Last Updated 26 May 2024

How Much Does it Cost to Live in a Campervan for a Month in the UK?

by Jacob Rose

How Much Does it Cost to Live in a Campervan for a Month in the UK?

Article Contents

Ever dreamt of swapping your traditional house for a new home on wheels, navigating your way to a mobile community with vehicle insurance? Welcome to the world of vanlife, my friend. The UK community is continuing to see an uptick in people trading their brick-and-mortar homes for the freedom and flexibility of campervan living. It's like having your cake and eating it too - you get to go and visit every nook and cranny of your home country park up at quirky campsites each week, all the while carrying your new home with you.

But let's not sugarcoat it - vanlife isn't all Instagram-worthy sunsets and endless adventures. There are challenges aplenty! From finding a place to park in the city without anyone raising eyebrows to making friends with the local community who might help when your beloved campervan throws a hissy fit.

So, how much does this nomadic lifestyle cost per month? What's the conversion rate like? Hold on tight as we dive into the nitty-gritty details of travel insurance, spending, and life costs that will give you a real taste of what living out of a campervan in the UK truly entails. The costs of this unique lifestyle might not be what you think!

 

Essential Van Life Coverages: The Boring Stuff

 

Comprehensive Insurance: A Must-Have

Image of Some months, the costs keep coming

Living the van life means embracing the open road, but it doesn't mean throwing caution to the wind.

  • A robust car insurance policy can cover everything from accidental damage to theft, crucial for managing van life costs and ensuring a smooth conversion. We discuss motorhome-specific polices below.
  • The policy can also take care of any personal items inside the van like clothes, supplies, and other essentials.

The cost of this cover for us in our van life varies based on several factors.

  1. The type of campervan you own
  2. Its value
  3. Your driving history
  4. Where you plan to travel - European cover can cost more, and if you intend to travel beyond Europe you must inform your insurer.
 

Picking the Right Policy

Insurance policies for campervans aren't one-size-fits-all. Van life vehicles come in all shapes and sizes to cater to different needs and budgets.

  • Taking a van on public roads necessitates third-party liability insurance as the minimum legal requirement in the UK. It covers injuries to other people or damage to their property caused by your campervan.
  • Third-party, fire, and theft insurance covers damages due to fire or theft.
  • Comprehensive insurance provides the most extensive cover. It includes everything mentioned above plus cover for accidental damage and often vandalism to your own campervan.
 

Brace Yourself for Breakdowns

No one likes sudden breakdowns, especially when living the van life. They're not just inconvenient; they can be expensive too!

  • Van life costs can include repairs from fixing a flat tire to replacing an entire engine.
  • Fuel costs add up quickly when you're embracing the van life and constantly on the move.
  • Don't forget about regular van costs such as MOT and maintenance needs like oil changes and brake checks.

Having funds set aside for these unexpected expenses is essential in van life. You never know when a pothole could lead to a pricey van life costs repair bill!

 

Roadside Assistance: Your Lifeline

Ever tried changing a tire in the pouring rain? Not fun! That's where roadside assistance services come into play.

  • They help with everything from flat tires and dead batteries to lockouts and engine cutouts.
  • Most importantly, they provide peace of mind, knowing that help is just a phone call away no matter where your van life costs and adventures take you.
  • Fortunately, in the UK we have several low-cost roadside assistance options: the AA, RAC and Green Flag are the main providers.

Remember, not all roadside assistance services are created equal. Some roadside services cover only the basics, while others offer comprehensive support for this lifestyle. Choose a service that best fits your van life costs and travel plans.

Looking for new ideas for your campervan?

Check out our full "A-List" of of award-winning products

 

Ongoing Monthly Expenses of Campervan Living

 

Fuel: The Lifeblood of Your Journey

Let's cut to the chase, shall we? Living in a campervan is not all about freedom and adventure. It's also about managing your expenses wisely. And one of the biggest costs you'll face in your van life is fuel consumption. In the van life, you're essentially driving your home around, so expect to spend more on petrol or diesel than you would in a regular car - but at least you aren’t stuck looking at the same view every day!

