who you are and what you want will narrow the vans down for you.

Living in a minivan or a Kombi van could be not enough space for you or the perfect amount of space. Or you may be looking for a large camper van or motorhome for a full kitchen and a full bathroom.

Here’s a quick rundown of your options to begin your research.

Cargo Vans:

  • Mercedes Sprinter
  • Ram Promaster
  • Ford Transit
  • GMC Savana
  • Chevy Express
  • Nissan NV

In Australia:

  • Ford Transit
  • Renault Master
  • Fiat
  • Mercedes Sprinter

Classics:

  • VW Vanagon
  • VW Kombi
  • VW Wetfalia
  • Mitsubishi Delica
  • Toyota Coaster

Other options: 

  • Skoolie (converted school bus)
  • Class B RV (already outfitted for van life)
  • Standard mini van
  • Your vehicle! 

At the end of the day, the answer to which van is best for you ultimately rests with whichever one you have/buy. If you’ve already got a van then you can invest time and money into outfitting it for van living.

Or maybe you can’t afford a new van and are intimidated about buying a used work van and building it out. But this is a journey in itself. 

Whatever van you choose will be the best van for you so don’t overthink it!

Mercedes Sprinter Van
We love having a Mercedes Sprinter for a campervan. Big enough to be a full tiny home on wheels, small enough to get around most places.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Campervan

Sometimes buying a camper van may not be best for you. At least at first when you are considering van living full time you should definitely invest in renting a few different vans to determine what you want when you buy/build your own van.

But ultimately if you plan on living in your van you’ll need to own it so you can modify and upgrade it to suit your long-term comfort.

Here is our list of the pros and cons of buying a campervan.

Pros of Owning a Campervan

  • Total Freedom – You can go wherever you want and you have no restrictions. You can take your time, road trip for as long as you want with no worries. And the campervan is yours, so if you want to paint something you can. 
  • No lease contracts – When you return a rental vehicle there is always the inspection where it seems like the company is trying to find something wrong so they can charge more. You own the dents and scratches in your own camper van!
  • Everything has a home – This is a massive plus. Everything has a permanent home for the amount of time you own the campervan. When you rent it is like living out of your backpack or suitcase.
  • Less conspicuous – When you purchase most camper vans there is no signage on the outside of the vehicle. This is awesome for parking down back streets. It is less conspicuous than if you rent a camper and the company’s logo is all over the van. 
  • Reselling your vehicle – When you sell your campervan you will most likely get most of your investment back. Campervans seem to keep their value well.

Cons of Owning a Campervan

  • Time-consuming searching for the campervan – This may take you weeks. So if you want to purchase a vehicle quickly, it might be hard. You may get lucky and grab a steal straight away but keep the search time in mind so you are mentally prepared. Also, be careful rushing into purchasing a vehicle. Make sure you do all the checks before purchasing.
  • It’s more than you expect – It is not just the price that is advertised. You will also need to pay registration fees and taxes. Be prepared for this. Make sure you have this in your budget and are aware of how much you will have to pay before buying your campervan.
  • The Administration papers – These will take you a bit to get your head around, especially if you are not in your home country. Definitely do your research beforehand.
  • Paying for full insurance  – You will need to get full insurance if you want everything covered in your campervan to be covered. It is compulsory in most states across the country to carry insurance that covers the other vehicle but not yours if you cause an accident. But if you cause an accident and don’t have full coverage then say goodbye to your van.

Building a Van – DIY Van Conversion

Building a van is an awesome option if you can commit to the time it takes and the skills you either have to know or learn along the way. But starting from the ground up will give you the best knowledge of your van and make you an expert when it comes to living in it. 

But of course, this option is not for everyone and depends on what you find on the market. We were planning to buy an empty van and build the interior ourselves but we found the perfect van and didn’t need to.

Doing a build is time-consuming and sometimes may cost more than you think. But on the other hand, getting someone else to build your van with the design you want can be more costly but less stress.

Or you can buy a van already built but you may come across problems or the layout may not be the way you want. We had been researching for a while so when a van we knew we’d like came up on the market we went and looked at it and it was perfect for what we wanted.

