I am sitting here, snuggled up in my van after work, deciding which van topic to write about next. It is cold and snowy outside. I am sipping on a hot cup of tea. It is one of those evenings where gratitude is in the air. A mellow thankfulness is in the air. As I sit here, I find myself reflecting on the many people who have helped me on my van journey so far. One of the main people key to the whole van conversion process was Jim Stephens of Umpqua Bank. Without his help and financial guidance, I would have never figured out how to cover the expenses of my van conversion. For many, #vanlife is a pipe dream because of the perceived financial barrier of making it happen. Well, I am here to tell you, where there is a will, there is a way.
For me, biggest barrier to vanliving was the cost of vans and conversions. There are definitely super savvy people out there who can design and engineer their own cabinetry and electrical systems for a minimal cost. But for someone like me, who lacks the knowledge, time, and energy to convert a van by myself, it was necessary to pay the extra and have someone else do the conversion. Next, I had to buy a van. Cha-ching, cha-ching. Originally I thought I would buy a used van, but after reviewing the used van market in my region, options where scarce. In addition to the scarcity, finding a used van that met financing criteria pretty much whittled my options down to zero. I did not see the zero options as a negative though, because as a less than mechanically inclined individual, I thought it was a good idea to purchase a new versus used van. With a new van, I could build a relationship with it from the beginning. Instead of worrying about what the previous owner had neglected, I would know all of her quirks, maintenance, and care taking.
Thankfully, through a series of events, meant to be’s, and phone calls to van conversion companies, I found Jim Stephens. Jim is an Umpqua Bank store manager out of Portland, Oregon. Jim had previously worked with people financing van conversions and had a finance plan ready:
1. buy a van on an auto loan,
2. pay for the conversion on a personal line of credit,
3. convert the van to a Class B motorhome,
4. and then wrap the whole deal up by applying for an RV loan to pay off the original auto loan and line of credit.
Jim was reliable, prompt to reply, and always there supporting the dream. Never once did he say, "what the hell are you investing in!?" His attitude as a financier was, "you dream, I'll help you make it happen.” Jim, I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for helping me figure out how to pay for my van, THANK YOU.
There are two take aways from this post. First, there are ways to overcome the financial barriers of van purchase and conversion costs. Do not give up. Ask different financial advisors and institutions what they can do for you. Keep talking to and questioning the vandwellers out there how they made their vanlife happen. There are people out there who want to make your vanliving dream happen! Second, do not be surprised when a little help comes from the most unexpected places. Be thankful for all of those who have helped you along the way. People weave in and out of our lives for reasons we do not fully understand at the most random times. I am continuously reminded: a little gratitude goes a long way.
Cheers till next time,
"Surround yourself with
the dreamers and the doers,
the believers and the thinkers,
but most of all,
surround yourself with those who see greatness in you,
even when you don't see it yourself."
- anonymous -
Note: I did not take the decision to finance a van lightly. It is the first time I have ever had a real loan. But I am committed to this life style and have a plan in place to pay off my balance. Vanlife to me represents housing, freedom from rent, a minimalist lifestyle, and the opportunity to travel as a nurse. It is not only a luxury, but a part of taking responsibility for my future. If you are looking into van life, and financing a conversion, please take the decision seriously based off of smart financial planning.
This is the story of life with "Amelia" my 170 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van home. The adventure is just beginning. Join me as I share experienes and van lessons.
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