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6 Things To Know Before You Start Van Life Full Time

Things To Know Before You Start Vanlife

Choosing to start van life full time is a big decision. It comes with a sense of freedom, adventure, and a dash of uncertainty. Before you decide to live a mobile lifestyle, you should know a few things.

Before you start van life full time, take into consideration these six things:

  • How you will make money
  • Choosing which van you want
  • Establishing residency
  • Plan your electricity before you start your build
  • Remember the little things
  • Set realistic expectations

Vanlife isn’t all fun, and a lot of planning goes into it before you hit the road. Let’s dive into the six things to know before you start van life full time!

This post includes affiliate links but rest assured that we only recommend items we would use ourselves. And if you choose to make a purchase, we receive a small commission. No sponsorships, just the truth about our favorite finds.

By the way, if you’re not sure that van life is right for you, you can always rent a campervan and try it out with Escape Campervans!

1. How Will you Make Money

A man making lots of money to start van life full time.

Vanlife is definitely cheaper than living in an apartment, but it comes with its own set of expenses. You’ll have to buy groceries, pay for gas, and pay for fees for national parks, parking lots, and camping spots.

Unless you are fortunate enough to be already wealthy, you’ll probably have to make some income while you’re traveling. Luckily, there are things you can do on the road to earn some cash, so you don’t have to be ‘that guy’ with a cardboard sign asking for gas.

Affiliate Links

ou can earn a small commission on your website through affiliate links.

If you are documenting your adventures for the entertainment of others, you most likely have a website and are on social media. You can earn a small commission on your website through affiliate links. 

One of the most well-known affiliates is Amazon. Still, there are tons of other companies out there that participate in affiliate programs.

Here are a few things to note about making money through affiliate programs:

  • You need an audience: for most people, it takes about two years to get enough traffic on their website to make money off affiliate links. Start well before you hit the road! Don’t expect to start your website after you get into your van and make money off it.
  • Find the right affiliate company: Amazon is an excellent general company, but others specialize in specific niches. For example, Back Country sells a lot of hiking and climbing gear that might work better for someone who does vanlife and hikes or climbs.
  • Read the fine print: Each affiliate company will have different earning percentages, requirements, and rules. Be sure to read these carefully before signing on.
  • Make a statement: At the beginning of every blog post, you should make a statement that you earn commission from affiliate links. This makes you a more trusted source in google’s eyes. Also, some affiliate companies will penalize you if you don’t.

According to a study in the International Journal of Research Studies in Management, three things help hook consumers into clicking on your affiliate links:

  1. Usefulness
  2. Informativeness
  3. Perceived trust

In other words, make sure the product you are trying to sell will be helpful to the reader. Ensure the reader is informed about the product and how it can help them. Lastly, make sure your website appears safe and trustworthy.

Sell Your Skills

Set up skills to improve your life on the road so you can enjoy van life

We all have skills that we’re proud of but maybe never got to use in our day-to-day jobs because they couldn’t be made into a career. For example, you may love to write but never found the time to write a novel. Use that to your advantage!

Plenty of online platforms allow you to make a little side money doing what you love. 

  • Fiverr and 99designs are great for artists and graphic designers
  • Upwork and flexjobs are good platforms for writers and website designers
  • Toptal is an excellent choice for software developers and finance
  • SimplyHired is an option for human resource and data entry

One thing to be aware of with freelance work is that you will have to pay a fee to use the chosen platform. Another downside to freelancing is that it’s not always stable pay.

Do Odd Jobs

Another way to make money as you travel is to do odd jobs in the places you travel. There’s no shortage of work to be done. It’s just about finding the right place at the right time.

You can offer to help on a farm during harvest season. You can get a short-term job at a restaurant or retail store. If you specialize in a particular area, such as carpentry or mason work, you can always work as you travel.

Seasonal jobs are another option. There are a few sites like BackDoorJobs and CoolWorks that can help you find short-term seasonal work.

2. Pick The Right Vehicle to Start Van Life Full Time

One of the first steps in planning your future van life is deciding what make and model you want to live in! Many different aspects go into this decision, so it’s critical that you do the research and make the right call before you spend the money.

Three of the most popular vans for vanlife include:

  • Mercedes Sprinter Van
  • Ram Promaster
  • Ford Transit

There are more vans out there, but these are the big names and the most popular choices for full-time van lifers. Each of these three vans has a smattering of pros and cons. It’s all about your preferences, budget, and the size van you want. Additionally, there is a huge van life community out there that you can reach out to for advice

If you decide to buy your van new, we highly recommend getting it custom-built. This way, you can choose the color, what windows you want, and if you want any extra bells and whistles, such as swivel seats or an upgraded safety feature. 

