• Michael Boalch

The realities of a London van build

A London van build can be expensive and comes with it’s added challenges. Increased insurance costs, parking permits and now the ULEZ means that the whole thing can end up costing more than if you lived outside the city. Despite this, we are so glad that we went for it and set about building our van in London. It’s definitely possible, there are just a few extra things to consider!

Finding somewhere to park the van is usually the most difficult thing because space is so limited in London. The ideal set up for a London van build would be a large driveway or off street parking, but if like us you don’t have this luxury then there are other options.

Another thing to consider is space to cut materials and build the van. We do have a small yard which opens up onto the street right next to where our van is parked, which has been an ideal set up for us. The yard is covered so we can work in there, to do some of the carpentry and also store materials away from the rain. The size of the yard is around 4x3m, but the usable space (around our bikes, plants and materials) comes to around 2×1.5m. Swinging around sheets of plywood and timber battens is not a luxury we have! We actually don’t know how we would have managed our conversion without this outdoor space (even though it’s tiny) so definitely something to consider if you are thinking of building a van in London.

As we live a short walk from an Underground station, parking outside our house is strictly permit holders only, we thought about renting an off street parking space in another location but decided that we wanted to have the van parked outside so that we could work on it in the evenings after work. This meant that the only option for us was to factor a residents parking permit into the cost of our conversion. This meant that we also had to insure the van and tax it, which all added up. We’ve included all the details of the extra costs in our van cost breakdown.

Extra costs of converting a van in London

More expensive insurance – We live in East London, and our postcode is in the risk letter F* category, which meant that some insurance companies refused to even insure us! We paid more for having the van parked on the street instead of a driveway as this is a higher risk. Check out your insurance area here.

ULEZ – this is a negative and a positive as even though we will have to pay to use our van in 2021 (as we live within the proposed ULEZ zone), but the aim of the ULEZ is to reduce pollution so its a positive too! We have written a blog post explaining how the ULEZ will effect van converters here.

Parking permits (if you have no off street parking). We had to park our van on the road as soon as we got it, in our area we could apply for a residents parking permit that was based on carbon dioxide emissions.

This graph shows van insurance premiums around London

Benefits of building a van in London – It’s not all bad!

The abundance of DIY and hardware stores – some of them only a walk away made popping out to get some small items easier.

There are more vans for sale. Being the largest city in the UK there are just more vans around which means more come up for sale. When we were buying a van in the UK there were around 10 new listings a day within a 2 mile radius of where we live.

Spare parts are easier to get. Spare parts can cost a great deal of money, as there are more vans in London there are generally more spare parts around driving the cost lower.

Several garages and mechanics. There seems to be a local garage within 15 minutes of anywhere in London, this might not be the case in the centre, but there are several to choose from making your life easier.

The ULEZ restriction will mean that some companies will be offloading their existing vans that do not comply. This can mean that some cheaper vans will become available as we get closer to the restriction.

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