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Europe road trip, rent, buy or lease a campervan?

Coventry, United...
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Europe road trip, rent, buy or lease a campervan?

Hi,

Completely new to this sight and the whole idea of travelling.

Myself and two friends have decided for the summer that a road trip around Europe would be our perfect summer holiday. Having just finished University we will be on a minimal budget and are unsure on the best way to travel around.

Ideally we would want to have some sort of camper-van we can travel and sleep in. Would it be cheaper to rent, buy or lease one?

We are looking at going for a period of 6 weeks and roughly around 4,000 miles of driving.

Interested to hear your thoughts and any helpful websites to take a look at.

Thanks

Jack

Lewes, United...
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1. Re: Europe road trip, rent, buy or lease a campervan?

Hi Jack

Welcome to the Road Trips forum.

I was hoping somebody with more knowledge than I can offer would chip in with some help, but it seems nobody watching this forum over the last few days can help.

I really have very little knowledge with regard to the answer to your buy or rent or lease conundrum, and which is best or easiest for your needs. I can hazard a guess at some of the issues you'd need to consider. First thing to say is that, if most of your driving will be in Continental Europe, then it makes sense to get a vehicle with the steering wheel on the left to make life easier for the driver(s). Secondly, diesel is the cheapest fuel there, so again, aim for a diesel vehicle. That was the easy part!

Given your likely ages, do you or at least all the potential drivers have full DLs, held for more than a year? If not, then you will have more challenges and will find rental and insurance costs sky high. Leasing is possible, but not for Brits, as far as I know. All the French manufacturers have some interesting deals but they are aimed at folk from outside the EU areas.

Buying should be possible in any EU country as a citizen of another EU country, but you still need to insure any vehicle, and if you are buying a RHD vehicle in the UK, the insurance is always sky high because they'll expect it to be used mostly on the wrong side of the road. If you were say to head to the Netherlands or Belgium to buy a used vehicle there that you found on the internet, I don't know enough about the car insurance rules of those countries to know what to advise you about with regard to shopping around for cover, etc. Maybe look for expat websites, or just have a google around and see what you discover. If one of your parents were to buy and insure the vehicle, naming one of you as an additional driver when this person was actually the primary driver, you'd get into lots of trouble if you were found out, so I don't suggest that option.

If you buy a vehicle, presuming it is second hand, please may I recommend you get a motor vehicle technician of some kind to give it the once over to check how road worthy it is, and do know most European countries have strict regulations, especially for emissions for older vehicles, like our MOT system, but much more rigidly enforced and regulated. You'd need a pass certificate for whatever the country in question calls it's vehicle roadworthiness system, plus a local road tax equivalent certificate or windscreen sticker, too. I'd also recommend you consider breakdown insurance, like that offered by the RAC or AA, but for the country where you buy the vehicle, if it's not the UK. All these documents are now computerised and police in some countries have access to centralised records from hand held devices, so they can check for stolen vehicles and up to date paper work.

Oh, one other thought. There use to be a myth that the best place to buy a second hand campervan was outside New Zealand House or Australia House in London, where the natives of those countries congregated after their gap years in Europe. I rather suspect with the introduction of London's congestion charge plus stricter on-street security, and parking regulation enforcement, that this is no longer the way to get a bargain, and I cannot remember seeing the line of battered VW Caravelles with wacky paint jobs for ages!

Trolling around Europe should be huge fun, especially in the summer. Once you have your wheels sorted and the boring paperwork in place, off you go, no borders even for Schengen countries and little need for much more than a pocket full of Euros, too. However, do understand that sleeping in the campervan, if that's what you get, is not allowed in some cities and in other locations in certain European countries. Nor is sleeping on the beach in places like France or Spain. Portugal seems to be pretty relaxed about most things, as is much of Greece and some of Italy. Before cities in Italy, however - just google ZTL to understand what I mean.

