Extra costs everyone needs to be mindful of when purchasing a campervan

If you read enough articles or watch your fair share of YouTube videos, you will soon realise that a never-ending stream of money could easily flow from your bank account should you let it.

It soon adds up, and before you know it, if you are not careful, you could easily spend a few thousand £££ without genuinely being aware of it. That being said, some initial outlay may save you a pretty penny. Still, you need to focus on what is important to you and your specific needs, worrying about the fancy accessories only when and if it turns out they will be helpful.

What extra costs do you need to consider?

New to vanlife and setting out on a tour of Europe in our motorhome Gulliver.

Meet Gulliver, an Elddis Autoquest 196

The Essentials

#1 Insurance

Unfortunately, there is no getting away from this one. If you want to drive your camper legally, you need to take out insurance. There are varying levels of insurance policies available, and it is always good to shop around but be mindful that if you only take out a 3rd party, fire, and theft policy, you can’t later claim for an accident.

Likewise, it is also essential to check the small print. Unlike car insurance policies insurers tend to ask a little more of you when covering your home-on-wheels and therefore make sure you read the full T&C before signing. Yes, it may be a chore, but it could mean the difference between making a successful claim or being turned down.

Likewise, if you are based in the UK, you will also need to factor in the cost of road tax each year.

#2 Breakdown Cover

You might like to fly by the seat of your pants and believe that you will never be that person standing on the side of a road waiting for the recovery vehicle; however, do you really want to tempt fate? 

Once again, there are varying packages, with some offering minimal support. In contrast, others provide roadside assistance, onward travel, accommodation, car hire if needed, and much more. 

Just imagine being stranded at the side of the road with no cover and nowhere to spend the night. Is it worth skimping on this one?

Don’t think you need it? List to this podcast episode from Tania and Adam (Jits into the Sunset)

Adam and Tania are Jits into the Sunset and they travel the world, often in their campervan.


#3 A Habitation Check

What is a habitation check?

Simply put, this is an MOT on the living area of your campervan or motorhome. Officially garages have to follow a standard checklist to help identify problems such as dampness or anything relating to the electrics, gas, water, or ventilation and check the windows and your door security.

Habitation checks are crucial to motorhome life.

Checking the inside of your campervan or motorhome is just one of the many extra costs you will face

This should be provided as standard if you go to a main dealer, and I would be clarifying this before putting a deposit down. If, however, you are buying privately, this may not be something that is being offered. 

If this is the case, do not feel pressured to purchase without one. Nothing stops you from asking for one to be undertaken, even if you have to foot the cost. Surely it is better to know about the problems before you hand over your savings. I would want to know if my dream camper was full of dampness that I would never get rid of or if the windows needed replacing.

The Added Extras

Some will argue that these are not necessarily nice to haves, but depending on what you intend to use your camper for (e.g., weekends away versus full-time van life), you may not need to invest in these extra costs.

#1 Gas

Did you know that dealers in the UK are not allowed to sell a vehicle with a gas bottle attached? 

Neither did we, until the day it came to picking our motorhome up. Fortunately, we had already decided to go for a refillable Gaslow system for ease.

We highly advise people to seriously think about this, especially if you intend to travel outside of the UK, for example.

If you decide to stick with a more conventional gas bottle system, there are a few things to be mindful of:

  1. Gas bottles are becoming increasingly difficult to source.
  2. Not all fittings are the same. Therefore if travelling abroad, you may find yourself needing to change gas fittings along the way
  3. It’s more expensive than filling up with LPG (GPL)
Gaslow refillable bottles are an idea solution for both motorhomes and campervans

Gaslow bottles are well worth the initial extra cost in our opinion

On the other hand, if you decide to install refillable gas bottles, make sure that you use a reputable company, whether that be for parts or installation. When we had problems with our initial purchase, we contacted Gaslow to check that the dealership we used had been fully trained to install such a system (I know it sounds like overkill, but if you have read our purchasing story, it will all become clear). They provided us with all the details needed to put our minds at rest.

