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The definitive guide to RV living

It’s no surprise that, with house prices rising by 10% over the last year, remote working becoming the norm and travel still being restricted, more and more people are opting for a life on the road instead. 

In fact, research from the National Caravan Council shows that registrations of motorhomes and RVs have surged during the pandemic by a huge 71% in July 2020 when compared to 2019.

It’s the idea of freedom that appeals to many – the possibilities of travelling wherever you like, pitching up and simply enjoying the view. But, selling up and relocating to an RV isn’t for the faint-hearted, and it does come with its pitfalls. 

Are you ready to take the plunge? Read on for our ultimate guide to RV living.

Buying an RV: things to think about

Buying an RV isn’t an easy decision, and it comes down to much more than simply purchasing one and setting off. Instead, you’ll also have to learn to drive it, how to maintain it and the best ways to make the most of your mileage. 

Where do you begin?

If you’re thinking about selling up and living a life on the road, there are a lot of different things to consider first.

Is it legal to live in an RV?

There are no laws in the UK that prevent you from living in a motorhome, RV, campervan or converted van full time. 

The only legal requirement is that you have an up to date MOT, that your vehicle is road-safe and you have proper insurance in place. Be mindful, though, that it is illegal to walk around or sleep in a motorhome while it’s moving, while it’s also illegal to even be inside any type of pull-behind trailer or campervan while it’s moving.

Remember that you’ll also need to do your research as parking overnight without consent is illegal in the UK, and different areas will have different restrictions. 

The best option is to get permission from the landowner, or to camp on specific sites but, if you’re unsure, take a look at The Highway Code’s guide on nighttime parking

Can I drive an RV?

Legally, if you passed your UK driving test on or after 1 January 1997 then you’re only covered to drive a vehicle with a maximum weight of 3.5 tonnes. To drive a motorhome with a MAM of between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes, you need a category C1 licence, but you’ll need to take an additional test for this entitlement. 

What’s the difference between a Motorhome, a Campervan & an RV?

To many, the terms are interchangeable but there is a difference between them. 

RV is short for Recreational Vehicle and is an umbrella term for a range of motor vehicles, while a  motorhome or campervan is a vehicle that doesn’t need to be towed, but can be driven. The difference between a motorhome and campervan is that campervans tend to be smaller, with no divide between the driving cab and living areas, while a motorhome is larger and is generally built on a truck or bus chassis.

Motoromes, RV's and campervans lined up

What type of motorhome should you buy?

There are so many different types of motor vehicles you can live in – from RVs to campervans and, if you’re DIY inclined, even a converted van also makes for the perfect home on wheels. 

RVs generally fall under one of four categories: Class A, B or C and towable RVs.

  • Class A: the largest and most luxurious RV you can buy, motorhomes come under this classification. Class A RVs come equipped with living spaces, dining rooms, full kitchens and multiple bedrooms.
  • Class B: more affordable than Class A RVs, Class B’s are also referred to as campervans, and feature raised roofs that provide extra space. They offer smaller and more simple accommodation and will often contain a sleeping area and a small kitchen area, but don’t normally offer bathroom space. 
  • Class C: a compromise between the two, Class C Recreational Vehicles are motorhomes, not campervans, and are compact and cheaper but offer more luxury than Class B RVs.
  • Towable’s: from foldable trailers to popup trailers, fifth-wheel trailers to truck campers, towable trailers are the most affordable option and are perfect for day-to-day travel. But, be mindful that towable trailers are not ideal to live in for extended periods as they are often smaller than drivable motorhomes. 

RV Living: a checklist

There’s no doubt that, when it comes to packing, you might struggle at first. But, the key is to remember that you’ll need much less than you think, and it’s okay to make mistakes. The more seasoned at RV living you become, the easier it will be to decide what’s a necessity, and what can be left at home.

Kitchen equipment:

Have a think about those items you use most in your kitchen at home. It’s all about what’s a necessity for you, and every family will be different. Just remember that, when travelling in an RV, things can easily be broken, so take this into account when choosing what to bring. 

  • Opt for camping accessories to save space:
    • choose collapsible equipment, like strainers and measuring spoons
    • sporks and hard-wearing plastic cutlery are best
    • multi-functional kitchen utensils are ideal
    • mess tins and melamine dishes are inexpensive and stack easily 
  • A cast-iron skillet might take up slightly more room but can be used both on stoves and over a campfire
  • Invest in camping mugs and plates made from stainless steel to avoid breakages
  • A slow cooker is perfect if you don’t have an oven
  • Choose knives with covers on for extra safety

As a general rule of thumb, try to bring 1-2 essential kitchen items, such as cups, plates and cutlery per person, and remember that there won’t be much sink space for dirty dishes. 

Kitchen interire, view from window of RV

 

Clothing:

The amount of clothing you take with you will depend on several factors such as the size of your motorhome, how long you plan to live in your RV, where you’re planning on travelling and the climate. 

