Vanlife Budgeting: A Breakdown of the Most Common Van Life CostsVanlife Budgeting: A Breakdown of the Most Common Van Life Costs (2024)

It’s one of the most common questions we get asked at Drifter: “Once I’ve got my van, how much does it cost to live a life on the road?”

Spoiler alert: the answer is it depends. But for those looking for a ballpark figure, it can be as little as $800/month, though it’s not uncommon for a more extravagant van lifer to spend $3000+/month.

The good news is that when you own your van, you eliminate some of life’s biggest expenses: housing. No rent, no mortgage, no utility bills nor household maintenance. On the flipside you will face a few new costs, like gas, campsites and vehicle maintenance.

To get a clearer idea of what you might be spending on the road, let’s take a look at a few of the most common costs associated with vanlife, and how to manage them!

Gas: $200-$600/month

Beyond your van, perhaps the most obvious cost associated with van life is the fuel that will get you from A to B. At the risk of stating the obvious, your monthly gas bill will depend on how much you drive. If you’re spending an entire month exploring a single state, it might be just a couple of hundred dollars. If you’re driving long distances every day, it might extend far beyond the $600 maximum quoted here. Drifter vans average 15-25 miles per gallon, so you can do some back of the envelope math to figure out what your costs might be based on your itinerary.

Campsites: $0-$900/month

Some campsites are free, like those on public lands (although you may need to pay national park fees to access them.) Paid campsites offer more amenity, though this generally comes at a cost of $15-$30 per night, meaning a month of paid sites could set you back as much as $900.

Groceries: $250-$1000/month

This is one of the greatest areas of budget discrepancy between van lifers. Some can eat quite thriftily, cooking for themselves and spending less than $10/day in the process. Others might eat out a bit more, spending $35+/day in the process. This variance means that food is an area where you can save big money if you choose to.

Campervan insurance: $100-180/month

Insurance is compulsory for campervans in the US. While you can choose a basic level of coverage for around $100/month, a more comprehensive level of protection, which includes the theft, loss or damage of anything inside your van, is highly recommended.

Health insurance: $200-$500/month

Life on the road can be unpredictable, so ensuring you have a decent level of health insurance could save you a lot of money and (maybe literal) heartache. This cost can vary wildly depending on your age, your overall health, your home state and the cover you choose, but a relatively healthy person can expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars.

Phone bill: *$100/month

A phone is one of the most important investments a van lifer can make – it’s your connection to family, friends and the wider world, your emergency beacon, and can even act as your WiFi router. You’ll know the cost of your service better than we do, though the average is a little over $100/month, and it might be worth considering adding extra data on top of your current plan.

Vehicle maintenance: $40-$100/month

There are inevitable costs associated with the upkeep of your campervan, like making sure the engine runs well, topping up fluids, replacing tires and preparing it for the winter. What these costs are will depend on the type of van you own, its age, and how much you drive it, though an average range is around $500-$1000/year.

Additional expenses

There are other expenses that you might face on the road, including (but not limited to):

  • Gym membership (great for access to showers and amenities)

  • National Park fees

  • Tolls

  • Laundry

  • Entertainment (Netflix, on-road activities)

  • Cooking fuel (propane, firewood, etc.)

  • Hair and beauty

In the end, life on the road can be as cheap or expensive as you make it. The most important thing is that you see any cost as a good investment, which is exactly what we aim to deliver at Drifter.

If you’re ready to become the proud owner of a campervan, get in touch with our friendly team today! Contact us HERE!

Vanlife Budgeting: A Breakdown of the Most Common Van Life CostsVanlife Budgeting: A Breakdown of the Most Common Van Life Costs (2024)


How do people afford to do van life? ›

Selling anything that we don't need long term or just not buying stuff that serves no purpose has been an ideal way of us being able to afford van life. Since living on the road we've sold leisure batteries, we've sold old cameras, we've sold tools etc anything we need to change or replace we never just throw away.

