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Old Man Living in a Van

Updated on February 10, 2015
The Van
The Van

Old Man Living in a Van: Part 1 (introduction)

At the outset, to ensure understanding, I am the old man and the picture is of the van I live in.

There will be no hiding from the truth here. Good or bad, happy or sad, into the light and into the dark. This is the whole truth of an old man living in a van.

I will be serious when called upon but the experience will also hopefully be found to be lighthearted at times. I will try, but may not succeed, in being mildly amusing when it warrants it.

I confess right away that I am no expert or salesman on the subject just an observer of life in a van. For a point of reference you may also know a van as a caravan, a static caravan, a wagon, or for our American friends – a trailer.

For the sake of avoidance of boredom (of the reader that is) each of the initial six “eye popping” sections of this “must read” article where “what they don’t want you to know” “secrets are revealed” will be short and to the point.

Apparently including the phrases “must see”, “eye popping” “what they don’t want you to know” and “secrets are revealed” adds unmeasurable drama and excitement to the point where you the reader cannot wait to see the next part of my voyages of discovery.

This theory has still to be proven.

Old Man Living in a Van: Part 2 (Life in a van – lessons learned)

Living in a van is not for everyone. Some find it hard to adjust after the so called comforts of modern life. But most new vans today are just as comfortable as most houses. But there are things to be aware of;

When heating your van remember that it will usually be toasty and warm when the heating is on but as soon as you turn the heating off all that lovely warmth quickly disappears.

The other time you will be really toasty warm is in the summer. Vans heat up very quickly but you will find relief by opening every window in the van. Have your insect repellent handy as vans seem to have the ability to be seen as a nesting place for all types, sizes and colours of little winged things.

Outside (and inside) water pipes can freeze in the winter. If you know temperatures are going to be below zero leave the water running to stop the pipes freezing.

If you are going away and decide to switch the water supply off leave all the taps slightly on as this stops pressure building in the system. In the winter leave the central heating system on a frost protection setting.

Vans are not soundproofed. Loud noises, screaming or karaoke will resonate from your van around the site.

Old Man Living in a Van: Part 3 (Choosing a van and a site – a nightmare or a delight?)

Have you ever wondered if you could live in a static caravan full time? It could be the way to go if you want to live a simpler lifestyle in a beautiful location or just to save money.

There are more than 700 residential parks across the UK where you can buy or rent what were once called static caravans but are now more colourfully called park homes. These are on well maintained sites with landscaped grounds, lakes, pools, gyms, restaurants and bars. Not all sites have all facilities.

When choosing a site consider transport links and closeness to shops, doctors, dentist, and vet, whatever you are used to having on your doorstep where you live now (even the hairdressers).

In the UK at the moment it is mostly retired people who live in park homes, with many sites barring entry to anyone under 55.

Choosing a van to buy or rent will depend on a number of things. The main one of course is your budget. The second most important one is location. This could actually be number one as location is considered the most important reason someone decides to buy or rent a van.

Remember to ask about car parking. Can you park near or right at your intended new home?

How about pets? Do you have exotic or domesticated animals or raptors? Are they allowed on the site? If you have snakes are they confined to the van or can they wander freely around the site?

Another important thing to consider when choosing a site is whether they allow touring caravans or lease out empty vans to holidaymakers. A place may look idyllic in the spring or autumn but is it used by some as a place to hold a rave in the summer months.

You will have obligations as an owner on a site such as the right of others to the quiet enjoyment of the site. Breaking these obligations can result in you being asked to leave the site and remove your van at your own expense.

If you decide to buy find out what the licensing period (or lease period of the land the van will sit on) for the site is. This can range from 5 years to 99 years.

Most sites have an age limit for vans. In other words the age a van can be before you must replace it. This can range from 5 years (at a prime location) to 15 years.

Ask what decking is allowed or if you can put a shed beside your van. You will soon be looking for outdoor storage for those bits and pieces that just don’t fit inside.

If the site does not have a residential homes license then it will close for between 1 and 3 months of the year which means you will have to budget for staying elsewhere during that time. In such cases you cannot use the van as a permanent residence and will not be able to use the van as your address on the electoral role. Some people will find this an advantage.

Before making that final decision speak to the site manager about spending a free or reduced rate weekend to get a real feel of what the site is like. Most importantly take to the residents. You will find them a friendly and honest bunch.

There is also the option of staying in a van on your own land. You may need planning permission for this but the requirements vary from council to council. It can be difficult to get planning permission unless there are vans already there or you only plan to live in the van temporarily until your house is built or renovated. So check first before you do anything. The legal details revolve around such things as showing how you will deal with waste water and toilet waste.

Old Man Living in a Van: Part 4 (Buying or renting – choice words)

The price of a van (whether buying or renting) will depend on age, size, accommodation, style and extras (such as cooker, oven, and microwave).

Buying can cost from a few thousand pounds for a second hand van up to £200,000 for a high quality brand new lodge. Age, condition and site location (e.g. it may have a sea view, which is brilliant or it may be sited among many other vans, which is not so brilliant) are so important. This is when you have to sit down and work out what you can really afford. Always think long term budget.