  1. Petrol vs Diesel: Petrol engines are typically cheaper to buy and maintain for your van life, but diesel engines are more fuel-efficient, especially for heavy vehicles. So, if you plan on clocking up the miles, a diesel campervan might save you money in the long run. Fortunately, 95% of vans have diesel engines. Consider carefully before buying petrol or electric engines as, generally, they don’t perform efficiently when forced to move consistently heavy loads.
  2. Driving Style: Believe it or not, how you drive your van can significantly impact your fuel consumption in the van life. Smooth acceleration and deceleration can reduce fuel usage in a van by up to 33% on the motorway and 5% in town.
  3. Van Tyre Pressure: Under-inflated tyres can increase the fuel consumption of your van by up to 3%. So keep those tyres pumped up!
 

Maintenance: Keep That Engine Humming

Just like any vehicle, a campervan needs regular maintenance to stay roadworthy. This includes oil changes, tyre rotations, brake checks - the whole shebang! And while some van maintenance tasks can be done DIY-style (if you're handy with a wrench), others will require a professional van mechanic.

  • Van Oil Change: This should be done every 3,000 to 10,000 miles, depending on your engine type. Check your service book for more information, or consult owner groups if unavailable.
  • Van Tyre Rotation: To ensure even wear and tear (and prolong their life), rotate your van's tyres every twelve months or every 6,000 to 8,000 miles.
  • Van Brake Check: These will get checked at your annual MOT, but check them more often if your van travels through hilly terrain. If you notice any juddering, pull to the left or right, or change in performance when braking, get your brakes checked immediately.

Remember that prevention is better (and cheaper) than cure. Regular maintenance can help avoid costly van repairs down the line.

 

Daily Living Expenses: Food, Utilities and More

Living in a campervan doesn't mean you can skip out on daily living expenses. Even in a van, you still need to eat, wash, and keep warm or cool depending on the weather.

  • Cooking in your van is cheaper than always eating out. So, stock up on groceries and cook your meals in your campervan kitchen.
  • Utilities for your van: Propane gas for cooking and heating, water for drinking and washing - these are essential utilities you'll need to budget for in your van.
  • Laundry: Unless you're going au naturel in your van (we won't judge), laundry is another expense to consider. See our recent post UK Campervan Owners' Top 10 Questions: Expert Answers for more information.
 

Potential Savings from Choosing Campervan Life

 

Housing Cost Vs Van Life Expenses

Let's dive right into the meat of the matter. Traditional housing costs in the UK can be a real drain on your wallet. You've got rent or mortgage obligations, council tax, utilities, insurance, decorating and repair costs. Van life has similar expenses, but often much lower - and if you’re currently running a car as well as a house, the van life savings really add up.

Van dwellers often find that their monthly outgoings are significantly lower than if they were living in a brick-and-mortar home. The initial cost of purchasing and converting a campervan can seem high, but when you spread this expense over time and take into account the money you can save it works out to be quite affordable.

 

Off-grid living and Utility Bills

Image of Good days, and there are plenty, make it all worth while

Next up: utility bills. In a traditional home or van, these costs can add up quickly - think water, electricity, heating...the list goes on. But with off-grid living solutions like solar panels for power and collecting rainwater for washing/laundry use, van dwellers can drastically cut these costs.

This isn’t the place to discuss the environmental impact of these choices, but the implications are obvious - don’t underestimate the impact of those dirty diesels before climbing onto your soapbox!

 

Minimalist Lifestyle Choices

Then there's the minimalist lifestyle that comes hand-in-hand with van life. No room for unnecessary clutter here! This means less spending on items that aren't really needed, even for your van.

Storage is limited in a campervan, so van dwellers need to be selective about what they bring along. This naturally leads to reduced spending on material possessions. After all, do you really need that fifth pair of shoes or another set of plates in your van? We’re not judging, but probably not.

 

Lower Transportation Costs

Your home is also your van – how cool is that? No more paying for public transport, fuel for commuting from home to work, or maintaining a van. Plus, if you're working remotely (as many van dwellers do), you can say goodbye to the daily commute!

