Travelling in a campervan is one of life’s true pleasures. But what if you’ve never done it before? Hiring one is the answer! Here’s a guide on how to dance through the boring bits and get behind the wheel for your first great adventure.
Are you permitted to drive a campervan?
This has to be the first question you ask yourself. In the UK, you need a C1 category licence to drive a van up to 7500kg. If you passed your test before 1st January 1997 and are aged under 70, you will automatically have this status.
If you don’t have C1 status, you will be limited to campervans weighing less than 3500kg. Don’t worry, you can still hire a home on wheels but larger motorhome-style vans will be off the cards.
Choosing a van – basic or deluxe?
Are you happy to rough it a little, or do you love your creature comforts? Some campervans are little more than a van with a fold-down bed in the back. Fancier models have toilets, showers, kitchen facilities, fridges, and plenty of storage.
Your choice will depend mainly on your taste for luxury and how long your trip is going to last, but weather can also play a role. If you’re travelling at a time of year or to a location where sun might be in short supply, you will probably be spending more time inside the van.
Trips in warm weather mean al fresco dining is a possibility but overheating can also be a problem, particularly with more basic campers.
What to expect
Vans vary widely, but a basic model should have the following:
- Basic kitchen with fridge, two gas burners, water tank, sink and tap
- Beds – usually fold-out but bunk beds and pop-top cabins are also common
- A portable toilet – only the swankiest campervans have fitted toilets, your hire company is likely to give you a porta-potty
- Ingenious use of space – fold-out tables, awnings, cupboards squeezed into the tiniest of spaces
- An electrical circuit to power lights, fridge and a few plug sockets
Most rental companies will supply basics like bedding, kitchen equipment and a table and chairs as standard, so you just turn up with clothes and food.
Optional extras such as bike racks, roof racks and DVD players can also be hired and some companies will let you take pets on board for a fee.
Make sure you understand how to use the van’s facilities before driving off – for example, how to switch gas on and off, plug into an electrical source and empty toilet waste.
It’s a good idea to have an outline of your trip before you book a campervan. If you are travelling a longer route, fuel costs can stack up. You may wish to opt for a more efficient, streamlined vehicle in this case.
Planning ahead can also ensure you have your pick of campsites, which can be fully booked in busy periods.
Wild camping, or simply parking up to spend the night somewhere, is illegal in England and Wales but permitted in Scotland.
A smooth drive
Dreaming of a vintage VW camper? They’re great fun, but what you gain in romance you sometimes lose in comfort.
Hippies from the 1970s might not have minded crunchy gearboxes, cramped sleeping quarters and uncomfortable seats, but you might. Older vehicles can also be slow, barely reaching 60mph.
Campers such as the Toyota Previa, VW Transporter and Mazda Bongo might lack the iconic styling of a VW camper, but they more than make up for it in reliability and practicality.
You can usually fit in two adults and two children comfortably, and the driving experience is similar to driving a large car.
Choosing a rental company
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is… There are disreputable companies out there who will draw you in with low prices, then sting you with hidden extras.
Check out reviews - a string of negative feedback means you should probably look elsewhere.
There are also some fraudsters in the market. Again, check reviews and make sure the company you book with has a registered address.
If there is only a mobile number or email address, you might want to think again.
You should always read the fine print (boring but important!) so you know exactly what you are signing up for.
For example, some companies impose mileage limits, minimum age limits and additional costs for extra drivers.
Some rental companies offer more flexibility, so if you want to camp out a little longer on your trip the rental can simply be extended.
Companies may also have a minimum and maximum rental period.
Budgeting for your trip
In addition to the cost of campervan hire, don’t forget to factor in campervan insurance, overnight campsite fees, fuel costs and the cost of any optional extras such as bike racks.
Fuel cost is not to be underestimated. Before signing on the dotted line, be sure you know the average miles per gallon (mpg) of the vehicle – some larger vans achieve less than 20mpg which means you’ll be paying out at the pumps.
Alternatives to campervan rental
Hot on the heels of sharing economy companies such as airbnb, a new generation of businesses will sort you with a campervan on an alternative model.
Camplify lets campervan owners hire out their vehicles to guests. Other companies such as Quirky Campers offer modified campers for a unique experience.
Of course, if the campervan lifestyle really grabs you, you might want to invest in your own vehicle.
You must check what campervan insurance cover comes with your rental camper, and consider whether you should take out additional cover for peace of mind.
Most companies will offer cover with the vehicle, but you should take time to check what is and is not covered by the policy.
For example, is breakdown cover included? Are your personal belongings covered, and if so are there any exclusions, limits or conditions you should be aware of? Do you need additional cover for special equipment, bikes or high-value items?
Waking up to a cosy bed, a view of the sea and a day packed with possibility… If you want to whet your appetite for the campervan lifestyle, take a look at the vanlife hashtag.
Social media influencers have embraced the trend for a pared-back holiday style.
Why not have fun by posting your own campervan holiday pics on social media, for friends and family to enjoy?
Don’t delay, get a quote today for campervan insurance and breathe easier on your next great adventure.