What’s the Best Vehicle to Live In? Van vs Bus vs RV vs Car

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If you’re looking for the best vehicle to live in, you’re in the right place. And I’m excited for you!

Choosing to live in a vehicle is an excellent choice for many reasons. Even if it’s something you feel you need to do out of financial necessity, it’s an adventure. 

Living in a vehicle can save you a lot of money, give you shelter if you’ve fallen on hard times, or it can be an incredible way to travel full-time. 

Depending on what category you fall into, different vehicles will be better or worse for your needs and situation. 

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • The most popular types of vehicles to live in.
  • A succinct pros and cons list for each vehicle type.
  • Where to buy a vehicle to live in including vans, buses, and more.
  • How to avoid vehicle sale scams.
  • Whether or not living in a vehicle is legal.
  • And more…

If you’re feeling lost about what you need or where to find it, this article is for you.

Types of Vehicles That are Popular to Live In

Just about any vehicle can be lived in, no matter what anyone tells you. 

I’ve even seen people living in a Tesla — which might seem impractical, but to each their own. 

Of course van life is SUPER popular these days but it’s not the only option.

From regular cars to trucks, SUVs, vans, buses, RVs, campervans, and more there are tons of homes-on-wheels to choose from. 

In this article we break it down by: Van, Bus, RV, Minivan, Car, Truck, and SUV. 

We’ll go over the pros and cons and then give you some resources for where you can look to buy each kind. 

What is the Best Vehicle to Live In?

The best vehicle to live in is different for each person. Choosing what’s best for you depends on your budget, your lifestyle, and your personal needs. An RV might be best for some, and a small car might be best for others. This article will help you determine yours.

If you don’t read anything else here, please read the pros and cons of each vehicle type. At the very least, read the pros and cons for the vehicle type you’re considering. 

One of the first things I notice when I talk to a nomadic lifestyle newbie or dreamer is how realistic (or unrealistic) their plans are. 

And I get it I was there too! 

But I recently came to the realization that I needed to put together this article to help put some things into perspective. 

Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each vehicle to help you determine the best vehicle to live in.

Related: How Long Can You Park in a Store Parking Lot?  

Living in a Van

Living in a van is heavily romanticized on social media and YouTube. And, often, those aesthetic photos, videos, and TikToks are just that: aesthetic set-ups for likes, views, comments, and shares. 

While living in a van can be dreamy sometimes, it’s not always picture perfect. 

My wife and I are in the middle of a campervan conversion, and it will be the 3rd van I’ve lived and traveled in. So I know van life (and the pros and cons) intimately. Here are the pros and cons of living in a van. 

Pros

  • Easy to drive and can fit in most parking spots.
  • Long wheelbase high-top vans have a decent amount of space for building a bed with a separate seating area, kitchen, and even an enclosed bathroom.
  • Good on gas.
  • Great for exploring in mountains and cities.

Cons

  • Costly to convert yourself.
  • Difficult to convert yourself.
  • Even if you have room to build a shower, having and using one on-board is impractical and unrealistic.
  • Each shower will use your entire fresh water supply, and you will have to find somewhere to dump your dirty water and refill frequently. Adds weight to your rig, extra work, and can be a major hassle on the road.

Van Life Related Reading:

High-Roof vs Low-Roof Vans

Since we touched on the campervan topic, we need to talk about high top vs low top vans. Here are a few major points to consider. 

  • High-roof vans are significantly more expensive to purchase than low-top vans. 
  • If you buy a low-roof with the intention of getting a high-top installed, prepare to spend up to $9k on the installation. 
  • Low-top vans are easier to stealth camp in. 
  • Low-top vans can be a literal pain in the neck I have hit my head in mine more times than I’d like to admit. 
  • A high-roof van of the same length and width as a low-roof van feels SO MUCH BIGGER. 

My wife and I currently have two campervans one is a low-roof and one is a high-roof. They’re the same exact size other than height, but the high-roof feels like the Taj Mahal in comparison.

In summary: a low-roof van is much cheaper to purchase. But, a high-roof van makes living in a vehicle so much easier. 

I have a couple articles about low roof vans you might want to see: 7 Must-See Ford Econoline Camper Vans and 10 Chevy Astro Van Conversions That Will Fuel Your Wanderlust.

Living in a Minivan

Living in a minivan is becoming more and more popular lately. And it’s not hard to see why. 

A minivan is a great vehicle for stealth camping and they tend to have more floor-to-ceiling height than a car or SUV. 

