What Are the Cons of Van Life? 11 Downsides to Camper Van Living

Van life is all the rage these days. That’s no surprise, as this lifestyle brings freedom, spontaneity, and the opportunity to meet new friends and make new memories. But while we have no regrets about our choice to live in a camper van, we think it’s essential to list out the cons of van life so that everyone can understand that this lifestyle has its drawbacks and isn’t always as glamorous as Instagram portrays it to be.

In this post, we list our top 11 cons of van life to help you learn from our 3+ years of experience living and traveling in our camper van. It’s not our goal to dissuade you from van life but rather to help inform you so that you can better prepare for this adventure.

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1. Reduced Hygiene

Succumbing to a lower standard of hygiene is one of the most widely known cons of van life. And it’s ABSOLUTELY true. You will never be as clean while living in a camper van as when living at home.

Here are some of the ways van life has lowered our cleanliness standards.

  • Lack of Shower: You won’t take as many showers as you’re used to. Back at home, we used to shower twice a day. Yes, you read that right. And now we typically shower once every 2-4 days. No surprise here. When you camp for free, it often doesn’t include shower facilities.
  • More Dirt: We always track dirt into our van no matter how hard we try. It ends up on our floors, countertops, and even the bed. And we think we’re pretty clean! Though we’re vigilant about cleaning our van, our camper will never be as clean as a home.
  • Less Clean Laundry: Doing the laundry was a breeze at home. But during van life, it entails spending half a day at the laundromat. It’s a pain. As a result, we often wear old clothes multiple times over before we feel they’re ready to be washed.
Woman cleaning the inside of her camper van
Yuko sweeping the floors in the morning

2. Lack of Interior Space

It’s no secret that a camper van’s interior living space is minimal. Although you can mitigate this issue by choosing a larger vehicle, limited space is a known issue all van lifers must deal with.

And small living spaces affect us all differently. Whether it ignites feelings of claustrophobia, increases relationship tension, or causes you to bang your head and knees everywhere in the van, we all must get used to living in a confined space.

Woman hugging a man in a camper van
Talk about an invasion of personal space!

3. Easy To Get Messy & Disorganized

Back home, everything is larger: your kitchen, bedroom, and living room. So, if you throw something, like a shirt, on the couch, you wouldn’t notice it. It gets lost in the expanse of the room.

But because the living space in a van is so tiny, it’s easy for the interior to get messy if even a few items aren’t returned. Even if you have 1 or 2 dirty bowls on the countertop, it instantly makes your kitchen look disorganized.

We’ve learned to become a lot cleaner since starting van life. We almost always pack something away immediately when something needs to be put away. We also wash our dirty dishes immediately after our meals.

Changing our mindset to put things away and clean up has helped keep our van clear and clutter-free.

Camper van bed with pillows and blanket
Unkept bed in our van

4. Van Life Isn’t Free (Surprise, Surprise)

Though many of us focus on the money-saving aspect of camper van living (rent-free lifestyle!), we tend to forget that van life isn’t free. It costs money, too!

If you’re planning a lengthy road trip in your camper, you may be surprised by how much you’ll spend on gas.

Cat sitting in a camper van at a gas station

Below is a list of our major expenditures:

  • Gas (our most significant expense)
  • Groceries & eating out
  • Phone bill
  • Insurance (vehicle & health)
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Campsites (twice a week)

It’s important to consider that sleeping for free EVERY SINGLE NIGHT is hard unless you’re an absolute frugal warrior. It’s hard on your body and psychology. Though we like the idea of not having to pay rent during van life, in reality, we do end up at campsites to rest and take a hot shower.

And campsites aren’t cheap. $20-$30 per night quickly adds up.

5. Finding Online Work Is Difficult

One of the biggest cons of van life is that it’s tough to find quality work online to pay for your travels.

It’s easiest to remain with your old employer and work remotely if you can. You should do whatever it takes to hold onto that job.

Woman working on her laptop in a camper van
Yuko working on her laptop in the van

But for the rest of us, trying to generate money online can seem like a depressing dead end. Don’t let the Internet tell you otherwise. It’s HARD WORK finding steady, reliable income on the Internet.

