The Full Cost of a Year on the Road

Last year, 2017, was our first full year living a nomadic lifestyle in either our Hymer motorhome or on our Dutch motor cruiser. Because we needed to drive to some clinics for Cynthia, and because we had to wait for upgrades and repairs to be completed on the boat, we spent most of our nights on wheels rather than water.

We enjoyed one hundred and eleven nights, nearly four months, on our boat. Here’s the cost of living in a motorhome for the remaining eight months.

We drove 10,748 miles through ten countries; England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Austria. Much as we enjoyed exploring new countries and cultures, I often felt that the driving was too tiring and far too stressful. We are driving less and relaxing more this year.

Another cause of stress for me was regular breakdowns and an expensive bill caused by my motorhome driving inexperience. Driving onto a ferry to cross Lake Constance from Switzerland to Germany, I concentrated so hard on avoiding two top of the range BMWs either side of us I didn’t notice the Hymer’s rear end swing into a ferry railing. A new bumper cost us £1,000.

Our repairs last year included a new alternator, welding a broken battery terminal, a replacement a water pump, a replacement for the replacement water pump when we realised the French fitter had cocked up and then correcting the wiring for the water pump which he’d also bodged. We fitted new brake pads, two new leisure batteries, repaired the cracked shower cubicle, sealed a skylight leak, and replaced the galley tap… twice. The first replacement tap fell apart after six months. It was fitted by the same guy who did such a marvellous job on our water pump. Hooray for French fitters and two-hour liquid lunches.

Campsite fees can increase annual expenditure enormously. A single night at a well-appointed campsite can cost a fortune. Our bill for two nights at a campsite overlooking a beautiful alpine lake at Lucerne in Switzerland last February was an eye-watering €86 (£76.50). Fortunately for our budget last year, campsite stays were rare. We stayed just sixteen nights on campsites, compared with sixty-eight nights on aires, official overnight motorhome parking with facilities, and one hundred and seventy nights wild camping. We like wild camping best. It’s free and nearly always offers more tranquil and aesthetically pleasing surroundings than paid overnight stops.

Here’s last year’s breakdown.

Repairs and Maintenance: £4,442.96
Diesel: £2,408.51 (10,748 miles @ 22.4p per mile)
Insurance: £871.91
Campsite Fees (including aires): £869.80
Gas: £468.72
Train: £280 (return Eurotunnel trip to the UK)
Petrol: £175.51
Vehicle Tax: £165
Toll: £108.04
Parking: £67.08
Ferry £26.19

Total: £9,883.75

I recently found a motorhome forum post discussing the cost of living full time on the road. One guy claimed that his total weekly budget, including food, booze and cigarettes, was just £50.  I can only assume that he lived on rice and water and didn’t tax, insure or licence his predominantly static vehicle. Much as I dislike spending money, I don’t think we could live like that.

Despite what many motorhome full-timers would consider excessive expenditure, our annual costs are still a fraction of those endured by the owners of an average house in the UK. According to The Telegraph in this article, the annual cost of a mortgage and household bills is £20,000.

Granted, our home can’t be considered an appreciating asset and working from an ever-changing location is a challenge but, for us, the advantages of a nomadic lifestyle far outweigh the disadvantages.

A complete breakdown of motorhome expenditure categories for 2017

A complete breakdown of motorhome expenditure categories for 2017

A little light relief. It has absolutely nothing to do with the cost of living on the road.

Two wild boars

A wild bore; aggressive, bad-tempered and clearly past its best… and then there’s the sanglier skull on the left

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments
Fiona Everingham - February 26, 2018

Hi Paul
Have you heard of wwoofing? Worlwide Opportunities on organic farms. In return for a few hours work a day you get accommodation (or somewhere to park your van), food and often some interesting folk. It might be a way of cutting down the amount of moving you do, particularly if you find a really good wwoofing place and click with the hosts. They usually appreciate people with a bit of common sense and a practical bent. We’ve done it in the past when travelling for long periods in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa but the scheme is present in virtually all European country. http://wwoof.net/

    Paul Smith - February 27, 2018

    Excellent advice Fiona. I think I would be OK with common sense. A practical bent is another matter entirely. I’ll certainly check it out though.

      Alan Stock - March 7, 2018

      Hi Paul. I did a lot of wwoofing when I was in my early 20s. So I was pleased Fiona bought up the subject. They are all organic or bio dynamic. I did meet a few far out characters, but this was mid 80s, and I didn’t mind different ideas. You will find people who have really got successful, and have a good business head. You don’t have to mix with David koresh characters anymore. I am at my static caravan at winchelsea beach now. There is no one here, so my elderly Jack Russell can run around at night looking for rabbits, she only ever gets the odd mixie rabbit, which is good as they are dead almost instantly and do not pass it to the others in the holes.
      A mate and myself had a couple of sea boats. We sailed one up from Cornwall to the Medway. The guy had the engine serviced, it looked new, he showed us receipts for all the work done in the boat yard. By the time we got to the needles, I was pouring seawater straight into the cooling system. The system fitted was meant to be normal water with a coolant added. We managed to get to lyminton. The boat yard there charged us 3 and a half grand. Some apprentice at the Cornish boatyard had but the top gasket on the wrong way round, half the engine was not getting oil. We later did get a yacht we could of sailed to the canary islands and beyond, but my friends diabetes had got to bad. The hours we used to dream in the pub overlooking the Medway at hoo, about sailing to warm climes, then years later when we had the money Angeles boat to do it, we sold it for a loss. It was moored at Burnham on the crouch. Look into wwoofing as you get good food and just pay a small fee rather than work, you can explore the area. It’s worldwide. Regards. Alan Stock

        Paul Smith - March 7, 2018

        What a shame you didn’t get to the Canaries in your boat. I bet you would have had some tales to tell!

        We’re considering Woofing, but I don’t know whether we want to stay in one spot for too long. Maybe we’ll have to.


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