The Cost of Van Life: Reality Check

Last Updated: November 27, 2021

The Cost of Van Life: Reality Check

Cost and Labor

Wondering how much does it cost to live in a van? We were too! To get the definitive answer, we obsessively tracked our full time Vanlife cost between 2017 and 2020. All our Vanlife expenses are categorized and breakdown by month/year. Hope this helps!

DISCLOSURE: We didn’t move into a van to idle, or to be frugal. For us, Vanlife is about doing MORE of what we love: travel, ride, discover local culture & food, and explore. So the cost below is the result of the choices we make; adjust to your own lifestyle! 🙂

Logo-FarOutRide-(dollar-sign-cost)

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.

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
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Total
Total
$2140
$2026
$2684
$2209
$2726
$1809
$2816
$2540
$2798
$2557
$2383
$2335
$29023
Auto Insurance
$133
$2151
$215
$215
$215
$215
$215
$215
$215
$215
$215
$215
$2498
Gas
$275
$448
$453
$430
$419
$200
$328
$9004
$369
$450
$236
$359
$4867
Propane
$0
$15
$0
$8
$0
$18
$0
$0
$5
$0
$0
$15
$61
Craft Beer & Wine
$225
$128
$216
$284
$130
$151
$278
$76
$165
$378
$453
$171
$2655
Groceries
$554
$423
$630
$562
$800
$611
$701
$470
$401
$570
$440
$513
$6675
Restaurants
$119
$209
$158
$70
$137
$201
$366
$253
$86
$382
$331
$415
$2727
Travel Medical Insurance
(complementary to free Canadian medicare)
$182
$182
$02
$0
$0
$37
$0
$92
$125
$130
$126
$130
$1004
Activities
(lift tickets, bike shuttle, music shows, etc)
$192
$0
$319
$307
$0
$0
$361
$160
$203
$152
$266
$215
$2175
Campground
$0
$0
$3543
$0
$6293
$0
$84
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
$1067
Showers
$31
$49
$33
$31
$7
$11
$0
$14
$0
$0
$6
$415
$223
Laundry
$39
$21
$14
$45
$14
$20
$22
$8
$0
$0
$25
$16
$224
Van Maintenance
(oil change, tires, brakes, etc)
$92
$0
$0
$0
$0
$94
$0
$0
$965
$0
$0
$0
$1151
Everything Else
(cell, pharmacy, haircut, Netflix, music, books, etc)
$298
$336
$292
$257
$375
$251
$461
$352
$264
$280
$285
$245
$3696
1 Welcome to BC! Auto Insurance is more expensive…
2 Now that we are BC residents and plan to stay only in BC for the next months, there is no need to pay for a traveling insurance (aka medical).
3 Not technically a Campground expense, but friends came to visit us and we shared their AirBnB.
4 Crossing Canada from West Coast to East Coast.
5 We are now Planet Fitness Members for 23$/month, mainly for their showers! But hey, it’s good to cross train too 😉

2020

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr6
May6
Jun6
Jul
Total
$3250
$1805
$2196
$1239
$1369
$1764
$3014
Auto Insurance
$9181
$70
$70
$211
$211
$211
$211
Gas
$466
$279
$7665
$150
$57
$209
$404
Propane
$8
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
Craft Beer & Wine
$179
$29
$127
$45
$59
$151
$129
Groceries
$2262
$2432
$583
$530
$609
$532
$675
Restaurants
$4132
$3522
$123
$54
$86
$260
$131
Travel Medical Insurance
(complementary to free Canadian medicare)
$131
$123
$85
$0
$0
$0
$0
Activities
(lift tickets, bike shuttle, music shows, etc)
$231
$147
$43
$0
$0
$137
$262
Campground
$45
$124
$97
$0
$0
$0
$21
Showers
$23
$624
$0
$0
$0
$0
$4
Laundry
$22
$9
$5
$0
$0
$0
$30
Van Maintenance
(oil change, tires, brakes, etc)
$72
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
$8447
Everything Else
(cell, pharmacy, haircut, Netflix, music, books, etc)
$5163
$367
$298
$249
$347
$264
$303

1 We paid a 6 month Mexican auto insurance for ~700$. For more info, read our post about our traveling in Mexico: Mexico Vanlife Guide
2 Well, the plan is to eat a lot of Mexican food! It’s kind of nice to see it doesn’t cost so much considering our Groceries & Restaurants budget stays about the same!
3 Includes FMM and TIP. For more info, read our post about our traveling in Mexico: Mexico Vanlife Guide
4 We kept our Planet Fitness membership while in Mexico (23$/month + 39$ annual fee)
5 Due to the pandemic, we drove from Mexico to Canada.
6 April, May and June were not vanlife months; we rented a place and stayed “home” (NO ACTIVITIES due to Covid-19 in April and May). Still interesting to compare living in a house vs vanlife. Rent not included.
7 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.

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

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About-Us-Narrow

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!