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Pros & Cons of #Vanlife (What Traveling On The Road Is Like)

In recent years, a growing number of individuals have embraced the unconventional and adventurous lifestyle known as #vanlife. With the freedom to explore new horizons and escape the constraints of a traditional home, vanlife has captured the imagination of wanderers, minimalists, and those seeking a break from the conventional routine. However, as with any lifestyle choice, there are still some obvious pros and cons of vanlife. 

In this post, we will delve into both sides, exploring the advantages and disadvantages of embracing the nomadic lifestyle on the road. Whether you’re contemplating joining the vanlife movement or simply curious about this unique way of living, understanding its benefits and challenges can provide valuable insights into the realities of life on four wheels. 

So, let us embark on a journey through the pros and cons of vanlife, shedding light on the captivating allure and potential trade-offs of this increasingly popular lifestyle.

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Pros of Vanlife


The all-time best part of #vanlife is the ultimate freedom it provides. You get to travel anywhere and have your tiny home on wheels with you wherever you may go. You get to create your own schedule and travel at your own pace.

People all have different visions for what #vanlife might look like, but ultimately, it provides you the freedom to be able to choose your own path.

Whether it be to a path to financial freedom and not paying rent or traveling the country and hitting all the National Parks in the United States. The world is your oyster.

Save Money (No Rent or Mortgage Payments)

Another HUGE perk to living in a van full-time is saving money by mitigating rent payments or mortgage payments. Of course, some people still own a house or have an apartment, but if rent is a burden, you can live in your van full-time. 

This personally has allowed Jake and I to travel and live off less income per year. Prior to vanlife, we often lived in places where rent is $1500+ per month (for the two of us). Therefore, living in a van can save us nearly $18,000 per year!

Of course, it is always good to have a way to make money on the road. But vanlife can allow you the freedom to make less and do something you might enjoy better than when living in an apartment and always having to make ends meet.

Sometimes renting an apartment just feels like endless work, with little time and energy left each week to pursue your own passions.

If you’re curious how much #vanlife costs, check out our budget spreadsheet that helps decide what a vanlife budget might look like for you.

Having A Traveling Kitchen

a girl cooking in a camper van, representing a pro of vanlife
Emily cooking dinner in our traveling kitchen

One of the best van life pros if you enjoy cooking your own meals, is always having your kitchen with you! Which can also double as dangerous, because you are always traveling with snacks! But ultimately it is super nice to always have somewhere to whip up a quick meal or food at the ready.

This can also save you tons of money and enjoy healthier foods while traveling.

Traditionally when on a road trip, you might stop at restaurants or fast food joints. But if you have a traveling kitchen, you can stock the fridge and pantry to have food ready to eat in no time.

Having a Fridge Instead of a Cooler

In connection to the above perk of vanlife, having a traveling kitchen usually includes one of these great vanlife fridges.

Often when going on a camping trip, you fill-up the cooler with ice and hope it lasts the weekend to keep everything inside cold. And you always are dealing with water soaking your food and drinks.

But having a fridge means you can always have food cold and no worries about making sure nothing in the cooler spoils or goes bad. 

We love being able to grab a cold drink or have fresh veggies and fruits to stay healthy when traveling on the road.

Always Changing Scenery and Keeping Things Fresh

Keeping your mind fresh and experiencing new things can be great for your mental health. Personally, I love exploring new places and sightseeing some of the most stunning locations in the U.S.

Our favorite hobby in vanlife is going on hiking adventures. We always get a new perspective and it allows us to breathe fresh air in the great outdoors. And it’s usually free.

We have been able to experience so many new places and keep a fresh perspective on life. 


Embarking on the journey of vanlife offers a great opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth. Vanlife will challenge you and make you out of your comfort zone. There is no true guidebook for how to live #vanlife. So that is ultimately up to you!

Living in a van allows individuals to detach from material possessions, simplify their lives, and focus on what truly matters.

If you find vanlife lonely, this will challenge you to find a connection to a community. Or maybe you find a new passion for work or hobby you never knew about.

This process of self-reflection often leads to a clearer understanding of personal values, passions, and purpose, allowing individuals to align their actions and choices with their authentic selves.

