Who wants motorhome tips for newbies? We’ve just put together this straightforward, no-nonsense guide on buying a motorhome for the first time. The motorhome lifestyle has never been so popular. With a crazy 36% of Brits going on their first motorhome holiday in 2020.
If you’re part of this new generation of motorhome enthusiasts, then this motorhome buyers guide covers everything you need to know. Including:
- Motorhome tips for beginners
- Planning and budgeting (with a used motorhome price guide)
- Knowing where to buy a motorhome
- Test driving
- General motorhome advice
- Making the most of your new lifestyle hobby
- Motorhome tips and tricks, and so on.
Let’s dive right in.
1: Planning and budgeting
Motorhomes are a big investment. So before you buy, it’s important to identify what you can afford. This includes knowing your very maximum price for a model. Along with the monthly and yearly running costs.
It’s also sensible to hold a little bit of your budget back in case of any emergencies, fittings, and accessories that you might want or need.
And although this section isn’t intended to be a comprehensive motorhome valuation guide, we can help you to look at what’s affordable with a particular budget before we take a look at how you can finance your dream motorhome.
Here are some second-hand motorhome values to think about:
Motorhomes for around £10k
You can buy incredibly cheap motorhomes these days. But the cheapest motorhome to buy may be suspiciously cheap. If the motorhome you’re interested in is more than 10 — 12 years old, put your inspection goggles on or bring a mechanic friend along (if possible).
Certain makes can be an indicator of quality if a £10k budget is really all you have. For example, German brands, like a Hymer or Hobby, tend to be more robust than some other manufacturers. These models can represent some of the cheapest motorhomes to buy.
But it’s important to buy with your head and not your heart. With a budget of £12 — 15k, there are some great bargains to be had. For example older Hymer A-class vans are built like tanks. Just choose carefully, and don’t be afraid to ask questions, and to ask for expert help.
You won’t find a whole lot of motorhomes for this cheap at motorhome dealers. But if you are really worried about making a risky decision, visit or speak to a motorhome dealer anyway. They could very well have one in your price range. And they will have already done all the major servicing and checks. Motorhome dealers will also provide a warranty included in the price as well.
Remember: You can get a great, modern caravan for a £10k budget. With no big servicing costs, MOT, or road tax needed. Plus the flexibility of having a car when you need it. If your budget is squeezed then a caravan could be the best option.
Motorhomes for around £20k
A modest budget of around £20k can get you well on your way. In fact, £20,000 is the typical starting price for many beginners looking to turn motorhoming into a hobby. You will find plenty of motorhomes around this price both listed on sellers’ websites and at dealerships. Indeed, you can get some of the best motorhomes to buy used in this price range.
Buying from the right dealer can make all the difference. Especially as a good dealer will back up their sale (and calm your nerves) with a suitable warranty, helpful general advice, and a welcome aftersales service.
With a dealer, you can be certain that the motorhome has been fully serviced before you buy. And they will have the base vehicle and habitation servicing documents to show to you.
Motorhomes for around £30k
If you can splurge around £30,000 for a motorhome, then you will have the buying power to purchase a newer, more luxurious model with fewer miles on the clock.
For example, a good £30k model might mean a 2013 Rollerteam T-line with as 14,000 miles or fewer on the clock. The T-line has luxuries such as a split kitchen, washroom, cruise control, and air conditioning in the cab.
Luxury and modern conveniences aside, a more expensive motorhome doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more reliable. You can buy a motorhome for £20k with a great engine and relatively low mileage. So don’t think that the best used motorhomes = more money and more reliability. But if you can afford to go bigger, better, and more comfortable, more power to you.
Financing your motorhome purchase
From a financial standpoint, buying your first motorhome is likely to be the biggest obstacle. This is because motorhomes tend to hold their value extremely well — and especially well compared with how cars hold their value. So the cost of upgrading to buy a motorhome that’s a newer model will not be as big of a financial hit as you might imagine.
That being said, here are all the different ways you can buy your first motorhome:
A lot of younger motorhome enthusiasts take up what’s known as a hire purchase agreement. If you visit a motorhome dealership, then it’s more than likely the dealer will offer some sort of hire purchase incentive.
