Hiring a Campervan in the UK – 10 Things You Need to Know

Having your own home on wheels is a great way to explore the United Kingdom, and there are some fabulous road trips in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  I am thoroughly enjoying van life, but if you’re not ready to take the plunge of buying a campervan, or are just visiting our fair isle, renting a campervan will give you a taste of the adventure!  However, before hiring a campervan in the UK there are a few things you need to know which will help you decide what kind of campervan to rent, and how to make the most of your trip. These are my top tips for renting a motorhome or campervan in the UK.

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British People Drive on the Left

If you aren’t from the UK, you might well be used to driving on the right (I mean WRONG!) side of the road.  However, here we drive on the left and the steering wheel is on the right-hand side of the vehicle.  If you’ve never driven on this side of the road before it can take some getting used to, especially on some of our narrow roads – so get some practise in the car park or quiet place before you set off on your campervan adventure!

Bearing that in mind, you may prefer to request an automatic transmission instead of a manual (stick shift), although some models may only be manual, automatic motorhomes and campervans will give you one less thing to worry about!

A Narrow Road in England with a wall on one side and a Campervan passing slowly on the right
A Narrow Road in England – They Get Worse!

You May Need to Be 25 or Over

Usually the minimum age to hire a car in the UK is 21, however, many campervan hire companies in the United Kingdom have a minimum age requirement of 25 – and a maximum age of 70 or 75 in some cases – due to insurance restrictions.  Be sure to check with the hire company to see what their limits are.

You also need to have a full valid driving license.  If you hold a driving license from a country other than the UK, change with the campervan rental company if they accept your license and if you need an International Driving Permit.  Another reason why I recommend smaller campervans and motorhomes over the larger RV style is that if the vehicle is over 3.5 tonnes you will need a different category driving license to be able to drive them.  Smaller motorhomes like my van conversion are usually well under the limit.  Check the details on the UK government website here.

If you have points on your license you may need to declare that when requesting a rental, and in some cases if you have more than 6 points on your license you may not be able to rent a campervan at all.

You’ll also need to have a credit or debit card to hold the security deposit.   

Check Dates Carefully

Before booking your campervan road trip in the UK, check if the dates coincide with peak holiday season.  Bank holiday weekends, summer holidays, Easter and half-term breaks will be more expensive and demand higher.

Weekdays in shoulder or off-season will be the cheapest time for you to hire a campervan, and you’ll have more chance of booking your preferred campsite too!

The view from the side of the campervan, of cliffs and blue sea and sky
Waking up to Glorious Views on a Campervan Trip to Cornwall – Not in School Holidays!

Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better

As I mentioned above, in Britain we have some ridiculously narrow roads, which are often full of twists and blind corners too.  Nothing like the straight wide highways in the States, our countryside roads are often only wide enough for one car – so in a large RV squeezing past an oncoming tractor is an interesting experience!  There are frequent passing places though, so keep your eyes peeled for oncoming traffic so you can pull in quickly if you need to.

The same goes for parking spaces.  Most car parks in the UK have irritatingly small spaces – both in terms of width and length.  That’s why I’d recommend getting the smallest campervan or motorhome to fit your requirements.  As tempting as it is to go big so you can enjoy a spacious interior, you will find it easier to drive and park if you have a smaller vehicle.

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Read the Fine Print

This is a no-brainer for any contract, but some things you may not have considered include a mileage limit or a one-way surcharge if you plan to leave the campervan in a different location to where you picked it up.  You’ll also need to check exactly what insurance cover is included, what excess you’ll have to pay if you do need to make a claim, if any additional drivers are covered if you plan to share the driving, and if breakdown cover is included.

Check what equipment is included in the campervan hire too – you would hope that they have everything you need to enjoy your trip but some motorhome rental companies don’t include things like bedding or towels, so do your research before you hand over any money.  Does the campervan have a toilet and wash facilities on board?  Something to cook with and eat with?  It’s always best to check!

My Campervan Kitchen Area with an oven, gas hob, sink and fridge
Campervan Kitchen – Make Sure you Know What is Included in your Campervan Rental Agreement

Carry Cash for Car Parking

Speaking of car parks, they don’t always make it easy to pay, but will swiftly hand out parking tickets and fines if you haven’t!  These days, most car parks will accept coins or card payments, and some allow payment through a parking app such as RingGo or JustPark. 

