When you search #vanlife on Instagram you are met by dreamy photos of people living what appears to be a cheap and low-cost nomad lifestyle.
However, that really isn’t the case.
While living in a van is obviously cheaper than paying rent on an inner-city flat or life-long mortgage, it still comes with expenses, some of which are hidden.
Emily and Corey, who live in their van full time alongside their pup, Penny Rose, have been living out of their van for the last four years and have travelled an impressive 100,000 miles in their home-on-wheels.
On their blog, Where’s My Office Now, they have shared the real life costs of living in a van full time.
Cost of a van
Before you can fully embrace #vanlife, you obviously need to buy a van. While they are nowhere near as expensive as a house, they still come at a hefty price. VW Campers can sell from anything between £8,000 to £30,000, so it’s a good idea to plan and think about the kind of vehicle you want and what you’re going to be using it for. If you are hoping to live out of it full time, then it might be worth investing in a more expensive van or maybe one that has already been renovated to cut down on costs.
Corey and Emily don’t talk about the cost of their insurance on their blog, however it’s a necessary cost that has to be considered. After doing some research, it appears that in the UK if you hope to live in your vehicle full time and travel throughout Europe, you are looking to pay between £800 and £1,000 a year.
The more you travel, the more fuel you will use, but luckily it’s easy to calculate your fuel expenses in advance. You just need to know how many miles per gallon your van reaches, how many miles per month you plan on driving, and what the average price is for gas. Your van will be filled to the brim with your personal belongings, which also has an effect on fuel consumption.
Emily and Corey said: “When we are ‘on the move’ we are averaging about £195 ($250) per month on gas, or about 1,000 miles of driving per month. If we need to spend less money, we could simply slow down our pace.”
When travelling to new places all of the time it can be easy to get sucked into all of the amazing restaurants and bars they have on offer – however eating out is a huge drain on expenses. To cut down costs it’s a good idea to prepare and cook your meals from your van.
“We feel our best when we eat well which usually means preparing our meals in the van. For the two of us, we spend about £97 ($125) on groceries per week. ”
In some places it is completely legal to sleep where you park, however in some countries and destinations you are only allowed to camp on public land. Unfortunately, public land is not always available meaning you will have to set up for the night at a camping park which of course comes with a cost. This can soon add up and take away a large chunk of your budget. When planning your route, it’s a good idea to seek out free places to park before arriving.
On one trip, Emily and Corey stayed on a campsite 2-3 times a week which tallied up to £230 ($300) in just one month.
The majority of vans are old, meaning they are more susceptible to breaking down. Mechanical work can be expensive on all vehicles so it is important to have money stashed away in case of an emergency. It’s also a great idea to try and learn some of the practical aspects of fixing a van as often the labour is more expensive than the actual part – meaning you can save money by doing it yourself.
“We’ve been on the road since January. In seven months, we’ve spent a total of about £930 ($1,200) on our van. This averages about £130 ($170) per month.”
Corey and Emily’s estimated “base” price per month is:
Fuel £195 ($250) + Food £390 ($500) + Camping £230 ($300) + Emergency stash £130($170) = £950 ($1,220)