But if you have the time and want a challenge, by all means definitely do a build as it would be so rewarding once it is finished. You can choose the layout of your van and living in a converted van would make life so much more comfortable as you can build in the amenities you want.

Whether you build out your van (partially or in whole) or not, you are going to want to be aware of key components, appliances and systems within the van. You’ll want to know how each works and, if defective, the best replacement for it. 

At the very least familiarize yourself with the following:

But you’ll also want to be familiar with other components of your campervan such as:

Ultimately whether you build a van or buy one ready to go the better you know its parts and systems the more comfortable you’ll be. 

DIY Van
Here’s Jarryd building out our second van, Big Randy, back in 2012.

Campervan Parking

A common misconception about living in a van is that many van dwellers think they can park anywhere and sleep the night. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Free camping is not always available. And sometimes you may think you can get away with stealth camping and end up with a knock on the door at night or a ticket on your window in the morning.

There is legal free camping in a lot of countries. And there are many retailers, such as Walmart, that permit overnight parking as well.

Here are a few of the top places where you can count on being able to camp overnight in your van:

Free Camping

  • Public Lands (National Parks, BLM & Wildlife Management Areas)
  • Wal Mart
  • Other retailers (Cracker Barrel, Cabelas, Bass Pro & Camping World)
  • Rest areas
  • Truck stops
  • Casinos
  • Stealth camping

  • Parks (National, State and local)
  • Campgrounds
  • Private lands and memberships

Downloading the camping apps for whichever country you are in will help you find those locations and ease your mind. By knowing you are fine to park there (like a Walmart parking lot and gas stations), you will have a good sleep and not be worried all night.

If you only have a small vehicle, check out our latest blog post on the top car camping essentials.

How Much Does Van Life Cost?

It all depends on what your budget is. Living in a van definitely does help your wallet as bills you would pay in a home or an apartment, do not exist. For most people, this lifestyle can save money. 

But budgets can vary greatly from a few hundred dollars to easily over $2,000 per month. 

Rather than give you a wide range of possible budgets, we thought it’s important to show you the kind of expenses you can expect when you live in a van:

Initial Cost of van/build: Varies (but can be expensive)

Monthly Travel Expenses:

  • Meals (Groceries, alcohol, going out)
  • Fuel (vehicle, propane, etc.)
  • Camping
  • Spending/Entertainment (music/video subscriptions, parks, souvenirs)
  • Repairs/Maintenance
  • Travel (tolls and parking lots, etc.)

Fixed Monthly Costs: 

  • Cell phone/WiFi
  • Health Insurance
  • Van Insurance
  • Medical miscellaneous
  • Other personal expenses

Check Out Our Van Life Australia Budget Posts

We share our monthly costs of doing van life in Australia, being completely transparent and honest with you guys. If you want to have an insight into just what it can cost to live and travel in a van full-time, check them out by clicking on the button below!

Jarryd and I with our selfie stick

Living the Van Life

You may think van life is simple, but there are a few things you need to take into consideration when diving into this lifestyle for the first time. Getting started can seem overwhelming!

Don’t worry, we know exactly how you feel. That’s why we’ve shared some tips and advice for how to live out of a van below.

Van Life Tips

There are lots of great ideas out there for how to make the most of van living. Here are 10 of our practical top ideas to make life more comfortable. 

Embrace Minimalism.

There are lots of things you can do to live smaller. From having multiple-use products, collapsible bins and reusable bags if you are creative enough you can find ways to use less.

And whenever you stop living in a van these new tips and habits will likely stick with you. 

One In, One Out.

There is only so much room to store things. So when you make a new purchase, a good idea is to find something you can give up in order to accommodate the new item.

Of course, this isn’t always practical. But when it comes to a new pair of shoes or other clothing items this becomes almost a necessity with minimal space. 

Know your van.

You don’t have to be an expert at all things mechanical and electrical. But at some point, things aren’t going to go the way you expect them to. The more knowledge you have of your van and how it works the less panicked you will be when things go sideways.

A lot of times the solutions are simple and cheap. But knowing how to get in and repair something yourself can go a long way on your peace of mind and budget.

