#VanLife: People are converting vans into homes to avoid paying the high price of rent

Posted at 4:53 PM, Nov 23, 2018

SAN DIEGO — With picture-perfect views, San Diego appears to be a flawless place to live. However, with the average rent for an apartment around $2,000 and the cost to purchase a home around $600,000, America’s finest city loses some of its appeal.

“Everybody said you’re set with your life,” Chris Allen explains.

Allen is a former Navy rescue diver, swim coach, husband and dog dad who fell on hard times because of a bad motorcycle accident.

“I had like a 9 percent chance to live,” Allen said.

This accident forced him out of work for six months, so he started living in his van. He ended up converting his van to include a fridge, a fold out bed, lighting and uses a bucket with kitty litter for the restroom. Now a year later, he’s embraced van life and says it provides a chance to travel and save money.

“It’s more freedom, but at the same time it’s more responsibility,” Allen said.

Allen isn’t alone. During a weekend meet-up, around 300 vans and van-lifers packed Fiesta Island in California to explore each other's vans, and discuss life on the road.

Liz Bryant, who works as a social media influencer, is living in a converted Mercedes sprinter van. She said she started living in her van for the freedom. 

“We don’t want to be tied down to an apartment. We don’t want to be tied down to a monthly payment,” Bryant said. 

Sky Montrell is moving into her van because she is tired of throwing away $3,000 a month on rent. 

“The cost of living in LA is crazy,” Montrell said. 

The "van life movement" has made a mark on social media. The hashtag #VanLife has been used more than 4 million times. 

Even though the movement is growing in popularity, sleeping in your vehicle on city streets in San Diego isn’t allowed. Those who do it are willing to risk a ticket or have to move around from location to location. 

Currently, there is a lawsuit filed against the city of San Diego pushing for a lift on the ban against people living in their vehicles and parking on city streets for long hours. The city declined KGTV's request for comment because the matter is ongoing.

Breanne Acio runs SD Camper Vans and converts vans for people looking for life on wheels. She says she’s seen an increase in customers recently. 

“A lot of people are downsizing," Acio said, "and they are putting their lives first and doing things they thought they could only do when they’re 65 and retired."