We’ve known right from the start that buying a campervan in Europe would be a challenge. In most countries, non-residents just aren’t permitted to buy any vehicle. You’d think they’d be happy to have foreign tourists commit long term to spending their hard currency in restaurants, supermarkets, tourist concessions and such. But no.
Some places have workarounds. There are a few dealers in Europe who will purchase, register and insure a camper on your behalf, for a price. An enterprising agent in France assists in setting up a corporation, for a price; then the corporation buys the vehicle. Many people have successfully used these strategies. I was skeptical. Plus the timing of Europe was a bit concerning, what with uncertainty about Covid restrictions and too many border crossings. We really wanted to start in the UK before venturing further afield.
What to do? We contacted our British friend Mark and asked if we could use his address for the purpose of registration. He very kindly said yes. That’s one hurdle.
Our second hurdle was banking. The owner of our new baby told us if we were British we’d be able to transfer the money bank to bank in minutes, sign the papers and drive away. In our case we’re doing international foreign currency transfers and it just doesn’t happen that quickly. And it was a weekend. And we are five hours ahead of bank hours in New York. This is going to take a while.
We gave Davie all the cash we had on us at the time as hand money and initiated a transfer of the remainder of the deposit. Then, because there wasn’t anything we could do until all the money made it to Scotland, and the promised service and safety inspection couldn’t be scheduled for another week, we decided to spend the rest of our prepaid time in the rental car touring.
During the following week I got all the money transferred and started on the biggest hurdle: insurance. Every company I contacted said they couldn’t insure a nonresident. Lots of people advised me to just not mention it, since we are using the UK address of our friend, but we don’t want to run the risk of having a claim denied for not being truthful.
After many calls and refusals, I finally found a company to agree to insure us — at an extortionate cost. But we are over a barrel and needs must. The cost of insuring this campervan is nearly as much as we paid to insure our worldcruiser yacht with a value more than six times that of the camper.
Life is short, we tell each other nearly daily. It’s only money and we aren’t going to quibble at this point. We don’t know how much longer we can travel, or when our desire to see new places will start to wane as our bodies grow tired. Go now, go with what you’ve got. Just go.
So that decision was made, which led to an unexpected hurdle. The insurance company refused to accept our US credit card. You’re kidding, right? No, they were not. We crawled back to our English friend Mark and asked if he would pay the premium and we’d bank transfer him back. He agreed, but it took an additional three days before the company actually answered Mark’s calls and deemed to take his money.
That brought us to the final hurdle, paying the road tax, which turned out not to be a hurdle at all. We went online, entered our registration number and credit card and presto! Done.
All in all it took nearly ten days for the purchase to finalize, which turned out ok because a very important football match delayed the service and safety inspection for a few days. The mechanic was hung over.