Is it possible to save money in a motorhome? This is something we’ve pondered a lot over the last few weeks…
Motorhomes are expensive to purchase, maintain and use. Whether you have shelled out £100,000 for a sparkly new one or thrown your savings at something nearer the bargain basement, you will find it difficult to escape the ongoing costs.
Our VW T4 Cree is 30 years old and was bordering on a “doer-upper” when we bought her six years ago. She cost all we had and then some. So, we have had to cut down on expenses where we could.
In this post we’d like to share some of the ways we try to save the pennies.
No time to read all this now? No problem – here is the bullet point PDF version to download for a quick read of all our money-saving tips!
How to save money in a motorhome
Here are some of the ways we try to keep our expenses under control…
- Have empty tanks to and from the site
- Use EHU for cooking and charging
- Shop around re: site fees
Every extra pound you carry impacts on fuel consumption. Travel to campsites with empty tanks to conserve weight…fill up with fresh when you get to the site. Leave just enough fresh water in to get you to the next filling point. But get the grey and black tanks emptied as often as you can.
Paying for un-metered EHU? Save money in your motorhome by taking a small electric kettle and lightweight plug-in grill and toaster. Charge all your equipment whilst on site. We do not suggest that you rip off campsites – their income has been affected by covid and utilities price rises too.
Shop around for a site you like at a price you can afford. After all, why pay for facilities you won’t use? The view will be mostly swallowed by darkness during the one night you’re there. And there’s the bingo you want to sleep through.
- Wild camp
- Use aires and permitted overnight camping spots
- Seek out motel late room deals
- Use waste disposal sites to keep the tanks empty
- Or ask at a campsite
- Flush the loo with a spray
- Bag toilet paper
- Use public toilets
- Ask pubs and restaurants etc. if you can stop over
- Get a solar panel
Saving the fees for a campsite is a favourite road trip exercise. In the UK, it is not easy though!
Aires are beginning to emerge from the darkness and some enlightened councils are providing overnight spots.
Looking on searchforsites , UK motorhome stopover or park4night et al will show you where you can sleep for free or a reduced fee. There are social media groups dedicated to responsible motorhome wild camping. Links below.
Occasionally, you will find a deal for a motel like Travelodge or a bed and breakfast which is cheaper than a campsite!
If you find a dedicated black or grey waste disposal site, use it. Keep those tanks empty. Likewise, fill with water when you can but don’t take more than you need. Sure, it is usually free, but the extra load will be drinking your diesel!
If you need to empty, approaching a campsite later in the day (when they’re not inundated with arrivals) with a polite request to empty and refill is usually agreed to. Some request a small fee, others don’t.
The toilet cassette will last longer between empties if you flush with a spray and place used toilet paper in a bin. And of course, if you use public loos as often as possible.
Ask at a pub or facility with a large car park if you can stop overnight. Many will allow it with either a purchased meal or a small fee in return.
If you have electronic equipment which you really don’t want to live without, invest in a solar panel. It will pay for itself as you will be less reliant on sites or restaurants for charging everything up and your expensive leisure battery will live longer.
RELATED CONTENT: See the solar panel set up we have on our van
On the road…
- Keep your speed down
- Plan your route including places for breaks, shopping, attractions and sleeping
- Use motorways
- But come off the motorway for fuel and food
- Combine shopping with filling up with supermarket fuel
- Avoid toll roads if you can find an economical alternative
- Use satellite navigation with care if it doesn’t recognise the weight/height/width of your vehicle
- Travel off peak
Don’t rush…stay in the sweet spot where you maximise your MPG.
Plan your route and stick to it. Modern sat-nav equipment, or google maps, can show you where the filling stations and shops are. This will save you backtracking.
Include places to stop for breaks and park-up overnight in that planning!
Consider which route is best – motorways may not take you directly where you want to go. They are certainly not the scenic way to travel. But you’ll be certain of regular services and can usually keep a steady speed. Usually!
Rural roads mean stopping, slowing, gear changing…braking. Oh, and diversions!
HOWEVER, motorway fuel prices may negate savings so think this through!
How about combining food shopping with filling up the fuel tank at supermarket prices?
Avoid toll roads, but only if the alternative will not add more than the cost of the toll in fuel consumption!
