A ‘not-van lifer’ bought a 1970s RV for $2,000 and spent $6,000 transforming it into a tiny home on wheels

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Bree Contreras lives in an RV with their partner and two dogs. Courtesy of Bree Contreras
  • Bree Contreras bought an RV, named “Hottie,” for $US2,000 and has spent roughly $US6,000 on renovations.
  • Contreras lives and works in the RV, which has a bed, bathroom, kitchen, workspace, and loft.
  • Contreras documents their travels on their Instagram account, @doesthiscountasvanlife .
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

“I just wanted to be out hiking with my dogs and not paying rent,” Bree Contreras told Insider of the decision to quit their corporate job to live in an RV full-time.

Contreras bought an RV for $US2,000 in the summer of 2018 and quit their job as a political analyst in October with about $US5,000 in savings.

By November, Contreras was working on the RV full-time in San Antonio, Texas, and they were on the road with their partner and two dogs by the time the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Contreras, who is now working full-time as a freelance writer and photographer, is currently staying in Texas to prevent the spread of the virus, according to a recent Instagram post.


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Take a tour of Contreras’ custom rig, which they worked on with the help of friends and family.


Bree Contreras purchased their RV for $US2,000 and named it “Hottie.” They spent another $US6,000 transforming it into a tiny home.

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Bree Contreras stands in front of their RV, Hottie. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

Contreras told Insider that they spent roughly $US4,000 restoring and renovating the interior and another $US2,000 on mechanical upgrades.


It took about a year for Contreras and their loved ones to transform Hottie from a run-down, water-damaged RV.

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Before and after images show Hottie’s amazing transformation. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

Contreras worked on the RV with their family and partner.


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Now, Contreras lives in it with their partner and dogs while documenting their travels and hardships on their Instagram account @doesthiscountasvanlife.

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Contreras poses in the doorway of their RV. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

Knowing that they weren’t going to be living in an actual van, Contreras came up with the name “does this count as van life” to play on the popular “van life” trend.

“One of my friends said I should make an Instagram account for this,” they said. “I was like, ‘no one cares. This is dumb,’ but I did it anyway.”

Now, Contreras’ Instagram account has over 10,000 followers.


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When you first enter Hottie, look up — there’s a loft above the driver’s seat with large windows.

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The loft space above the driver’s seat is surrounded by windows. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

Contreras used vertical space to make the most of the tiny home.


Contreras uses the space to read and reflect.

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Contreras stands in front of their loft space. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

Books are conveniently located on the side of the loft.


Up in the loft, Contreras built a two-sided bookshelf to hold their collection.

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Contreras reads in this nook. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

Contreras says they have fallen asleep up here while reading.


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Turn around and you’ll see the rest of Hottie’s insides — the workspace, bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom.

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The inside of the RV. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

Contreras has a handful of plants around the RV with curtains to match.


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This is their workspace, where Contreras completes freelance projects while their partner studies law.

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The workspace features a long, skinny tabletop. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

The crates above store clothing and other items.


The door to the bathroom is a shower curtain.

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Contreras showing the door to the bathroom. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

The pop of green ties in with the plants in the RV.


And here’s a better look at the kitchen.

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Hottie’s kitchen has original appliances. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

The cabinetry is also green and Contreras makes use of the small space with a butcher block and hanging knives.


Contreras kept the RV’s original oven and stovetop from the ’70s.

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Hottie’s stovetop. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

The range is decently sized for the small space.


Though Contreras says they accidentally broke off the oven’s door handle.

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Contreras still uses the oven, despite this mishap. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

Don’t worry, it still functions without it.


One of Contreras’ favourite things about the RV is its new deep kitchen sink.

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Contreras installed a new sink in the RV. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

They love to cook, so the deep sink is ideal for storing dirty dishes.


Like the oven, Contreras kept Hottie’s original fridge and freezer.

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Contreras looks inside the stocked fridge. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

They repainted the refrigerator with chalk paint.


Past the kitchen, Contreras’ bedroom is at the back of the rig.

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Contreras has a hanging plant in their bedroom. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

The same print used for the bathroom door curtain was also used behind the bed.


Contreras elevated this queen-sized mattress to make room for their dogs to hang out underneath.

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Contreras’ dogs have their own room under the bed. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

They call the space under the bed “the dogs’ room.”


But a lot of the time, the pups hang out upfront with their people.

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Contreras’ dog sits in the front seat like a person. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

The best road trip companions.


Behind the RV, there’s a storage space that Contreras calls “the garage.”

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Contreras stores all of their garage-like items in this crate behind the rig. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

The garage is full of water jugs and adventuring items like hammocks, tents, and climbing gear.


It may not be van life, but Contreras loves the freedom that having a vehicle as a home offers.

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Contreras and their dogs on the road. Courtesy of Bree Contreras

“Some days on the road are not so great, but when they’re good, they’re amazing,” they said.