Vanlife Budgeting: A Breakdown of the Most Common Van Life Costs
Updated: Apr 15
It’s one of the most common questions we get asked at Drifter: “Once I’ve got my van, how much does it cost to live a life on the road?”
Spoiler alert: the answer is it depends. But for those looking for a ballpark figure, it can be as little as $800/month, though it’s not uncommon for a more extravagant van lifer to spend $3000+/month.
The good news is that when you own your van, you eliminate some of life’s biggest expenses: housing. No rent, no mortgage, no utility bills nor household maintenance. On the flipside you will face a few new costs, like gas, campsites and vehicle maintenance.
To get a clearer idea of what you might be spending on the road, let’s take a look at a few of the most common costs associated with vanlife, and how to manage them!
Beyond your van, perhaps the most obvious cost associated with van life is the fuel that will get you from A to B. At the risk of stating the obvious, your monthly gas bill will depend on how much you drive. If you’re spending an entire month exploring a single state, it might be just a couple of hundred dollars. If you’re driving long distances every day, it might extend far beyond the $600 maximum quoted here. Drifter vans average 15-25 miles per gallon, so you can do some back of the envelope math to figure out what your costs might be based on your itinerary.
Some campsites are free, like those on public lands (although you may need to pay national park fees to access them.) Paid campsites offer more amenity, though this generally comes at a cost of $15-$30 per night, meaning a month of paid sites could set you back as much as $900.
This is one of the greatest areas of budget discrepancy between van lifers. Some can eat quite thriftily, cooking for themselves and spending less than $10/day in the process. Others might eat out a bit more, spending $35+/day in the process. This variance means that food is an area where you can save big money if you choose to.
Campervan insurance: $100-180/month
Insurance is compulsory for campervans in the US. While you can choose a basic level of coverage for around $100/month, a more comprehensive level of protection, which includes the theft, loss or damage of anything inside your van, is highly recommended.
Health insurance: $200-$500/month
Life on the road can be unpredictable, so ensuring you have a decent level of health insurance could save you a lot of money and (maybe literal) heartache. This cost can vary wildly depending on your age, your overall health, your home state and the cover you choose, but a relatively healthy person can expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars.
Phone bill: *$100/month
A phone is one of the most important investments a van lifer can make – it’s your connection to family, friends and the wider world, your emergency beacon, and can even act as your WiFi router. You’ll know the cost of your service better than we do, though the average is a little over $100/month, and it might be worth considering adding extra data on top of your current plan.
Vehicle maintenance: $40-$100/month
There are inevitable costs associated with the upkeep of your campervan, like making sure the engine runs well, topping up fluids, replacing tires and preparing it for the winter. What these costs are will depend on the type of van you own, its age, and how much you drive it, though an average range is around $500-$1000/year.
There are other expenses that you might face on the road, including (but not limited to):
Gym membership (great for access to showers and amenities)
National Park fees
Entertainment (Netflix, on-road activities)
Cooking fuel (propane, firewood, etc.)
Hair and beauty
In the end, life on the road can be as cheap or expensive as you make it. The most important thing is that you see any cost as a good investment, which is exactly what we aim to deliver at Drifter.
If you’re ready to become the proud owner of a campervan, get in touch with our friendly team today! Contact us HERE!