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‘Burnt out’ Aussie reveals why he quit his job for cheaper van life

Paul Price is currently living in his van full-time and says it’s “far cheaper” than his old life.

Paul Price was “burning the candle at both ends” when he decided to swap his 9-to-5 job for life on the road.

The 51-year-old first caught the van life bug in 2018, thanks to YouTube. That’s when he and wife Michelle purchased their first van, a Mercedes Sprinter, and spent the next two years renovating it.

Paul finished building the van just before the COVID lockdowns began in 2020. With domestic travel booming, he decided to rent out the van to earn some extra cash.

Images of Paul and Michelle Price and their van travels.
Paul and Michelle have taken a year off work to travel and live in their van. (Source: Supplied)

“It cost me $65,000 to buy the van and fit it out and, in the first year after the lockdowns finished, it generated over $25,000 in income from hires,” Paul told Yahoo Finance.

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The van was booked out so much that Paul decided to buy a second van for him and Michelle to use themselves. This cost them around $70,000 to buy and fit out.

The couple then embarked on their first van trip - a two-month adventure to North Queensland - and haven’t looked back since.

They are now in the middle of a 14-month lap of Australia and have taken a year off work to travel and live in their van full-time.

Paul Price's renovated Mercedes Sprinter van.
The couple spent $70,000 on their Mercedes Sprinter van. (Source: Supplied)

Quitting the grind

Paul was previously juggling three jobs as a business broker, small business owner and real estate trainer, and said he was feeling burnt out.

“I achieved the goal of generating substantial income but I totally burned myself out doing it, to such an extent that I needed to seek assistance from a psychologist,” Paul said.

Once the couple had made the decision to do van-life full-time, Paul stepped back from the business broking and quit working as a real estate trainer. The couple also sold their stake in the small business.

Image of Paul and Michelle Price.
Paul and Michelle are travelling in their van for 14 months. (Source: Supplied)

Paul said he’d found van life to be “far cheaper” than regular life.

“In normal life, Uber Eats and eating out was a regular occurrence as we were so busy,” Paul said.

“We are now 18 weeks into our van life journey and we almost never eat out and we make almost every meal that we eat. Our food bill each week has halved.”

Financial snapshot: The weekly cost of van life

Item

Cost

Accommodation

$216.31

Fuel

$173.71

Groceries

$239.91

Eating out

$58.84

Alcohol

$44.61

Entertainment (tours, sightseeing)

$82.84

Mechanical

$74.53

Misc

$26.19

Total

$916.94

Is it cheaper?

Van life can be a cheaper option for some, particularly when you consider how much rental and mortgage costs have soared.

Finder data found Aussies were spending $372 per week on rent and $549 per week on mortgage repayments, on average. Both are well above the $216 per week Paul is spending on paid campsites and caravan parks.

But Finder money expert Angus Kidman said Aussies also needed to factor in the costs of paying off the van itself, plus other related costs.

“The van will need regular maintenance and those vehicle expenses that can offset some of the savings,” Kidman told Yahoo Finance.

You’ll also pay more for fuel. The average Aussie spends about $60 per week on fuel, while Paul is spending an average of $174 per week. Then there are things like caravan or motorhome insurance to consider.

“Van life can potentially offer freedom and mobility, but there are a lot of factors and costs to consider,” Kidman said.

Paul Price travels
Here's a look at some of their adventures so far. (Source: Supplied)

Making van life work

Paul and Michelle are able to travel full-time without needing to work or eat into their savings, thanks to a few different income sources.

“I still generate some income from my business-broking business, we have rented out our home - which is mortgage free - we have two investment properties that are slightly positively geared, and we still have the first van hired out through Camplify,” Paul said.

“It sounds like a lot but, realistically, the net income we get from all of this is only just enough to cover our costs whilst we travel.”

Image of Paul Price with flies on his back and Michelle Price lying in hammock.
But there are some downsides, including the flies. (Source: Supplied)

For Paul and Michelle, the best thing about van life is the ability to set their own timelines and change their plans on the spur of the moment.

While Michelle found it difficult being away from their family and friends, Paul said there was just one thing he wished he had.

“I personally love it but I really miss having a comfortable lounge chair to sit in.”

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