The Cost of Van Life: Reality Check

Cost and Labor

The Cost of Van Life: Reality Check

We are tracking our van life cost below. The goal is to give you a starting point for planing your own trip; your reality could be totally different than us. So use your judgement and adjust to your own needs!

Notes:
– The amounts shown are for 2 people.
– We excluded the mountain biking/snowboarding gear and maintenance.
– Prices are in USD (we converted from CDN to USD using the actual exchange rate).
– Travel Medical Insurance is complementary to our free Canadian medicare.

Say Thanks!
We feel a bit uncomfortable sharing this personal information, but hopefully it helps you in your planning.
Please visit our “Say Thanks!” page if you found this info useful 🙂

2017

Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Total
$2704
$2239
$1819
$2017
Auto Insurance
$136
$136
$136
$136
Gas & Fuel
$8011
$497
$340
$281
Craft Beer & Wine
$117
$204
$140
$262
Groceries
$706
$594
$734
$473
Restaurants
$65
$95
$18
$218
Travel Medical Insurance
(complementary to free Canadian medicare)
$202
$202
$202
$202
Activities
$84
$131
$23
$235
Campground
$45
$20
$0
$0
Showers
$0
$0
$6
$8
Laundry
$28
$37
$31
$25
Van Maintenance
$45
$0
$0
$0
Everything Else
(cell, pharmacy, laundry, Netflix, etc)
$4752
$3233
$189
$177

1 Crossing USA from East Coast to West Coast.
2 Verizon activation fee + hotspot device.
3 Rogers cancellation fee.

2018

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Total
Total
$3847
$2420
$2384
$1918
$2449
$1911
$2026
$2911
$2476
$2965
$3003
$3805
$32115
Auto Insurance
$136
$136
$136
$136
$136
$136
$136
$136
$133
$133
$133
$133
$1620
Gas
$494
$500
$386
$360
$479
$340
$425
$537
$492
$584
$513
$560
$5670
Propane
$0
$7
$0
$17
$0
$16
$0
$8
$0
$12
$0
$15
$75
Craft Beer & Wine
$154
$299
$206
$179
$297
$168
$155
$246
$386
$313
$280
$379
$3062
Groceries
$669
$570
$615
$560
$745
$583
$701
$714
$567
$851
$551
$652
$7778
Restaurants
$230
$108
$120
$149
$159
$113
$104
$281
$276
$383
$109
$328
$2360
Travel Medical Insurance
(complementary to free Canadian medicare)
$202
$202
$202
$202
$202
$202
$202
$202
$182
$182
$182
$182
$2344
Activities
(lift tickets, bike shuttle, music shows, etc)
$16751
$332
$483
$0
$93
$74
$53
$295
$65
$258
$131
$62
$3521
Campground
$40
$0
$0
$0
$27
$0
$0
$1192
$0
$0
$42
$0
$228
Showers
$0
$22
$26
$6
$17
$6
$0
$2
$0
$7
$0
$30
$116
Laundry
$7
$22
$15
$35
$28
$7
$30
$11
$40
$32
$37
$31
$295
Van Maintenance
(oil change, tires, brakes, etc)
$49
$0
$0
$88
$0
$0
$0
$0
$75
$0
$7884
$11885
$2188
Everything Else
(cell, pharmacy, haircut, Netflix, music, books, etc)
$191
$222
$195
$186
$266
$267
$219
$3603
$260
$210
$237
$245
$2858

1 We bought two Maxpass for a total of 1,550$. That gave us access to over 44 mountains in North-America, 5 day tickets at each mountain. https://www.themaxpass.com/
2 We spent more time than usual in campgrounds, because friends of ours were visiting 🙂
3 We took the ferry twice that month. Going to Vancouver Island isn’t cheap, but worth every penny!
4 New rear brake pads and rotors on the Transit van. Axles have to be removed to change the rotors. so it’s an expensive job.
5 New tires.

2019

Jan
Total
$2140
Auto Insurance
$133
Gas
$275
Propane
$0
Craft Beer & Wine
$225
Groceries
$554
Restaurants
$119
Travel Medical Insurance
(complementary to free Canadian medicare)
$182
Activities
(lift tickets, bike shuttle, music shows, etc)
$192
Campground
$0
Showers
$31
Laundry
$39
Van Maintenance
(oil change, tires, brakes, etc)
$92
Everything Else
(cell, pharmacy, haircut, Netflix, music, books, etc)
$298

OK, so, how do we spend this money exactly??
Read our "Tales From The Road" to find out!

YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN:

STAY IN TOUCH!

Join 20,000+ followers via Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Patreon or e-mail:

about us

Nice To Meet You.

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

28 thoughts on “The Cost of Van Life: Reality Check”

  1. Very helpful info, thanks so much for sharing! You obviously do alot of boondocking. Is it really that easy to find free places to stay? How often do you tend to move about (ie, impacting cost of gas)? How much time do you spend in US vs Canada? Who did you get your travel insurance through? (We are also Cndn, van is almost ready, will soon quit work and will need supplemental travel insurance. It’s the one area we haven’t yet investigated much). Thanks!!