Have the right safety equipment and tools.

Nobody plans for a flat tire. But having a jack and knowing how to use it can save you loads of frustration, time and perhaps a few dollars if you have to have someone assist you.

The same holds true for investing in alarms and detectors, fire extinguishers and other devices and tools that keep you safe when things get hectic. 

Free camp to save money.

While this is not always possible to do in your favorite or most popular areas, there is hardly a time when you can’t find a free place to park for the night when you need to save a few dollars.

You can even make a game of trying to free camp for X numbers of nights per month. Heck, some van lifers don’t spend a dollar on camping at any point. 

Free Camping Setup
You can really cut your costs down by looking for free camps everywhere you go.

Clean regularly.

You should know the importance of personal hygiene by now. But keeping your van clean is pretty important too.

Since you likely only have 60-80 square feet of living space to keep up with it shouldn’t be that difficult. But by the time you consider all of the sand/mud/dust your track in, the crumbs and other debris that inadvertently spill and the pet fur (if you travel with one!) your space can become a mess in no time.

Take the time, whether daily or weekly, to clean your home and you will feel better about it in the long run. 

Treat yourself, occasionally.

While most van lifers choose the nomadic lifestyle as a way to save money you need to realize that it is OK to splurge from time to time (especially if you are living in a van with a partner).

Treating yourself to the occasional special meal or activity will keep you excited for the journey you have chosen to take in #vanlife.  

Be prepared for the unexpected.

When you travel things do not always go as they seem. So prepare for the unexpected. Whether you have a van fund just in case you experience a breakdown or you learn to no panic if you miss a ferry or get a fine. These things will happen. Don’t let them get you down.

Make a full-time budget.

Making a budget before you set off will help you watch your money but also you will see where you are spending it. This keeps people on track so you are able to travel longer. Don’t forget to have a fun fund for those times you want to go on a date or treat yourself.

Get Campervan Apps.

Get the best apps for the country you are traveling in. This will help you find the cheapest or free campsites, where toilets and showers are, and the cheapest fuel. These all are a must when you are van living as it will save you money.

Van Life Tips
Our best van life tip is to make sure you always have an adequate supply of coffee!

Van Life Hacks

Van life hacks are those things you can do that many van lifers fail to recognize as either possible or necessary. While many of these hacks seem like common sense, even the most basic hacks will make life better for you. 

To start with, have a read of our favorite campervan hacks, then dive deeper into the below ideas.

Use collapsible containers as often as possible. From wash bins to bowls and food storage, collapsible storage containers are crucial to optimizing the limited space you have. 

Store clothes in bins or packing cubes (and roll them). Create storage spaces where you can fit clear plastic bins neatly. Roll your clothes to save space and stack these bins neatly where you can access them as needed. 

Use hooks, anchor points and carabiners everywhere. You’d be surprised at how convenient things like hooks and carabiners can be. From hanging wet clothes, a spare set of keys or a fruit hammock these points allow you to accessorize your van as you see fit for your unique circumstances. 

Get a gym membership for free showers (and a workout?). Whether you want to work out or just want a free and unlimited hot shower, a membership to any number of gyms will provide both. Planet Fitness is the most popular among van lifers because it is affordable, at around $25 per month, allows multiple people access to the gym facilities and has over 2,000 locations across the country.

Own a multiple-port USB charger. When you choose to live in a van you leave behind the days when one charger per device is adequate. With limited space (and power) you’re going to want to make sure to optimize how you charge your USB devices. 

Use USB-charging devices. You can pick up USB fans, flashlights and any number of other devices and van life accessories that draw minimal power and recharge in minutes. We encourage you to have as many of these devices as possible and say farewell to the day of being dependent upon a store of batteries in an already cramped space.  

Install a PVC solar shower. Mounting a 4-6” PVC pipe on the roof of your van is a simple and cost-effective way to ensure you can grab a quick shower from time to time. Paint the pipe black to absorb heat from the sun and you’ll have a warm shower. This is definitely a great alternative to having a shower inside your campervan. 

