12 Massive Van Life Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Van life man in camper van looking like he forgot something

12 Massive Van Life Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Buy or Sell Campers

Buy or Sell Campers

28 July 2023

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Welcome to the world of van life! In this article, we will delve into the ins and outs of this popular lifestyle that has captured the imaginations of adventurous souls around the globe.

From the joys of living on the open road to the challenges that come with it, we’ll explore various aspects of van life, providing valuable insights and tips to make your journey a smooth and enjoyable one.


📖 Table of Contents


  • Get a professional mechanical inspection before you buy your van 👨‍🔧🔍
  • Have an inspection performed on the camper van systems as well 🚐🔍
  • Get a Good Sam membership and KEEP IT CURRENT 🏞️🚧
  • Keep a repair manual on hand 📚🔧
  • Don’t buy “pre-wired” rigs ❌🔌
  • Benefits of having a professional install your electrical system 🛠️🔌
  • Regular tire maintenance and inspection 🔍🔧
  • Getting tire maintenance done at reputable shops and dealerships 🏢🔧
  • Securing a remote job before hitting the road 💼🚐
  • Traveling within your means and planning around work requirements 🗺️💰
  • Travel Slowly and Establish Routines 🐌⏰
  • Do things that you genuinely enjoy, even if they don’t align with the “vanlife” ideal 🎉😊
  • Simple things you can do to ease driving anxiety 🚦😌
  • Don’t Rush Your Drive Days ⏳🚐
  • Wanting to be an influencer 📸🤳
  • Treating vanlife as a cure for mental health 🧠💊
  • Vanlife with a partner may be a bad idea if: ❌👫
  • Test drive vanlife together 🚐👫
  • What does ego driving look like? 🤔🚘
  • How do I keep my ego in the backseat? 🤫🚐
Van on a dessert

Setting Your Van on Fire (and other van issues) 🔥🚐


One of the worst nightmares for any van lifer is having their beloved home on wheels catch fire. While this is a rare occurrence, it’s essential to be aware of potential safety risks and take necessary precautions.

When embarking on van life, make sure to get a professional mechanical inspection before purchasing your van. A thorough examination by a skilled mechanic will help identify any underlying issues and give you peace of mind.

Additionally, don’t forget to have an inspection performed on the camper van systems. This includes checking the electrical, plumbing, and propane systems, among others. Ensuring these vital systems are in good working order significantly reduces the risk of accidents and helps prevent potential disasters on the road.


Getting Stranded in the Middle of Nowhere 🌵🚫


Picture this: 

you’re cruising along a scenic highway, enjoying the freedom of the open road, when suddenly your van sputters to a halt in the middle of nowhere. Getting stranded is undoubtedly an unwelcome scenario, but with some preparation, you can minimize the impact of such situations.

One valuable resource for van lifers is a Good Sam membership. This membership provides roadside assistance, including towing services, tire changes, and fuel delivery, among other benefits. It’s crucial to keep your membership current and have the peace of mind that help is just a phone call away, no matter where you find yourself.

Another essential item to have on hand is a repair manual specific to your van’s make and model. This manual can guide you through basic troubleshooting and provide step-by-step instructions for minor repairs. Being equipped with the knowledge to handle common issues can save you time, money, and frustration when you encounter problems on the road.


Van Life with Pets: Tips and Considerations 🐾🏕️


For many van lifers, the companionship of a furry friend makes the journey all the more fulfilling. However, traveling with pets requires careful planning and consideration. Here are a few tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your four-legged companion:

  • Create a designated space for your pet inside the van, ensuring it is secure and comfortable. Consider using a harness or crate to keep them safe while driving.
  • Pack essentials such as food, water, bedding, toys, and any medications your pet may need.
  • Research pet-friendly campsites and hiking trails in advance to ensure your destinations are accommodating to your furry friend.
  • Prioritize your pet’s well-being by providing regular exercise, maintaining their routine, and monitoring their health during the journey.

By taking these considerations into account, you can create a positive and fulfilling van life experience for both you and your pet.


Not Installing an Adequate Van Power System ⚡🔌


Having a reliable and efficient power system is crucial for a comfortable van life experience. Unfortunately, many van lifers make the mistake of not investing in an adequate power setup, leading to unnecessary inconveniences on the road.

One common pitfall is purchasing “pre-wired” rigs that come with a subpar electrical system. These systems may not meet your power needs and can be challenging to upgrade or modify later. It’s advisable to avoid such setups and instead opt for a customizable power system that suits your specific requirements.

To ensure a safe and efficient installation, consider having a professional handle your electrical system. They possess the expertise to design and install a system that maximizes power usage while prioritizing safety. A professionally installed electrical setup provides peace of mind and minimizes the risk of electrical issues or hazards down the road.


