Looking for the ultimate guide to van life? This is it! You’ll discover how to buy and convert a van, get top tips on how to live and work in your home on wheels and much more.
Just remember to speak to campervan insurers before hitting the road. Talking to the team at Motorhome Protect is the number one way to stay safe and keep your van life firmly on the right track.
WHY VAN LIFE COULD BE PERFECT FOR YOU
The idea of living in a van permanently has been around for many years now, but only recently has ‘Van Life’ become the social media phenomenon we know and love today.
And while living in your own home on wheels has become more mainstream, more acceptable and seen as a natural way of life, more and more people are asking ‘Could van life be for me?’
So, let’s take a look at just some of the pros and cons of van life in the UK. But remember, one person’s idea of heaven could be another’s idea of hell!
Something we might describe as a ‘pro’ could easily turn into a ‘con’ in the wrong circumstances. So make sure you mitigate any risks by talking to specialist campervan insurers like Motorhome Protect before you take the plunge.
10 pros of van life
- Not tied to just one place. If you get bored of the view you can just pick up and move.
- Explore on your own schedule. Within reason you can go where you want, when you want and at your own pace.
- Teaches you to live more simply. With only limited space you’ll have to consider what you really need in life.
- Fewer household chores. A smaller space to clean and maintain means less hours spent on ‘housework’ and more hours spent doing what you love.
- Spend more time in nature. An incredible way to de-stress and live a healthier lifestyle, both mentally and physically.
- You’re never far from home. You’ll always be safe in the knowledge you’re never far from the comfort of your own bed.
- Potentially save money. Free from mortgage repayments, rent and the household bills that come with living in a property you could put together a tidy nest egg.
- Living more sustainably. There are so many ways to cut down on your carbon footprint and live in a more environmentally friendly way in a campervan.
- Become part of a community of like-minded people. Van lifers are a helpful bunch who look out for each other.
- Unplug from the rat race. The sense of freedom you can get from van life lets you easily unplug from some of the pressures of the modern world.
10 cons of the van life
- Space can get tight. No matter what space-saving device you invest in, if you’re sharing van life with others then you’ll have to get on well.
- Long, hot showers might become a thing of the past. And doing the laundry isn’t quite so straightforward.
- How do you go to the toilet in a campervan? This is a popular question and a big concern for many potential van lifers. If you’re not a fan of public toilets then full time van life might prove challenging.
- You need to be tidy. If you don’t stay on top of your chores the inside of a van can soon get messy.
- If you’re travelling alone then security can be a worry when parking up at night or choosing campsites.
- Not all jobs and careers are easy to fit into the van life schedule. And not having a fixed address can cause complications dealing with official matters where proof of fixed residence is required.
- Wi-Fi and other phone services can be unreliable. Depending on where you travel, signals can be a real issue.
- Driving a large vehicle isn’t for everyone. Particularly in large, busy cities or on narrow country lanes.
- Careful budgeting is required. Yes, you can save money, but you still need to put aside funds for essentials like regular maintenance, MOT, tax, fuel, site fees and campervan insurance.
- It can get lonely. During the busy seasons or if you’re travelling with a friend or partner then it shouldn’t be a problem. But on a wet winter’s day, it can be hard for someone on their own.
Clearly these are all things to consider because van life isn’t always going to be the fun, carefree life you would imagine from the millions of #vanlife Instagram posts.
However, if you do the right preparation then you should be set up for success. And that includes speaking to the most helpful campervan insurers like Motorhome Protect.
BUYING AND CONVERTING A VAN
Choosing the right van for van living will require you to balance a tonne of competing options and ask yourself a long list of questions. Such as:
- Should you buy a new or used campervan?
- What make and model is right for your needs?
- Where do you want to travel?
- Are you happy to travel solo?
- How do you plan to use the van?
- When will you travel?
- Will you live in your van throughout the winter?
- How much gear will you be storing in the van?
- Are you happy with a fixer-upper or do you want a van that’s ready to roll?
- What’s your budget?
- What facilities do you want/need? Is a shower and/or a bathroom essential?
- Do you have any disabilities that need to be taken into account?
- If you opt for a conversion, will you do it yourself or bring in the professionals?
You’ll no doubt have lots of other questions, but one of the great things about van life is there’s no one ‘right way’ to do it.
That said, it’s still vital to get a clear idea of what you want your future van life to look like so you don’t waste time and money investing in an unsuitable van.
