BUYING THE VAN
If you've been following my instagram (@hannahleeduggan), you probably know I've recently purchased, gutted, built, and now live in a van. Since beginning this process I've been getting loads of questions from people about how I did it, why I did it, where I'm going, and how someone should go about starting the process for themselves. I've been a little overwhelmed with life and moving out of my apartment and working on the van, so as much as I've tried, I figure it'll be easiest to purge all the information here, instead of only being able to give bits of advice here and there.
I'm new to blogging, so bear with me! I'll try starting at the beginning and spend most of this one detailing my thought process and how I ended up with the van that I did;
Honestly, I think I've always kind of wanted to live in my car. As soon as I was old enough to drive, and whenever I had a day off, I'd throw a comforter and some pillows in the back seat and drive 4 hours north along Lake Superior. I'd spend the day hiking along the trails and rivers by myself. By the end of the day I'd usually stop at a gas station, buy some Twizzlers, use their bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face, and then find a quiet neighborhood street to park on. I'd get in the back seat and bury myself beneath the blankets and find a Netflix movie on my phone and eat Twizzlers till I felt sick. Usually I'd be parked before sundown, so by the time the movie was over the sky would be dark and I would watch the stars through the window before falling asleep. My favorite part was waking up with the sun just starting to come through the windows - I've always loved waking up early, while everything is so still, and no ones around.
Skip forward through high school, moving a few times, traveling, and backpacking and you get to April 2018. I had just come back home to Minnesota from a 1 1/2 month trip to Hong Kong/Sri Lanka/Egypt and was feeling restless, and had a living situation that was kind of up in the air. I hate being in one place long, so I always find myself having to pack up my apartments whenever I’m dipping out of the state/country/continent again. For a while I considered just getting rid of everything and heading abroad with a backpack - but I like having some kind of home to call my own and come back to when I get tired of traveling, which is how I came to the happy medium of moving into a car.
At first I was just looking for trucks with toppers and trying to configure a living space in the truck bed. I looked around at a couple used car places and the trucks they had, but began having doubts. If I was going to be investing in a new vehicle did I really want to live in such a small space? Sure, I don't have an issue with living small, but I started imagining how fun it would be to build up a small space, and have room to make it my own. The other thing I considered the more I looked around, was the convenience of being able to get to the drivers seat without having to get out of the truck. I've been in my fair share of sticky situations, and whether it be someone poking around the car and wanting to be able to make a quick exit, or even just as simple as not getting wet if it was raining, I decided it would be worth it to look for something with more room, as well as access to the front seat.
That's how I began looking for vans. I had no idea where to even start. I started by just googling "living in a van", which is how I found the #vanlife tag on instagram. From what I could tell most people were buying Sprinter vans - much like the van I own now, but tall enough to stand in. Do a quick search for Sprinter vans and you'll quickly realize they aren't cheap. Keep looking and you'll realize the ones that ARE cheap, are cheap for a reason. It seems like a lot of people tend to travel in pairs, and therefore like the extra space, and have two incomes to split, but being just one person and already feeling daunted by driving a giant new van, I decided to go with a Ford Econoline, and forgo the headroom.
I'm notorious for making rash decisions, and once I've made up my mind I work fast and need result NOW. It drives me (and anyone else who gets roped in) crazy, but hey, it works. This is why I think it was only about a week of scanning Craigslist before I found a van that looked like a great deal. From my time scrolling I'd found a lot of Econolines in pretty bad condition - lots of rust, 200k+ miles, for $3k and up. Things were looking bleak until I happened upon one about an hour out of the Twin Cities, in Litchfield, MN. The Craigslist post said $3,000 2001 Ford Econoline, 68k miles. By the pictures there was very little rust, and looked in good condition. This was by far the most promising, almost too good to be true listing I'd seen so far, so my sister and I drove out the next day to check it out.
I've never bought a car on my own before, I've always had my dad or mom come with to make sure everything looks good, so I was pretty nervous to be there asking to test drive, and possibly buy, a giant cargo van by myself. To this day I still think it's weird that they just hand you the keys and let you go on your way - why on earth would you trust ME? I don't even trust me.
When we got out to the truck I pulled out the little scribbled note I'd written to make sure I checked all the important things:
-Engine Fluids (radiator, brake, coolant, and washer fluids)
Everything looked good as far as I could tell, so we hopped in and took it for a test drive. While I focused on driving and getting a feel for how it handled - gauging how well it accelerated, braked, and did at speeds over 50, I had my sister fiddle with the knobs and air conditioning on the dashboard to see how everything inside worked, and what kind of storage compartments there were. The back of the van was filled to the brim with metal shelving and an air compressors and commercial size generator, so with every bump and turn we rattled like crazy. It definitely didn't help my nerves, but that didn't stop me from getting more and more excited that I could be LEAVING with this truck, driving it home, calling it mine. By the time we arrived back at the lot, I didn't have much doubt left that I was going to be buying it.
We went inside and (though I'd seen the $3k asking price on Craigslist) asked the lady what kind of price they were looking for it. Before giving me their price she asked me what I was looking to spend, and I answered I was looking in the $2k price range, but willing to negotiate. She laughed, but called the owner and he said he'd settle for $2,300 (came to $2.4 after fees). Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh 20% discount? Sold. Can't lie, I'm pretty proud myself for this one. Went to the bank, paid cash, signed all the X's, and drove home with my brand spankin' new Used 2001 E250 Ford Econoline.
I couldn't stop grinning the whole hour drive home - even when 1/3 of the way there my other car died, needed to be towed, and ultimately junked. You win some, you lose some, life happens I guess. **shrug emoji**