The beloved #vanlife certainly wears the patina of modern adventure nicely. But though it seems like an endless vacation, most people we talk to are quick to explain that it’s also a hustle. Even the effort to transition into a couple of hundred square-feet of wanderlust in vehicle form is enormous. How do you lay everything out? How do you get the most home for your hard cash?
We spoke with John and Jayme Serbell (two of the vanlifers we recommended you follow on Instagram) about various aspects of the build, and they broke them down for people on small, medium, and large budgets. As the duo behind the website Gnomad Home, the Serbells certainly know what they’re talking about.
“If you have the desire to go live a nomadic lifestyle,” John Serbell says, “you can get out there and see the country, see the world, explore the nature, and live the life you want. You really don’t need a whole lot to get started.”
Read through what they have to say about getting started with the vanlife and see if you aren’t cruising Craigslist for vans shortly thereafter. We sure did.
John: The first category is the van itself. You can spend just a couple hundred dollars, and you can spend many thousands of dollars on a van. If you’re on a really tight budget, we think the best option is a high-top conversion van. That’s the one we have, and we got a very, very good deal on it. The reason why they’re great for low budgets is because most of the ones you’ll find out there were primarily used as once-a-year road tripping vehicles, and they weren’t typically daily drivers; it’s not very difficult to find conversion vans that are in really good condition, really well cared for, and have relatively low mileage (a hundred thousand miles or under) for not a whole lot of money.
Jayme: There are also cargo vans that are a really good option. They’re really good for scout camping, but a lot of the time those have much higher mileage because people get them for work and run them into the ground. As far as small- and medium-budget options, we would suggest the high top conversion and the cargo van. For the higher-budget people, there’s the obvious Sprinters, the Ford Transits, the Dodge ProMasters.
John: The Sprinters, Transits, and ProMasters tend to be newer vehicles. Sprinters especially have much higher mechanical costs than something like an older Chevy or Ford will have. We typically don’t recommend those types of things unless you have a higher budget.