We feel like vanlife has given us the time to work on our own personal development.

Small Space to Keep Clean

One positive aspect of living in such a tiny space is you have a very tiny house to clean. You can essentially have the floors swept/mopped, dirty dishes washed, sink cleaned, bed made, etc in under 30 minutes. One of these tasks might take 30 minutes on their own in a larger home.

But contrary to that, this also means you can make it cluttered with just a few items laying around…

Living Minimally 

There is something so liberating about not owning a ton of stuff. You can pick up and leave without much holding you back. We can fit everything we own inside our van, so we personally don’t have too much baggage. 

But that also can be scary. If someone is to steal your van, then you no longer have belongings. But that is why having insurance can give you peace of mind when leaving your vehicle behind.

Making New Friends & Connections

A social media handle on your van can help you meet new friends.
Making new vanlife friends on the road

Because van dwellers tend to be on the move, it also allows the opportunity to make new friends and build unique connections. This can look different for everyone.

If you are a very outgoing and an extroverted person, then you will likely be the person putting yourself out there to make new connections. For introverts, you simply might be the receiver of meeting those new friends.

Because of modern technology, there are tons of great opportunities to meet other full-time travelers. We have met people through social media and through friends/family member connections. And simply people just noticing our van and coming up to say “hi”. There are also van life meet ups all around the country for you to meet fellow van lifers.

You never know when you might make a connection, but I can almost guarantee you will meet some great people out on the open road.

Cons of Vanlife

Always Moving (Lack Of Stability)

Because vanlife is quite literally a tiny house on wheels, you most likely use it to travel. If you choose to live in a van full-time, then you lose your home base.

While this tiny house can bring you to some of the coolest places, it can be exhausting always having to find a new place to park. Or where to travel next. 

(I know, I know… first world problems!) But we just wanted to shed light on the fact that vanlife isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. It does require some work to find legal places to park and what to do in each place you travel.

Luckily there are super helpful vanlife apps that can help you find parking, campsites, dumping stations, internet connections, etc. But there is definitely a lack of stability in #vanlife. 

This is where having a partner on the road can be super helpful. You can split the hard tasks in two. Jake often drives and I will find the cheapest gas, where to park, places with good internet, etc. And you always have someone to share the ups and downs with.

Small Living Space

Vans are typically between 60-150 sq ft. Now, that is a tiny amount of living space. And true living space might be cut in half if you travel with a partner or even a small family. 

But as stated above, there is truly something special about only owning the things that are necessary to live. You simply don’t have many tangible things holding you down from freedom.

Lack of Community (Loneliness)

Usually, when you have a home base or live in a city or town, you build a community of friends and maybe even live close to family members. But when shifting to full time travel in a camper van means you will often travel away from that community. 

So #vanlife can often make you feel like you have no community and can lead to feeling lonely. There are definitely ways to connect with fellow vanlifers or join meet-ups.

But other nomads you meet will typically have their own plans. If you don’t agree on where to go next, then you again go your separate ways. So it takes effort to keep these friendships alive, by making plans to meet again in the future.

But in general, if you tend to move from place to place, then your community doesn’t move with you.

This in turn can lead to loneliness, especially if doing solo vanlife.

Going To The Bathroom

Some people might get turned off by the “bathroom situation” in #vanlife. There is no magical pipe that takes your waste away like a traditional house. Therefore, going to the bathroom in vanlife does come with its struggles. 

It can get exhausting always having to go outside to pee, dig a hole for #2, or having to always use public restrooms. 

But we feel it is a small trade-off, for nearly all the pros of vanlife listed above.

There are some solutions to help make going to the bathroom in vanlife easier. We personally use a cassette toilet for #1 and have since switched to using double-lined waste bags with a special powder when public toilets aren’t around.

Or when out in the “backcountry”, another options is to use Leave No Trace Guidelines for burying human waste.

Many vanlifers also have success with composting toilets or waterless dry flush toilets

Internet Connection

One of the significant challenges of vanlife is finding a reliable internet connection, especially for remote workers. While modern technology has made it possible to stay connected from almost anywhere, finding a stable and fast internet connection on the road can be a persistent struggle.

Especially if your job requires constant, uninterrupted connection for things like video calls.

