By on July 19, 2018

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

There was an odd bit of PR posted to Ford’s media site this week — something that’s not altogether surprising, given the current socio-economic climate. You know about vans, right? Thought so. While the Econoline van is gone and the Windstar/Freestar a distant memory, Ford still has two boxes on wheels ready for the taking.

How’d you like to live in one?

Ford’s story concerns women who live in their vans — in most cases, as a temporary hotel room while on the road, but in another case as a full-time thing. Yes, that Transit or Transit Connect can be your log cabin in the woods if you so choose. Just be ready with that thermal foil and drill, but be aware that modifications might void your warranty.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

The message seems to be that empowerment, freedom, and rent-free (but not necessarily payment-free) living awaits. Of this, we have no doubt. Who doesn’t want to go camping with a large van? If you’re like me, and have a fear of tents — land sharks (bears) lurk everywhere, you know — then the cargo floor of a spacious commercial van seems like a pretty nice place to spend the night. On holiday? Think of the money you could save by choosing the Walmart parking lot over a suite overlooking the ocean. Hell, you might make friends with the owners of the RVs parked there.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

But to live in a Transit Connect? To spend your life seeking safe spots to park at night while showering at the YWCA in the morning? (“You get used to picking the right spots, and you just rely on common sense,” says van dweller Tasha Rivard). Is that really the life we should aspire to, or even promote? Sure, if you’re the artsy, creative, connected type who wants to go where the wind takes you while a string of paying clients remains just an email away, have at it. If a city or job beckons you to put down roots, the rental listings await. Far be it for me to tell a woman (or man) what to do.

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

I’m just not sure if an automaker can expect much of a draw from this would-be customer base. Certainly, if you’re living the stereotypical nomad life, that van probably left its warranty coverage behind during the Clinton administration. It’ll be held together with chewing gum and paper clips.

This type of #VanLife is a little more extreme than the vanning craze that spawned the vehicles you see here. It was expected that the cool guys driving these rigs owned or rented some sort of residence when they weren’t relaxing at the beach or drinking Miller and seeking out unwanted pregnancies outside the KISS concert.

So, tell me, B&B — am I overthinking this? Should automakers be allowed to promote their vehicles as rolling abodes free of guilt? And: have you ever felt the urge to live the van life yourself?

Image: Ford

[Images: Steph Willems/TTAC, Ford Motor Company]

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37 Comments on “QOTD: Is This Something We Should… Aspire To?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    As far as I’m concerned you cannot “live” in something that doesn’t have a working shower and toilet. You can sleep, travel even screw in a van, but without the plumbing it’s just a van

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    When I saw the words “Ford” and “Aspire”, I was expecting to read about a Korean-built, Mazda-based subcompact.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Also, I don’t think a cute chick that owns an MacBook Pro is likely to be living in a van.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Not without a gun and a can of mace

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      She paid more for the MacBook Pro than the van.

    • 0 avatar
      jagerninja

      You’d be surprised. It’s not unheard of (not common, but not unheard of) for millenial hipster professional types to go the van living route. People don’t want a mortgage, and rent keeps going up… so van living becomes an attractive option. Even better if you have a job you can work remotely, as then you just need your laptop and a mobile wi-fi hotspot to work from anywhere your van can take you.

      • 0 avatar
        srh

        There was a guy at google in the bay area who lived in a van in the google parking lot. If I were 25 and trying to live in the bay area, I can see going that route.

        Of course, I’m not a cute chick with a MacBook Pro.

        • 0 avatar
          dukeisduke

          Wasn’t it so he could pay off his student loans, and save up money to buy a permanent home? I remember reading that story. He showered in the onsite exercise facilities

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I see this as a further extension of the “micro home”. Not for me, but I think there is appeal in it to some, especially if it becomes legitimized on social media. If Ford could pay some big hipster influencer to live in a van they’d have a smash

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Wow, vans keep popping up. I watched the documentary on Netflix about vans. I recommend it; it was an interesting watch. I suppose it is nostalgia, but the vans of the 70’s and 80’s really are super cool when one considers the amount of customization that went into them. Seemingly, no two are the same.

