Thursday, 26 February 2015

How much does it cost?

Hi all,

I'm sitting in my van in the early evening warmth, watching the sunlight glinting off the water far out to sea. I hear the wind in the pines, the sounds of the waves far below, and the first swallows of the year are swooping on the breeze..

People often ask me, 'How much does it cost to live your lifestyle, to live in a van and to travel with the seasons?'

Well, it's a very good question of course, so after reflecting on my finances recently, I think I can give a good answer, and maybe offer some insight into my way of looking at it. Things can be viewed from so many perspectives, and that in turn can influence how they appear.

So first of all, your normal living expenses for food, clothes, and other personal choices are going to remain as they are, unless you make changes of course, but limited space does tend to help with spending less on 'stuff'.

Fuel for journeys and travel with depend entirely on how far you intend to go, and how much you use your van for transport when you settle in one place for a while. Following the good weather, and having a bike on the back, makes a big difference to getting around your local area, and it's healthy too!

Doing the washing up in the sun on 2nd January

Fuel for cooking is very affordable. For example, a 6kg bottle of propane will last me about 5 months for cooking, refills are about £20 at the minute in the UK, and you can get a fill in Europe for less than half that if you know where to go.

Ok, that's all very well, but what about the overheads - covering the cost of keeping the van on the road, and travel back and forth between the UK and Southern Europe?

Well, the secret is.. not to lump it all together, in reality, it's only ever smaller amounts at different times throughout the year. When looked at this way, it shows just how inexpensive this lifestyle is. My year will look something like this (approximate figures):

Yearly overheads:




Van tax (before return to UK) £126.50 (6 months)
Travel cost to UK £500 approx (for fuel & ferries)



Vehicle service/or DIY (I do my own oil & filter changes etc) £30 approx

MOT £55
Van ins instalment 1: £150 

Van ins instalment 2 £150

Van Ins instalment 3 £150
Travel cost to Europe £500 approx

Van ins instalment 4 £150


(Insurance figures and instalment schedule will depend on your own insurance & payment plan, my breakdown cover is included).

So that's actually it! All you have to do is have income to cover those costs at the times they occur. As you can see, there is never a month in the year with a major overhead - even including the cost of travel. Compare this to monthly costs when renting or living in a house.

Getting together with friends on the road

Travel costs

So to work out the fuel cost of the journey for your own vehicle, first you need to work out the real MPG (miles per gallon) of your van on an average journey - It may make more sense for the calculations to do it in kilometres per litre. (An older van may not actually give the MPG in the manual so work it out yourself, and use the worst case for your calculations to avoid surprises).

Then, plot out your route on google maps, get the distance, calculate how many litres of fuel you will need for the trip. Multiply that by the cost per litre and you have the fuel cost for the trip. Simple..

Distance / kpl = litres needed

Litres needed x cost per litre = journey cost

Of course all this is simple maths but it might be useful for some to have it all here in one place.
In practice, fuel prices vary in different countries so you can look up the prices online for the countries you'll be passing through, and then work out the cost for each leg of the journey based on your vans range on a full tank.

Amazing camping spot in the western Algarve hills

There are very useful fuel calculation tools here:

The ferry prices do also depend on the route, when you travel and how far ahead of time you book, so put your details into a ferry website to get a quote for your journey. Of course there is no need to book a return journey and tie up funds in that if you're going to be away for a while.

Making ends meet - its still gotta be done!

I hope this info is useful to you, if you're thinking about embarking on this kind of lifestyle - I personally find that laying things out systematically makes it all a lot clearer, giving me perspective, as well as helping me to plan ahead. I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts on the subject, and any personal insights from your own experiences are very welcome as well.

Thanks for visiting! 

If you've any comments or questions please share them below.

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See you soon..

Chris & Rio


  1. How do you earn a Living ?

  2. Sounds Good :-) Cant wait to get out into the wild blue yonder :-)

  3. I get paid work when I need to, to cover my expenses. I don't generally share the exact details of what I do here on the blog. Thanks for reading Chris.

  4. We are launching in July doing Ireland for about 2 months, then over to the continent visiting some friends in Germany, followed by a slow meander down to Portugal (never been on the Continent so will be taking in the sights) Probably find a couple of wooffing or workaway gigs to settle in and learn some local lingo and decide from there really :-) N o real plans will just see how we go. Hopefully the dogs will adapt to life on the road fairly easily


  5. How does your Hiace drive in windy conditions Hiace Hobo ? I've had some issues where maybe my steering feels a bit loose in windy conditions. How about you ?

  6. Do you know where I might find the step well covers,for sliding side door step. Would Toyota UK have access to that part ?

  7. My Hiace campervan is a Finot designed interior (1998),with graphics of the french yacht design company on the side. Would really like to get hold of original graphics after my pressure washer took off the old graphics.

  8. Trying to get hold of winter steel wheels (New). Led to believe 1998 is 16" with 6 screw holes.Might consider refurbished ones if price is right.

  9. Check out if you are interested in campervan seats.

  10. Hi Hiacehobo. Did you ever, use work a way in Portugal ? If so, has was your experience ?

  11. Hi Hiacehobo. Did you ever, use work a way in Portugal ? If so, has was your experience ?