Social media tells you van life is one big, exciting adventure, but looking at this itinerant way of life with rose-colored glasses can blind you to the realities of your choice. No matter how well you plan, your van can break down, leaving you stranded on the side of an unfamiliar street, halfway across the country.
Dealing with these unexpected issues — and repairs — can be difficult. Although van life is often cheaper than renting a condo or paying a mortgage, you might not be prepared to fork over the cash it takes to get back on the road.
Does a blown tire or broken timing belt signal the end of van life as you know it? Not quite—you have options, from borrowing online loans to negotiating bills. This article will go over some examples of popular types of online loans, plus other ways you can handle a van repair out of pocket.
Take Advantage of Roadside Assistance
A membership to the American Automotive Association (AAA) is one of the most important things a van lifer can have. For a minimal annual fee, your membership provides you with critical roadside assistance services. Their technicians are ready to jump your battery, install a spare tire, or unlock your van after you accidentally lock yourself out. They can also tow you to in-network auto shops within a certain radius of your breakdown.
Research Online Loans
Savings and credit cards are the best way to handle out of pocket towing fees and repairs. But what if you maxed out your credit on another unexpected repair? Or you drained your emergency fund covering an urgent care visit? Don’t panic — online loans might be able to stretch your budget.
Online loans include a variety of options, from additional credit cards, lines of credit, cash advances, and installment loans. Here’s a quick breakdown of what they mean:
- Cash Advance: Similar to a payday loan, a cash advance is a short term loan that you must repay in full by the due date, usually two weeks after you receiving your funds.
- Credit Card: You can charge your repairs to a new credit card and pay them back in full or in installments by your due date. Most credit companies apply interest and finance charges if you only make the minimum payment.
- Line of Credit: A line of credit is very similar to a credit card; however, it may come with a bigger limit and different rates.
- Installment Loan: An installment loan is like an extended cash advance; rather than repaying it in one lump sum, you make multiple payments spread out over time.
Negotiate with Companies and Mechanics
Are you charismatic and open to negotiation? You might be able to convince towing companies and auto shops to agree to a finance plan. Finance plans are like installment loans that let you pay your amount owing over time. Except instead of paying a lender, you pay these installments straight to the auto shop.
Not all companies are open to these negotiations, but it’s worth asking. You can also segue into a conversation about prioritizing patch repairs instead of a full fix. These patches can get you back on the road, giving you more time to come up with the money you need for a full repair.
Be Prepared for the Future
Stuck on the side of the road while your engine smokes isn’t what you thought van life would be like — but it happens. Road tripping around the continent can be hard on your van, especially if it’s an older model. Keep this in mind as you budget for the future. Sock away some savings in a “just-in-case” fund to help next time you break down.