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Van Life Academy Review: Online Courses for Van Life Beginners

Have you daydreamed about making the leap to van life but feel absolutely overwhelmed by how to start the process?

I 100% understand. I spent nearly six months having weekly mild anxiety attacks as I roughly navigated the world of van builds with my 1999 Ford E250. I had zero van build experience previously under my belt and I was learning something new every day.

If the Van Life Academy online course by Project Van Life had existed during my van build days, I would’ve used it to help guide me through the van conversion process and keep me on track. And truthfully, be the moral support I didn’t know I needed. Because building a van is where the van life journey really begins, and it’s a lot more emotional than you may expect.

So, what is the Van Life Academy and does it make sense for you? Let’s dive in to my in-depth review.

What is Van Life Academy?


Van Life Academy is a collection of online courses that takes you through every step of the van build process, from start to finish. Created by one of the leading forces in the van life community, Project Van Life, the course content is packed with money saving tips, the exact processes used by expert van builders, and ultimately designed to make the van conversion process easy.

In the words of the Van Life Academy creators, “Our objective is to enable you to live van life in the fastest and most affordable way possible…”. That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?


My Overall Thoughts on Van Life Academy

I think Van Life Academy is an impressive all-in-one resource for anyone who wants to try their hand at building a van, regardless of their mechanical, electrical or build experience. Between the tutorial videos, step by step articles (that often come with nice little diagrams, great for those electronic schematics), and even supply lists of all the tools and materials needed, Van Life Academy sets you up for van build success.

Do I think you’ll still run into problems during your build that the course can’t necessarily directly answer? Yes, because every van build is unique and unless you have an expert van builder chaperoning every step of your build process, you WILL run into challenges. But, that’s where resources like the Project Van Life online forum can be a life saver.

Biggest Perks of Van Life Academy (In My Opinion)


Judging from my own van build experience as a newbie to van builds, three areas that I struggled a lot with were:

  • Knowing which tools and materials I NEEDED to buy (versus thought I needed, or just wanted)

  • Easily avoidable common mistakes related to mechanics, electrical systems, or build design–had I even a general understanding of the principles in these areas, I could’ve saved countless hours.

  • Always wondering if I was using the “best” approach for each aspect of the build

That’s where the Vanlife Academy shines at providing you with all of that knowledge right out of the gates. It uses proven processes from expert vanlifers who have refined their build approaches over the years. Instead of relying on a solo van builder’s tutorial on, say, setting up solar, you instead have access to 6+ different van builders and their solar approach. You get a well-rounded view of how to handle each build aspect. That’s pretty invaluable.

The Vanlife Academy is for you if you:

  • Have zero to minimal knowledge on how to approach a van build

  • Are looking for van build design inspiration for vans of all shapes and sizes

  • Want grocery-shopping style lists of supplies needed for each step of the van build

  • Need to stay on or under budget with your van build

  • Learn best through both video tutorials and how-to articles

  • Want to grow your community of like-minded van life individuals

What Does Van Life Academy Cover?

Van Life Academy covers all aspects of living van life, which includes:

  • Preparing for van life

    • Run through a series of questions to help you determine if van life is right for you. Learn how to set your van build budget and expectations. Use a cool vanalyzer tool that automatically chooses the best van for you based on style, condition, and budget. Even learn how to properly inspect a van before buying it–this is SUCH a helpful resource!

  • Planning your van build

    • Learn how to set your van build priorities, check out some beautiful van build inspiration, determine your schedules and timelines, identify the tools you’ll need versus the tools you’ll want (both are valid), how to gut your van, and ultimately–which van build from which vanlife expert you want to model your own build after!

  • Van build theory

    • How the heck do you insulate a van and set up the electrical system? And what do you need to know before installing a water and plumbing system or kitchen appliances like a mini fridge or stove? This chapter aims to familiarize you with the concepts behind each of these critical van build steps, so no matter what van build style you choose, you have some fundamental knowledge about how each is set up.

  • Van build tutorials

    • Ah, you are now entering the meat of Van Life Academy. You’ll be presented with at least six different van build designs by different expert van builders. It’s up to you to decide which van build design you want to model your own build after! This is the most exciting part! From building the inner and outer shells of your van, rear benches, cabinets, bathroom, kitchen, core plumbing and electrical–get ready to dive in DEEP.

  • Life on the road

    • Vanlife Academy doesn’t stop at the end of the van build; it offers a whole chapter on how to adjust to living on the road. From tips on how to make money on the road, common issues you may run into, even legal aid for van life auto insurance or health insurance.

  • Document your progress

    • This is a fun section that’s mostly dedicated to YOU sharing YOUR experience with Van Life Academy. Whether you want to be featured on their social media channels, give a testimonial, or even become a referral partner, it’s a great way to engrain yourself in the Project Van Life community and gain van life connections before you’re even on the road!

How Much Does Van Life Academy Cost?

Get instant lifetime access to Van Life Academy for $97–which is 50% off their full price (I’m not sure when the deal ends). Given most van builders sell their own online courses for ~$99, that’s a good deal since you get the expertise of 6+ van builders; not just one.

If you are seriously interested in living van life and have a million questions, then Vanlife Academy is a worthwhile investment. Whether you want to be on the road in three months or three years, you will have lifetime access to all of Vanlife Academy’s resources, so you can always go at your own pace and not feel rushed.

Summing It Up

Well, there ya have it! Is Vanlife Academy for you? It’s always a little intimidating at the beginning to make the leap, but these courses are here to make the leap easier–and they will stick by your side through the whole process.

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