Living in a motorhome full-time is easy if you take it slow, going for a practice road trip first before fully committing, then looking at the types of insurance you will need, what the big costs are (mainly food and fuel), along with necessary supplies for the road such as a secondary transportation vehicle and motorhome organisational storage.
In this article, we dive deep into what life looks like behind the wheel of a motorhome, and see if this kind of lifestyle is compatible with people who dream of travel, and how to accomplish it.
Do I want to Live Out of a Motorhome?
There are a few ways to test living out of a motorhome to decide if it’s right for you.
- Rent First: Before buying and investing a lot into your dream, consider renting a campervan or motorhome to get a first-hand feel of what this type of living is like.
- Move from Your Home to the Driveway: Take your motorhome, whether it’s rented or owned, and park it in the driveway of your house. From inside, you can see what living in a motorhome full-time is like without any pressure of travel or being away from your foundational home.
- Try Out a Short Test Trip: After trying out the driveway, go for a short trip from anywhere between two to four weeks to get out of your comfort zone in a faraway travel destination far from home. During this trip, you can fine-tune your motorhome to suit you better. You’ll also get a good idea if motorhoming full-time is for you or not.
- What is the worst-case scenario?: If you end up buying a motorhome and don’t like living full-time in it, you can always sell it and move back to a stationary home.
How Do I Prepare For Full Time Motorhome Living?
We honestly did not realise quite how much preparation and organisation the switch from how we were living our “ordinary” lives previously, to full time van life travel in our tiny home on wheels would take. Since we left our jobs, we’ve seriously been busier than ever getting everything ready for this trip of a lifetime!
We know it will absolutely all be worth it, but we wanted to be real and explain that it has been a long process with many many months of planning, which has been super stressful at times, and to tell you all the things you may need to consider if you’re planning to try out van life.
For us, we owned a house which we needed to sell, a car we needed to sell and full time jobs we needed to quit. Obviously, everybody’s lives are different and you may not need to do all of those things, but this post is all about our own experience and preparations that we needed to make.
Selling Our House
For anyone who has ever sold a house/moved house, you’ll know how stressful this is in itself. For us, selling our house was only one stage of the whole process for us. From getting the valuation, to doing all of the viewings ourselves, and the endless amounts of paperwork, selling a house is simply not easy or stress free. And don’t even get me started on the packing and moving everything which was a nightmare as we were not just moving our belongings from one house to another, we had to think about where we were going to store everything. And then it’s the joy of changing your address on everything …
We felt a massive relief once we had sold our house and everything was complete as this was a huge thing for us to do to get started on our van life journey!
Buying our motorhome
You’d think this would be simple right?! surprise – It wasn’t.
We originally ordered a brand new motorhome from the dealership that we chose, and we did this around 8 months before we were hoping to start travelling, thinking that this would be plenty of time. The motorhome we chose was sold to us on the premise that it would be ready in November, and we were not planning to start travelling until March. Unfortunately, due to Covid and delays in manufacturing, our motorhome was being continuously delayed, to the point where it wouldn’t be ready in time for when we wanted to start travelling.
For that reason, and the time scale that we were on with selling our house, leaving our jobs etc, we actually had to change our motorhome and go for one that was in stock at the dealership.
It was only a year old, was in perfect condition when we went to view it and had hardly any mileage, you could tell it had hardly been used. As soon as we viewed it, we fell in love, and realised we actually preferred it to the original one we had ordered! We chose this motorhome and then picked it up a few weeks later, so it was a much easier process.
This is something to bare in mind if you are thinking of buying a motorhome, especially a brand new one, the waiting list is probably a lot longer than usual at the moment so if, like us, you are wanting it to do full time travel in, you need to consider if this will fit in with your time scales.
Quitting our jobs
We both left our full time jobs to pursue full time travel. When you’ve been in a job for 8 years, this too can take a lot of preparation to leave. If you’re anything like us though, it will only take you 5 minutes to forget you ever worked there!!
Selling our car
Even something you would think would be simple as selling our car took a lot of organisation for us, deciding where and how to sell it, we had to swap round number plates, sort out an MOT, etc etc the list goes on. It felt like a life admin overload planning for full time van life.
Planning to take a dog abroad
It’s not as simple as just putting Lottie in the motorhome and taking her with us unfortunately! There are different rules and regulations for taking a dog abroad, from the health certificate, to the rabies vaccination, there is a lot to consider. We also had to think about things like medication, food, grooming etc so it takes a fair bit of planning.
