are vans good for squatting

The Appeal of Van Squatting

But first, let’s talk about why so many people are drawn to the idea of living full-time in a van. For starters, it represents a kind of freedom and minimalism that’s incredibly alluring in our modern, possession-heavy society. Not being tied down to a permanent residence or a mountain of belongings? Sign many of us up!

Van life also allows you to chase warmer weather, explore new places on a whim, and scratch that innate itch for adventure that we all have (some more than others). And let’s not forget the financial freedom – paying rent or a mortgage is one of the biggest expenses for most people, so living in a van can significantly cut down on monthly expenses.

Of course, actually pulling off van life isn’t quite as romantic or carefree as the Instagram photos might suggest. There are unique challenges that come with squatting in a van that require careful consideration…

The Pros and Cons of Van Squatting

Like anything in life, van squatting has its pros and cons that are important to understand upfront:


  • Financial freedom from rent/mortgage
  • Ability to chase nice weather and travel
  • Minimalist lifestyle without many possessions
  • Meet like-minded van life community
  • Get in touch with nature by camping
  • Avoid high rent in expensive cities


  • Lack of personal space and privacy
  • Difficulty finding legal parking spots
  • Limited storage space for belongings
  • Dealing with van maintenance/repairs
  • Lack of amenities like kitchen/bathroom
  • Potential for van getting towed or broken into
  • Feeling isolated or unsafe at times

Those are just some of the key pros and cons to mull over. Ultimately, whether the pros outweigh the cons will come down to your own personal situation, priorities and lifestyle preferences.

Different Types of Vans for Squatting

If you’re leaning towards giving van life a shot after weighing the pros and cons, the next step is deciding what type of van would work best for your squatting needs and budget. Generally speaking, there are three main categories:

1) Cargo Vans

These are the most budget-friendly option, as you can often find used cargo vans (think Ford Econoline, Chevy Express, etc.) for $5,000-10,000. The downside is that cargo vans require a full conversion on the inside before they’re livable.

2) Passenger Vans

Vans like the Ford Transit or Mercedes Sprinter were designed to haul people rather than cargo, so they come with removable seats and other amenities that make for an easier conversion. They’re more expensive than cargo vans though, often $15,000-30,000 for a used, high-top model with enough headroom to stand up inside.

3) RVs/Camper Vans

For maximum convenience (and cost), there are also pre-built camper vans and Class B RVs made by companies like Winnebago, Roadtrek, etc. These are move-in ready with a kitchen, bathroom, and living area – but be prepared to spend upwards of $50,000-100,000.

Most van squatters go the cargo or passenger van route, then build it out themselves over time to create their perfect tiny home on wheels. This allows for way more customization than an RV and lets you stick to a tighter budget.

Van Squatting 101: What You Need to Know

Okay, so let’s assume you’ve picked out your dream van for squatting – now what? Here are some tips and things to be aware of as you prepare for #vanlife:

Budgeting for Van Costs

Beyond the van itself, you’ll need to budget for things like gas (vans get around 15-20 mpg), insurance (higher for vans than cars), maintenance/repairs, and any van accessories you’ll want like solar power, fans, window coverings, etc. A good rule of thumb is to have a $5,000-10,000 emergency van repair fund.

Parking and Camping

One of the biggest challenges of van squatting is finding safe, legal places to park overnight. Walmart parking lots are often safe bets, as are BLM land and national forests where you can camp for free or cheap. Apps like iOverlander can help you locate good spots. You’ll also need to learn the rules around parking on city streets for nights here and there.

Amenities and Utilities

Speaking of city stays, that’s when you’ll need to look into gyms for showers, coffeeshops or libraries for wifi, truck stops for dumping tanks, etc. Some van squatters pay for a portable planet fitness membership; others stick to more “off-grid” living. You’ll also need to decide if you want any sort of mobile internet or rooftop solar setup.

Van Security

Sadly, van break-ins are a risk that squatters have to be prepared for. Using window coverings, parking in well-lit areas, getting a steering wheel lock, and not leaving valuables in plain sight are wise precautions. Some also install solar power systems so they can use most electronics without constantly running the van engine and drawing attention.

Houseless vs Homeful

It’s important to distinguish van squatting from being homeless and living out of a car or van out of necessity. Most van squatters have chosen this lifestyle intentionally and have financial resources to do it properly and legally. Don’t take advantage of services meant for those truly struggling with homelessness.

Work and Income Streams

Of course, you’ll need some form of income while van squatting, whether that’s remote work, gig work like rideshare driving, freelancing, or other entrepreneurial side hustles that can be done from the road. Many find ways to turn vanlife itself into a financial opportunity through Youtubing, vanning, or other digital nomad paths.

Only You Can Decide…

At the end of the day, whether vans are truly “good” for squatting comes down to your own personal situation and priorities. For some, the freedom, adventure and minimalism of van life is worth dealing with the hassles. For others, the lack of personal space, privacy and amenities is too high a price to pay.

If you do decide to take the plunge, just go into it with open eyes, a solid plan, and realistic expectations. Van squatting definitely isn’t the perpetual vacation that some influencers make it look like! But it can be an incredibly rewarding experience if you’re prepared for the ups and downs.

FAQs on Van Squatting

To wrap up, here are some frequently asked questions around squatting in vans:

How much does it cost to live in a van?

Monthly van life expenses can range from $1,000-3,000 depending on how upgraded your van is, how much traveling you do, insurance costs, and your overall lifestyle. Many van squatters are able to get by on $1,500-2,000 per month all-in.

Is living in a van legal?

Yes, there are no laws against living in a van in most places as long as you’re following parking rules, not trespassing on private property, public intoxication laws, etc. Some cities have tried cracking down with “no vehicle dwelling” laws, but it’s generally legal.

How do you shower when living in a van?

Van squatters shower at gyms with a membership like Planet Fitness, truck stop shower facilities, campsites with coin showers, beaches or lakes, and facilities at some workplaces.

How do you go to the bathroom living in a van?

You can use campground bathrooms, go inside businesses, dig a “cat hole” in remote areas, or install a portable toilet or composting toilet inside a van with a vent.

What are the best vans to live in?

Popular vans for squatting include Ford Econoline/Transit, Chevy Express, Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Ram Van/Promaster, and pre-built camper vans like Winnebago Rialto.

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