Ever dreamed about leaving the 9-5 behind and living in a motorhome permanently as a nomad, and how you might go about it?
That’s what this guide is all about. So let’s jump right in:
A sense of freedom like no other — Begin the day with a morning coffee in the mountains and wind things down at the shore of a lake. And if you really love someplace, stay as long as you like. With this lifestyle, there really is a sense of freedom that you can’t get anywhere else.
It’s cheaper than living in a house — the cost of living in a motorhome, including the upkeep and your day-to-day expenses, will all be cheaper than if you’re living in a house.
It’s cheap to park up — Most campsites or motorhome sites are fairly cheap. So if you ever want to stopover at someplace for a few days, it should be easy on your finances.
Energy costs should be cheaper — Most people living in a motorhome full time tend not to move around every day. This will reduce the amount and cost of the fuel you consume (and with the 2022 price hikes, I wouldn’t blame you for playing a game of static caravan for a while).
It’s also still relatively economical to plug in at motorhome and campsites for electricity, hot water and heating. Especially when you compare the prices to the ones you’ll have to pay in a house (which always seems to be increasing).
Home is always there — No matter where you travel, it’s always your own bed you’ll sleep in, your couch you’ll crash on, and your own toilet nearby.
More free time — One advantage of having a smaller living space is that it’s easier to keep on top of and clean, and there are fewer chores to do. In my experience, it only takes about an hour to give the whole interior a decent thorough cleaning — and especially with a handheld vacuum cleaner. Meaning you’ll have more time to pursue your hobbies and interests at the end of the day.
Make wonderful new friends — Travel about in a motorhome and you will meet the most wonderful people in the world. Most of the time they’re friendly and helpful, and very sociable. There’s no doubt, the motorhome community is a wonderful one.
No more burnout — Many people report feeling burnt out or bored by the repetitions of everyday life. (Americans call this ‘Groundhog Day’.) But it’s hard to feel that way with motorway living. You can go wherever you want, within reason and the view outside is always changing. Plus it’s a great opportunity to make new friends and meet like-minded people.
Closer to nature — I know this is kind of like the first point, but I really can’t overstate how good it is being closer to nature, and spending more time out in the green and pleasant lands of Europe.
It’s never been easier — Thanks to the increase in remote working, reduced Internet costs and enhanced connectivity, many people are able to work on the road and maintain full-time occupations and stable incomes.
Is it legal to live in a motorhome or campervan full time? Yes. There’s nothing in UK law to suggest that you can’t. You can live in a motorhome, a caravan, or a campervan. The only requirements are that:
Another restriction is that you might not be able to park where you like. There are all sorts of restrictions across the UK and Europe — usually set by local authorities — which will determine whether you can park up in a street or a layby for the night. The responsibility is on you to familiarise yourself with the rules.
It might not always be safe to park in some places, especially at night. Download this PDF of the Highway Code and keep it with you. You should be familiar with it anyway. But if your home is literally a vehicle, you should know it like the back of your hand.
No. There are all sorts of restrictive rules to do with parking, and they tend to change from one area to another. Rules often differ between wild camping spots, permanent motorhome sites, and in public parking areas — and it is your job to familiarise yourself with them. In some places, wild camping is forbidden. Doing so will result in large fines and possibly even wheel clamps.
Other things to keep in mind include:
Motorhome insurance for living in a camper full time WILL be higher than normal, regular motorhome insurance. And if you are driving to risky areas, such as North Africa, a 12-month policy could cost you in excess of £1,000.
Even if you’re driving a top-of-the-range new model, the insurance companies will only look at it one way: that you’re more likely to be involved in a road accident or issue, as you are on the road more. Be prepared to have that reflected in the price.
The law is actually quite vague when it comes to living in a motorhome on your own property. The result is that there’s been much discussion about whether the rules are actually fair or not. Some people think the UK has the most stringent rules in Europe.
What is clear is that you can park on your own land for 28-days only within a 12-month period, with no planning permission needed. And even then, you can only do this if the water, electricity and gas lines aren’t permanently connected. The second you overstay this 28-day period the local authorities might come knocking.
But the law also says that you don’t need planning permission if your use of the motorhome is ‘incidental’ to a dwelling or house and within the area of land attached to that house.