Vanlifers often encounter areas with limited or no cellular coverage, especially in remote or rural locations. This lack of connectivity can hinder work productivity, limit access to online resources, and create challenges in staying connected with family and friends.

Relying on public Wi-Fi networks poses its own set of challenges, as they may be limited, unreliable, or unavailable in certain areas.

Additionally, the cost of data plans and mobile hotspots can add up, making it necessary to carefully manage usage and seek out affordable options. Luckily there is modern technology that can help boost cell signal, or Stalink Satellite Internet that can get you connected in the middle of nowhere.

Despite the challenges, vanlifers continue to adapt and find creative solutions to ensure they stay connected in their nomadic lifestyle.


If you need to shower daily, you may want to reconsider living in a van. Showers become much more scarce when living in a van. Unless it is something you truly prioritize, you will often go days or even more than a week without a shower.

There are a few ways to help with hygiene in #vanlife. You might see some vanlifers add a shower in their van build. But you will likely need a larger water tank or a way to connect to water (such as a campground with hookups). And showers take up a lot of valuable space inside your van, so many people find another way.

Many vanlifers will get a gym membership, which allows them access to the locker room shower facilities. If you only vanlife in one location, then you can choose a local gym. Otherwise, you will need to choose a popular gym (such as Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness, etc) that are found in large towns and cities. 

Personally, these are areas Jake and I tend to avoid because we prefer more rural areas. Therefore, a gym membership might not work for everyone.

Another great option for showering in vanlife are portable showers.

Personally, we enjoy having this NEMO solar shower. It can be heated by the sun in just a few hours or you can always speed up the process and boil some water on the stove. We pair this with a pop-up tent for privacy and use it about once per week.

Lastly, hygiene wet wipes are your friend in #vanlife! We use Good Wipes to freshen up between showers. Good Wipes are free of harmful chemicals (like toxins or parabens), hypoallergenic, and biodegradable (though, they should still be disposed of properly.

Losing Your Home When You Have Mechanical Issues

One caveat to #vanlife is your home doubles as your vehicle. So if you run into any mechanical issues, then that always means your home has mechanical issues too. Depending on where you break down and who can fix your vehicle, you may or may not have somewhere to stay. 

Often in cities, there are rules about people sleeping in vehicles, or simply they lock up the vehicles in the lot to prevent theft. Therefore, you will need to stay somewhere else other than your van. So you might need to get a hotel room, which can get pricey for multiple nights. And you don’t have a vehicle to drive to and from this hotel.

But sometimes you might get lucky if they allow you to sleep in your vehicle just in the auto mechanic parking lot.

Constant Fear Of Theft

When your entire life is packed into a vehicle, you live in a constant fear of theft. It’s always at least a little thought in the back of your mind.

That at any moment while you leave your van, someone could smash a window and rob you, or even take your entire van.

This is another reason we don’t like urban vanlife. The risk of theft is much higher and that constant worry causes mental stress.

You have probably heard of cities where people don’t leave valuables in their car because smash’n grabs are so common. Well, it’s nearly impossible to not leave any valuables in your campervan.

Lack Of Routine

It can be hard to keep a normal routine when living in a campervan. Things like sleep, exercise, work, personal time, etc are hard to do consistently.

In vanlife, it seems like there is always new excuse why you don’t stick to your routines.

“I didn’t exercise today because I had to drive into town, and refill my water jugs”

“I couldn’t work on my business today because the cell service kept cutting in and out”

“I didn’t get to bed on time because some dingleberry was showing off his straight-pipe muffler Honda Civic in the parking lot at 2am”

I could list hundreds of minor excuses we have used over the years to explain why we don’t keep to a routine.

Sleep issues can be a common problem vanlifers face. Whether it be wind, noise, lights, or other distractions that can disrupt sleep.

Limited Water Supply

Unless you often camp at a campground, then you will likely have a limited supply of water. Water tanks range in many different sizes, but nonetheless, you will often need to fill up water if you live in a campervan.

And you will need to learn to use WAYYYY less water than you are used to. Most vanlifers do dishes with just a trickle of water (or none at all). It makes doing dishes honestly more of a pain, but it’s necessary compromise to make a limited water supply last longer.

