We’ve already seen stories about how the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying financial insecurity of furloughs and layoffs have sent big-city dwellers fleeing to less-crowded areas with a lower cost of living.
Now, according to a new survey from Move.org, all that turmoil also has more Americans considering getting rid of their homes altogether in favor of van life and a cheaper, more nomadic experience.
The moving company review site asked hundreds of respondents about how they felt about van life and found that 52% of Americans are now more open to van life, in which practitioners live full or part time in modified vehicles with basic amenities like beds, storage, toilets, cookstoves and Wi-Fi, allowing occupants to work anywhere.
Seventy-two percent said they’d try the van life thing if it meant they could pay off all their debt, and 74% said they’d try it if it meant they could retire comfortably. Another 23% said their primary motivation would be not having to pay rent or a mortgage.
A quarter of respondents said they’d be willing to live on the road for six months to a year, and 24% said they’d do it for up to two years. Seven percent weren’t willing to do it under any circumstances.
Finances weren’t the only draw for some respondents: The poll found that 35% liked the idea of living by the beach or spending more time outdoors. Another 33% said their prime motivation would be the opportunity to travel.
So who are these would-be nomads?
“One interesting correlation from our data is that most of those who would consider van life because of COVID-19 were millennials,” the group said in a post on its website. “To break it down further, 31% of those considering van life because of the pandemic were in the 35-44 age range and 29% were in the 25–34 age range. One thing is clear: van life definitely isn’t as fringe as it used to be, especially among younger adults.”
Now committing to van life does come with some upfront expenses, though the costs vary depending on how new or fancy your home on the road is. Custom setups can run upwards of $70,000. But according to city-life blog Curbed.com, the average cost of some of the most-popular live-in vans is just under $34,000.
“The key takeaway is that if you’re okay living in a space that is smaller than a studio apartment, living in a van is much cheaper than buying a home, no doubt about it,” Move.org concluded. “And the perks of constant travel, closeness to nature, and minimalistic living are nice cherries on top of this affordable sundae.”