FIVE Reasons Why a Minivan Is Perfect for Van Life: Part Two
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”?)
There are many characteristics which make the generic minivan perfect for the “#vanlife”. So far, we have looked at THREE of the Top Five Reasons Why a Minivan Is Perfect for Van Life:
1. Minivans are everywhere. Minivans are easy to find and cheap to buy.
2. Minivans are everywhere. Few vehicles are more “stealthy” and less threatening in any setting.
3. Minivans have a roomy cargo area and a high load capacity, making them ideal as versatile camping vehicles.
Now we will spend some time discussing Reason Number 4: Minivans are very economical to own.
As a family hauler, there is a huge market for low-priced minivans so nearly every new dealer will have a few models in stock that are priced low. You will find many, many used minivans for sale for as little as $2,000 on used lots and for sale by owner. Compared to the alternative camping vehicles, minivans are simply the lowest price option.
Minivans are some of the safest vehicles on the road. Millions of minivans have been sold. The unibody construction is strong in case of a major accident. They have high crash ratings and that means lower insurance costs. Minivans are categorized as passenger vehicles – NOT trucks. That also means registration and licensing costs are less than full-size cargo vans, especially in states where registration fees are based on the purchase price. Some states also classify high-top cargo vans as commercial vehicles, with even higher registration and insurance costs.
The V6 engine and front-wheel drive transmission has been proven after years of production with millions of vehicles on the road. Minivans are often used as taxis and rack up tremendous mileage. We have heard of minivans used as taxis and for medical transport with more than 300,000 miles on the original engine and transmission. We use full synthetic oil in the GoneCamper Dodge Grand Caravan and change it every 5,000 miles. Unlike many motorhomes, which force you into RV dealers or heavy-duty truck shops for service, we just pull into the nearest “Quick Lube” when traveling.
Minivans are prefect for the minimalist vandweller. Too many YouTube videos show a happy couple with a “van build” that took many months to complete, at a cost of $50,000 or more! In contrast, you can install a GoneCamper bed and kitchen in 15 MINUTES. After you add a cooler, stove, and a few other camping necessities, you would likely not exceed $2,000 for your “van build”.
Let me insert my personal opinion here: if you are entering the “van life” deeply in debt, including financing your van and the required camping conversion, you are setting yourself up for failure. “Vanlife” is all about eliminating debt, NOT going into debt to participate. Vanlife is all about lowering your material needs. Vanlife is all about increasing your freedom. You want MORE opportunities for travel, exploration, and personal growth. If you are only substituting the debt and demands of a house payment for a van payment, you are still a slave to debt.
When Sergei Boutenko produced his documentary on “Vanlife”, (see the review article here) he was surprised to learn only one year later that many of the people he interviewed – who WERE happy participants – had left #vanlife for a home, apartment or homestead. Many of these former van life participants had unrealistic expectations. Reading between the lines, I presume some couldn’t earn enough to cover their van payments and/or were unwilling to dial back their former lifestyle to match their nomadic income.
Robert Witham, the author of “Minimalism”, "Car Living" and “How to be a Successful 21st Century Nomad” (available on Amazon) agrees. He stresses that downsizing your physical possessions is a crucial mental exercise. His suggestion is to think like a backpacker – concentrating on the essentials of food, water, clothing, and shelter. Then recognize that EVERYTHING else is an added luxury. Every item needs to be evaluated not only based on NEED but SPACE. You may want something, but simply have no room for it. You may want something but need to dispose of something else first. The best items will have multiple uses and long useful lives. You will be acting and living in direct opposition to the insatiable consumerism of Americans.
It is also important to realize that expensive “van builds” are just that – an outright EXPENSE! A converted cargo van or minivan is still a cargo van or minivan, as far as your insurance company is concerned. Most "van builds" can never meet the requirements for registration as an "RV". Most of what you spend cannot be removed and does not add to the value of the vehicle – UNLESS you are able to sell the complete camper as a package to another vandwelling enthusiast. The contents of your van build are generally NOT insured by your auto or truck policy, after the standard limits for personal possessions. (Check with your insurance agent for the limitations on your vehicle. But BEWARE! Some companies won’t insure your van if you tell them you are living in it full-time!)
If you have less than $2,000 invested in a GoneCamper package and other equipment, you might be able to recover most or all of the cost in the event your minivan is totaled in a collision. Accidents happen. But it is more likely that you will suffer a mechanical breakdown at some point if you buy a used minivan with lots of miles. When your minivan breaks down, you are truly homeless! Today, major repairs can easily exceed the value of a used minivan. The good news is that you are probably within 50 miles of at least 10 used minivans in your price range. Since there are no permanent installations, in less than an hour you can transfer everything from one van to the other and be back on the road.
For this reason, “Budget Travel Guy” on YouTube advocates buying inexpensive used minivans – then being prepared to walk away if and when you face a catastrophic break down.
Besides being affordable, minivans are also easy to drive. With a raised seating position and windows all around, you have excellent visibility. Front-wheel drive provides a short turning radius. There is no comparison between driving a minivan and a larger van or RV. We have routinely seen 30 miles per gallon on cross-country trips in our GoneCamper Grand Caravan. We also like not needing to search for diesel pumps, DEF, and never worry about finding gas even in rural areas.
With a minivan you can camp almost anywhere. (The single exception is off road “overlanding” reserved for JEEPS and other modified 4x4’s.) With a minivan, your driving, parking, and camping choices are maximized. You can drive down narrow lanes with overhanging branches that would stop taller and wider vans and RV’s. You can park in crowded lots and drive down twisty roads where RV’s and trailers are prohibited.
In the next article, we will take an extended look at Reason Number 5: Minivans are very roomy. The blank space provides many alternative floor plans for your “MiniVanLife” camper. Until then, I hope you agree that the versatility and low cost of a minivan cannot be matched by any other camper. The modern minivan is a great successor as the #newVanagon. For all these reasons, a minivan may be the best choice for the #MiniVanLife! Contact GoneCamper to discuss the many design options for your minivan. The minivan most completely defines our motto:
Traveling Efficiently, Camping Comfortably, Living Frugally
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