How to prepare for van life isn’t a light question. I have been brewing on this post for several months now and finally think I have just the guide you’ll need. Disclaimer: I’m obsessed with van life and am open for questions so, ask away in the comments below!
Over on Instagram, you have been asking: why do you want to live in a van? what made you decide to make the jump? how to prepare for van life? what should I do to make the transition best? how much did the entire project cost? So many great questions and I am answering all of them in this four part van life series. Thank you for all your questions, let’s jump in!
I will answer a few Q&As and then share the specific details.
Van life Q & A from Instagram
Q: What made you and Tommy decide to do van life?
A: We’ve had the desire to live in a van since we got married. We had to finish our jobs and responsibilities that weren’t possible in a van. So, we waited!
Q: How did you know when the time was right?
A: Just like anything else, the time will never “be right”. There will always be things to do, trips to take and other things that seem to get in the way. It was a priority for us so, we started getting our minds in van world and got lost in it!
Q: Ashlee, any tips on how to prepare for van life?
A: Of course, lay out your life and figure out your priorities. Figure out if you are willing to live in a (really cool) metal box and go from there. Plus, all the details I list below.
Why we decided to live in a van
When it comes to material stuff, Tommy and I are not fans.. like at all. We don’t like clothes (I would be naked 24/7 if it were legal and accepted haha). A television isn’t our main form of entertainment and we’ve never even owned one. House decor like oversized “&” signs and blanket ladders aren’t our jam.
We enjoy living minimally with things we enjoy like food, a comfy non-toxic mattress, a select few outfits and card games.
The American Dream isn’t our dream and since we couldn’t stop talking about living in a van since the day we met, we figured what better time than now! We had just moved to Florida, were renting an adorable home and had a great group of friends/church. It’s not always easy to move away and chase a dream but sacrifices have to be made and you – again – have to lay out your priorities.
So… what are your priorities. Stop reading for a minute and write them down.
How to prepare for van life
Once we decided we were ready to live in a van, the logistics came in. It isn’t as simple as finding a van, putting your stuff in it and driving into the forest. No, not at all. First, you have to start minimizing your life. Get rid of stuff that doesn’t serve you. Donate clothes you don’t wear. Have a garage sale for your piano bench, book shelves and the books on those shelves that have been collecting dust. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have so much STUFF!
Now that you have emptied the cabinets, gifted the extra clothes and vacuumed 3 years of dust from under your bookshelf, it’s time to make sure you are free to leave your lease or able to sell your home.
If you’re renting, you will need to stay until your end date or find someone to takeover your lease. We didn’t care about the penalty of leaving because we were ready so, we found someone to take our lease and got out of it 6 months early.
The house is covered, break it down
So, you have your housing taken care of, PHEW. That can be a real pain in the booty. Now it’s time to dig into the details of what you want to call your home on wheels. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How much space do I want in the van?
- Will I need a shower and toilet?
- What size mattress will suite my needs?
- Do I need room for yoga or will outside suffice?
- Are visitors a priority, if so, how many chairs should I be able to fit?
Basically, make a list of negotiables and non-negotiables. This will help you to limit your choices when you search. Remember, there is creativity inside of limitations (wise words of my husband – modified from Andy Mineo).
For us, one of our non-negotiables was a comfortable bed. A negotiable for us was a shower. It’s all about priorities, right!?
Let’s van shop
Our van hunt took three months so, get your grown up pants on and be patient. You may find one the day of or you may find one 6 months down the road. The biggest piece of advise I have is DO NOT SETTLE. This is your home, your baby and you will spend lots of time in here. Find the perfect one and don’t be discouraged.
We scrounged Craigslist, had family looking, called dealers, checked out eBay and drove around looking. Craigslist was the most helpful tool for us. Another piece of advice, you will contact people and setup visits to find out they somehow fell off the face of the earth in a 4 hour period. It just happens. We contacted and setup visits with 5 people to only have them literally disappear, no idea but we credit God because we LOVE the one we did get.
Since you have already made a list of your priorities and non-negotiables, you know what size van to look for. 140, 158, 170 wheelbase? High top or low top? Swivel seats or extra seats in the back? Built out or just the shell? 50,000 miles or 150,000 miles. This is where your desires come in so, don’t skip out on this priorities list!
Where we found our van
After three months, we found our home. It was perfect for our needs. A 170 wheel base, high top, 2007 Freight liner Sprinter. Since we had been prepping, we were ready to go when we sent the money. We found the van, sold the remainder of our stuff and left Florida within 2 weeks. Talk about quick!
A little note on 2007: we chose this year because it’s one year before they started adding DEF (diesel emissions fluid). We called multiple dealers and they all hate DEF since it causes so many issues, things we didn’t want to deal with.
We bought The Island (it’s new name) in Kansas City, Missouri. My husband decided to build out our van in South Dakota in the winter (don’t ask me why) so, it was right on the way from Florida. One of our questions for “How to prepare for van life” was how many miles we wanted. 200,000 was our max and even though that seems like a lot, it’s not for these beasts.
The Island met all of our needs. In its previous life, it was a mobile medical equipment repair unit. The sliding door had never been opened, they took super good care of it (medical so… duh!) and it looked brand spankin’ new.
How to prepare for van life takeaways
- Make a list of negotiables and non-negotiables
- Setup a payment plan, in full or in payments
- Ask yourself if you’re cutout to live in a van pst, you totally can do it!
- Choose your size van & start the hunt