Why Everyone You Know Is Buying a Van and Chasing That #VanLife

Van Life

If you haven’t heard, living in a van is now cool. Back in the day, you wouldn’t be caught dead in some mobile camper home – the refuge of the grey nomad – pottering about between the photo ops of outback Aus and generally getting in everyone’s way. Once the reserve of the retiree, Instagram, like almost everything else, has made living out of a van cool, sexy, and fun.

No longer is van dwelling something vaguely sinister that would get you moved on from parking near a school, #VanLife is the hot trend that all the carefree influencer types are getting involved in and flaunting across social media.

Wrapped up in the growing trends of digital nomadism and a modern rejection of hyper-capitalist tendencies, Van Life encourages its disciples to slim down, ditch the excess, and turn life into a never ending journey of experiences and sunrise shots framed through the back of a varnished mobile home. While Van Life has been a thing for sometime, it’s absolutely exploded in 2020.

With the ongoing lockdown, and Aussies unable to travel outside the country, more and more people are ditching the 9-5 and heading out on the road to make their Van Life dreams come true. But the old pressures of supply and demand have sent prices skyrocketing. Right now, even old bangers with 300,000 plus kilometres on the clock are selling for thousands.

We’ve delved into the hype to find out just what on earth is going on out there:


Sean is a director and producer of his own film company based out of Sydney. He bought a van back in February, before the world collapsed like a frightened soufflé, and recently sold it at the peak of demand. For an old Toyota HiAce, the gold standard of reliable campers and the hero of men with ven everywhere, he paid around $5000. And when he sold it? $12,000.

Sean is typical of Van Lifers. He got it “because work was quiet and thought it would be fun and I have plenty of friends that do it”.

“I wanted to buy something that wasn’t a campervan already – so to have a side project to make something of it”.

When selling, he adjusted the price to reflect his fit out, something highly prized by Van Life wannabees who don’t have the time, money, or willpower to kit out a van of their own.

Sean isn’t alone. Speaking to ABC News, Lake Macquarie electrician and cabinet maker Cam Johnson says that he’s booked up until February next year kitting out vans for hoards of 20-somethings. “I think everyone had the same idea,” Mr Johnson said.

“They had money saved up to go overseas and since that’s no longer an option, they’re putting that money into doing up a van instead”.

The Perfect Storm

As summer is now well on its way and the ongoing pandemic is sadly still raging outside of our borders, the market is likely to continue to climb for old vans. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg recently stated that international travel may not resume until 2021, so the uptick in van prices may be sustained for some time.

According to Australian vehicle data from Moody’s Analytics, used cars have gone up in price by about 25% since last year. We saw similarly massive jumps after the global financial crash of 2006. Multiple factors are at play here including people who have found themselves out of work are trying their luck at handiman jobs while others are simply looking to avoid public transport while the virus still lingers.

Further though, van imports have come to a virtual standstill and new parts are getting harder to access, pushing the prices up in a perfect storm of supply and demand. Groups on Facebook like Toyota Hiace buy/swap/sell Australia and VanLife Australia are full of posts from people lamenting the rise in their favourite vehicles.

One user posted that they had seen a van the same year and make as their own sell for 2.5 times the price they had once paid. Others are claiming a rise of 38% and many are tempted to sell their own vehicles now to cash in on the jump with a view to purchasing again when the price (hopefully) drops after the pandemic.

It seems likely that the mobile home travel trend will only increase in the short term and probably adjust once people return to more stable in-office work.

If you are looking to buy a van, Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree remain your best bet. Always make sure to get a pre-purchase inspection when considering a van and take into account that the resale value may drop significantly over the next year as the market readjusts.

Read more stories from The Latch and follow us on Facebook.