The Real Costs of Vanlife

My Monthly Vanlife Expenses on The Road

In this blog I’d like to share with you an overview of all my costs while living vanlife when I was travelling in my campervan full-time between 2017 – 2019. In addition to just the vanlife costs, I’ve also added my company costs so you know how much it can cost to travel and work online.

Any questions, please let me know.

How much do you spend while living in your van? This is a question I get a lot! So I thought it would be about time to share an overview with you. The goal of this post is not to say what’s the best way of vanlife, but to give you some insight in how I live vanlife 🙂 .  I think I’m the higher end of spending for vanlifers in Europe, so keep that in mind while reading.

    FAQ – Costs of Vanlife

    How much do you spend in a month of Vanlife

    Monthly vanlife costs are about €1300. This includes everything – gas, taxes, my company costs, touristy things and eating out frequently.

    Is living in a van cheap?

    Living in a van is considerably cheaper than living in a flat or even in an RV. By yourself, you should be able to get by between €500 and €1500 a month all-in in Europe. But that doesn’t mean that it’s cheap. You still need money to cover things as food and expenses. So if you don’t have a means of making money on the road, it may or may not be an improvement.

     

    How much money do you save by living in a van?

    I save at least €1000 a month by living in a van compared to my living situation in Amsterdam. The rooms / flats I had back home cost at least €1000 a month including utilities, municipality taxes etc. As I was living by myself this was a lot of money. Now I spend about €450 on my van + facilities/campsites a month. The rest of the savings come from my change in lifestyle. I eat out less and mostly cheaper because of the countries I travel too. I am from Amsterdam where a nice GT sets you back €9 very quickly. 

    Please note that I also earn less. This is a choice in life – I like it when it’s more simple. Earn less, spend less, live simple 🙂

     

    What do you spend most money on while living Vanlife?

    I spend most money on food and eating out. That’s because my vehicle is quite fuel efficient. If you have an older van with bad mileage, most costs will go to fuel and repairs. 

     

    Summary of my Monthly Vanlife Costs

    My Monthly Vanlife Costs as a Solo Vanlifer

    Total: €1346

    • Gas: €100
    • Van Insurance: €126
    • Road Tax: €83
    • Health Insurance: €120
    • Food & Drinks: €250
    • Eating out: €100
    • Campsites & Facilities: €150
    • Virtual Office: €120
    • Accountant: €65
    • Internet: €30
    • Contracts: €45
    • Other transport: €30
    • Touristy things: €25
    • Shopping: €25
    • Other: €50

     

    Gas: €100 a month

    Gas is one of the largest vanlife costs. Gas usage and costs varies tremendously amongst vans of different sizes, brands and ages. My Renault Trafic from 2012 uses about 90 euro per 1000km (average of regular and mountain roads). There were few months where I’d do more than 1000 km.

    My road taxes are €169 per quarter, so €83 per month.

    Insurances: €250 a month

    My van insurance is quite expensive because I’ve never owned a car before. In the Netherlands, if you have had damage-free years with previous cars, you get a steep discount (up to 70%). Because I start with a full fee, I started with €126 a month including Europe + Morocco roadside assistance and travel insurance. I also have good health insurance because I’ve had a past of illnesses. That’s €120 a month.

    Food & Drinks: €250 a month

    I like good food and alcoholic drinks like beer, wine and an occasional gin-tonic. This comes with a price tag 🙂 I spend between €50 and €75 per week on groceries while on the road by myself. When Bas joined me, this almost doubled because yeah, a glass of wine with two people is simply better than alone 😉

    Eating out: €100 a month

    I love to sample local cuisine. While travelling by campervan trough France, Portugal, Spain and Morocco I’d go out for dinner at least once a week. When Bas joined me, this was almost twice a week as he loves food even more than I do!

    Campsites + Facilities: €150 a month

    Because I work online, I need good internet and electricty. My solar panel had a hard time keeping up with my usage at times. Also, if I had a busy time and would be on calls for 2-6 hours a day, a campsite was simply very comfortable. Not to mention the showers!

