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How much does living van life in the UK cost

van life uk costs

The van life has become an increasingly popular way of living for people in the UK, with many seeking to embrace a simpler and more sustainable lifestyle. However, one of the most common questions that people considering the van life ask is how much it costs to live this way.

The cost of living the van life in the UK can vary widely depending on several factors. These include the type of van, the level of comfort and luxury desired, and the location of the van. Here are some of the main costs to consider when living the van life in the UK.


Van Life UK Costs

The Van Itself

When considering the cost of living the van life in the UK, one of the most significant expenses to factor in is the cost of the van itself. The type of van you choose will largely depend on your budget and needs.

If you’re on a tight budget, an older or more basic van may be a good option. These can be found for a few thousand pounds and can provide a great base for a DIY conversion. However, it’s essential to consider the van’s condition carefully, as older vehicles may require more maintenance and repairs.

For those with a higher budget, a new or high-end van may be a desirable option. Newer vans come with modern features and are likely to be more reliable and efficient. High-end vans may also have additional features, such as solar panels and insulation, that can make living on the road more comfortable.

It’s also important to consider the size and layout of the van when choosing the right vehicle. Larger vans may offer more space and comfort, but they can also be more challenging to park and manoeuvre. Smaller vans may be more nimble and fuel-efficient, but may not have as much living space.

When choosing a van for the van life, it’s essential to consider not only the upfront cost but also the long-term cost. Older vans may require more maintenance and repairs, while newer vans may have higher insurance costs. It’s important to factor in all of these costs to determine the true cost of the van over time.

Overall, choosing the right van for the van life in the UK is an essential decision that will impact your comfort, mobility, and budget. By carefully considering your needs and budget, you can find a van that is both affordable and suitable for your lifestyle.

The van I bought to live in the UK was an old delivery van which I was going to convert myself, this cost us around £2000 but was a one off cost.

Conversion Costs

When it comes to living the van life in the UK, converting a van into a comfortable and functional living space is a significant expense. Conversion costs can vary widely depending on the level of comfort and luxury desired, as well as the extent of the modifications needed.

A basic conversion may include a bed, storage space, and a basic kitchen setup, and can be completed for a few hundred pounds. This type of conversion is suitable for those who plan to spend most of their time outside the van and require only basic amenities.

A mid-range conversion may include more extensive modifications, such as insulation, a solar panel system, a water tank, and a more comprehensive kitchen setup. These conversions typically cost several thousand pounds and can provide a more comfortable living space for those who plan to spend more time in the van.

For those who desire a more luxurious van life experience, a high-end conversion may include features such as a shower, toilet, heating and air conditioning, and high-end finishes. These conversions can cost tens of thousands of pounds and require professional builders to complete.

It’s essential to consider both the upfront cost and the long-term value of the conversion when choosing the right conversion for your needs. A well-built conversion with high-quality materials may last for many years, while a lower-end conversion may require frequent repairs and replacements.

When it comes to conversion costs, it’s also essential to factor in the cost of labour if you’re not doing the conversion yourself. Professional builders can provide high-quality work, but the cost of their services can quickly add up.

Overall, the cost of converting a van for the van life in the UK will depend on your budget, desired level of comfort, and the extent of the modifications needed. By carefully considering your needs and budget, you can find a conversion that provides a comfortable living space while also being affordable and sustainable in the long run.

Because I was going to be living in my van full time I wanted to ensure that I was able to live in comfort and have everything I needed, however I knew I was going to be doing all of the work myself which saved me thousands. Overall my conversion cost me around £2000 initially however over the years I have improved things and I usually budget around £500 a year for improvements such as increasing my solar panels, adding new storage, updating the tech I use in my van. I’ve found that by gradually improving each year I can keep costs manageable while keep my van up to date.

Buying Food

Not surprisingly when you take out the cost of rent and bills the biggest cost for us while living in our van in the UK was the cost of buying food. The temptation when you are in your van is to eat out far more than you would normally do when you lived in a house. A combination of a smaller kitchen to cook in, lack of oven and the relative difficulty of washing up in a small sink means that the temptation just to go out and get food is high. However the key to keeping our costs low both while living in one place or even travelling around the UK has always been preparing and eating our own food rather than paying for eating out all of the time.

