The increasing popularity of campervan or motorhome holidays in Spain

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MADRID – The demand for motorhome holidays in Spain is skyrocketing. Consequently, in high season the number of available motorhome spots or campervan sites falls short. Moreover, thousands of foreign tourists who visit Spain with their homes on wheels need a spot for the night.

The demand for motorhomes and vans converted to campers was already on the increase before the pandemic. However, more and more people are seeing the benefits of a motorhome holiday. You travel at your own pace. You spend the night in the most idyllic and often less common places. And, very important in these times, you can explore the country in seclusion. Moreover, without having to take into account any restrictive measures against the coronavirus. It is especially that freedom that most motorhome owners long for.

Need more motorhome pitches

Spain has become a popular destination for thousands of motorhome owners from all over Europe. Over the past Christmas period, many managers of campsites and motorhome pitches were forced to put up a ‘full’ sign. This was especially common along the popular coasts such as Costa Brava, Costa Blanca, and Costa del Sol. Therefore, disappointed tourists moved elsewhere and mainly went more inland seeking the perfect spot.

Also read: What you need to know before travelling through Spain with your campervan

Motorhome owners and motorhome associations in Spain are therefore demanding more authorised areas. Moreover, they demand fewer municipal restrictions for motorhome owners to stay overnight. Currently, however, for many municipalities, motorhome tourism is therefore not only a nice source of income but also a headache.

Ordinances of Questionable Legality

Marca.com writes that there are municipalities in tourist areas that fine the campervans present based on ordinances of questionable legality. ¨For instance, the municipality of Roquetas in the province of Almería issues people who illegally camp on their parking lots fines of up to €500. The authorities are sometimes put under pressure by the owners of campsites. They see RVs as a threat to their traditional business model. Still, they can better see motorhome tourists as an opportunity to attract new customers and adapt. Or as a way to counter seasonal influences. Many campers prefer to avoid the high season.

Origin of campervans as a phenomenon

The motorhome as a phenomenon arose in the 1960s. The idea, however simple, was brilliant: Travel and spend the night in the same space in an extremely free manner. The journey itself thus acquired more meaning, while the final destination was no longer the goal in itself.

The ‘hippie’ community in particular adopted this travel formula. The Volkswagen T1 or ‘Bulli’ was the first, basic development of what is now a motorhome. There are now complete, luxurious, and fully equipped houses on wheels.

Today’s motorhome owners are no longer like the humble ‘hippies’ who travelled haphazardly. It is now often the older tourists with a high purchasing power. They generate income for thousands of shops, restaurants, attractions, and RV parks on their route. However, travelling by motorhome is not cheap, although many people wrongly have that impression. Yet for the motorhome tourist it is not about the money, but above all about freedom, adventure, and a new way of life.

12 Million motorhome owners in Europe

There are currently about 2.5 million vehicles of this type in Europe. It is expected that by 2024 12 million tourists a year will travel through Europe with a motorhome. However, the distribution of this per country is very unequal. Germany is the king of motorhomes, with almost 750,000 motorhomes, while Spain doesn’t even make it to 80,000 in an otherwise strongly emerging market.

Motorhome pitches: cheap basic facilities

The fact that Spain is somewhat behind in the number of motorhomes is surprising given the country’s great tourist potential in the motorhome area. In part, it is due to the lack of special infrastructures for motorhomes to stay overnight. These motorhome pitches resemble a campsite, but offer fewer services and are therefore cheaper. You can spend the night for only €5 per night in places. Motorhomes mainly need a parking space, water, and electricity.

Significant increase in the number of motorhome pitches in Spain

According to data from the motorhome industry association ASEICAR, the number of motorhome pitches in Spain has increased from 183 to about 1,000 in 10 years. The country is therefore still very far from the 7,500 motorhome pitches in France, the 5,700 in Germany, or the 4,800 in Italy. Campers can now visit 1,200 campsites in Spain. However, they are relatively expensive, since you pay more for them than just the basic services that you need as a motorhome.

Number of registered motorhomes in Spain

In 2020, despite the major delay due to covid, 8,690 motorhomes were registered in Spain. That was only 3.9% less than in 2019. If caravans are also added and second-hand models that have changed hands, the number rises to 26,731 units.

Increase in motorhome supply

The increased interest in motorhome tourism is accompanied by a sharp increase in the offer. Especially the supply of minibuses converted into small houses is increasing. In the past it was mainly about Mercedes or Volkswagen, now brands such as Dacia, Nissan, Ford, Citroën, Peugeot, Toyota, and Iveco also offer these.

