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The Ultimate DIY Guide to Starting Your Van Life Adventure

Whether you’re someone looking to find yourself before settling down or an all-out adrenaline junkie that wants to experience all that our world has to offer, the concept of van life may seem appealing to you to some degree. In fact, this concept is actually appealing to most Americans but the work and dedication it takes to get started is enough to make them rethink the decision before ever even starting.

However, for those that can’t seem to shake the van life dream and want to begin taking the first steps towards living on the road and traveling full-time, this ultimate guide is the perfect way to do so without a hitch (no pun intended). In this article, we at FlipRide will help you to navigate the entire process of becoming a nomadic van lifer in no time. We will not only go over the vehicle itself and the items needed to travel comfortably within it but the actual budget and insider’s secrets as well that are sure to get you out on the road and living life to the fullest with ease.

To do so, we will go over the main topics associated with this Bohemian lifestyle including the vehicle, some van life expert tips, the budget, materials, preparation checklists, and finishing touches all to lead to the most comfortable and positive experience possible. After all, life truly is an adventure, so why not take the road less travelled and make the most out of it while you can?

Start With a Highly Reliable Vehicle

Just as you would take time and really look high and low for the perfect house to buy for your family, the vehicle you choose for the nomadic lifestyle will be your home during this adventure and should be chosen wisely as well.

While there are many elements to consider when purchasing a quality van life vehicle, the biggest things to focus on are the reliability of the brand and model of the vehicle itself, the condition of the vehicle both mechanically and on the inside, how cost-effective it will be, whether or not it is capable of handling various different terrains, and how much space you will actually need for this journey.

So, let’s begin with the make and model as well as the condition of the specific vehicle you choose. For starters, the best choices for van life according to Van Clan are as follows:

  • Mercedes Sprinter
  • Volkswagen Bus
  • Vauxhall Movano
  • Volkswagen Crafter
  • Ford Transit
  • School Bus
  • Renault Trafic
  • Knaus Boxdrive CUV
  • Citroen WildCamp
  • Four Wheel Campers
  • Mercedes-Benz Luton Box Van
  • Volkswagen California
  • Rivian Electric Truck
  • Sportsmobile Classic 4×4
  • Ram ProMaster

The benefit with choosing a vehicle that has been tested by multiple van life veterans throughout the years is that they not only will have tips to keep this vehicle in shape throughout your journey but will also be able to let you know from their personal experiences what they consider to be the pros and cons with these vehicles as well.

Fortunately, many of the vehicles that this van life magazine recommends are easy to find used online for a reasonable price and offer adequate space, fuel economy, and reliability. However, even beyond this list, there are countless vehicles that will serve your purpose that can be found for a reasonable price online. In fact, you are sure to find the best car for every kind of road trip if you only search in an effective manner, use the tips and tricks of insiders to your benefit, and set reasonable expectations for your van life experience.

Once you have chosen the right vehicle for your van life journey, the next step is creating an adequate packing situation within the vehicle and altering it however you must to best fit your necessities and make it less of a van and more of a home.
This is also where you will want to do a complete check of your used car’s interior and mechanical elements in order to ensure that the vehicle is road-ready.

Once your vehicle is approved for the road, altered to fit your new life, and shown to be a reliable and cost-effective living environment for your new Bohemian lifestyle, it’s time to delve deeper. To do this, your best bet is to turn to other ‘van lifers’ in order to find out the secret tips and tricks that truly take the experience from a beginner’s nightmare to an expert’s dream come true.

Find Other ‘Van Lifers’ to Learn Insider Secrets

When it comes to van life and living on the road, there is never a shortage of people and their experiences online to choose from. From families and couples to friend groups and people with their pets, there is sure to be a van life YouTube channel or blog that perfectly matches your own experience and provides useful tips and tricks when getting started.

For instance, if you and your family, friends, or significant other are hitting the road, you may want to know what things you will need to be comfortable and still have your own spaces in the vehicle. You may also want to know easy-to-make meals for more than one person and may want to consider different vehicles with the size of your group in mind. Luckily, all of these answers and more can be found on any of the family, friends, and couple van life pages found below:

Similarly, if you are a singular person hitting the road, your experience will absolutely be different from couples or groups. This is why finding reliable single travelers’ points of view is vital. Although there are a lot of single travelers to choose from, your best bet is to find one with a similar vehicle as you, a similar profession, the same gender, and traveling in the same way or same area.