However, I still come across car parks which only accept coins, and don’t even give you any change!  So, try to collect pound coins and change wherever you go so you have a stash of cash ready to go when needed. 

For pay and display car parks, don’t forget to make a note of the time you need to be back.  I like to take a photo of the ticket before I put it in my windscreen so I know I’ve got the correct time! 

Another thing to check before you choose a parking space is that some car parks have barriers to stop motorhomes and campervans entering.  Be careful to avoid those!

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Choose Your Gas (Petrol) Station Wisely

When it comes to filling up your campervan with petrol or diesel (make sure you know which one!!) there is a significant price difference in where you choose to fill up.  Motorway service stations are notorious for charging extremely high prices, so avoid filling up there if you can.  Similarly, service stations on busy main roads, or in the middle of nowhere also charge a premium. 

I have found that supermarket petrol stations (like Tesco, ASDA or Morrison’s) always have the best prices for petrol and diesel, so I try to time my fill-up with a trip to do my shopping.  Remember to factor in the cost of fuel when you are estimating the budget for your trip, the costs can add up if you’re driving a long way!

Sunset on a Campsite with my Campervan
Sunset on a Campsite with my Campervan – Don’t forget to Factor in Fuel Costs to Get you Where You’re Going

Be Cautious of the Sat-Nav

On the one-hand, having a GPS or Sat-Nav in your campervan is absolutely essential – especially if you are a solo traveller like me.  However, don’t rely on it to take you on the most suitable route!  My sat-nav frequently tries to send me down the narrowest of narrow tracks, taking what it sees as the most direct route, even if that means cutting cross country and ignoring width and weight warnings!

If you can, request a GPS especially for motorhomes and campervans, as you can program the height and width of your campervan into the sat-nav and tell it to only choose the best route for your vehicle. 

Before setting off to your campsite, check if they have special instructions for how to arrive safely.  Rural campsites are by their very nature in the middle of nowhere, so unruly sat-navs will often send you the wrong way!

READ MORE: Essentials You Need in Your Campervan

Wild Camping Is Not Allowed in England and Wales

You may have a dream of parking up your campervan by the beach and spending the night wherever you choose wild camping under the stars, but the police and town councils in the UK have a different idea.  Technically you are only allowed to spend the night somewhere if you have permission from the landowner in England and Wales, while Scotland has different rules.

This means that booking a campsite is your safest option, although not as adventurous as you might have hoped!  There are other ways to semi-wild camp, in places such as pub car parks and in some secluded spots, but they usually only allow for one-night stays.  So, if you are planning to hire a campervan in England or Wales, I’d suggest sticking with campsites.

READ MORE: Tips for Wild Camping in the UK

A Campsite in with campervan and a caravan parked on gravel pitches with green space and trees in between
A Campsite in England – Not as Exciting as Wild Camping but More Sensible

Don’t Rely on a Phone or Wi-Fi Signal

Happily, in most places I have been camping in England there has been enough phone signal to support wifi for my laptop.  However, there is no guarantee – especially if you plan to get off the beaten track and explore the wilds of the UK!  Dont assume you will have wifi access everywhere, so if you are relying on your phone for a map, download it before you set off.  Better still, bring a paper map with you!

Have everything you might need downloaded already – and take advantage of wifi when you do have it – for entry tickets, directions, places to visit, campsite locations and more.  

Other Useful Information for Hiring a Campervan in the UK

What to Take on Your Campervan Road Trip

The good news is that most of what you need will be included in your campervan hire, so you shouldn’t need to take too much – just your own clothes and personal items like toiletries and hiking gear.  However, as I mentioned earlier, check if your campervan includes things like bedding and towels – if not, you’ll have to bring your own.

You may also like to check out my articles about the essential things you will need for your campervan and some cool campervan accessories, in case you’re inspired to buy your own campervan!

Where Should You Go Your Campervan?

The world is your oyster!  Well, whichever country you choose at least.  England, Wales and Scotland all have some incredible places to discover, so no matter where you go you will have a wonderful campervan adventure.  You could head down to Cornwall for spectacular cliff top walks, surfing and beaches, or spend a week in Scotland for breathtaking scenery and legendary lochs.  The good news is, there is no bad choice!

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