The most FAQs about van life and motorhoming

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If you’ve got loads of questions about vanlife you’re in the right place. On this page we’ll do our best to provide you with answers to some of the most FAQs about vanlife and motorhoming.

We hope you find the answers you’re looking for but if you’ve got a question that isn’t on this FAQ page or you’d like to explore a question more thoroughly just get in touch via email and we’ll get back to you asap.

Good luck!

The Most Frequently Asked Questions about Vanlife and Motorhoming

American RV parked at UK campsite

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FAQs

  • Where should I buy a motorhome - from a dealer, private seller, or from a motorhome show?

    There are pros and cons of each.

    If you’re buying a new or used van from a dealer you’ll get some kind of warranty with the vehicle, something you wouldn’t get from a private seller.

    That said, the price of motorhomes from a dealer (even used motorhomes) will be higher than an RV bought privately (as much as 25% higher).

    Is it worth paying extra for peace of mind? You’ll have to decide.

    Even brand new vehicles are known to have teething problems, requiring visits back to the dealer’s for repairs. For this reason, it might be a good idea to buy a used vehicle that’s been well looked after, had all the teething problems sorted, and has a full service history.

    And anyway, if you’re buying new you’ll have to wait. There is often a waiting list of up to 18 months before you’ll be able to drive away in your shiny brand new RV. This is why the used market is so bouyant at the moment.

    When it comes to buying from a motorhome show, even though you’ll be able to have a good look around the vehicle you probably won’t be able to test drive it at the show. This is something you’d need to arrange with the dealer for another time. We say ALWAYS TEST DRIVE BEFORE YOU BUY!

    Our ebook How to Find Your Perfect Motorhome covers these things in more detail.

     

  • Should I buy a motorhome on Ebay?

    There are thousands of used RVs on Ebay, some great, some not so great. And there are undoubtedly some real duds.

    For this reason you’ve got to do your research before hitting that button and committing to making a purchase.

    Even though the motorhome you’re viewing on Ebay might look great in the pictures, we can assure you it’ll look different in the flesh.

    So we always advise going to see the motorhome (and taking a test drive) before making an offer or placing a deposit on Ebay. Yes, this might mean driving right across the country to see the van but doing so could save you thousands of pounds; you don’t want to end up with a money pit of a vehicle!

    So, in summary we say Ebay could be a great way to find your ideal van – but be cautious. Do your research, speak to the seller, and most importantly go to see the motorhome yourself and give it a proper test drive.

    There’s no shame in walking away, even if the seller calls you a ‘tyre kicker’. If something doesn’t feel right, look elsewhere.

  • How much do motorhomes cost to buy and run?

    Brand new motorhomes require big money! You’ll need at least £35,000 and that’s for the smaller models. The bigger A-Class RVs go up to and well beyond 100K. Even new VW T6 campervans cost the earth.

    Used motorhomes are obviously cheaper depending on age, mileage, condition, service history etc.

    Our VW Autotrail cost us £6000. Yes, it’s an old vehicle – and it needed some repairs when we bought it – but we simply couldn’t afford anything newer.

    We’ve met van-lifers who have travelled all over Europe in a Mercedes Sprinter costing just a few hundred pounds!

    When it comes to running costs you’ll need to factor in…

    • Yearly service and MOT
    • Repairs (a brand new RV and a used one bought from a dealer will have some kind of warranty that should cover repairs)
    • Storage costs. (Where will you keep your RV? Ours is in a storage yard that costs nearly £400 per year)
    • Upgrades (will you want to add things like solar panels to the van?)
    • The cost of fuel (more time road-tripping means big expense on diesel, petrol or LPG)
    • Habitation check (for damp and to ensure appliances are safe to use)
    • Propane or butane gas (we get through a 13kg bottle every 18 months but we’re only part timers. If you’re living vanlife fulltime you’ll get through lots more, especially in winter)
    • Insurance, road tax, and breakdown cover
    • The use of ferries (if you’re travelling to Europe)
    • Memberships to camping clubs such as the Caravan and Motorhome Club
    • Sundry expenses like fluid for the toilet cassette which isn’t cheap at about £15 for 10 doses (again, if you’re fulltime in your van this cost will soon add up)
    • And then you’ll have to pay to stay on campsites unless you’re planning to wild-camp (which isn’t easy in the UK)
  • What are the different types of motorhomes?