An easy way to think of a hire purchase agreement is like a mortgage. When you get a mortgage on a house, you don’t actually own it until the final payment is complete. Which means that if you default on an installment, you could have the motorhome repossessed.
It takes about 5 — 7 years for the average motorhome newbie to pay off their hire purchase agreement.
Think carefully about what you’re getting into before taking out a hire purchase agreement. Including:
- how big your deposit will be
- how long the repayment term is
- if you can afford the instalments
- the total cost you will be paying back
- the APR set by the dealer, as this could influence where and what you buy
It is important to remember that you will have to pay these instalments on top of your other motorhome expenses. Including your insurance, road tax, campsite fees, accessories and more.
A common way for newbies to get on the motorhome ladder is to take out a personal loan. There are lots of different types of personal loan options — which differ in terms of how much interest you will pay, and how long for.
People often get a personal loan from a bank, as banks often offer loans with good rates. But do your research for the best rate. Remember that percentage repayment rates fluctuate all the time. Secure the loan before making your purchase, in order to make sure the percentage rate doesn’t sneakily change to your disadvantage.
Your own personal bank may have special rates for customers. Aside from banks, aggregator websites can be useful, such as Go Compare, but they won’t list every company. And nothing will truly suffice, except for your own research.
If you already have a mortgage, then an equity release could be another option. This is where you take out a loan secured against your property. The positives include no repayments, as you only have to pay the amount back at the end of the scheme (either the death of the policy holder, or the sale of the property in question).
A big downside to an equity release is that it reduces the value of the property. This doesn’t seem to be an issue for growing numbers of people, however, as equity releases are increasing in popularity.
And of course, with the backing of a good old savings account. A good chunk of motorhome buyers are in the retirement or semi-retirement age bracket (though this share of the audience is shrinking as more younger people are taking up the motorhome life for themselves).
This might not be super helpful to newer buyers strapped for cash, but it’s an important point to make here. A lot of motorhomes are purchased with lump sums of money. This has numerous benefits, such as not having to pay interest. But not everyone will be comfortable parting ways with large sums all at once.
2: Finding the right motorhome
There are many different motorhome options and motorhome makes on the market. In all kinds of styles, layouts and designs. So it can be really hard to know where to start if you are a first-time motorhome enthusiast. Fortunately, you can narrow the search down by asking yourself a few questions.
- What is it you want to do with your motorhome?
- Where do you want to go with it?
- Who will be using it (i.e. pets, children)?
- Where are you going to park or store it?
- Will you be driving long distances?
- Do you want to buy a motorhome or buy a campervan?
It is important to think clearly and hard before committing yourself to a model that might not be right for you.
What to do before you start looking
Answering the above questions should help a great deal in determining the motorhome type you will want to buy.
Then you should draw up a shortlist of the makes and models that you think would suit your circumstances nicely. This streamlines the whole research process and makes decision-making a lot easier. It also prevents daydreaming over good-looking models that you know you don’t really need.
Look at all the reviews and compare and contrast them.
Researching the market
With a handy shortlist of makes and models under your belt, it’s time to finally dip your toes in the marketplace and see what’s available.
We would recommend collecting information in a spreadsheet, such as on Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. Comparing the prices and everything else that you deem important, along with advantages and disadvantages.
If you’ve just missed a good deal, you can always sign up to marketing emails or get alerts for when similar models become available. The point is, you should now know exactly what it is you’re looking for and why it is you want it.
In a short space of time, you will get a knack for the prices, and a feel for which ones are of a good value, and for which ones are worth going for a look at.
Do you have what it takes to drive a motorhome?
Buying a motorhome is a big investment, so it’s important to know if you really are up to it. Some people find after sitting behind the wheel, that it isn’t for them.
To be on the safe side, it’s sensible to hire a motorhome first. Just to get a feel for it, and to see if it’s just like you hoped it would be. On a more practical level, hiring a motorhome is also a great way to get a feel for the type of motorhome you want. It may also help you determine what layout is best suited to your tastes.
