How much does it cost to live in a van
Everyone has the same types of monthly expenses; food, rent, electricity, gas and water. How much are these expenses when living in a camper/van? Well.. 3 of these expenses are already non existent after a small investment and a little bit of courage!
We have kept track of our expenses the past half year, and have made this little list for you;
Monthly food cost
€432,- for 2 persons
First some context:
These are our expenses in supermarkets of the past 5 months. Keep in mind that this is groceries for 2 persons. We mainly buy our food at the Lidl and Aldi, sometimes for specific food we do groceries at more expensive supermarkets. We always cook our own food and never eat outside. Our diet consist mainly out of fresh vegetables, cow, chicken and fish. We do buy sweets but try to mainly eat fresh fruits. Included in groceries is non food aswel like soap, toothpaste, toilet paper and other household items.
Monthly gas cost
Warm seasons €10,- and cold seasons €120,-
In a van/camper you need gas daily; for your fridge, cooking and the heather.
Monthly gas costs mainly depend on if you’re using propane or LPG, which country/district you are and what season it is.
Gas consumption in cold seasons
Obviously you will consume a lot more gas in cold seasons. In cold the biggest consumer is the heather. The heather consumes a whole 20 liter propane/LPG bottle within 4 or 5 days of actively using it for the heather(25 degrees inside) and the fridge. This means that it is on day and night.
Gas consumption in warm seasons
The gas fridge overal does not use a lot of gas(in cold seasons you can put it lower to save a little a bit of gas). Same goes for cooking; an average using the gaspits for 45 minutes a day does not consume a lot of gas.
This means that in warm seasons you barely have to refill the gas bottles seeing you’re not using the heather. So in warm seasons you only have to refill the gas bottles once a 1.5 / 2 months.
Propane bottle swap cost
A propane bottle swap at Intermarche’s in France, Spain and Portugal will cost you around 20 euro. Which makes a monthly cost of 120 euro in cold seasons, and 10 euro in warm seasons.
Refilling LPG bottles
Refiling LPG at gasstations varifies between 0.40,- and 0.90,- cents a liter (depending on country & district). The average in our knowledge is 0.75 cents a liter. This makes 15 euro a refill. The monthly costs of LPG is 90 euro in cold seasons and 7.50 euro in warm seasons.
Monthly mechanic repair costs
Count on setting aside €150,- a month
Every van/camper has a different maintenance history, or none. This is why it is so important to know the maintenance history of a van/camper before buying it, so you will know what you can expect, and it makes it easier for the garage to find the problem.
In our experience there will be a problem with your van/camper every 2 months. The garage costs lie from 150 to 300 euro every time. Knowing this it is not a bad idea to set aside 150 euro every month.
Depending on your van/camper and plan
This mainly depends on where exactly you’re planing to go. Obviously when you want to stay around in one district, you will barely have fuel cost, while if you want to go from Belgium to Spain in a month you will spend at least 170 euro on diesel that month.
How to calculate how much fuel your van/camper consumes
You can easily calculate these costs by knowing how much fuel your van/camper uses, this takes some time though;
Completely fill your camper with fuel, and reset the kilometer distance meter on your van dashboard.
Just drive/travel like you usually do.
Next time you have to go to the gas station completely fill the gas again, take note of how much liters you have tanked (or keep te receipt), and on how many kilometers the distance meter is.
Now do the following calculation:
[amount of kilometers] ÷ [amount of liter tanked] = [amount of kilometer] for 1 liter of fuel
For example; the distance meter shows 350 kilometer, you tank 30 liter of fuel until its full, then the calculation is:
350 ÷ 30 = 11,66 for 1 liter of fuel
Do this calculation about 3 times in a row to get a good average.
Fuel consumption and mechanic maintenance
Do this check every 3 months to check if everything is still alright with the van/camper. If you’re starting to use more fuel, you might want to check tire pressure and the fluids & filters of the engine.
How to calculate how much your trip will cost in fuel
Now you know how much kilometer you can drive on 1 liter of fuel, you can calculate the costs of your traveling plan by doing the following steps:
Lookup how much kilometer your planned travel road will be from start to finish. Let’s say for example Brussels to Barcelona = 1400 km.
Your van/camper drives 11.5 km on 1 liter.
Calculation: 1400 ÷ 11.5 = 121.75 liter
For this trip you will need about 121 liter of fuel.
So now multiply this amount by the current gas price like 1.20,- for diesel;
121 * 1.20 = 145,- euro
So your trip from Brussel to Barcelona will cost 145 euro in fuel cost.
Monthly Phone costs
€35,- to €60,- for unlimited data
Depending on what you do for work has to decide what kind of phone subscription you have.
For internet in your van/camper you’ll need to start using your phone data hotspot. If you rely on the internet for work you require a big/unlimited data bundle. These bundles often cost between 35 and 60 euro a month and have a few catches. Expect to use at least 1 gigabyte a day in this case.
When you don’t rely on the internet you obviously keep using your current phone/data subscription.
There is no water cost.
At least if you are not going to campings and take time to find public water spots.
Free public watertabs are everywhere! Read our article ‘Find free public water spots’ to know where to find them.
There is no Electricity cost.
When you use solar panels or drive regularly with a high Ah capacity battery, you should be able to be self sustaining in power. There are also free public electricity sockets for you to use. Read our article ‘Where to find electricity in public areas’ to find these.
There is no rent unless you have a loan for the van, when you buy a van or camper you are completely free from the highest monthly expense!!
Living in a van VS living in an apartment
It is quite clear that living in a van is cheaper then living in an apartment, it seems like the easy life! Financially it is, but it is time consuming. Every 4 days you need to find a water source, a store for gas (in winter), a place to dispose ur dirty water tank and find a public garbage bin. These basic needs take sometimes half a day believe it or not. Every 3 weeks you need to find a laundry place, and yes this also takes half a day. Driving a minihouse on a car frame just takes a lot of time to drive from point to point, and don’t forget the struggle of parking, if you can find a parking that allows large vehicles.
In my personal view all these time consuming tasks each have their own charm, every time I enjoy doing them, it’s hard to explain why. It’s maybe because of the accomplishment of finishing these small challenges and knowing that I’m completely free to go to any beautiful spot for a few days without moving! Knowing this I discovered that time and money in any way is not the most important thing in living this life, the journey is.
Calculate precisely the cost of your future life
Johanna et Gabriel are sharing their knowledges on their website “Objectif vie en van”. They have published a calculator that can estimates the monthly cost of the vanlife. After a 26-questions survey that includes all the expenses mentioned in our article (including animal-related expenses!), you will have a precise estimation of your monthly expenses.