If you haven’t got a lot of experience with campervans, then spending a couple of nights in one is a great way to get a better idea of what will work for you.
If you can’t borrow one from friends or family, there are lots of places – both traditional rental companies and peer-to-peer services – that hire them out, such as:
Popular makes and models worth looking at include the Volkswagen California, Ford Transit Custom Nugget, Mercedes Benz Marco Polo, and Vauxhall Vivaro Elite. These are all well-regarded, high-spec vans that will give you a great idea of what van life could be like.
When it comes to buying rather than renting, a key question is whether to opt for a new van or a used van. A new van will usually come with a manufacturer’s warranty and offer you the perfect blank canvas on which to create the ultimate van conversion.
Popular models ideal for conversion include:
- Volkswagen Transporter – A dream to maintain and easy to drive, they also hold their value very well.
- Ford Transit – As one of Britain’s most popular vehicles, the Ford Transit needs no introduction.
- Mercedes Benz Sprinter – Many van lifers’ vehicle of choice, the Sprinter is endlessly adaptable and a great upmarket driver.
However, this can be a pricey option as not only will you have to buy a new vehicle but you’ll probably want a professional conversion company to help build it out for you. And this can soon get expensive.
That’s why many wannabe van lifers buy a good second-hand van instead. This allows them to cut down on the initial financial outlay and put more money into their dream conversion.
Yet another alternative is to find a used campervan that has already been converted. While this has the potential to save you both time and possibly money, if it wasn’t converted by a professional conversion company then you might have costly issues further down the road.
The best places to buy campervans and motorhomes include dealerships, shows, and online retailers or auction sites. But wherever you buy, be sure to ask plenty of questions to ensure you’re getting a good deal and not buying a dud!
In an ideal world, most campervan enthusiasts would love to design and build their very own campervan from scratch. But just as with anything in life, preparation is the key to success.
To stop your van life dreams from careering off the road, read the Motorhome Protect ultimate go-to guide to converting your campervan.
Full of top tips, in-depth guidance on planning, budgeting and much more, it’s essential reading for anyone embarking on a campervan conversion project.
But if DIY campervan conversion is not for you then your other alternative is to hire a company to do it for you. Remember, do your homework to make sure the company meets the high standards needed for a successful campervan conversion.
Look for testimonials, ask to see previous work and check on sites like Trustpilot for unbiased reviews.
VAN LIFE HACKS FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF LIVING ON THE ROAD
Spending time travelling around the UK in the compact space of a campervan will bring lots of rewards but also plenty of challenges. So, it’s important to make life as easy as possible.
A little hack here and a little tweak there can all make a huge difference to your van life experience. Here are some simple van life hacks to make your daily life more practical on the road.
- Don’t let storage spaces go to waste. Or any space as a matter of fact, there’ll always be something you can fit into that nook or cranny.
- Keep internal decor simple with solid colours or simple patterns that can go with anything. A great way to keep your space feeling calm and uncluttered.
- When shopping for clothing, opt for wrinkle-free, machine washable items.
- You can never have too many hooks. Whether sturdy screw-in hooks or little stick-on versions, there’s sure to be something that needs hanging up out of the way. If you want something more heavy duty then anchor points are also worth scattering around the place.
- Fresh fruit and vegetables are great for keeping you healthy on the road. But store them in a hanging net or hammock to keep them bruise-free and out of the way.
- Opt for unbreakable kitchenware. Lightweight, durable and eco-friendly you don’t need to worry about bamboo cups, plates and bowls when driving.
- Shoe hangers are a popular way to organise toiletries and keep other everyday essentials close at hand. Whether on the backs of seats, doors or cupboards they also do a great job of reducing clutter.
- Folding and stacking chairs and tables are great space savers. As are collapsible storage containers, packing cubes and baskets.
- Double up on functionality wherever possible. Challenge yourself to find more than one use for common items around your camp.
- Cut down on drafts. Particularly if you’re living in your van over the winter cutting down on any drafts will help keep you warm and toasty.
Another time-saving hack is to come straight to specialist campervan insurers like Motorhome Protect. Give us a call today for instant cover.
12 VITAL PIECES OF KIT FOR A STRESS-FREE VAN LIVING
1. Campervan awning
Extends your livable area and allows you to enjoy your time outside more.
2. Levelling blocks
Sleeping on a slope might not be the end of the world for weekend campers. But for full time van lifers levelling blocks could be a saviour.