Buy magnetic spice racks and containers. Magnetic racks are golden for van lifers. You can secure your go-to spices, knives and other metallic objects from all of the bumping and shifting that takes place with #vanlife. Plus you can mount them virtually anywhere to increase your ability to conserve space. 

Invest in a cellular booster. These days there are not many places you can go where you are truly away from cellular service. But having a cellular booster will give you the extra oompf to get a signal when you need it, whether for safety or for work. These are particularly imperative if you plan to make money while traveling. 

Install a mosquito net on your doorway. Half of the joy of van life is living inside your awesome tiny home. The other half is enjoying the great outdoors just outside your van door. Combine the two with a mosquito net that allows you to turn your van into an open-air hang out without worrying about mosquitoes, gnats and other annoying insects.

READ MORE: To see all of the other top accessories we recommend to make van life easier, have a read of this post!

Cleaning the Van
Another great van life hack – buy a little broom and keep your van clean!

Van Life with a Partner

Living in a van by yourself is pretty awesome. You can go where you want to go when you want to go there and you don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks about your choices.

But there is something awesome about sharing the adventure with a partner. Whether you are married, in a long-term relationship or are just getting started with a significant other you should know that #vanlife shares both the rewards and challenges in seemingly exponential quantity when traveling with a partner. 

But before you commit to living in a van with a partner (or maybe to heal some wounds that may have come from jumping in together already!) be sure to consider these tips.

We’ve traveled together for over ten years and lived in the closest of quarters. So most of these tips apply to any situation you may find yourself in with a significant other. 

We also have a dedicated post filled with our top tips for the van life couple. Make sure you check it out as well!

Communicate.

This is the most fundamental of any pieces of advice for living or working together with more than one person. But when you live in a van with a partner it is easy to forget, and easier to assume that the other person knows what you are thinking and feeling.

While you may find yourself running out of things to talk about, when there are important things, be sure to communicate them to your partner.

Make space for one another.

Living in tight quarters can be stressful for any couple. So it is that much more important that you intentionally make space for each other.

This means not only providing your partner the space to do the things they want to do. But also it means giving yourself time daily to be in your own space.

Something as simple as a morning walk or exercise can be all it takes to keep the freshness of your mind alive between you and your partner. 

Be kind to one another.

The world needs more kindness. But you and your partner need it even more when you live in a van together.

Don’t forget the little things when it comes to kindness. Have date nights. Do nice things for each other. And on the contrary, don’t blame each other if things don’t go the way you want them to. 

Start a new hobby.

This is a great way to stay sharp both as an individual and as partners. Whether you take on a new hobby by yourself and incorporate it into your personal time or you challenge each other with a new hobby you do together, living in a van will be more valuable to you both if you have new hobbies.

They can be as simple as hiking, starting an online blog or business or even learning new languages or crafts. 

Share the duties.

When you live in a van by yourself you are responsible for everything. But with a partner, you can (and should) split the duties.

But if you don’t communicate well, these duties may not be shared equally. Do your best to determine what has to be done and which of you is best suited to carry it out.

But be sure to try and make things equal or else one or the other of you may start to resent each other. 

Us First Van
Here’s a photo of us with our first van, Latoya, back in 2008. 12 years later and we’re still doing van life together!

Van Life Apps

In the digital age, there are so many resources at your disposal to make van life that much more enriching. Whether you’re searching for a place to camp or refill your propane or want to know where to find the cheapest gas nearby, there is an app for virtually every aspect of #vanlife.

Here are a few of the most common and highly recommended van life apps. 

iOverlander.

This has become THE go-to app for virtually everything related to life on the road. From finding (mostly) free camping virtually anywhere around the world to locating places to dump or refill tanks, recommended spots to eat or do laundry and other elements of #vanlife you can count on the crowd-sourced recommendations in iOverlander. Don’t start your road trip without it. 

WikiCamps

If you’re travelling around Australia, then you absolutely need to purchase WikiCamps! This incredible app only costs $5, but you’re almost guaranteed to make that money back in your first day.

Just like iOverlander above, it’s very easy to find drinking water, dump points, both free and paid camps, attractions and everything else you need to live a great life on the road.