    Motorhomes basically fall into 3 separate categories…

    A-Class motorhomes are the big, bus-like vehicles, shaped like a brick. Think Hymers and things like Winnebagos.

    B-Class motorhomes are really more like panel vans that have been converted into a campervan. Popular examples are the Iveco Daily Campervan and the Mercedes Sprinter

    C-Class motorhomes can be distinguished by their over-head cab which is usually a sleeping space (but not always). Our VW Cree is a C-Class motorhome.

    And let’s not forget the smaller campervans; things like Ford Transits, VW T4s, 5s and 6s, as well as the classic VW campervans and Mazda Bongos.

    Which type of RV you go for will be based on your needs and your budget.

    Think about…

    • How much space do you require?
    • How many beds do you need?
    • How confident are you in driving a bigger vehicle (some of which are over 30 feet long)?
  • Are VW campervans worth the money?

    The classic VW campervans first rolled off the production lines way back in 1950. They proved popular right from the off and more than 70 years on, their appeal is still enormous. 

    The early ‘splitty’s’ sell for crazy money. Later models in top condition still sell for in excess of £20,000. And you’d have to pay a few thousand even for a rust bucket that needs major work. 

    As an investment, it looks like the classic VW campervan will hold its price for years to come. Sure, these old vans do go wrong but if you have some basic mechanical knowledge, the engines are so simple you could have a go at fixing them yourself by the roadside. 

    So, in answer to your question, are VW campervans worth the money? Well, it depends what you want one for.

    We’d say that a classic camper is not the ideal vehicle if you’re a family of 4 embarking on a long road trip covering hundreds of miles. Yes, these little VW engines are robust and have stood the test of time but they’re not very economical and struggle uphill.

    Their space is also limited though an awning attached to the side when parked up would double the size of your living area. 

    As you can see, there are pros and cons. It might be an idea to hire a classic campervan to ‘test the water’ before diving in at the deep end. 

    RELATED CONTENT: Find out more and see our classic VW campervan gallery


  • Is campervan conversion easy?

    Buying a panel van then converting it into a camper has become more popular over the last few years but we wouldn’t say it’s easy; far from it.

    You’ve just got to see the thousands of YouTube videos to see how much work is involved.

    You’ll need space, time (it’ll take a lot longer than you think), the right tools, some basic DIY carpentry skills and some knowledge of electrics (and you’ll need to learn more as you go).

    Although many van-lifers do convert their own vans, there are specialist companies who can do it for you but these, as you can imagine, are expensive. You can buy yourself a van then spend as much again – if not more – paying someone to convert it for you.

    If you are going down the DIY route, check out two campervan conversion resources we recommend that will help guide you every step of the way.

  • What equipment do I need in a motorhome?

    There are basic items you’ll need in your RV, especially before going on longer road trips. Indeed, some of these are essential.

    There are basic safety items such as…

    • High-viz jackets in case of breakdowns
    • Fire extinguisher and blanket (most new vans will have these as standard)
    • Smoke detector
    • Carbon monoxide detector
    • A well-stocked first aid kit

    Other road trip items include…

    • Levelling chocks (unless you have a hydraulic levelling system fitted)
    • Electric hook-up (EHU) cable to plug into the power supply at campsites
    • Spare fuses and light bulbs
    • Fresh water bottle and kettle (you’ll want a brew on your travels!)
    • Toilet fluid

    RELATED CONTENT: See the full list of essential items we always carry in our motorhome

  • Is hiring a motorhome a good way to test out vanlife?

    If you’re not certain about getting your own van it makes perfect sense to hire a motorhome or campervan to test the water. 

    Buying your own vehicle is a major expense whereas you can hire an RV for a week for just a few hundred pounds. 

    It will provide you with a great road trip holiday and help you figure out whether you like – or loathe – being in a van. 

    The truth is that vanlife is not for everyone, as we’ve been seeing recently on Instagram. 

    Check out all you need to know about renting a motorhome before you hit the road

  • What is a habitation check?

    A habitation check (often shortened to ‘hab check’) is usually carried out yearly by someone qualified to do so.

    They check for damp in the motorhome, as well as making sure the appliances are safe to use (such as the gas appliances like the oven, fridge and heater). You don’t want gas spewing into your motorhome!

    New RVs (and used ones from a dealer) should have had a hab check and you will get signed paperwork to prove it. If you’re buying an RV from a private seller always ask when the last hab check was carried out.

    You can expect to pay £200-£300 for a full hab check.

