So you are considering vanlife? You have seen the mesmerizing pictures, watched about 852 vlogs of vanlifers and you are now finding yourself wanting to do the same thing. Awesome! That’s how it all started for me as well; with a dream. Probably the very first question that you’ll face once you have decided to pursue your vanlife dreams is this one: building or buying? For me, a lot of research went into this question. Because there is a lot more to it than just money and skills. So I figured I’d dedicate a blog to it, to help you figure out your options and what to consider in making a well – informed choice.
Let me start by saying that there are pros and cons to both building and buying. Before I got into vanlife I got this idea of how vanlife was ‘supposed to be done’. You read a lot about all these people that are building their own vanhomes from scratch and not a whole lot about the people that started out by buying their homes. It made me feel like I didn’t belong if I were to buy instead of build, like it didn’t count unless you built the entire thing yourself. But remember people, there is absolutely no wrong way to do vanlife! As you’ll find out there are a lot of advantages to buying your van so don’t let social media make you feel like you are cheating your way into vanlife if you were to buy. So let’s break down both options.
Social media is flooded with people that are building their own vans nowadays. As more people are embracing the minimalist lifestyle, the more people seem to want to build their own home on wheels. And I can see why; there is a definite attraction to building your dreamhome from the ground up. In all honesty, that is how I envisioned starting out my vanlife journey too. But soon I learned that there is a lot to consider before starting out such a big undertaking. So let’s look at the DIY pros and cons.
- Might save money
- It’s an empty slate; you can decide on the style and functionality completely
- Building you own van is an exciting experience in itself
- Might cost way more money than anticipated
- Will take a lot of time (I repeat: A LOT)
- Requires skills, resources and tools
- You might be dependent on others for help
So when it comes to building your own van the deciding argument should be the amount of time you want to put into it and the level of skills you have at your service. Conversions require skills and a lot of handiwork. Electricity, heating, propane and solar panels require very specific knowledge and also a decent place to work. Of course you could learn to do it yourself! Don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer in the can-do mentality! But learning how to do these things might mean that it will take a long time to finish the build. And I guess it always requires more time than you might anticipate anyway. I have talked to a lot of vanbuilders and they all said the same thing: “It took twice the amount of time and money I anticipated”. Since I didn’t want to be stuck building my van for a year and was lacking resources and skills, I decided to look into a suitable prebuilt van.
Both building and buying might either save or cost you extra money. This is probably dependent on how handy you are and on how much mechanical knowledge you have. If you can do a lot of the build yourself or know exactly what to look for in a decent preowned van, both options might save you a ton of money.
There are a lot of great vanconversions for sale nowadays. There are entire companies dedicated to selling preowned vans in every price range. So if you are interested in a prebuilt campervan I’m sure there is one out there that will fit your needs. After exploring my options I decided to look into prebuilt vans myself and I saw so many beautiful ones during this search! Just looking around and seeing all the different types of conversions was a really inspiring process.
- Might save money (I know, again)
- It will get you on the road faster
- Doesn’t require mechanical skills
- Will give you the opportunity to try out vanlife without all the work
- Will give you the opportunity to experience what you actually want/need in a van
- You don’t have a say in the design and functionality
- You might pay for features you don’t want
- You never really know what you get for your money
- No warranty
Building your own van will obviously give you more flexibility when it comes to style and functionality. I too had a certain vision of what my ideal van would look like. Depending on your budget you might have to compromise on that vision a little bit. If you decide to look into buying a pre-owned van my advise would be to think about what has the most priority for you. If you want a van that is fully finished and equipped you probably end up paying more than if you were to choose a more basic equipped vehicle. The latter will probably allow you to make some changes in the design though. To me it was important that the electricity, water, propane and wiring was fully functioning. Things like the design and style weren’t that important and I could change myself if needed. Make sure the van is mechanically sound, this is the most important thing! Adding a few throwpillows is cheaper than replacing an engine. So if you are prepared to look for the diamond in the rough, buying a preowned van is a perfect way to save time and money!
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