Jan the Van


I purchased Jan on the 5th May 2016 and she’s been my best friend ever since. She’s reliable, she doesn’t answer back and she’s happy to just go with the flow and work with my plans.

Purchasing a vehicle in Canada as a foreigner:

1. Transitioning your license

Transitioning from an Australian License to a Canadian license (I did Victorian to Ontarian) is a relatively simple process. You must do it to be able to purchase insurance in Canada. Find yourself a Service Canada which does licensing and do the following:

  • take an eye test
  • bring original identification showing your legal name, date of birth and signature
  • bring your original, valid foreign driver’s licence (I got an extra one printed in Aus before I left incase I lost one, this means I now have two forms of ID!)
  • bring any original supporting documents that show proof of your driving experience (must be original, they sent me away the first time and I had to then pay stupid dollars to get it printed in colour so it looked like the original. Easier than waiting for postage from Aus though)
  • pay the applicable fees
  • fill out an application form (where you will state how long you have been driving)

2. Finding a vehicle that suits your needs

This can be hard. Do you want a VAN van, or a small car, or in my case… a mum van? I chose Jan because not only is she damn curvy and fine, but she’s very fuel efficient (all the better for taking the kids to soccer, or in my case, driving across the country). Although she’s not a full camper style van, she’s perfect for one (or a close two).

Another aspect of having a mum van as a camper is that you’re very inconspicuous. You can park nearly everywhere and not look like you’re camping…until the morning when you open the boot and allow yourself to be birthed into the world. I did occasionally get strange looks for brushing my teeth next to her as well.

I highly recommend a Dodge Caravan. Easy to set up, pack up, and get around.

3. Getting the appropriate tests

In Australia, you can’t sell a vehicle without first getting a roadworthy certificate. This same standard does not apply in Canada. When I was first looking at purchasing a car in Canada I went on to Kijiji and was pleasantly surprised by the prices…until I realised that there is no certainty that the car doesn’t need thousands of dollars worth of work.  To get around this issue, I went through a used car dealer. Usually I’d be weary, and I was definitely nervous, but I honestly felt like it was the safest way to do it. Jan came with a safety test, an emissions test and the dealer sorted out my registration for me, all for roughly $2,400.

4. Insurance

I sorted out the insurance on my own, but it wasn’t a difficult process. I requested a bunch of quotes initially and decided to go with Belair Direct as they offered the best price. Be warned, as you are considered a new driver because of your new license, your rates will be high. It also completely depends on the address you use as well. I initially insured Jan using a friend’s address nearby in Toronto and my monthly insurance was roughly $400 per month. I then moved my address to about 4 hours north of Toronto and the cost dropped to $150 per month. And now I’m in BC and it’s about the same price.

Cost of setting her up for camping:

1. Mattress and ‘frame’

The mattress I have in Jan is just a memory foam mattress topper from Ikea. I considered trying to find a second hand mattress for cheaps but this icked me in a way. Also, I was going to be spending every night on this, it needed to be right.

As I wanted to be able to use Jan as a people mover at some point I didn’t want to remove the chairs and lose this option. So to support the mattress, I got a piece of ply from Home Depot, had it cut to size, and bam, got yourself a damn fine bed. The height of the chairs is perfect for storage under the mattress at the back, and also holds the mattress above the wheel arches. The ply set me back about $40.

2. Sheets, pillows, curtains

Walmart, inexpensive and easy. Just choose your colour.

3. Cooking, cleaning, general living

I bought myself a camp stove for about $30 and it was so worth it. I barely ate out and really enjoyed being able to cook my own meals in the evenings. I found a little table and a camping chair at a second hand equipment store in Toronto (stumbled upon it, genuinely have no idea where it is or if it was just a dream) and just got little bits and pieces from Dollarama (including a good collection of cat stickers).

I’d recommend getting some tiger coils, it makes sitting out in the evening a lot more pleasurable.

CAA: Just do it. Seriously. They came to me at 9:30pm on a Saturday night when I was in the middle of Prince Edward Island…just because I locked my keys inside the car.

Total: approx. $2,700

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