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What Are The Cons Of Van Life? 11 Downsides To Camper Van Living

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Van life is all the rage these days. That’s no surprise as this lifestyle brings freedom, spontaneity, and the opportunity to meet new friends and make new memories. But while we have no regrets about our choice to live in a camper van, we think it’s important to list out the cons of van life so that everyone can understand that this lifestyle has its drawbacks and isn’t always as glamorous as Instagram portrays it to be.

In this post, we list our top 11 cons of van life to help you learn from our 3+ years of experience living and traveling in our camper van. It’s not our goal to dissuade you from van life, but rather to help inform you so that you can better prepare for this adventure.

So if you’re ready, let’s get to it!

Table of Contents
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    1. Reduced Hygiene

    Succumbing to a lower standard of hygiene is one of the most widely known cons of van life. And it’s ABSOLUTELY true. You will never be as clean while living in a camper van as when you were living at home.

    Here are some of the ways van life has lowered our cleanliness standards.

    • Lack of Shower: You simply won’t be taking as many showers as you’re used to. Back at home, we used to shower twice a day. Yes, you read that right. And now we typically we shower once every 2-4 days. No surprise here. When you camp for free, it often doesn’t include shower facilities.
    • More Dirt: No matter how hard we try, we’re always tracking dirt into our van. It ends up on our floors, our countertops, and even on the bed. And we think we’re pretty clean! Though we’re vigilant about cleaning our van, our camper will never be as clean as a home.
    • Less Clean Laundry: When at home, doing the laundry was a breeze. But during van life, it entails spending half a day at the laundromat. It’s a pain. And as a result, we end up wearing old clothes many times over before we feel they’re ready to be washed.

    Building a camper van? Download our free e-Books with intuitive electrical, solar, and plumbing diagrams.

    2. Lack of Interior Space

    It’s no secret that interior living space is exceptionally limited inside a camper van. Although you can mitigate this issue by choosing a larger vehicle, limited space a known issue that all van lifers must deal with.

    And small living spaces affects us all differently. Whether it ignites feelings of claustrophobia, increases relationship tension, or simply causes you to bang your head and knees everywhere in the van, we all must get used to living in a confined space.

    3. Easy To Get Messy & Disorganized

    Back at home, everything is larger; your kitchen, bedroom, and living room. So, if you simply throw something, like a shirt, on the couch you wouldn’t really notice it. It sort of gets lost in the expanse of the room.

    But because the living space in a van is so small, it’s easy for the interior to get messy if even just a couple items aren’t put back in their proper place. Even if you have 1 or 2 dirty bowls on the countertop, it instantly makes your kitchen look like a disorganized mess.

    We’ve learned to become a lot cleaner since starting van life. Now when something needs to be put away, we almost always pack it away immediately. We also wash our dirty dishes immediately after our meals.

    Changing our mindset to always put things way and clean up has really helped to keep our van clear and clutter-free.

    4. Van Life Isn’t Free (Surprise, Surprise)

    Though many of us focus on the money-saving aspect of camper van living (rent-free lifestyle!), we tend to forget that van life isn’t free. It costs money, too!

    In fact, if you’re planning a lengthy road trip in your camper, you may be surprised by just how much you’ll end up spending on gas.

    Below is a list of our major expenditures:

    • Gas (our biggest expense)
    • Groceries & eating out
    • Phone bill
    • Insurance (vehicle & health)
    • Vehicle maintenance
    • Campsites (twice a week)

    It’s important to consider that unless you’re an absolute frugal warrior, sleeping for free EVERY SINGLE NIGHT is hard. It’s hard on your body and psychology. Though we like the idea of not having to pay rent during van life, in reality we do end up at campsites so that we can rest and take a hot shower.

    And campsites aren’t cheap. $20-$30 per night quickly adds up.

    Cat sitting in a camper van at a gas station

    5. Finding Online Work Is Difficult

    One of the biggest cons of van life is that it’s incredibly difficult to find quality work online to pay for your travels.

    If you can stay with your old employer while working remotely, then that’s great. You should do whatever it takes to hold onto that job.

    But for the rest of us, trying to generate an money online can seem like a depressing dead end. Don’t let the Internet tell you otherwise. It’s HARD WORK finding steady, reliable income on the Internet.