We have written a separate blog post with everything that you need to know about taking your dog abroad here – Europe Travel with a dog – What do I need to know? (threeasabird.com)
What Are Some Tips for Motorhome Living for Beginners?
Here are the top five tips that every beginner Motorhomer should know:
- Practice Driving a motorhome: For beginners who feel a bit intimidated with driving a motorhome, try finding a big empty parking lot and practice driving for a couple of hours. This will help you get used to how your motorhome moves, and what dimensions it requires.
- Consider How You Will Access the Internet: For full-time motorhomers, it is good to have at least two ways to get online, and often these ways are mixed between cellular access, wifi access, and satellite access. Sometimes this also involves wifi or cellular boosters to help catch a signal even when camping in the middle of nowhere.
- Learn About Your motorhome Toilet: These types of toilets are different from normal toilets as the sewage system is most often drained into a small holding tank at the base of the toilet. Learning how to maintain your toilet helps keep your home clean and manageable while living on the road.
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings While Traveling: Whether you’re in a quiet parking lot or the middle of a forest, check your surroundings and ensure the place is safe before you bunk down for the night.
- Keep an Eye on the Weather: Always check the weather for your area or destination, as heavy rain can change so you’re setting up on dry dirt or a mud pit.
- Check Your Landscape: The ground tells where water runs and pools. If you can see signs of pooling water, don’t camp there. You will want to be in a location with high ground and good drainage.
- Bodies of Water: Know the lakes and other bodies of water around you in case there are flood warnings.
- Always Do Your Research: When travelling, plan your route ahead of time. It can make the difference between an emergency situation or not if you choose a route that includes a mechanic if you know your motorhome may need a repair along the route.
- Keep in Touch: Let someone close know where you are, just in case.
What Does Living in a Motorhome Full-time Cost?
Budget – Before you even think about anything else, you really need to think about your budget. How are you going to afford to do full time van life? are you going to work on the road? Like us, are you going to be selling a house etc? Wouldn’t it be great if money wasn’t an issue and you didn’t even have to think about it? But unfortunately that’s not how it works and is something you really need to consider whether you can actually afford to do and be able to still live and do fun things whilst on the road!
We have segmented everything out, As expected, the highest price points were food and fuel, sharing 24.2% and 16.5% respectively. The remaining elements were as follows:
- Insurance – 12.6%.
- Sites – 10.3%.
- IT – 7.2%.
- Van Stuff – 6.5%.
- Alcohol – 5.1%.
- Travel – 4.9%.
- Eating Out – 4.8%
- Non-Food, Personal and Sightseeing taking the remaining percentage.
Where can I park my motorhome to live?
Here are some of the most popular options for finding a place to park your motorhome to live:
- Privately-Owned Parks: Your traditional camping experience.
- Luxury Motorhome Parks and Resorts: Camping spots designated for Motorhomes only.
- Renting or Purchasing Land for Extended-Stay Parking: An option for long-term use.
- Long Term Camping with Memberships or Clubs: Many Motorhomers praise using membership cards to get discounts that add up over time, making their experience more enjoyable.
Can I Live in a Motorhome Full-time in the UK and Europe?
The legalities of living in a van or motorhome are quite loose as there is no specific law that says you are not able to live full-time in a motorhome in the UK or Europe. However, you must ensure you are following the designated vehicle and residency laws in the place you are staying or travelling to.
If your destination is in the UK, this could mean that you need to be a resident with a passport, visa or other legal document allowing you to live there. And you must also take care to ensure your motorhome is taxed, insured, and has a valid Ministry of Transport certificate.
There must also be regard for the rules in your given destination and following rules such as where you can park and where you’re allowed to stay, whether that is at permanent sites, wild camping or parking at a designated free spot.
What About Motorhome and Travel Insurance?
You will also need insurance for your transport and for your travelling. The type of insurance required will depend on where you want to travel. You will want to look for insurance that covers all the regions you want to visit, or you may have to take up two or more insurances.
Places such as Morocco and Turkey require separate coverage as not many insurance plans cover these places. If that is the case in your travels, you always have the option to buy insurance when you reach the border.
It is also necessary to have travel insurance to supplement your EHIC/GHIC health insurance card for living in Europe or beyond.
Back-packing insurance tends to be a safe route as it is a long plan, covering you for up to two years, however, if you are over 55 that may decrease to one year.
What Kinds of Supplies Does a Motorhome Need?