    Please note: a hab check is not a legal requirement. It gives you peace of mind (and your insurance company may ask about it) but the choice is yours. We usually have one done by our friend (who is qualified) every couple of years.

    You can check for damp yourself with a handy little damp meter reader (a gadget that helped us get £1500 off the asking price of our van!)

    RELATED CONTENT: 13 things you must check on used and older motorhomes

  • How can I keep my motorhome safe and secure?

    Unless you’re able to keep your motorhome on your own driveway, we feel it’s most secure kept at a registered motorhome/caravan storage yard.

    Such places have locked security gates and CCTV cameras. We keep our van at one when we’re not away on road trips.

    But if you park your RV at home or out on the street (or when you’re on a road trip vacation) what are the best devices and gadgets to keep your van safe when you park up and go off exploring?

    Here are some basic security gadgets to consider…

    • Steering lock
    • Wheel clamp
    • Clutch claw
    • Immobiliser and alarm (new motorhomes have these fitted as standard)
    • Tracking device
    • Dummy flashing light (that looks like an alarm)
    • Stickers on windows (to deter would-be thieves, e.g. “This RV is fitted with an immobiliser/tracking device” etc.)
  • What are the most useful gadgets for an RV?

    Everyone needs gadgets these days and being on the road is no different. 

    Some can be really useful, others a waste of money. 

    You might like to consider getting a proper motorhome satnav for longer trips. This allows you to program in the size of your van (otherwise you might end up directed to a completely unsuitable route).

    A power inverter will charge up all of your electronic gear. 

    A reversing camera can be very handy if you drive one of those really big RVs and don’t want to crunch the rear bumper or bike rack.

    And a damp meter will help you keep an eye on potential moisture problems. 

    RELATED CONTENT: Find out more about some of the RV gadgets we use

  • What are the best ways to plan a road trip?

    We used to just jump in the van and hit the road without making any plans. As newbies, we just wanted to be out in our motorhome all the time; it didn’t matter where we ended up! 

    But we’ve since learnt that it makes more sense to do some planning, especially for longer road trips. 

    First off, you’ll want to prep your van; is it suitable for the journey ahead? 

    Then you’ll need to ensure you have all the essential vanlife equipment

    It also pays to figure out a proper itinerary and route. (We’ve travelled for miles in the wrong direction more than once!) 

    RELATED CONTENT: See our top road trip tips to get you and your van ready for an epic adventure

  • What are the best road trips in the UK?

    There are some amazing road trip routes and day drives you can take all over the UK.

    The most well known is the North Coast 500 in Scotland, a route that gets incredibly busy in the summertime. We’d suggest you go outside peak season.

    In Wales, spectacular driving routes have been created by the Welsh Tourist Board.

    And in England there are amazing routes you can take through mountainous areas like the Peak and Lake Districts. Not forgetting some amazing coastal routes as well, all around the UK.

    We’ve taken 10 major road trips in the UK, taking in the high mountains, driving across desolate moors, and winding our way along narrow coastal roads.

    RELATED CONTENT: Check out our 10 best UK road trips and download our FREE ebook

  • Which is the best campsite club to join?

    In the UK the big two campsite clubs are the Caravan and Motorhome Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club.

    We’ve been members of both and slightly prefer the former, though there’s not much difference between them.

    They both have large campsites (some with over 100 pitches) and smaller 5-pitch sites (the types we prefer by far).

    Both clubs cost around £50 a year to join.

    Only members are supposed to be able to use the sites, though on the smaller 5-pitch sites we’ve rarely been asked to show our membership cards. However, on the bigger ‘club’ sites you’ll nearly always need to show your card when you book in at reception.

    We also tested Britstops for a year. It enabled us to stop overnight in places like pub car parks, museums, farm shops, leisure centres and even vineyards. When you join you get a book with a list of all locations that have registered with the scheme.

    There is also a scheme called Pub Stop-overs which is similar to Britstops. And throughout the summer season you’ll find a growing list of ‘pop-up’ campsites appearing. You don’t need to be a member of any club to use these. Same goes for privately owned campsites that are not affiliated to either of the ‘big two’.

    RELATED CONTENT: Read more about our experiences of campsites in the UK

  • Is wild camping in a motorhome illegal?

    Wild camping in a motorhome has become a contentious issue since the pandemic, not helped by the law which is far from easy to understand.

    Suffice to say that in the UK wild camping is more tolerated in some areas than it is in others.