    Freelance websites, like Fiver and Upwork, are incredibly competitive and each job posting has seemingly hundreds of international bidders who are willing to work for next to nothing.

    Setting up a blog or YouTube channel is also a popular option. But you’ll need to dedicate so many countless hours just to see a trickly of income.

    We’re not saying that it’s impossible to earn a living online, but it’s certainly a marathon, not a sprint.

    6. Lack of Routine

    One of the things we miss THE MOST from our normal past lives is having a solid routine. We honestly, sincerely miss the following activities:

    • Frequenting the same coffee shop
    • Shopping at the same grocery store
    • Working out at the same gym
    • Meeting the same old friends at the same old bars

    It’s ironic because one of the reasons we entered van life was to shed ourselves from these monotonous, daily routines. But now that we’re in the thick of van life, we miss the very things we sought to leave behind.

    7. Increased Loneliness

    In van life, it’s just you and, possibly, your partner. Nobody else. That’s it. You’ve left your family and friends behind for a traveling, nomad lifestyle.

    And most of the time that’s totally fine. It isn’t a problem.

    But sometimes you get this intense upwelling of loneliness and desperately wish you could meet up with old friends again,

    And it’s worse when you see your friends hanging out on social media without you.

    Some of this can be mitigated by meeting new friends at campsites or attending van life meetup groups, but in our case, we miss forming stronger bonds that can only really be made in long-term relationships.

    Solo Female Van Life - Parking Overnight

    8. Not Feeling Rooted

    Traveling around spontaneously in a camper van is such a liberating feeling. The freedom! But if you travel long enough, you might begin to incur feelings of lacking belonging, purpose, and not participating in a community.

    “Where is your place in this world?”

    It isn’t uncommon for us to be in an urban city start to feel a lack of belonging when we see people hurrying off to work, having lunch with colleagues, or simply hanging out with friends.

    9. Home Sickness

    This is a feeling that comes and goes depending on your surrounding environment, but that extreme feeling of wanting to return home to see friends and family can get really strong at times.

    If it wasn’t for Covid, Yuko might have flown back home to Japan multiple times already just see friends and get authentic Japanese food.

    But the problem when you’re in van life is that you oftentimes can’t just “go home”. Though you technically could, it might involve 20+ hours of driving or an expensive plane ticket. Oftentimes, the only realistic option is to just tough it out in your van and hope for the homesick feeling to dissipate.

    10. Exposure To Extreme Temperatures

    In a normal house, you’re often protected against extreme heat and/or cold. With the simple push of a button, you can easily turn on that air conditioner or heater and create a more comfortable interior temperature.

    In a camper van, it’s a bit more difficult to manipulate the internal environment and, as a result, you end up spending more time in uncomfortably hot and cold temperatures. This is especially true if you plan to travel during the winter and summer months.

    Some things you can do to mitigate extreme temperatures:

    • Properly insulate the van
    • Install a diesel heater
    • Get good quality 12v fans
    Maxxair fan cooling down a camper van and a humans feet

    Building a camper van? Download our free e-Books with intuitive electrical, solar, and plumbing diagrams.

    11. Van Life Must End

    No matter how much you love van life, this lifestyle must come to an end sooner or later. Though you technically could, you most likely aren’t going to want to live out of a camper van for the rest of your life.

    But when van life does finish for you, you’re forced to answer a lot of questions you’ve likely been trying to avoid since the day you started van life. Questions such as:

    • What are you going to do?
    • What type of job will you take?
    • Can you go back to an office setting?
    • Will you be happy?

    These are TOUGH questions that not every one of us has the answer to. And as long we live the van life, we’re able to push aside these types of questions.

    But van life must come to an end eventually and then we’ll be forced to answer these lingering questions.

    Conclusion

    We hope we didn’t put you off completely on van life after reading our long list of cons. It isn’t our intention to convince people to rethink their van life dreams.

    But before going all in on this lifestyle, it’s important to understand both the pros and the cons of van life. That way you can make the best decision for yourself and also work to mitigate some of the issues we raised in the article.

    If you have any questions related to the cons or downsides of van life, please leave us a comment in the section below.

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