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How Much Will a Van Vacation Cost You? (Europe Edition)

If you’re reading this, I can only assume you’ve dreamed of living on the road. Well, don’t get me wrong: you wouldn’t be the only one! In fact, camper vans are now more popular than they’ve ever been, and no wonder: from affordable travel to spending quality time in nature, homes on wheels have tons of perks.

However, choosing this way of getting from A to B has its own downsides. Not many, but still has a few. First of all, you’re more dependent on weather conditions, and there’s not a lot of legroom. If you want to properly weigh the pros and cons of a camper van, including how much it might cost you, we managed to gather a series of practical info and tips that will get you started. Let’s see!

Photo by Erin McGrady from Shutterstock

What does a vacation with a camper van cost?

Just like with any other vacation, the overall cost of a camper van holiday relies on your own tastes and preferences. For instance, do you prefer to travel abroad or touring around Germany? Do you want to cook your own food or would you rather go somewhere to eat? Depending on your own priorities, you should expect to spend somewhere between $100-300 per day per person on your trip. Let’s check the specifics.

Fuel costs for a camper van

When it comes to fuel, you need to calculate the costs using a specific formula: planned number of kilometers/ 100 x average fuel consumption x price per liter = that’s your fuel costs. For the current gas and diesel prices we’re dealing with right now, you might also need to calculate an average fuel consumption: liters in your fuel tank/ kilometers driven x 100 = fuel consumption in liters per 100 km.

You can easily use a route planner like ViaMichelin to effectively calculate the fuel costs for your trip. Moreover, you can calculate your carbon footprint as well. As a general rule, you should strive to calculate around $400 in fuel for a regular ten-day trip with a camper van.

In other countries, there are other types of hefty toll fees and vignettes, which is a specific type of road tax. Technically, the regulation in Europe is never the same, either. In Austria, for instance, a 10-day vignette costs around $9.90, but in Portugal, the charges are different, depending on how far you want to drive.

You can also research different countries’ tariffs online. If you want to visit Sweden, Morocco, or even the Italian island of Elba and take your motorhome with you, you might need to book ferry tickets. Depending on which type of vehicle and route you’re using, the costs might range from $135-550.

Campsite costs

Wild camping has become increasingly popular in the last few years. However, in Germany and other European countries, it’s illegal to do that. Moreover, you won’t get access to sanitary facilities in the wild, and you will be pretty much on your own if worse things unfold.

That’s exactly why it’s recommended to stay at campsites. The overall costs could wildly differ depending on the destination country. For instance, if you go to Italy, a night at a campsite costs around $60 on average, compared to only $37 in Sweden.

In Germany, on the other side, you might pay an average of $38 per night, which is below the European average of $50. It will also make a difference whether you decide to live in a luxurious campsite or you’re more than all right with a simple parking space for your van.

Food costs while camping

How much money you should budget for your food and drinks is quite difficult to estimate. It mainly depends on the country you’re traveling in and if you cook for yourself or prefer eating out.. Besides, you might have the occasional coffee-to-go at a gas station, ice cream at the lake, or even beers by the campfire to account for.

As a general rule, you should strive to calculate around $500 for ten days. Another important thing to consider: if you ever plan to cook, you might need essentials, like oil and vinegar, spices, gas canisters, and even cleaning supplies besides the additional kitchen camping equipment.

Now, if you’re decided to bring everything you could possibly need with you, you definitely need a practical bag, and that’s why we recommend you get one of these.

Photo by View Apart from Shutterstock

Other costs while traveling with a camper van

If you decide to spend your summer vacation on the road, you should definitely consider getting a membership with ADAC, a well-known German automobile association. It only costs $94 a year, and for a 10-day trip, you could also budget around $300 for other types of leisure activities, including sightseeing and sports.

Water sports are especially expensive, and entrance fees for national and amusement parks could also go up to $15. Well, last but not least, vacationing in a camper van could also require some time and patience, especially if you’re stuck or if you have issues with mosquitos. For better fuel efficiency, you shouldn’t drive faster than 110/km/h with a camper, which automatically means that your trip might be longer than you’d like.

Should you buy or should you rent? That’s the question.

Whether you prefer renting or buying a camper van comes down to your own long-term plans. And before diving into that, I have to make a distinction. The terms “caravan”, “motorhome”, and “camper van” are oftentimes used in the same way.

However, a caravan doesn’t really drive by itself, and you might need a car to tow it. Motorhomes and camper vans have their own motor, and a van generally refers to a converted transport or delivery vehicle.

Rental costs for camper vans and motorhomes

Motorhome and camper van rental prices differ depending on the country. For instance, in Germany, Spain, and Portugal, you might expect to pay somewhere around $120 per day. In Scandinavia, it’s over $200.

On average, you might pay $100-150 per day for a medium-sized van, and added to that, a setup fee for the equipment. You could also rent a converted van privately through platforms like PaulCamper, which are oftentimes cheaper.

A new camper van or a used one?

You can get a brand-new camper van or even a motorhome for $30,000. It has fully integrated models that cost way more than partially integrated ones, which are also built using a quite basic vehicle structure and layout.

And depending on how many features it might have and how fancy it might be, you can easily shell out six-digit amounts for a brand-new motorhome. As a general rule, used vehicles cost less than $10,000.

You can get even cheaper with a converted van, and depending on the vehicle’s age and mileage, you might pay around $8,000 for a used van. But it’s still worth digging a bit deeper into your pocket.

Renovating your own camper van

Do you want to buy a used camper van and fix it? That would be a terrific DIY project! Here’s a list of things you might need when it comes to refurbishing costs:

  • attachments like windows and ventilation – $1,400
  • wood paneling and built-in wardrobe ($2,000)
  • Electrical ($1,500)
  • hot water supply and waste water system ($1,100)
  • gas installation ($500)
  • auxiliary heating ($700)
  • air conditioning ($1,600)
  • compressor fridge ($800)

Most material costs depend on how large the interior is, but also on your personal preferences. Also, you want to consider a bunch of items like rust removal and repairs on used cars, but also expenses for tools, screws, and so on. There are also other factors, like mattresses, bed linens, towels, mirrors, kitchen equipment, decorations, LED lights, and even bicycle racks.

If you found this article useful, we also recommend checking: 10 Popular American Tourist Traps Locals Can’t Stand

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