    • Hi!
      To find places to stay, we use 1- freecampsites.net, 2-iOverlander app, 3- Google Maps Satellite. About moving, we don’t have pattern so I’m not sure what to say! I guess you could look at our november Tales from the road: https://faroutride.com/november-2018/. We spend no more than 6 months per year into the USA, because it’s not allowed to spend more than that. For insurance, check out our post here: faroutride.com/travel-medical-insurance/

      Good luck 🙂

      • Thanks! Maybe one day you could do a video on how to use Google maps satellite, what to look for, how to know if it’s crown land, etc. That would be helpful…. Along with all the other helpful stuff you already post! 🙂

  2. Hello,

    We are fellow Montrealers. We are tempted by the idea of a DYI conversion but we feel that we lack the handiness and knowledge required to take it on. Do you have any advice for us? Are there some jobs that could be handed over to professionals without padding the bill too much?

    Are you guys considering building a business of this and selling camper can conversions?

    • Hi!

      We had no experience building stuff either! So there’s a learning curve for sure; everything will take more time because of that. Best advice? Go through our build journal (faroutride.com/build-journal), we documented the whole build process: then you can see if you think you can do it or not.

      If you need assistance, check out with Ray Outfitted. He and his girlfriend have a mobile shop to assist DIY builder! They’re currently traveling to USA, but inquire with them.

      We’re not considering building a business around vans, but who know what the future holds!

      Good luck!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your comprehensive stats. Despite the fact we are in different countries, it helps to compare and learn from others on the road about their costs and where savings can be made. We are strong believers in spending less so we don’t have to earn as much.

    Would you ever consider exploring New Zealand in a van or motorhome and wonder how much it might cost? Check out our budget and actual expenses.

    https://minimalistjourneys.com/van-life-travel-costs-new-zealand/

    • It does.
      Except it doesn’t cover the labor; it covers what they think the van is worth for on the market (regardless of how much labor time we put on the van).

      But the way it’s calculated seems to varies with insurer. You’re gonna have to make many phones calls 🙂
      (we’re from Quebec, Canada, that’s were our insurer is based)

      antoine

  4. Hey it looks like these updates have stopped at February? I thought I saw some more recent ones uploaded previously. Maybe a cache problem?

  5. Thanks for the info!! My wife and I are planning on embarking on a similar trip in July. One of our biggest hangups at this point is health insurance. While the ACA made some things easier originally, lack of support and enforcement has made it pretty expensive in our state. Can you elaborate on what you do for health insurance? Did you use the .gov marketplace?

    • Hi Jason,
      we’re from Quebec so our travel health insurance is just complementary to our FREE healthcare system. I’m afraid our situation is very diffenrent than yours so we’re not much help here!

      Good luck!

  6. Hey guys!

    Did you have any issues setting up a cell phone plan with Verizon? Did you go with a prepaid plan? How’s it working for you?

    Just looking at options right now for our travels as we are cancelling our Canadian cell plans soon!

    • We went with the Beyond Unlimited Verizon Plan (it’s not prepaid). First 22gb is 4G, then we get throttled. We’re allowed to tether 15gb (create wifi from our phone to get internet on our laptop), then tether speed is slowed down to 600kps (it’s slow). We also got a JetPack: for 20$ per month, that gives us an additional 15gb to tether. This way, if Isabelle go ride her bike alone we can communicate (I have the phone, she has the Jetpack which feed wifi to her phone).
      – We went to a Platsburg Verizon Shop, an hour later we had everything working.
      – We used our own Android phone (but any phone would work)
      – We had to provide a US address (we used our Kinek.com address; they’re not picky about that).
      – They have to check your credit score. For some reasons it didn’t work, so we had to pay a 200$ deposit on the Jetpack AND on the cell plan (so 400$ total); this amount will be refunded eventually.
      – Verizon has the best rural coverage in the states. But it will not work everywhere. You can check that on https://opensignal.com/networks

      Tip: If travelling long term in the USA, get a credit card based in the USA. While most bank in Canada offers US bank account, they’re not based in USA. RBC is the only bank that has a branch in the USA and therefore the only bank that has a TRUE US account. We went to a RBC branch near our home and they arranged that for us.

      That’s it!!
      Cheers!

  7. I stumbled upon your site looking to insrall a swivel seat for my newly acquired Honda Element. Impressive and informative blog!! You are doing the public who have interest in this lifestyle a very large favor! Hopefully the favor will be repaid! A sprinter is on the list for me down the road. I’m unaware of your itinerary but if you find yourself in Santa Cruz, CA and need a spot to rest, or a friendly usher to a local pub at the very least, please feel free to drop a line. Oddly enough, before reading your bio, you reminded me of some friends here- who are engineers, avid riders, but from BC ; ) All the best on your adventures!

  8. Pretty accurate. Obviously more if you tend to stay in more campgrounds. We buy annual national park passes in Canada and the US. Lucky if your van maintenance stays this low! ours did not a 1990 Vanagon Westfalia)… also car insurance? Some people get health insurance (we do sometimes, when spooked after hearing stories of fellow Canadians who have had a freak accident in the US). If you plan to travel into Mexico there are tourist and vehicle fees and car insurance. Lots of costs not considered generally when folks plan to travel this way.

    • You’re right, we forgot to include car/health insurance in our september report; we won’t forget it next time, we promise!

      It’s all good insights, thanks!

  9. This is great – you guys are brave to put this out there… don’t think I would be totally honest about my spending. Of the two big trips I’ve taken – out west for 3 months in my car, and hiking the AT – it took a couple of months to finally find the right rhythm. You guys are smarter than me, so I doubt it will take you as long.

    • We hesitated a lot to make it public, but what the heck. Someone had to do it 😉

      You’re right about the rhythm: the first month was good, but it keeps getting better and better. We’re still learning a lot about each other and how to enjoy ourselves!

      Cheers!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.