She looked pretty good when we inspected her. She is not quite this clean anymore.
We knew before we left on our around the world trip that we wanted to travel Europe by campervan rather than backpack or by flying between big cities. We started researching the associated costs of renting versus buying a couple of months out from our departure date.
Though renting a van seemed more safe, simple and organised we also felt that it was more restricting (not allowed in certain countries, extra costs, season price changes, time restrictions) and would impede on our desired travel plans, especially because our plans were very open. The vans that we truly loved (check out @vanlifediaries or Quirky Campers for some serious van-spiration) were pushing our budget to the limit and the vans within our price range were quite basic and didn’t quite feel like ‘us’.
We were also unsure of where we wanted to go or how long we would be gone for which made hiring all the more difficult. It was way more exciting thinking that we could buy our van, extra responsibilities and all but it would at least be ours to do with what we wanted. Repairs, breakdowns, modifications, restorations and all. A reassuring thought was that if we did buy, we might even manage to get some money back at the end of our trip when we sold it on to someone else so they could start their own adVANture.
The process for Australian and New Zealand citizens is not as straight forward as you might think (even with a UK working visa), but it is totally doable once you know what you are trying to get done. Some key terms for your consideration:
MOT= a roadworthy certificate done every year to check for basic safety – every car needs to have an up to date one.
Road tax = Registration costs – must be paid by the new owner
V5 form = Name transfer form – must be completed once there is a new owner. A new one will be sent to the UK address you provide.
Green Card= Comprehensive car insurance receipt
The MOST USEFUL INFORMATION EVER was from The Macadames blog. They explained everything in beautifully organised detail (way more than I will below) and I am eternally grateful for their information. Most importantly, you will need to swindle a UK address to attach the car to and a friendly someone who will happily receive any mail related to the vehicle for you (not much after the initial transfer forms). We also found that down under insurance seemed to be the only option for insuring vehicles across multiple countries if you are NOT a UK resident. They do offer travel insurance as well for combination discounts but I cannot confirm if they deliver on claims as we are yet to put one in (touch wood). We also didn’t opt for breakdown assist, though in hindsight it probably would have been worth it. I’ll talk about our many engine mishaps another time. All I can say is that any payment in British pounds hurts a whole lot more when you are an Aussie because of the currency exchange rate at the moment.
We used Gumtree and auto search sites as our main form of research and contact. Though I have heard renting and buying vans in other European countries such as Germany or France can prove cheaper, we decided that the language barrier would be too big of an issue for us. We were a little concerned about the right hand drive versus left hand drive factor, but now that we are doing it, it hasn’t been an issue at all. The only disadvantage is checking oncoming traffic when overtaking (which Sassy doesn’t do much of) and some corners or roundabouts where the driver has to rely on the passenger a little more for giveway clearance. We inquired about many vans, but actually inspected only 5. We had our hearts set on one particularly awesome van, our money at the ready only to be told we were the second to see it and that the first group had already bought it. Spewing!
Next up was Gene, an older gentleman who continually told us about his heart condition and the the good times he had spent in his van. We spent a lot of time testing it out while he spilled his wealth of knowledge about vans and engines. We felt that his van was great but a little too small for our needs and left saying we would let him know after we viewed a couple more for comparison. We contacted him after deciding on a different van and he unleashed quite a scathing text attack on us wishing poor fortune with our future van which was a little shocking from such a seemingly kind and gentle man. Perhaps he felt we had swindled him in some way. I am still unsure but try to laugh about it instead and hope that his words aren’t the reason we ended up breaking down as much as we did in the beginning.
Eventually we found Sassy who was at the lower end of our budget which we decided could be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on which way you looked at it. She was fully stocked and ready to go (cutlery, kitchenware, bedding and a chemical toilet) and lastly, she was already owned by an Australian couple who were just wrapping up their own Eurotrip (they provided a wealth of information and tips). We caught a train out to see her and after a lengthy conversation with her owners, lunch and a couple of beers at the closest pub we decided she would do and we began to prepare for our next leg with much excitement.