Are you considering taking a leap of faith into van life and hitting the open road? The cost of van life is what you make it. The following is our budget.
This is a journey that you will never regret nor forget. However, planning is essential for short term, long term or indefinite van life stints. Van life is a wonderful, more simple lifestyle because you experience more, while consuming less and therefore spending, less money. When you’re living in 75 square feet, there’s no room for “stuff”! This being said, there are base van life costs that we recommend you consider before living the dream. Here they are, in video and written format:
- FUEL – The more you drive, the more money you spend. It’s as simple as that. You can easily calculate your fuel expense if you know how many miles per gallon your van gets, how many miles per month you plan on driving, and what the average price is for gas. Boscha (learn more about our van here) weighs a lot (about 5,000 lbs) with 5 bicycles, surfboards, food and clothes — therefore, we only get 16 MPG. When we are “on the move” we are averaging about $250 per month on gas, or about 1,000 miles of driving per month. If we need to spend less money, we could simply slow down our pace. For example we were Stationary in Sedona for 8 weeks and our fuel expense was minimal.
- FOOD – One way to maximize our experiences on the road, is to stay healthy so that we can enjoy mountain biking, hiking, surfing and whatever else we come across. We feel our best when we eat well which usually means preparing our meals in the van. For the two of us, we spend about $125 on groceries per week. We purchase organic, non-GMO, unprocessed foods and occasionally go to farmer’s markets. Eating in restaurants is really fun but definitely kills the budget.
- CAMPING – We stay on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land when it’s available. BLM land is public land that offers free, dispersed camping, and in some cases, very affordable campgrounds. Unfortunately, BLM land isn’t always an option. On the Southern-Mid coast of California we stayed in campgrounds 2-3 times per week which ended up being about $300 per month. There is a lot of BLM land nationwide, so if going inland is okay with you, you can camp for free all of the time. On a side note, hotels kill the budget!
- EMERGENCY STASH – Inevitably, an old van will need mechanical work. We’ve been on the road since January. In seven months, we’ve spent a total of about $1,200 on our van. This averages about $170 per month. Of course, this cost will differ from van-to-van.
So, our estimated “base” price per month is:
Fuel ($250) + Food ($500) + Camping ($300) + Emergency stash ($170) = $1,220
We could definitely decrease the camping expense and also the food expense (do we REALLY need goji berries and cacao nibs!). And this is for two people. We also have additional expenses of internet, students loans, insurance, etc.
Live the dream!