AllStays.

A great backup to iOverlander, AllStays doesn’t rely on user-submitted data so you get a more comprehensive idea of what is available when you need it. Plus there are a lot of great search filters available to help you find just what you need.

There are also some bonus features that show you where there are steep highway grades and low clearance as well so you can avoid any areas of navigation you don’t like. 

Gas Buddy.

Don’t wonder whether there is a gas station at the next exit or if it’s going to be outrageously expensive.

Use Gas Buddy to help plan your route and, at the very least, provide you with the certainty of where the next gas station is and approximately what price you can expect to pay for fuel. 

In Australia, look out for the Fuel Watch apps.

WiFi Map.

If you have a great cellular data plan you may not need to hop between public WiFi locations. But even if you aren’t running a business from your van, it is likely you’ll want to hop on WiFi from time to time.

WiFi Map helps you know where you can expect to find hotspots so you can plan your online work or pleasure needs accordingly. 

All Trails.

While not exclusively a #vanlife app, All Trails is the leading app for helping you know what hikes are available in any area you may travel.

Learn about the basics of the trail, such as distance and difficulty. But also read user reviews and view images to determine if you want to hike a particular trail or not. 

Blowering Dam Views
Thanks to apps like WikiCamps, we found this incredible free campsite in a national park, right by the edge of a beautiful lake. These apps are well worth the investment.

How to Make Money Living in a Van

A common question is how to make van living work financially. And just like picking the right van, there are just as many options to make money on the road as you can imagine.

One of the first things to consider about making money is understanding just how much you will need to have to live in your van comfortably. In some cases, once you crunch your budget and with enough planning and saving you may be able to go a long time without needing to make money while traveling. 

But in other cases, your goal may actually be to take your job with you, in which case you clock in as soon as you start driving. 

So here are a few things to consider when determining the best way for you to earn money to support your #vanlife. 

We have found a lot of van dwellers with jobs typically have fallen into one of three categories:

  • Seasonal Employment
  • Permanent Employment
  • Self-employed

Seasonal employment can take the form of a variety of different options. Whether you want to travel to a location to find work, such as season harvesting, or you follow various seasonal work opportunities, such as farming, skiing or white water rafting there is no end to the possibilities of finding seasonal work. 

Permanent employment can also encompass a wide range of possibilities. In today’s world jobs that once required a proper office and desk are not encumbered by the traditional work environment. Many jobs can be done virtually, making van life an ideal way to combine your desire to travel with the need to afford the van life lifestyle. 

Some tips for taking your job on the road include choosing the right job that:

  • You are passionate about
  • Allows you to have the freedom you desire
  • Supports your lifestyle
  • Fits your education and/or skillset

Self-employment is quite possibly the most creative, yet time-consuming method of financing van life. Many van lifers who are self-employed start websites or market their professional skills that rely on access to WiFi.

From graphic designers and website development to accountants and bookkeepers, the sky is the limit for what is possible when you find a way to use your passions and abilities to fund your travels. 

Working on the Road
There are lots of ways you can make money on the road! We work online running a number of businesses, but you can do so many things.

Save Money for Travel

Of course, knowing that you don’t have to work (or have to work as much) will give you more time and resources to enjoy the adventures on the road.

And the best way to prepare yourself financially for living in a van is to start saving as soon as possible. 

Some great tips for this include:

  • Downsize your life. Get rid of the things you won’t need during van life. Put them up for sale and stash the earnings from these sales for your life on the road.
  • Get a roommate. If you have the ability, split your living expense by getting a roommate or renting out a room in your house. 
  • Take on a part-time job. Even picking up an Uber rider or Instacart groceries on the drive home from work adds a few more dollars to your savings. 
  • Pack a lunch. Skip purchasing the things your colleagues may buy regularly, such as coffee and lunches, and bring it yourself. 
  • Skip happy hour (occasionally!). OK, so don’t take all of the fun out of your day-to-day life. But think about how much more awesome it will be to have a drink looking out over the most incredible scenery when you’re camping out of your van!

