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Rent a Sleeper Van in San Francisco For $800: Has It Come to This?

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Caution: Bumpy road ahead

Remember that '90s SNL sketch where Chris Farley warned you about living in a van down by the river? (If not, see the clip below.) What Farley didn't mention is that that van will cost as much as a one-bedroom apartment in some cities.

We’re going to let the relevant Craigslist ad speak for itself: New sleeper van, $45 a night or $800 for the month. The vehicle is "spotless and new," sleeps one or two people, and is quite clearly being marketed at tech workers desperate for a place to stay, as the owner/landlord (what is the proper term when there‘s no actual land involved?) suggests "[taking] advantage of your company showers, food, and parking lot," and mentions that the van has previously been parked at "different tech companies."

"You can keep it stationary or you can take a trip," the ad explains, which does track with the way vans usually work. Potential tenants are cautioned that a legal driver’s license is required before taking your home on the road. The ad further advises renters to "be adventurous," while also pointing out that "more and more people" are adopting similar living situations.

Little does our intrepid van owner suspect that he or she is being undercut by this 200-square-foot RV, presently parked on Potrero Hill and being offered to similarly "adventurous" renters for $600 a month. Hate to say it, but that’s a clear bargain, at least when weighed against the van option. If nothing else, it's almost a relief that a better deal is out there, however relative a term "better" may sometimes turn out to be.

"I’m renting my RV to someone who wants to live in it," the RV ad explains, which is lucky, since that is the prescribed use of an RV, and renting it for anything else would probably void the warranty. There’s a bed, a table, closets, electricity, and a door that locks, which is most everything a rental needs to technically count as living space and, potentially, attract tenants in the present rental market.

It’s easy to make fun of such offers, or just to aim disgusted looks at the people making them. But there are a lot of folks in San Francisco who legitimately need a place to stay that badly, and the authors of questionable rental ads are sometimes struggling to make ends meet themselves.

With things the way they are these days, there but for the grace of God drive any of us.