Tips for Staying Cool in Hot Weather 🌞❄️


As the mercury rises, van lifers face the challenge of staying cool inside their mobile homes. Here are some tips to beat the heat and maintain a comfortable living environment:


1. Park strategically:

 Look for shaded areas or spots with good airflow to park your van. This helps reduce direct sun exposure and promotes natural ventilation.


2. Insulate your van: 

Installing insulation can make a significant difference in regulating the temperature inside your van. Use reflective materials and insulating panels to keep the heat out during summer and retain warmth in colder months.


3. Use fans or vent fans: 

Consider investing in portable fans or vent fans to improve air circulation inside the van. These devices help draw out hot air and bring in cooler air from outside.


4. Optimize airflow: 

Open windows strategically to create cross ventilation. This allows fresh air to flow through the van, keeping the interior cool and comfortable.


5. Seek shade and natural bodies of water: 

Take advantage of shade-providing structures, such as trees or canopies, and seek out natural bodies of water like lakes or rivers to cool off during hot days.

By implementing these strategies, you can stay cool and comfortable, even during the hottest days of the year.



Having (Avoidable) Tire Issues is a huge van life mistake 🚫🔧🚐


Tire problems can quickly turn a pleasant journey into a stressful experience. To avoid unnecessary delays and ensure your safety on the road, it’s essential to give proper attention to your van’s tires.

Regular tire maintenance and inspection are paramount. Check the tire pressure regularly and ensure it matches the manufacturer’s recommendations. Underinflated or overinflated tires can lead to reduced fuel efficiency, poor handling, and increased risk of tire blowouts. Additionally, inspect the tires for signs of wear, such as uneven tread wear or bulges, and replace them if necessary.

When it comes to tire maintenance and repairs, it’s advisable to visit reputable shops and dealerships. These establishments have skilled technicians who can provide expert advice, perform tire rotations, alignments, and address any issues that may arise. Investing in quality tires and seeking professional assistance ensures a smooth and safe journey throughout your van life adventures.


Running Out of Money on the Road 💸🚐


Financial planning plays a crucial role in van life. Without proper budgeting and financial management, you may find yourself running out of money sooner than expected. Here are a few tips to help you stay financially stable during your van life journey:


1. Secure a remote job before hitting the road: 

If you plan to work while living in your van, it’s essential to secure a remote job or establish a freelance career beforehand. This ensures a steady income stream while giving you the freedom to explore different locations.


2. Travel within your means: 

Be realistic about your budget and plan your routes and destinations accordingly. Research affordable campsites, cooking options, and activities that align with your financial goals.


3. Plan around work requirements: 

If you have work commitments, consider choosing locations with reliable internet connectivity and amenities that support your professional needs. This allows you to maintain your productivity and earn a steady income while enjoying the van life experience.


4. Embrace a minimalist lifestyle: 

Reduce unnecessary expenses by adopting a minimalist approach. Focus on experiences rather than material possessions, and prioritize spending on what truly brings you joy and enhances your journey.

By implementing these strategies, you can stretch your finances and enjoy a financially sustainable van life adventure.


Being Miserable in a Van 😔🚐


While van life can be incredibly rewarding, it’s not immune to moments of discontentment or dissatisfaction. To ensure a positive and fulfilling experience, consider the following tips:


1. Travel slowly and establish routines: 

Van life is about embracing a slower pace and immersing yourself in the present moment. Avoid the temptation to rush from one destination to another and instead take the time to savor each place you visit. Establishing routines and daily rituals can also provide a sense of stability and familiarity.


2. Do things that you genuinely enjoy: 

While social media often portrays an idealized version of van life, it’s essential to remember that everyone’s journey is unique. Engage in activities that genuinely bring you joy, even if they don’t align with the popular perception of van life. Whether it’s reading, painting, hiking, or cooking, prioritize activities that nurture your well-being and make you happy.

By focusing on personal fulfillment and authenticity, you can create a van life experience that aligns with your unique preferences and aspirations.



Setting Yourself Up For Driving Anxiety 😰🚐


Driving anxiety can be a common concern for those new to van life. The thought of maneuvering a large vehicle in unfamiliar environments can be intimidating. However, there are simple things you can do to ease driving anxiety and increase your confidence on the road:


1. Take it slow: 

Don’t rush the learning process. Begin by driving shorter distances and gradually increase the complexity of your journeys. This allows you to become more comfortable with the handling and dimensions of your van.


2. Practice in different environments: 

Seek out various driving environments, such as highways, urban streets, and winding roads, to gain experience and confidence in different scenarios.


3. Take breaks when needed: 

If you feel overwhelmed or anxious during a drive, find a safe spot to pull over and take a break. Use this time to relax, collect yourself, and regroup before continuing your journey.


4. Utilize technology: 

Take advantage of navigation apps and tools that provide real-time traffic updates, alternative routes, and voice-guided directions. These resources can help reduce uncertainty and enhance your driving experience.

