A simple guide to buying a Motorhome

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A simple guide to buying a motorhome

For many people owning a motorhome is a romantic dream – the freedom, the open road, the ability to set up home anywhere you wish! With instant images of exciting road trips or surf days at the beach, motorhomes, campervans and RVs (whatever you want to call them) are a great investment.

But buying a motorhome can be expensive and stressful if you don’t know what you are looking for. In this post we will take you through some simple hints and tips to help you pick the right motorhome, avoid any of the usual mistakes and make sure what you buy is both safe and legal.

There is a lot to consider when buying a motorhome – how you want to travel, how long you will be taking trips for, how many people need to travel and what you want to do at each destination. Depending on the answers to these questions you may see costs rising to get the perfect vehicle. It could be easier to simply lease or hire a motorhome instead of going for a full purchase.

For this guide we are going to focus specifically on motorhomes, read on to learn what you need to look for to get your dream vehicle:

Choosing the right motorhome

Motorhomes come in a large range of shapes and sizes from fairly basic homes to vehicles that are more luxurious than many houses. Choosing based on these elements is down to budget and personal preference. How you will use the motorhome is a key factor – if you intend to park up in off-road locations a huge vehicle will not be practical, but if you intend to simply drive up and set up base in a holiday park it will.

Aside from these value judgements, we will now take you through some of the more practical considerations for buying a motorhome.

  • Motorhome size and weight
The size and weight of a vehicle aren't just about your comfort and being practical for where you want to take it, there are various legal and other practical factors to consider.
For certain heavier weights of motorhome, you will need to get a specific driving licence. If you passed your UK driving test on or after 1st January 1997, and haven't taken an additional test you will only be able to drive any vehicle with a maximum weight of 3,500kg. Many of the bigger, heavier motorhomes will be off-limits to you under the law. It is possible to take an additional test to take you up to full entitlement of vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes.
When buying a motorhome you should also take the "payload" (what you intend to carry onboard) into consideration.
The weight of the motorhome will affect how you can drive it. If you have an unladen weight of over 3.05 tonnes you will be restricted by lower speed limits – if you want to get to destinations quickly it is worth considering the speed limit of your chosen vehicle.
When it comes to “payload” also consider how easy it would be to fill the vehicle with stuff – if there is a huge amount of storage space to fill the temptation is there to do so. Imagine your normal house on wheels! It wouldn’t be very safe, would it? Overloading a motorhome could see you on the wrong side of the law, put your safety at risk and invalidate any warranty you have.
In terms of motorhome size, the trend recently has been for more compact, shorter motorhomes. This makes sense in practical terms, especially if you intend to travel abroad as ferry companies tend to charge by vehicle length.
This trend means that there is an abundance of motorhomes under 6 metres long on the market.
You need to consider what size of motorhome you really need – can you park it at home, will it be practical for the sort of journeys you want to take and also where you want to park up? Will it fit in a regular car parking space and will it clear car park height restrictions, some high-panel models will struggle with this.
  • Motorhome layouts
This is the fun bit of buying a motorhome – looking at the layout! You need to think about the living space, the sleeping areas, the storage and imagine how you and your family will live there, how being in that space will be. It’s a nice vision and when you see the right motorhome, you’ll know.
Things like an onboard washroom (campsite washing facilities aren't always the best) will cost more but could be something you really want. Regardless of what you are looking for always try before you buy.
Motorhomes come with a wide range of different layouts. Some have double beds that lower from the ceiling, some have them located in the “overcab” area. Some have little space inside and will need an awning attached for living space while others will have a full lounge area inside (some even with a space for a big TV, it that is your thing).
Most won’t have wash-facilities inside, usually having a pull out toilet to use, to save trips to the campsite facilities in the night and very few will have showers inside. Unless you opt for a bigger or “coachbuilt” motorhome you won’t be getting these.
To carry passengers in the main part of the motorhome they must be fitted with proper seats with seatbelts by law. Ensure this is the case before buying.

    Funding your motorhome

    No matter what type of motorhome you go for it is a serious investment and you may need to seek finance support to afford the purchase.

    Many dealerships offer in house finance options, and with a quick Google search, you will be able to find many specialist motorhome financing companies.

    To cover you purchase you should also look at specialist motorhome insurance.

    It is worth speaking to a broker that specialises in motorhome finance to see what your options are and find the right route for you.

    Essential checks before buying a motorhome

    Before signing off on your motorhome purchase you should go through this list of checks, especially if buying second hand/used from a private vendor.

    • Look at standard wear and tear
    • Check the sale is legal – it is unlikely but there is a chance the vehicle could be stolen. Check the ownership documents and purchase documents that the seller has for validity. Check the vehicles history and registration deals before buying.
    • Check for damp – leaking is the curse of many coachbuilt motorhomes and fixing the problem can be expensive. Exposed to the elements motorhomes warp in shape as they travel, so keeping the bodywork watertight is a challenge at times. Take a damp meter and get the vehicle properly serviced/checked.
    • Check the tyres – although motorhomes tend to do fewer miles than other vehicles, a few years of exposure to sun and rain and heavy loads could have lead to wear that is not apparent at first glance. Tyres need changing every four to five years as a standard so make sure they have been.
    • When was it last serviced? Motorhomes should be serviced annually, check when it last had one and, if it hasn’t been for a while, demand that one is done before purchase.

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