Due to the small living space, motorhome storage is challenging, with emphasis put on removing what you don’t need or use, especially regarding heavy items due to limited space and vehicle weight constraints. Below we’ve included points to consider when stocking your motorhome with supplies:
- If you want to pack a lot of recreational gear and amenities, such as paddleboards, kite-surfing equipment, bicycles and a portable washing machine, you will have to carefully consider everything else that you bring, as these will take up a lot of the allotted weight and space.
- Always go for clever motorhome storage as this will give you more power in organizing and utilizing every inch of limited space you have, keeping in mind that your needs will change the longer you are on the road, learning more about what you and your motorhome needs to function smoothly and properly.
- Also consider how you will be getting about for small tasks, such as stopping into town for a city tour or shopping. If your motorhome is parked at a permanent or long-term spot, it will be a hassle to move it every time you need to go into town for a bottle of milk. Consider bringing a secondary tow-car, scooter, motorbike, e-bike or pedal bike.
What Are the Top Supplies That Will Help You Organise Your Motorhome and Get Around?
Here are some of the top overlooked, but necessary supplies you will need to organize your motorhome and help you get around:
- Freshwater hose: Specifically for taking in fresh water at a refill station.
- Motorhome Water Filter: For purifying the water received at the refill station.
- Electric cord and adaptors: It is useful, as you will be on the road away from amenities a lot of the time, to have a variety of electrical cords and adapters that can be plugged into 20,30, and 50 amp outlets if the need arises.
- A surge protector or EMS: This will protect your motorhomes electrical system in the case of a surge.
- Levelling blocks: To level your motorhome.
- Wheel chocks (for towable motorhomes): To keep your motorhome in place easily and securely.
- Multi-Bit Screwdriver and Hammer: For minimal handyman maintenance around the motorhome.
- Duct Tape: Ideal for any leaky hose or torn material when you’re on the road.
- Flashlight/Torch: For late-night camping and safety.
- Pocket Knife: To easily open or cut things.
- Tire Pressure Gauge: Easily check your tires while on the road.
- Adjustable Wrench, Socket and Ratchets, and Allen Wrenches: Ideal for minimal maintenance.
- Zip Ties: Make managing wires and electrical cords much easier.
- Utility Knife: Perfect for opening boxes or making surgical cuts in material.
- Tape Measure: Useful for measuring the distance between a motorhome and its hook-ups, or anything involving finite, space or materials.
- Leather Work Gloves: Protect your hands while finessing with levelling your motorhome or doing any handiwork regarding sharp tools.
- Power Tools: Also useful for situations that need a little extra power and a quick fix.
What Are Some Challenging Aspects of Living in a Motorhome Full-time?
There is an adjustment period while getting used to living on the road full-time in a motorhome, and below we’ve detailed some of the top challenging aspects:
- The Living Area is Small: The sun and beaches are very tantalising to the explorer and beach-lover, so sometimes it’s easy to forget that the home you’re bringing with you is much, much smaller than a stationary home or anything that you’re previously used to. Even though motorhomes do their best to make the space feel large, it does still take adjusting.
- Personal Space: Due to the smaller spaces and accommodation, managing your own personal space is difficult due to the fact that, if you’ve had an argument, you can’t just go to another room to cool off. Being gentle with your travelling partner’s boundaries, needs and personal space is important and makes the journey easier.
- Weather and Seasonal Changes: Being aware of the weather is crucial for successfully motorhoming, as you will be more sensitive to the elements. Winter can be a difficult time to motorhome, and you will find that with the cooler temperatures and fewer daylight hours, you will be forced inside more often.
- Planning Exhaustion: When travelling time turns from weeks to months, the planning that goes into it also increases, leading to exhaustion. It will be tiring always looking for your next hike and where you want to be in a week or month from now, but as you practice, this will become easier.
- Difficulty Finding Campgrounds and Repairs: Due to a surge in motorhome popularity, campsites can sometimes be booked out six months in advance, and motorhome repairs can be time-consuming.
- Laundry Change: If your motorhome is not equipped with its own laundry machine, something as simple as laundry can be a day’s task at a laundromat.
- Grocery Change: You won’t have the same size of fridge you were used to, so carefully selecting food becomes important. Shopping at different grocery stores also brings its own challenges, such as not finding the brand you usually go with.
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Living in a motorhome is a dream come true for many people, and can be a rewarding experience if the proper steps are taken, such as testing the waters out with simple rentals and short trips, and then working your way up to full-time with an motorhome filled with everything you need for an easy, successful and life-lasting trip.
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You can take a look at some of our other van life posts which include lots and lots of hints and tips on all things van life here – Van Life – Travel Information, Hints, Tips and Advice (threeasabird.com)
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