Buying your first motorhome is a very exciting prospect but it can be difficult to know what you’re looking for if you’re not familiar with all of the terminology and the wide range of makes and models available. This guide will take you through the process of deciding which motorhome is right for you and your needs, whether you’re looking for a new motorhome or a used motorhome.
There are lots of different types of motorhome available with all kinds of layouts and designs and ranging significantly in price. It’s therefore important that you do plenty of research before deciding on the model for you.
- Hire a motorhome for a trip
First things first, if you’re completely new to the world of motorhomes, the best thing to do is to give it a go. Hiring a motorhome will give you the chance to find out what works for you and what doesn’t. A motorhome can be a big financial commitment, so you’ll want to get it right.
As well as figuring out what features you’d like to have in your motorhome, for example, would you like a fully equipped bathroom or will you be using campsite facilities, it gives you some hands-on experience. You’re going to have to learn about fitting gas bottles and disposing of waste water amongst other things.
Driving a motorhome is also something you’ll need to get used to. If you’re not experienced with driving larger vehicles, the prospect can seem a little daunting at first.
- Make a list of your ‘must-haves'
Once you’ve got to grips with taking a motorhome on a trip, you’ll be able to work out which features are essential for you. Try making a list of all the things you found particularly useful on your trial run and the things you felt were missing.
It’s easy to get carried away during this step so you might need to do some organising into ‘essential’ and ‘nice to have’ lists. If you’re struggling, try dividing the list up into what you want for each area of the motorhome. For example, you need to have sleeping space for X amount of people and in what configuration. Think about which bathroom facilities you want and which appliances you’ll need in the kitchen. When you’re on the road, how many seat belts will you need?
Think about the length of time you’re likely to be away for on your motorhome holidays. Will you just be going away for long weekends or will these be trips lasting several weeks or even longer? With longer trips, comfort becomes more of a priority and it’s wise to look at models with features like fixed beds.
You’ll also want to think about where you’re likely to be travelling. Will you be travelling between campsites which have an array of facilities making the need for a fully-equipped bathroom less important? Or will you be heading a little further off the beaten track and need to be a little more self-sufficient?
- Put together the components of your ideal layout
Once you know what you need your motorhome to have, you can start making decisions on the sorts of layouts you want to look at.
For example, if you need your motorhome to accommodate two people, consider whether you want a fixed bed or if you’re happy converting a lounge area into a bed in the evening. Perhaps you’ll be bringing kids along. In which case, will they be comfortable converting the living room into beds or will they need bunks or fixed single beds?
- Make a short list of models that fit your criteria and your budget
Do some research into the different makes and models and see which ones fit your specifications. It’s important to do things this way round as it means that you’ll be looking at motorhomes that work for you, rather than you trying to adapt to a motorhome. You could end up spending too much money, or perhaps not enough if you don’t go through this process first.
You’ll find that you get a lot more motorhome for your money if you buy a used vehicle. There are plenty of used motorhomes on the market that are only a few years old so will still be in excellent condition and might not have very many miles on the clock. This is definitely an option to consider when you’re buying your first motorhome.
- Go and see some of these motorhomes in real life
Before you make a decision on which motorhome it is that you want to buy, go and see some of the models on your list to get a good feel for them. You’ll want to find out how spacious they are and what the beds feel like. It can sometimes be difficult to visualise things like storage without seeing it in person, so open up all the compartments and make sure there will be enough room for all the kit you want to bring along.
This is also a great opportunity to talk to a dealer. They are the experts so don’t feel shy about asking lots of questions. They should be happy for you to try everything out and show you how all the features work. They may well be able to highlight things you haven’t considered or even point you in the direction of your perfect motorhome.
Should you buy a used motorhome from a dealer or privately?
If you’re a first time motorhome buyer and you’re looking at getting a used vehicle, going to a dealer offers a certain peace of mind. They will have gone through all the necessary checks and should offer you some sort of warranty. However, if you’ve found your dream motorhome being offered by a private seller, there’s no reason you shouldn’t go ahead with the purchase if you’re confident everything is in order. Here are a few things to check when buying a used motorhome from a private seller:
Make sure the seller is allowed to sell the vehicle
Before you consider buying a motorhome from a private seller, you’ll need to make sure the vehicle hasn’t been stolen. Use a pre-purchase vehicle history check like an HPI check to make sure the history of the vehicle checks out and that there is no outstanding finance. Just as you would with a car, ask to see the V5C, make sure the seller’s details are correct and that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) matches the one on the vehicle itself.
As an extra precaution, it’s a good idea to meet at the seller’s home so you can make sure that this is the address on the V5C and on the vehicle’s insurance documents.
Examine the exterior
- Have a good look around the exterior of the motorhome to make sure everything’s in order. Ask about any dents or signs of damage to ensure that they have been checked and that they are only superficial.
- Take a look at the tyres and make sure they’ve worn evenly and that there are no cracks.
- Look for any DIY jobs that might need to be checked over by a professional.
- Check for any signs of rust or oil leaks.
Take a good look around inside
- The first thing you should do is to see if there is a damp or musty smell. This could indicate some water damage which could cause a whole host of problems further down the line. Do a visual check for any signs of damn too, especially in cupboards, under seats and around window and door seals.
- Try all of the appliances in the kitchen and the bathroom.
- Make up the beds and try them out.
- Open all the cupboards and drawers and make sure all of the windows open and close as they should.
- Check that nothing is missing, like any seat cushions, curtains or blinds.
Go for a test drive
Make sure you have the correct insurance sorted and take the motorhome for a test drive on different types of roads and get it up to a decent speed. You could be driving long distances in it, so you’ll need to make sure it’s comfortable for you.
Arrange for a professional to check it out
If you’re not sure about anything, it can be well worth the cost of getting a professional in to carry out a pre-purchase inspection