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AIBU to think we could happily live in a van?

(210 Posts)
spiritofadventure Thu 30-Nov-17 01:44:08

My OH and I have been talking recently about buying a van and converting it into a self contained home to live in full time.

It started off as a joke when we had to change flats, yet again, as our landlord was selling up, but it is now something we are seriously considering.

We are in our early 30's, both work full time 50 hours a week and are still nowhere near close to saving a deposit to be able to buy in this area.

We've done the maths and think we could do this for less than £12k, including the van.

The van we would buy is a LWB Mercedes Sprinter, which would give us a living space of approx. 4.3m x 1.8m. Inside, we would have a double bed, small dining area, kitchen and a small shower/toilet room.

It would be cosy, for sure, but it would have everything we need.

We live in an area that has lots of places suitable to park up for the night so that wouldn't be an issue.

Monthly costs we think would be in the region of £3-400 excluding food costs

Obviously this wouldn't be a forever home, but we were thinking 2 or 3 years so we could build up our savings.

Are we crazy, or could this really work?

araiwa Thu 30-Nov-17 01:49:48

you are crazy

mrsharrison Thu 30-Nov-17 01:52:16

I don't know if you could cope that long, maybe 6 months. One thing in your favour is you work long hours so would be mostly using it to sleep.
Doing laundy would be a pain. I think you would have to rely on friends and family nearby when you need a break from each other.
Im guessing you will rent some storage space elsewher cos you're really gonna have to pare it all down.
Could be interesting though.

Movablefeast Thu 30-Nov-17 02:01:43

I think this could get old very quickly. How do you keep warm?

spiritofadventure Thu 30-Nov-17 02:02:05

We both have friends we could rely on if we needed a break from each other but I honestly can't see that being a problem. We enjoy each others company very much.

The laundry would be a trip to the laundrette once a week - easy!

We would rent a very small unit to store a few things, but all large furniture, our cars etc would be sold.

spiritofadventure Thu 30-Nov-17 02:03:43

The van would be fully insulated and we would install a diesel heater to keep warm!

WatchTheFoxes Thu 30-Nov-17 02:04:18

You're in your thirties? confused sounds like a pipe dream of a teenager. Totally impractical and sounds ghastly.

DullAndOld Thu 30-Nov-17 02:04:41

it would be OK in the summer. cAn you imagine a night like tonight in a van?
also you might think there are places where you could park but you will find very quickly that the police will move you on.

A whole new load of new laws in the late 90s (thank you TBlair) finished the traveller scene, and people living in vans.

loobybear Thu 30-Nov-17 02:08:07

A lot of this depends on your lifestyle now. DH and I have talked about this as we spend a lot of time travelling around in a campervan and feel happy living out if this. However it is very different to being in a house so it definitely wouldn't be for everyone. £12000 is also a significant amount to putting towards a house deposit so it's worth thinking about very carefully. You would also need to think about where you would/could park up, I know you say there are areas but have you checked with your council? There are some councils and areas where it is not ok to park up if you are living out the van and you may get fined. You would also need to go into campsites at points to empty toilet, replenish water, etc. There can also be security issues living in a suburban area or city in a van (my sister's boyfriend
did this for a short period in London until his van was stolen, prior to that he had had attempted robberies while he was actually in the van). To park up in a campsite where you can get hook up, showers, etc then it will cost you so you would need to factor that in too.
It's definitely possible but I would think about it very carefully if you haven't spent much time living out of a van. Simple tasks become much more difficult, even down to just looking presentable (which may be important if either of you have a professional job) can be more difficult as you have less space to iron, hang clothes, etc. It's not a bad idea but not for everyone.

loobybear Thu 30-Nov-17 02:09:43

Oh, and other PPs are absolutely right about temperature at this time of year. Even in an insulated van it gets absolutely freezing at night time!!

Reppin Thu 30-Nov-17 02:10:09

I think it would be doable if you were travelling the world, seeing amazing sights and living a different and exciting lifestyle. If you are just parking up in a lay by/on a friend's drive and going to your regular 50 hour a week job it sounds pretty depressing really.

TooManyPaws Thu 30-Nov-17 02:11:02

Some people do this but living on campsites which involves taking those costs into account. There's a few accounts on Instagram which show off Van Life but they tend to be people moving around.

IAmNoAngel Thu 30-Nov-17 02:14:22

Have you considered a narrowboat?

antimatter Thu 30-Nov-17 02:26:30

What about bathroom/shower?
Would you use one at work?

OhShit2017 Thu 30-Nov-17 02:29:37

It’s totally doable (lived in a van for years and know lots of others that do). I think you’d have to think carefully about where you parked up though, it’s probably easier to find a campsite that lets travellers stay there all year round for a discounted rate (there’s one near me that’s fine with this and it’s £40 a week including use of showers/toilets/sinks). Or some farmers have not quite legal arrangements of allowing people to park on their land for a small rent. Moving around all the time would be a pain in the arse. And you definitely wouldn’t be cold, I don’t know much aboUt diesel heaters but I had a wood burner that stayed lit all night, would wake up toasty warm in the morning. If you try it and it’s not for you there’s no reason you couldn’t sell the van and get a flat or house.

spiritofadventure Thu 30-Nov-17 02:30:54

We have checked with local authorities and as long as we were not causing a disturbance, we would be free to park our van in certain areas.

