Van Life

A Non-Traditional Way to Finance Your Van

You’ve searched all over, done your research, and decided you want Outside Van to build your perfect one-of-a-kind camper van. Yay, how exciting! You won’t be disappointed; I know I wasn’t with my build, Command Post.

Having decided on your builder, you now need to figure out how to pay for your new van. The decision to go the custom route and build a van with Outside Van comes with serious financial considerations. Here I’ll share how I financed my van in a non-traditional way so that I could afford to go the custom route and not sacrifice on quality when getting into the van life.

Outside Van’s financial payment plan is as follows: $2k down to start the design and secure a place in line, $10k down on your chassis (if you are having them secure that for you), and $10k down on your conversion. Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay this all at once.

outside van conversion command post

Outside Van’s Peak or Fusion programs offer two options for building your van. Want to design every detail for a 100% fully custom van? Peak is your path. Open to choosing from a selection of premium options? Go with Fusion; it is 10%-15% less expensive than Peak pricing and comes with a faster build time. On the Outside Van website select “Configure Your Van” to get a quote for a Fusion series build, or “Customize Your Van” to get a quote for a Peak series build. This of course is a quote; you’ll work with the Outside Van team to get an exact price for your specific build. When you are ready to start the process, you’ll pay the required $2K deposit. From there you’ll get a place in line, an idea of what your layout will be, and an exact amount due, as well as a timeline for when the other deposits are expected.

Here’s an example for a $250k build with 100 percent financing. Outside Van will apply the $2k from your design deposit to your total, leaving you with $248k to finance.  At the end of your conversion, most banks will consider your van to be an RV, so you can get RV financing. There are two key considerations with RV financing:

  • You can’t finance more than 80% of the total cost of the van; you’ll have to come up with the other 20%.
  • In order to qualify for an RV loan you must have a bathroom. Some sort of shower system and toilet will satisfy the requirement. If you weren’t planning on building a bathroom, traditional RV financing may not be the route for you. Alternatively, to satisfy this condition, you could temporarily put a $200 toilet in your van and remove it later once the bathroom condition had been met.

When calling banks you will likely encounter some nuance and variability to the above general rules. I spoke with multiple banks when financing my build. Some agents would have lengthy conversations with me and know exactly what I was talking about. Sometimes, I could call the same bank back, get another agent, and they’d tell me they didn’t finance custom conversions. It really depends on the agent you get when calling in. It can be frustrating. You must be willing to do your research to find the best bank to work with, but it will pay off!

outside van conversion command post

With your RV loan secured for 80% of the total price ($248k), that leaves you with 20%, or $49.6k, to come up with. Assuming you don’t have the cash on hand, you could borrow from a friend (that’s a really nice friend) or take out a personal loan from a bank. Note that personal loans will have a much higher interest rate than your RV loan, so you’ll want to pay it off as soon as possible!

If Outside Van is ordering your chassis, you’ll need to pay them the $10k deposit for them to place the order. If you have any money to put down on the van, ideally at least $10k, I suggest using that money now, prolonging when you need to take out the personal loan and ultimately prolonging when you need to start making payments with that high interest rate. If you don’t have cash, you’ll have to take out and start paying your personal loan now. Remember, depending on when Outside Van needs to order your chassis and how long the waiting list is, you could be making payments to your personal loan for months before getting your van.

Once you’ve made it to the front of the line and Outside Van starts building your conversion, you’ll pay them another $10k, presumably using funds from the personal loan. When Outside Van requires your final payment (30 days before your build is ready to pick up), you’ll submit the balance due using a combination of funds from the personal loan plus the RV loan to pay them in full. You’ll need to strategize when to apply for the RV loan, timing it with the start of your conversion. Most banks will need to go to underwriting to approve. In my case, the bank required four pictures of the outside of the van, and interior pictures that showed the living space, beds and bathroom.

Now you have a really, really cool van and two monthly payments! That’s not very sustainable, in my opinion. So, what to do now?

outside van conversion command post

To cover my loan payments, I started listing my van for rent on a curated platform called GoCamp. In the high season I charge $360 per night! That’s right. $360 PER NIGHT and the van is generally booked all summer. With a premium van like an Outside Van, realistically you can make up to 40K a year! In fact, that’s exactly how I paid off my personal loan in just a few months! Having only one payment every month is much more feasible.

There’s no obligation or contract to list your van with GoCamp. You can list it for a few months, a year or even longer. You can rent out your van just long enough to get your personal loan paid off and then take the listing down, or you could continue listing your van and pay the whole thing off way quicker. How awesome would it be to pay your RV loan off quickly and avoid paying all that interest!

I know you’re probably thinking, “I just spent $250k on my van, I want to use it myself before letting others use it.” That’s ok, you can still use your van whenever you want. But when you are not using it, renting is a great way to turn driveway downtime into easy income. Otherwise your van is just sitting there feeling depreciated. 😉

Rent out your van as much or as little as you want depending on your goals. With a great insurance policy, vetted renters, and customer service from a team of fellow van owners, with GoCamp you get peace of mind knowing you are covered if anything happens. To learn more,  sign up for their Road to Renting series, a quick introduction to everything you need to know to be successful in renting out your van. You are also very welcome to give me a call; I’m happy to answer any questions about my experience with Outside Van or with GoCamp.

Hailey Sandoval
Writer/Content Curator @callsignsandoval

*Please note, Outside Van doesn’t offer internal financing options at this time.*