The Cost of Vanlife: Fuel & Mileage Travelling Europe by Van for 6 Months

The cost of hitting the road.

Out of both curiosity and in order to keep in-line with our budget, we tracked our vanlife expenses during our 6 months in Europe. We used the Wally App to input our daily spendings and while we've tried to be as accurate as possible, costs will vary hugely depending on the route you choose. For those of you who love statistics, this post details the cost of running our van. Bear in mind that your costs for fuel, oil and tools will vary depending on how your van runs, which countries you visit, what kind of driver you are and which roads you take. At the end of the day, the slower you travel the better bang for your buck you will get. 

** NOTE: All costs were incurred during our travels in 2016. All costs are in $AUD, unless otherwise stated. See our more in depth van costs here. 

Over the span of 6 months...

We drove roughly 12,200kms through 13 countries. We focused mainly on the Mediterranean regions, avoiding toll roads wherever possible.

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The price of fuel.

During that time...

We used 16 tanks of diesel, spending roughly 1250EUR on fuel in total. The cheapest place to buy fuel was Montenegro at 0.90EUR/litre. The most expensive place to buy fuel was Zurich at 1.39EUR/litre. The average price for fuel was 1.24EUR/litre. The Balkans were significantly the cheapest, not only in terms of fuel but for living costs in general.

Price fluctuations and service fees.

Take extra care when filling up in Italy. We found that along one 100m stretch of road, the price between gas stations varied as much as 0.30EUR/litre. This appeared to be the case Italy-wide. Be aware that you will also be charged a higher price if someone fills up your gas for you. Choose the self service lane and do it yourself to save on costs. We also found that in countries like the Netherlands, smaller towns off the autobahn offered cheaper prices for fuel.

The price of fuel = 1250EUR (Roughly 7EUR of fuel per day)

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The price of oil.

Know your vehicle. 

At the start of our trip we were absolutely churning through the oil. As we burnt through a few litres in a matter of days, we began to seriously reconsider our budget. We spoke with several mechanics about the issue and were advised that the optimum speed for our older engine was 90km/hour. We found driving in excess of 90km would burn through the oil like there was no tomorrow. Since we were travelling via the scenic routes and had time to enjoy the journey, driving slower was not a concern for us. It also meant that we were able to stretch our fuel consumption much further. 

It pays to shop around.

We paid 16EUR/litre for oil in Berlin and 9EUR/litre in Austria. When we reached Hungary and saw oil for only 4EUR/litre, I sent Dan back into the store to retrieve 2 more bottles. Over the entirety of our trip we went through 16Litres of oil, which cost a total of 100EUR.

The price of oil = 100EUR. (Roughly 0.55EUR of oil per day)

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The price of tolls and vignettes.

We love free roads.

Netherlands and Germany are the best, with all roads free of charge. Be mindful that some towns do have a green zone, which may place limitations on whether you are allowed to drive older vehicles into the city centre.

Best value roads.

In terms of paying for roads, Switzerland is the best value if you are planning a longer trip there. While you can avoid the toll roads altogether and drive the more scenic mountain route, their $60 vignette allows access to the toll roads for the entire calendar year. This is not such great value if you buy the toll in December, as you can only drive it until the last day of that year.

Worst value roads.

Of the countries that we travelled to by van, we found the Italian roads to be the worst by a long shot. In all the other countries, taking the non-toll roads was never an issue. Unfortunately, the regular roads in Italy are in a very sorry state. It's not a fun time spending hours on end swerving to avoid potholes and juddering over uneven surfaces. Having to drive at such a reduced speed added hours on to our journey time. While we sucked it up for the most part, when we did pay tolls they were extortionate. After we were pickpocketed in Naples, we really just wanted to get North as fast as possible. So for a 330km journey from Luca-the Swiss border we found ourselves paying $55 in tolls.

Don't forget about vignettes.

As well as toll roads, some countries ask you to pay to use their roads for a set period of time. In Austria's case while we only drove on their roads for a day, we had to pay for the minimum vignette of 10 days. Plan accordingly to get the best value for money. To help plan your route, here is a great resource for toll and vignette prices.

What we spent on tolls.

  • Swiss Vignette- $60
  • Czech Republic Vignette- $23
  • Austria Vignette- $14
  • Italy Tolls- $70
  • Croatia Tolls- $30
  • Montenegro Tolls- $7.50
  • Bosnia Tolls- $8.50

The price of tolls and vignettes = $213 (Roughly $1.20 of tolls per day)

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Get the most bang for your buck. 

Listen to your vehicle.

In order to ge the best mileage make sure you look after your home. Show it love throughout the trip with regular services and don't push it beyond it's limits. 

Enjoy the scenic route.

The real adventure of Vanlife is having the freedom to visit places off the beaten track. So take your time, enjoy it and your budget and wallet will be happy.  

Care to take a more in-depth look at our vanlife living costs over 6 months? Check out our detailed post here.

So tell me... how much mileage do you get with your van? And what are your fave countries to visit that allow you to keep costs down?

Let us know in the comments section below, or say "hello" to us personally at hiphikers@gmail.com

Until next time vanlifers!