How much does a living van cost? ›

The starting price of a DIY van conversion is a little over $2,000, while professional van conversions start at around $30,000 — excluding the cost of the van itself. Roughly 80 percent of van lifers do DIY conversions.

What are the statistics of Vanlife? › reports in their General Vanlife Stats and Facts for 2023 that 51% of van-lifers reside in their vans full time. Only 36% of van-lifers live alone and 44% live with another person. Forty-three percent of van-lifers live in converted cargo vans, and 18% in passenger vans.

Can I realistically live in a van? ›

Honestly, living in a van can be challenging. I love the outdoors, but even I find it hard to go without a shower for long periods of time. It's also tough constantly thinking about where to park, when I can next charge my laptop, and how to eat healthy when cooking in one pot.

Is Van Life considered homeless? ›

United States. In the US, individuals who lack a permanent address and stable living situation, including vandwellers, are technically considered "homeless". Of the 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles, approximately 25% were living in a vehicle.

Do Van Life people pay taxes? ›

Even if you were to plan to live on the road for the foreseeable future, you still need to establish a domicile. That's because you need to maintain a permanent legal address that you can use to pay your taxes, vote, obtain legal documents, or get health insurance.

What is the most affordable van to live in? ›

The most economical van for conversion varies based on budget and needs. The popular Sprinter Van offers customization options, with used ones starting at $27,000. Other economical choices include the Nissan NV3500, Chevrolet Express, GMC Savana, and Ford Transit Cargo Vans.

What is a livable van called? ›

A campervan, also referred to as a camper, caravanette, motorhome or RV (recreational vehicle) in North America, is a self-propelled vehicle that provides both transport and sleeping accommodation.

What is the best van for van life? ›

We consider the Mercedes Sprinter Van the best van for van life.

Which state has the most van Lifers? › found that in 2023, more than half of van-lifers live in their vehicles full time, with California being one of the states with the most van-lifers.

How much power does a VanLife take? ›

We recommend full time vanlifers have at least 400 ah of lithium battery capacity onboard their campervan conversion. Most van lifers will use less than half of this on a daily basis, but there will inevitably be days where you don't generate much power at all.

Is VanLife sustainable? ›

Ultimately, van life is often more sustainable than traditional living in developed countries. However, van life still has a great impact on the environment depending on lifestyle choices. Some van lifers write that if everyone lived their lifestyle, we would need one and a half to more than two earths to sustain it.

Does living in a van really save money? ›

Rather than paying extremely high prices to live, a home on wheels allows you to stay in beautiful places for less. Even if you have a loan on your van or you pay for occasional camping, your monthly payment should be significantly cheaper than rent in a desirable location.

Is it profitable to rent out a van? ›

Most of our owners rent their Noovo Vans for anywhere from $150-300 per night. There are several studies out there supporting this figure, with the most accurate data suggesting that most people earn between $12,000-30,000 per year with a single van.

How to make money while living in a van? ›

Now let's look at seven jobs that are well-suited to van life.
  1. Writing. Freelance writing is a great way to earn money while traveling because of its flexibility and versatility. ...
  2. Editing and Proofreading. ...
  3. Virtual Assistant (VA) ...
  4. Graphic Designer. ...
  5. Online Teaching. ...
  6. Social Media Marketer. ...
  7. Web Designer.
Oct 30, 2023

How do I start planning my van life? ›

How to Plan for Your Van Life?
  1. Give It a Try. ...
  2. Choose a Vehicle That Works Best for Your Van Life Needs. ...
  3. Load Your Vehicle with Items. ...
  4. Prepare Safety or Emergency Equipment. ...
  5. Invest in a Portable Power System. ...
  6. Install the Appropriate Travel App. ...
  7. Make a Budget for Your Van Life. ...
  8. Get Used to Working on the Road.
Apr 7, 2023

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