Caravans and park homes must be purchased in cash or using a personal loan. You will not get a mortgage on them.

Rental figures vary enormously depending on the site location, season, age of the van and other charges such as those mentioned in Part 9. In any event your starting price will be around £400 per month at the low end up to and even beyond £2,000 per month. You could try renting for a while to see if the lifestyle is for you.

Now listen carefully. This is important. Before you buy consider that your circumstances may change in the future and you may have to sell. Find out the options for selling and keep that in mind before you buy. Can you sell it back to the site operator? Can you sell it through the site operator? (They will charge you up to 15% commission, plus VAT. Can you sell it privately?

You also have to consider that vans will depreciate in value. They are not like those lovely little boxes that we call homes that seem to increase in value for no known reason.

Most vans come fully equipped and ready to move in and are supplied with all the furnishings and white goods you need. Some even have TV’s installed so you only have to bring your clothes, bedding, cutlery, crockery, cooking utensils, vacuum cleaner and your personal bits and pieces. So no big moving bills. Just pack out the car and you are ready to move in.

If you want to move the van to another site there will be disconnection fees (which could be around £250), and if you have to hire a crane to move it (£1,500 as a starter).

Old Man Living in a Van: Part 5 (Costs, fees and expenses – money, money, money; or maybe not)

Once you have a van you need to consider the fees and costs and make sure you budget enough to cover them.

First of all you have your site fees (£1,000 to £5,000 depending on the location, views and facilities offered at the site).

The site fees will usually increase each year due to such things as inflation, council rates or to make improvements to the site. When budgeting long term plan on at least a 5% increase each year. Annual site fees are usually paid at the start of the year with most sites offering a discount if you pay them before a certain date.

Now of course you need to heat and light your van so you will need gas and electricity. How is it supplied and what does it cost? Most sites only allow you to buy your gas from them, so ask. This may cost around £65 a cylinder. How much you use of course depends on how long you use the van for. In the winter I use a gas cylinder (47kg) every ten days. You do the maths. Electricity is usually billed quarterly.

Some residential parks have piped gas but this will usually cost extra.

If you are on-site all year then you will have to pay local rates to cover water, sewage and all the other nice things the council do for us. Find out the local council rates charges.

Of course you need insurance in case your pride and joy (and sole accommodation) goes up in smoke or is blown away in the cold north winter gales. Shop around as there are many deals. Find the one that suits you best. Most sites will have a rule that you have adequate insurance and your insurance must cover third party liability, public liability and covers the whole year, even when the site is closed.

Find out what other charges there are which may or not be mandatory. Such as; a drain down in winter to protect the van from frost damage if you are planning to disappear to a warmer region for a few weeks, or gas maintenance and electrical appliance testing.

Some sites offer free wifi as part of their services. If you can’t live without your tablet, netbook or laptop and there is no free wifi then check out the best deals for roaming wifi. Some deals start from as little as £15 a month. But it is another cost you will have to take into account in your budget.

The one big cost you will have is for a washing machine. Now by the very nature of the design and construction of most vans it is not ideal for a washing machine to be installed indoors as your van will eventually shake, rattle and roll into oblivion. Washing machines are installed in a suitable storage box outside the van and plumbed in. Something you will have to consider if you need to wash a lot of clothes. Few sites nowadays have launderettes.

Oh and just a little word about the TV license. If you decide to keep your main home and only use the van occasionally as long as the TV in the van is not used at the same time as your TV at home you do not need a separate TV license.

Old Man Living in a Van: Part 6 (Living the life – living the dream)

Around 250,000 people in the UK and 20 million Americans live in “mobile” or “park” homes. So why should it not be you?

What hardship is there in waking up to the birds singing or the sound of the waves and being surrounded by beautiful countryside or coastal views? Don’t forget the lack of fumes from cars and buses. The air really does smell fresher and cleaner. Peace and tranquillity is guaranteed.

You will be living in a quiet friendly community where you will get to know and trust all your neighbours. Can you say that about where you live just now?

The other massive plus is that depending on where you live and what your outgoings are at the moment you could end up debt free. Just by simply choosing the residential park life.

As a final musing and for this one time only (I promise you) I will end with something you can giggle or groan at…

If you decide to site your van in an area that is known for bears, it is recommended when you are out walking that you wear tiny bells on your clothing. These will warn away most bears. Also watch out for bear droppings so you are aware of the places bears often frequent. It is easy to tell bear droppings, they are the ones with tiny bells in them.


@ 2015 Brian McKechnie (aka WorldEarth)


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    • World Earth profile image

      Brian 2 years ago from Ayrshire, Scotland

      Thanks Larry

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great read!

    • World Earth profile image

      Brian 2 years ago from Ayrshire, Scotland

      Marina I agree with you totally. Regards Brian

    • Marina7 profile image

      Marina 2 years ago from Clarksville TN

      We live in a trailer too. Sad that people don't help each other more to be able to afford a good place to live. A trailer is not bad but in the winter it gets cold.