Yep. You read that right. We are choosing the family van life. We are a family of three who is choosing to move into an 86 sq. ft. living space. Typically, you will read about people who sold everything and downsized into a tiny space to be closer and spend more time together. That’s not the case for us. At the time of writing this, our daughter (Arrow) is about to turn seven months old and we are living with my mom and step-dad. Though it is wonderful to have family to lean on when you are in a pickle, it isn’t an ideal situation.
But here is how it all started…
PJ and I had been together for a little over a month when I got pregnant. We had been friends for 5 years prior, but we were both with other people that whole time. So when we began, we basically skipped the whole “getting to know you” phase because we had already done that. We jumped right into the “let me share the deepest darkest parts of myself with you” phase. Which was awesome and scary all at the same time. Anyway, back to my point.
I got pregnant right away and to make a long story short, we were in a spot where we couldn’t afford to live on our own just yet. So we moved in with my mom when I was about 6 months pregnant. Which was juuuust a little over a year ago now. Though it was nice to be with my family again because I hadn’t lived at home for 10 years (I’m 27), we were itching to get a place of our own. We’d been looking since before Arrow was born, but we had been diligently “hitting the pavement” since she was 4 months old. There’s the backstory for the most part, there are of course lots of details I left out because they weren’t really necessary to explain in this post.
So, moving forward.
As I stated, for the past several months we have been diligently looking for a place to call our own and really “start” our family. The problem? I have good credit but I currently stay at home with Arrow so I don’t have an income. PJ doesn’t have any credit but has a steady job with enough income to support the three of us. So if we were one person, we would be a perfect candidate for a rental or for purchasing a home. However, since we are in-fact two separate people, we were getting turned down left and right.
At around month four of looking, we decided that it would be smarter to rent for the time being. With where the market is at right now, what we could afford to buy wouldn’t be that nice of a place so we would rather wait it out. We also aren’t 100% positive that we want to stay in this area of so-cal so renting seemed like an all-around better option. So, we had finally decided what we wanted to do, now we just needed to find the perfect place.
We went to several property management companies and they all told us the same thing. “With three people you have to rent a two bedroom. We don’t allow three people to live in a one bedroom.” To which I would reply, “Okay well, we can’t afford any of your two bedroom places, is there a way you could make an exception? We don’t have a lot of stuff and I promise that one bedroom is not too small for us. Arrow is so teeny and won’t be taking up that much space for a long time.”
Sadly, they would all respond the same way. “No, I’m sorry that’s our policy.” So we looked into people who were renting spaces out themselves and not through a property management site. For all of those places we were the second person there. There was always one person ahead of us in the application process who got approved. As you could imagine, we were FRUSTRATED and didn’t know what to do.
So we looked into people who were renting spaces out themselves and not through a property management site. For all of those places we were the second person there. There was always one person ahead of us in the application process who got approved. As you could imagine, we were FRUSTRATED and didn’t know what to do.
Let’s get to the reason why we chose van life.
Now, I have always loved the idea of living in a tiny home. I binged watched “Tiny Luxury” about four times. Then whilst looking for more tiny content, I stumbled on some van lifers on YouTube. Needless to say, I was hooked. I had been watching that before I had even gotten pregnant and I had always been intrigued by the minimalist lifestyle. PJ and I had talked about building a custom tiny house through Tiny Heirloom but we would need to get a loan for the tiny house AND we would need to get a new car that could tow the thing. Both of the cars we own are older and there’s no way we would be able to get enough money from those to buy the kind of truck we needed to pull a tiny house, so we put that on the back-burner.
Okay, so back to the main story. After so much searching and frustration, I proposed the idea of potentially doing van life. PJ, as always, was completely on board. We talked it through and we figured that we don’t have to be settled into one place for at least another four years when Arrow starts school. Then we crunched the numbers, and we figured out that even if we bought a brand new van, it would be cheaper than rent.
After that, we were sold on the idea. So one day we went to go look at some vans. We thought it was important to look at the different brands and models and do some test-drives to see which one we could actually see ourselves living in.
The first one we drove was a Ram Promaster. They only had the 135 wheel-base (the smallest one they make) on the lot that day but we test drove it anyway. It felt…small. I knew it would but PJ was barely clearing the roof and it had no flooring or ceiling put it. After everything would be installed, I don’t think he would have enough room to fully stand straight up. I know that’s not a problem for some people, but I wanted to make sure that if we were going to be living in such a small space that everyone would be as comfortable as possible.
Next, we went to the Mercedes dealership. But…they were closed that day. We still walked around the lot to look at all of the vans and that’s when we started to get really excited. These ones were just a lot prettier looking, and they had all sorts of options.
Now, to the unicorn.
We decided to go back on PJ’s next day off which was two days later. When we got there, we told the salesman exactly what we were looking for: A sprinter cargo van, 170 wheel base, as new as possible. He says, “Well, we happen to have that in a 4×4 (4-wheel drive!) which is crazy because it’s basically the unicorn of these vans.” As soon as we heard him say “unicorn” we knew it was ours. PJ had wanted 4-wheel drive but thought it was unlikely that we would find one for sale. They are a super rare find and people that have them aren’t likely to be selling them anytime soon. You could turn any van into a 4-wheel drive but doing that would basically cost half as much as the van itself which is not worth it, in our opinion.
The story was that some guy had special ordered this car for his business, but then the deal fell through and he wasn’t able to purchase it. So the dealership now had this van and was able to put it up for sale. This had just happened, though, so they weren’t even able to put it on their website yet. We were the FIRST people to come see it. Yes, the first. After being the second people for so long, it was nice to hear that if we wanted it, we had first dibs. I remember when we first stepped in to the van, it just felt like home. It smelled fantastic (that new car smell amiright?,) the length felt perfect, the seats were comfortable, and when PJ drove it, he said it felt way better than the Ram.
We agreed that that was our van and put in an offer that day. Again, because of our credit and income issue, we had to put some money down. That was something we were prepared for and were okay with because it would just make our monthly payment lower. The next day, PJ got the call that they would give it to us if we put 1k more down than what we had originally planned on. Which was totally do-able! We picked it up that day and couldn’t have been happier.
We told our family, who still thinks we’re crazy, and are on to building it out. We are super excited about living this minimalist lifestyle. Our goal is to be making income online within the next year so that we can travel around while Arrow is still little. That’s our story of why we are choosing van life and how our van came to be! I will be blogging about our conversion and our adventures and we would love to have you follow along on this journey with us! You can also follow us on instagram and Facebook for real-time updates.
Thank you for reading this far lol. If there is a decision you are thinking about making, JUST DO IT! There is no better time than now. The longer you wait, the more ways you will be able to talk yourself out of doing it. You don’t want to look back in five years and wonder “what if?”