A few common tips are using non-stick cookware that’s easy to clean, cycling the same water across many dishes, and making “one-pot” meals.

Or some people have a spray bottle, that really helps ration water for dishes.

Jake and I personally have two 5-gallon jugs that we fill with fresh drinking water. This lasts us around 5 days before we need to refill these jugs.

But that also means it’s a common weekly chore. There are tons of places where you can fill your water jugs, but it often means we can’t stay in one place for much longer than 5 days in a row before needing to refill our jugs.

Not Temperature Controlled 

Most DIY camper van builds don’t have an air conditioner or heater. These are complicated installations and usually cost a lot to have. Therefore, a drawback to #vanlife is that your living space is not temperature controlled. 

It can be very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. But we have also created a few great guides for how to stay warm in the winter without a heater and how to stay cool in the summer

If budget allows, and you feel competent to install a heater, I 100% say it would be worth it. Jake and I consider ourselves snowbirds and travel to warmer climates in the winter, yet it still often gets chilly at night and in the early morning.

Even if you have a heater or air-conditioner, you will still experience the extremes of weather more.

Getting Insurance/Mail On The Road

It can be a pain getting insurance and mail on the road. When living in a van full-time, you no longer have a permanent residence. And P.O. boxes are not suitable for many important things, like voting, vehicle registration, etc.

Some people will use a friend or family members address, but that’s not always a perfect solution and puts a burden on them.

Alternatively, there are innovative virtual mailbox programs, but they’re pricey and it can be a challenge to find a stable one. And it’s not necessarily legal to use virtual mailboxes as residential address for vehicle registration, driver license, voting, etc. Though we have done it successfully for years.

Additionally, because Jake and I built out our own campervan, it was a challenge to find an insurance company that would also insure the inside of our build. We have since switched to Roamly which will insure both the interior and exterior, plus liability.

This stuff all varies by state and country, and it’s a huge pain to sort out the exact rules where you “reside”.

Just be prepared for many phone calls having to figure out which insurance and mail service provider will work best for your #vanlife situation. 

Always Having To Shop In New Grocery Stores

This drawback of #vanlife is more of an annoyance, than a deal breaker. Always having to learn a new grocery store will ultimately waste some of your valuable time. While luckily many stores are generally constructed similarly, I can almost guarantee you will need to go back and forth between isles a couple of times. 

The bread might be near the deli at one store, but it also might be in a completely different location in another. 

Just plan extra time when grocery shopping, because some things that might seem obvious to be in one location, might be completely in a different location. You can always ask an employee to point you in the right direction. Or simply reading the guides in the middle of the aisles are always helpful. But for niche items, it can be a complete gamble.

And not to mention the different brands or items switching between each store. You might have a meal in mind, but sometimes a store doesn’t even carry that item or brand you like. 

So while it’s definitely not a huge deal breaker for living #vanlife, just prepare for some added time into your grocery shopping excursions.

Bad For Romance & Relationships

Vanlife is generally bad for romance and relationships.

If you are single, it can be very hard to meet and date non-vanlife people.

If you are in a relationship, vanlife will be the ultimate test of your compatibility. There is simply not enough space to hide or ignore problems in your relationship.

Being together all the time makes it hard to separate everyday life from intentional quality time. And the lack of showers isn’t exactly ideal for frequent romance.

Condensation (Mold & Mildew)

Condensation on a van window
Condensation on a van window

One much bigger issue from living in a van versus a traditional house is condensation. Living in such a small metal box is problem for moisture and requires proper ventilation. We simply create a lot of moisture from breathing, cooking, sweating, etc.

This is why you see vent fans on the roof of EVERY campervan. It’s not uncommon for vanlifers to run their vent fans nearly 24/7.

Many problems van lifers run into is not having good enough airflow under their mattress. It is NOT okay to just place a mattress on top of a piece of plywood.

Your mattress traps your heat and moisture when you sleep, and if it doesn’t have a way to ventilate, it will condensate and create mold. (This happened from personal experience, here’s how we prevent mold from growing under our mattress now). 

Additionally, condensation on your vans metal walls is a serious issue. It can often be mitigated with good ventilation and proper insulation. Though, sometimes poorly done insulation can actually make condensation problems worse.