We live on the coast so are surrounded by campsites, should we need to move to one. So a place to refill water or empty the toilet is also not an issue.

We would love to travel around in out van but until we saved the money to do so, it wouldn't be possible.

For us, I think the pros outweigh the cons - and if it turns out we hate it, we can always sell the van and move into a flat!

I think it could be an adventure 😊

DullAndOld Thu 30-Nov-17 02:39:42

well it sound like you have done your research and made your mind up.!!
good luck!
In the summer I was at a country rave and there was a van there that had a little log burner in it, very cunningly done with a paving stone and some other heatproof materials...obvs it would have to be dismantled for travel.

CheapSausagesAndSpam Thu 30-Nov-17 02:41:29

Of course you could. Some people on here have little imagination or desire to do anything unusual and it makes them uncomfortable to think of others not being afraid of the unknown.

So don't let them quash you.

I know a woman who lives very happily in a van with her DD. We're in Oz so cold isn't an issue but heat could be...however, she has everything she needs to make it comfy.

People living in vans will soon become far more normal as land and houses become more tricky to afford.

Do it.

As for the poster mentioning your age as though you're past it!

Ridiculous. You're in your prime. Perfect timing.

BeALert Thu 30-Nov-17 02:47:14

My old neighbours did this for two years, and during that time they had a baby. They were living on the site of a barn they were rebuilding. I think they had running water but not much else on site.

Stickmangate Thu 30-Nov-17 02:48:45

Have you checked out car insurance costs?
A relative has converted a van in to a type of camper van to use for holidays and as the van has been modified the insurance is very expensive.

It's more than another relative pays to insure their camper van.

sycamore54321 Thu 30-Nov-17 02:52:46

It is a terrible idea to invest £12k in a rapidly depreciating, possibly uninsurable-for-your-purpose asset if the objective is to save money for a house. If you really want to live cheaply option, then long term rental of a mobile home in a camp ground would have much less risk for you. And still sounds grim.

Also ask yourself why you want to own a house. Presumably to have somewhere secure, permanent, comfortable to live? Then it seems madness to spend literally years living in the least comfortable, least stable way possible just to achieve that possibly somewhere years down the line. I'd suggest reconciling yourself to long-term renting or else moving to a cheaper area or country would bring you far greater happiness than the misery of years in a van.

I'd also be very unsure about relying on assurances now from your council now about parking. It doesn't take many complaints to have a by law enacted.

BrioAmio Thu 30-Nov-17 03:00:35

If you’re renting a unit for furniture as well as running costs surely that’s goong to add up to the cost of renting a flat but with a £12k no refundable cost and none of the benefits. Also beingnof no fixed abode will impact your mortgage options.

steff13 Thu 30-Nov-17 03:05:03

I have friend whose husband is going blind. When he was unable to work anymore, they sold most of their belongings, bought an RV, and have been driving around the US with their kids for 2 years now. He wanted to see the country while he still could. She homeschools the kids.

Stickmangate Thu 30-Nov-17 03:12:20

And sorry if you've already said but what about electric?

If you are use to each having your own car with a van if one of you wants to pop the supermarket while the other one sleeps, has a shower, cooks dinner etc you both have to go. Unless you can use public transport which will add time and costs.
You can stay warm in bed while your partner goes out to get the weekly shop for example.

sycamore54321 Thu 30-Nov-17 03:26:33

On practicalities, laundrette once a week means you need the storage space in the van for enough clothing to dress two adults for a week. Or go to the laundrette more often, including an hour or two in the mid-week evenings when you are already working 50 hour weeks. Laundrettes are a very boring way to spend time and are quite expensive. Where will you receive post? How will your social life be impacted by never being able to have friends over? Will you always have to go out to meet people, which is more expensive? Eating will be expensive too as you won't be able to bulk buy and batch cook, which is usually the cheapest way to feed yourself. Where do you get your water for your hygiene and how do you heat it? Where do you dry your towel after you wash yourself? How will you deal with condensation and damp? Will you have windows in which case everyone will be peering in at you, or no windows and spend all your time in artificial light? Where will you even sit down, evening after evening on end for years? Will you be happy? Can you be happy there? Will you be so sick of the place that you spend more and more of your time out, spending extra money at activities just to escape the tedium of yet another evening in the cramped space of the van? You enjoy each other's company but have you really considered the reality of being within sight, smell and ear-shot of one another every single minute that you are home? It sounds oppressive.

But those are all just comfort and financial issue. The real issue for me would be security, a major concern. I guarantee an inhabited van regularly parked in the same locations will attract unwanted attention and at best you risk someone intimidating you seeking protection money, your things been stolen while you are working, or worse a break in while you are sleeping. Would you be happy staying there alone if your partner is away overnight for example? What about fire or even arson?

Your figures of £300-400 per month plus some of the £12k investment would go a long way in many places towards a small double room in a shared house - not the norm for people in their 30s but it does exist.

And these are just a very few considerations off the top of my head. I don't think my perspective comes from a lack of imagination. Rather, I am looking at the collective wisdom of the vast majority of the population who do not see this as a viable option for living a happy life. You don't mention a penchant for minimalism, a drive to live differently, a long and happy experience of camping and backpacking and adventuring. You speak of living in rented homes and aiming to own your own home, and of your feelings in the disruption and instability caused by your landlord not renewing your lease. That instability will be multiplied massively by the van proposal. A very few people could be happy in such an arrangement. You really do not sound like one of them.

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