By implementing these strategies, you can gradually overcome driving anxiety and develop the skills and confidence necessary for a successful van life adventure.


The Van Life Mistake of Unrealistic Expectations 🌟😮


Van life has captured the imagination of many, often fueled by idealized portrayals on social media. However, it’s crucial to approach this lifestyle with realistic expectations to avoid disappointment and frustration. Here are a couple of common misconceptions to be aware of:


1. Wanting to be an influencer: 

While some individuals find success in documenting their van life experiences on social media, it’s essential to prioritize personal enjoyment over the pursuit of online fame. Instead of striving for influencer status, focus on creating meaningful memories and connections during your journey.


2. Treating van life as a cure for mental health: 

While van life can provide a change of scenery and a sense of freedom, it’s not a panacea for mental health issues. It’s important to address and manage your mental health with professional support if needed. Seek therapy, maintain healthy habits, and nurture a support system to ensure your well-being during your van life adventure.

By approaching van life with realistic expectations and focusing on personal growth and fulfillment, you can cultivate a genuinely enriching and transformative experience.


Rushing to Do Vanlife with a Partner 👫⏩🚐


Embarking on a van life journey with a partner can be an exciting prospect. However, it’s essential to carefully consider your compatibility and shared goals before diving into this lifestyle together. Van life may not be the right fit for every couple, and rushing into it can lead to strained relationships and unmet expectations. Here are a few factors to consider:


Vanlife with a partner may be a bad idea if:

  •    You have conflicting travel styles or priorities.
  •    You struggle with limited personal space and require significant alone time.
  •    You have different financial goals or spending habits.
  •    You have unresolved conflicts or communication issues.

Before fully committing to van life, consider taking a test drive together. This involves going on shorter trips or renting a camper van to assess your compatibility and comfort levels. Open and honest communication is vital throughout this process to ensure both partners are aligned and ready for the van life adventure.



Letting Your Ego Drive the Van 😎🚐


In the world of van life, it’s essential to keep your ego in check to maintain a positive and harmonious experience. Here’s a closer look at what ego driving looks like and how to keep it in the backseat:


What does ego driving look like?

  •    Overcompensating for insecurities by constantly seeking validation or attention.
  •    Obsessing over external appearances and comparison to others.
  •    Prioritizing social media metrics and popularity over personal well-being and growth.
  •    Disregarding safety and respect for others on the road.


How do I keep my ego in the backseat?

  •    Focus on personal growth and self-fulfillment rather than seeking external validation.
  •    Embrace the uniqueness of your own van life journey without comparing it to others.
  •    Prioritize safety, respect, and consideration for others on the road.
  •    Be mindful of your impact on the environment and practice sustainable van life habits.

By adopting a humble and grounded mindset, you can cultivate a more authentic and fulfilling van life experience.


Summary 💭


Van life offers a unique and adventurous way to explore the world while enjoying the freedom of the open road. However, it’s crucial to approach this lifestyle with careful planning, realistic expectations, and an open mind. From ensuring the safety and reliability of your van to managing finances and personal well-being, each aspect requires thoughtful consideration. By learning from the common mistakes and implementing the tips provided in this article, you can embark on a van life journey that is both enjoyable and fulfilling.


Key Takeaways 📚


  • Prioritize safety by getting a professional mechanical inspection and camper van systems inspection before purchasing your van.
  • Be prepared for emergencies by having a Good Sam membership and a repair manual on hand.
  • Take care of your furry friends by creating a comfortable space for them in the van and considering their needs during your travels.
  • Invest in an adequate van power system and have it professionally installed to ensure reliability and safety.
  • Stay cool in hot weather by parking strategically, insulating your van, using fans or vent fans, optimizing airflow, and seeking shade and natural bodies of water.
  • Regularly maintain and inspect your tires, and seek assistance from reputable shops and dealerships for tire-related issues.
  • Plan your finances carefully, secure a remote job if needed, and travel within your means.


Frequently Asked Questions 🙋‍♀️


It’s important to have a Good Sam membership for roadside assistance, as well as a repair manual specific to your van’s make and model. Additionally, carrying emergency supplies such as a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and basic tools can be helpful.

Yes, van life can be adapted to various budget levels. By prioritizing your expenses, embracing a minimalist lifestyle, and planning your travels carefully, you can make van life more affordable and financially sustainable.

Van life can be an enriching experience for families with children, but it requires additional planning and considerations. Adequate sleeping arrangements, educational resources, and child-friendly activities should be prioritized to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable journey for everyone.

There are various resources available for finding suitable campsites, such as online platforms and apps dedicated to van life and camping. Additionally, researching national parks, state parks, and public lands can provide a wealth of options for overnight stays.

Yes, many people successfully work remotely or have freelance careers while living in a van. It’s important to secure a stable internet connection and plan your travels around work requirements to ensure productivity and income stability.

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