The main reason for this is that single travelers have so much to offer regarding how to eat, sleep, pack, shower, and where to stay when on the road. However, these particular elements will alter the advice they give. While a male ‘van lifer’ might show you how to shave or tell you to pack only shirts and shorts, a female will have more in-depth packing and hygiene tips more often than not.

In the same sense, while someone with a photography job may tell you that all you need for your work on the road is a camera, some lighting equipment, and a laptop, a person that works in the restaurant industry may be able to show you how to get short-term gigs as you travel with ease.

Having said that, the five single travelers below are wonderful examples of the many ways you can travel alone and offer incredible insights into the real side of van life that is rarely seen on Instagram or in a positive nomad vlog series.

After learning from these people, you will want to start putting your plan all in place. The best way to do this is by looking at your finances, sticking to your budget, and keeping your expectations reasonable in nature.

Create an Educated Budget and Stick to it

According to Parked in Paradise, the average van life month costs roughly $850. This includes staying at free campsites, traveling infrequently to save on gas, and opting for low-cost meals and essentials.

On top of this, the initial purchase and conversion of your vehicle will likely cost anywhere between $4,000 to $40,000 depending on the type of vehicle and whether or not it is already converted for living. You will want to keep in mind that you will need extra storage space such as shelves or cabinets, a sleeping arrangement of some sort, a generator in case you ever become stranded, and safety precautions such as a satellite phone and a full first aid kit just to name a few.

Before hitting the road, you will also want to have a reliable set of clothes for all terrains, adventures, and temperatures as well as a set of utensils and toiletries in order to be fully capable of living entirely out of your vehicle.

With all of this accounted for, you will likely want to have anywhere between $15,000-$50,000 saved up for when you hit the road and will want to budget accordingly. If you are struggling with the budget process, there are many budgeting tools other travelers use to keep track of their finances that may be effective.

Equip Your Vehicle for the Nomadic Lifestyle

Once you have your budget in place, your next step is to actually execute your van conversion. Fortunately, there are many other van life experts that provide detailed guides in order to do this in the most cost-effective way possible.

After reviewing these guides in full, we at FlipRide have noticed one thing in particular. All of them have the same set of rules and additions that are sure to make the experience run as smoothly as possible.

These additions include a whole lot of storage converting, room for a bed or futon system, a kitchen addition with cabinets, a mini fridge, solar and lighting panels, and a potential bathroom setup as well. As long as your vehicle accounts for these main elements, you are sure to be able to hit the road without a problem whatsoever.

To help you along the way, be sure to check out The Vanual which offers guides for everything from construction and maintenance all the way to cooking and cleaning.

Mark off This Ultimate Van Life Checklist

Now that your vehicle is fully converted, your budget and budgeting tools are in place, and you are ready to hit the road, all that is left is marking off the checklist we’ve created below. Consider this checklist to be the ultimate van life checklist to help you consider things you may have not thought of until now before starting your journey.

Once this checklist is fully checked off, you can be sure that you are truly ready for your new lifestyle and will not have any issues as you start to travel across the nation.

Hit the Road in Style

Lastly, with everything packed, prepped, and ready to go, all that’s left is hitting the road. We recommend starting your journey early in the morning and having a set destination to get to every day that you travel. You may also want to make preparations ahead of time for work if you need to do hours on the road which require WiFi or need short-term gigs as you travel. We also recommend wearing something comfortable when you drive to keep yourself focused on the road and not on the comfort of your outfit.

By doing so, you can hit the road in style, be comfortable from day one on, and be able to always achieve your daily goals without fail. After all, as with anything in life, the key to van life is preparation and setting reasonable expectations. From there, the opportunities are truly endless.

Found the Perfect ‘Van Life’ Vehicle?

If you think you have the perfect vehicle for your new lifestyle transition but aren’t sure what to do next, head over to the FlipRide app to send an offer and streamline this often frustrating part of the van life transition in no time flat! At FlipRide, we believe that buying the ideal vehicle shouldn’t be a pain and that’s why we take the hassle out of the experience so you can get to converting your ‘home’ and hitting the road as soon as possible! See how it works and take that first major step today!