Why We Chose an RV Over a Van

Living on the open road: an American dream way before Bruce Springsteen wrote “Born To Run”.

Nowadays, most young adults that are living on the road are traveling in either a converted van or an RV. When we made the decision to live on the road we spent months weighing the pros and cons of both living in a van and an RV. Ultimately, we chose to live in an RV. Both types of vessels for your maiden journey will have pros and cons, for us an RV just made more sense.

This article is not meant to deter you away from either type of home on the road, but here is our list of pros and cons of living in an RV over a van from our experiences with an RV.

No major renovations required (turn-key)

To be honest, right off the bat we accepted the fact that we are not as handy as we thought. Having to build-out a van would have been a huge undertaking, even just considering all the tools we did not have. Our RV was essentially “turn-key”, meaning that it did not require any renovations. Things have definitely broken in our rig that have required repair, however, it is nothing like having to wire up an entire van interior. For us, renovating a van just seemed like something we were not ready to do.

Side note: if renovating is your cup of tea, many people buy super old RVs and renovate them. We have seen some beautiful renovated rigs on the road!

Camping perks (Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome)

While a van has the benefits of being “under the radar”, RVs have a harder time just parking in a neighborhood for the night without being noticed. That being said, there are some incredible groups that provide amazing camping locations for RVs (as of 2018 vans were not allowed in these groups).

The first RV group is called Harvest Hosts. For a small yearly fee, you are given a list of breweries, wineries, museums, and farms across the country that allow you to camp on their property for FREE! Honestly, some of the most beautiful places we have camped have been the rolling fields of a winery or farm. I particularly love visiting breweries and being able to walk home.

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The second is called Boondockers Welcome. This is essentially the equivalent of couch surfing, but for RVs. Again, for a small yearly fee, you are given a list of people across the country that allow you to park at their home for FREE! We love this group because you can typically find host locations near city centers, which allows us park our “large” RV for the day and either walk, bike, or UBER to the cities we want to visit.

These two groups have been instrumental to our success on the road as they let us see many different areas and camp for FREE! For instance, read how we traveled across the country without paying for a single campsite.

Another item to consider is that some campgrounds have restrictions on vans. Before hitting the road we researched some of the campgrounds we definitely wanted to stay at and when we saw that they did not allow converted vans, it swayed our opinion.

A bathroom (specifically a working toilet)

Probably the number one reason why we chose an RV was having a full bathroom, specifically a toilet with a large holding tank. When researching vans, we found ourselves spending a significant amount of time looking into how to incorporate a bathroom. While many vans make it work with small composite toilets, we did not want to have to worry about the toilet overflowing (yikes) or always have to dump it.

Also, considering that one of us has an autoimmune disease, we needed a toilet nearby!

The simple luxury of always having a place to go to the bathroom on the road has made this lifestyle significantly easier.

Standing room

Such a simply luxury: the ability to never worry about hitting your head or always be slouched over. At 6’2”, many vans could not accommodate my height. When imaging ourselves living in this rig for an extended period of time, I could not imagine having to slouch at all times while inside. Fortunately, most RVs allow plenty of head space for taller people like myself.

Cost

To be completely transparent, many vans that people convert nowadays were significantly more expensive than our RV; and that does not include the cost it would have required to renovate the van. Financially, we saved a lot of money choosing this RV over a van. Obviously, there are exceptions to this (such as super old or brand new rigs), but for most part we found that many vans were out of our budget.

Times we wished we lived in a van:

Parking

While you can park a van almost anywhere, finding parking for an RV requires some creativity. We have made it work in our RV, but there have been plenty of scenarios that left us wishing we had a van, such as when we get stuck in a tiny parking lot or have to walk a couple miles to a trail head because there is no RV parking available.

Getting around

Similar to parking, the height restrictions or steep inclines of roads have forced us take longer routes or visit completely different areas in our RV. Between tunnels, roads, and bridges, there have been many moments when we wish we had a van over our RV.

Under the radar

As mentioned above, an RV is not nearly discrete as a van, which can make it tough for us to find spots to park during the day or sleep at night.

Gas mileage

The times we wish we had a van most are when filling up our gas tank. The added size and weight of an RV really hurts its gas mileage. We often dream of how great it must be to not spend as much on gas.


At just over 24 feet, we are not that much bigger than some of the vans out there. Which allows us some of the luxuries of an RV without sacrificing the ease of nomad lifestyle.

Let us know your thoughts on the two styles of rigs in the comments below and be sure to follow our adventure @SunnySideUpTraveling!!