Exploring Europe in a Van, Part 1: Finding the Perfect Van without Breaking the Bank
Hands up if you’ve sat in your undies, eating ice cream on the lounge, mindlessly scrolling through all the people on social media “livin’ their best lives.”
Some people travel for a living, others are foodies who eat for Instagram. And then there are those ho purchase a normal, everyday van and convert it into a camper van to travel all around the world, making the rest of us super freaking envious.
I always wondered what it would be like to do a van conversion, but never imagined actually doing it. That’s all changed; here I am, with a van and no idea what the hell I’m doing with it.
My boyfriend Tom and I made the big decision to spend a shitload of money we didn’t have on a van, and we had the time to convert it, with absolutely no experience, into a camper van. Here’s how that went.
Tom came home from work one afternoon and said, “how mad would it be to buy a van and travel round Europe in it when we leave London?”
I said “Yeah, that would be sick mate, should we?”
And we both simultaneously said “Fuck it, let’s do it!”
Armed with no money and no idea, we started scouring the internet, looking for used vans.
We were originally content to go with a smaller van, but over the next week our ideas got bigger and more extravagant. The small van plan was tossed out like a drunk girl from a night club.
We spent every hour checking for used vans on Gumtree, Autotrader, Motorsuk – whatever part of the Internet that might lead us to our home on wheels.
We finally found her on Gumtree: a 2004 Ford Transit, with a medium height roof and a little over 130,000 miles on the meter. We were stoked when we found a high roof van; Tom is over six feet tall, so the extra room makes it more comfortable for him. The seller originally wanted £1,700 for it but we worked him down to £1,400 and he even threw in a spare wheel. We obviously drive a hard bargain.Armed with no money and no idea, we started scouring the internet, looking for small used vans. Over the next week our ideas got bigger and more extravagant. The small van plan was tossed out like a drunk girl from a night club. Click To Tweet
We cautiously handed over our money and got in our new van to drive it home. I’ve never felt so nervous buying a vehicle. I had no idea what to look for. Luckily, we got some tips from our mate who’s a mechanic:
- Check Ministry of Transport (MOT) test, accident damage, and service history online.
- It should start easily and quickly.
- The lights should all work; otherwise, this could be an electrical issue.
- No squeaking or grinding in the brakes or gears.
- Check that there’s no rust on the body work.
The first step was sorted – we had a van. Now we had to lay out the costs with everything else that’s involved with purchasing our dream home.
We were naughty (and yes mum, I mean “stupid”) and drove home uninsured. With the car registered as “off-road,” we could budget our money until closer to our trip (and in case our not-so-great-van-selection skills didn’t pay off, and the thing fell to bits under our feet). Right now, the van is sitting in our mate’s driveway, where we’re able to work on it. Once we’re done converting it, we will insure it and add road tax.
Insurance in the UK is expensive, pushing over 3k on comparethemarket.com. However, we did some research and found that Downunder Insurance would insure one driver over 25 for £670 for the year. Unfortunately, this insurance will not cover us for the some parts of the Balkans region.
The MOT test is the annual compulsory roadworthiness test carried out on all vehicles over three years old. Our MOT is due in August 2019, and will cost us around £30 – £50 to renew it.
Car tax must be paid on all vehicles registered in the UK, driven on or kept on a public road. This will cost us around £77 for 6 months.
We didn’t exactly have a budget for the van; we just wanted something that was as cheap as possible that wasn’t a complete shit box. So far, the van drives well and has a lot of potential. But we can’t wait to start the conversion, and see our ideas come to life.
Until the next adventure – Ellyseejean xx
You can follow our van adventures at @vanlivinn @ellyseejean