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Latest News Guide to living in a campervan or motorhome
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Guide to living in a campervan or motorhome

Guide to living in a campervan or motorhome

Owning a campervan or motorhome can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. So much so that you might consider living in it full-time. If you are, here’s what to bear in mind.

Why do people choose to live in their motorhome?

Motivations vary, but one of the most common reasons is people looking for a better work-life balance. For some, this could mean embracing a digital nomad lifestyle or living more affordably rather than attempting to climb an increasingly unaffordable property ladder.

For some, the urge to live in their campervan or motorhome comes down to the freedom of living on the open road and the chance to spend extended periods exploring the UK and Europe.

What’s the difference between a motorhome and a campervan?

Typically, motorhomes are larger than campervans and, as a result, have more on-board facilities, which could include a toilet and shower. If you’re considering buying a particularly large motorhome (over 7.5 tonnes), you’ll need a category C driving licence. You can check what you can currently drive at GOV.UK.

Campervans, in contrast, are much smaller (around the size of a Ford Transit). Their size means you won’t have space for as many amenities, but you’ll usually find basic cooking and sleeping facilities.

For more details, including licence requirements and approximate running costs, head to our guide that explores key differences between a motorhome and a campervan.

Is it legal to live in a motorhome or campervan full-time in the UK?

The short answer is yes. It’s perfectly legal to live in a motorhome or campervan full-time in the UK if you want to, so long as:

  • You have the right to live in the UK.
  • Your vehicle is fully road legal, which includes being taxed and registered with the DVLA. Your vehicle will also need an MOT certificate (if it’s not exempt) and appropriate insurance.

Can I buy land and live in a motorhome in the UK?

If you plan to live in your motorhome permanently (as your main residence), you may need planning permission from the local council, but it depends on the circumstances. For example, if the caravan or motorhome is used in addition to your main home, you usually won’t need permission.

If you’re carrying out major work to your property and plan to live in a motorhome or caravan temporarily, you may still need planning permission. That said, in these instances, permission should usually be given without too many issues. If you need clarity, you should contact your local council.

Can you park up anywhere in a motorhome?

No. When it comes to parking, you can’t park anywhere you fancy. Even if you park in a designated car park, there might be rules on overnight stays.

You should also bear in mind that most of the land in Britain (particularly in England and Wales) is owned either by a person or an organisation. In other words, if you decide to park anywhere without explicit permission, it could mean you’re trespassing. For further info, see our guide to parking laws for motorhome and campervan owners.

Can I sleep in my motorhome on a public road?

Technically, no explicit national laws stop you from sleeping in your motorhome (or camper) overnight while parked on a public road. That said, you generally aren’t allowed to. This is because most roads are owned by local councils who set their own rules about what is and isn’t allowed – and the majority say that you can’t sleep at the side of the road. The exception is overnight truck stops, so if you really need to park up, look out for these.

Plus, if you’ve hired a vehicle, be aware that your motorhome hire insurance (and campervan hire insurance) may have strict rules about where you can and can’t park overnight.

Where can I empty my campervan/motorhome toilet?

Most campsites will have facilities to empty your chemical toilet – it should not be emptied into public waterways.

Can you live in a residential caravan park?

This will depend on what the caravan park is licensed for. If the park only has a licence for holiday stays, you won’t be able to pitch up permanently. Some caravan owners take the opportunity to travel during off-seasons when the park may be closed.

If you want to live on a permanent site, you’ll need to find a caravan park licensed for residential purposes. Usually, these parks will be for static caravans but may also have pitches for touring vehicles.

You can also find parks with a mixed-use licence catering to holidays and residential living.

Do I have to pay Council Tax if I live in a motorhome?

This will depend on whether you’re living in your motorhome in a fixed location, or if you are travelling. If you have a permanent residence on a residential caravan site, for example, then you’d be expected to pay Council Tax. But, if you are always on the move, logistically, it would be very difficult to pay Council Tax, not least because you may not be in the same council authority for very long. It’s always worth contacting your local council to find out if you’re unsure.

Do you need a TV licence if you live in a motorhome?

If you don’t live in your motorhome permanently and have a main home address for which you pay for a TV licence, you don’t need to purchase another licence for your motorhome (so long as you aren’t watching TV in your motorhome at the same time as someone at your home address).

You will need a TV licence if your motorhome or campervan is your main residence. You can find out more by visiting the TV licencing website.

What are the benefits of living in a motorhome?

One of the main attractions is that it generally costs less compared to living in a traditional bricks and mortar home. That said, motorhome living isn’t free – you’ll still need to factor in costs, including gas, pitch fees, and utilities like water.

Another benefit is that motorhome maintenance can be easier. It’s a smaller space to keep clean and can be much simpler to manage.

Motorhome living also enables you to travel with all your home comforts, which can provide reassurance if you travel across the country or abroad.

Is living in a motorhome right for me?

If you’re toying with the idea of living in a motorhome or campervan for any length of time, consider:

  • What your reasons are in the first place, and what it is you want to achieve?
  • Costs involved compared to existing expenses.
  • Motorhome licence requirements as some larger vehicles will mean you need a category C licence (you can find out more about licence requirements on the government website).
  • Whether or not you’d miss family and friends (especially if you’re planning on travelling for some time).
  • The practicalities of life on the road and the reality can be quite different to the dream, so think about what might happen if you need to see a doctor or dentist.
  • If you’re only semi-retired or are still actively working, take into consideration what facilities you might need, for example, access to reliable Wi-Fi.
  • Where your post should be sent, particularly when it comes to important documents.
  • If you’re considering travelling abroad, you’ll need to be aware of local laws, such as motorhome regulations in Europe.

What else do I need to think about living in a campervan or motorhome?

Despite being able to have your creature comforts around you, living and travelling in a campervan or motorhome will typically mean having less space. With that in mind, think about:

  • Travelling light with fold-up furniture and only taking the essentials you really need.
  • Taking little extras such as a good quality torch, batteries, camping equipment and a small vacuum.
  • Stocking up on power banks which can be charged and used later, universal chargers are also a good idea.
  • Storing high tog duvets and blankets on board for extra warmth.
  • Maintaining motorhome security by investing in anti-theft devices, alarms, steering locks and immobilisers, trackers and key finders.

What insurance do I need if I live in my motorhome or campervan?

If you’re driving on public roads, you must have appropriate insurance for your campervan or motorhome. When you arrange a policy, be clear about your plans and how you intend to use your motorhome or campervan so your insurer can tailor your package to your needs. Your entire policy could be invalid if it’s not an accurate reflection of how you use your vehicle. Elements to consider and discuss could include:

  • Contents insurance, particularly making sure the belongings you take are covered. Your home insurance (if you have a main home) may cover you for some contents when away from the property.
  • Breakdown cover to help you get back on the road.

It’s worth bearing in mind that if you live in your motorhome permanently, finding a policy might not be straightforward. This is because premiums are based on risk, which is partly influenced by where you live. If you’re living on the road, your location is likely to change regularly, which increases the risks you face (from an insurance perspective).

Don’t forget, if you also have a property you plan on leaving empty while you’re away, check if your home insurance will still provide cover. Many insurers will have a limit on the amount of cover they’ll provide for an unoccupied property (normally up to 90 days). If you’re away for periods longer than this, you may find your cover is restricted or you have none at all, so it’s best to speak to your insurer, who will be able to advise.

If you want to find out more and speak to an expert about what motorhome insurance you need, contact a member of our team at 01603 649744. We can also help with cover if you’re interested in starting a motorhome hire business and need guidance on self-drive hire insurance.

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