How to Spend Less When Living in a Motorhome or Campervan
You might have stumbled upon this page in a desperate fit of research after discovering that “vanlife” wasn’t as cheap as you thought it was going to be. Or, you might just be one proactive so-and-so and we salute you! Either way, adjusting to living in a campervan isn’t easy, especially when it comes down to expenses. Luckily, we’ve put together this simple list of ways to save money when living in a campervan to ease your worries and help you take some actionable actions.
1. Stay Off The Grid
The best thing about living in a campervan is the ability to live more self-sufficiently. Make sure your campervan is fully self-contained, including a toilet, bed and cooking facilities, and has storage for fresh water, grey water and black water. Not only will this give you more options for freedom camping, but you won’t be so reliant on the facilities of commercial campsites, holiday parks and motels. Free fresh water supplies and dump stations are easy enough to find, but recharging your electricity is where things get tricky. That’s why we recommend installing a powerful electric generator, such as the BLUETTI AC200MAX complete with some PV200 Solar Panels for off-the-grid living. What’s more, you can learn more about getting a great deal on electric generators at the bottom of this article!
2. Scout Out Free Campsites and Legal Freedom Camping Spots
Oh, the joys of not paying rent! Not only does New Zealand have plenty of free campsites, with a few options listed in 10 Free Campsites on the North Island and South Island to get you started, but those with a certified self-contained campervan have many more freedom camping spots open to them. Check out the freedom camping by-laws linked in our guide, Freedom Camping Rules in New Zealand: Region by Region to plan where to camp around the country for free.
3. Cook For Yourself
Travelling to new and exciting places often involves sampling new cafes and restaurants but not if you want to save money on living in a campervan. Buying your own groceries and cooking your own meals is, without exaggeration, about ten times cheaper than eating out, especially in New Zealand. Make a meal plan for the upcoming three or four days in order to avoid impulse buys and stocking up on too much food, as that extra weight (on your van; not you – you’re perfect) won’t do you any favours. More on the importance of van weight will feature later on the list!
For tips on what to cook, check out the 5 Meals Under $5 to Cook in a Hostel or Holiday Park and The Best Camping Meals, Inc. Camping Food List.
4. Maximise Fuel Efficiency
Easily your top expense when living in a campervan is fuel. Any way you can shave off the fuel costs will save you a “ton” in the long run; literally and figuratively! Reducing your van’s weight and the way you drive are two main factors that impact how much fuel you use. A few tips concerning those aspects include:
- Plan your route to minimise driving distances
- Spend more time in each place you visit
- Drive conservatively
- Try to avoid driving with full water tanks
- Only fill your fuel tank up halfway
- Minimise what you pack in your van
- Look up fuel prices on gas station apps.
5. Learn Some Basic DIY Skills
Living in a van is a combination of being a homeowner and a vehicle owner; things can break and it’s cheaper to repair things yourself than to pay a mechanic, plumber or RV specialist. Of course, it takes years to become a fully-fledged mechanic, but any of the small stuff that you can handle yourself with a basic DIY toolkit will save you heaps. Get a YouTube tutorial on and start learning!
Check out the 10 Best Accessories for Your Campervan for recommended toolkits and more basic essentials.
6. Make the Most of Free Activities
Ah, the fun part of vanlife! Living in a campervan is all about getting out in nature and there are many free ways to do that between hiking trails or, if you’ve got the gear, surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, etc. Luckily, New Zealand is packed with heaps of freebies, as listed in the 50 Best Free Things to Do in New Zealand so get inspired
7. Get Home-Living Essentials Secondhand
While we think it’s well worth investing in high-quality gear when it comes to kitting out your campervan, when it comes to home-living essentials like eating and cooking utensils, extra blankets, a cool bag (if you don’t have or want to use a fridge), etc. the secondhand stores of New Zealand, also known as “op shops” are brimming with these items. Remember; the lighter the better, so opt for plastic plates and storage boxes, for example, rather than crockery and glass.
8. Live Frugally and Track Your Expenses
Living the vanlife is living the minimalistic life. Most come away from it learning that they can live happily on the bare necessities. It’s time to leave impulse buys behind and only buy what you really need, even when it comes down to diet; do you really need a regular dose of alcohol or takeaway coffee? On your first few weeks on the road, track your expenses to see where your money is going and what you can cut back on. There’s always something!
9. Service Your Vehicle
Keep your tyres pumped, your engine fluids full, and look out for any signs that your campervan needs to be checked by a mechanic. Many a campervan has suffered expensive damage due to user neglect, so keep a close eye on your vehicle. We have plenty of tips on how to do just that in our guide, How to Maintain Your Car or Campervan in New Zealand + When to Service.
10. Plan, Plan, Plan
Sure, it’s effort but the more you plan and the more your research, the more you’ll save. The logic is that you’ll have a better idea of your campervanning needs (perhaps you don’t need the biggest heaviest fuel-guzzling motorhome) and even simple online research can make you aware of expenses and money-saving tips you hadn’t even thought about yet.
A good place to start your research, even if we do say so ourselves, is Vanlife: The Guide to Living in a Campervan, which goes over many different aspects of living in a campervan.
Save Money on Quality Camping Gear at the BLUETTI Autumn Sale!
As mentioned, when it comes to kitting out your campervan, it’s better to invest in quality. BLUETTI offers just that in their portable solar generators that not only make camping cheaper by staying off-the-grid but allow your campervan to function like a home. Luckily, there are some irresistible savings to be had during the BLUETTI Fall Sale starting 7 March! The previously mentioned AC200Max + 3 PV200 solar panels start at A$4,546 saving A$850, while the EB55 + PV200 solar panels are a lightweight system ideal for short camping trips, starting from A$1,398 saving A$300!
Head to bluettipower.com.au to check out their latest sale on portable solar generators and help you save money when living in a campervan.
More Ways to Save Money When Living in a Campervan
That’s it for our list of ways to save money when living in a campervan, but check out more vanlife and money-saving advice in the guides below:
- 20 Ways to Save Money When Travelling in New Zealand
- How to Get the Best Deal on a Portable Power Station
- The Travel Guide to New Zealand on a Budget
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in Vanlife: The Guide to Living in a Campervan.