Here are the pros and cons of living in a minivan.

Pros

  • Super easy to drive.
  • Best gas mileage of all vehicles.
  • Can park anywhere.
  • You can fit a bed and reasonably store essential items.
  • Great for stealth camping.

Cons

  • Extremely small space.
  • Difficult to cook or use the restroom inside but it can be done.

Living in a Bus

Some of the most unrealistic expectations I hear or see are from people who are considering living in a bus that they convert into an RV.

A converted bus is typically called a Skoolie. And, while skoolies are really cool, they might be impractical for some people. 

Let’s go over the pros and cons of converting a bus to live in. 

Pros

  • Lots of space both width and height-wise.
  • Buses have a stronger frame than an RV.
  • It’s usually easy to find a mechanic for most buses, because there are only a few main models (unless you get a rare bus type).
  • If you have the funds for a full bus conversion and solar setup, you can live totally off-grid!

Cons

  • Buses are not allowed in many RV parks and campgrounds. (I said many, not all!)
  • It’s difficult to tow a daily driver behind a bus, meaning you will have to drive your bus for daily errands.
  • (This makes it impractical to go to places that you might want to explore like small mountain towns or big cities.)
  • Extremely costly to convert think $30k (on the low end) and upwards.
  • You will need to create a robust solar power system for electricity since many RV parks and campgrounds don’t allow buses. 

Bus Conversion Related Reading:

Living in an RV (Motorhome, fifth wheel, or travel trailer)

Living in an RV is another lifestyle I’m intimately familiar with. I lived and traveled in a motorhome for two years before I transitioned to van life. 

RV life was my introduction to the nomadic lifestyle. Here are the pros and cons of living in an RV.

Pros

  • RVs have (mostly) all the comforts of home. 
  • Living in an RV park or campground makes it feel even more like “home” plus a ton of great amenities. 
  • The RV community is a fun bunch of people. 
  • No conversion work required (unless you remodel). 
  • Some RVs, like smaller travel trailers, are very inexpensive to purchase.

Cons

  • Many RVs feel like they’re made from cardboard and the lowest quality building materials on the planet. 
  • Terrible gas mileage. 
  • Unless you remodel, RVs don’t have a lot of personality. 
  • There’s always something to fix or repair although I think that’s true of any vehicle that you live in. Things break often due to constant motion and use.
  • Bigger RVs can only go to certain places off-road travel or remote locations are limited.

Related: Is it Cheaper to Live in an RV Than a House or Apartment?

Living in a Car

Living in a car can be a great idea if you have minimal belongings and want to save money on rent. Alternatively, it’s a low-cost way to travel full-time. 

However, it’s a teeny tiny space. Here are the pros and cons of living in a car. 

Pros

  • Best gas mileage. 
  • Easy to stealth camp in most people would never suspect someone living in a car. 
  • You can take a car just about everywhere the same can’t be said for RVs or buses. 
  • Most affordable option. 

Cons

  • Very tiny space. 
  • Lack of bathroom space. 
  • Lack of privacy. 
  • Difficult for multiple people. 
  • No real space for “hanging out” just sleeping and driving. 

The best car to live in will always be a bigger car like a hybrid, minivan, or an SUV. A really popular car to live in is the Honda Element. Check out these awesome Honda Element camper conversions!

Living in a Truck 

Believe it or not, you can actually live in a truck. And you have a lot of options, too. 

You can choose to live and sleep in the cab, get a truck bed tent, or a slide-in truck camper. Here are the pros and cons of living in a truck.

Pros

  • Trucks can go just about anywhere. 
  • Gas mileage is better than most vans or RVs. 
  • Versatile sleep in the cab, a truck bed tent, with a camper shell or a slide-in truck camper. 
  • Decent towing capacity so you could upgrade to a trailer later if you wanted.

Cons

  • Small space. 
  • If you live in the cab, you don’t have much room to stretch out or to store stuff.
  • Some trucks can be really expensive. 

Your best option for living in a truck is to either purchase a truck camper shell and insulating it, or a slide-in truck camper.

You can even build a DIY truck camper if you’re the DIY type. Check out this guide about how to build a DIY truck camper complete with blueprints and building plans.

Living in an SUV

living in an SUV

Another popular car to live in is an SUV. And, if you’re going the car-route, I think an SUV is one of the best choices. 

Here are the pros and cons of choosing an SUV to live in. 