There are helpful ways to prevent mold and mildew from growing in your van.

Vanlife Isn’t As Cheap As It Seems

A common mistake people make is getting into vanlife without enough money. They either spend too much on their van, or don’t budget for unexpected repair bills.

You are very vulnerable when you rely on your campervan as your only vehicle and dwelling. You should keep several thousand dollars as a safety net in case something happens to your van.

Living vanlife still has plenty of expenses, so you shouldn’t think you can just live completely for free. Gas bills for a campervan are pretty significant, especially if you want to travel a lot.

You still probably pay for cell phone, health insurance, car insurance, groceries, and other necessities.

Harder To Hold A Job or Get A Job

Many people living vanlife will try to find a remote job or a way to travel without having a stationary job. #vanlife is often about traveling and having freedom.

Although it is possible to live out of a van and still keep your traditional job, it can be hard to find legal public places to park in close proximity to your job.

Personally, we would find it very exhausting to live in a city and find places to park. This often necessitates stealth camping on streets or parking lots. Urban vanlifers tend to get burnt out from the constant fear of getting a knock from cops or security.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely people living out of vans in cities and having a stationary job.

But personally, we can only tolerate very short urban vanlife stints. Typically for a specific reason, like shopping, seeing friends, attractions, or going to/from airports.

Or you can find seasonal work in places that might allow people to live in their vans.

Jake and I had such a fun summer in Idaho where many employees lived in vans, RVs, cars, or even tents. The owners were supportive as long as we showed up to our shifts. They even provided showers and bathrooms for us to use.

So sometimes it’s about finding the right seasonal jobs that embrace van dwellers and other nomads.

Jake and I worked in Sedona, AZ for a few months and just camped on public land. This is generally frowned upon, but we made sure to follow the rules, and never stay in an area longer than 14 days. And it’s rare to find suitable public land for camping that is in close proximity good paying jobs. You can learn about this experience in our review for full-time vanlife in Sedona.

But people using public land for “residential” use is a common spillover casualty of the housing crisis. But the larger societal reasons contributing to this are beyond the scope of this post.

Vans Are A Depreciating Asset

Photo by Jivko Georgiev on Unsplash

One of the biggest cons of van life is that vans are a depreciating asset. When buying a traditional home, your house will likely go up in value.

Vans only sometimes gain value in the short term, but in the long term your tiny home on wheels will always depreciate.

Vans can typically only last to 200k-300k miles unless you completely rebuild the engine or do major repairs to make it last longer on the road.

So sadly, choosing vanlife does not really help you build equity for your future. Once your campervan bites the dust, you will be back a square one. So that’s why it’s important to use your vanlife freedom to set yourself up for the future. Hopefully, you have taken advantage of no rent payments to save up for the future, whether that be another campervan or a stationary home.

Takeaway | Pros & Cons of Vanlife

In conclusion, the lifestyle of vanlife offers a multitude of pros and cons, each contributing its own unique charm and challenges. On the positive side, vanlife provides unparalleled freedom, allowing individuals to explore new destinations, embrace a minimalist mindset, and forge a deep connection with nature.

The ability to wake up to breathtaking landscapes, meet diverse communities, and constantly adapt to changing environments is undoubtedly an exhilarating aspect of vanlife.

Living in a compact space necessitates efficient use of resources, encourages creativity in problem-solving, and promotes a simpler way of life. The reduced financial burden to just exist and the potential for greater flexibility in work-life balance are also enticing factors for many vanlifers.

However, it is essential to acknowledge the challenges and volatility inherent in vanlife as well.

Living in a limited space can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation, especially for individuals who thrive on social connections. The lack of consistent amenities and comforts, such as regular access to showers, reliable electricity, and private space, can pose challenges and require adaptability.

By weighing the pros and cons of vanlife, individuals can make informed decisions about whether this unconventional lifestyle aligns with their aspirations and values.

For those captivated by the call of the open road, vanlife can be a transformative experience, opening doors to unforgettable adventures and a renewed sense of self-discovery. But this growth doesn’t come for free, you need to put in the effort to be your best self.

I will leave you with phrase that’s common among nomads.

“Wherever you go, there you are”

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