The van life—or #vanlife—phenomenon began on social media several years ago with photos of twentysomethings peering out at beach and mountain vistas from vans decorated with flowing drapes and colorful quilts. The images took off on the internet and caught the attention of older consumers who not only can afford luxury setups, but are also at a point in life when they can take extended, if not permanent, time off.
Owners of van conversion shops say business is booming, thanks in large part to empty nesters and semi-retirees who can afford a custom van that, all included, can cost $100,000 and up. Blue Ridge Adventure Vehicles in Asheville, N.C., says its business has increased each year in the last three years. More than half of the customers at Vanlife Customs in Denver, are retired or semi-retired, owner Dave Walsh says.
“They’re getting rid of their giant motorhomes and doing this,” says Erik Ekman, owner of Outside Van in Portland, Ore. His business has doubled from a year ago, he says, thanks largely to consumers in their 50s and 60s. “That’s when you have the freedom, the mobility and the money,” he says.