 

Cooking at Home Vs Eating Out

Lastly, let's talk food. Eating out all the time can get really expensive really fast. But when your kitchen travels with you in your van, cooking at home is much easier (and cheaper). Most van dwellers seem to adopt a simple menu with maybe ten easy-to-prepare (and easy-to-clean up after) meals for travel days and get more adventurous when staying in places with dedicated washing-up facilities and space to spread out when preparing the food.

 

Long-term Financial Implications of Van Life

 

A Look at Depreciation

First off, van life costs aren't just about the upfront price tag. You also have to consider how much your campervan will depreciate over time. This is a significant factor that could impact the resale price of your van. It's like this: you buy a shiny new camper van, hit the road, and after a few years of van adventures, it's not so shiny anymore. The value drops, sometimes drastically.

  • If you bought a brand new campervan for £30,000 and it depreciates by 15% each year, after five years, it would be worth around £15,000.
  • On the other hand, if you bought a used campervan for £15,000 with an annual depreciation rate of 10%, after five years, it would be worth approximately £9,500.

If, like many, you’re stuck renting, the next part doesn’t apply to you - but if you’re lucky enough to own a house in the UK, generally it is an appreciating asset - it gains value over time - something a motorhome will never do.

However, this isn't a hard-and-fast rule. Well-looked-after campervans hold their value as well as any other vehicle, and as any air-cooled or classic VW owner knows, these vehicles stopped losing value a long time ago. The difficulty is enjoying a vehicle to its fullest by using it and keeping its condition as original or as "mint" as possible - a tough challenge for most owners.

 

Repair Costs of Older Vans

Another aspect to consider is repair costs. As vans age they can become more temperamental and start demanding some TLC (and by TLC we mean costly repairs). It’s not uncommon for older vans to need regular maintenance work – things like brake pad replacements or engine tune-ups, EGR valves, knackered turbos, electrical gremlins, and rotten exhausts - the list can be quite extensive.

When considering a van, it’s wise to factor these potential expenses into your budgeting plans, especially if your vehicle was old in the first place or you intend live in it for many years.

Always perform a regular service of your van (typically annually): depending on where you go, this could cost between £200 - £400 per year, but as we said before, prevention is cheaper than cure.

 

Impact on Personal Finance

Living the van life long term can also have an impact on your personal finances. You might think you're saving money by not paying rent or a mortgage, but remember, you've swapped stationary housing costs for mobile ones.

For instance, you may have to dip into savings or retirement plans to fund unexpected repairs or cover periods when work is scarce. It's crucial to consider this when planning for van life:

  • What are your current monthly expenses and how will these change?
  • How much will you save each month while living in your campervan?
  • Do you have a contingency plan for unexpected costs?
 

Financial Planning for Future Housing

Lastly, it’s essential to keep future financial planning in mind.

 

A Comprehensive Cost Analysis

 

Potential Monthly Expenditures

Image of Avoid the busiest areas during the best weather

Crunching the numbers, let's dive into what it costs to live in a campervan for a month in the UK.

  1. The fuel cost is unavoidable and can vary widely depending on how much you move around. If you cover a lot of ground, expect to spend anywhere from £150 to £300 per month.
  2. Food expenses are another significant part of your budget, which could be around £200 (£400 for a couple) per month, and much more if you eat out frequently.
  3. Campsite fees can range from free (if you're wild camping) up to about £20 - £40 per night at more upscale sites with facilities in popular areas.
  4. Maintenance and repairs are unpredictable but inevitable costs that come with this lifestyle. Setting aside at least £100 per month for this would be wise.

But hey, remember that hidden costs can sneak up on anyone! Things like laundry, occasional accommodation when you need a break from the van life, or even parking tickets can add up.

 

Lifestyle Choices and Travel Habits

Lastly, your lifestyle choices and travel habits heavily influence the total cost.

  • If you're a foodie who loves eating out, your monthly budget must be higher than someone who cooks all their meals in the van.
  • Similarly, if you prefer camping at campsites with facilities rather than wild camping, that's another significant cost.
  • And let's not forget about activities – whether it's entry fees for attractions or equipment rentals for outdoor adventures, these can add up too!

So there you have it. The campervan life isn't one-size-fits-all. It's as unique as each of us is!

