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With their head-turning retro looks classic campervans are the dream getaway vehicle for many. Whether you’re looking forward to long days at the beach or picnicking in the stunning British countryside, there’s much to recommend van life. However, not everything about owning a classic camper is as easy as arranging insurance for your campervan.

After packing your beach gear and planning your route, you’ll need to climb behind the wheel for the first time. At which point you’ll realise driving this type of classic is not as simple as your modern family car.

Simply putting the key in the ignition and hoping for the best is not the wisest course of action. Whether it’s a lack of power steering or electric windows, you need to get familiar with the van’s particular quirks and foibles before heading off.

Follow these top tips and you’ll be a natural classic van driver in no time!


Tip 1: Master the starting tricks

Even if you’ve driven a classic camper before, it doesn’t mean you’ve driven them all. They all have their own particular eccentricities, particularly when it comes to getting started.

While the previous owner should have given you a full run-down of the particularities of your new camper, you might have forgotten.

If so, don’t despair. Follow this advice and you should get off to a successful start.

  • Step 1: If using a manual gearbox then place in neutral or first gear before starting. If it's an automatic then check it’s in Park.
  • Step 2: Pump the accelerator pedal three times to get the fuel moving.
  • Step 3: Turn the key in the ignition until the engine starts.
  • Step 4: Push the accelerator slowly until the engine runs smoothly.
  • Step 5: Keep the engine running between 1 and 2 minutes before heading off (be warned - a fast getaway is not an option for the classic camper owner).

A classic blue campervan parked outside a house on a sunny day

Tip 2: Get used to the slow lane

With a top speed of 50-55mph (on a good day with the wind behind you) classic campervan drivers aren’t going to be breaking any speed records!

Remember when planning your route the vehicle might be between 40 and 50 years old so you’ll need to allow extra time for pootling. However, one of the most enjoyable parts of a campervan holiday is the trip itself, not just the destination, so this shouldn’t be a problem.


Tip 3: Keep your steering safe and steady

Piloting a classic camper can feel like an odd experience perhaps more akin to a bus than a car. You’ll notice the steering wheel is pretty big, but that’s to give you adequate leverage to turn the vehicle.

Remember you won’t have the benefit of modern power steering so it won’t feel as responsive as you’re used to. So, especially when turning or cornering make sure to keep your speed low.


Tip 4: Look further ahead for potential obstacles

Anticipating when you need to brake is an important part of van driving. Stopping your classic vehicle will take more time than usual so ensure you leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle ahead.

 A classic red campervan parked on a pavement in a residential area on a cloudy day

Tip 5: Never underestimate a hill climb

Depending on where you’re heading in the UK our undulating landscape will give you some amazing scenery to enjoy.

However, getting to these stunning viewpoints often involves scaling some pretty steep hills – a bigger undertaking for an older and heavier vehicle than it is for modern cars.

While classic campers are troopers it’s better to give them a bit of a run up to a hill. But keep in a low gear with high revs and you’ll make it.

If you’re worried about breakdowns, campervan insurance policies can include breakdown cover as an optional extra.


Tip 6: Plan for perfect parking

Without modern parking aids it’s important to take your time when parking up your cherished camper. But don’t be put off though, many classics are actually thinner and shorter than a Land Rover!

Your elevated position and large front window also helps with visibility, while the lack of a bonnet means you’ve got ample space at the front. Just take it slow and use all your mirrors.

If you have a passenger on board get them to guide you into the space with an agreed set of hand signals. Never let them stand between the vehicle and other immovable objects such as a wall or another vehicle.


Tip 7: Guard against parking brake problems

The parking brake is one of the more common van parts to give you trouble on a road trip.

Not only are they often situated on the dashboard but they aren’t as reliable as you’re used to.

If you’re facing uphill, turn the wheels towards the road. If you’re facing downhill, turn the wheels towards the kerb and put the van in reverse before applying the handbrake.


Tip 8: Pack light

Whether you’ve a classic VW or a Ford Transit conversion, a big talking point will be storage. Most people have a tendency to overpack and this can quickly lead to clutter and space problems. That said, remember to treat yourselves to a spot of luxury – invaluable if the weather takes a turn for the worse!

And if you’re planning on taking surfboards, bikes or any other outdoor adventure gear remember you’ll need a secure way to carry them. You don’t want them getting stolen when you’re parked up for the night or becoming damaged during the drive.

Such items could be covered by campervan insurance. Phone your provider to check coverage.

 A campervan set up next to a crop field with a table set up outside for cooking

Protect your classic campervan

When you’re hitting the road in a classic campervan, it pays to get the right campervan insurance for your requirements. The specialist team at Motorhome Protect have protected thousands of classic campers over the years. Policies arranged through Motorhome Protect can include the following benefits:

  • Unlimited cover across all the countries that are part of the European Union
  • Cover of camping personal effects for up to £3,500
  • Up to 6 months to complete a self-build conversion
  • Cover for campervans with a value up to £150,000
  • Unlimited EU cover

Call Motorhome Protect today to protect your treasured travel companion.

Policy benefits and features offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.


Frequently asked questions

Like any vehicle, driving a campervan requires practice and understanding of its capabilities. While they are larger and heavier than your typical car, becoming accustomed to their size and handling is fairly straightforward. The key is to take it slow and steady, especially in the beginning.

Once you get the hang of it, you'll find that driving a campervan can be just as easy as driving a regular car.

Start by familiarising yourself with all the controls, mirrors, and blind spots. Practice turning, reversing, and parking in a safe and open space before hitting the road. Don’t forget to take it slow, especially on corners and when navigating through tight spaces.

Navigating parking spaces with a campervan can initially seem like a daunting task, but with a little practice, it becomes second nature. Always remember to check the height and width of your vehicle before entering a parking space. Once you've found an appropriate spot, use your mirrors and take your time to park. If possible, have someone outside guiding you. Remember, it's not about speed, but accuracy.

Always use your mirrors and check your blind spots carefully before making a move. Campervans are larger than most vehicles, so you need to pay extra attention to the space around you. Don’t rush, take your time before switching lanes. Also, ensure you signal your intentions well in advance, so other drivers are aware.