Can you imagine spending your entire life roaming the highways and byways of the UK, Europe or anywhere you want? That’s what you can do if you choose to live in your motorhome permanently.
For those in the know, this kind of lifestyle is known as ‘full-timing’ and quite a few people appear to be choosing it as an alternative to living in the same house or flat at a fixed address, hoarding stuff and constantly wondering what it would be like to indulge their secret wanderlust.
How easy is it to go full-time? There are opinions on this, so we’ll take a good look at the factors involved and answer a few questions at the forefront of people’s minds.
Can you legally live in an RV?
At present, there’s no specific law prohibiting you from living in your van, campervan or motorhome full-time provided that your vehicle has an up-to-date MOT certificate and is fully taxed. The more worrisome question is where are you going to park it when you’re not exploring the great wide yonder? You can’t just live in the nearest layby and there are a series of restrictions which you need to be aware of.
Local authorities across the UK and Europe have a free hand in determining what restrictions apply to where you can or can’t safely park up. In any case, it’s a good idea to check The Highway Code when it comes to parking a non-standard vehicle for one or two nights in a row.
Pros and cons of living in your motorhome
When you live in your motorhome, you’re living like a snail (although it’s to be hoped your motorhome travels somewhat faster). You carry your home on your back and can up and leave whenever you like. Just start the engine and off you go. You aren’t tied down to one location and you might discover things you’d never have dreamed of. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? But before we get carried away, let’s weigh up the pros and cons of living full-time in a motorhome.
No permanent address - Some people prefer to stay put because it’s a wrench to leave friends and family. However, the beauty of a life on the road is that, wherever you are, you can choose to leave or stay.
It’s a lot cheaper than a house - In terms of day-to-day costs, upkeep and other miscellaneous expenses, motorhomes are clearly cheaper than living in a house.
‘House-cleaning’ - You can clean your entire home in a matter of an hour or so. The chances are, it’ll be much cleaner because you’ll make a good job of it!
Fewer chores - Having a smaller space to maintain and keep clean means you simply don’t need to occupy your time doing those endless little tasks on a never-ending list. Which means more time for doing more enjoyable and fruitful activities.
Home, sweet home - If you’re travelling with your home, you can go practically anywhere in the UK (or even Europe), safe in the knowledge that you’ll be sleeping in your own bed at the end of the day, wherever you might end up.
Fulfil dreams, see the world - Full-time motorhoming gives you the freedom to drink your morning coffee among the mountains and have supper next to the beach. You can stay in one place as long as you want and when you’ve had enough, just leave.
Parking fees are affordable - Most campsites or motorhome sites are relatively cheap to use on a nightly basis, so even if you stop somewhere for a few days, it’s not going to put a dent in your wallet.
Energy costs - If you don’t move around on a daily basis and stay put a fair amount, fuel costs for the vehicle shouldn’t mount up. What’s more, plugging into the facilities at a motorhome park works out pretty economical compared with the ever-rising home energy costs.
New people and cultures - The nomadic ‘full-timer’ life means you can meet a far more diverse selection of people than if you were at home.
Variety is the spice of life - You’re no longer on the ‘hamster wheel’. You’ll never get bored of having the same view out of your window or doing the same thing day after day and nothing stops you from going where you want and doing what you please.
No permanent address... again! - No fixed address can be complicated when it comes to getting important post, paying bills, getting a GP or dentist, or certain other official transactions where proof of fixed residence is needed.
Budgeting - It can be difficult to set or stick to a budget when costs are so varied in different places. You could find yourself spending much more than expected in certain locations.
Laundry - Campsite laundry facilities can be expensive. A cheaper option would be to use a large bucket with a lid placed in the shower cubicle. Drying clothes could be a problem as campsite tumble dryers can be expensive, too.
Lack of space - We’re all used to having our own space. If there are a few people living in your motorhome, there won’t be a lot of this. Time and space to yourself is practically impossible to achieve. You’ll be sharing a small bathroom, and your beds will need to be squashed together. And if one of you snores, well...
Mess and untidiness - Unless kept under control, general messiness could become more of an issue when living in cramped, shared space. This issue will only be exacerbated if there are more than two people - it’s not unheard of for arguments to be had over this factor.
Local amenities - When you’ve been used to having the shops and amenities just at the end of the road, or that little corner shop that stays open till midnight, you might find it difficult to adapt. Furthermore, if you have any health problems, you won’t have a local doctor or dentist that you know and trust.
Weather and seasons - Be prepared to wrap yourself in blankets and develop a tolerance for low temperatures, especially in Europe during the Winter. Wall cavity insulation is not available for motorhomes, and neither are open fires on chilly Autumn evenings.
Finally, a rather doleful (but humorous) full-timer blogs about living in a motorhome and notes that what he still can’t get used to is the pitter-patter of raindrops on a cold, rainy night. It drives him to distraction.
Can you live in a motorhome all year round?
