How to Know if You Can Buy a Van

Whether you want a larger vehicle or want to start living your van life dreams, you can buy a van with ease if you know what you are doing. Vans are amazing vehicles and make great living quarters as well if you are interested in van life. 

You can buy a van in a variety of models and sizes, as well as an abundance of pricing options. This is great as it gives you the freedom to decide what van is best for you and your lifestyle. 

This van buying guide should help you to better understand if you can buy a van, what your options are and what would be the best fit for you. 


Buying a Van for Van Life 

Van life is a common term used to describe those who live out of their van. This is a lifestyle often adapted for those who want the freedom to travel and live wherever they go. 

Vans are specifically associated with this kind of lifestyle because they are roomy vehicles and make great living quarters. Even the smallest sized van available will be more comfortable to live in than a car or truck. 


New Vans Cost About $30,000 

New vans aren’t the most expensive vehicles out there, but they can be quite pricey. Generally, a new van will be priced around $30,000 at the lowest mark. 

What kinds of new vans you look at will depend on your budget as van prices vary, and you may be able to find a very good deal for the size of the van.  

Even 2021 van models can be very affordable depending on the brand you are buying. You will want to avoid looking at SUVs as they tend to be priced more similarly to a truck. 

When buying a new van, you want to look at the price as well as the longevity of the vehicle. Does it have good reviews? Does it need frequent repairs or tune-ups? These are all important details to consider. 

Here are a few new van models that are very affordable and will give you plenty of space to work with: 

  • 2021 Chevrolet Express Passenger: $37,200 
  • 2021 Chrysler Pacifica: $36,675 
  • 2021 Chrysler Voyager: $28,160 
  • 2021 Ford Transit Crew: $37,635 


Used Vans Cost About $10,000 

The most common price for a used van hovers around $10,000, depending on the age and model of the van in question. This price can go up significantly higher depending on the van you are looking at and the overall size. 

Because used vans are often sold by the owner, the price can vary quite a bit depending on how eager they are to sell it. If you look close enough, you may be able to find a very good quality van for a much lower price. 

Some people even find used vans as low as $5,000 or $7,000 depending on how hard they look. It all depends on the timing and how big of an area you can shop from. 

Some reasonably priced used vans that I found off CarGurus includes: 

  • 2015 Ford Transit Connect Cargo XLT: $16,999 
  • 2011 Chevrolet Express Cargo: $11,995 
  • 2016 Nissan NV200 SV: $18,411 
  • 2008 Ford E-Series Extended Cargo: $7,995 


Used Vans Vs New Vans 

One of the biggest decisions that anyone looking to buy a vehicle has to make is whether or not they want to buy a used or new vehicle. This is a hard decision as both have their own pros and cons to consider. 

Used vans can be a great deal, especially if you are on a tight budget when looking for a vehicle. But a new van is also one of the best investments you could make. 

Whichever option you choose will have to be decided on, according to what you are looking for in a vehicle. It is a very personal decision and will be different for everyone depending on what their vehicle needs are. 


New Vans 

New vans are generally the safest option to go with if you really want a dependable vehicle. They often come with insurance and special warranties to make sure repairs are covered, and they don’t have any miles already on them. 

New vans are also nicer and haven’t been worn out yet; they will be in top-notch quality with no damage already done to them. With a new van, it is a fresh slate to start with. 

If you want to jump right into van life, a new van is also great as it won’t require any repairs or checkups. You can literally buy it that day and head out on the road to start your new life. 


Used Vans 

Used vans are great when it comes to the price you are getting, this is because they are usually at least half of the new price. This makes buying a van much more realistic for many people with a tight budget. 

Buying a user van also gives you the opportunity to buy a very large van at a much lower price if you want the luxury of plenty of space. Cargo-sized vans can be very expensive when bought new but are much more reasonably priced used. 

The big downside to buying a used van is that it will not have as long of a life because it is used. So you are getting less for what you pay for as you will not be able to use that van for as many years as you could a new van. 

This is the reality of buying any kind of used vehicle, so you will have to decide if it is worth it to you. If you are in a rush and want a van right now, this can be a good option, but ultimately, you get more for your money with a new van. 


Vans Come in Many Different Sizes 

Vans come in a wide variety of sizes, but you can usually choose from four options, compact vans, minivans medium-sized vans, and large vans. These are the most basic options that you will have available. 

What size of van you decide to buy will depend on what you need in a van. Any size of van is going to be considerably larger than a car but the size will matter, especially if you plan on living in your van pick. 


Compact or City Van 

This means you really are on a budget; these small vans have space to lay a bed, but not stand up in and live in properly.  

This is because they are based on car chassis, but the area behind the driver is enclosed, so they are a van 

Best to avoid going for a van this small for living in  if you can. They’re less of a home, more just a place to sleep at night if you have to. 

Examples include  

  • Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo 
  • Ram Promaster City Cargo Van 
  • Ford Transit Connect Van 



Minivans are much smaller and sleeker looking. They often look a bit like a car model but still offer much more room than a car does. 

A standard minivan is 61.5 inches wide, 200 inches long, and 72 inches tall. This is the most standard measurement, and some might be slightly larger. 

Minivans are great all-purpose vehicles if you are on a tight budget and need a vehicle with a decent amount of space. They aren’t the best option for living in, but they are more comfortable than a car. 

