VAN LIFE COST: INITIAL PURCHASE PRICE, RENOVATION COSTS, AND REPAIRS
Getting started with van life cost can vary and can be as much or as little as you’d like. Although the more you cut the price tag, the more accommodations will get cut.
So, if you buy a van that’s $200, it may turn around and end up being over $5,000- $10,000 in repairs.
Ultimately, it’s your choice for how you want the van life cost to level out.
Firstly, I want to say that the best way to see if a van is a safe purchase, make sure to take it to a mechanic first before purchasing. There is nothing worse than buying a car that is a lemon.
A lemon vehicle is a vehicle that turns out to have several manufacturing defects affecting its safety, value, or utility.
For this reason, I will always ask to take the car to a mechanic of my choice to have the car looked over. I would personally rather pay $100 for a mechanic to look it over and to have some added insurance, than to risk major issues.
In the case of a seller not wanting to have the vehicle brought to the mechanics, it can be a much higher risk to buy it because maybe that buyer isn’t wanting something to be found out!
Alternatively, bringing it to the mechanics can allow for a more trusting purchase, and gives insight into the vehicle.
Therefore, having a better understanding of what truly needs to be taken care of, what the safety condition of the vehicle is, and what the true initial purchase of the vehicle is.
Initially, I ended up finding the van on Craigslist for $14,000, I bargained and purchased it for around 12,000 with taxes and licensing fees being about $115.84.
VAN REPAIR COSTS
Fortunately, the man I bought the van from was a very wholesome and kind-hearted man.
Surely, he had allowed me to take the van out driving as long as I wanted and to even bring the van to the mechanics for a couple of days.
Undoubtedly, there were little to no major safety issues with the van during the initial look-over.
Later on, I came to realize some repairs that needed to happen, beyond a basic inspection. They make sure that there are major threats to safety, but sometimes repairs show themselves over time, especially with continual usage.
Tire Rotation 19.95
Battery Replacement and repairs $179.90
Labor costs 177.85
Misc charges 25.03
Discount tire 6/18/21
Tire replacement $221.68
Oxygen Sensors — 196.86 + part cost of 161.10
Mass Air Flow Sensor — 131.24 + part cost of 271.22
Fuel Pump Control Module — 78.74 + part cost of 156.00
Hazardous Materials cost — 3.50
Total plus tax: $1056.31
Parts (spark plugs & Air filter) 74.44
REPAIRS TOTAL: $2082.38
Consequently, repairs are bound to happen with continual usage of anything. For example, houses need repairs, vehicles, anything mechanical, etc.
It’s a part of life, but caring for things ahead of time allows for a more preventative approach.
Some of the repairs I had chosen to make weren’t necessary right away and were not safety hazards, but I chose to keep up with repairs rather than be overwhelmed with them later.
As a result of also keeping up with repairs, it can lead to better gas mileage, expand the life of the vehicle, and increases the value a bit more.
WHAT CAME WITH THE VAN
I know some people have said that it seems a bit pricey to have invested into that van life cost, but I paid for a van that had some amenities already included.
Undoubtedly, we pay for convenience, and I did so consciously.
– Nitto Terra Grappler All-Terrain Tires (less than 1k mi) ($800)
– Apple Car Play Radio ($400)
– Alarm system ($200)
– Repaired heater ($1000)
– 200 Watt Renogy Wanderer Solar Charger Controller Kit ($350)
– (2) VMax 125 AGM Deep Cycle 12v Batteries ($600)
–Xantrex 806-1206 Inverter, PROwatt SW 600W 12V True-Sine ($200)
– Maxx Fan w/ auto-thermostat & rain cover ($250)
– Road Shower 4 ($625)
– Rola Roof Rack ($355)
– Mictuning Cargo Bag ($62)
– Collapsible “kitchen sink” ($25)
– Full Memory Foam 6″ Mattress ($125)
– GCI Folding Table ($40)
– New Pop-up Privacy Tent ($25)
– Sportsmobile Swivel Passenger Seat ($350)
–Yeti Cooler 65 liter ($302)
Van Build extras (Unsure of Cost)
– 12v LED puc lighting
– 2 USB charger port next to bed
– Cigarette lighter port for 12v accessories (i.e. fan)
– Power strip mounted to desk for easier access to power
– Insulted with Haveloc Wool (Best & most environmentally friendly)
– Wood Flooring
– Custom Desk – I REMOVED
– Custom Shelving
– Custom drop-down table on rear door
– Full Size Bed Frame
– Tons of garage storage
– 7 Gallon Water Storage
– Cedar White Ceiling – I REPAIRED
– Insulated Window Covers – I REPAIRED
As a result of owning your van, you’ll quickly come to realize that hardware stores and outdoor stores have become a regular stop and a necessity.
At one point, I had even found myself going multiple times a day to try to timely finish a project.
So, van renovation costs quickly added up, and amenities cost more.
As a result of my renovations, I ended up spending around $397.33 on Home Depot parts, products, and supplies.
Additionally, I also ended up spending around $658.31 on Amazon.
Finally, making renovation costs around $1,055.64.
Alternatively, this cost is also able to be adjusted by the quality of products chosen, as well as if you choose to upcycle or reuse pieces.
For example, I recycled fabrics, wood, shelving, buckets, and any supplies that I could find along the way.
♻ Sustainability Highlight/Tip: As a result of using recycled products, we are essentially also making the renovation process more eco-friendly and reducing waste from ending up in the landfill as well!
PS: Check out this article on the FORD CAMPER VAN REMODEL — BEFORE AND AFTER
VAN LIFE COST: INITIAL PURCHASE PRICE, RENOVATION COST, AND REPAIR SUMMARY
Nonetheless, buying a van can be as expensive or as budgeted as you’d like, it just depends on strategy, convenience, and accommodations.
Overall, this is the total costs for everything (not including monthly van costs)
Initial cost: 12,000
Title & Registration $115.84
Repairs Total: $2082.38
Renovations Total: $1,055.64
TOTAL OVERALL VAN COSTS
To check out monthly expenses, check out this article here MONTHLY CAMPER VAN COST BREAKDOWN
Fascinating post! I recently watched Nomadland and that was my first exposure to this lifestyle and I find it extremely interesting. I love the insight you provided because this is another world to me.
Cool to see how your Van Life journey began and the work and financial commitment it entailed. I really enjoyed reading about the details of what, why, and how you outfitted the van and the focus on preventative maintenance. I think anyone considering this path would totally benefit from learning about your experience. Good stuff!
Heya Jesse, thank you so much for your kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed the article and the insight!!!
How long have you been on this journey? How has your experience been?
Currently living on another path so this world is all new to me. I’v recently read ton of articles, blog posts, and watched movies as well as YouTube videos about minimalism, van life, and simplifying your lifestyle and it all really resonates with me.
I have a friend who is already working toward this type of lifestyle, so now I feel I have more resources to learn from. One thing I have learned is that this is a PROCESS and takes some planning to hopefully ensure a good start. Still, it seems like a worth wild endeavor and people living this lifestyle seem overall pretty happy with their choices.
Let’s just say I am an enthusiast researching this new type of lifestyle. NOOB 🙂
Very well put, you’re entirely right to research to ensure that good start. The setup, comfort, and planning ensures the experience overall, almost similar to a tipping scale. So, enjoy the research, and have fun with the planning, but also don’t forget to remember things are going to shift and change as the journey begins. Allowing ideas and plans to change is okay too!
Have fun, and stay safe!