Full Time Van Life in Arizona, USA

Introduce Yourself…

Hello! My name is Christine. I am a solo female planning to start my van build in November/December (& into next year).
I currently have a fixed job with Walgreens and would like to stay in the phoenix area year round. I know summers are going to be a problem. (I plan to have an A/C unit and either park at a friend’s place or rent space at RV parks during the hot months to plug into shore power and run the A/C.)
Currently, I am torn between getting a new Ram Promaster or a Ford Transit (I plan to finance them so tips about good credit unions are also welcome :smile: ). Any suggestions or help is much appreciated. Thank you!

Greetings & Welcome!

I would suggest an alternative plan… I just checked the Phoenix area Craigslist, and there are a number of move in ready older RV’s for sale in various sizes for under $5k-$6k which is less than you’re likely to spend to do a self conversion. They will also likely not decrease in value.

DIY is typically terrible advice for newbies, and so is going into debt to buy new or even newish. Too many people go to a lot of expense only to find out they don’t actually like the lifestyle, and then lose a ton of money when they go to resell. With a cheap starter rig, you can get your feet wet without a huge risk.

If you like it and choose to do it permanently, you can quickly save up enough to buy something newer for cash, and save those interest & finance charges on a vehicle that is actually depreciating in value.

Another suggestion that comes up frequently is to rent a rig to try out the lifestyle before you commit to it. The transition can be a huge shock, and very few people last longer than a year or two.

You also mentioned you want to keep your job… If you’re not traveling, you can live much cheaper without going to such extremes. You can rent a room in a house/apt pretty cheap, or take up house sitting and get paid to live is other people’s homes while they’re away. There are many creative options available to you.

A reliable income is essential for most of us, and you’re just trading one set of bills for a different set of bills, while giving up a lot of comfort and convenience that most people don’t realize until it’s too late. Unless you’re staying and paying for an RV park, you have to generate your own electricity, haul your own water, and the list goes on and on.

Not trying to be a downer, but it’s not all rainbows & roses out here. There’s tons of opportunity for everyone, but it doesn’t have to include vandwelling. Examine the downsides carefully before making the leap.


"Don't be scared, BE PREPARED!" ~ Road Warrior

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Thank you for the reply and for bringing up these great points! I have been considering this move for a little over a year now, and have rented and lived in a built out van for a week to get a feel for van-life. And though it was a short time, I really enjoyed it.
As for the financial side of it, I have a VERY large amount of debt from school so taking out a loan for a new van would be a drop in the bucket at this point… AND while yes buying new would mean the van would depreciate and I would not get that money back should I sell it, it also would mean no surprise maintenance issues down the road and would also likely mean a warranty should anything pop up unexpectedly.
With the exception of the house-sitting option you mentioned, I have looked into cheap apartments, rent-to-own situations, roommates, etc. All have come up as more expensive (taking into account commute & utilities & the loans I already have) than living out of a van. I really like the house-sitting idea as a possible side-job.
You are absolutely correct that if I buy new I will be trading one set of bills for a different set of bills. But I would be paying for something I would own in the long run, instead of sinking my money into an apartment that will never be mine.
I probably should have mentioned this before, but I will likely be moving around multiple different Walgreens stores for work (commute could be up to 4hrs one way each day). Ideally (in the next year), I would like to get a job with Public Health Service or Indian Health Service, which could also mean moving quite a bit. Given both of those factors, I would rather have something mobile, which is why I looked into van-life in the first place. (Having the freedom to get out of town to enjoy nature was a bonus :grin:)
Haha no downers here. You are being realistic and I really appreciate it. You brought up really excellent points. I will look into pre-built rigs over the next few months, and do some research on how to inspect them.
Thank you for your help!


Yeah, I tend to agree with Van_Dweller when he mentions the Craigslist/Older RV option.

I’m literally at the end of my build, which has taken me a year (6 months longer than I planned / intended) and probably about $20000+ in so far?

I bought it hook, line, and sinker from the Youtube Influencers / Prepper community. I’ve got the beefy solar setup, the 4 giant 800ah battery bank, the recirculating shower system, blah blah blah…

Not to mention the mistakes. Oh, my mistakes were many, and many were costly. I literally bought an entire shower stall (a cheap one at like $500). But after cutting and recutting, thinking I could make it work, finally I realized there was just no way and LITERALLY threw the thing out after I had cut it into all sorts of funky shapes. I literally threw $500 in the trash.

I should have bought a camper for $3500 about 10 months back, and saved the other $16,500 for the piece of farm property I want in a few years.

I know the Youtube Vans look super cool, and they look super cute, but they really aren’t worth it unless…

1 - You specifically want to gain experience in building/converting Vans/Shuttles.
2 - You want to sink a bunch of money into your mistakes.
3 - You want something very specific, like an extreme off-grid capable vehicle.
4 - Because you only live once so why not!

But seriously, I don’t regret my build or all the awesome things I’ve learned along the way. However, my goal was to travel and save money doing so. Instead, I’ve spent the last year building my Shuttle, and spent ZERO time traveling or saving money. :laughing:

Like Van_Dweller said, not trying to be a downer or discourage you from a super awesome build. Just want to prepare you for the bad of a self build when not a professional, like being influenced or making mistakes. If none of that deters you, and knowing you are going to waste money doing this is okay so long as you gain it back in experience, then jump on in! :smiley:

If those things don’t bother you though, I still wouldn’t buy a new vehicle and finance it. There are a ton of used options out there that are just as good, if not better.

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