Here's an example based on running a house and a typical car vs. a campervan:

Monthly Expense

Traditional Home (£)

Campervan (£)

Rent/Mortgage

£900

0

Campsite/Parking Fees

0

£150 (mix of paid and free stays)

Vehicle Payments

£200

£300

Vehicle Insurance

£50

£60

Vehicle Fuel

£80

£200

Utilities (gas, water, electricity)

£300

£50

Council Tax

£130

0

House Insurance

£25

0

Connectivity

£60 (home + mobile)

£40 (unlimited mobile)

Maintenance/Repairs

£100

£50

Entertainment

£200

£100 (views are usually free!)

Food

£200 per person

£200 per person

Total Monthly Cost:

£2245

£1150*

*If you’re lucky enough to own your van outright and are frugal and mostly stationary, we know of people who manage on as little as £400 per month.

This table shows just how much money people save by switching to van life. Often, this isn’t as cheap as people expect, but there are always outliers or the potential to head to cheaper parts of Europe.

 

A Year in a Motorhome: Detailed Cost Analysis

 

Real-Life Yearly Expenses

Living full-time in a motorhome is not just about the freedom of the open road. It's also about managing your budget wisely. Let's take a look at some real-life examples of annual expenses.

John and Jane, a couple from Manchester, spent a year travelling around the UK in their campervan. Their model was an average-sized one with basic amenities. They kept meticulous records of their spending during this time.

  • Fulltime campsite fees averaged £20 per night, totalling £7,300 for the year.
  • Groceries cost them around £50 per week or £2,600 annually.
  • Fuel costs varied depending on their travels but came to approximately £1,500 for the year.
  • Annual maintenance and inspections amounted to about £800.

That's roughly £12,200 for living full-time in a motorhome for one year if you avoid wild camping and enjoy the comforts of added privacy, a shower and a 24-hour toilet block.

 

Seasonal Variations in Costs

Living on wheels means being prepared for seasonal changes that can affect your budget. In winter months, heating needs may increase fuel consumption. Similarly, cooling needs during summer days can also add to your costs.

For instance, John and Jane found that they needed an additional gas cylinder each month during winter times due to extra heating requirements. This added an extra cost of around £30 per month or £110 over Winter.

On hot summer days, they used fans which didn’t seem to increase costs noticeably.

 

Maintenance and Inspection Costs

Motorhomes require regular maintenance and inspections throughout the year to keep them road-worthy and safe. These include oil changes every six months or so (£50 each time), tyre replacements (£150 per tyre), brake checks (£30), MOT test (£45), and other miscellaneous repairs.

John and Jane budgeted approximately £800 per year for these costs but usually spent less.

 

Impact of Travel Distance on Costs

Travelling long distances in a motorhome impacts fuel costs significantly. More miles mean more visits to the petrol station. John and Jane found that their monthly fuel costs could range from £100 to £350, depending on how far they travelled.

In months when they covered larger distances, fuel expenses were at the higher end of this range. On average, they spent about £1,800 on fuel over the year.

 

Minimalist Living in a Campervan: How Little Can You Spend?

 

Strategies for Reducing Spending

Living in a campervan, you might find yourself spending less money than you would if you were living in an apartment or house. The key is to adopt a minimalist mindset.

  1. Food and Cooking: Instead of dining out or ordering takeaways, consider cooking your meals. A simple gas stove can be your best friend on the road.
  2. Entertainment: Nature is your playground when you live in a campervan. Hiking trails, beaches, and parks often have free entry.
  3. Utilities: With solar panels installed on your van roof, you could potentially generate enough electricity for your needs.

Remember that every penny saved is a penny earned!

 

Adopting Minimalist Principles

Adopting minimalist principles doesn't mean having nothing; it means making sure everything you do have serves a purpose.

  • Space: In a campervan, space is at premium. Only keep what's necessary and multifunctional.
  • Clothing: Opt for versatile pieces that can be layered instead of packing outfits for every possible weather scenario. Also, use some of your free time to browse charity shops in wealthier areas - amazing bargains can be found.
  • Items: Before buying anything new ask yourself: Do I really need this? Is there something else that I already own that could serve the same purpose?