Wrapping Up

Choosing to live out of a van is one of the best decisions of your life! With proper preparation and an open mind to having to adapt on the road, you’re going to find that the van life lifestyle is addictive.

From the freedom you didn’t previously have to the thrill of new experiences and beautiful, changing landscapes we’re confident that living in a van will offer you the best in life! Enjoy!

Daily Campervan Living FAQ

Living in a van is full of daily questions and logistics. We want to make sure to address many of the most common outstanding questions to help you prepare for the best time on the road you can possibly have! 

Where should I go to the toilet?

Everyone needs to go and if you do not have a toilet in your campervan this can be a little bit of a dilemma.

There are apps for public toilets so you can find the nearest one near you if you are in a city. The app we use is called Toilet Finder.

If you are in the country and there is not a toilet in sight, we suggest you carry a shovel and dig a hole. Please bury your human waste and take your toilet paper with you.

If I don’t have a bathroom in my campervan, where do I shower?

There are so many places to shower. A lot of the time there is shower access at the beach. They are cold showers but they are free.

Another place is at gyms. You can workout and shower in one. Swimming pools are great places to shower but you do need to pay for the entry.

You can stay at RV parks and use the shower there but sometimes the unpowered sites can be expensive. You sometimes can come across public showers with hot water. They may be $5 for a hot 5 min shower but this can be an option too.

How do you do laundry when traveling

There are many places you can do your laundry. There are laundromats in many towns around the world or there are washing machines at many RV parks.

At the RV parks, the machines typically take coins. Loads here can be fairly expensive, but convenient. But we recommend getting a campervan washing machine to make your laundry on the road more convenient.

What about insurance?

Insurance is a big YES YES YES!!! You definitely need insurance whether you rent or buy the campervan. This is a must in all countries. Whether you have a third party (liability) or full coverage insurance, you definitely need to have it.

Liability insurance means if you have a crash and it is your fault, then your insurance will cover them but not your own vehicle. Full coverage insurance means you are covered on both sides.

Buying – When it comes to insuring your campervan after you have bought it, make sure you have all the correct paperwork and your vehicle is covered as a motorhome, not a van. This will mean if you have an accident, everything in the back of your campervan may not be covered as you might only be registered as a standard vehicle. Here is our article on how to change your registration from a panel van to a camper van in Australia.

Renting – When you rent a campervan as a visitor to a country, check to see if your travel insurance will cover you. If not there are private companies that will cover your vehicle insurance for the period of time you are renting.
This may work out significantly cheaper than what the rental company was offering. Do read the fine print and check if you have any questions.

How Do You receive mail?

Since you are on the road and continuously moving getting mail can be hard. But you can join a mail-forwarding organization or can sometimes count on campgrounds to be willing to receive mail for you. Be sure to check with the campground ahead of time as some are more cooperative than others.

In Australia, you can always just list a licensed post office as your address to receive your mail.

How do you Find/refill propane

You can refill your LPG bottles at many gas stations or hardware stores. Do call and check first and see if they stock the kind of gas bottle you are looking for.

When you are connecting the gas bottle to your campervan, do a check to see if there are no leaks. You can do this by using soapy water and see if any moving bubbles appear. 

How do you Find drinking water?

Camping apps should help you in this section. They will let you know where you can fill up.

You can drink most water from the tap. But some taps are untreated water and there will be a sign.

Sometimes you can fill up from taps at the gas stations. If you are at a gas station do ask the attendant if you can before doing it.

You can also fill up in parks or at rest stops. There are taps there sometimes.

In all cases, we suggest putting a filter on your hose so the water going into your tank is filtered. You can pick them up from most hardware stores. 

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase a product we recommend using the links in this article, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We promise to use this pocket money to buy lots of coffee and fuel for the campervan to keep us enjoying #VanLife for just a little longer. We appreciate your support, and only recommend products we know and trust. Thank you friends!

About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd - Van Life Theory

Hi! We're Alesha and Jarryd, the founders of Van Life Theory! We're currently travelling around Australia in our 2008 Mercedes Sprinter campervan and sharing our best experiences, stories, reviews and adventures as we go along. Make sure you follow along on our Instagram and YouTube!

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