Cumbre Villas

In addition, there are larger sizes that already have their bathroom and toilet. Or motorhomes that can go anywhere thanks to the raised body and 4×4 traction. These are known as ‘overland’ or truck campers.

Minimalist motorhomes are also gaining popularity. Those cars have a kind of box on the roof and when it is unfolded it becomes a two-person tent, including a ladder.

Buy a motorhome in Spain

When choosing the type of motorhome, take into account the desired size, the number of occupants, and the number of people who must also spend the night in it. The smaller the motorhome, the less comfort. For example, the smallest motorhomes rarely have a toilet. Another consideration is whether you need heating and/or air conditioning.

Campervans are in any case not cheap. Certainly not if you buy a new camper. The basic models are available for €25,000. If you are looking for something more of a recognised brand and an interior for four passengers with all the comforts such as beds, living room, kitchen, bathroom, and shower, you will not find much for under €50,000. If you also have requirements in terms of interior and comfort, you will soon arrive at €80,000. However, buying a second-hand motorhome, you save considerably on costs. Do this at a recognised company that preferably is affiliated with a caravanning association. 

It is recommended that you orientate yourself well. This is possible, for example, at the following caravanning fairs:

  • The Travel & Camping Fair in Essen, Germany (16-20 of February)
  • The Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show in Birmingham, England (22-27 of February)
  • The Caravan & Motorhome Show in Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • The Kampeer en Caravan Jaarbeurs in Utrecht, the Netherlands (beginning of October).

Other costs

When purchasing, also take into account a parking rate for the period in which you are not travelling. You will also have maintenance costs. Additionally, you will pay motor vehicle tax for your motorhome and must have it inspected.

Insurance for a motorhome

In addition, you must have insurance for your motorhome if you want to travel carefree. You can also get insurance for DIY campers. Motorhome insurance is usually cheaper than car insurance. Because you travel less often, the insurer runs less risk and can therefore reduce the insurance price. In general, it only pays to own a motorhome if you use it intensively for years.

Rent a campervan in Spain

If you only want a campervan to go on an adventure now and then, it is better to rent a camper in Spain. This immediately offers you the opportunity to find a vehicle that is perfectly tailored to your wishes at that time. Keep in mind that for 15 days the rental price of an average model for four people can be anything from €2,000 to more than €4,000. Moreover, the price depends on the model and the season in which you travel. In the low season, you can rent motorhomes from €100 per day. To avoid disappointment, check in advance whether the company where you rent a motorhome is a member of ASEICAR, the Spanish trade association for professional motorhome companies.

Rent out or share your campervan

The prices to rent a motorhome are usually lower if you rent directly from a private individual. Therefore, more and more websites offer this formula. Furthermore, this is also a good way to get some return on your motorhome. You rent out your motorhome to others during the periods when you are not travelling with it yourself. This is possible via the various motorhome sharing platforms that are available.

Tips for use

Take it easy if you drive a motorhome. Take the dimensions of the vehicle into account. On average, motorhomes are about six metres long, more than two metres wide, and a maximum of three metres high. Campers are also slower than cars, especially when driving uphill.

To drive a motorhome, a normal driving license is sufficient as long as the motorhome does not exceed 3,500 kilos in weight. The maximum speed limits are then 120 km/h on the highway and 90 km/h on the motorways. If they are heavier, you need a C1 permit and your maximum speed will be 90 and 80 km/h. you are allowed a maximum speed of 90 and 80 km/h.

Before you leave, make sure you disconnect the electricity cable. Close all doors, windows, skylights, faucets, and cabinets and place or secure heavy objects in a low position. Empty the wastewater at permitted points, which are usually located on motorhome pitches or large parking areas along the highway.

Where to park your campervan?

You can park and stay overnight everywhere in Spain with a motorhome, as long as you don’t place chairs outside or extend the awnings. You also cannot open windows if they make your campervan bigger. That is seen as camping and there can be fines if you do so in the wrong place.

Different rules may apply in each autonomous community or municipality in Spain. Please check this carefully before visiting a destination. It is best to go to an official motorhome or camping site to spend the night. There are various apps on which people from all over Europe offer camping spots especially for campervans. Moreover, different websites offer comprehensive information on motorhome service offerings by country and link directly to specific websites with more information.

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