Couple Transforms Old Van Into Portable Tiny Home

More couples are looking into micro, portable living as they don't want to pay for expensive monthly rent. Sarah and Alex Jones ditched their old lifestyle and converted a Dodge Sprinter van for $35,000 so they can work and travel at the same time.


May 13 2019, Updated 5:15 p.m. ET

For some of us, living in a big house isn't very desirable. In fact, some people prefer an all around more flexible and mobile lifestyle. While the tiny house trend has certainly gained a lot of traction, people are starting to reimagine what constitutes a home to begin with. Take, for example, the families who are turning old buses and vans into mobile homes. Sarah and Alex James, businesses coaches themselves, are showing people how they unhooked from their conventional office jobs to live, work, and travel in a nine-year-old Dodge Sprinter van. 

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Called “40 Hours of Freedom,” Sarah and Alex ditched their traditional living arrangements and joined the movement of younger people converting large vehicles into homes. Both of them enjoyed traveling and had the ability to work from home, making the transition especially plausible. When they thought about going tiny, they knew their first step would be gutting their old Dodge and getting to work.

The process began when the couple bought it for $25,000 with around 50,000 miles already on it. With the aid of family help and knowing how to construct homes, another $10,000 was spent to upgrade the vehicle with solar panels, a combination bathroom, a full kitchen, and additional storage space.

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For the kitchen, they ended up using a bathroom sink due to its size, giving them more room for countertop and storage space. There’s enough room for a small refrigerator that uses little energy. They even have a small freezer! For the sake of saving space, they also hang all their fruits and vegetables in a little hammock above the countertops.

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One of the more expensive, but important additions, was a self-cleaning sliding door that entered the private bathroom. It’s a combination of a shower and a toilet all in one room, and this specific door would keep things clean and fresh. Since they would be traveling frequently, the couple opted to not deal with waste outside of urination. They admitted on their blog that it’s not for everyone, but it works for them.

As for energy, they’ve elected to have combination solar panels and battery storage. There are three 100-watt solar panels installed on the top of the van. Three 12-volt batteries are inside and there’s even a monitor installed to show how much power is available to use. Plumbing is all done with a couple of water tanks for the bathroom and kitchen sink holding 10-20 gallons, and water pumps are equipped along with them.

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In order to save additional room, the couple have a combination dining table and bed. This area is also where they work. Some people recommend never working where you sleep, but it’s a little different when the area can completely transform to sitting upright at a table and then comfortably resting on a custom-made memory foam mattress.

Both Sara and Alex also share the living space with two small dogs, Bambi and Nugget. Obviously, having to live out of a van requires a lot of sacrifices and being extremely comfortable with your partner. But for those that feel adventurous and don’t like being cooped up in the same living space, it could be a wonderful and obviously eco-conscious experience.

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