Be wary of following your sat-nav unless it recognises the dimensions of your vehicle. We have been taken down a route which ended – for us anyway – at a 6 feet wide weak bridge. A mistake which unfortunately cost us 70 miles!
If you have researched the area and know what you want to see, again, you will save fuel by having suitable routes pre-planned.
Pre-plan the car park too; finding the dreaded height barrier and having to drive round looking for another parking spot will cost you time and fuel.
Travel in off-peak season. Campsites and places who charge for a parking spot raise their prices during the high season. Autumn can be wonderfully warm and more economical to travel in.
In the Motorhome…
- Reduce weight
- Re-read toilet tips above
- Install LED lighting
- Only boil the water you need
- Cook in the motorhome
- Use a meal planner
- Pack everything you need to prevent unnecessary purchases en-route – e.g. charging leads.
- Don’t use glass containers and china crockery.
- Use the oven for the whole meal
- Do not use the oven for heating
- Use the sun for warmth
- Insulate the cab on cold nights
- Use the thermal blinds
- A coat will double-up as a blanket
- Have a light-weight rug on laminate flooring to minimise heat loss
The less weight you carry, the less fuel you’ll use.
Re-read the tips for keeping the tanks empty as in “Off Campsites” above. Of course, emptying the toilet every day will cost more in fluid so get the balance right.
If you’re on a whistle-stop road trip, do you really need the drive away awning and outside picnic table? (Answer = NO!)
Carry only what you need. If there are two of you on this holiday, then you only need crockery and cutlery for two!
Same with clothing…be prepared to wear a pair of leggings twice!
Change your bulbs to LED – the expense will soon be recouped as they won’t eat the battery as quickly.
Only boil the amount of water you need for drinks – fill the mug and tip it into the kettle. If you do boil too much, keep the excess in a thermos flask for drinks or a wash later on.
Cook in the van! It is great to eat out, but it is expensive too. Take turns at cooking and clearing up.
Use a meal planner to get you from one supermarket visit to the next. So, carry enough for maybe three days’ meals then shop – but only for the items on the next list of planned meals. This saves on weight and over-shopping.
Remember to pack ALL that you need though. It is annoying and a waste of money when you have to purchase something you already own but forgot to bring. Phone chargers are a great example.
Buy cartons of drink or decant from glass bottles into plastic. Glass is heavy! And, of course, you are reusing that plastic.
Same with eating and drinking. There are acceptable melamine and plastic alternatives available.
If you use the oven, try to cook the whole meal in there. You can heat beans, mushrooms etc. in the oven with the main dish so you save lighting a gas ring. Or try to use one big pan on a gas ring rather than light several.
If you’re chilly, open the oven door after cooking to allow the heat to escape but don’t keep it burning to heat the van. Propane gives off carbon monoxide. Normally the oven vents it out, but if the door is open whilst the burner is on, the CO will build up in the hab area.
During the cooler months, if the sun is out, park with the bigger windows facing it. The warmth will heat the interior of the motorhome for you. This will save money on heating costs during the evening.
Once the sun sets, insulate the cab windows to prevent heat loss.
Use the thermal blinds as well as the curtains in the habitation area.
Don’t underestimate the effects of cold – bring enough blankets to save on heating but don’t get hypothermia in your motorhome just to save money.
But don’t pack too many of those heavy blankets – a coat on the bed will suffice if necessary.
Having a lightweight rug on the floor will prevent some heat loss. Secure it on laminate with that anti-slip gripper stuff.
Clubs and apps…
- Consider whether you’ll benefit from “the big two”
- Use free or cheaper apps for finding places to park up
We have been members of the “big two” clubs for a few years. We have not really noticed any big discounts. Obviously you have access to more sites, especially the certified ones we prefer. Bear in mind that the CLs and CSs can be fairly cheap – we stayed on a £14 per night which included EHU and waste facilities. The “club sites” are not our style, although Rowntree in York is advantageously placed. It is only on these bigger sites that we are asked for proof of membership…other places often allow us on before we even tell them that we have joined. SO, this year we may resign our membership of one of these and use searchforsites and park4night. Plus there is UK Motorhome Stopovers and plenty more.
On Facebook there’s Motorhome Sleepyspots, Campervan Overnight Parking. Search “pub stopovers” on there – you’ll find several groups.
It is worth looking through a few of these before you set off. Some will only release full details if you create an account, but that can usually be done free of charge.