And, chances are you won’t have much space to dedicate to your wardrobe, so it’s always a good idea to pack layers, so you’re covered for every eventuality. Here’s what we suggest:

  • Five t-shirts
  • A few vest tops
  • Two pairs of jeans
  • Two pairs of other trousers
  • A few pairs of shorts
  • Two sets of pyjamas
  • A set of thermals
  • Two hoodies or sweatshirts
  • A knitted jumper
  • A coat
  • A thin raincoat

The trick is to pack a capsule wardrobe of items that go together, so you can easily mix and match, no matter what’s clean. 

Maintaining your motorhome:

Like most vehicles, over time your motorhome will show signs of wear and tear, and you’ll need to know how to maintain it to keep it in the best condition. 

Do keep in mind though that the maintenance of an RV can be quite costly, especially if you need extra parts, so it’s a good idea to do regular maintenance checks to avoid any major issues. 

Here is our motorhome maintenance checklist:

  • Check for damp: when living in such a small space with poor ventilation, mould and mildew can grow easily, especially if you have a shower in your motorhome
  • Check for leaks: similarly, leaks can easily occur in the seals of your windows and door frames, especially in the winter months
  • Flush the water system: you’ll need to do this regularly to avoid any blockages or stagnant water and you’ll also need to make sure any internal or external water tanks are sterilised frequently
  • Check your appliances regularly: any gas appliances that you have will need to be regularly tested for safety, while you’ll also want to ensure your electrical items, such as your fridge, freezer or any appliances, are in working order
  • Check the oil: much like any vehicle, you’ll need to make sure your oil and any coolants are filled sufficiently
  • Check your tyre pressure: similarly, check for any under-inflated tyres or punctures before you set off to ensure they’re in the best possible condition
  • Charge the battery: especially if you are staying in one place for several weeks, make sure your battery is properly charged to avoid any breakdowns while you’re driving
  • Check your paperwork: always make sure you have an up to date MOT and insurance and that your driving license is still valid

The pros and cons of RV living

converted van in countryside for camping

Cost

No matter where you reside, the cost of living is crucial, and while living in a motorhome can at first glance appear to be cheaper, it does come with its own set of costs.

Pros:

  • When living in an RV, you don’t have to pay rent, mortgage or bills, making it a much cheaper option in the long-run
  • The majority of campsites are quite cheap to park at, while in certain places you can also park up for free

Cons:

  • Probably the biggest cost is the RV itself. No matter what type of vehicle you choose to buy, it’s likely to be quite expensive especially if you’re looking for a state-of-the-art model. However, the cost of an RV or motorhome is still significantly less than the cost of a property
  • If you’re planning on continuously travelling around, then you’ll need to factor petrol costs into your budget, which can become expensive
  • Insurance for permanently living in an RV can be more expensive than your standard home insurance, as there are a number of risks involved
  • Also, it can be easy to get swept away in the excitement of a new place, and sample everything they have to offer such as day trips and eating out, so try and stick to a strict budget to avoid overspending
  • You also have to factor in the costs of maintenance and storage, too

Flexibility

The flexibility of RV living is a huge selling point for many looking for an adventure, but there are some practical issues you need to consider.

Pros:

  • The main benefit of living in an RV is the fact that you have the freedom to travel wherever you want, whenever you want – that means no noisy neighbours, no getting bored and a huge opportunity for adventure

Cons:

  • You’ll need to think about things like post and bills. As you can’t get these sent directly to your RV you’ll either need to ask a friend or family member if you can use their address or set up a PO box – however, this might not be the simplest option if you’re not planning on staying in one place for too long

Space

One of the main differences between living in a house and an RV is, of course, the small issue of space. 

Pros: 

  • It’s much easier, and faster, to clean an RV or motorhome than it is to clean an entire house, freeing up your time and energy for other activities

Cons:

  • It’s no surprise that space is at a premium in a motorhome, and even the most luxurious of models will have very limited storage space, so you’ll need to learn to live with less
  • It can be more difficult to keep your home tidy, especially if you have more than one person living in your RV, and you have very little storage space

 RV and motorhome parked up for night

Our top tips for RV living:

  • Carefully plan your first outing:

There’s nothing worse than setting off, only to discover you’ve forgotten the essentials. Before you hit the road, read our checklist above of things to take, and always do a practice run so you know what to expect  

  • Invest in self storage for your furniture and keepsakes:

Just because you’ve decided to live in an RV now, doesn’t mean that you will forever. And, especially if you’re selling a property, you’ll likely need to declutter first and then invest in some self storage space to store your furniture and other keepsakes.

At Ready Steady Store, we have self storage facilities across the UK and offer affordable and flexible storage options, no matter your situation. Find the best store location for you or learn how much storage space you need. Alternatively, give us a call on 0800 321 3211 for more information.

  • Budgeting and time management are key:

As we’ve already mentioned, budgeting can be difficult when you live a life on the road, so try and stick to a strict budget to avoid any unnecessary costs. Also, bear in mind that larger motor homes have speed restrictions on both single and dual carriageways, and so if you’re travelling somewhere with a time limit, be sure to factor in the additional time it might take you to get there. 

  • Go paperless:

As mentioned above, you’ll need to get your mail forwarded to you or sent to a family or friend. But, a great way to avoid missing anything crucial is to opt for all of your bills to be emailed to you, instead. Most banks and mobile phone providers already do this, but many other companies also offer this option, just give them a call first and ask. 

Self Storage for Everyone