If this sounds like a good idea to you, our advice is that you follow the steps above of asking yourself what motorhome sounds good to you, what you will use it for. Drafting up a shortlist and doing some market research in the process. Then hire the motorhome that you believe is ideal.
Hire exactly what you want to buy. Doing this will almost certainly help you to discover — for good or for bad — aspects of motorhome life that you hadn’t considered before.
Different types of motorhome
There are lots of different types of motorhomes. They go by many names and are built for many different purposes and life experiences. For example, do you want a campervan or motorhome? What is the best small motorhome to buy?
Here are the main types that you are likely to encounter:
What is the difference between a campervan and a motorhome? A campervan is simply a van that has been converted into a mini motorhome. (Hence why they are sometimes called ‘campervan motorhomes’.) Any van with a mattress thrown in the back of it can, in theory, be considered a campervan. But most serious campervans have some form of seating, cooking, eating, and bathroom arrangements.
When most people think of a campervan, the enduring model that comes to mind is the VW camper [pictured]. However, nowadays there are all sorts of makes and models, with lots of different features, facilities. The result is there is a huge price range from one end to the other — with some luxury camper van prices being close to £100,000.
Campervans are very small by nature. This makes them a breeze to drive and park, but obviously, the living arrangements are also small and limited.
Some campervans have more space than others. For example, there are pop-top campervans which — as the name suggests — have a pop-up roof. This essentially provides another bedroom or extra storage space. Pop-tops can be useful if you have children.
High-top campervans are similar to pop-ups, in that they provide more storage space and/or an extra bedroom if needed. With the added bonus that the high-top is fully insulated. And because they are closer to coachbuilt motorhomes than campervans, they also have a lot more space for washrooms and kitchens. High-tops also have more variety in terms of interior design and layout, too. There is a downside though, and that is they are significantly bigger than campervans and pop-up campervans. Meaning there will be height restriction barriers that will get you, which a campervan could otherwise pass under easily.
Ask someone to think of a motorhome, and the chances are they will think of a coachbuilt model. Indeed, coachbuilt motorhomes are the most common type of motorhome you will see in both the UK and Continental Europe.
The term “coachbuilt” has its origins in the construction process, as the methods of motorhome manufacturers today are descendants of the trade of genuine coachbuilders from the past. Mainly the art of making custom or bespoke coachbuilt bodies and placing them on a rolling chassis.
There are four main types of coachbuilt motorhomes or coach motorhomes:
Arguably the most iconic motorhome of all is the humble over-cab model. It may not be the best-looking or even the most economical — but the over-cab motorhome is a fan-favourite amongst kids; those for want of extra beds and storage, and for robustness.
The popularity of the over-cab model has in recent times been threatened by the rise of low-profile motorhomes. Still though, children live sleeping above the cab — a ready-made bed — and there is usually plenty of room inside over-cabs for many soft furnishings. Manufacturers include Auto-Sleepers, Auto-Trail, Elddis, Bailey and more.
Over-cab motorhomes also go by the name of “Luton overcabs”, as the design is believed to owe its origins to manufacturers hailing from the Bedfordshire town.
Low profile motorhomes
Low profile motorhomes represent some of the newest and most attractive models available on the market today. They blur the line between standard coachbuilt (C-Class) models and their luxury A-Class counterparts, continuing to incorporate more features that were once A-Class exclusives. For example, by having drop-down beds above the lounge, huge skylights, and so on.
Despite the name, low-profile motorhomes are not “lower” overall in size and shape. In fact they can be as tall as over-cabs. Rather it’s their shape that gives them the title of low-profile, as the cab “looks” smaller and more integrated.
Low profile motorhomes are ideal for couples and even couples with children. A lot of models have a high bed with a “garage” (a large locker) underneath. Manufacturers include Auto-Sleepers, Bailey, the Swift Group and more.
Some low profile motorhomes offer plenty of storage space and some don’t. So it’s important to check and to see if the particular model is right for you — before buying.
A-Class motorhomes are the dream. They tend to occupy the luxury end of the scale in terms of price and quality, but there is an increasing number of A-Class models on the market that are lighter and more affordable than ever before.
