Following our hearts: does owning a campervan make financial sense?

Our Devon Tempest campervan

This article in the Observer newspaper last week got Mr BOTRA and I thinking about whether owning our campervan saves or costs us money.  It shows how important owning the ‘van is to us that we have never given this much thought before.  As someone who has spreadsheets to plot our spending and savings to every penny, this seems like a huge omission and just goes to show that when it comes down to it our hearts rule over our heads.  We own the ‘van because we love the lifestyle, rather than to save money and even while we have been saving to retire we have never thought of not owning a campervan.

To investigate further I opened up all the spreadsheets and looked at the costs for our previous ‘van over eight camping seasons from 2007 to 2014

Insurance, services, road tax, MOT, tracker & club membership cost around £1,200 each year.  Before we had a campervan we didn’t own a car but we did spend money on hiring cars every month.

Over the years the ‘van didn’t need a lot of maintenance [it was a VW] but it did travel 70,000 miles and we had to buy the following, a new exhaust, tyres, new covers for the front seats, two replacement windows.  The cost of these averages out at £161 a year.

Our regular camping holiday in Europe for over three weeks, and including a ferry, costs around £1,350 each year [note, I haven’t counted food bought in supermarkets in this total as we would eat if we were at home].

In those years we spent an average of 25 other nights camping in the UK [from 18 to 48 nights].  These nights were mostly on campsites with some wild camping and cost an average of £17.63 / night, giving an average of £581 each year.

I haven’t calculated diesel costs in this rough and ready estimate, as we would still want to go to places …yes, I do know the ‘van is not as economical as a car but neither have I accounted for car hire and taxis in my calculations.  It is all getting complicated and I hope these things just cancel each other out.

Motorhomes don’t depreciate in the same way as cars.  When we traded in the ‘van we only lost £8,500 on the price we had paid for it, this works out at £1,062 per year.

Total cost each year has been £4,354 per year for an average of 52 nights holiday each year.

It is hard to estimate what we would have spent on holidays if we hadn’t had the ‘van but based on what we used to do I can estimate a figure.  We used to have a three week organised cycling holiday using hotels in mainland Europe [£3,000], a week in Scotland [£700], a short break in Germany [£700] and a UK short break [£400].

This gives a grand total of £4,800 on around 37 nights of holiday.

So owning the ‘van saves us £446 / year and we get 15 nights more holiday a year.  But hang on … Interest rates were considerably higher between 2007 and 2014 [5.5% in 2007].  If we had invested the £32,000 we had spent on the ‘van we could have received at least £2,000 a year in interest and would be quids in; however, with today’s low interest rates the sums add up very differently, as the article suggests.  Do we regret buying the ‘van when we did – absolutely not!