Van Life vs. Apartment: Which Lifestyle Is Better?


Nothing defines your lifestyle more than the type of shelter that you choose to call home. For those seeking alternatives to a full-sized home, an apartment is an option. For those seeking a more adventurous choice, the full-time van life is also open.

Between a van lifestyle and living in an apartment, the better option is subjective. If you prefer the freedom of being constantly on the move, the van life would be the choice for you. If you prefer the security and convenience that comes from a fixed location, an apartment would be best. 

As is the case with subjective answers, you need to look at the good and the bad of both offerings to determine what is truly best for you. This article will examine the pros and cons of van life as well as the apartment lifestyle. Read on and discover what is best for you.

Van Life: Pros and Cons

vanlife

In terms of how your type of shelter shapes your lifestyle, van life is one of the most defining. It places your home on wheels and forces you to maximize every inch of space—even more so than living in a recreational vehicle (RV). Here are the pros and cons of van life:

Pros

  • Simplicity. The fact that you have to accommodate yourself to the limited space of a van requires you to simplify your lifestyle. It makes you evaluate what you truly need, making it easier to dispense with luxuries that you rarely use.
  • Flexibility and freedom. Living in a van allows you the freedom to travel. You are only tied to a location by how long you wish to stay there. It also allows you to seek the climate you prefer year-round.
  • Community. While being on the road makes forging traditional neighborly bonds difficult, the van life does offer its version of the community. Online and on the road, “van lifers” engage with each other frequently. There are even meetups at campsites. As nomadic as it seems, van life has a strong community behind it.
  • Self-sufficiency. The van life requires you to be self-sufficient in everything from conducting minor repairs on your van, to planning your travels, to storing your gear to maximize capacity and usable living space. It helps to build your self-confidence as a problem solver.

Cons

  • Cost. While there is no rent in van life, it does come with its own set of expenses. From the cost of the van to maintenance and repairs, to fuel—the van life is not free. You also need to factor in the cost of outfitting the van for extreme weather and food preparation and storage.
  • Fewer amenities. The same simple lifestyle that attracts many to van life also has a downside. Fewer amenities also means fewer modern conveniences. From toilet issues to bathing and other personal hygiene issues, the van life requires adapting your personal comfort zone.
  • Constraints on generating income. If you are retired or otherwise economically self-sufficient, this may not be an issue. Otherwise, the van life requires you to be able to generate an income remotely. This will require, at minimum, a laptop or tablet and a reliable internet connection.
  • Dealing with weather extremes. The interior of a van is more susceptible to weather extremes. Maintaining a comfortable or bearable temperature inside a van requires proper outfitting with insulation and accepting that thermostat-controlled comfort is simply not a part of van life.

Living in an Apartment: Pros and Cons

apartment life

For some, living in an apartment is a stepping stone toward living in a larger house—be it rented or purchased. For others, the concept of a self-contained dwelling such as an apartment affords them the comfort that they seek. Here are the pros and cons of living in an apartment:

Pros

  • There’s no need to worry about maintenance. When you rent an apartment, you have the peace of mind that if something breaks, your landlord is responsible for fixing it.
  • Affordability. Compared to a house, the rent on an apartment will usually be lower. Compared to van life, the fact that rent is a fixed monthly cost makes budgeting easier. You don’t have to worry about emergency repairs, fluctuating gasoline prices, etc.
  • Proximity to work and entertainment. Apartment complexes tend to be closer to urban areas as well as work centers and entertainment facilities. Stand-alone homes tend to be more suburban, requiring longer commutes.
  • Included amenities. Many apartment complexes offer community pools, jacuzzis, gyms, and fitness centers, as well as large entertainment areas included with your rent.
  • Increased safety. Apartments experience fewer instances of burglaries compared to homes or vans. This is attributed to the fact that they are high-density living areas. In other words, the proximity of neighbors makes them less appealing to burglars.

Cons

  • Landlord imposed restrictions. Apartment complexes will have restrictions. These can include what changes or modifications are allowed to the unit’s interior and what you can place in balconies and private areas.
  • Noise. Living in an apartment means being surrounded by neighbors. Sometimes, this can result in unwanted noise.
  • There’s limited access to fresh air and open spaces. Unlike detached homes that have yards or a van that you can park in the vastness of the great outdoors, an apartment has limited space for taking in the fresh air in privacy. You are usually limited to a balcony.
  • Annoying neighbors. The proximity of apartments to one another in a complex makes avoiding annoying neighbors—if they are present—far more difficult than in a home or a van.

How to Choose?

As was stated earlier, determining whether van life is a better lifestyle than living in an apartment is subjective. However, taking into consideration the pros and cons listed above, some baseline questions can be drawn.

  • Is having a variety of amenities at your disposal important to you? If so, living in an apartment holds the advantage. The very nature of van life requires you to make do with less. Apartment living provides you with the space and fixed connectivity required for sustaining a variety of amenities.
  • Is freedom of movement and adventure more your thing? For the openly adventurous, the van life leaves apartment-living in the dust. It provides you with the mobility associated with RV living.
  • How reliant are you on your current form of income? If you are not financially independent and rely on the income from a fixed-location job, that could impede you from joining the van life.
  • Do you enjoy problem-solving and unforeseen challenges, or do you prefer systemized order? If you enjoy taking on challenges, learning to solve problems on the fly — van life offers that sense of purpose.
  • How do you describe having a fulfilling lifestyle? Some people can only find comfort in the form of a well-equipped dwelling with the security that it implies. Others find comfort in travel and adventure — not so much in material and creature comforts. For the latter, van life is ideal.

Conclusion

Provided that you take into consideration your tolerance for challenges, your thirst for adventure, and your income situation, determining which lifestyle—van life or apartment—is best for you is made easier.

That said, it is still a very personal choice that will result in different answers from different people. Both lifestyles have merit.

Martin

As an independent traveler, I try to share my positive and negative observations about van life as well as tips and tricks to make your life on the road easier. I travel and work in my old RV and would greatly appreciate a coffee from you if you find my content useful.

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