Pros

  • More interior space than a car.
  • Decent gas mileage. 
  • Easy to stealth camp. 
  • Some have a good towing capacity, so you could eventually tow a trailer if you wanted to. 
  • Best for off-roading and overlanding. 
  • Cheaper to buy than a van.

Cons

  • Limited space.
  • Lack of privacy. 
  • Difficult for multiple people. 
  • No space for additional passengers. 

Where to Buy a Vehicle to Live In: Van, Bus, RV, or Car

You may have a better idea of what kind of vehicle is best for you to live in after reading these pros and cons. 

So, where is the best place to buy a vehicle to live in? Here are some resources for each type. 

Avoiding Vehicle Sale Scams for RVs, Buses, and Vans

Before we even dive in to the best places to buy RVs, Buses, or vans for van life, I want to alert you to some common scams online. 

I’ve seen these scams on Facebook, Craigslist, and other online marketplaces. 

Avoid listings that have these characteristics. 

  • Prices that seem WAY too good to be true. (If it seems too good to be true, it is)
  • A story from the seller like “I am selling this for my friend/family member who is old/sickly/etc”.
  • Or, a story from the seller that says “We have the vehicle/van/bus in a storage facility and we will ship it to you to try out for X amount of days to decide if you want to purchase itALWAYS A SCAM.
  • A story saying they have the vehicle in an eBay storage facility and eBay will ship it to you.
  • Listings with only 1 or two photos
  • Listings with an email address overlayed on the photos themselves.
  • Someone who asks you to send a deposit to hold it or offers to send you money.
  • Anyone who doesn’t want to/can’t meet up with you to show you the vehicle in person. 
  • A strange-looking email address for a contact. 

As the years go by, I find that these van, bus, and RV scammers are getting much better at their stories and their listings. If you have any questions at all about an RV, van, or bus listing that you find, please reach out to me and I can help you figure out if it’s legit or a scam. 

I’ve seen too many people fall victim to these scams and I really do want to help if I can. I respond to all my emails, but it may take me a few days! You can find my contact information on this page here. 

Where to Buy a Van for Van Life

If you’re looking for an empty passenger or cargo van to convert yourself, check out local dealerships and Facebook marketplace first. 

Cargo vans are among the most expensive vans to purchase to live in, but you can find a good deal from dealerships or marketplace. 

  • Local Dealerships
    • Look for commercial vehicle dealerships, too
  • Facebook Marketplace

Do you want to build a campervan that’s already built out, or mostly done? If you want to buy a converted campervan, here are some places to start your search. 

Additionally, you can get a custom van conversion by one of these 15 best campervan conversion companies. 

Where to Buy a Bus to Convert and Live In

There are many ways and places to find and buy a bus. Whether you want an empty bus or to buy a pre-built skoolie, you have a lot of options. Here are some resources to buy an empty bus. 

Pro Tip: Check out these School Bus Conversion Ideas for your Skoolie build!

Where to Buy a Converted Bus

Where to Find and Buy an RV to Live In

Finding an RV to live in is a lot easier than finding a van or bus. Every town has at least one RV dealership nearby, if not several. 

Here are some tips for getting the best deal on an RV. 

  • Shop around. Check dealerships and your local marketplaces to get the best price. 
  • Go to an RV show. RV shows have the absolute lowest pricing on new RVs. Here are 10 of the best RV shows that happen every year. 
  • Hire a 3rd-party RV inspector. Having an inspection can help you lower the price if you find things that you will need to repair. 
  • Learn how to inspect an RV yourself to save you money and time from things like water and rodent damage. 

Where to Buy a Car to Live In (Or Truck, Minivan, or SUV)

Buying a car to live in (or truck, minivan, or SUV) is straightforward and simple. 

The best place to look for a car to live in will be at local dealerships or on marketplace if you have cash in hand. 

Living in a car is the most inexpensive way to live in a vehicle, and it’s typically easier to buy a car than any other type of vehicle. So, for cars, trucks, vans, minivans, and SUVS: 

  • Local dealerships. 
  • Local marketplaces. 

Is Living in a Vehicle Legal?

In some places yes, but in others: no. Some cities and localities have banned living and sleeping in vehicles. However a vehicle is on wheels. So you can easily move your vehicle if it’s illegal where you live. 

To find out whether or not living in a vehicle is legal where you’re at, look into your local laws and ordinances.

Is Living in a Vehicle Worth It? 

No matter what your reasoning for living in a vehicle is, the answer is yes: it is worth it. 

Living in a vehicle can help you save money, see the country, or simply give you a safe space to sleep at night. 

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