Freelance websites, like Fiver and Upwork, are incredibly competitive, and each job posting has hundreds of international bidders willing to work for next to nothing.

Setting up a blog or YouTube channel is also a popular option. But you’ll need to dedicate countless hours to see a trickle of income.

We’re not saying that earning a living online is impossible, but it’s certainly a marathon, not a sprint.

6. Lack of Routine

One of the things we miss THE MOST from our everyday past lives is having a solid routine. We honestly, sincerely miss the following activities:

  • Frequenting the same coffee shop
  • Shopping at the same grocery store
  • Working out at the same gym
  • Meeting the same old friends at the same old bars

It’s ironic because one of the reasons we entered van life was to shed ourselves from these monotonous, daily routines. But now that we’re in the thick of van life, we miss the things we sought to leave behind.

7. Increased Loneliness

In van life, it’s just you and, possibly, your partner. Nobody else. That’s it. You’ve left your family and friends behind for a traveling, nomad lifestyle.

And most of the time, that’s fine. It isn’t a problem.

Woman standing outside her camper van that is parked on BLM land
Parked overnight on BLM land

But sometimes you get this intense upwelling of loneliness and desperately wish you could meet up with old friends again,

And it’s worse when you see your friends hanging out on social media without you.

Some of this can be mitigated by meeting new friends at campsites or attending van life meetup groups, but in our case, we miss forming stronger bonds that can only be made in long-term relationships.

8. Not Feeling Rooted

Traveling around spontaneously in a camper van is such a liberating feeling. The freedom! But if you travel long enough, you might begin to incur feelings of lacking belonging, purpose, and not participating in a community.

“Where is your place in this world?”

It isn’t uncommon for us to be in an urban city and feel a lack of belonging when we see people hurrying off to work, having lunch with colleagues, or simply hanging out with friends.

9. Home Sickness

This feeling comes and goes depending on your surrounding environment, but that extreme feeling of wanting to return home to see friends and family can sometimes get strong.

If it wasn’t for COVID-19, Yuko might have flown back home to Japan multiple times already to see friends and get authentic Japanese food.

But the problem when you’re in van life is that you often can’t just “go home.” Though you technically could, it might involve 20+ hours of driving or an expensive plane ticket. Often, the only realistic option is to tough it out in your van and hope for the homesick feeling to dissipate.

10. Exposure To Extreme Temperatures

A normal house often protects you against extreme heat and cold. With the simple push of a button, you can quickly turn on that air conditioner or heater and create a more comfortable interior temperature.

In a camper van, it’s a bit more challenging to manipulate the internal environment, and, as a result, you end up spending more time in uncomfortably hot and cold temperatures. This is especially true if you plan to travel during the winter and summer months.

Maxxair fan cooling down a camper van and a humans feet
Enjoying the cool breeze from our vent fan.

Some things you can do to mitigate extreme temperatures:

  • Properly insulate the van
  • Install a diesel heater
  • Get good quality 12v fans

11. Van Life Must End

No matter how much you love van life, this lifestyle must end sooner or later. Though you technically could, you most likely aren’t going to want to live out of a camper van for the rest of your life.

A woman posing outside her camper van
Yuko standing next to her van

But when van life does finish for you, you’re forced to answer many questions you’ve likely been trying to avoid since the day you started van life. Questions such as:

  • What are you going to do?
  • What type of job will you take?
  • Can you go back to an office setting?
  • Will you be happy?

These are TOUGH questions that not everyone has the answer to. And as long we live the van life, we can push aside these questions.

But van life must end eventually, and then we’ll be forced to answer these lingering questions.


We hope we didn’t put you off entirely on van life after reading our long list of cons. We don’t intend to convince people to rethink their van life dreams.

But before going all in on this lifestyle, it’s essential to understand the pros and the cons of van life. That way, you can make the best decision for yourself and also work to mitigate some of the issues we raised in the article.

If you have any questions related to the cons or downsides of van life, please leave us a comment in the section below.

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