    Virtual Office: €120 a month

    Because I need my company registered somewhere, I have a virtual office with Regus. This is about €120 a month for an address, postal service and including 4 days of coworking space anywhere in the world.

    Accountant: €65 a month 

    I have an accountant that processes all my receipts and invoices and does my quarterly/yearly tax returns.

    Internet: €30 a month

    I use a Mifi for internet on the road. I buy local simcards and then recharge via recharge.com  In most countries this adds up to about €30 a month, using between 20-50GB a month.

    Contracts: €45 a month

    I have a mobile phone with European coverage + Netflix. In total this adds up to €45 (excluding Bas his phone bill and Spotify).

    Other transport: €30 a month

    This may seem high but includes ferries, for example the ferry from Spain to Morocco for €200.  Otherwise, this counts buses, subway’s, and the occasional toll road.

    Touristy things: €25 a month

    I combine living vanlife with travelling and therefore like to explore places. I like going to a museum now and again and often castles and archeological sites costs a few bucks.

    Shopping: €25 a month

    Sometimes you simply need some new clothes, something for the van or a nice sun hat 😉

    Other: €50 a month

    This category varies, sometimes it’s nothing other months is more. This can include van repairs (I have a pretty new van, so few repairs), doctor bills abroad, a birthday present sent by post and whatever you can think off.

     

    Gas

    €100 a month

    Gas, whether it’s Diesel or Petrol, is one of the largest expenditures when you are living vanlife. 

    Gas is one of the largest vanlife expenses and it can add up dramatically! It depends on a few factors. First of all, you will have way higher fuel costs if you move often. Driving more = higher costs. If you are on a tight budget, it may help to stick around in one place for a while. You can do this for example via workaway or other volunteering jobs.

    Another variable for your gas costs if the country you’re in. Driving a Diesel van, we got the cheapest diesel prices in Morocco and Gibraltar. Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg are alright, but France and the Netherlands are a true nightmare.

    Your fuel expenses during your vanlife time also depend largely on how fuel efficient your vehicle is. My Renault Trafic 2012 van conversion has great mileage for a van. On a full tank (€80-€90), I would do 1000 kilometres. If I’d drive proper roads without mountains, this would even get to 1200 kilometres.

    When I was living vanlife in France, I didn’t move around too much. I’d drive about 200 km a week and would stay at places a few days at a time. That’s a big comparison to our road trip through Morocco in which we did about 3000 kilometres in 4 weeks!

    When you are buying a campervan, it’s good to keep this in mind! Ask the owner/dealer for records of mileage so you can calculate how much you will spend each month. This WILL have a huge impact on your vanlife budget, so put some effort in this 🙂

    Van + Health insurance

    €150 a month

    Insurance – some people go without but I definitely make sure my most valuable property and myself are well insured 🙂

    Van insurance

    I have a full-coverage insurance for my van with Aveco Verzekeringen in the Netherlands. Because of different circumstances (i.e. the van is my only car), this insurance was one of the few options I could go with. I choose full coverage of my campervan because it’s worth a lot, and the first 5 years it keeps the value it was initially recorded at. This insurance also includes my travel insurance (365 days a year), unlimited days away with your campervan (so not just 90 days in a row) and roadside assistance in Europe and Morocco (big plus!).

    In the Netherlands car insurances work in a way that you get a discount if you have driven without any damage for a certain amount of years. Because the van was the first car I’ve ever owned, I had not accumulated these years. That’s why my insurance started at about €140 a month. After year one you get 10% discount, after year 2 20% discount etc, until a maximum of 70% discount. That’s why my insurance is currently at €126, a major cost in my monthly vanlife budget.

     

    Health insurance

    If you are a Dutch citizen, health insurance is mandatory. I have a pretty extensive coverage, including health care abroad. That’s why the fee is about €120 a month. Again a major part of my vanlife costs, but I do take this very seriously as I have had health issues abroad before.