    The question: Should automakers be allowed to promote their vehicles as rolling abodes free of guilt?

    Of course they can. Nothing morally wrong with it and if that is the life you aspire to, go for it. One would think an up fitter would get in on this trend/fad and have some low cost conversion options available.
    Their a fair amount of jobs that are available for tech savvy individuals that allow for remote work, all you need is a good internet connection which Verizon is more than happy to provide that for you just about anywhere with one of their Jetpacks. I suspect the small group of people who are living this way are in fact not broke transients. They are employed or self-employed income generating transients who are contributing to society in their own way and perhaps not using many of the resources the rest of use on a daily basis.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I like the Transit Connect LWB but dang, give me more power Ford! (250 hp turbo 4 would be appreciated)

    At any rate. I don’t see living in a van either. Having been born in 1977 there were times in my misspent youth when I might have had fantasies about a “shaggin’ wagon” but that was before I understood anything about female psychology.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Well I did have a full sized Dodge ‘disco’ van in the late 1970’s with the requisite captain’s chairs, bed and lighting. So those pictures do bring back some memories.

    But live in it???????

    Although, quite honestly there are times when I can appreciate selling everything after retirement and living in a largish RV.

    • 0 avatar
      Sub-600

      Ozzy Osbourne is the new Charles Kuralt.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Vans are wonderful for a weekend at the race track (one of the reasons I have the Sedona and gutted the seats on day one), but not for living. As in 24/7, if the weather packs in you shut the doors and windows and just hunker down until the front moves on.

      That, by definition, is an RV. And I’ve been around both enough to know that adding plumbing to a box on four wheels at least doubles, if not triples, the complexity of the unit. And makes it livable.

      Live in it? RV. Period.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I guess there’s nothing wrong with living in a van. As long as it’s not an old Econoline and you’re not asking for help finding your puppies.

  • avatar
    mikey

    To answer the QOTD , I don’t see an issue with manufacturers promoting the vehicle for such use. What if somebody is assaulted, or robbed in the Walmart parking lot ? By promoting the product as a substitute home, would the manufactures be libel ?

    Personally I agree with” Lie2Me”.. The lack of plumbing would be a deal breaker for me, and especially any lady friends .

  • avatar
    ernest

    Depends. Can we talk Sprinter 4X4 Adventure Van, self contained?

  • avatar
    Damian P.

    I know about a motivational speaker who lived in a van back in the nineties. Parked it down by a river.

  • avatar
    srh

    I sometimes daydream about it. Not permanently, mind you. I need my acreage, and trees blocking the sight and sound of others. But I could definitely imagine spending 6 months driving around the country in a van. The main problem is that vans are a short-person’s game.

    A medium-roof van is great for someone under 5’10” or so to stand and sleep width-wise. North of 6′, though, and you need to get a high roof van and the sleeping arrangements become significantly more challenging. To really make that work you need to look at a long wheelbase, and a long wheelbase high-roof van is a very big vehicle.

    I actually bought a Transit a couple years ago. The primary motivation was to help with a couple house moves and as an overnight camping- and biking-vehicle. It served both those purposes admirably but it also highlighted the “short”comings of that configuration for 76” tall me.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I watch a lot of these videos on YouTube frequently. I kind of like the idea of being able to be on the road, seeing a different landscape. Many of these folks are working in tech fields where all they need is a wi fi connection of some sort. If I were a younger person, this might actually be a valid lifestyle for me.

    Someday, I will retire and would like to be able to use a van to do some short term camping in, even if I need to have an overnight stay at Wal Mart to get to my destination. Most of the YT videos I watch are about which van to choose and how to kit them out. I’m kind of surprised too, that there are few upfitters producing kits for the massive amounts of vans out there. I know of a couple for the NV 200 and the smaller Promaster, but you’d think someone would make kits for the big three of minivans, GC/T&C, Sienna and Odyssey. Maybe the #VanLife folks don’t view minivans as suitable material.

