Can I Legally Live In A Campervan In The UK? The Pros & Cons Of Doing So

Have you ever dreamed of packing your worldly possessions up into storage, glamming up your campervan and hitting the open road, with your only concern being which Springsteen album feels most appropriate to play next?

Cue the noise of that record scratching to a halt and your dreams being dashed, as you frantically research if you’re actually allowed to legally live in a campervan here in the UK.

Well, the good news is that, theoretically at least, you are. And after the two years that we’ve all had, might a bout of freedom and wholesale change (at least for a little while) be just the ticket?

You’re not the only one feeling this way. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 2020 saw a record jump in campervan and motorhome sales, with pent-up demand due to lockdown and the fact such vehicles are ‘socially distanced by nature’ both believed to have brought about the huge rise in interest.

If you’re considering throwing off the shackles for an extended stretch, and are wondering if you can legally live in a campervan in the UK, plus the pros and cons of doing so, then you’ve come to the right place.

The Legality Of Living In A Campervan In The UK

To legally make a campervan, motorhome, caravan of RV your primary residence in the UK, you have to fulfill four chief obligations:

  • Your campervan is roadworthy
  • It holds an up-to-date MOT certificate
  • It’s taxed and insured
  • The pitch you have chosen for your campervan – ie. where you park – is permitted by the landowner and local authority

Be aware that ‘wild camping’, even if that’s simply – and rather unglamorously – in a layby or car park, is often strictly, expressly forbidden, with punishments in place should you flout the rules.

The key, then, to living in a campervan legally, comfortably and affordably, is to find welcoming, reasonably priced sites to pitch up. Since it’s against the law for caravan parks to open all year round, with the majority closed during winter, you’ll sometimes have to be a little creative with your pitching. 

Most choose to spend some of the year pitched up in caravan parks, and when the low season arrives here in the UK, they might shift their attention to friend’s driveways, or take a trip to Europe to stay in the continent’s campsites and caravan parks. Decisions, decisions!

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Living In A Camper Van?

Legal concerns loosely dispensed with, let’s examine why you might or might not want to pursue your dream of living on the open road.

Saving Money

One of the chief reasons people choose to live in a camper van is because it can, potentially, be a cost-effective way of living. If you are someone who likes to travel often or move around frequently, then owning a camper van gives you the freedom to do so without having to worry about finding (and paying for) accommodation – aside from your pitch, that is – every time you want to change location. 

Camping fees are often much cheaper than hotel rates, so you may even save money by opting to live in a camper van. Moreover, living in a campervan also means that you will not have any utility bills to pay – just the fuel for your vehicle, usually.

If you love the idea of living off the grid in a more self sufficient way and are keen to live in your own DIY camper van, then you’ll probably be aware of the recent ‘van life’ trend that’s been sweeping the nation, which has seen Brits renovating old vehicles and breathing new life into them before hitting the road.

Talk about a satisfying, money-saving project!

A Real Sense Of Community

The campervan community is an inclusive and welcoming one, full of folk willing to share niche knowledge and ideas, and even lend a helping hand in return for a cuppa and some campervan bantz.

So, seek inspiration from other campervan enthusiasts, and tap into the rich and diverse community at every opportunity. The UK Campsite community is a great place to start, complete with their own forum that’s active every day with caravan and campervan chatter. Alternatively, the small motorhome community has its own discussion board, too. Check it out here.

MotorhomeFun is a little more expansive, with community members from across the globe discussing campervan trips in far flung places. It’s enough to get our engine going, that’s for sure.

Finally, for £54 a year you can become a member of the Campervan and Motorhome Club, which is the UK’s largest network of its kind. By becoming one of their over 30’000 members, you gain access to exclusive campsites, pitches and knowledge, as well as their lively discussion group, that’s always active and engaging. 

Increased Freedom & Flexibility

Another great advantage of campervan life is the increased freedom and flexibility that it affords you. If you get tired of being in one place, you can simply pack up and move to another location – it’s as simple as that! 

Well, it isn’t actually all that simple, but you get the picture. 

This sense of freedom and flexibility is ideal for people who want to experience different parts of the country or even the world without being tied down to one specific spot. Additionally, living in a camper van also means that you can take your home with you wherever you go, enabling you to pitch up somewhere new with all your home comforts to hand.

Live A Little Closer To Nature

If you love spending time outdoors and enjoying all that nature has to offer, then the campervan life may suit you down to the ground. You can wake up in the morning and step outside your door to find yourself surrounded by beautiful scenery – if you’ve pitched up in an appropriate beautiful spot that is. 

Should you be sitting pretty somewhere serene, then living in a camper van also means that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to go hiking, camping, and fishing as you will always have your home with you. 

The Dream & The Reality Often Diverge

Let’s be honest here; you won’t be able to glide into a new, gorgeous caravan park surrounded by stunning scenery each and every night.

In fact, there’s a certain monotony to campervan life that you don’t often hear about – finding a clean, open public shower, an undisturbed pitch, a shop selling ingredients for dinner, a new campervan generator… It’s all part and parcel of life on the road, and can often get in the way of the freewheelin’ spirit that you thought you were signing up for.

Making money while on the move is another concern. The itinerant lifestyle means you’ll have to either find seasonal work and stay in place for the duration of the season, work odd jobs on various caravan parks that you’re pitched up in, or work remotely and online from in your campervan, providing you can find a decent WiFi connection.

None of these are ideal for maintaining a decent standard of living whilst on the road, and it’s true that the campervan life isn’t always exactly filled with glitz and glamour.

But for the freedom of the road, this is the price you pay.

If you’d rather enjoy that freedom on a more temporary basis, then check out these tips on how to enjoy a fantastic first campervan holiday.

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