For example, it is not uncommon to find A-Class models under 3.5 tonnes. Meaning they can be driven by anyone with a regular driving license.
A-Class motorhomes have no separate cab. The body, including the driving compartment, is entirely coachbuilt. And often inside, all the luxuries of home will be waiting for you. A-Class manufacturers include Sunlight, Rapido and Morelo. A good number of A-Class motorhomes are imported into the UK from Europe. So there’s a chance the driver’s seat may be “on the wrong side”.
Overall though, costs vary widely. But the sky’s the limit on what you can do with a bespoke A-Class motorhome.
B-Class and C-Class motorhomes
Some manufacturers and hobbyists talk about ‘B-Class’ and ‘C-Class’ motorhomes, but these are just different names for the models we have already covered.
A ‘B-Class’ motorhome is another name for a campervan, or the smallest motorhome type. There are also ‘B-Class+’ motorhomes, which are a type of hybrid between the B and C-Class motorhomes, such as the high-top campervans mentioned above.
C-Class motorhomes are those that are bigger than B-Class motorhomes, but smaller than A-Class motorhomes. They account for some of the most common coachbuilt motorhomes that people often think of when asked to imagine a motorhome. Such as low-profile and overcab models mentioned above.
No motorhome buyers guide would be complete without mentioning RVs. People tend to think of “RV” as an American word. And they would be correct. “RV” is an abbreviation for a recreational vehicle. They are typically made in America and for North American buyers. RV manufacturers include Winnebego and Concorde.
RVs are most often built in the A-Class style, but they are significantly larger than most A-Class motorhomes you will see on European roads. In fact, they are the biggest motorhome models.
With RVs, everything is much larger in scale. And they often come with extensions that slide-out, making big interiors even bigger. They are very comfortable but unsurprisingly expensive. And they might just well be unmanageable on many of the UK’s roads and campsites. RVs were purposefully made for driving around the limitless expanse of the North American continent. Not the ancient Roman and farmer’s lanes of the Old World.
Understanding the different types of motorhome layouts
Layouts can make or break a motorhome. A layout is the interior design of a motorhome, the area that influences how you live inside of it.
A typical motorhome layout comprises a sleeping area, an area for sitting, an area for dining, a bathroom and a kitchen. But there are lots of variations that can greatly influence how a layout can feel and look at any one time.
Variations such as fixed beds and bunk beds, pop-up storage spaces and extension slide-outs, swivel seats and removable dining tables. In many cases, you can be your own architect of the layout you want to live in. The challenge is working out what layout will work for you.
Not many people get the perfect layout the first time round. Most people need to try different types, so that they can work out the one they like best. The important thing is to think clearly about how many people will be using your motorhome, and how the nature of your trips might impact on how the layout is received.
It is important to remember that your needs will change over time. For example, people with very small children may want a layout that makes it easier for them to get around without clambering too much. A layout which might not seem so important as they get older.
Where you can buy a motorhome
There are lots of ways to go about buying a motorhome and, aside from the Internet, most of them are still “traditional”. People are still largely buying motorhomes in the same way now as they did when the hobby first became popular.
Let’s start with the easiest place to look for, and buy, motorhomes.
Buying a motorhome on the Internet
The easiest and most convenient way is to just open up your computer or mobile and type “buy motorhomes” into your search engine. You will soon see hundreds, if not thousands of them. The Internet is certainly the best place to research the model you want and to inspect the market.
And all the most reputable dealers will have their own websites with all their motorhomes listed that you can check out. Most listings detail the models on sale, with images and all the necessary information you need.
It can be handy to check out a dealer’s catalogue on the Internet before visiting them in person. Most listings will have filters, meaning you can search for new or used models. You can also filter the results by price, to adjust what you see to your budget. And by location.
Of course, you don’t have to restrict your search to dealers. Almost every online catalogue will have filters to help with your search.
Buying at a motorhome show
Motorhome shows were the closest thing motorhome enthusiasts had to the Internet before it existed. They were and still are an excellent in-person van buyers guide. And a great way to view lots of models under one roof and in a few hours.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, large motorhomes were commonly scheduled all over the UK. And there’s no reason to suppose things will be any different once the pandemic is over.