So essentially, it seems you can live in one indefinitely without planning permission. BUT only if you’re already on the driveway or in the garden. And even then, there could still be an issue. As some properties around the UK have legal covenants in place preventing motorhomes and caravans from ever being parked on them. To make sure you don’t get caught out, check the Land Registry.
Getting the right insurance cover depends on what it is you’re planning to do. If you’re planning to roam about Europe, then you’ll need to choose an insurance provider that offers 365-day policies for Europe.
Make sure that you can get coverage for the country you want to visit. Some further afield places, like Morocco and Turkey, require that you buy third-party insurance at the border. It’s quite hard to get an insurance company to cover you in these countries unless you’re at the border.
You will also need:
Make sure to get travel insurance BEFORE you set off. You will have to declare where you’ve been a resident of or spent the last six months. A lot of companies won’t insure you if you’ve already set off. Some do, however, let you renew annually on the road, for example, True Traveller — but they only insure under-40 year-olds.
The point is, plan ahead and it will make your life much easier to get the travel insurance before setting off.
Backpacker insurance is often the best type of travel insurance — even if you aren’t technically backpacking anywhere. You should be able to get it to cover you for up to 24-months. Although if you are over 55, you will probably have to renew it after 1 year.
Backpacker insurance also tends to cover many activities and sports. At least as many as most other standard types of insurance, which is always helpful.
Travelling is not as easy on the Continent as it was before Brexit, due to changes to freedom of movement for UK citizens.
You can still travel full time in a motorhome around Europe, so don’t worry about that. But you can now only spend 90 days in every 180 days inside the Schengen area. This means you’ll have to leave most of the countries on mainland Europe after 90 days. But you can still visit the Republic of Ireland, Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria, along with all the other nearby countries such as Morocco and Turkey.
Here’s a map for more info:
Can you live in a motorhome full-time? It’s not against the law. But it’s a big step and you should be clued up. Here are some things you’ll need to consider first — and some tips for when you set out on the road:
It’s not possible to give a precise estimate of the yearly cost of living in a motorhome — because there are so many variables. It can all depend on things like:
It might be a good idea to track your spending in a spreadsheet. This will help you to keep organised. Divide your costs into ‘fixed’ and ‘travel’ budgets. This should give you the foresight and some scope to keep on top of your spending, and to adjust it as you go.
I would also recommend an ACSI camping card. You can buy them for less than £13 a year. They only really work in the low season, but they provide fixed discount rates across many campsites around the UK and Europe. It could save you considerable money.
I once spoke to a friend who was living in a camper full time. When I asked how they did it for so long, they replied: “We don’t stay at motorhome parks, and the longest we stay in any one place is a maximum of 2 days.” They also estimated that they spent around £1,700 a month travelling about. That did include fuel at the time, but bear in mind that fuel prices (as you well know) have increased since then.
Most people selling up and living in a motorhome don’t plan to hold on to their house. But not having a fixed UK address can cause problems. Mainly because you will need a fixed address for:
So, such is life, you’ll essentially need some kind of fixed address even if you don’t actually live at it. Most full-timers use a family member or friend’s address to solve this problem.
This is a surprisingly easy way to solve most of your problems. Having a fixed address — any, it seems — allows you to get on the electoral register and to maintain a credit footprint which you will need to keep the DVLA and the NHS, and your banking and insurance companies happy.
Plus, any postage that you get will go safely to that address.
But if you go with a family member or friend bear in mind two things:
If you don’t have a reliable family member or friend, you can ‘rent’ an address or even a virtual mailbox. Some companies will receive your post, scan it, and then email it to you — all confidentially. This way you can get your post even while you’re driving about.
But be warned: the DVLA can be funny about virtual correspondence and may not accept it because of the high risk of fraud that is so commonly associated with virtual post. Really, using a real fixed address is your best option. But if you cannot, speak to the DVLA before doing anything.
You will need a home address of some sort to access a GP surgery. If you are using a family member or friend’s address to receive all of your post, then you should be able to register for the GP surgery in that area.
