If you are considering van life, you may wonder if purchasing a van to live in is a good investment. Since homes are typically good investments one might think that owning an RV or a camper van might also be a good investment.
Is a camper van really a good investment?
Purchasing a camper van should not be seen as an investment. An RV of any kind is rarely a good investment and is only something you should consider as a toy that will likely depreciate and lose value making it a bad financial investment in the long run.
However that’s not to say that a camper van is not a good investment for your happiness and quality of life. Owning a camper van can be a very rewarding experience and it can allow you to see and do things that you would have only dreamed of.
Many people dream of traveling but do not have the time or the money to do so. Owning a camper van allows you to travel more often and spend less money doing it while having more fun in the process.
In financial terms, a good investment is something that you will profit from through income (regular dividends, rent payments, etc.) or value appreciation.
In the case of a camper van, it isn’t likely to earn any money for you over time and will take money away from you due to depreciation, maintenance, taxes and fees as well as other costs associated with driving a vehicle.
However, there are a few exceptions when a custom camper van could be a good investment. We’ll discuss these exceptions below.
Building Out A Camper Van To Sell
Building out a camper van involves buying an empty cargo van and converting it into a fully functioning camper van. These types of camper vans are popular because they are completely customized to your liking and have more character than the traditional commercial camper van (class B RV).
These are also difficult to build and require a lot of time, expertise, and handyman skills in lots of different areas. There are examples of well-built custom camper vans all over the internet and some are very good and others are not so good.
By doing this, you stand the chance of making a profit if you intend to sell the camper van after you have finished converting it. Many people like these types of camper vans but they do not want to convert them themselves.
It’s a challenging task to convert an empty van so people are willing to pay a good price for one that is already done for them.
However, the cost of these types of camper vans is typically less than a traditional class B RV that one might find. Class B RVs are basically the same thing but they have been customized and built by a company that specializes in this type of work.
Let’s use my van build as an example of how it might be a good investment.
We purchased our van for $23,300. We built it out for around $10,000 so the total amount we have in our van adds up to about $33,300 give or take a little.
If we were to sell our van, we surmise that we could ask around $55,000 as the selling price. We may or may not sell it at this price but we wouldn’t let it go for much less.
In fact, some people would likely price theirs higher than this but we feel that this price would be fair for our particular van build.
If we were to sell our van for $55,000, we would earn $21,700 on our camper van making it an investment that was worthwhile. This does not include any costs that we may have spent actually using it such as fuel and maintenance.
We have seen custom vans sell for more that don’t even have as nice of features as ours, such as a bathroom.
If you are planning on building out a van, plan on things costing more than you originally intended.
We thought we’d get ours built out for $5,000 but the costs kept adding up and we were up to $10,000 before we even realized it.
You’ll be surprised at how little things like screws, bolts, tools and weird items will add to your total costs. There is no way to plan for these things unless you have done it before or you are following a specific blueprint and plans.
Renting Out A Camper Van
Another way that a camper van might be a good investment would be to rent it out to potential customers who would like to use a camper van on occasion.
Similar to renting a vacation home or an Airbnb property, renting out your camper van is a good way to earn an additional income while still allowing you to use the camper van as well.
This could provide you with a consistent passive income if you live in an area where camper van rentals are in high demand.
Of course, for this to be considered a good investment you would need to earn enough by doing this to cover and exceed any costs associated with owning your van.
This would all be dependent on the location you live in. I would not be able to do this where I live as my location is not the greatest for this type of market.
However, if you live in an area with more outdoor fanatics who would enjoy this type of living, you could be in luck with this type of investment.
If you choose to go this route, I would only recommend cash flowing a van so that you do not have a loan on it with interest to pay. Some people may not be able to do this and if you can’t, then this type of thing may not be the best choice.
Is A Camper Van A Waste Of Money?
Although a camper van could put a huge dent in your wallet, it is not necessarily a waste of money. There is more to life than just saving money or earning a return on everything.
If you own a camper van and make use of it on a regular basis you are likely a more happy person because of it. You cannot put a price on happiness and on living a life full of adventure and fun.
We only have this one life that we live and purchasing something like a camper van allows us to enjoy the great outdoors more. If you are like me and feel alive when you are exploring and being adventurous, a camper van is certainly not a waste of money.
It’s no different than the guy who buys a boat because he is totally fulfilled out on the lake. Was the boat a waste of money for this guy? He enjoys it and can likely afford it so there is no reason that he should not have it.
What Are The Costs Associated With Owning A Camper Van?
When you own a camper van, you learn very quickly that costs add up. Similar to a car you might own, there are ongoing fees and maintenance that must be done in order to maintain the van.
These fees could include the following:
- Buying the van whether it is an out right sale or finance. If financed, you’ll have have interest to pay.
- Taxes – you can’t escape them
- Registration fees – they come every year like clock work
- Insurance – this could be a very large expense depending on your driving history
- Maintenance including oil changes tire rotations, standard service checks, etc.
- State inspections, if your state requires this
- Fuel – whether it’s gas or diesel, your loaded camper van will get less mpg then your car does
- Repairs – it’s almost certain that things will go wrong at some point
The fees add up and seem to never end just as they do with your car there is always something to pay and sometimes these payments are unexpected.
If you are purchasing a camper van as an investment, you will need to consider these costs as they will have a big say in the final outcome.
Purchasing a camper van will usually always be a bad investment in financial terms. It will likely be one of the biggest money pits you’ll have in your life.
If you are looking to invest money, consider other options. Vehicles depreciate rapidly and you will always lose money on an RV if you just purchase one, use it and then try to resell it.
Other than the options listed above, buying a camper van to earn money is not a wise decision. However, if you are wanting to invest in your long term happiness and well-being, owning a camper van can do wonders for such a thing.
You can’t put a price on spending a weekend in a camper van in some amazing location. If you can afford one, they can make great toys that will bring more enjoyment to your life.
Just know that you won’t likely turn a profit on it once it’s all said and done. You will however, be richer in experiences and there is no price one can put on that.