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Are Van Awnings Worth it?

Van awnings can be incredibly worthwhile as a long term investment. Getting the right high-quality van awning can save in accommodation costs if you camp frequently, especially as it gives extra space for additional guests.

However, the value of a van awning also hinges on weather resistance, durability, and ease of use. They are not the be all and end all as it depends on your particular situation and how frequently you use it. They come in various types and designs, each offering different levels of protection and convenience.

Key Takeaways

  • Van awnings extend your camping and sleeping space saving on accommodation costs.
  • They provide shelter from the weather so you're dry and comfortable.
  • Some van awnings are incredibly easy to set up such as inflatable air awnings.
  • Some models are expensive in the £1,000+ price mark so you must weigh the long term benefits to the initial outlay.
  • Some cheaper van awnings will take a long time setting up
  • You must check if the campsites you visit allow you to use van awnings and secure the appropriate space at campsites.


Benefits of Van Awnings - A Summary

Van awnings offer you functional advantages for outdoor living and vehicle protection. Here's a quick guide to the benefits they can provide.

1. Extended Living Space

A van awning maximises your living area by creating additional space. Your van's footprint expands, allowing for a room-like setting to socialise, dine, or relax.

2. Protection from the Elements

You gain shelter from sun, rain, and wind. An awning can keep your outdoor space comfortable, regardless of weather fluctuations.

3. Versatility for Activities

Van awnings are remarkably versatile. They can be used for a range of activities from providing a shady spot for leisure to a covered area for outdoor work.

4. Easy Set up

Van awnings can be incredible fast and easy to set up. This is true for inflatable van awnings where an air pump inflates the van awning and can have you set up in under 10 minutes.

5. Storage and Portability

Modern awnings are designed for easy storage and portability. They often come with lightweight, compact bags that can be stowed away without taking up much space.

6. Weather Resistance and Durability

Quality van awnings are built to last. They are typically made with weather-resistant materials that withstand diverse conditions.

7. Cost Benefit in the Long Term

Investing in a van awning may prove cost-effective over time. It extends your van's usable space and can help in avoiding costs associated with booking extra accommodation.

8. Driveaway Awnings add flexibility

Pitching up a driveaway awnings allows you flexibility to explore whilst securing you campsite space when you're away.

Pros and cons of Van Awnings


Disadvantages of Van Awnings

While van awnings can offer practical benefits, they also come with a variety of disadvantages that you need to consider.

1. Compatibility with Different Vans

Not all van awnings are universal. Your van's make, model, and year determine the compatibility of an awning. Some vans require specific brackets or may not support the weight of certain awning models without structural modifications.

2. Tools and Time Required

You'll need a range of tools to install an awning, often including a drill, rivet gun, and sealant. Installation isn't a quick job either; it can take several hours, especially if you're working alone.

3. Campsite rules

Awnings must comply with local traffic laws. Your awning size and projection cannot impede public walkways or roads, and you must adhere to any specific legal restrictions in the areas you plan to travel.

4. Initial Outlay

The costs can be significant. You're not just paying for the awning; there's the potential cost of additional fittings and modifications. Plus, high-quality awnings from reputable brands can be an expensive investment.

5. Purchasing cheap van awnings won't last

Van awnings that have poor weather resistant materials typically have poor durability issues and therefore, won't last the test of time. They are usually less sturdy and take a longer time to set up.

6. Extra weight & storage

You must consider where to store the van awning when you are off on your travels and when it is not in use. The size means you need some good storage space to pack it away when not in use.


Cost-Benefit Analysis

When considering whether van awnings are worth the investment, it's crucial to weigh the initial costs, potential long-term savings, and the financial implications of maintenance.

Initial Investment

Your initial outlay for a van awning will vary depending on size, material, and features. You can expect to pay anywhere from £500 to £1,000. To offer a clear perspective:

  • Basic awnings: ~£400 - £500
  • Higher-end or automatic models: ~£500 - £1,000

Consider this investment against your specific needs and how often you'll utilise the awning throughout the year. If you do not camp often then a basic awning may be a better choice for you and will last longer since you use it infrequently.

Long-Term Savings

Investing in a van awning can lead to savings over time. Benefits include:

  • Accommodation costs: In the UK the cost of staying in hotel per night is roughly £80 - 100.
  • Flexibility in adding guests: The extra space a large van awning can create means extra savings on accommodation costs if you invite friends & family making short getaways much more viable.

Maintenance Expenses

The upkeep of your van awning can incur additional costs:

  • Routine Cleaning: Necessary to prevent mildew and to prolong the awning's life.
  • Repairs: Occasional fixes for mechanical parts or fabric tears may be needed.

A breakdown of potential expenses:

  • Cleaning Supplies: £10 - £20 annually

Regular maintenance will ensure your awning remains functional and aesthetically pleasing for years.


Practicality for Different Users

When considering a van awning, your needs should be the primary factor. Below is a breakdown of how a van awning may serve different individuals:

  • Solo Travellers:
    • Space-efficient: Provides extra living space, without the need for a larger vehicle.
    • Easy to set up: Usually manageable by one person.
  • Couples:
    • Cozy shelter: Ideal for outdoor dining or lounging with a partner.
    • Privacy: Offers a secluded area outside the van.
  • Families:
    • Spacious: Awnings create an additional play or rest area for children.
    • Weather protection: Keeps family activities going regardless of rain or harsh sun.

User Type


Outdoor Enthusiasts

Extra gear storage

Pet Owners

Shelter for pets

Remote Workers

Outdoor office setup


Awning Installation:

  • Quick: Most van awnings are designed for swift attachment to the vehicle.
  • Compatibility: Varies, so check your vehicle's make and model.


