The Pro’s and Con’s
Let’s start with…
This iconic Van Life vehicle is popular with the Instagrammers living the life on the road. Vans range from pimped-out-six-figure-adventure rigs, to entry level beaters so you’ll see a wide variety to choose from. It’s often the most affordable option, which makes it great for people just starting out. There are a lot of different vans out there, choosing the right one for you is as overwhelming as it is fun!
Panel Van/cargo Van
If you are looking to build your own Van then choosing a full sized van gives you a lot more room to build your ideal home. There are a lot to choose from and all have different features. Some, like the Mercedes sprinters have a raised roof which allows you to stand up without crouching and feeling like the hunchback of Notre dame whilst others have a long narrow yet spacious interior.
• They are great to convert into a custom built camper van
• Cargo vans are everywhere as they are used by courier services and trades around the world.
• Due to their popularity, they are usually sold for a good price and parts are readily available and easy to find
• Generally easy to work on, especially the older models without modern electronics.
• Higher security due to less windows
•Stealth camping can be easier (depending on external setup and decals)
• Limited light due to limited windows
• All panel van camping interiors have to be custom built
• Used cars especially those used in the trade can be quite damaged and a have a high mileage
• Not a lot of character
Don’t want go to the trouble of building your own van? Well you’re in luck. There are tons of pre-built campers that will only require a bit of personal touch.
• Comes with everything including the kitchen sink! Ok maybe not all have EVERYTHING but enough to make you self-sufficient on the road without having to build anything yourself.
• Some camper vans come with a pop top for extra room and standing space
• Can be more expensive however you will save the cost and time of converting another van
• When getting a camper van remember that it was once someone else’s home so it may have a lot of mileage and require a bit of maintenance.
AKA Hippie Van
• Strong Community (new friends, shows & events, advice, support, documentation)
• Already set for living in
• Iconic vehicle
• Easy to work on
• Surprisingly good off road with rear wheel drive and engine weight over rear wheels.
• Maintenance – with an old design and old parts, expect to be getting your hands dirty often if you want to keep your vehicle running smoothly. It’s not just that old parts will break (and believe us, they will) it’s that these older designs require maintenance more frequently than modern vans
• Availability of parts – with such a strong following, parts for anything you will need are readily available but don’t expect high street stores to stock the parts you need.
Your trusty car that gets you comfortably from A to B is not our recommended choice if you want to live on the road for any length of time. That said, if you like to dabble in the van life on the weekends without buying another vehicle then you can make it work, particularly if you have a station wagon.
It’s easy enough to make a bed in the back of the car and have storage under the bed but the lack of space will get frustrating.
• Low gas mileage
• Low profile – Great for stealth camping
• Mobility – you be able to get through small spaces that bigger campers can’t
• Affordability – cars are often cheaper to buy and maintain an the other options listed here.
• Space! – Fitting your car with the essentials for a weekend trip may be ok but anything longer than that may be uncomfortable.
• You will constantly be moving things around from back to front to under the seat to on the dash board…This will get tiring FAST!
• Ground clearance – off road driving and remote campsite access may be limited
• Sleeping – If you are on your own then this might not be too bad but if you have a dog or a partner it could get a little too cosy
• Lack of privacy – Have you ever had to change in a car? Not ideal
• Limited Room for passengers – this is especially true if f you have a bed in the back that can’t fold back, which makes your seats useless
The School Bus
If you want space and a more of a fixed home, the old converted school bus is a good option. For traveling they are best when your journeys are short and you are sticking to easy trails. You are not getting off the beaten path in this thing but it’s a strong vehicle and an interesting option to build your new home in.
Space! So much space! You can almost have a full-size bowling alley in your home if you really wanted to. The options are endless!
You will get sung ‘Hail to the bus driver’ to you while you’re driving
Cheaper than most motor homes and RV’s of the same size
Your whole family can travel with you. Perfect if you fancy having 8 kids and still want to live life on the road
Bus or coach mechanics are available in most places around the world and there is a good chance your parts will be too.
It looks cool and has character!
Buses are strong and built to last.
Fuel can be costly and depending on the model it may be more of a challenge to work on and find parts.
Parts a generally bigger and heavier to store and carry around
Due to size international shipping will be expensive and difficult
Stealth camping is somewhat difficult unless you park near a school but that’s kind of creepy and weird.
Kids may wave you down expecting you to take them to school
You will struggle driving long distances through difficult terrain. If you’re thinking of doing a trip from Chile to Alaska this may not be the best choice in vehicle (But it sure would be the coolest!)
Parking will be a pain in the butt
Limit to where you can drive – You can’t really get to those secluded beaches in one of these things
You won’t get that ‘Hail to the bus driver’ song out of your head – ever!
Some RV parks may not let you camp there.