The two things we bought for our van that really helped keep costs low were this Smad 3 Way Fridge and the Omnia Oven. While the Smad 3 Way Fridge is an outlay at the start of your conversion it more than pays for itself in usefulness as well as money saved from not eating out. We can cook in bulk and store leftovers safely in the van as well as keep perishable cooking essentials like milk, butter, cheese and vegetables. Because it works via 12v, 240v and LPG we can run it even when the batteries are low and there’s no sun for solar. If you’re looking for a fridge for your van it’s great value compared to others in the market. Add to that the Omnia Oven which gives us the ability to make oven based food on the hob and we really aren’t that limited on what we can cook and therefore the temptation to go out for food is diminished and we save plenty of money.

If you haven’t already check out our guide on cooking in a van without an oven to find out how you can eat like a king without having to spend money getting meals out

We tend to spend around £40 a week on food for the two of us; which tends to include a lot of pasta and pesto, fresh fruit and veg and noodles. Plenty of simple items that can be made easily in the van but which are still delicious.

Cost per month: £160

Fuel costs

It might seem obvious to say but your fuel costs will greatly vary depending on how you plan to live and travel in the UK. For those of you who intend on staying in one place all of the time your fuel costs will be low. However if you plan to travel around every single day you will find your costs ramping up!

For us we tend to travel for around 6 months of the year and stay in the same city for the remaining 6 months. This means we can keep our average fuel costs down quite a bit. We help keep these lower by also using our bikes to commute when we are staying in the same place for long periods of time. It’s amazing how quickly you can lose a quarter of a tank of fuel making short 5 minute drives in the city. Grabbing a bike is a great way to save on fuel plus helps keep us that little bit fitter.

On average we tend to spend around £125 a month. Some months we will spend virtually nothing on fuel and others we will spend far more than this figure however across the year this evens out to around £125 a month.

Cost per month: £125

Van Life Bills

While we avoid the normal bills you might expect when living in a house such as water rates, council tax and electricity bills; it doesn’t mean we don’t have our own bills to pay. For us this comes in the form of our gas bill and our internet bills.

The gas hobs in our van are powered using Campingaz refillable bottles. At our normal usage our bottle needs refilling every 3 months. Thankfully this cost is around £14 per refill so is hardly breaking the bank especially considering it covers all of our cooking and especially all of our cups of tea.

Perhaps the bigger expense is our internet bills. Because we do so much work on the internet via, our personal website and the work we do freelancing it’s vital we have not only quick internet, but also plenty of data. We use a mobile WiFi Router inside the van with a 100GB plan for all of our work and thankfully for us Netflix doesn’t come off our allowance. Add to this our phone contracts which also have an additional 100GB of data and we total around 300GB a month which is more than enough for our needs.

Cost per month: £45

Van life Laundry

van life laundry

A necessary evil of living in a van is having to wash our clothes in a launderette rather than easily at home in our own washing machine. Like it or not we’re going to run out of clean clothes eventually and so need to pay to wash them. For us we generally need to do laundry around once a month. This is because we are able to extend the life of our wardrobe by washing our pants, socks and smaller items using a portable washing machine. It’s super simple to use and means we can wash our underwear regularly and put off those trips to the launderette.

When we do our laundry it costs us around £20 to wash and dry everything. We can reduce this price by hanging our clothes up to dry on washing lines we put up but the additional £5 a month we pay to dry everything in one go save us having to have damp clothes drying around the van for a week.

Cost per month: £20

Van Insurance and Tax

A huge chunk of our monthly costs goes on insurance and tax. As with any car you may own you are legally required to tax and insure them and a van is no different. Thankfully the cost of insurance for a fully converted and registered campervan is much lower than a car. This will however differ greatly based on your personal circumstances.

For us we pay around £60 a month for both insurance and tax on our campervan which gives us breakdown cover as well as the ability to travel to the EU for up to 90 days.

Cost per month: £60

Van Life UK Costs

As you can see from the above our total monthly costs come to around £410 each month. This is just a guide for you as to what we spend each month. You can of course find ways to save more money each month by driving less, eating cheaper and cutting down on your internet expenses. What it does show is that while living in a van in the UK can be cheap it is not free. Yes we save money on rent and bills but we have our own costs and compromises you need to consider when deciding to live the vanlife in the UK

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