Van living Q&A
Updated: Jan 5
Every van dweller is different, we converted our van on a budget so skimped on certain things (no toilet, shower, fridge or built in heater) and we also work full time in London. We get asked the same questions about the practicalities of living in a van. I can tell you the answers are the obvious ones! But just incase you are still wondering here are some frequent questions we get asked and our answers!
1. What address do you use?
We each use our parent’s addresses as permanent addresses. We end up at our parents houses very often and on paper we live there, postal voting and having everything else managed online makes this viable. We are also registered at Dr surgeries in our parent’s towns, but if we need to see a Dr urgently you are able to get an emergency appointment as a visitor, just like you would if you were away from home in the UK.
2. What do you eat?
We eat the same as we ate in a house. We have a 2 hob burner that runs off a refillable butane canister, but no fridge, freezer or oven. We are vegetarian so do not really need a fridge and its easy to not need a freezer. Butter, eggs and cheese are ok out of the fridge and we just buy a pint a milk each night and put in a pan of ice cold water under the van to use in the morning. We mainly make veggie chilli, veggie thai curry, tomato pasta etc… We use a lot of tinned beans, soft tofu (does not need refrigerating), fresh and tinned vegetables, dried lentils and spices. Each morning we have porridge and coffee and make sandwiches for lunch and eat fruit. The trick is to buy only what you need as storage is limited.
Slow oven veggie curry utilising the hook up electricity and saving our gas.
3. Do you get cold?
Nope, its has been a super warm summer and autumn and the van is very well insulted (this also kept us cool in the summer). We have lots of blankets and when it does get cold, we will put the heater on which runs off the campsite hookup. If we are wild camping the heater is not an option so we make up hot water bottles. Simply boiling the water heats the van up well.
4. Is condensation a problem?
Nope, it is very well insulated van with a vapour barrier and carpet on the walls and no bare metal. We also have a roof vent and often keep the door cracked very slightly open to keep an air flow.
5. Where do you go to the toilet or wash?
We currently live on a campsite which has a bathroom and showers. However, we do sometimes wild camp or sleep in carparks. The obvious answer is the answer here! If wild camping in the great outdoors, you go outside (take any toilet paper home with you!) and after a run in the mountains we have been known to just stand in the rain, swim in a lake or lie down in a river to get clean. If in a car park and you find you have to go, always carry a trusty nalgene bottle. In terms of showering, when staying in car parks or on the street, find your shower at work and use that. Both Max and I commute to work by bike or running so have to shower at work regardless of living in the van.
Can you spot Max? Bathing after a run up a nearby mountain in the Scottish borders
6. How do you wash you clothes?
Visit laundrettes or ask friends and family to use their laundry machine. Also our campsite has laundry facilities. Win!
7. How much does it cost?
The van itself was our biggest cost, but we wanted a low millage one and a high top roof. It is up to you what van you get and what you spend, could be less than £1k, could be more then £10k. We had a budget so stuck to that.
Again, the build is up to you, we did it ourselves and paid for help with 2 parts – installing the window and the electrics. However, rule of thumb is do not spend more than 50% of the van price on the build. For example if you spent £6k on the van, spend less than £3k on the build.
To wild camp it is very cheap, and you can generate you own electricity via solar or as we do via a split charge relay (battery charges as we drive). We also have refillable gas that is about £10 a month (so far out first canister has lasted longer than 2 months).
Our campsite is near London with great facilities and manned 24/7 so we pay about £12 per person per night including electric hookup. This is probably the most expensive campsite in the country though!
To put in perspective, our living cost is about £700 a month now with all bills. If we were renting with all our bills that would be around £1500 a month. We sold our car so the running costs of a van is more, but not loads more.
We also have the resale value of the van, our conversion could be fully undone, plus we learnt a bunch of very useful skills!
8. Do you have internet?
We have data deals on our phones, also our campsite has very slow wifi at £20 for a year so can manage emails etc. We watch a lot less TV than we used to, instead we read more and simply talk to each other more! However, I do download TV shows and Netflix onto my phone when I am somewhere with internet so I can watch in the van. Some people have TV aerials and wifi dongles. If it is important to you then you will find a way.
Max working from the van
9. Why do you live in a van?
The main 3 reasons for us are,
It is a lot cheaper than renting so we can save up to pay our loans and buy a real house.
We have a space that is ours and not someone else’s
It works for our lifestyle, where we get to be outside more, live simple and minimally, and also allows us to get away each weekend to the countryside.
10. How long will you live in your van?
We are not sure, we will buy a home when we are ready to, but I do really love living in the van. A lot of my generalised anxiety has subsided since we made this lifestyle choice. There is a lot less to worry about, less work to be done, we feel more a part of world and meet more people.
Feel free to post any other questions!
Here are some resources we used if you want to convert your van.
Self build camper van facebook group – a place to ask questions, be inspired and help you make that jump to becoming a self build camper van owner!
Greg Virgoe’s youtube channel – Greg’s videos go through his entire conversion process. We were covering ours at the same time as Greg so eagerly anticipated his uploads to see if we had done what he had!
Nate Murphy has a youtube channel showing his build and also has an e-book you can buy.
Rayne Automotive electric kit – posts you a custom built kit so you can plug and play!