  • Materials: Usually hard-wearing fabrics designed for longevity.
  • Maintenance: Regular cleaning can ensure your awning remains in good condition.


  • Initial Investment: More substantial for high-quality models.
  • Long-term Value: Potential savings on accommodation.

Consider your specific lifestyle and how an awning accommodates it. The utility of a van awning depends largely on your usage patterns and the conditions in which you typically travel.

Consider which type of Van Awning

When considering van awnings, your choices can broadly be categorised into inflatable and poled types, various material options, and a range of sizes and styles to suit your needs.

Inflatable versus Poled Awnings

Inflatable Awnings

  • Easy Set up: With an air pump you can inflate your awning with air beams that intersect the awning and have you set up in 10 minutes.
  • Packing away fast: Simply open up the air valve and let your inflatable van awning deflate whilst you pack away the rest of your camping setup.

Poled Awnings

  • Sturdiness: Awning with poles are generally more sturdy if the poles are made of high-quality durable material.
  • Installation: Takes more time than air inflatable awnings as you have to connect and erect each pole for set up.

Material and Durability Options

Material Choices

  • Canvas: Traditional and breathable but requires more maintenance to prevent mould and mildew.
  • Vinyl: Waterproof and easy to clean, ideal for wet climates but may be less resistant to UV damage over time.
  • Polyester: Lightweight and durable with good sun protection, depending on the coating.

Durability Factors

  • UV Resistance: Look for materials treated for additional UV protection to extend lifespans.
  • Waterproofing: Essential for British weather to ensure water resistance and longevity. Look for a minimum 2,000mm in Hydrostatic Head Rating in the material of your van awning.

Size and Style Varieties

Size Considerations

Typically with awnings they will mention the berth size which indicates the number of people that the internal space can accommodate.

A 4-berth van awning is one of the most common sizes.

Style Options

  • Traditional rollout: Straightforward extension from the side of the van.
  • Boxed awning: Encased in a protective box, often more sleek and modern in design.
  • Patterned or Solid Colours: Choose from various colours and patterns to match your van or personal style preferences.

Weather Resistance and Durability

It is important to mention weather resistance when deciding on which van awning to get. The longevity and performance of your awning are contingent on its weather resistance and durability. Especially true as you are likely to encounter rain and wind throughout the year in Britain.

Wind and Weight Tolerance

Your van awning should withstand moderate to strong winds and support significant weight due to rain pooling or snow accumulation. Manufacturers typically specify the Beaufort Wind Force Scale tolerance, with a higher rating indicating better performance. Look for awnings with:

  • Robust Frames: Aluminium or steel frame with reinforced joints.
  • High Wind Ratings: At least "Force 6" on the Beaufort scale, equating to wind speeds up to 49-55 km/h.

Waterproofing and UV Protection

An effective awning is one that ensures water resistance and safeguards against UV degradation. Characteristics for optimal protection include:

  • Waterproof Ratings: Expressed in millimetres (mm), a higher number reflects better waterproofing. A living standard is a 2000mm hydrostatic head.
  • UV Coatings: Awnings should have UV protective coatings to prevent fabric deterioration, with a minimum UPF rating of 30, which blocks 96.7% of UV radiation.

Wear and Tear from Regular Use

Continuous usage exerts stress on your van awning, so it's important to consider materials and construction that resist wear and tear. To enhance durability:

  • Utilise Ripstop Fabrics: These are specially woven to prevent tearing and extend the lifespan of your awning.
  • Ensure Reinforced Seams: Stitching should be sturdy with additional reinforcement at stress points.

Investing in the qualities above will leave you in good shape especially during unexpected bad weather in the UK.

Storage and Portability

When you consider adding an awning to your van, take into account how it will affect storage and portability. Consider the practicalities of transporting and storing an awning.

Ease of Stowing Away

Manufacturers are conscious of the need for awnings to be both light weight and compact. Your van awning should come with a storage bag that allows for easy packing. Typically, awnings are designed to roll up and fit snugly into these bags, which can then be stowed in your van's boot or on a roof rack. Expect dimensions that reflect the balance between size when in use and compactness when stored.


Frequently Asked Questions

When considering the addition of an awning to your van, you may have several questions about their utility, value, and durability. This section aims to address some of the common queries you might have.

Do I need an awning for my van?

If you require extra space or shelter when parked, an awning can be a great addition to your van. It extends your living space, provides shade from the sun, and protection from the rain.

Are drive away awnings worth it?

Drive away awnings offer the convenience of a detachable extension to your van. They are worthwhile if you frequently camp in one location for several days and wish to use your van without dismantling your entire setup.

What is the best material for a van awning?

Polyester is often favoured for van awnings due to its durability, lightweight properties, and resistance to water and UV rays. Quality of fabric and protective coatings can vary, so choose one that balances longevity with your budget.

Can van awnings be considered a worthwhile investment for frequent travellers?

For those who travel often, a van awning can be indispensable. It enhances the functionality of the vehicle by providing extra space and comfort, making it a sound investment for avid adventurers.

How many years do awnings last?

The lifespan of van awnings generally ranges from 2 to 5 years but can last over 10 years if maintained correctly. This depends on the material quality, frequency of use, and exposure to harsh weather conditions.

Gary Cheung profile picture

Gary Cheung

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Owner & Director at Outdoor Roadie in the UK. Passionate about helping people get outdoors and travelling. Knowledgeable in all things roof tents, caravan awnings and camping gear.