Beware shop hours in some countries and ATMs are odd in others. Petrol or diesel is almost always cheapest at supermarket fuel stations, never on motorways.

Learn about the rules of the road, the speed limits, the traffic signs where they are not universal, and the mandatory safety kit that you need. With a beat up vehicle with plates from a different country, your chance of being pulled over will be high. No high viz vests, for example - which cost a £ in a £ shop(!) - will guarantee a hefty on the spot fine on a quiet day for the traffic police. Here's a list of what to look out for:

…wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_European_t…

And here's a primer for driving in Europe from the AA's website:

theaa.com/motoring_advice/overseas/general_a…

Some countries have really expensive tolls motorway equivalents. Other European countries require you to buy a vignette/matrica to use their express road system, which you display on your windscreen and register the car online or on a form. They have overhead cameras to catch you out, and in counties with the vignette system, the signs to warn you that you are entering a road where the fee should have been paid are pretty small and not in English, because it's assumed most folk already know!

For trip planning for routes, I'll add a link to be best mapping website. I recommend you get familiar with it as it's a great tool. You can choose most scenic route, not just the most obvious or fastest. You can ask it to avoid tolls, and if you click the right boxes, it will cost out the fuel consumption for a diesel motorhome or a 2 stroke moped, as you like!!!

Any other questions on the logistics, please ask. I will try and help!

Then, once you've sorted out your wheels, please come back here for ideas for the actual fun part -the driving and where to go. For that, I'd also recommend you get guide books like the Lonely Planet or Rough Guides' Shoestring versions of the whole of Europe guide books. Also, pick up a cheap paper road atlas for the whole of Europe from Amazon or a WHSmiths. Much easier to put on the floor while you all pore over it with biros, and when the fancy smartphone apps and GPS give up on the dirt roads half way up the Tatra mountains in Poland, much the better way to find your way back again!

Good luck and have fun,

SWT

Uden, The...
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2. Re: Europe road trip, rent, buy or lease a campervan?

Ah man, at your age we just bought an old car and went tent camping. Never forget those days. never even thought of a campervan.....

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3. Re: Europe road trip, rent, buy or lease a campervan?

Tet's idea may well be the cheapest option! But seriously, if any of you already own a car in the UK, then you can just take out European insurance (make sure you get breakdown cover, too), take the ferry across to mainland and off you go. You'll be going in summer, so just get one of those pop-up tents, chuck it in the car along with sleeping bags and some crisps and see where the wind takes you! I have done this a few times and its a lot of fun, without all the paperwork involved in hiring/buying a camper. Even before we could drive, as teenagers we hopped on a ferry to france as foot passengers with a big backpack each and that was the summer sorted!

If one of you doesn't already have a car then it might be more complicated, but if you do then that could be ideal. But everything that SWT said about road tolls, high vis jackets etc still applies.

Lewes, United...
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4. Re: Europe road trip, rent, buy or lease a campervan?

I was basing my reply on the assumption (implied but not stated) that none of the travellers currently owns a car, and thus probably has no insurance history to keep vehicle insurance costs down. Even an old banger can be hugely expensive to insure, anywhere, if the driver(s) are male and under 25.

I forgot the link for the mapping website to use:

www.viamichelin.co.uk/

Oh, and there's a typo and missing words which makes nonsense of one of my sentences. It should read 'BEWARE of driving into the central parts of most major cities in Italy ....'.

Tent camping will always be the most relaxed option, and cheapest and just fine for summer in Europe, but you still need wheels!

SWT

Edited: 12 March 2014, 12:21
Munich, Germany
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5. Re: Europe road trip, rent, buy or lease a campervan?

Hi jack!

It might be a little tight for 3 but yet possible and very affordable... We did it a couple and a small child heading out from Munich. We got a camper from sleeponwheels.co and enjoyed it a lot!

Hope it helped you:)

6. Re: Europe road trip, rent, buy or lease a campervan?

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