Shows are also a great place to ask the experts all of your questions in the flesh. And of course, there is no substitution for actually being able to inspect the individual models with your own eyes and hands, to really get a feel for them.
Another great advantage of the motorhome show is that manufacturers often slap special, one-off show discounts or upgrades on their prices. Motorhome shows are generally pleasant. No one will be there trying to coerce you into buying anything. It will take a whole day to take everything in, though. And this may be tiring to some people.
Buying a motorhome at an auction
Auctions aren’t for everyone, but they are an interesting way to quickly examine and purchase both new and used motorhomes. Generally, if there is a new model at an auction, it’s because the previous owner couldn’t meet the finance payments.
Expect a lot of motorhomes at auction to come fitted with bespoke conversions that there isn’t a demand for. Or for them to need a lot of work. But if the prospect of taking on a motorhome and fixing it up doesn’t trouble you, a real bargain could be found here.
Auctions can seem daunting, but the auctioneer will be wholly honest about what it is you’re bidding on. If there’s a fault with the motorhome, they will be declared before you make a bid. The chances are you will be in a bidding war against people who routinely visit auctions, however, and their experience may give them the advantage.
If your bid is highest and you win, you will have to hand over a deposit to the auctioneer immediately — paying the rest of the fee in the office. You will also be required to remove the motorhome at the end of the auction. So you will need to make the necessary arrangements. You cannot just drive away unless you have insurance to do so, a valid MOT certificate, and the road tax is paid.
Buying a motorhome privately
People buy cars privately, and they can also buy motorhomes privately too. If you are lucky, you can get a real bargain here — with all kinds of sweeteners thrown in, such as additional outdoor furniture, gas cylinders, and so on. But buying privately can also be a risky business. And you won’t get a warranty with a private sale.
There are some quick things you can do to minimise risk. First, ask to see proof that the motorhome has been serviced recently, for both the base vehicle and habitation area. Then ask to view the motorhome at the seller’s home. There you can check if the address on the V5 (among other documents) is the same.
The danger of buying privately is that you have to do the investigating yourself. This includes checking if the documents are all authentic, along with any background checks, vehicle inspections, and so on.
Buying from a motorhome dealer
Another option is to buy a motorhome from a specialist motorhome dealer. It is rare for a dealer to actually be bad. Because dodgy dealers don’t last long on the market. Word soon gets out about what they are really like.
But some dealers are better than others, so it’s important to recognise the signs of a respectable dealership. Here are some quick ways to do this:
- Check to see how long the dealer has been around. The longer, the better
- See if they have approval from a trade body or reputable organisation, such as the National Caravan Council or the Camping and Caravanning Club’s Preferred Dealer scheme.
- Check the ‘About Us’ page, if the dealer has a long history, then that’s usually a good sign
- See if the dealer has long-term affiliations with specific motorhome manufacturers. This is generally a good sign that the dealers will be knowledgeable and experienced — and therefore better at answering your questions
Motorhomes sometimes cost a bit more at dealerships, but they also offer better deals on motorhome purchases. Such as a warranty, all the right paperwork, real genuine tips and advice, an aftersales package, repair and accessory fitting services and more.
Local dealers are also beneficial. As you won’t have to travel too far to sort out any problems, or for regular servicing.
Before you buy anything: things to check and inspect
You’ve found a motorhome you love. Great! But you need to keep your guard up. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of horror stories from people who bought naff motorhomes from private sellers without checking properly first.
So before you buy anything, make sure you:
- Get a habitation check — You may be thinking, do I need a habitation certificate for my motorhome? The short answer is: yes. This is like an MOT for motorhomes. A professional will then check for dampness, to see if the electrics are all working, the gas, waste, and to inspect the fridge. Some private sellers may even make an excuse for — or deny — the possibility of a check. This is an immediate red flag. If that happens to you, walk away.
- Check for discrepancies with the V5C — If you are buying online or privately, there’s a chance you could be partaking in an illegal sale. To be on the safe side, check that the V5C details match up with the motorhome details itself. Look for matching VINs. And check that the V5C has the ‘new keeper supplement’ part intact.
