Britt Ruggiero and Justin Giuffrida bought a 2002 Bluebird school bus in February 2021, with plans to convert it into a 10-foot-tall house on wheels. At the time, diesel prices in their home state of Colorado averaged around $3 a gallonequal to the national average.
New to #vanlife’s nomadic living trend, the engaged couple gutted their bus, which they call the G Car, created a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, and installed plumbing and solar energy. They also mapped out an ambitious one-year, cross-country trip: First they would travel to Florida, then north to Long Island, then see California from top to bottom, before heading back southeast for the winter break. They set out in March, but quickly realized that gas prices were not what they expected.
“We actually all drove to Florida in one weekend, and that was quite a slap in the face,” said 29-year-old Mr. Giuffrida of refueling the bus. “We estimate it would cost about $200 and lately it was about $300.” With a 60-gallon tank and fuel economy of about 8 to 10 miles per gallon, the G Wagon needed gasoline every four hours. The couple’s first trip cost them nearly $2,000 in gas alone.
By mid-March, the national average for a gallon of diesel was up to $5.25, and has continued an unwelcome gain since then, with the price hitting an average of $ . this week5.72 a gallon, while the national average price of unleaded gas reached $5 a gallon† These are highest average prices ever registered, according to AAA, the auto group, just as the busy summer driving season begins.
Mrs. Ruggiero, 30, and Mr. Giuffrida are still on their way, currently in Santa Cruz, California, after a recent stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. But in response to gas prices, they’ve adjusted their journey, spending more time in each destination and eliminating some stops in national parks from their itinerary.
“We certainly don’t let that year of construction work go to waste,” said Ms. Ruggiero.
Like countless other vanlife travelers, they adapt to cut costs. By staying longer at destinations, using gas apps and signing up for fuel cards, vanlifers can stay on the road without giving up the freedom their lifestyle offers.
Jupiter Estrada, a 28-year-old RV owner from Texas who uses s/he pronouns, has been on the road since 2020 and has no plans to settle down. “Gas is very expensive; that’s not up for debate’, they said. “But I’m in a really good position where gas is essentially my rent. My backyard is wherever I want.”
#Vanlife trend accelerates during pandemic
While the specific number of vanlifers in the United States is not clear, the trend kicked off in 2020, thanks to low gas prices and a pandemic that prompted travelers to rethink airplanes and other public transportation options, while allowing them to work remotely. But even before the coronavirus made its way to the United States, #vanlife hashtag on Instagram was full of beautiful travel photos of influencers who chose to live and work remotely in converted vans, buses and RVs. (While Instagram makes life look glamorous, these travelers face a lot of challenges: finding free or cheap parking at night, sharing cramped living spaces with partners and pets, and for many, the searching for the next shower or toilet.)
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Chris Kochan, 31, and his girlfriend, Sarah Shaeffer, 26, started the skoolielivin.com website after purchasing a school bus in 2018 to explore their home state of Wisconsin.
Even with higher gas prices and more people going back to the office, skoolielivin.com, where travelers can buy and sell used buses and share tips on bus renovation and travel, continues to grow in popularity. increase in site traffic in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. There is one notable change.
“We have seen an increase in people asking about the fuel consumption of various buses and the cost of living of the bus,” said Mr Kochan. “However, it doesn’t appear to have slowed down interest in living a nomadic lifestyle in a converted school bus.”
In addition to school buses, RVs and motorhomes are popular options for living on the road. While the type of fuel may vary based on the make and model of the vehicle, most school buses run on diesel, which is often more expensive than unleaded gasoline. Camper vans, which range in price from $100,000 to $200,000 before adjustment, have the best gas mileage, hitting between 20 and 30 miles per gallon, while school buses and RVs typically get 8 to 15 miles per gallon.
On top of the cost of fuel, amenities that out-of-life people take for granted — plumbing, heating — can add up to thousands of dollars in conversion costs. Mr Kochan and Mrs Shaeffer brought adding over $4,500 from a wood stove, propane oven, water tanks and a toilet to their vehicle.
The start-up costs are not minimal. Take Mrs. Ruggiero and Mr. Giuffrida: the classic RVs and walk-behind tractors they thought cost $100,000 for the vehicle and necessary live-work. Instead, they paid $4,500 for the bus and $25,000 for the conversion.
According to Ms. Ruggiero, gas prices were considered, but they didn’t think it would be a problem. In Colorado, they paid an estimated $2,000 a month in living expenses.
“Even if we travel every weekend, the gas price will never exceed that,” she said. “Then, of course, things changed.”
Slow down for summer
While some travelers are content to avoid states with the most expensive fuel, such as California, Nevada, and Illinois, others have made the choice to save money by parking in one place for months, working freelance gigs, and waiting for fuel prices to rise. drop.
Berkeley Martinez and Monica Ourada are parked in Bellingham, Washington, on the Bureau of Land Management property and have lived in their 1991 Dodge B250 motorhome since December.
“We didn’t plan on staying long, and then gas prices skyrocketed to about $5 a gallon,” said Mr. Martinez, 29. “We just realized it would be better if we stayed close.” for a bit. It’s been half a year now.”
The couple plans to stay parked all summer, avoiding the hottest and most expensive travel season of the year, and hoping September 2022 brings cheaper gas prices across the country.
“Our goal is to leave after Labor Day,” said Ms. Ourada, 26. The couple will review gas prices, she said: If they’re “$4, or hopefully less than $4, we’ll probably travel a lot faster.” , staying in one place for four to five days at a time before you leave. If the prices stay where they are, we’ll probably find a place to explore for a month or two.”
Navod Ahmir, 28, slows down. The 28-year-old finance officer has recorded his travels online in his 2018 Ford Transit. navodthenomad since 2020. Last year, he landed a job that allowed him to work completely remotely while driving from his home state of North Carolina to California. Now the challenge he faces is budgeting for another trip across the country.
“I just got back from California and East Coast gas prices are exactly how California used to feel,” he said. “But once I cross again, I’m thinking about slowing down to save money. Usually I drive through a state in two or three days and then spend a day there before moving on. Now I am considering staying in each state for two or three weeks.”
Jupiter road, 28, the content creator from Texas, has been bouncing around New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California and Baja, Mexico since 2020.
“It used to cost $150 to get a full tank in my new RV, and now it’s almost $250,” they said. “I was in Utah a few weeks ago and the gas was about $4.80. I shed a single tear as I crossed the Colorado border and saw gasoline for $3.89.” They have also started using apps like GasBuddy to plan their route.
Carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles running on diesel or regular petrol stimulating climate change and the small particulate matter from exhaust pipes has negative effects on human health. But those looking for cleaner fuel alternatives may be out of luck. An electric van from Volkswagen the ID. fuss, offers a range of 300 miles, but is currently only available in Europe. Ford’s E-Transit Pro has a range of up to 126 miles and is intended for commercial customers.
Rob Novotny is the founder and owner of glampervanthat builds custom vans in Oakland, California. He said travelers could benefit from better options for electric vans, but the current battery range is too limited.
“Having an electric van with a short range means that your independence is now being curtailed,” said Mr Novotny. “Especially if you’re in the middle of Death Valley and they only have three Tesla charging stations.”
Mr. Ahmir, for example, remains addicted to the freedom and opportunity offered by the nomadic lifestyle, regardless of the expensive fuel.
“Before the pandemic, I hadn’t traveled far beyond my surrounding states,” he said. “This has opened so many doors to do many different things and do it whenever I want.”