FIVE Reasons Why a Minivan Is Perfect for Van Life
Updated: Jul 14, 2021
Look at the ADVANTAGES of choosing a minivan for the “#vanlife”.
GoneCamper is creating a new trending hashtag: #MiniVanLife"! (Is the minivan camper the new “Vanagon”?
The original GoneCamper conversion for minivans was designed for camping vacations, and not for the full-time life of a “vandweller”. As described at GoneCamper.com, the minivan conversion provides a bed for travelers, plus a kitchen to store cooking utensils, water, a stove and cooler. The GoneCamper was built with traveling campers in mind (typically couples, but often singles) who need a roomy and economical vehicle for work and play when they are not camping.
For economical travel and comfort on the road, few vehicles can compete with the minivan. It has a long wheelbase for a smooth ride, gets great gas mileage, and has tons of room. Minivans are designed with a cargo area that will haul a sheet of plywood back from the lumberyard. This 4-foot by 8-foot space is used to the maximum in the GoneCamper camping conversion for minivans.
The original GoneCamper does not alter the minivan in any way. In fact, with Dodge and Chrysler minivans, the seats are not removed but fold into the floor for storage. The GoneCamper bed and kitchen stores behind the second row of seats, providing room for four passengers between camping trips. Or you can remove the entire package in less than 15-minutes.
Still, we have learned from vandwellers that there are characteristics which make the generic minivan perfect for the “#vanlife”. Over the next few articles, we will look at the Top Five Reasons Why a Minivan Is Perfect for Van Life:
Reason Number 1. Minivans are everywhere. This means they are plenty of new and used minivans in all price ranges to choose from in virtually every city in the U.S. and Canada. This also means that minivans are some of the most inexpensive used vehicles. If you prefer a new vehicle, you will often have the option of 0% financing. Minivans also benefit from low cost routine service and tires. When we replaced the original tires on the GoneCamper Grand Caravan, the new tires had a 70,000-mile warranty!
You can find “soccer Mom” minivans with low miles and in great condition for under $5,000 – often much less. If you prefer a new vehicle, you may also find attractive incentives and discounts. (Our dealer offered us a steeply discounted pre-paid 75,000-mile maintenance program.) Try to find a minivan without every electric option like side door and rear hatch motors and sunroofs. It has been our experience that electric options add thousands to the cost and tend to be the least reliable, then cost a lot to fix.
Some prospective vandweller dream about owning a classic VW Vanagon. But you can buy a practically new, dependable and economical minivan with a V6 engine and modern safety and convenience options for less than a 30-year old Vanagon with a quirky 4-cylinder engine with 200,000 miles!
Reason Number 2: Minivans are everywhere. The minivan is so common that it is generic and nearly invisible. You cannot find a street, parking lot, park, business, church, or office building without a minivan in sight. If you want the option of “stealth camping” in residential or commercial areas, few vehicles are less likely to draw attention. This is important to many vandwellers who want to pay for overnight parking as little as possible. This is especially important if your destination is a city versus campgrounds or BLM lands.
This is a critical difference between “vandwellers” and van campers. We are minivan campers and often seek out National Forest campgrounds, State Parks, and – occasionally – private campgrounds. The GoneCamper minivan doesn’t need electric or water hookups, and often qualifies for a discount in “tent” campsites! In contrast, vandwellers usually try to park for free to make their budget stretch farther
What is your vandwelling budget and your priority for free stealth parking? If the lowest cost and stealth is CRITICAL to your vandwelling plans, a minivan should be given serious consideration. Because a minivan is so non-threatening, it doesn’t merit a second look parked on a residential street or in the parking lot at a 24-hour store, hotel or apartment complex. On the other hand, you might be prohibited from parking an RV in front of a friend’s house due to local homeowner association rules.
We recently learned of a #MiniVanLife vandweller who lived for a full year in the parking lot of a business - with their permission. The minivan was not out of place, not an eye sore, but offered some passive evidence of human presence to deter break-ins and vandalism while the business was closed!
Reason Number 3. Minivans have a high load capacity. They are small but mighty! Every minivan is designed for six or seven passengers, so the suspension is stronger than the average sedan. Minivans are often used by tradesmen to deliver packages and haul supplies and tools. Minivans are also converted to transport handicapped individuals, complete with heavy, motorized wheelchair ramps and lifts.
No amount of camping gear, clothes, and food is going to exceed the weight capacity of a minivan. Because all minivans are front-wheel drive, the vehicle always has excellent traction. We have driven the GoneCamper Grand Caravan for THOUSANDS of miles on unpaved roads. We have driven into remote Alaska and the Yukon Territory, the desert and high-elevation wilderness of Arizona, and narrow woods roads in Wisconsin. We have never spun a wheel or gotten stuck.
You will often see minivans used by painters and electricians, complete with loaded roof racks. Most minivans already have light-duty roof racks for skis or bikes. Stronger, aftermarket racks can be added that will support solar panels, water tubes, or bulky camping gear in roof top cargo boxes. Just be aware that anything on the outside of your minivan detracts from the “stealth factor” discussed earlier. Anything on the roof also reduces your fuel mileage. But different destinations may call for different equipment, and the minivan is up to the task of delivering it all!
In the next article we will take an extended look at Reason Number 4: Minivans are very economical to own. For more information, please contact GoneCamper.com
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