The logbook should also have a ‘DVL’ watermark or a valid serial number. You can find more details about how to check a vehicle’s serial number on the UK Gov website.
- Check for an excessive number of repairs — How many repairs is “too many” can depend on a lot of factors. Including the age and mileage of the motorhome. But it can be a red flag if there is a long list of recent repairs in the paperwork. It could even be a newish model that is fundamentally broken. And maybe the owner has decided to cut their losses. Be careful and study the record closely.
- Talk to insurance companies — If the motorhome is 10+ years old then insurance could be more expensive than you think. Get a quote estimate to be on the safe side.
- A very low price might be a red flag — It’s a good idea to check out the average going price of the model you’re thinking of purchasing. This way, you can tell if the price offered is too low or high. If the asking price is much lower than the market value, make sure to ask why. A low price doesn’t always mean foul play — sometimes people can have a change in circumstances and need to offload their motorhomes quickly — but in many instances, a low price could be a cover for a vehicle that has lots of hidden problems.
- Think about the mileage — Mileage is not an indication of use. This is especially true for low mileage. Many motorhomes are designed to cope with high mileage. Ask a professional for help if you are unsure about this.
If you are buying a motorhome through a motorhome dealer, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about these problems. But if you are buying privately, then make special care to check that you aren’t buying a motorhome that’s fundamentally broken — or worse, illegal.
Before you buy anything: things to check and inspect
It is estimated that around 1 in 10 motorhome owners buy their vehicle before ever test driving it — even when buying a motorhome for the first time. Incredibly, only 13 per cent of people said they would never buy a car without test driving it. That means the overwhelming majority are ready to just drive off.
This ‘testphobia’ also seems to grow more prominent the younger the motorhome buyer is. With people under 30 — though there aren’t that many of them — being the most unwilling to go on a test drive.
But test driving is an essential part of finding the right motorhome. If you are going to spend all that money, wouldn’t you want to make sure everything was perfect before buying?
There’s only one way to know for certain if you’ll be happy touring in a motorhome. And that’s by test driving it. That being said, here’s what you should do for a smooth and proper test drive:
- Arrange one first — This might sound obvious, but if you spring it on a dealer with no warning, they might not be able to arrange it while you’re there. If the dealer only has a “demo” model, make sure it has the same engine and specification as the one you’re thinking about buying.
It’s also a good idea to include certain “acts” in the test drive. Such as planning a route, and loading items into it and riding along with additional passengers. This will all serve to make it feel as realistic as possible.
- Ask to start the engine yourself — Some (old) motorhomes may have difficulty starting-up properly. If the engine is already on and warm by the time you arrive, this could be intentional to mask starting difficultes. So make sure you get the chance to start the engine up on your own, while it’s still cold.
If the clutch bites at the top of the pedal, then it’s probably on the way out. So ask about a replacement before you buy. And if the steering is off, if it pulls to one side, then there could be a serious fault with that too. Make sure to get a feel for potential faults and enquire about them beforehand.
- See if it’s “family friendly” — All motorhomes are designed to carry small groups of people and for them to live in them for short periods. But how well does the motorhome you’re interested in buying cater to your family? There’s only one way to find out and that’s to bring them along for the test drive.
Only then will you find out the answers to questions like: is there room for a child’s booster seat? Is the air con adequate? A part of figuring out if it’s family friendly also involves accessories, too. For example, if you plan on doing a lot of bike riding on tour, then ask if you can load your bikes onto the motorhome. That way, you can get a feel for how well the motorhome handles the weight distribution. Experiment (with permission of course) with other things, such as driving a full water tank, and more.
- Try to incorporate all possible driving conditions into the test — Including steep hill starts, a section of motorway and some urban cruising. This is important because you need to know how the motorhome will respond to all the challenges, and you are certain to encounter all of them on long drives. Try to park at some point as if you would on tour. And if you have another would-be driver, see if they can park it just as easily too.
