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Living in a Car vs Van – Which is the best for you (2024)?

Depending on the reasons you’ve decided to live out of your vehicle and the duration you plan on doing so will make a big impact when it comes to choosing to live in a car or a van. Both cars and vans have different practicalities making them ideal for some forms of travelling or for those looking for a more permanent living solution.

In the sections below we will outline some of the benefits and disadvantages of both to help you decide on living out of a car vs van.

Car vs Van

Living in a car vs van

If you have just started to consider living a nomadic lifestyle you may be in the process of deciding on the vehicle to start your journey. When living in a vehicle you will find yourself relying on it a lot so your choice is extremely important.

Which ever vehicle you decide to live in you are likely to have a rewarding experience with the freedom they both offer.

Living in a car

Living in a car can be a rewarding experience, especially if you are looking to travel below are just some of the benefits and disadvantages of living in your car to help you make your decision.

Benefits of living in a car

  • Better fuel economy. In general cars have a much greater fuel economy in comparison to larger vehicles like vans. This makes cars ideal if you are looking to travel long distances on a budget.
  • Cheaper start up costs. Cars are typically cheaper to purchase and require less setup costs to make them suitable for sleeping, making them perfect for those looking to travel on a budget or under financial difficulties
  • Better for stealth camping. Fitted out vans can draw unwanted attention when trying to stealth camp, particularly in urban areas, a small car setup for sleeping can go relatively unnoticed. If you are looking to stealth camp we’ve compiled some tips on what stealth camping is and should you do it.
  • Easy maneuverability. The compactness of most vehicles allows for fitting in tight camp spots or parking areas with ease.
How To Live In Your Car

Disadvantages of living in a car

  • Lack of space. One of the biggest disadvantages of living in a car is the amount of space, particularly the lack of it. This greatly impacts what you are able to take with you and carry.
  • A negative connotation of living in your car. Unfortunately there is still a negative association when you tell others that you are living or travelling in your car. Although this isn’t an issue for some people it can sometime affect the opportunities presented to you in both social and work environments.
  • Some camp sites do not allow people to sleep in vehicles.
  • Lack of personal amenities. With the confinements of space, the luxuries of having your own toilet or shower are usually out of the question for living in your car. This can impact on the places you can travel to when you have to rely on the use of public amenities, make sure to checkout our article on toilet options for car camping.
  • Lack of bedding options. There is a limitation on the available bedding options available for when living out of your car. For those with back problems the typical inflatable car mattress can see you with a bad nights sleep.

Why choose to live out of your car?

If you are looking to go on a short term trip or finances are extremely tight living in a car is probably your best option. Cars are also typically the better choice for urban areas for those looking to blend in and draw less attention to themselves, particularly stealth camping. Saving money is also one of the biggest advantages of living out of your car in comparison to a Van or traditional means of accommodation.

Here is an article highlighting the legalities of sleeping in your car in different parts of Australia.

Living in a van

Living in a van can offer a greater customizable living space make it great for those planning long term trips. Below we have outlined just some of the many benefits and disadvantages of living in your van to help decide if its more suitable for you.

Benefits of living in a Van

  • Additional space allowing for additional amenities. As mentioned by Camper Dude Joe, the additional space most vans offer allows for additional built in amenities such as a permanent kitchen, toilet and shower. Vans are also great for those looking to travel with a partner with the space for bigger mattresses etc.
  • More widely accepted by the community. With the popularization of ‘Van-Life’ in the media living in a van has become a commonly accepted practice by many. There has been an explosion of online groups and influencers partaking in the practice which has taken away the previous negative connotations.
  • Greater towing and carrying capacity. Roof racks allow you to increase your carrying capacity along with many vans offering sizable carrying and towing capacities. If you have a trailer, bikes or kayaks, the extra space a van offers makes them ideal.
  • Better conditions if you are looking to travel with pets. The additional space in a van makes it ideal for those who have pets that they want to bring along for the journey. For more information on travelling with your dog make sure to checkout our guide to living in a car with your dog.
Car vs Van

Disadvantages of living in a van

  • Set up and fit out costs. In comparison to making a vehicle camping setup in your car, converting a van for living can be considerably more expensive to build. Most of these costs are associated with the additional amenities you can fit such as toilets and kitchens.
  • Large and can be difficult to park in urban areas. Depending on the size of your van, they can be difficult to maneuver in city areas or limit access to multilevel or underground car parks.
  • Purchase costs. Being typically used as a commercial use vehicle vans are typically more expensive to purchase in comparison to a car.

Why choose to live out of your van?

Living in your van can give you the freedom to travel with a lot more of your own amenities making it feel a lot more like a home in comparison to a car. With the additional space vans offer it is a no brainer for those looking to travel with partners or pets.

After reviewing the above points on living in a car vs van, we believe you will have the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision. Cheers on your journey and we hope to see you enjoy your time on the roads!


  • Zaara

    Zaara, a kindred spirit of the open road, has nurtured a deep-seated love for RV travel since her childhood. Journeying with her parents, she learned early on to cherish the little things that make life rich and fulfilling. This emotional depth and appreciation for simplicity have become the cornerstone of her life philosophy. A firm believer in the idea that true happiness is found in nature's embrace, Zaara continues this legacy of exploration alongside her husband, Augustus. Her passion extends beyond landscapes to the joy of connecting with life's purest forms - the unconditional love of dogs and the innocence of babies. These connections reflect her nurturing soul and emotional acuity. Zaara is also a culinary enthusiast, delighting in creating meals that blend flavors from their travels, infusing each dish with memories and love. Her expertise lies in living fully, finding joy in every moment, and inspiring others to seek happiness in life's simple, natural wonders.

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