The Inertia Contributing Writer

Live the van life. At least for a short while. Photo: Jucy Rentals

The Inertia

From the looks of jealousy-inducing social media accounts like this one, van life appears to be a glorious lifestyle for a select few humans. But most of us will never live that adventurous existence. Or even own a gorgeous rig kitted out with wood paneling, custom shelving, tasteful lighting, hammock, or other luxuries. That might sit with you better knowing that there are a handful of ways to live the van life — at least for the length of your next road trip — and at a price way easier to stomach than that of a Dodge Sprinter ($32,495 new) or a custom conversion (up to $15,000). Here are five great options for living the most Instagram-able of lives, for as little as $20 a day, plus gas and mileage.


JUCY Rentals

If you can deal with the gaudy, branded paint jobs, Jucy Rentals’ vans are a good choice. Equipped with rooftop tents, these kitted-out mini-vans sleep four (two up top and two once you fold down the back seats.) In the morning, you can flip the seats back up to provide a total of five seat belts for getting around between destinations. You can also opt for a rig with no rooftop tent, for a two-sleeper. No pets allowed.

Includes: Bedding, fridge, two gas burners, a sink, 5-gallon water tank, storage space, air conditioning, and a fuel economy of 18 miles to the gallon (what, does this look like a Prius to you?).

Price: We got quoted under $90 per night for a week in September with a pickup in Los Angeles and a rooftop tent.

Pickup locations: Los Angeles, San Francisco or Las Vegas; also Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the U.K. or the Netherlands.

Mileage Cost: 100 miles for $12 per day, 500 miles for $120 per day, or unlimited miles for $25 per day.

Escape Campervans

Again, if you don’t mind your vehicle looking like a Mountain Dew billboard, you may want to consider this option, which is pretty similar to Jucy Rentals. Escape offers Dodge Caravans that sleep two (and a fuel consumption of 24 miles-per-gallon) and Ford E150s that sleep three as is, or five if you add a rooftop tent (and a fuel consumption of 19 miles-per-gallon).

Includes: Two-burner propane stove, fridge, sink, air conditioning, cook set, bedding.

Price: We got a quote of around $120 a day for a week in September.

Pickup: Denver, Las Vegas, L.A., Miami, New York, Seattle, San Francisco.

Mileage: 100 miles a day for free, and 25 cents for additional miles, or a cheaper rate if you want to rent for a week or more.

Could your next road trip start at your neighborhood U-Haul dealer? Photo: U-Haul


This is the beauty of ye-olde U-Haul van: In the time it takes to make a grilled cheese (and about the same price) you could visit your neighborhood U-Haul dealer and drive away in a moving van. If you already have camping gear, you won’t miss the amenities of the other options on this list. Depending on how far you want to drive, the mileage is the one factor that could make the price not worth the experience of sleeping on the bare dirty floor of a moving rig. We got a better-than-standard offer on mileage by calling a U-Haul dealer, so that’s worth a shot if the price of mileage doesn’t sit well with you.

Includes: Four wheels, two seats, a 9-foot by 6-foot by 5-foot floor space and not a damn thing more.

Price: A mere Jackson per day (that’s $20 bucks if you don’t know which presidents are on which currency).

Pickup: Your friendly neighborhood U-Haul dealer.

Mileage: U-Haul’s standard fee is 69 cents per mile or $205 for 500 miles (and 29 cents per mile for every mile over 500).

Photo: Wandervans


This is yet another great portal into van life, and with pickup locations not offered by the other services listed here. Bonus for bicyclists: These rigs come with solid bike racks, making them an ideal fit for mountain biking or road cycling tours. With their queen bunkbeds, Wandervans also look a bit more spacious than than some competitors, and for a reasonable $95 per day and clocks in around 18 or 19 miles-per-gallon in the fuel efficiency department. One of The Inertia‘s editors comfortably toured Colorado in a Wandervan that provided ample sleeping space for he and his wife and their kids.

Includes: Queen bunkbeds, kitchen, solar shower, stove, bike rack.

Price: $95 per day.

Pickup locations: Boise, Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City

Mileage: This might be where Wandervans really shines–they offer 200 miles a day free, then $0.40 per mile for anything over.

Photo: Lost Campers

Lost Campers
With no signs or advertising, these campers will blend in more easily at a campground. They’re easy on the wallet, too, with a lower rate than the other fully-equipped vans from competing companies, though these have no fridge, only a cooler. Fuel efficiency is 18 miles-per-gallon.

Includes: Bed, kitchen, cookset, cooler, stove.

Price: Around $70 per day or $90 per day for an additional 2-person rooftop tent.

Pickup: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City.

Mileage: 100 miles per day for free; 200 miles per day for $200; 300 miles per day for $25.


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