Sabrina & Wes

We are digital nomad overlanders who live, work, and travel from our ’11 Jeep Wrangler.
The Jeep Build

Is this Affordable?

5 Min

Naturally the first question we receive, right after giving a walk-through of the Jeep is “How much did all of this cost you…”. In this post, I hope to show that no matter your financial situation, with some planning and dedication you can build your own house on wheels and travel the world!

For some background info, Sabrina and I were paying $1,200 in base rent, not including utilities, at our 2 bedroom apartment in Raleigh. The money paid in rent doesn’t add to our wealth or life experience, it’s money thrown out the window just to live in the suburbs of Raleigh. The goal of the Jeep build is to build a house on wheels that can take us anywhere we want to go while being cheaper than $1,200 a month.

Here is an account of how much the base platform cost us and potential ways to make it more affordable. For a more detailed account of everything we’ve done to the Jeep, including a price breakdown, checkout the “Jeep Build” post!

Base Living

When we were designing our lifestyle, we decided we wanted our rig to go wherever our imagination would take us, on pavement or far beyond any dirt trail. This meant first, finding a vehicle that could handle being driven off-road and easily modified. The Jeep JK Unlimited Rubicon was exactly what we needed.

  • Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Rubicon 111k miles: $23,000

Your sleeping requirements will probably drive your vehicle choice more than anything else. Although it is possible to create an internal sleeping platform in the Jeep, Sabrina and I opted for something more comfortable and dedicated to sleep. Traditional rooftop tents require heavy cages, have a high center of gravity, and can be a pain to setup and teardown night to night. The Ursa Minor J30 solved all these problems and has been an incredible solution for Sabrina and I.

Many people lift their off-roading rigs for fun, style, or to fit larger tires. In our case, the extra weight of all the gear and the Popup Camper was too much for the stock Jeep coils. Whenever we hit a bump, we would frequently feel the Jeep bottom out. Sabrina and I chose to install a modest 2.5″ lift kit with heavy duty coil sprints (this lifts the entire Jeep up 2.5″ from where it traditionally sat) to help offset the additional weight we put in the rig.

Total: 32,200

Thats the base system… It can be done cheaper, and it can be endlessly more expensive, but this is how Sabrina and I wanted to configure it for our lifestyle.

Cheaper Alternatives

Vehicle

The fastest way to save money is to sacrifice the requirement of off-roading. This would allow you to purchase a much wider range of vehicles. Common alternatives include:


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  • Honda Element
  • Mercedes-Benz/Dodge Sprinter Van
  • Ford Flex
  • Dodge Caravan
  • Toyota Prius: My coworker Devan is traveling the US in his!

If you’re not willing to give up off-roading, you can still find cheaper vehicles that are equally or more equipped than stock Jeeps.

  • Ford F150
  • Toyota FJ Cruiser (Not much cheaper)
  • Jeep Cherokee XJ
  • Jeep TJ
  • Suzuki Samurai

With all vehicles, the older their model and the more miles they have, the cheaper they are going to be. You have to be careful though, the older the vehicle, the more likely it needs serious mechanical work done to it. Part of the fun is finding the cheapest vehicle that needs as little extra work done as possible. One way to save money is to learn how to fix an older vehicle!

Sleeping Arrangements

Sabrina and I got a little crazy with our sleeping arrangements, the Ursa Minor J30 was one of the main reasons we ended up getting a Jeep. We love everything about it, but it did come with a hefty price tag… There are several ways to save money on your sleeping arrangement.

  • Ground Tent: If you’re young, limber and have stamina, you can use a ground tent. A ground tent, with a sleeping pad and sleeping bag will get you through all four seasons and is a very lightweight and cheap solution to sleeping.
  • Interior Sleeping Platform: With a little bit of woodworking skill, you can build your own sleeping platform inside your vehicle. Obviously this varies depending on the type of vehicle you have, but often, modern vehicles have seats that fold down and give you a level place to sleep. Checkout the platform I built for the Jeep and the DIY guide on how to create one for your vehicle.
  • Rooftop Tent: If you have a vehicle capable of supporting a rooftop tent, these can be a great option, especially if theres more than one person coming along on the adventure. There’s so many options to choose from, so do your research before purchasing.
  • Soft or hardtop trailer: There are a few trailer options out there that are cheaper than the Ursa Minor J30. These can be loaded up with options, but usually trailer manufactures will also let you strip them down to the bare necessities. Definitely something to look into if you’re wanting to expand your rig in the future.

More Luxurious Options

I like to think of our Jeep build as the middle ground between cost and comfort. It’s not the cheapest options, nor is it the most comfortable or luxurious. If everything you’ve read so far sounds very uncomfortable, or you have the finances to afford a bit extra comfort, rest assured that there is a plethora of options for you. Sabrina and I attended Overland Expo East 17′ and were blown away at some of the amazing and crazy rigs people and companies have built.

Vehicle

  • Mercedes AMG G65
  • Land Rover Defender
  • Toyota 4runner TRD Pro
  • EarthRoamer (for those with crazy money)
  • Class A/B/C Motor Home

Sleeping

  • Full Trailer System

Regardless of your financial situation, it is possible to save up some money, purchase an entry level vehicle and travel the world exploring and living a dream life. It’s not always easy, but if you’re dedicated it is really rewarding.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll make sure to respond below.

Nov 10th, 2017
Jeep /
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Wesley Vance

I've always been infatuated with travel, adventure and building cool things. 'You Me And The Jeep' is the perfect intersection of my passions! I'm the lead driver and a web and mobile developer by trade.

3 Comments

Comment Author Avatar

Just saw your story on We Are Cisco stories and thought it was pretty great. For the price for the Jeep/Upgrades did you ever think about just using the stock Jeep and buying a Tow-Camper for the living portion?

Comment Author Avatar

Hey Michael! We did think about pulling a camper, or an adventure trailer, however we wanted to have the ability to go anywhere the Jeep could go, and didn’t want to worry about the extra troubles that go into having a trailer. Also, for us, the more room we have, the more things we will want to cary… the size of the Jeep forces us to only cary with us the essentials!

Comment Author Avatar

Great story and experience you both are having. Enjoy the road, and the ultimate work/life balance. I’m a Cisco AS Employee in Anchorage, AK. if you pass through, hit us up! 🙂 Safe travels!

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