    For example, Scotland has a more relaxed attitude about wild camping, though you should still seek permission from the landowners (if you can find them).

    But even in Scotland there are some routes, such as the NC500, that are becoming increasingly difficult to wild camp due to the sheer volume of vans, especially during the summer.

    Locals get annoyed and authorities clamp down on unruly behaviour (admittedly, from a minority of motorhomers). But it only takes one negative story for all motorhomers to be tarred with the same brush.

    We’ve written extensively about wild camping in the UK and cover things like how to stay safe, remain respectful to locals and the environment, and how to avoid trouble with authorities, including the police.

    RELATED CONTENT: How to wild camp in your motorhome in the UK

     

  • How do I winterize my RV?

    There are several things you must do to your van before the cold of winter sets in, otherwise troubles may ensue.

    There might be cracked water pipes (caused by frost), condensation and damp problems, lack of solar energy (with fewer daylight hours), and if you’re travelling in Europe there are additional winter driving laws you need to be aware of.

    And when it comes to storing your van over winter (as many motorhomers do) there’s always the possibility of rodents getting in.

    The good news is that by following some simple steps you can safely store or keep using your van, no matter how cold it gets out there.

    RELATED CONTENT: See our top tips for winterizing your RV

  • Can you earn money as a fulltime vanlifer?

    We’re only part-time vanlifers so we’re going to answer this question with what our friends and some of our newsletter subscribers tell us.

    It seems that yes, you certainly can earn money if you live full time in your RV.

    We know motorhomers who look after campsites (as wardens) throughout the year, spending a few weeks at a time at different sites. 

    And one of our contacts in Australia (who uses the same web-building platform as us) has written a great article about how to run an online business from your RV.

    The fact is that the world has changed enormously over the last decade or so and many jobs can now be done online. If you’ve got a decent wifi connection there’s no reason why this can’t be done from the comfort of your motorhome. 

  • Is vanlife as good as it looks on Instagram?

    Quick answer: NO!

    On Instagram vanlife is depicted as some sort of utopia: sunny skies, stunning scenery, peace and tranquillity, amazing road trip adventures.

    It all looks so incredible.

    Don’t get us wrong – vanlife can be like this. Indeed, it often is, but there is a darker side to vanlife that’s too easily overlooked.

    More recently on Instagram we’ve been seeing stories of people who blindly went into vanlife without considering some of the harsher realities of life on the road such as…

    • The stress of finding a place to park up for the night (unless you’ve found a place you can stay indefinitely – which is pretty unlikely)
    • Safety issues (especially if you’re on your own)
    • Breakdowns and other appliance failures (things will go wrong in a vehicle which is used everyday)
    • Limited space (if you’ve been used to living in a house, things will seem pretty cramped in an RV, even in one of the bigger models)

    So, no, vanlife isn’t as good as how it’s depicted on Instagram. Weigh up the pros and cons before diving in at the deep end.

    Perhaps hire a motorhome for a week or two to see if you like it before splashing out thousands of pounds.

    RELATED CONTENT: All you need to know about motorhome rental

     

  • As a full-timer, how can I deal better with vanlife stress?

    As we’ve seen in films like Nomadland, vanlife has a darker side. It’s not all sunny skies and stunning scenery.

    Instagram has become a popular platform for people to report their bad vanlife experiences, leading to stress, anxiety, and depression – three things you’d never associate with the freedom that vanlife brings.

    But the reality is that living fulltime in an RV has its everyday stresses, much like living a more traditional bricks and mortar life.

    That’s why we created a section on our site about vanlife health and wellbeing that covers…

    • How to ensure your emotional needs are met (to help keep you mentally healthy)
    • A list of brain boosting foods to help keep your grey matter in tip top condition
    • The healing power of nature: why its so important to get out of the van and connect with the world around you
    • Mindfulness and meditation (to help you create a sense of inner calm on your journeys)
    • And a selection of travel-related hypnosis downloads

    RELATED CONTENT: How to stay sane on the road: our top tips

  • Remember, if your question isn’t here ask us directly and we’ll get back to you asap. (And if we think it’s a great question, we’ll add it to this page!)

    Please consider signing up to receive our free monthly newsletter for the latest and best vanlife stories from the UK and overseas.

    And if you’re serious about finding a motorhome grab our latest ebook that can save you loads of hassle…and money!

    FAQs about vanlife: Ebook: how to find your perfect motorhome

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