This way of thinking not only helps to reduce clutter but also keeps costs low.

Want new vanlife guides and the best hidden spots in the UK?

We publish 2 new posts a week, so follow us on Facebook to stay up-to-date

 

DIY Solutions for Van Maintenance

Image of Crowds usually mean cost, try moving against the tide

Getting hands-on with van maintenance and upgrades can save lots of money:

  1. Basic Repairs: Learning how to fix common issues like flat tires or broken headlights can save on mechanic fees.
  2. Upgrades: Installing upgrades like solar panels or storage solutions yourself can significantly cut costs compared to professional installation.

YouTube tutorials are great resources for learning these skills!

By adopting these strategies, living in a campervan becomes an affordable alternative to the traditional house or apartment and a way to live more mindfully and sustainably. Whether you decide to stay on this path for a month or make it your long-term lifestyle, the experience will certainly change your perspective on what constitutes necessity and luxury.

 

Are you nervous about committing to van life completely? How about a trial?

I completely get it; diving headfirst into vanlife can seem like a monumental shift, especially when all those glossy Instagram photos make it feel more like a distant dream than an attainable lifestyle. But guess what? Just like when you're unsure about committing to a new Netflix series, you don’t have to go all in right away

Why not start with a little test drive? Renting an affordable motorhome or van for just a month can give you a genuine taste of life on the road. Think of it as a trial period, and during this time, truly immerse yourself into the vanlife culture. Resist the temptation to live it up as if you're on a grand vacation; instead, focus on the day-to-day simplicity, embrace minimalism, and be mindful of your expenses - and if you’re feeling isolated, make sure to talk to other van dwellers on the way, there's a good chance they’ll be feeling the same way you are. This way, you’ll get an honest feel of the lifestyle without the long-term commitment.

See our recent post UK Campervan Owners' Top 10 Questions: Expert Answers for more information.

 

Wrapping Up: The Monthly Cost of Living in a Campervan in the UK

So, you've made it to the end of our deep dive into the costs of living in a campervan for a month in the UK. It's not pocket change, eh? But remember, this lifestyle isn't just about money—it's also about freedom and adventure. You can cut down on some expenses by choosing minimalist living and making smart choices. Ultimately, if you can live more cheaply, with more freedom and are happier for it, there are very few downsides important enough to stop you.

Ready to take the plunge into van life? Think about how much you're willing to spend and what sacrifices you're ready to make. Remember, knowledge is power! Understanding all these costs upfront will help you avoid nasty surprises down the road (pun intended). So why wait? Start planning your campervan adventure today!

Summer 2024 is only a damp, dark, grey Winter away!

Find the local "vanfests" to put a Spring back in your step in 2024!

 

FAQS

 

How much does insurance cost for a campervan in the UK?

The insurance cost can vary widely depending on your age, driving history, and where you park your van at night. However, as a rough guide, expect to pay between £300-£600 per year.

 

What are some ways I can save money while living in a campervan?

Consider cooking your own meals instead of eating out and using free campsites or wild camping where permitted. Also, maintaining your vehicle well can prevent costly repairs.

 

Is it cheaper to live in a campervan than traditional housing?

It can be cheaper if done right, but remember there are still ongoing costs such as fuel, insurance and maintenance. Plus, unexpected costs may arise, so always have an emergency fund.

 

Can I legally live full-time in my motorhome or campervan?

Yes! There are no laws against living full-time in your vehicle, but remember that certain places may have rules against overnight parking.

 

Do I need a special license to drive a motorhome or campervan?

Not necessarily. Most campervans and motorhomes can be driven on a standard UK driving license. However, some larger motorhomes may require a Category C1 license.

 

How little can you live on in a Campervan in the UK?

Realistically, you’ll need around £500 a month as a minimum. If you’re making van payments, travelling significant distances and enjoying life to the full, you should factor around £1000 a month.

Share:
Image of Jacob Rose
Jacob Rose
4k Followers
Follow

Traveller, writer and travel-writer. Often accused of insufficient planning and poor impulse control, but happier for it!

More posts by Jacob Rose

Leave a Comment