Introduction to Buying a Motorhome

Motorhomes are often mistaken for just holiday vehicles but actually to some they mean more than a leisure vehicle, they are a way of escaping the every day pressures of life and allowing them to be free on the open road and maybe more surprisingly to some people, they are a home. Relaxing in your own chair while looking out watching the sun rise over the Mediterranean is not just for the rich and famous, with your own campervan/motorhome, this kind of dream can come true. What ever the reason you wish to purchase your motor home, the choice is wide and varied and can also be daunting, so here are a few things that you should consider and maybe a little advice that may just help.

What different kind of Motorhomes are there?

1. Panel van conversions. These motorhomes are based on a commercial metal-panelled van.

2. Coachbuilt. Here, the manufacturer takes a chassis and cab from the commercial vehicle manufacturer, but fit their own (usually fibreglass) body to the rear.

3. A-class. Similar to coachbuilt, the manufacturer takes the chassis from the commercial vehicle, and fits their own cab and body.

4. RV. These Recreational Vehicles are usually imported from the USA.

5. Demountables / fifth wheels. Rare in the UK, these are usually of American design, and use a pickup to carry the camping body, either on the pickup directly or towed from the pickup bed.

Are any of the above the best?

There are advantages and disadvantages to all. The smaller vehicles may get better mpg and be easier to store, however they also have less space, and will usually sleep less people. This is where you need to decide on a number of factors so you know which kind of van is best for you.

What factors, and how do I choose?

There are a number of different factors we will look at, so think seriously about each factor as it will determine which motorhome is best for you.

When will you use the Motorhome?

All motorhomes are designed to work in the nice warm temperatures of spring and summer, and if this is the only time you will be using the vehicle, then it leaves you open to a larger selection. However if you wish to use the vehicle in the harsher months of the year, winter and autumn, or maybe you wish to live in the vehicle then you will need what they call a “winterised” vehicle. These vans are designed to work in all temperatures, mostly have double thick floors. This is so water tanks are protected from freezing as well as any other pipes that need protection. Category 3, is the best insulation category. Think carefully about this, you dont want to be stuck up on the alps, with broken water pipes and frozen water tanks.

Who will be in the Motorhome with you?

Motorhomes are branded by berths, 2 berth, 4 berth, 6 berth etc, this is related to the amount of people that can sleep in the vehicle. So who will use it? Will it be for just you, you and a partner, children, grandchildren. Some motorhomes may call them six berths, however when you actually try to accommodate six for a full holiday, you will discover that there was simply not enough room. Many beds are formed by tables folding down which creates double beds, however if there is a number of adults in the vehicle, is this practical? Will every one want to go bed at the same time? Also, is the kitchen area, and dinning area large enough to cater for the berth selected. Another option available, if you are just planning on having others with you on the odd occasion is having your safari room out. You can buy compartments which hang up in them, basically forming a small room, or even taking a tent with you and allowing the tent to be put up outside the motorhome (this allows them to travel with you, but gives you your own evening space). All good options to think about, but again, it takes you back to the first question, when will you be using the vehicle. I don’t think the kids would be too happy sleeping in a tent in the snow.

There is another aspect to the “family motorhome”. Although they may be advertised as “6 berth” or “4 berth”, sometimes the travelling accommodation is compromised. Current UK law states that all travelling passengers must have seat belts if they are seated in forward-facing seats. Some motorhomes provide only lap belts, which some purchasers may not be comfortable using. In law, you are allowed to travel “unbelted” in the rear of a vehicle if there are insufficient seat belts, but the wisdom of this must be questioned. Not wearing a seatbelt (where there is one available) carries a fine of £500.

Where will you be using the Motorhome?

This may seem a lesser point, however it is still worth considering. Western Europe, the UK included have good road networks and larger campervans should not find it too difficult to manoeuvre around its road systems. However if you wish to go to eastern Europe or maybe you wish to discover the mountain- tops of Europe then a larger vehicle will suffer. Smaller vehicles will travel up the peaks with reasonable ease, however try and take a coach up to the top of the winding Swiss mountains, and the corners may just be too tight.

Is MPG or Fuel consumption a lot different?

If it is a modern motorhome you are buying, then they are in general fitted with good powerful diesel engines. However with size, comes weight, which in turn will change dramatically the amount of fuel consumption. American RV’s generally have the lowest MPG, some as low as 8 or 9mpg. The smaller panel vans will generally give around 35mpg, making them the most efficient and the medium sized vehicles give roughly 25mpg. This is only a guide as different vans will differ, though it can be used as a general figure.

Storage

If you are planning on using the motorhome on occasional outings then you will need to think of where you will put the vehicle while not using it. There are storage facilities around the country, however they just add to the cost of what is already an expensive purchase. Check the size of your driveway, see what will fit. Motorhomes are very big vehicles and often the size takes people by surprise when they bring them home. A typical family car might be 4.5m (14.7 feet) long, 1.7m (5.6 feet) wide, and weigh 1.5 tonnes. A medium-sized motorhome could be 6.8m (22.3 feet) long, 2.5m (8.2 feet) wide, and weigh 3.5 tonnes.

Driving License Restrictions

Before January 1st, 1997, anyone passing their driving test is permitted to drive a motorhome up the 7.5 tonnes – this is called a category C1 entitlement. Anyone passing their test after that year is only permitted to drive a motorhome up to 3.5 tonnes – category B entitlement. Anyone wishing to drive an American RV weighing more than 7.5 tonnes will need to take an LGV driving course and pass the test to obtain a category C entitlement licence.

MTPLM

This refers to the legal maximum loaded weight the motorhome is permitted to weigh. This includes the manufacture weight plus furniture, camping equipment and the occupants i.e. the complete weight of the loaded motorhome.

Mass In Running Order (MIRO)

This refers to the weight of the motorhome as it leaves the factory i.e. including furniture, fuel tank, essential equipment needed for it to function properly and . It does not include the weight of additional baggage and occupants.

Payload

Payload is the difference between the MIRO and the MTPLM. The weight of a motorhome must not exceed the maximum legal payload.

Do your research

There are a lot of different styles of motorhomes, and interiors so finding one to suit can take its time. Don’t get carried away and buy the first one you see, as I guarantee, unless you are extremely lucky, you will will want to change it after a few months as it is not the right motorhome for you. Make a list of requirements you want, write them down and stick to them. Do you want a fixed bed, (a bed that is down all the time), do you want a full-sized fridge, or half-size? Do you want a full oven or half, large bathroom. There are many things to take into contention, however this is half the fun so don’t let it put you off.

Budget

This I suppose, is the big one. Are you buying the motorhome new, or second hand. How will you pay for the vehicle. The costs of motorhomes is as varied as their layouts, so have a budget. It is so easy to go over the top and spend more than you can afford, but this will take all the fun out of the vehicle. I would much rather have a motorhome I can afford to go out and use, than a big expensive one sitting on the drive because I cant afford to use it. Be sensible!

To Recap

  • When will you use it?
  • Who will be using it?
  • Where will you be using it?
  • Where will you store it?
  • What can you drive?
  • What is your budget?
  • What are your requirements?

Once you have answered these few points then you can get out and start looking, or use the Internet to browse the ranges and models from the different manufactures. Buying a motorhome may be one of the biggest purchases you ever make, but it will also be one of the best.

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