Some examples of minivans are: 

  • 2021 Toyota Sienna: 204 L x 79 W x 70 H 
  • 2021 Honda Odyssey: 205.2 Lx 78.5 W x 69.5 H 
  • Chrysler Voyager: 203.8 L x 79.6 W x 69.9 H 
  • Chrysler Pacifica: 204.3 L x 79.6 W x 69.9 H 



A medium-sized van is going to be slightly larger than a minivan with more space in the back. It will also be a more powerful vehicle with a higher towing capacity and weight limit. 

They are going to typically be around 94.4 inches long, 66.9 inches wide, and 64.9 inches tall. 

Medium-sized vans are very common and are the perfect middle ground between a minivan and a full-sized cargo van. They still provide a large amount of space without having the high price tag of a much larger van. 

These types of van are the perfect option for van life if you aren’t quite ready to commit to a much larger van model. Some examples of medium-sized vans are: 

  • Ram ProMaster City Wagon: 187.1 L x 72.1 W x 74 H 
  • Nissan NV200 Compact: 186.3 L x 68.1 W x 73.3 H 
  • Ford Transit Connect Wagon: 190 L x 72.2 W x 71.6 H 
  • Mercedes Vito: 202.3 L x 75.9 W x 74.4 H 



The other option you have when buying a van is getting a large one. Large vans are often called cargo vans, but cargo can also sometimes be used to describe a medium-sized van. 

Large vans will often have a much higher roof, which will give you more comfortable living quarters. They are also built better and are better equipped for rough terrain or long trips. 

Large vans usually start at 125.3 inches long, 55 inches wide, and 65 inches tall.  

Here are some examples of larger van models that you can buy. 

  • Mercedes-Benz Cargo Van: 202.4 L x 75.9 W x 75.2 H 
  • Kia Carnival: 203 L x 78.5 W x 68.5 H 
  • Mercedes-Benz Passenger Van: 202.4 L x 75.9 W x 74.4 H 
  • Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo: 202.4 L x 75.9 W x 75.2 H  


Buying the Right Van 

Buying the right van for you is going to be a very personal decision because only you know what you need. You will want to decide what exactly you are looking for and what you need in a van. 



Cost is going to play a big part in what van you decide to buy, especially if you are on a tight budget when buying a van.  

Before you start looking for a van, you will want to decide on your budget and the kind of van you are looking for. This will help you find the van you want much faster without wasting time on vans that are too expensive. 



The size of the van you buy is going to depend entirely upon how you plan to use it. If you plan to live in your van, you will want to get one with a generous amount of room in the back. 

If van life is a long-term plan for you, it might be worth the investment to buy a large cargo-sized van for a more comfortable living space. If van life is only a short-term plan, you can purchase a smaller van that is significantly cheaper. 



If you are buying a used van, you will need to pay very close attention to the condition of the van. This is because used vans are generally more worn out and can turn out to not be worth the price, no matter how good of a deal it may seem. 

You will want to gather all of the important information, such as how old the van is, the mileage, the last checkup, and recent replacements. These are all important things to look into. 

One of the most important things to do is try to avoid buying a used van that is older or has a lot of miles on it. This will end up being a van that won’t last nearly as long, especially if you plan on using it very regularly. 



When looking at vans, you may need to also consider how much power they have depending on how you plan to use it. 

This will often apply to those who want to live out of their van, but also want to be able to haul things behind it. This could include things like a utility trailer, small vehicle, or boat. 

If this is the case, you will need to look for a van that has plenty of power to help it haul heavy weights behind it. Certain models of a van will have different hauling capacities, so you will want to do your research. 

You will also want to make sure that the van you buy can handle the weight of the living quarters in the back. 


How to Know if You Can Do Van Life 

Van life has plenty of pros and cons to consider if it is something that you are looking into. It can be a great option if you are looking for a simpler life, but it also has its downsides as well. 

These pros and cons should help you to better understand if you can get into it and whether or not van life is for you.  


The Advantages of Van Life 

  • By living out of a van, you are going to save a significant amount of money. This can help you to save up for those big trips you want to take or allow you to buy your own house in the future. 
  • With van life, you have financial freedom as you do not have any hefty mortgage payments or rent every month. This can take a huge load off your shoulders and give you the financial freedom you want. 
  • Van life gives you the ability to travel as much as you like with no restrictions. It also allows you to live by your own schedule that’s right for you. 
  • No matter where you go, you will always have your stuff with you. When you live in a van, you can say goodbye to having to pack things up when you decide to move because everything is already with you. 
  • If you have pets, you can be with them at all times. No more do you have to leave them at home by themselves for hours or days at a time, they can be right by your side. 


The Difficult Challenges of Van Life 

  • Van life doesn’t offer a lot of space if you are used to living in a house or apartment. This is especially true if you buy a smaller-sized van that has much less room in the back. 
  • Showering can be a huge drawback to living out of your van as you are left having to look for areas to shower at. This can become very inconvenient and downright impossible, depending on where you are. A shower can be installed in a larger van if you have the budget for it. 
  • You can’t just leave stuff out when you are living and traveling out of a van. Things will naturally begin to move around, so you have to clean up and prepare ahead of time. This includes putting away breakables and anything that could spill, otherwise you might end up facing a big mess in the back of your van. 
  • Being able to use a toilet can become quite difficult if you are relying on public restrooms. There isn’t always one available where you are heading. The other option is a composting toilet, but this will take some getting used to. 
  • Your van might end up breaking down or needing repairs which could leave you stranded in an area. This is a very good possibility, especially if you have bought a used van with quite a few years already on it. It is a good idea to prepare yourself with some basic mechanical knowledge and tools.