     

    Food & Drinks

    €250 a month

    Daily groceries can be a big expenditure, depending on what/how you eat and in which country you are

    Groceries, what can I say 🙂 I think this is a category in which vanlife costs vary widely. Some vanlifers will spend close to none, others will spend a lot.

    When I just started travelling I was not vegetarian yet. Buying meat and fish is usually more expensive than just vegetables. Also I would spend some money on nice ham and sausages as when I turned vegetarian, this was not the case anymore. I have a lactose intolerance and therefore I buy soy/almond milkes and only older cheeses because I do not react to them. All more expensive than the regular stuff. I also tend to buy softdrinks once in a while, especially in summer I cannot hold myself back from a cold coke 🙂 . Add some wines and beers, and the grocery bill adds up!  

    I think as a vanlifer that lives very sober, you can get away with about €30 a week in groceries for bread, vegetables, pasta’s and rice etc. I ended up spending about €50-€75 a week with all the extra’s included. 

    It also made a huge difference in what country I was. Travelling through France, the supermarkets were quite expensive. But when I was in Morocco with Bas, the grocies at the market were quite cheap (although getting ripped off was daily practice). 

     

    Eating out

    €100 a month

    I love to eat out and discover local gastronomy. For me it’s an essential part of travelling

    Although I wouldn’t call myself a “foodie”, I love to discover new places through food. A good meal can really make or break the experience you have of a certain place. Even though eating out is about 10% of my monthly vanlife costs, I wouldn’t do it any other way. I do try not to go too crazy and really keep it at €100 a month. 

    In some countries it’s hard to find budget options. When I travelled with my campervan through the Jura region in France, the bill always ended up more expensive than I hoped! In Spain eating out cheap is a lot easier because you can have amazing menu del día’s for €10 including wine and you don’t need to eat the rest of the day 🙂  

    If you want to decrease your monthly vanlife budget, I’d say the eating out category would be a good place to start 🙂

     

    Campsites + Facilities

    €150 a month

    I love wild-camping, but sometimes I just want a hot shower and good facilities 🙂

    When I started travelling by myself in 2017, I was unsure about a lot of things. My campervan was brand new, I could barely drive, wild-camping, what is that? I was a bit insecure so the first few weeks I spent mostly on campsites. Then I tried out free campervan areas in France and this worked out well! I did that more and more and eventually tried just wild-camping. It really took me some time before getting used to it 🙂

    I also travel on the road as a digital nomad. This means I do have to charge my laptop. It turned out my solar panel was too small to keep the battery up if I would use my inverter for several hours. Therefore, in times when I had a lot of work (think daily conference calls + 4/6 hours working a day) I would usually go to a campsite. I wouldn’t have to worry where I’d sleep that night, if I had enough electricity and water etc. It just made sense 🙂

    I usually tried to stay at 1 or 2 star campsites and avoid the bigger ones. That would be approximately 10-15 euro a night all included. In summer, campsites were more expensive. The most (and worst day ever) I paid was €32 for a night at a 4 star campsite. But there was literally no where else to go in that area. In the beginning campsites did contribute a lot to my monthly vanlife costs, but when I started wildcamping more this went a lot better!

    I know that in the USA a lot of people take gym contracts to shower there, which is a great solution to decrease this cost category! In Europe I have not found such a thing, only in specific countries. But then again only with yearly contracts. 

     

    Virtual Office

    €120 a month

    I needed an address to register my business while travelling, so I contracted a virtual office

    During my vanlife, I was also working as a digital nomad from my campervan. During my travels I was still subscribed at my parents in the Netherlands. But I didn’t want to subscribe my company there as well because then they would become party liable if something would happen with the company. Therefore, I chose a virtual office with Regus. With this address I could also register my company with the chamber of commerce.