That would also mean that if you need to see a doctor, you will have to travel back to that area. Virtual appointments are good for minor problems. But if you physically need to be inspected, then you might find there is no other option but to travel all the way back.
If you need to take tablets daily, you might find that your doctor is only willing to prescribe three months’ worth at a time. This could leave you in spots without the necessary medicine — if you aren’t careful. You might be able to access medication abroad if you explain to a pharmacist that you’re full-time touring. And if you head inside with a passport and with one of the tablet boxes to show to them.
In most countries, getting antibiotics over the counter isn’t a problem. Even if you haven’t seen a GP. But check beforehand just in case.
I won’t lie. You will struggle to keep warm in a motorhome if it’s cold outside. Your best defence is to buy a well-insulated vehicle with double-glazing. Skip down to section 6 below if you want to hear my thoughts on the best motorhome for full-time living.
Most modern motorhomes are manufactured with their water tanks situated underneath the vehicle where it always tends to stay a little bit warm — which can prevent them from freezing over. But some older models might have them in areas where they can freeze. So check this. If your motorhome looks like it has a tank that could freeze, you’ll have to take steps to prevent this disaster-in-the-making from happening.
Storage will always be a problem if you’re on the road full-time. Lack of space is an obvious factor, but so will be your vehicle’s GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) constraints.
It’s also worth thinking about what’s important to you in your daily life and what this could mean for storage. For example, if you are an amateur astronomer or a musician — you’ll need to think about where your telescope, musical instrument, and all their accessories could go or if they’ll get in the way.
And then, if you’re into your outdoor sports, you might want to bring along inflatables, bicycles, and maybe a kayak. All of which obviously will take up space even if they’re fitted to the outside and add to your motorhome’s overall weight.
In my opinion, a bicycle is near enough essential for nipping out while on the road to get bits or for easier sightseeing. As for everything else, well… It will be a teething process at first. But after a month or two on the road, you’ll know what you use and what you don’t use. And what to get rid of. Motorhome living makes minimalists of us all.
As for your everyday little things, you can buy hard plastic boxes that will fit under the bed and perhaps some soft felt ones for the overhead bins. All are cheap and are readily available at places like B&M, Ikea, and so on.
Parking is much less of a pain than it used to be thanks to mobile apps like park4night and also, thanks to communities on Facebook and Instagram.
Parking is even harder during the off-season (winter months) because a lot of overnight parking areas will be closed. In this case, you could try residential parks or ‘Park Homes’ as they’re called for a place to stay. Just make sure that, if you’re travelling to an area in the wintertime, you do your research.
If you are travelling around Europe then you may want to try out the Eurocampings blog which often has fairly good information on what to expect in most European countries.
Personally I think a smartphone is good enough to watch the TV on, or a tablet. But if you want an actual television I would recommend a 12v model with a USB connector port. That way, if you have a streaming USB, such as the Amazon Fire Stick, then you can plug it in to watch everything that Amazon has to offer.
A solar panel is a neat way to get that crucial extra bit of energy coming your way. Really, they can be invaluable in how useful they are. Even on a cloudy day, a 120w rigid solar panel can charge easily charge your phone or a lamp. A great way to get a power boost in the middle of nowhere.
I touch on the topic of using a solar panel in more detail in our how to live off-grid in a motorhome guide here.
There are plenty of mobile apps that can help you find where you’re going. The trouble is most of them aren’t designed for motorhome users.
If you’re in a campervan you might be alright to stick with Google Maps or Waze. Although be sure to download the route on your phone in case you lose Internet connectivity (although you will lose real-time updates, such as traffic, so be warned).
For the rest of us in motorhomes, it can be a tricky one. CoPilot prides itself on showing the way for caravan and HGV drivers. But recently there have been rumbles in the community about odd route choices and inconsistencies.
But if you’re living in a motorhome full time, I would probably invest in a decent motorhome GPS like this TomTom GO Camper Max. It will cost you a few hundred, but it will save a lot of hassle.
This is probably a given but — make sure your toilet and shower work reliably. Most campsites are decent but a minority have horrid facilities. And in that case, you’ll want to use your own.