3. Anti-mosquito kit
Depending on the time of year and where you’re travelling, this could make life a lot more comfortable.
4. Portable coffee machine
Van life won’t always be plain sailing but if you’ve got a decent cup of coffee to hand then it could make all the difference.
5. Travel washing machine
Having a quick and cheap way to do the laundry will keep those pongs at bay.
6. Pedal-locking device
Campervans are highly desirable vehicles that are in need of the best security devices you can afford.
7. Wi-fi booster
Living and working in your campervan full-time will be a lot easier with decent wi-fi.
8. Portable power bank
For charging the essentials when off the beaten track.
9. Hand-held vacuum
In such a small space it’s vital to keep everything clean and tidy. A quick vacuum once or twice a day can make a big difference. Particularly if you have a furry friend in tow.
10. Memory-foam mattress topper
Making your sleeping arrangements as comfortable as possible is a key part of happy van living.
11. Carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguisher
Van life kit you really can’t live without.
12. Roof rack
For those big or bulky items, a roof rack can offer vital storage space. Be careful of low hanging branches and car park entrances.
MAKING MONEY WHILE LIVING THE DREAM
Selling your house, car and belongings and moving into your campervan full time is a dream for many people looking to leave the rat race behind and simplify their lives. But with the cost of living soaring, you’ll probably still need to earn money one way or another.
But van life doesn’t mean you have to change your career or even quit your job. Your campervan could be the perfect place to both live and work.
With many employers embracing remote working, putting bread on the table while also fulfilling your wanderlust dream is easier than ever before. Read our Motorhome Protect guide on how to make money while living in your campervan to help you get started.
Options for work that are well suited to life on the open road include:
- Transcription and proofreading
- Sales or telemarketing
- Web design
- Construction worker/landscaper
For those who already own their own home and don’t want to let go of the financial security that brings, another option is to rent out your house or flat when travelling.
You could rent it out privately to a friend or family member, through a letting agent, or websites like Airbnb.
WHERE NEXT? GREAT LOCATIONS FOR VAN TRIPS
So, with your van all kitted out and a source of income sorted, what next? Well, the big question then becomes where are you going to stop when night falls?
At the top of many people’s list will be staying in a dedicated caravan or motorhome park. Fortunately, there are many options to choose from across the UK offering a wide variety of features and facilities.
But what if you want a break from campsite life? Or you’ve been touring all day and want to stop for the night in the middle of nowhere?
Well, wild camping on the nearest bit of open land is an option but you’ll need to be careful. Without the permission of the landowner, it’s generally illegal in England and Wales.
Although the rules are less strict in Scotland where you can generally camp anywhere if the land is unenclosed.
Wondering about where you can park your campervan in the UK? Well, we’ve got a Motorhome Protect guide that’s well worth a read.
The article not only details some of the great apps, websites and social media accounts to check when looking for great places to park up.
It also has a list of tried-and-tested locations that welcome campervan owners looking to stay the night.
Specialist campervan insurers like us offer you a lot more than just specialist cover. We’ve got recommendations for camping in autumn, camping in spring, 5-star rated campervan sites, adult-only campervan sites, and a whole lot more!
BLOGGERS AND VLOGGERS TO INSPIRE YOUR VAN LIFE DREAMS
The internet is a fabulous resource to guide you through the challenges and pitfalls of van life.
For those looking for some guidance and inspiration take a look at some of these great channels.
- Wandering Bird
- The Gap Decaders
- The Roaming Radfords
- The McNeills on Wheels
- Andrew Ditton
- Bob Earnshaw
- Vandog Traveller
- The Indie Projects
- Our Bumble
- Our Tour
- Tread the Globe
- Life Beyond Bricks
There’s everything from experts providing invaluable insight on the latest state-of-the-art vehicles and accessories, to couples and families documenting their adventures in their home on wheels.
Perhaps you could start your own van life channel and fund your adventures that way?
CAMPERVAN INSURERS TO KEEP YOUR VAN LIFE ON TRACK
Not all campervan insurers are made equal! That’s why it pays to visit a specialist like Motorhome Protect. We’re dedicated to finding you the most appropriate insurance cover for your needs.
No matter how well you’ve researched van life, the right insurance policy will give you that extra layer of protection against theft, accident and so much more.
Additional benefits could include cover for your campervan while you’re converting it and enhanced cover for your camper contents.
Motorhome Protect is one of the most experienced campervan insurers in the market today. How much could you save on cover? Give us a call to find out.