As a bonus, the price you see when you order the van is the price you’ll pay. So, if your van takes 6 months to build, you still pay the MSRP at the time of signing. This is super nice at a time when prices only continue to increase.

Already decided on van life? Check out our article on how to start a van conversion and mistakes to avoid during your van build.

3. Decide Where You Want To Establish Residency

When you decide to leap into full-time vanlife, you might overlook a few things in your excitement to get going. One is where your residency will be. This is very important for tax purposes, vehicle registration, and health insurance.

There are a few ways to establish residency, even when you travel full-time. 

Rely On Friends Or Family

Establish residency anywhere

One option is to ask a friend or family member if you can use their address as your home address. This is an excellent option if you trust the person to handle your mail carefully.

Be aware that if you establish residency somewhere not where your vehicle and driver’s license are registered, you will have to go through the process of registering your vehicle in the chosen state.

Pick A New State

Another option to establish residency is to pick a new state to ‘live’ in. Three of the most popular states for van lifers to establish residency are:

  • South Dakota
  • Florida
  • Texas

All three of these states do not charge income tax. Just be aware that you must use a mail forwarding service to deliver your mail. You must also use vehicle and health insurance from your chosen state.

4. Plan Your Electricity Before You Start Your Build

One of the many things I learned on my van-building adventure is that there’s A LOT of planning before you ever touch the inside of the van.

Planning your electricity needs should be one of the first things you do before you start renovations inside the van. This means:

  • Plan out each device needing power (phone, laptop, kindle, TV, etc.)
  • Calculate all your necessities that need power (fridge, water pump, fan, etc.)

There is an excellent guide from Asobo Life to calculate your total watt-hours and figure out what size battery and solar panels you need. The reason it’s so important to figure this out is that you’ll need to know where the wires are going before you can install the walls or ceiling.

The only thing you could renovate before the electricity is the floor of your van.

5. Remember The Little Things

Dont forget to slow down and enjoy the little things

Renovating a van to live in full-time is no small feat. With such a large project, it can be easy to overlook the small (but important!) things.

Here are some small things that you might forget about for vanlife:

  • Prescriptions: If you have any medications, you’ll need a way to get them. Some health insurance companies will not let you pick prescriptions up outside of your state of residency, so be sure to check on this.
  • Health insurance: Life on the road isn’t easy. Depending on what you’re doing, you may be more prone to accidents. Don’t forget to invest in health insurance.
  • Packages: In today’s age, almost everyone shops online. Whether it be Chewy for your pet or Amazon for your general needs. Be aware that you’ll have to get your packages delivered somewhere.
  • Inclement weather: Despite living a mobile lifestyle, there will be times when you get stuck in inclement weather, such as a rainstorm. Be prepared to get stuck inside the van and have things to do so you don’t go crazy!
  • Vet care: If you bring your furry friend on the road, research 24/7 pet care in case of emergencies. Get your pet thoroughly checked out before you hit the road, and keep them up to date on all their vaccinations.

One thing to note about your pet is that some vaccines are not required in certain states. For example, Colorado does not vaccinate animals for Lyme disease. However, if you travel to Pennsylvania, all vets vaccinate for this because of the high prevalence of this illness. 

Let your vet know you’ll travel to different places and ask if your pet needs special care.

6. Set Realistic Expectations

Life life on the open road and enjoyr any destination.

Whether you’re having someone else do your van conversion or doing it yourself, it will take some time. A lot of time.

Carpentry and electrical skills are necessary, but so is a creative mind. A good rule of thumb is to double whatever time you think it will take to renovate your van and start your road trip. 

The worst-case scenario is that it does take that long. Best case, you can hit the road early! Either way, there’s no use getting frustrated or upset by setting a deadline for yourself.

That’s All For Today!

Vanlife appeals to many people because of the freedom it offers. While the freedom to go where you please is great and all, there’s a lot of planning to do before you start traveling. Don’t worry, we have you covered with all of our van life tips!

To recap, the 6 things to know before you start vanlife include:

  • Figuring out how you will make money
  • Picking the right van
  • Establishing residency
  • Plan your electric system before you start to build
  • Remember the little things
  • Set realistic expectations

Life on the road can be one of the greatest decisions you will ever make. Not everyone is willing to put the work in to make it to vanlife, but you can do it! A little planning and imagination will get you into your van in no time!

Want to know more about Hiking, Climbing and Van life? Follow the Dirtbags with Furbags!


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