All the time, wannabe vandwellers ask: What is the best van to live in? Is this van a good buy? What’s the best rig for van life? Should I even get a van?
Well, Vanholio’s here to answer those questions. But you might not like the answer!
The truth is there is no one right rig. I don’t care what the salesman said! Every setup’s got it’s pluses and minuses, just like every other damn thing in life. Get used to it.
No, you need to get back to first principles, as Elon Musk says, and answer these 6 questions:
1. What must your van do?
Truth is, the only thing your van must do, as shelter, is help you maintain body temperature. It’s called staying alive.
- If you’re wintering in Canada, will it keep you warm?
- If you’re in a rainy area, will you get wet accessing parts of the rig, or can you pretty much stay inside?
- If you’re in the sunny southwest, do you have AC, or does it have enough reflection and ventilation to keep cool?
But don’t overthink this, either. Our ancestors lived in rock overhangs and brush huts. Your vehicle just needs to be good enough, and the right gear can take up the slack.
2. Which van will make you feel safe?
Do you want to sleep at night? Then you’ll want to feel safe. Nervous folks don’t sleep well.
- Can you stay cool enough while the windows and doors are locked up? Do you care?
- Does your van stealth well enough to avoid notice from cops, street people, and thugs?
- Can you hop into the driver’s seat from the back for a quick getaway?
- Do you have enough privacy?
Safety is as much a state of mind as a set of rules. Know what feels safe to you.
3. Will the van get you where you want to go?
Not every rig is good for every situation and lifestyle. Consider how much and where you want to travel?
- Do you want off-road clearance for the backcountry?
- Need AWD for snow or mud?
- Do you want to go unnoticed in the city?
- Is the van reliable for long distance travel?
- Can the rig manage tight turns and hills, if you expect them?
- Do you want better gas mileage for lots of travel?
- Will the van be parked most of the time?
In other words, it’s like picking any other damn car.
4. What van can you afford?
You gotta pay for this thing one way or the other. No getting around it.
- Can you afford the repairs?
- Can you do the repairs yourself?
- Can you work with your current, paid-for vehicle? Lots of folks live in cars.
- Can you afford payments? Can you stomach payments?
- Can you afford an extended warranty? (Can be great deals for new vans!)
If you’re just starting out, Vanholio recommends the vehicle you own. You’ll save money and get a better handle on all the questions in this post.
5. What van or rig can you manage?
OK, here I’m mainly talking about bigger RVs and trailers. But some vans can be intimidating, too.
- Do you need a bus driver license for a Class A?
- Can you physically handle hooking up a trailer
- Does a large rig feel too scary to drive?
- Are you comfortable in the driver’s seat?
- Does the van feel like it’ll topple over in a strong side wind?
Test drive, test drive, test drive!
6. What van or amenities will keep you happy?
Once all the practical considerations are done, you need to think about what’ll make van life pleasant for you.
- Really, really want your own shower? Bathroom?
- Need a kitchen? Or is cooking outside or eating takeout OK?
- Do you care if you can stand inside the van?
- How comfortable a bed do you want or need?
- Want different room-like spaces for living? Or just a place to sleep?
- Do you want something easy to customize or decorate later?
- Do you want some pizzazz to show off?
- Want solar for boondocking?
Look in your heart. If you’re serious about van living, you’ll be in this thing a long time. You don’t want to hate it or your life.
That’s an overview of how to pick the best possible van life vehicle. As you look around online and in person at different rigs, ask yourself these questions. You’ll narrow down your list of workable rigs pretty quick, I guarantee.
Vanholio is a full-time vandweller and travelling philosopher. You can read more of his van life advice and general ranting at vanholio.com.