Getting on the open road: motorhome buying tips for beginners
As Chris Evans, himself a motorhome devotee, said on his Radio 2 Breakfast Show this week, Autumn is the perfect time to buy a motorhome. Particularly as, for the first time, personal contract purchase (PCP) is becoming widely available in the motorhome and touring caravan market. This will make vehicles much more affordable and accessible, allowing younger buyers with families to seriously consider taking out a PCP, typically over five to seven years
But whether new or used, taking the plunge means a sizable investment. For many people, with the exception of their house, it’s the second-largest purchase they will ever make. For first-timers, the prospect can be overwhelming. What do you look for? What are the best models? How do you know you’re getting the best deal?
To help you, we’ve come up with some pointers to guide you through the maze of motorhome buying:
- Before you set out, make a comprehensive ‘wish list’. This will help keep you focused. Visit shows for ideas and take photos of motorhomes or features you like, on your mobile to jog your memory when you start looking. But remember, you won’t be able to tick all the boxes.
- Speak to people who’ve already been there. Visit your nearest caravan sites and talk to owners, visit local shows and events, and visit sites like www.motorcaravanmagazine.co.uk and www.motorcaravanners.org.uk.
- When it comes to motorhomes, larger does not necessarily mean better. While not all motorhomes are big enough to live in, almost all of them are big enough to live out of. Awnings, safari rooms…even folding chairs increase living space. Think practically too: if you’re planning on mainly using it in woods or at the beach, carpeting may not be a good idea. Got a family? Make sure there are enough seats and seat belts for everyone.
- With space a premium, think about what you really need. When it comes to cooking, perhaps a simple microwave or combination microwave-convection oven is sufficient. Is there enough storage space for both your food and the utensils and appliances to prepare it? Make sure you can sleep everyone comfortably, too. While dinettes and sofas claim to sleep two people, we’re often talking children or small adults. Also, beds are often non-standard sizes, so measuring them is a good idea. When it comes to bathrooms, take off your shoes and stand in the shower to see it has sufficient headroom and enough space to move comfortably. Also, sit on the toilet and make sure there is adequate room when the door is closed.
- Most dealers offer a ‘try before you buy’ service, so take advantage of it!
- Take some test drives in various models and get the feel of the vehicle on country roads, A-roads and motorways. Too cumbersome? Chances are you won’t use it as much. Also, make sure your co-pilot has a chance to drive the motorhome too before purchasing it.
- Check your motorhome choice’s payload. This is the difference in weight between ‘empty’ and maximum chassis weight. Your dealer will be able to help you as will the manufacturer. Brochures tend to publish the payload. The payload is the carrying capability of the motorhome – passengers, bikes, BBQ, luggage, food etc etc. An overloaded motorhome can incur increased maintenance problems and expense, and be unsafe or even illegal to operate.
- If you’re buying a second-hand motorhome, give it a thorough inspection. Things to look for include signs of accident repair, leaks and signs of mould or damp. It might pay to take along a qualified mechanic or vehicle inspector (the AA and RAC sometimes offer this service) or find your local mobile motorhome repair guy who will carry out a damp check and overall report for a small charge.
- Once you’ve found your perfect motorhome, spend a few hours trying it out – making the beds, setting up the tables, moving chairs around. This will help you to decide if there’s really enough space, and whether you can live with any minor niggles. Remember, whichever motorhome you choose, it probably won’t be the last one you purchase. Just as your housing needs change over time, so will motorhome-related needs also change.
- Always ask the dealer, or seller, to demonstrate everything for you. If there are extras, make sure the accessories are present and in good working order. It’s also worth checking if the motorhome manufacturer is still in business. Although parts such as boilers, water heaters, and windows are often made by various manufacturers, parts such as doors, trim pieces, and furniture can be difficult to locate if the motorhome manufacturer is no longer in business.
- If the motorhome is new or still under warranty, check the starting date of the warranty to determine whether the seller or buyer has the responsibility for activating that warranty.
- Finally, don’t forget to get adequate insurance. Driving a Motorhome on a standard car insurance policy is unlikely to give you the best cover.
While this can seem daunting, the most important things to remember when looking for your first motorhome? Take your time, do your homework, find a good dealer, and talk to people. The good news is there’s a new or used motorhome for every budget and every family. It just takes time to find it.
Established in November 2015, The Motorhome Holiday Company was set up by Matt Sims. Offering a range of motorhomes for rent, and the opportunity for motorhome owners to rent out their own vehicle, the company, headquartered in Bristol, is hoping to expand throughout the country later in the year. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/motorhomeholidayco
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