Festival-goers and nostalgia-hunters are fuelling a boom in the campervan rental market in the UK
Campervans aren't just for warmer climes. In the UK, the Kombi is very much alive and trucking. According to Camperbug.co.uk – a site that brings together van owners with potential hirers – the rental sector is going strong, bolstered by nostalgia and the growth of music festivals.
"As soon as the sun comes out, we're inundated with people wanting to hire vans," says founder Bud Atapattu, a music agent turned web developer. He started the site in 2010 to make money from his own van, which was lying unused for much of the year. "Unfortunately, you can't go on holiday all the time, so you end up with an expensive asset just sitting in your driveway."
Relying heavily on social networks, Atapattu built an online community of van owners wanting to tap into the rentals market. He now has 550 vans on his books, all over the UK, plus some in Spain and France (prices from £410 a week). "The advantage is that there is no long-term commitment," he says. "Owners can dip in and dip out when it suits them."
NewForestSafari.com, based in Hampshire, is another VW specialist and opened for business just months before the last Kombi was produced at the VW factory in Brazil last year (the old design was deemed incompatible with modern requirements for airbags and antilock brakes).
The family-run company owns nine vans and specialises in the restoration and maintenance of older models. It proudly includes two 1960s "spiltscreen" Kombis in its fleet (from £740 a week). Like Camperbug, it sees festivalgoers as a key market, especially group of people in their 30s and 40s who have grown tired of sleeping under canvas.
Camperbug sent 50 vans to Glastonbury last year, while both companies started taking bookings for this year's festival season last autumn.
The key to a successful campervan trip, says Atapattu, is to travel slowly. He advises first-timers not to make ambitious plans: "Older campervans tend to have top speeds of 55mph, so opt for one of the newer models if you want to buzz down to Italy or the south of France. And don't be too rigid with your itinerary – the journey is, after all, the best bit."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010