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      I find that there is no shortage of upfitters, at least in my PNW area. Portland and Denver seem to be hotbeds of van upfitting. But they all want $100K or so for what seems like a modestly equipped van.

      I imagine that’s because even a “standard configuration” has a fair bit of customization. And between the NV200, Transit, Sprinter, and ProMaster along with all the various length/height configurations there’s a lot of variations to work with.

      Whenever I’ve started watching the myriad YT videos or reading articles on doing the conversion myself, I usually get scared off.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Sure the manufacturers should be able to promote it, why not?

    But as to doing it? Oh H3LL no! I have no interest in spending the night in anything that isn’t big enough to have a bathroom where I don’t have to sit on the toilet to take a shower. Never mind something with no bathroom facilities at all. That is why Dog invented the hotel.

    I actually looked into used RVs when I first contemplated becoming a snowbird. And rapidly discovered that even though you can buy a nice used RV for peanuts, the monthly cost of a decent place to put it for a winter in FL wildly exceeds the monthly cost of a decent house in Florida even before factoring in the benefits of FL residency. And the cost of gas to drive it back and forth to Maine is a world of hurt too. Especially as I fly and/or stay in hotels for free.

  • avatar
    Matt Posky

    I once did an extensive road trip where I spent the majority of it sleeping in a van at various campsites. Having to do something like that for more than a couple of weeks seems ill advised. While I was technically alive, I wouldn’t call it “living.”

    That said, we are probably heading in this direction as a society. You’ll either live in a mansion and own a private jet or become a nomad traveling the country looking for part-time office work. The silver lining to all of this? VANS ARE COMING BACK, BABY!

    • 0 avatar
      Sub-600

      When I was a teenager back in the ‘70s there plenty of guys who weren’t even into cars, everything was vans. Chevy vans were highly sought after. The paint jobs were crazy on some of those things, murals that would cost a fortune these days. Faux bubble windows and ladders that went nowhere were also essential. Inside you had to have an 8-track with “quadraphonic” sound. I’d like to see them come back.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I’ll def be one of the “van folk”…

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    This ain’t the hippy days no mo’. Back then, such a rig was a “Love Machine” covered in gorgeous air-brushed art and a true palace on wheels. It was the beginning of the Class B motorhome. Today’s Class B is commercially built but it’s still possible to do it yourself, possibly as well as Elkhart did back in the 70s.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Ford is actually advocating an illegal act. It’s not lawful to be homeless, or a full-time RV’er, especially if you have funds to pay the fines.

    If you’re homeless, live on dirt and broke, no one cares enforce US laws on you.

    Paying your rent/mortgage/utilities and otherwise “keeping a home” even if that’s most of your bring-home pay, helps keep the US afloat and the wheels turning.

    It’s also illegal to be “off grid”.

    In fact, I don’t know of any US state that establishes driver’s licenses or IDs without 2 month’s utility bills in your name.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      That’s funny because in my state you have 14 days from the day you move into the state to obtain your driver’s license and/or register your vehicle(s) in the state. Pretty hard to come up with 2 month’s of utility bills.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    I lived in what was later called a “Mini-van” for about 6 months almost 50 years ago. I was “between jobs” and did not have enough money from previous employment to pay first/last/deposit on an apartment. You learn how to do things differently in that situation. Of course this was long before the term “molester van” or the sticker “Don’t Laugh, Your Daughter Might Be Inside”.
    It was a lot easier to find a place to park for the night then. Less competition and fewer security guards.
    Years later when I got a van with built in camping stuff, beds, cabinets, water tank, sink, etc, it was easier to go on trips of up to two weeks. You learn where you can find showers for free or cheap (often in State Parks) and other tricks of the road.
    I don’t think I’ll have to do that again, but if necessary I know I can.


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