On a recent camping trip in Sussex with friends, a couple of us got talking about the cost of campervanning. We agreed that it’s a great way to get out and see different parts of the UK – areas that, even after living in this country our whole lives, we hadn’t quite got around to visiting until we got our campervans. With campsites costing on average around £15 per night it seems like pretty good value too, but is campervanning actually a cheap way of holidaying when you add up all the hidden costs? Let’s try to work it out…

Photo credit: Alan Cleaver

The biggest outlay is the one-off cost of buying the van in the first place. For our rough estimations we’ll use a figure of £8000 for the van. The more nights you spend away with your van, the cheaper it becomes on a per night basis, so after your first two nights it has cost a whopping £4000 per night, but after 20 nights the cost is down to £200 per night.

Then we need to account for annual expenses such as road tax (£200), insurance (£250), servicing (£200). Let’s be optimistic and not include the cost of breakdowns and repairs!

Now we get down to per-trip expenses: mainly fuel (I can squeeze about 25MPG out of my Bongo and a full tank costs well over £60 so I reckon every trip costs an average of around £50). Then there’s the cost of the campsite, we’ll say an average of £15 per night.

This year, our first full year of campervanning, we’ve had 20 nights away in our van so lets add up the costs so far:

One-off
Van £8000
Annual
Tax £200
Insurance £250
Servicing £200
Total £650
Per-night
Fuel (£50/3nights) £16.67
Campsite £15
Total £31.67

So, when I average all those figures over the 20 nights away we’ve had this year, my cost per night is…

£464.17

Not that cheap any more is it? But then there’s a couple of flaws to my calculation: for one, I’ve divided the full cost of my van over just one year which is unfair because I still have the van, it still has some residual value and I’ll be using it again next year. If we have another 20 nights away next year, then the average cost per night will come down to £264.17. Or another way to look at it would be to I say that if the van has depreciated by £1000 over the last year, over 20nights that’s £20 per night, which brings our total cost per night to £114.17. Another flaw is that I haven’t considered that if I go away and stay in a hotel the accommodation would cost more, I’d still use fuel (though much less), and I’d spend an awful lot more eating out in restaurants because I wouldn’t have any cooking facilities.

So it’s obvious that the more we use our vans the more cost effective they become per night, but given the cost of fuel and campsite pitches, the cost won’t keep falling forever. In fact, I doubt the real cost will ever get to much below £100 per night because there will inevitably be additional costs for things like new tyres and exhausts. Okay so I can hear the shouts of all the tenters saying I could wipe over eight grand from my calculations by selling the campervan and throwing a tent in the back of my car instead, but that kind of camping just doesn’t appeal to me.

In the end though, campervanning is about so much more than cheap holidays. If I didn’t have the van, I wouldn’t have spent 20 nights away on holidays this year. Until this year, I’d never even been to Cornwall. Next year we plan to have a big summer roadtrip around Wales. Then maybe France. I probably wouldn’t be doing that if I were staying in cheap hotels (and it would be a completely different experience even if I did). I’ve never spent so many enjoyable nights away with friends just sitting around in picturesque locations, relaxing and talking. I’ve found a great community of fellow campers to share the hobby with. Is it worth the expense? A resounding yes. It’s worth every penny.

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