Last Updated on March 9, 2020 by cmoarz
To answer this question very much depends on who happens to be asking. The cost of living in a van varies country to country and even state to state in some cases – So I’m going to base this article off UK prices, and will add conversions for USD for my US readers. If you are wondering how much does it cost to live in a van in some other country not mentioned above, Feel free to comment bellow and I will try and expand this topic a bit more. Bellow I will give a quick summary on the data in case you don’t have time to read the rest of the post.
Bare minimum in most areas you should have at least £15,000 ($19,000 usd) in order to live in a van. And around £800 ($1,044.48 usd) a month afterwords, Although you can get away with less. The largest expenses are:
- The van itself
- Conversion kits
- Places to park / stay
- Emergency fund
Most people think the van itself would be the most expensive bit for starting your life in a van. But actually, the conversion kits to turn a van into a home costs more. I bet you hear that word a lot, Conversion kit, But what is it?
A conversion kit is basically just a bunch of items and building materials tossed together that one would typically need to change a van into a livable home. You can’t just gut a van and say you are going to live in it, It actually takes quiet a bit of modification to make that a comfortable experience. Certain companies make conversion kits that specific certain types of vans which can also make life a lot easier. Some of the thing’s that would be included in a conversion kit are:
Insulated Paneling (price varies by foot and complexity)
With out it, Hot days are hot and cold days are cold. Unbearably so. Every house needs insulation and a van is no different. Insulation allows you to control the heat and air conditioning in your van, which in the long run will make living in the van far more comfortable and save you a considerable amount of money and fuel, and allow you to use your limited electricity for other more important gadgets.
Flooring (price varies by foot and complexity)
Flooring is another default for most conversion kits. Van bottoms are not built flat, There are a lot of bumps and crevasses underneath the seating and patting, making it difficult to stand on, clean, or set up other things such as beds and tables. Depending on the size of the van, flooring also allows for a second floor where the bed or storage might go, as well as storage underneath the floor that can give more space to run wires and pipes as well as an extra space to put belongings you don’t use every day. Flooring is usually made from hardwood with heavy duty vinyl covering.
Vans require a specially designed table that can fold in and out of a crevice space or the wall. It’s not too complicated to make one yourself or pick one up at any camper supply and equipment store. These are often staples in conversion kits.
Battery and Solar panels £100-£5000
Most van set ups use some sort of solar panel, and a battery those panels feed too. I wont get into too much detail on how solar panel and batteries work, ideally you will know more about this when you decide to start living in a van. Suffice to say, A battery is required to run all your stuff since it’s not like your going to be running the engine 24/7. These battery setups are separate from the one your vans basic functions like starting up use and is likely the most expensive piece in the conversion kit (along with the solar panels). To addonto the cost of these, You will also need a converter, fuse box, wiring, and all the other lovely things that go with it.
Bathroom and Plumbing
A lot of the stuff in this section you don’t absolutely need, and is considered more of a luxury. Depending on where you park your van and stay, You may have access to better accommodations and many items you see here wont be included in an average conversion kit. Some deluxe kits will include these though.
Composing toilet £200 – £2200
If you plan on spending a lot of time in an urban environment but don’t have access to free or paid toilet accommodations, this is definitely something you might want to have in your van. They don’t take up too much space, can be put in a corner or stashed away in a cabinet and come in real handy when you’ve ‘gota go’. This will increase the price considerably on any conversion kit as they tend not to be very cheap. But the prices tend to range widely from £200-£2200.
Propane Shower <£100
Definitely something i consider a luxury, A propane shower is a very nice thing to have when your living in a van. This little device is usually under £100, so while I consider it a luxury, It’s definitely an affordable one to have. And of course to go with most propane heated showers you will also need:
A water storage tank £60 – £100
Pretty self explanatory. It’s a tank that holds fresh water you will need for eating, drinking, cooking and showering. You don’t need to have a dedicated tank and can use smaller handheld tanks just as easily. Needs to be food safe.
The van itself £1200 – £20,000
The largest variation of price in this list is the van itself. You can either get a used van which is one of the most commonly used methods, Or you can get a new van. Depending on the van you get and the size of it, Will reflect the price considerably. There is a great deal of overlap too, as some older vans are premium when it comes to converting one into a home. So even though these vans are used they tend to go for a higher price. This is especially true now that the popularity of van living has exploded all over the world and a great deal more people are attempting to do it themselves.
Your best bet is to check your local listings or used car lots. Craigslist, Kijiji, even ebay. Just be sure to do your due diligence just like purchasing any sort of vehicle or expensive item.
Insurance is a big thing that you absolutely must have. Most insurance plans are usually in the range of £150 a month give or take. Fuel is another important aspect you will need to think about. You might think that sitting around you aren’t burning a lot of fuel but the fact is, You will end up using a lot of fuel, especially if you are using a generator instead of solar or just topping off your batteries with a generator.
We can’t forget food either. just like living in an apartment or a house, You still need to eat! And while this isn’t exclusive to van life, I do consider it in the final cost. And since you have food you will need food storage, Such as a camping fridge/freezer combo. These don’t cost an insane amount but they can be still pretty hefty. Remember, like anything, You get what you pay for. Pay that extra bit for quality rather than something you will need to replace later, Or worse, Just wont do a good job to begin with. And that really is true for everything on this list.
Check out our other articles on: Canning and Dehydration and Container Gardening
What is the average cost of living in a van uk: The average cost for living in a van in the UK is 19,000 USD
What are the best vans to convert to campers?: Fiat Ducato, Volkswagen Transporter, For Transit, Renault Trafic, and Mercedes Sprinter (these are of course opinion)