Vanlife finance: Tips for life on four wheels

Vanlife finanzieren: Tipps für das Leben auf vier Rädern

Are you tired of your boring full-time job in the office and would rather have some time off to travel Europe or the world and experience adventure?

Then, of course, van life is very tempting. How you can earn money while traveling to be able to afford life on four wheels and away from home and what work opportunities you have in a camper van, you will learn in this article.

Woman sits on the roof of a camper and enjoys the sun

How can you finance vanlife?

Living in a van does cost less money overall than living in an apartment where you have to pay rent, utilities and running costs, but even for a vanlife you need enough money to enjoy the journey.

If you are looking for ways to afford vanlife, you will come across many different results.

Most of the results provide sources of income that you can take in full time vanlife. People who have a steady job and only want to travel the world in a van during vacation time will obviously need different financing than full-time campers.

Think about how long you want to travel and where those trips are going. Do you want to travel once around the world or just to the nearest beach and then back home? At the beginning of your travel planning, calculate your expenses and sources of income and gather more information about financing vanlife so you can find the right model for you and live your dream.

How much money does life in a van cost?

How much money you need to budget for your camper existence depends on several factors, of course. What is your lifestyle like? Do you have a budget? Are you aiming for a long-term trip or should it be shorter trips in the van? What does freedom mean to you or do you need the feeling of financial freedom?

There are several situations where you need to spend money despite vanlife:

1. The van purchase

No van means no camper life, that much is certain. To be able to afford a van at all, you should set a budget in advance. Prices vary depending on the age, brand and condition of the vehicle. In addition, you need to consider whether you want to expand the van yourself or prefer to buy a model, which is directly ready for the trip.

2. The van expansion

If you want to remove your van yourself, you have to factor in the cost of materials. Some things have to be ordered, so delivery charges may be added. In return, when you do it yourself, you can make the van as it has always been your dream!

Dismantled campervan with the roof down in a clearing

3. Insurance

The insurances depends on the model of the car and many other factors. If you want to travel through Europe it will cost less than a travel insurance for the whole world. You should be well informed about this topic before the trip to be covered in case of emergency. Also, the car tax of the camper is a source of expenses that you should not forget.

4. Repairs, oil changes, service, etc.

Of course, vanlife is no different than normal life - there are things that need regular maintenance. Repairs on the car, inspections, oil changes and the care of your van cost money, but are necessary to have something from your camper for a long time. Of some parts it is best to buy several right at the beginning to be able to quickly replace something when small things break.

Man changes the oil in the car

6. Everyday life

The running costs in vanlife are not necessarily different from normal everyday life. Eating out, going to the movies, miniature golf or a visit to the swimming pool, no matter which leisure activity or time-out you choose, you will need money. Even the monthly Netflix subscription and daily groceries aren't cheap. It's best to make a list of your expenses and income to have a monthly overview of your finances.

Man showers with water container on the trunk of his camper

Possibilities of financing a vanlife

How can you afford all the things you need while you're driving around the world in your camper and don't want to work every day? Here is some information about how you can finance your vanlife.

1. Working full-time and traveling on vacation

The easiest way to finance your camper and life in it is probably to travel during the vacation season. Those who spend the rest of the time sitting in the office and doing their work every day, of course, have enough money to afford a camper in addition to a rented apartment.

On the other hand, these people don't have as much time to travel and may not have the opportunity to fulfill all your dreams away from home. If you just want to spend two weeks in the south with your camper, this way of paying for your vacation is probably the best for you.

For longer trips, many employers allow you to take a sabbatical or extend your vacation.

2. Save enough and then go!

Another option is to simply save money until you have enough together to be able to go on an adventure trip with your camper without having to work on the side. Of course, this is only possible for a limited period of time.

The question is: How long do you want to travel and how much money do you need?

50 euro bills on a clothesline

3. Earn money with online jobs

If you are looking for ways to make money online, you will surely find them. Even if you don't have enough money in the bank to finance a long trip without working, you should take an online job or try being an influencer or blogger.

In the best case scenario, you share your trip online and provide your followers with information on your blog and get paid for it. If blogging isn't your thing, there are other ways to work online.

As a freelancer, you can find jobs in many industries and all you need is your computer to work from the road. The advantage of online jobs is that you are location-independent and can usually manage your own time.Woman lying on the beach with a laptop and working

4. Work and Travel

In many countries you can try Work&Travel. The concept is suitable not only for young people who are looking for themselves, but for everyone who wants to finance their life by traveling.

You will have the opportunity to meet many new people and ways of life, and you can add new places to your travel list.

The idea is that you help out a few hours a day in a hotel or on a plantation or farm and in return you get something to eat and a place to sleep or pitch.

Laptop is open on a bar overlooking the sea

A lot of jobs on the go

1. Home office & remote work

Actually, any work that can take place online or in a home office is suitable for enabling a vanlife. Anyone who has the opportunity to work independently of location can spontaneously take their car and drive away. All you need is an internet connection and you can start living the van life.

Jobs that can be done remotely and don't require an office presence include basically all jobs that can be done on a computer.

Since a large part of the work can now take place at a computer, it is not surprising that many people now work at least part-time on their work topic in the home office.

Thus, at least half of all professions in Germany can also take place from remote work, which means a huge selection of types of professions that can also be practiced in the VanLife and therefore do not require presence.

