How much does living in a caravan cost?

The answer? More than I expected. I bought the caravan in October 2016 and went on a 3 month road trip around New Zealand. I powered through my money faster than expected and am keen to find out where it all went!

When I started looking into my bank statements, the cost of powered campsites, petrol and general bills were higher than I realised. I have now learnt how much money I will need for my future adventures. Here are my findings.

Cost of buying a caravan

After following caravan sellers on Trademe (a New Zealand internet-auction website) and going to see caravan dealers, I started to see how much it cost to buy a second hand UK/EU caravan. Below are the general prices. It changed depending on the brand and year, plus whether there are extras like solar panels or motor movers (easy way to move a caravan).

2 berth $16,000-$26,000
4 berth $23,000-$30,000
4 berth fixed bed $26,000-$35,000
4 berth island bed $35,000-$55,000

 

What does this terminology mean? A berth means how many can sleep in it. Fixed bed means it’s permanently a bed and doesn’t fold away. An island bed means 2 people can easily enter the bed on both sides.

When I first started thinking about getting a caravan, I aimed for the cheapest type, but after looking inside some and thinking about what living in a caravan would be like, I decided I needed a fixed bed. My budget kept getting higher!

Tips I have learnt

  • UK/EU caravans have good insulation
  • Older caravans might have leaking problems which sound painful to fix. Try for caravans newer than 2000
  • Caravans are more expensive in New Zealand than America or the UK because of shipping and smaller population. I’ve heard it’s economical to buy 2 caravans overseas and ship in 1 container then sell 1 to make money
  • Haggle! My caravan was dropped by $5k!
  • The cheaper brands are Abby and ACE. The more expensive brands are Jacobs and Bailey Orion.

 

Karavan-Living

My costs living in a caravan

I have regularly travelled rough in the past and don’t need a huge amount of shoes and clothes. But as this is my permanent home, I have a certain standard of living I want. I loooove having a morning shower, access to the internet and good food.

I’ve taken the total cost from 3 months while I was solidly travelling around New Zealand. I’ve also broken that down to how much I’d need each day and each month.

Facts that slant the data

  • I took out about $200 of cash and haven’t included it in the below as I can’t remember what I spent it on!
  • I stayed for free on friends land for 1.5 weeks and paid $5 a day for showers and water at the local accommodation
  • I travelled with a friend for 2 weeks, but we split the cost.

Accommodation

3 months – accommodation total $1,697
per night – accommodation $19

 

  • The accommodation cost ranged from free on friends land and paying $5 for a shower at accommodation down the road to $30 at some of the more popular powered tourist spots
  • Top 10 and Kiwi were generally more expensive as they are a chain of quality campsites
  • Doc campsites were usually cheaper but facilities changed per place. Sometimes no power and no phone reception
  • I paid for my self containment, but only got the official sticker at the end of my trip! I plan to do more freedom camping once I have solar panels… I like power.

Food

3 months – food total $1,899
per day – food $21

 

  • I saved money by mainly cooking at home and avoided restaurants. But I do have more expensive likes in the supermarket. In love with the Collective fig’n’ginger yogurt.

Fuel

3 months – diesel total $1,333
per day – diesel $15

 

This was quite a fast trip, moving locations every 2-3 nights. My longest stay was in Queenstown for 10 night, and sometimes I only stayed somewhere for 1 night. Towing the caravan also went through my diesel faster. I’ll be able to save more on fuel if I stay longer at places and just slow down the pace of my trip.

You can save money on fuel by using

  • A Countdown/BP card
  • A voucher from Pak’n’save received with your receipt when you shop with them
  • NZMCA have the offer of a fuel card deal once you’ve joined.

 

Homeware & hardware for caravan

3 months – caravan homeware & hardware total $749

 

I had a few household items already for my caravan, but there were a lot of things needed. Some of the items were:

  • Containers to store items under the bed
  • Hose and tape connector to fill water tank
  • Fun kitchenware like tea towels, coasters, cutlery and utensils
  • Camping chairs
  • Spare water tank and funnel for off-grid living
  • Rubber door mat to avoid tramping mud through the caravan
  • A surprising amount of cleaning products!

General caravan bills

3 months – general bills total $1,020
per month – general bills $339

 

These are my phone, internet, Adobe programs, insurance type bills. This is actually higher than I realised! I think I need to look into other insurance companies for my car and caravan. I’ve already changed my phone plan to a cheaper option and will look into other ways to drop the amount.

The caravan bills are

  • Caravan/contents insurance
  • 3rd party car insurance
  • Broadband for the caravan

 The grand total

This is how much it cost me over these 3 months and how much per day/month I’ll need for the future. This is excluding the initial homeware / hardware I needed to set-up.

Grand total spent over 3 months to travel & live in a caravan $5,949
Average needed per day to travel & live in a caravan $66
Average needed per month to travel & live in a caravan $1,980

 

Then there are the other one-off costs to consider too.

One-off big costs

Then there are the bigger costs that I paid after buying the caravan – things I hadn’t really factored in when budgeting!

Joining NZMCA $130
Self Containment (discount through NZMCA) $360
Ferry Crossing including caravan (discount through NZMCA)  $290
Mechanic (sudden brake problems) $440
Starting the broadband plan and getting the modem $299

Future costs

Things I need to make sure I’ve budgeted for in the future beyond the general monthly bills!

Yearly NZMCA membership fee $90
Car Rego per year $197
Car WOF per year (2 checks a year) $100
Diesel Yearly Charge – $62 per 1,000 kilometres Guessing $800
Caravan Rego & COF per year Guessing $90

 

Sure there are items I’ve missed off this list…


Caravan wish list

Then there are items I really really want to to buy for the caravan!

Solar Panels $1,500
Awning $475
Car ramp to get heavy water tanks in and out of car boot $50-200

This has been a handy exercise for myself. I now know I need about $2,000 a month to live comfortably.

I know I can bring the cost down once I get solar panels and a car boot ramp. This will mean it’s easier to stay at self-containment sites and cheaper non-powered campsites.

These 3 months involved a lot of driving. I went through the fuel twice as fast when towing the caravan. In the future, I’ll be able to bring my fuel cost down by travelling slower, staying at places longer.

I am also going to look into my general bills and see if they can be lowered.

Do you have any money saving tips? I’d love to read them in the comments below.

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