    It is a bit pricey, but there are 4 co-working days at any of the worldwide offices included. Almost every month on my trip I’ve used the business lounge that’s included in the virtual office package. If I had big files to upload or an important conference call for which I needed good Wifi, I would look up one of the offices and go there to work for the day.  

    These costs are also tax-deductible for my company result, so in the end they are not a major setback. They are also not specific vanlife costs, but company costs. As I wanted to give you a detailed breakdown of my monthly vanlife costs, I included it anyway 🙂

     

    Accountant

    €65 a month

    A necessity for me while working while on the road

    I have an accountant where I can simply upload my receipts via an app, and they get processed automatically. I also use their invoicing system so everything gets booked in properly. Because I have quite some foreign transactions (foreign clients, online services) I make use of an accountant to make sure that all my tax topics are in order.

    Internet

    €30 a month

    Working online, Netflix and Spotify via our own network

    When I just started vanlife, I would get internet from my phone all the time. But I quickly found out that may battery was running out so often and I was also reaching my data limit all the time. That’s when we  bought a MIFI router. With this mini router we could by local SIM cards and get data-only contracts. In most countries, I would use about €30 a month of internet for working online, watching movies on Netflix and listening to music on Spotify and Youtube.

     

    Contracts

    €45 a month

    We tried to cut down on monthly contracts as much as possible to bring down our fixed costs

    I think these kind of monthly recurring payments can put a lot of pressure on your vanlife budget. I can really recommend to bring this down as much as possible and cancel all commitments that you don’t need if you are considering vanlife.

    Before I left on my vanlife adventure, I took a good look at my bank statements. I looked for monthly recurring payments like gym memberships, magazine memberships, charities, phone bills etc. I made sure to cancel everything that I could until there was a minimum amount left. Now all I have is a phone bill of about €30 a month (unlimited European phone calls) and Netflix. When Bas joined, we combined a few accounts and his phone bill and Spotify was added to the mix.  

     

    Other transport costs

    It’s easy to forget, but don’t forget about parking, buses into town, toll roads, ferries and maybe even the ocassional fine!

    This is a cost category many people forget when they are considering vanlife, but it can add up!

    I usually park a bit outside of the city centre (for example with farmers in France via France Passíon) and take buses or ride my bicycle into town. Also when visiting big cities, they are usually too big to walk so I buy a daily bus pass. Parking in cities can also add up!

    In most countries I avoid toll roads. But for example during our 4-week trip through Morocco we did take some toll roads because we had such a big distance to cover and the non-toll roads could be really bad!

    Also we have taken a ferry once or twice. Mind you, if you travel to Scandinavia with your campervan ferries may become a substantial part of your vanlife budget! 

    And yes, let’s not mention the fines 😛 So far so good, only one in 2 years. Still painful and a waste of money! 

    Based on above, I averaged this on about €30 a month. 

     

    Touristy things, Shopping & Other

    €100 a month

    Especially with bad weather, I frequent castles, museums and other landmarks

     Some things to take in to account on my vanlife costs

     

    •  I work online as a digital nomad. When on the road, I aim make about €1000 a month by working less than 8 hours a week. I work towards what I need. Most months, I made ends meet without diving too much into my savings.
    • I like good food and alcoholic beverages and I LOVE to eat out
    • When I started Vanlife, I was a bit intimidated by wild-camping. I would spend more money on campsites.
    • These are my costs of living as a solo vanlifer. When I lived vanlife with Bas together, we’d spend more money on food, drinks and eating out. Costs in total would increase to about €1600 in total, including insurances.
    • My insurance is expensive because my van is quite new + my DIY campervan conversion was a luxury one so the value is high + I have never owned a car before (and thus no discount on the policy)
    • The cost of vanlife depend largely on the speed with which you travel, the countries you visit and your general lifestyle. My vanlife costs serve solely as an example 🙂
    • Some of these costs are tax-deductible for my company (i.e. virtual office, internet and phone costs)

     

    Any questions, please post them below. I’d be happy to answer them!

     

    Vanlife costs
    Vanlife living - campervan budget

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