Of course, you can, if you want. However, bear in mind that in the winter, when it’s off-season for many campsites and caravan parks, finding overnight parking facilities isn’t automatically assured. Around the UK and Europe, there are motorhome stopovers operated by local authorities.
There is no statutory minimum quality standard for these places, so it’s best to do research and plan ahead when travelling to Europe so that you don’t find yourself in the middle of nowhere with no fresh water or electricity one cold, rainy winter night.
Motorhome, Campervan and RV travellers are obliged to cook, eat and sleep within the confines of the vehicle. The UK’s motorhome community (and that is an appropriate term to use here - people do seem to help each other out a lot) is well-served by an extensive listing of UK-based motorhome stopovers. If you are going to Europe, the Eurocamping blog has a wealth of useful information on a range of practical concerns, including what to expect when you take your home to any country in the EU.
How much does it cost to live in a motorhome?
This isn’t a straightforward question to answer, as there are many variables which raise a lot of questions, a sample of which you can see on forums like this one;
- It depends how many of you there are living in the same motorhome.
- Is everyone financially dependent? Are all of you earning? Are all of you paying an equal share of the day-to-day running costs?
- On average, how far are you travelling on a daily basis?
- Where are you planning on going? The cost of living isn’t the same in every country.
- How long are you going to stay in each location? The more nights in a motorhome park, the more expensive it will be.
- Do you have a spending cap for each day or is it a financial ‘adventure’?
- Are you willing to lead a modest life compared with the comforts and amenities (and entertainment temptations) you are used to having in a conventional home environment?
If you want year-round motorhome insurance for your vehicle, it could cost you in excess of £1,000 if you need coverage for going to potentially difficult regions in the world, such as North Africa. Anywhere off the beaten track may bring challenging driving and poor living conditions.
To get a more precise average figure of what it would cost let’s say, a couple, to live year-round in a motorhome, we can search for people who actually do it. One couple has actually made a cottage industry out of their lifestyle as full-timers. Since 2013, they have been full-timing around Europe.
They have a free downloadable mini-guide to what they call “Funding Freedom” and a website with a very informative and inspiring collection of blogs.
Theirs is a particular situation. They are not short of cash and they are extremely well organised (which is not to say over-organised – they simply appear to have an admirable level of control over their budgetary information).
They divide their costs into Fixed and Travel Spend. They track costs and enter everything into an itemised spreadsheet, so they can re-adjust expectations about budget and spending as they go along. “We move on most days and the longest we stay is 2 nights. We don't stay on sites. As an estimate, we spend around £1,500 a month including fuel.”
One particular item commonly mentioned as being essential is an ACSI card. This is a campsite guide including a discount card permitting motorhome owners to camp at up to 60% less than normal outside high seasons. It is valid in countries throughout Europe.
Can you live in a motorhome on your property?
As the old adage goes, “an Englishman’s home is his castle”, but not necessarily, if he or she lives in a motorhome or campervan.
You can camp on your land 28 days within any twelve-month period with no planning permission required. This is as long as 'residential' services like sewage and mains utilities (water, electricity and gas) are not permanently connected. As the legislation states:
“...a site licence shall not be required for the use of land as a caravan site if, in the period of twelve months ending with the day on which the caravan is brought on to the land, the number of days.. .did not exceed twenty-eight.”
Therefore, if you start living in your motorhome permanently you would have to apply for planning permission.
In fact, you don’t actually require planning permission “if the use is incidental (used in conjunction with, not instead of) to the enjoyment as such of a dwelling/house within the curtilage (drive or garden, NOT adjoining land) of which the land is situated.”
The reason for quoting from the law so freely is that there seems to be quite an ongoing stir among the online full-timer communities regarding the fairness or not of this legislation. Aggrieved motor-homers argue that the situation in the UK is far more stringent than it is in most other countries around Europe. This discussion thread on a Local Government Association forum makes for revealing reading regarding whether people can live on their own property in a motorhome.
Even if you do manage to find a way of parking in the drive or on your own land, there are still practical issues that need to be resolved.
Just to name a few instances, what will you do about:
- your waste water
- your rubbish
- your postal address for the electoral roll, GP & dentist
- local authority rates
- insurance for the motor, road tax or SORN, getting the records right with DVLA
Additionally, many properties have covenants placed on them to prevent static caravans or motorhomes being parked. If this issue were to affect you, the reader, the best move is to check the Land Registry entry for your property.
Motorhome insurance for ‘full-timers’
Having the right motorhome insurance is absolutely critical if you decide to embark upon the life of a full-time wanderer. No matter how luxurious your motorhome or RV is, never mind how careful and prudent you are, the insurance risks associated with this kind of lifestyle are inevitably going to be higher than the average. Certainly higher than if you were simply popping off for a three-week jaunt.
That’s why we recommend that you visit us and get a quote on the kind of motorhome insurance coverage you need, whatever the scope of your journey.