It’s here I feel I need to remind everyone that gas is not something to mess about with and is part of the habitation and safety checks that should be carried out yearly. Unless you are gas-qualified, this is part of a van build I would be cautious of completing on your own.

#2 Solar Panels

Before considering this purchase, you need to decide what camping you intend to do. 

  • Are you someone who will be predominately taking your van away for the occasional weekend and always to a campsite location? 
  • Will you be looking to stay off-grid occasionally for meet-ups etc.? 
  • Or, do you plan to head off for long periods without wanting to rely on an electric hook-up (EHU) wherever you go?

If you are likely to spend nearly all of your time on a site with EHU, then solar panels are an extravagance you probably don’t need. On a side note, most motorhomes, or at least newer models, have a small solar panel that would support an occasional wild-camping night away.

If you are looking to mix things up a bit and swap between sites with EHU and weekends away in the wild, there are portable solar systems and portable power stations that would be cheaper than placing more panels on your roof.

For portable solar and power stations, we recommend looking at:

  • The various Jackery products include a mixture of different solar panel and battery setups.
  • The power stations offered by EcoFlow have several different options, providing electricity for both slight use and those looking to head off-grid for a while.

For those, however, who intend to live away from the crowds long-term, solar panels are a necessity and require a bigger budget. 

If you are confident and feel you could add solar panels, this will be the cheapest option.

However, the cost will be higher if you prefer to use a reputable company. To give you an idea, we went to a company on the south coast (one that was highly recommended) and they added 650w of solar to our roof for about £1800. 

For us, it was our first motorhome purchase, and we were very nervous about completing some of this work ourselves; therefore, knowing that our camper was in good hands was a huge relief.

A word of warning, though, don’t do what I did. We purchased our van and drove straight from Plymouth to Worthing, naively thinking that this company would be able to fit us in pretty much immediately. 

This is not the case.

We had to wait close to 3 months for a spot to appear, and this was not an ‘official’ set appointment. Instead, we were told that if we dropped the van off, they would work on it across the week during downtime and around the set appointments that had been made. If we wanted a set appointment, we were looking at July.

Now for me, firstly, I was shocked, but secondly, I felt this further endorsed what we had heard about this company. They also offered great advice and told us what we needed versus what they could have upsold us. Even after the initial consultation, we kept in touch with them and adapted our order to the differing needs we discovered we needed early on.

For anyone interested, we went to The Motorhome Workshop in Worthing. We are not affiliated with this company, but we were extremely happy with the work they did for us and would happily recommend them to others.

Solar Panels on our motorhome, Gulliver while parked up at a free aire on the Loire Valley in France

We have saved a fortune on pitch fees because of our solar panels

#3 Lithium Batteries

Most prefabricated campervans and motorhomes come with AGM batteries which, for those that don’t know, is a sealed lead-acid battery. But don’t panic; that doesn’t mean it is unsafe; they are extremely popular, contain no liquid acid, and won’t leak. 

An average AGM battery lasts about six years, although the longer it is used, the less effective it becomes, with its charging capacity decreasing.   

Again, suppose you only use your camper for weekend trips or a few months each year. In that case, these are a fantastic option and are more than sufficient for your requirements but should you want to go on the road for more extended periods, remaining off-grid wherever possible, many would now agree that lithium batteries are far more efficient. Again, these batteries will degrade over time but much slower.

I am no expert in this field, so if you are unsure what battery is correct for you, can I suggest you start here. It is biased to some degree as they are a lithium battery specialist, but they explain the difference between the two in a way that even I feel I can understand.

There are many other costs you could add to this with further accessories. I would advise that before you go out and spend a fortune on things, take some time, go away a few times in your motorhome, figure out what type of camper you are, and only then, once you figure all of that out, should you start to add more of a personal touch.

Is there anything else you would add to this essential list? What extra costs did you face? Please leave your suggestions below.

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The spending doesn't end once you purchase your campervan. Here are just a few of the extra costs you should consider purchasing via @tbookjunkie

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