Van Life versus Home Life

Van Life versus Home Life: Costs and Popularity Soars

  • Young people turn to #VanLife Inspiration as house costs rise
  • Over 7 billion TikTok views and 16 million Instagram posts show #VanLife and #BusLife related content as popularity soars
  • Converting and living in van renovation 450% cheaper than a home renovation
  • Bristol is the keenest city on van conversions with the highest search interest in UK

Vandwelling communities have soared over lockdown, with many searching for alternatives to an expensive housing market, but how much cheaper is a van conversion versus a home renovation?

Online retailer Very.co.uk analysed some of the average costs involved in renovating a house versus the costs involved in transforming a van into a liveable vehicle. Insulating a van, adding a basic kitchen unit, laying flooring and cladding, having an electrical system installed, as well as arranging water tanks, heating, and bathroom facilities were all investigated.

Overall, this came out to just over £5,000 – 452% less than equivalent renovations in an average-sized house. Further outgoings for furnishings like a sofa, television, fridge, and oven are also a lot cheaper with van space limited, and the average person would save 331% furnishing their van versus a house.

Direct Comparison
#VanLifeCost (£)#HomeLifeCost (£)
Toilet and shower150New toilet (including retiling)575
Kitchen costs (basic kitchen unit)105New kitchen7,000
Camper van electrical system cost1,500Rewiring5,750
Gas and heating + insulation1,275New heating system + gas supply8,000
Cost of windows and vents950Windows4,250
Camper van flooring and cladding costs900Replaster walls2,500
Cost of camper van water tanks200  
TOTAL£5,080TOTAL£28,075

This research comes on the back of a year in which interest in #VanLife has grown massively. The subreddit community providing tips and tricks for living in your van, car or truck, called r/vandwellers, has grown to over 1.3 million members – a 130% increase since the start of 2020. Meanwhile, TikTok and Instagram users have been viewing and posting about their own #VanLife inspiration, with 7 billion TikTok views and 16 million Instagram posts with relevant hashtags.

As part of the research, Very looked into the largest 25 Cities in the UK to find which ones have been searching the most for terms related to the popular trend, such as “van life”, “van conversion”, “bus life”, “tiny home” and even “camping.” Based on the search volume interest in these terms in relation to the size of their populations, Very found that Bristol topped the list as the keenest city to find out more about van life.

RankingCity
1Bristol
2Manchester
3Edinburgh
4Leeds
5Belfast
6Plymouth
7Glasgow
8London
9Derby
10Birmingham

Interview with a #VanLifer

Esmee Heath in her van Jacko.

Very spoke to Esmee Heath, a 25-year-old social media and communications executive from Hertford, who recently converted her own van, Jacko, after being inspired by online #VanLife content: 

What made you decide to convert your van recently?

For me, the dream to convert a van started in 2015 when I stumbled across a van life page on Instagram. I liked the idea of the freedom and adventure living on the road could offer and began exploring the community more on social media and blogs.

When the pandemic hit last year, being stuck in one place made my itchy feet almost unbearable and my partner and I realised there was no better moment than now to sell his van and have a go at converting something bigger for longer trips once lockdown eased!

What were some of the challenges?

The budget was our first big challenge! Trying to figure out what the big expenses were going to be, like the oven, fridge, and electrics, was difficult. We found there was no such thing as too much research and stumbled across some really useful blogs along the way.

Not having any electrical experience was also a big hurdle to jump when we realised we wanted to hook up solar panels on the roof of the van. Thankfully, we were recommended a company that specialise in campervan wiring and we were able to get a full bespoke electrical camper conversion kit that was posted to us ready to be installed.

The other big challenge was the initial design of the space. We had specific things we wanted to be able to fit in like bikes, surfboards, and skiing gear, as well as needing to have a bed long enough and space for a table to work from. Once we’d worked out all the measurements, we were able to start buying all the stuff we needed without overspending or ending up with an excess of materials at the end of the conversion.

Can you see yourself living in it for an extended period?

We’ve already done trips all over the UK for weeks at a time and even managed to venture over to France last July. It’s definitely easier when the weather is better as you can shower and cook outside – the winter trips can be harder with both of you trying to exist in a small space when its raining and there isn’t as much daylight.

The endless list of new experiences living in a van offers definitely outweighs the harder moments and has allowed us to exist in a totally different way. When all the tourists and day-trippers head off and you’re left with a beautiful view all to yourself, that’s what makes it worth it.

What are the benefits of van life over living in a home?

For me, it’s the freedom. To be able to pull up anywhere you want and head out for a surf, hike a mountain or explore a national park is an incredible feeling.

Many of us have lost our connection with nature. Being able to exist so closely to it in the van has offered me the chance to reconnect with it. To par down the things in life that are complicated and be left with the simplicity of just being comes so easily.

What are some of the downsides of van life?

Simple stuff takes a whole lot longer! Be prepared for tasks like showering, cooking, and washing your clothes to take more time out of your day than if you were living in a house or flat. The pandemic also added to this as we weren’t able to book into campsites to do any of these things and had to come up with clever ways to shower in the colder months and empty our loo.

If you’re doing it with a partner, be prepared to get up close and personal in a whole new way. This isn’t necessarily a downside, but no matter how much you love someone, you can’t spend all day every day liking them in such an intimate space!

Where did you find inspiration for the van conversion and décor?

Instagram is a great place to start. Researching hashtags that relate to your vehicle model (e.g. #vwt4conversion or #sprinterconversion) can help you get an understanding of where is best to build your big bits of furniture like the bed, kitchen unit, and cupboards/shelves. The vanlife hashtag is also great for décor inspiration and you can pull up some beautiful pictures on search engines and social platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.