• Dustin Van Ells


When you want to get out there—you know, really out there and off the grid—you start looking for a camper van or a cargo van. Having a home away from home that fits in driveways and parking spaces means you can go wherever you want, whenever you want.

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is: “How much does vanlife cost?” It’s also one of the most difficult to answer. The truth is: whatever you want. Vanlife is different for everyone, and so is the price.

First things first, the type of vehicle you choose to buy is going to be the largest up-front cost to vanlife. Just like anything else related to building a house, you can spend as little or as much as you want on a conversion. Solar power, refrigerators, and composting toilets are all great, but might not be what you really need. Build within your budget and with your lifestyle in mind.

Picking the just-right-for-you van

Are you mechanically inclined? An older analog van that can be fixed with some wrenching will definitely save you money. Investing in an older van means less cost initially, but might require a little extra effort during the build-out. Oh, and that low gas mileage is no joke. Full van conversions typically take 6-8 weeks and can cost $32,000 for the labor alone.

Not so handy? Newer model vans (and their warranties) are a bit more reliable and meant to be repaired by the pros at a dealership when issues do arise. They’re rolling off the assembly line ready to be outfitted with all the comforts you’re used to—at a cost. Companies like Zenvanz sell prefab aluminum exoskeletons and bent bamboo panels perfectly fitted for a new Sprinter for $22,000.

Trying to keep it simple? Any van you get and clear out can be outfitted with a simple platform bed that allows for storage, an easy-to-maintain pull out kitchenette, and a durable floor for just a few thousand dollars.

Planning your van conversion

Once you’ve found the perfect van for your needs, it’s time to start planning the camper van conversion. Without a doubt, the type of van you own has the biggest impact on what you can accomplish with your space. If you already have a van, a big part of the equation has already been sorted out. Some things to think about:

  • How many people are traveling? (How many beds do you need?)

  • Will you be working on the road? (Do you need a table or desk?)

  • Will there be a toilet in the van?

  • Are you planning to hook up a sink?

  • Will there be a shower?

  • Where will the black water go?

  • How much water storage do you need?

  • Will you mainly be cooking inside/outside or both?

  • Do you need propane storage and ventilation?

  • How much storage space do you need for clothes/personal items?

There’s no right way to build a van, but there is the best way for you and your lifestyle. Many a road trip have been taken without hot water.

Van conversion financing options

No matter what you decide, you have options. We work with customers from all walks of life who are either fulltime vandwellers or weekend adventurers. The one thing everyone has in common: they need van conversion financing options. The Van Plan offers options through Acorn Financing.

A bit about Acorn Finance

When you apply for financing through Acorn, it will not impact your credit score. Customers receive pre-qualified offers without a “hard ding” to their credit report. They offer loans up to $100,000 with terms up to 12 years and APRs as low as 4.99%. In some cases, customers can receive funds in as little as one business day.

Customers fill out a short loan application form, receive multiple pre-qualified offers, and then are connected to the lender to get the loan.

You can play around with the numbers here and see how it works.

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