Can You Live in a Converted Van in the UK?
Campervans and RVs are commonplace in the UK with over 16,000 motorhomes registered each year. Holiday parks around the country are brimming with these vehicles and on busy weekends you’ll likely see lines of caravans trawling along the motorways to reach the beach. However, following the van life boom in North America, self-converted vans are on the rise in the UK too.
This new niche has many people wondering whether they can live in a converted van. So, what are the limitations/strengths of a converted van and how does it differ from the traditional mobile home? To get you up to speed, here’s how to live in a converted van in the UK.
Campervans, RVs, & Converted Vans
It’s estimated that 50 million nights are spent in caravans each year. There are currently half a million touring caravans on the UK’s roads and a further 225,000 motorhomes. However, these statistics often neglect self-converted vans which fall into a grey area. If you want to live in a converted van, begin by purchasing a vehicle such as a Mercedes Sprinter or Ford cargo van. You can then strip out the inside and convert the vehicle yourself.
That means these vehicles often differ from sluggish and blundering caravans. Campervans and RVs, despite being “mobile homes”, are often used over shorter distances. Most holiday-makers drive their motorhomes from their house to an RV park… and that’s the bulk of the action!
Converted vans benefit from having better motors and higher clearance. They are nimbler and can be taken up steeper hills and down country backroads. They might not have the luxuries of traditional campervans (showers, bathrooms, seating areas, kitchens) but you can design and modify your vehicle so that it’s a close impression.
One confusing thing about trying to live in a converted van is changing your address. Once you are travelling, you no longer have an address to receive postage. This can be solved in a few ways. The first is to go electronic with any bank statements or mobile phone bills.
If an address is absolutely necessary, try using a family member or a trusted friend. Alternatively, purchase a PO box and get all future mail delivered to this address. Hopefully, when you start to live in a converted van, you can downsize all your monthly payments so there are fewer rental agreements, council taxes, and water/electric bills to worry about!
Working on the Road
If you want to live in a converted van in the UK, you can either save up and go travelling, use your pension to support you, or manage your finances so that you don’t have to work on the road. Alternatively, you can work remotely and get paid while you travel. It’s possible to sell merchandise and do odd jobs but working freelance is a much simpler solution.
You can use your SIM card to hotspot data to your laptop to get WIFI. There are also monthly-payment hotspots from companies like Skyroam which are pricey but effective. If you stay in campgrounds or visit cafes and fast food restaurants, they often have WIFI which can be used.
Spend time building up your network and focus on skills that can be utilised remotely. For example, photography, blogging, writing, editing, web development, marketing, social media, and online teaching are all jobs that travellers do on the road.
Heat & Electricity
One problem of trying to live in a converted van is having access to gas and electricity. You will have to forgo central heating and instead make sure your van is properly insulated. You can then install a diesel or electric heater and layer up with warm clothes and blankets. It’s not perfect, but it is much cheaper than paying for heating!
In a caravan, there is usually a socket that you can plug in at a campsite to power your vehicle with electricity. However, this isn’t an option in a converted campervan. Instead, you can wire up a deep-cell battery to the alternator or solar panels. You can also charge products through the cigarette lighter and use portable batteries to compensate for the rest of the power you need.
Food & Water
Another challenge of trying to live in a converted van is feeding yourself. Without proper plumbing or a kitchen, cooking can be difficult. When you are building your van’s interior, make sure you leave space for a dry store, spices, cutlery, cooking utensils, pots, pans, and anything else you may wish to cook with.
Most van lifers have a sink in their van and a surface to cook off. You can install a large water pump (either manual or electric) relatively easily and fill this up whenever you run out. This can be your drinking and washing up water. A cool box works to store dairy and meat temporarily, but an electric fridge is more reliable for storing perishable food long term.
Toilets & Hygiene
Hygiene is one of the biggest sacrifices you make when you live in a converted van. You can’t wash regularly, and you need to make do with whatever’s available. Only the largest vans have showers and toilets installed. Most overlanders use public toilets or campsites instead. If you are wild camping deep in the forest, you can also use nature!
A solar shower is a good option for rural van campers. Alternatively, you can use showers at campsites and gyms. Don’t forget that rivers and lakes also make for good swimming spots. Unfortunately, sometimes a sponge bath using wet wipes and deodorant will have to suffice!
There are many facets that make it interesting to live in a converted van. Most of these issues are only small bumps in the road to an overall amazing adventure. Van life is simple, that’s the beauty of it. You have the freedom to do what you want and live as you please. By choosing to live in a converted van, the world is your oyster, and the only limit is your ambition!