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Driving across the country in a camper van whilst also being a digital nomad? Here's the place to learn how to and discuss the lifestyle! Moderated by Armando Costantino & Melony Candea, co-founders of Westfalia Digital Nomads, a lifestyle blog dedicated to #vanlife while being a digital nomad. They've been on the road 4+ years!
#747
Hey guys! :)

I bet this differs based on your location, but what's the least and average you would pay for a running camper van that you could start travelling around in?

Do you guys budget any amount for repairs? What's typical for maintenance costs on your van?
#750
Hi Jessy, this is the second time I've written this reply (apparently my first reply took too long and I had to re-log in) so apologies if this is a bit abrupt. Good news is it's fresh in my mind so hopefully I can write faster and leaner. ;)

We bought a T4 Westfalia Volkswagon ('95) within a week of us agreeing a van was the best option; Armando spotting it and meeting the owner; and the owner selling it that week. We paid around 6,000 Euros for what's known as a 'pre-made' in some odd vanlife circles. We have a fridge/stovetop/sink and pullout bed plus pop top.

We were super lucky.

It depends on what you want, though. We met a fella from the UK on the road in Morocco and he'd spent (I think-?) around £2,000 for a van skeleton and around £11,000 for the conversion to where he was happy. For us the priority was to travel together, comfortably; for him, it was to make a home. It took him several months, so that's a commitment - but he does have a really beautiful place in his van. :)

I'll make this short in case I get cut off again. I'd sent links earlier, but basically when you look use keywords like: buy campervan in X (US/UK/CZ (where we bought ours)) or van for sale in X. Switch up the keywords. Have fun with it-! Also, ask around. Someone might know someone with a van. And ask on groups. I dunno how many FB groups you've checked out, but ask on sites designed to find owners for sellers - specifically for vans.

Hope this is helpful, let me know whatever other info you need. :)

Mel
#752
Lastly, maintenance costs (sorry, I'd written before): we've had some issues, for sure. Like any vehicle. Especially one that's used so often in so many different climates. Our T4 has been pretty amazing, really. But every year, yes. Something happens. And having a cache of cash for that I'd defo recommend. One moment, our muffler fell off. Another, the engine refused to sync. Another the sink valve forgot how to work. Plus we added the solar panel and transformer stuffs for our plugs. New tires. Basic stuff, really. Don't forget, however, that keeping it maintained and checked up (with a mind on upkeep savings) is not much compared to when a pipe bursts in a flat you're renting or some other anomaly happens. And some of our 'break downs' led to happy accidents of staying longer and bonding with a place and people we wouldn't have, so there's always a plus. Grin.
#4037
The cheapest would be mine. I got it from Craigs list for 1200 bucks.Been driving it every since. Runs and drives like new.Was just a conversion van but I'm slowly converting it to a livable van for van life. Took out the rear bench/bed and built a bigger bed with storage .Took out the left center captains chair and built a cabinet there with a propane 3 burner stove with oven and a sink. It's coming along nice .Loving it.
This is what 1200 bucks got me. 18 mpg too BTW
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This is her now
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#4106
Thx. We have her pretty much ready to go now. This is what she looks like today. Been a month or so on the conversion and she has came a long ways.
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Still under 2k invested including the original purchase price of the van,new battery,new alternator and lumber.Got alot of stuff for free and used a lot of stuff i already had laying around.

WHERE THERE IS A WILL THERE IS A WAY.
#4107
We also added a shore filler hook up where the front gas tank used to be.It had been removed so I used that area under the filler door to install the shore power hook up. Now when someone asks why I have an extension cord going into my gas tank I think I will tell them I have a small smart can in the van and it is on charge. lol.
#4412
I have a 2005 Chevy Astro LT AWD. I picked it up from Heber City, Utah for 1200 dollars. The interior, body, and glass are all pretty much mint, and although the mileage is slightly high, it was well maintained and runs and drives like a top. Out here in Wyoming there are many a long, rugged, and faraway roads that are near inaccessible and certainly out of cell phone range. The Astro handles it all and has yet to get stuck. It has been an extremely reliable vehicle. I know there are tons of die hard VW fans out there and for good reason I suppose... however one reason I stay away from them is that (especially when talking about a Syncro) they can be expensive to repair. In places like Wyoming if you break down you're pretty much out of luck unless you're near a junk yard that just happens to have the parts, or an auto parts store which will almost never have unusual items. Chevy parts are more accessible and some are even interchangeable between engines- however with a van like the Astro and most full-size vans the engine is half under the hood and half in the cabin under the 'dog house'. If one is not handy with the tools this can be quite the pain to work on where a VW might be easier in some respects... so it's really give and take. Obviously if a person is vanning near places like Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Fort Collins, Denver, Cali, etc... then more VW specific shops or other specialty garages are to be had. In the wild west however and vast, unpopulated expanses of area shops like this are few and far between. If you choose something like the Toyota Previa All-Trac for instance, parts and shops might be slightly harder to come by but the durability of the machine could mean you won't need them as often.
All of this said just find a good solid rig for a good price and use it. As you make your way you will discover what features you would like to have- extended cabin, 4x4/ AWD, poptop, whatever. But just know that even if you start out with a 2WD full size van or VW you will discover that good tires and a decent set of chains will get more places than you might think.
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