Looking at the cost of living in a flat in London vs a campervan - Which would you choose?

If you're under 35, it looks like someone has played a mean prank with the property ladder by ripping out the lower rungs.


New research by comparethemarket.com of two thousand 25-35-year-olds in the UK reveals that growing numbers are avoiding high rents by making homes and contents anywhere they can find them... and we do mean anywhere, even if it means living in a campervan!


Check out these case studies...


Boats, campervans, even peanut factories

Millennials are getting more and more imaginative with their living arrangements. Click on the map below and discover where we found millennials living to escape expensive London rents.

Cost of livng london - flat vs campervan

Planes, boats and cupboards

Millennials told us of living under the stairs or in cupboards at friends' flats, as well as in a child's playhouse, a shipping container, an old aeroplane, a tree-house and - particularly enterprising - a caravan in the office car park (imagine the time and money saved on commuting).

The most popular budget alternative seems to be life afloat. Our survey discovered that around one in three millennials would consider living on a boat to save money. Britain's houseboat population in London has grown by 50 per cent over the last five years, according to the Canal & River Trust. East London has witnessed a naval invasion, with a huge 85 per cent annual increase in residential moorings.

Party off

Legendary nights out with pals may be the stuff of youth. But a quiet unsocial life indoors beckons when it's time to save for a property deposit. We found that more than two in five (42%) millennials will slash their social lives to lower the cost of living. In London, that figure jumps to nearly half (45%) of millennials. Whatever happened to the party capital?

Sex could go out of the window, too. Almost one in five (18%) millennials sees celibacy as an acceptable cost-cutter. That may help to explain why millennials are increasingly considering sharing their beds (in a pals-only way).

Emily Sanne, 25, a data executive in Mile End, East London, saves £300 a month by sharing a bed in a rented house with her friend Erin. 'It’s a bit like being a married couple. Some nights Erin will be reading and I will be doing the crossword in bed,' she says. 'But it can be difficult if one of you gets into a relationship, as your other half can’t ever stay over.'

cost of living london - socal life cost

Virtual hermits

Never mind comfortable beds or privacy, the one essential that millennials most miss if they have to go without - after electricity (of course) - is their precious wi-fi connection.

Our research reveals that around one in six (17%) millennials will hang on to their wi-fi at the expense of anything else. Across the nation, they say they would even rather go without an indoor loo than forego their internet.

Phoebe Patey-Ferguson, 26, a PhD student and teacher who lives on a London houseboat, says that loss of connectivity is guaranteed to get her scrambling back on to dry land.

'Usually by 9am I need to leave the boat as I don't have wifi, and my phone and other devices will have died,' she says. 'So if I've got a hangover, I can't lie around in bed and watch Netflix. Unfortunately I have to get up and go out.'

london cost of living - wifi

Clean living

Millennials are a hygienic bunch. Only 4 per cent declared they would be prepared to sacrifice personal cleanliness in quest of a deposit-saving lifestyle.

Unfortunately, being a bit grubby can be the price you have to pay for a cheap alternative. Oscar Thompson, 26, a painter and decorator, lives in an old Renault campervan that cost him £950. He parks at campsites in South London and beyond.

One in three (30%) millennials told our survey that they would consider emulating Oscar. But perhaps they would reconsider when he reveals that van life is only comfortable if you can put up with 'not feeling clean and dry all the time'.

cost of living london - money saving

Home, dry home

It's mainly eye-wateringly high prices that drive millennials to explore alternative living. That's why two-thirds (64%) of property-pressed young Londoners are happy to consider trying them.

By contrast, more than half (54%) of 24-35s living in the comparatively affordable East Midlands say they will stick to comfy, dry conventional living, thank you very much.