The most common professions in which home or remote work is possible include the following options:

  • computer scientist

  • online journalist

  • freelancers

  • Coach

  • photographer

  • Virtual Assistance

Woman working with laptop on lap in campervan

2. The step into self-employment

As an independent contractor, you are your own boss and can therefore determine when and how the work should be done at any time. There are several paths to self-employment.

As an entrepreneur, you can do a variety of trades while traveling and on the road, thus creating a source of income for yourself.

The following is suitable for the step into self-employment:

  • computer scientist

  • online journalist

  • freelancers

  • Coach

  • photographer

  • influencers

  • Sellers in the online shop (e.g. clothing, jewelry, homemade items, books, etc.)

In Germany, anyone can take a step towards self-employment. All you need to do is have an idea and register your small business with the tax office.

As a small business owner, you have fewer obligations; for example, you do not have to pay sales tax. Find out about the requirements for your step into self-employment and the associated changes in your insurance status.

If you want to finance your vanlife with self-employment, you should raise the business in advance. It may take some time to build a sufficient customer base to cover your needs and expenses.

Once you have built the business to the point where you have good income, you can put your feet up in the van and live your vanlife dream.

School chalkboard with the inscription "Self-Employed" leans on folders

3. Influencers

There are always attempts to be seen on the Internet, where people upload videos to YouTube or social networks and pretend to be influencers. But it's not quite that simple.

To be a real influencer you first need an idea, which you then market well on the Internet and earn money through partnerships with companies.

People who are called influencers are better known today than ever before, especially through the social media platform Instagram, and earn their money by promoting products that are provided by advertising partners and that you present to your followers. So you need a certain number of followers for your blog or channel to be able to market anything efficiently at all.

As an influencer, you are measured by the number of followers. The categories in which influencers are measured by followers are as follows:

  • Nano influencer: up to approx. 10,000 followers

  • Micro-influencer: up to approx. 100,000 followers

  • Macro influencer: up to approx. 1,000,000 followers

  • Mega influencer: over 1,000,000 followers

Even today, with the high number of influencers, it is still possible to earn money through it and to finance the livelihood in the vanlife with it.

Two women take a selfie on the roof of a campervan

4. Your own Etsy shop

Surely everyone has heard of Etsy! Etsy is one of the world's largest online marketplaces, where designers, artists and collectors from all over the world sell their self-created items.

As a seller, you can open your own store on the online marketplace Etsy, where you can put unlimited items. To sign up you just need an email address, password and username, that's all.

Here's what you can sell on Etsy:

  • Handmade items: Jewelry, art, clothing, fabrics, etc.

  • Artist supplies: Tools, materials, fabrics etc.

  • Vintage Items: Items that are more than 20 years old such as clothes, office supplies and video games.

You pay a contribution to Etsy for putting products in (17 cents per item) transaction fees (5% of the total item cost + shipping and gift wrapping), and shipping fees (5% of the stated shipping cost).

Vintage clothes hang on a pole

5. Holiday or seasonal jobs

These jobs are very popular among people who do Work&Travel or live in a van. They offer the opportunity to go new ways, meet new people and places without being tied down.

When looking for a suitable vacation job, you will encounter many providers on the Internet, but also other campers can give you helpful tips on where to find good job opportunities.

Vacation jobs are more suitable for high school and college students. They are limited to the summer vacations or semester breaks and offer a good earning opportunity.

You can see a selection of possible vacation jobs here:

  • warehouse worker

  • Helpers on the assembly line

  • social promoter

  • product manager

  • Call center agent

  • Temporary help in the supermarket or in the catering trade

Two farmers shake hands in the field at sunset

Seasonal jobs are world-renowned and are often offered in the countryside by smaller employers such as farmers as harvest workers or as service workers in the restaurant industry.

As a seasonal worker, pay varies depending on the employer and the job offer. Harvest workers in agriculture help farmers with the harvest and are either paid a wage or provided free accommodation with meals.

This way you can travel to different places with your van and not have to worry about your food. You can of course split the pay, so you only get free food and a small salary and then stay overnight in your van.

You can see different possibilities of seasonal jobs here:

  • tour guide

  • Animator in hotel/holiday resorts

  • Harvest workers in agriculture

  • Service staff in the catering trade

Jobs in small companies can often only be found through recommendations or local notices. So keep your eyes and ears open!

Man puts tomatoes in a basket already filled with tomatoes

6. A job abroad

Depending on how long you want to travel, a job abroad can help you achieve financial independence. A job abroad is similar to a seasonal or vacation job. You can score points with German language and help organize city tours or work in resorts as an animator or tour guide.

A selection of possible jobs abroad is:

  • Service staff in the catering trade

  • Bartender in a bar

  • Temporary help in the hostel or shop

  • Guide for city tours

As with seasonal jobs, in Vanlife you are not dependent on free accommodation. Therefore, negotiate your compensation so that it pays for your consumption and expenses.

Especially abroad, it might be difficult to find and become aware of such a job in the first place. Sharing your experience with other campers or local residents can help you further in finding a good job.

Notepad labeled "Working Abroad?" next to pen and keyboard

7. Rent out your van

As long as you do not need your van yourself, you can rent it out and thus collect money for your next vacation.

By renting out the van can be partly or even completely self-financed and running costs like insurance, road tax as well as repairs can be (partly) covered. Just post pictures and a video of your camper online and earn some extra money by renting it out.

Campervan with the door open and a view inside

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