We bought a Brit Stops book but found one of the places we stayed at on seachforsites too.
There are other sites and apps – everyone has their favourite go-to.
BUT the message we are getting across is that if you don’t want a campsite every night, then you can avoid paying for the bigger clubs.
The hidden – or not so hidden – extras
- Shop around for insurance
- Keep your vehicle in good order
- Service the vehicle
Shop around for insurance deals, although look deeply into that horse’s mouth! Some are hardly worth the money.
See if they offer a discount for motorhomes in storage.
Keep your tyres plump and your engine fluids filled! Many a vehicle has suffered expensive damage due to user neglect.
Keep the motorhome in good condition with regular services. They’re not cheap but this will save you more money in the long run.
Shop around for a good, honest mechanic; ask on forums for recommendations.
Those same camping and motorhome forums are packed with gems of advice which will save you money too!
If you break down whilst on the road, not only is your holiday ruined, you’re at the mercy of the nearest garage. Naturally, most motorhomers have breakdown cover, but it’s still cheaper not to breakdown!
Purchasing a motorhome – how to save money!
- Avoid the mistakes we made by reading our ebook.
We have written about this in our ebook “How To Find Your Perfect Motorhome”.
This is the book we wish we had read when we were searching.
Luckily, Hobo Gav had done some research and stopped us from buying a beautiful VW Royale almost as soon as we saw it. I wanted it! It was a stunning vehicle, inside was immaculate. But he took one look at the paperwork and said, “I’m not buying it”.
I was not a happy camper!
Our ebook will talk you through the four essential steps towards motorhome ownership, from that first phone call to the test drive, and potentially save you hundreds, even thousands, of pounds!
Printable checklists mean that you will not forget to ask a vital question along the way.
Renting a motorhome…
- Shop around for deals
- Buy only the bundles that you’ll need
- Get other extras from supermarkets
- Check how much the car park will cost whilst you are away
- Or buy advance public transport tickets
- Ask about the mileage limit and other charges
- Shop around for insurance
Can renting a motorhome save you money? Well, it can save you from buying the one you thought you wanted but that is impractical for your needs.
Renting also saves you the ongoing costs of storage, repairs, servicing, replacements, tax, insurance…oh my!
Shop around! There are deals to be had.
We recommend Spaceships Rental. They are the only rental company we affiliate.
Only purchase the extra bundles you’ll need. Be practical about it – if you don’t intend cooking in the vehicle then don’t get the kitchen equipment. Bring a travel kettle and your beverage of choice.
Consider buying the bedding bundle if you’re using public transport to get to the vehicle though. Packing and carrying bedding could get your holiday off to a bad start!
However, the travel essentials pack (toilet rolls etc.) will be cheaper from the nearest budget supermarket.
Plan ahead for what you’ll need and make a list. You don’t want to have to return to the shops again and again.
Where do you pick the motorhome up from?
How far will you have to travel to pick up your motorhome? And how will you get there?
Look carefully at where you’ll leave your car whilst you are gadding about in a motorhome. How much does the company charge, would it be cheaper elsewhere? Bear safety in mind though.
Or budget for public transport (with your luggage) to the pick-up spot. Buy advance tickets!
Ask about mileage limits – having to pay a premium for travelling too far will end your break with a bad taste.e
Ask about other charges too unless you’re certain you’ve read every inch of the contract.
Get to know and understand how much the tanks carry…the grey and black waste will fill quickly and driving round to find suitable disposal points will cost fuel and miles.
You’ll not want to run out of fresh water either.
Shop around for motorhome insurance too – you can save money with a bit of digital legwork.
Obviously the idea of a motorhome road trip is to relax and enjoy it. Saving money as you go is important, but not if it totally spoils things.
Everyone has to agree with the itinerary.
Having things micro-planned will calm some people’s worries but will stifle others. And what if something goes wrong…there’s a new “No Overnight Camping” sign, a road diversion, the closure of an attraction!
There must be acceptance that something could change, and quickly.
Using a motorhome is adventurous rather than plain sailing. Plan as much as you can – or want to – and leave the rest to the Patron Saint of Road Trips.
However and wherever you travel, we hope that you have enjoyed this post.
What are your favourite money saving ideas?
Let us know either in the comments or via email firstname.lastname@example.org …not only will we include them, we will definitely use them! We need to look after the pennies as the motorhome takes the pounds!!
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