For information on how to keep your living costs down, go to comparethemarket.com

cost of living london - alternative living

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House Boat

Phoebe Patey-Ferguson, 26, PhD student and teacher


About a year ago I bought Toad Hall from some friends. Before that I lived in a flat in zone 3, but couldn't afford to do anything so I would just sit at home. With the boat it's the opposite, I'm out all the time and I've even been able to go on holiday for the first time in a long while. 

house boat

I paid £2,000 for it and spent about three months and £1,000 doing it up, with friends and family helping. We had to waterproof the wood, re-do the flooring and add insulation. It costs around £400 a year for a canal licence and £500 for boat insurance, in case I damage someone else's boat. There's no electricity or running water and I spend less than a tenner a month on the gas cooker and wood for a multi-fuel stove. It's a really cheap way to live, but I have got a very fancy gym membership.

I “cruise” the boat, which means moving to a new mooring every two weeks around London. I get to base myself in areas such as Paddington, King’s Cross, Islington and Broadway Market. My friends and I couldn't afford to rent there.

Bed share

Emily Sanne, 25, data executive in Mile End, East London.

I share a four-bed house with five friends, including my bed mate Erin.

bed share

Even our friends had their doubts about us bed sharing at first, but they are totally on board with it, now they see how well it works. Our room is in the basement and there isn’t a lot of space as we have two of everything plus a double bed. It works out at about £500 a month each including bills and council tax. We both pay £10 a month for home contents insurance. There is no landline, but we pay about £4 a month each for broadband and our mobiles cost £15 a month. Our rent is going up with the renewal of the contract in August.

It’s a bit like being a married couple. There are nights where Erin will be reading and I will be doing the crossword in bed. It’s quite nice to have a little debrief of your day before going to sleep. But it can be difficult when one of you is sick or if one of you gets into a relationship, as your other half can’t ever stay over. But overall it’s working out very well. Better than expected.

I’m managing to save £300 a month and Erin has been able to start paying off more than just the interest on her credit cards. I keep a close eye on the property market and everything I save is for a deposit on a house. It seems pretty pointless, though. Our parents had already bought houses by this age, but we are stuck being perpetual 18-21 year olds unable to really progress.

Peanut Factory

Andy Hamilton, 24, media account executive, Hackney Wick, East London.

I get quite a lot of stick in the office because I live in an old peanut factory in Hackney with lots of clowns, acrobats and artists. It's a large 1930s' brick warehouse with partitions to form about seven separate ‘apartments’, each containing a community of people.

peanut factory

When I returned from travelling for two years, rents were so high in London that you had to be earning at least £25,000 a year to survive. Living in a warehouse was an affordable way to continue the travelling vibe - surrounded by a bunch of diverse people. I share a room with my girlfriend so it works out at £250 a month each, including all bills like Wi-Fi and contents insurance. Some people are paying £300 for a room all-inclusive, which is unheard of in London.

I'm not thinking of saving for a deposit for a house but I'm able to save and I don't have to worry about money. Especially as I'm not paying £800 rent like lots of people. Everyone says you can't live in east London any more but it is possible.


Oscar Thompson, 26, painter/decorator, various campsites in South London and beyond.


I first decided to buy a campervan to run away and join a commune. I really liked waking up and walking straight outside into a green environment first thing in the morning. When that dream fizzled out, I moved back to the capital where I’ve found having the van really useful when money is tight and I’m between rents. I’m currently renting with my girlfriend and a friend in Dulwich, south London, where it costs me about £450 a month including all bills, including contents insurance and broadband.


In those weeks between rents the van allows me to save, especially if I can get to regular work without too much hassle and presentation isn’t a key requirement of the job.

I paid £950 for the van and had about £400 of welding done to deal with the rust. It’s a beige, 1989 Renault Espace that’s sort of ugly and beautiful at the same time. The price of campsites is variable but often between £10 and £20 a night and if you don’t mind wild camping here and there the monthly rent can be around £200 to £400.

Unless wild camping, hot water, electricity and Wi-Fi are usually included in the camping price. Otherwise, for the internet, I will drop into pubs and cafes as I go. I have no insurance except for the vehicle, which is about £750 a year.

compare living

**Living costs are based on our case studies, not the average cost for this type of living