How did you afford your van and how much was it?

“bY wOrKiNg”
Come on, be specific!

Ex: I taught English in Asia for 5 years, saved up, and bought one off of Craigslist.
Ex2: I bartended for a year and saved up to buy my uncle’s van.

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I am now an old man, but I’ve been living on wheels since right out of high school, and I’ve had many rigs over the years. My first van was a 1961 VW Westfalia camper van thaat I bought for $700 cash. I mowed lawns and worked as a construction helper to save up the money.

It was beyond great, and the only thing it lacked was a shower, which I added almost immediately. When I graduated from high school, I had a construction job waiting for me on the other side of the country, and I spent the next 30 years working as a traveling construction worker. After 30 years, my body was worn out, so I switched to making money online from the comfort of my home on wheels.

I’ve had many rigs over the years, and with only one exception, all of them were cheap, under $2500. I’ve had factory camper vans, factory motorhomes, and vans, buses, and a step van that I converted myself. The exception was when the promoters convinced me to buy and convert a cargo van. $30k for the van & $30k+ for the conversion, and it was the most miserable camper I had ever owned. I sold it a year later for a $30k+ loss. Lesson learned: “The promoters are liars & thieves and are only after your money, THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS!”.

My current van was originally a camper van, a 1973 Dodge Travco Camper Van. The promoters had convinced the previous owner to gut it and start over, even though there was nothing wrong with it. The promoters conveniently stripped it for him and hauled everything off… He immediately discovered he was in over his head, so he bought another intact factory camper van, and sold this one to me for $700.

I went to a wrecking yard, and for $50 picked up all the window trim, door & wall panels, and original carpet & padding out of a similar passenger van. That restored my interior to original and beautiful, but empty. I then drove it to a used battery shop, where they installed a deep cycle used house battery for me, along with an isolator and low battery cut-offs for both my starter battery and my house battery, for a total bill of $80. Before I left, I added a marine battery box, and 8 accessory ports to the side of it for maybe an additional $20, and my power system was ready to roll.

I didn’t want to restore the original camping interior. I wanted to keep everything modular and portable, rather than having everything built in. Just move it in and secure it. So I scoped out the free classifieds, and a got a metal futon sofa/bed frame, a handicap bedside bucket toilet, a kitchen cabinet with countertop, drawers, and shelves, a lazyboy swivel rocker/recliner and a nightstand.

I bought 2x new 4" foam camping pads, and 2x flannel type sleeping bags for cushion covers, and my sofa/bed was complete and ready to use. I proceeded too buy a $99 no name generator & a $29 battery charger, so I would never be without power. I picked up a kerosene heater & kerosene camp stove for maybe $10, and went to a dollar store and bought a couple of dishpans to use for sinks, and spray bottles for the water delivery, I also bought a hula hoop, and shower curtains/hooks for my shower, all from a dollar store. A weed sprayer and a roadside ice chest with no lid, and my shower was complete. All in, from empty van to move in ready, cost me maybe $300, and I wasn’t even trying to save money, but to do it quickly. Start to finish it took me about 3 days, and the only things I was missing was air conditioning, curtains, and bug screens, which all came later as I got around to it.

Later I ditched the air conditioner which required the generator for a much more energy efficient indirect swamp cooler that I run on battery power alone. It actually works better than the air conditioner ever did.

So my current custom built by me, hightop camper van cost me well under $1500 all in, van included, and it is currently aprroaching 500k trouble free miles, and been a very comfortable, full featured home on wheels for me for over 11 years now. This time around I avoided all the costly mistakes I made in the past thanks to the promoters. No solar, no roof vents or holes in my roof, no 12v compressor fridges, no buddy heaters, not a cargo van, no added insulation, etc. etc. Instead I have opening windows, a view, and all of the many benefits windows provide.

With years of experience, I now suggest cheap older unmodified factory camper vans or motorhomes for newbies. Try it out for cheap, and risk very little. If you like it, you can upgrade later as time and money allow, but never forget some of the most important advice from the old timers like: “Income first, vandwelling later.”, “Never gamble more than you can afford to lose.”, “There is no hurry, the road will always be there.”, and last but certainly not least, “NEVER LISTEN TO THE ADVICE OF PROMOTERS!”.


"Always avoid expensive solutions to cheap problems." ~ OffGrid

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