Giving up your home for a life on the road is a huge undertaking that requires a lot of thought before jumping in. A good place to start is by asking yourself these simple questions:
Think of the size and the amenities of the model you can actually afford. Then ask yourself:
Living on top of someone else can bring out the ire in even the most understanding, most patient people in the world. So make sure you’re both ready for the challenge.
It’s much less bothersome to travel about in a motorhome with a pet, but then you’ll have to think about sleeping next to a wet, shedding dog in a confined space.
In order to live in a motorhome permanently, you’ll need to get rid of a lot of stuff. It costs a fortune to store things away in units. So ask yourself, are you willing to let go of most of your material possessions?
Some people don’t sell up completely. They rent their households for some passive income instead. This way, you might be able to keep hold of some possessions as a ‘furnished’ house. Plus the house is always there to come back to.
If you’re chasing the dream by all means go for it. But if you’re running away from a problem at home, then full-time motorhome living is unlikely to solve anything. In fact, it could make things worse.
Your close family and friends may not like to see you go, and would you be able to spend so much time away from them? You will make lots of great new friends out on the road, but your parents might sorely miss seeing their child.
Remember that living in a motorhome in the UK is much cheaper than living in a brick and mortar house. So if you’re able to continue to work remotely, it shouldn’t be a problem.
However, while it might be cheaper, it isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s probably more expensive than you might realise.
Here is a pie chart that shows approximately, how you might be allocating your funds. It all depends on how much you have in the first place of course:
Full-time camper living is a little different to full-time motorhome living, and mainly (obviously) because campervans tend to be much smaller. There are pros and cons to living in a campervan only.
There may be more cons than pros listed here, but really it all depends on what you want out of travelling If you have the right attitude and feel comfortable with it, then living in a campervan can really be the ultimate form of freedom. As there are even fewer restrictions on where you can go and what it is you can do in one.
This isn’t an easy question to answer. It depends on a lot of variables. Such as what you want out of your motorhome and where in the world you’ll be spending most of your time.
That being said, here are the motorhomes that I know I’d be interested if I was going to live permanently in one:
The Coachman Travel Master range is, as they say, “built for the open road”. It’s made in Sweden by manufacturers Kabe.
It’s a simply gorgeous four-berth motorhome that has a large battery, a solar panel, and insulation to keep you comfortable between -20C to +20C. And there’s a new range for 2022.
Check out the Coachman Travel Master’s website here.
This beast is built not only for the road, but also for off-road. With its solar system, this motorhome is built to regularly be able to last for 10 days of self-sufficient wildcamping. Even though it doesn’t sound like a lot, that alone will set you in a good position.
Hymer motorhomes are stress-tested for the cold. They have an excellent closed-pore PU foam insulation shell that should keep the temperature nice and pleasant even through the winter, and gas consumption low.
It’s available in 2-3 sleeping berths.
This is a difficult one as anything under £20,000 is a big ask nowadays. I really wouldn’t recommend living permanently in a motorhome in a low-priced model. That said, I’m going to give it a shot and choose what I think is best:
This German-built A-class model has a nice lounge area with a drop down bed for the evening time. Here’s our video review of the Hymer B584:
Another German-built A-class model that’s spacious enough for living in.. Here’s our video review of the FMSe model of the Hobby 750:
No. Campsites tend to have a maximum amount of time that you’re allowed to be on there. And it’s always usually less than a year. You might be able to stay between 6-11 months. But you will be chased off before the year is up.
No — I wouldn’t say so. It’s healthy to get out and see the world. That’s good for the soul. It can be hard to eat healthily on the road, but if you’re creative and adjust your diet accordingly, you can still eat a balanced diet on the go.
No. Although you can wild camp in many places, other places might have funny rules — and you’ll have to request permission on private land. The attitude of the local authorities can change — even in the UK — from one council to another. Always check if you have permission.
Yes. But not to the extent that you would if you were leaving it unattended for months.
No. Living in a motorhome, you could potentially drive through 40 different counties in a day. So which county would you pay? It doesn’t seem possible.
No. A mortgage is exclusively for real property (real estate). A motorhome is personal property, like a car or a boat.
In theory you can, but the law on this is vague and contradictory. It would be best to check with your local council (if you are planning on still having a fixed address for, say, postage and insurance) to see what they say.
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