Van Life Doesn’t Need to Be Expensive—Just Ask These Guys
Dave Ramsay and Matt Felser, the Colorado duo behind Dave & Matt Vans, want van life to be accessible for everybody.
Dave Ramsay and Matt Felser know what it’s like to live on the road. While working as a teacher, Felser spent four months converting his van into a “personal travel vehicle” for trips after realizing that if he “wanted something affordable, I would have to build it myself.”
Ramsay left a New York City finance job to start his own business, prompting a need to cut back. “I could live in someone’s basement or finance a van to live in,” Ramsay recalls. “I went with the van.”
Fast forward 10 years: The Colorado duo started Dave & Matt Vans, creating affordable vans with rental and financing options to destigmatize the idea that the lifestyle needs to be expensive. “We came up with the tagline ‘Live What You Love,’ because we want van life to enable people to follow any dream, outdoors or not,” Ramsay says.
So, we caught up with the pair to talk about their vision to diversify and expand what van life looks like in the West.
What features set apart your base vans?
Felser: All of our vehicles come with everything you need and nothing you don’t at a price you can afford. There’s a lot of space for people to bring themselves into the vans—we don’t add a bunch of stuff. Our bare-bones [models] have full electrical; everything runs off a battery system that charges off a solar panel and while you drive.
Ramsay: We don’t put a wet bath in our vans—a room with a toilet and a shower—which we think is a huge waste of space. All of our toilet options tuck into storage options as well as the showers which you can set up in just a few minutes. We take a minimalistic approach, which has created a unique vehicle in our market.
How do your financing options make van life more affordable?
Felser: It stems from our mission to make van life accessible for everybody and that starts with a price point. We can’t offer access to people if they can’t afford it, so making it an option that is attainable is important to us. We partnered with a financial company that will help offer loans for our customers to borrow as much or as little as they need to finance one of our cars. By living in your van, that one loan payment can be your rent and car payment in one—plus these assets hold their value. Unlike a vehicle—when you drive them off the lot, they lose value—we’ve seen our vehicles hold their value for a year or two.
Ramsay: What’s unique about our approach is that we actually lived the lifestyle, which we realized a lot of the big owners don’t and didn’t do. It’s actually pretty hard to strip a vehicle down to just the essentials, so we had to be thoughtful based on our experiences about what people need no matter what. Once we took away a lot of the extras, we were able to offer a base model at a more reasonable price.
Can you tell us about your “Diversify Van Life” project, which encourages van life for more people of color in support of community-oriented goals?
Felser: A couple in L.A. was able to start their business by living in one of our vans. We were able to support a prayer run for an Indigenous woman who ran 50 miles with the safety of one of our vans at her side. We know we have a voice and we are using it to listen and learn from others while also amplifying and communicating their needs to our community, and the larger outdoors community as a whole.
Ramsay: A lot of people are focused on “Look how cool a van is,” and that’s important to us but the van is secondary in our minds to reach a broader goal. The van enables people to take shots at dreams that might not seem feasible.
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