- Try to park it on your own driveway — If you live not too far away, this is a must. It’s worth checking to see how easily you can park on your driveway, and even if it’s possible to fit it on. You can also use this opportunity to check how easily it will be to empty the waste outlet.
If after all these stringent checks, you are still satisfied, then you can bet you are on to a winner.
Driving a motorhome for the very first time
If you’ve never driven a motorhome before, it can be pretty intimidating at first. People often ask ‘How difficult is it to drive a motorhome’ or ‘Can I drive a motorhome’ — and this is only natural. They are after all, much bigger than ordinary cars. Some people get behind the wheel and instantly love it. Others grow to love it. And some people find they are not at all comfortable driving something that feels so big.
So it makes a lot of sense to test drive a motorhome before you buy one. Actually, you don’t have to test drive. You can hire one and drive some place to really get a feel for it.
If you’ve already driven a motorhome and you like it — and are thinking of buying one — you’ll still need to get used to the motorhome you want to buy. All types of models are different, and so will feel and drive differently.
Here’s what you can do to help you get used to driving your motorhome, faster:
- Size up your motorhome — Take the time to get familiar with the motorhome dimensions. The manufacturer and handbook should make it clear the exact height and width, which will be important to know for those smaller tunnels and lighter bridges.
Then sit in the driver’s seat and identify some reference points, both at the front and rear, to help with any tricky maneuvers like bay parking. At this stage, it’s all about taking things slowly and building up confidence. Try to practice maneuvers as much as possible before getting entangled in “real world” situations.
- Know your blind spots, and see what you can do to improve them — All vehicle mirrors have blind spots to them. And all drivers are trained to account for them. But your blind spots are more of an issue when you’re driving a larger vehicle. For example, drivers and cyclists often have a habit of positioning themselves where it isn’t always easy for a motorhome driver to see.
So it’s very important to get accustomed to your new blind spot boundaries. One way to help, would be to invest in a pair of blind spot auxiliary mirrors. They are specifically made to increase your vision and to (mostly) eliminate blind spots. They should also make it easier to park and move about in tight spaces.
- Know your legal speed limit
There are specific motorhome speed limits. Yes, you read that right. Some motorhomes have to adhere to different speed limits than ordinary cars. So you must check the maximum speed limits for your vehicle before you start driving about.
How fast you travel depends on the size and width of your motorhome. You can get a full breakdown for every vehicle here but for now, as a motorhome driver, all you will need to know is:Make sure you know your motorhome’s weight before hitting the open road. For reference the term ‘unladen weight’ means that it is not loaded with goods or items. Another term that means the same thing is mass in running order. It’s very important to know your standard motorhome weights or your mass in running order motorhome. So that you don’t ‘go over’ and end up accidentally driving illegally.
Motorhome weight Built-up areas mph (km/h) Single carriageway (km/h) Dual carriageway (km/h) Motorways mph (km/h) Fewer than 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight 30 (48) 60 (96) 70 (112) 70 (112) More than 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight 30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 70 (112)
- Keep to the main roads
The chances are high you will want to travel to new and exciting places in your motorhome. In the modern era, this generally means typing in a destination on Google or Apple Maps and following the path faithfully.
But the tech brainiacs weren’t thinking of motorhome drivers when they made their apps. As a result, blindly driving along to a preset route can send you down some narrow lanes or low bridges that aren’t motorhome-friendly.
If you’re going somewhere and you aren’t familiar with the roads, it’s more sensible to plan the route yourself, the old fashioned way. And while you may not be able to avoid all the trouble spots, you will minimise the number of them.
On the other hand, there are sat navs available that are built specially for motorhomes. And there are mobile apps, too. Sure, they will probably be helpful. But it’s still wise to plan out your route manually, too.
- Keep calm and remember you’re already an experienced driver If at some point it all feels too much for you behind the wheel, just take a moment and breathe. Remember you’ve done this before actually, a thousand times. You are an experienced driver. The motorhome is bigger, yes, but much of the driving experience is exactly the same as before.
Do I need a special driving licence to drive motorhomes?
It all depends on when you took your driving test. If you passed the test before January 1997, then you are automatically allowed to drive category C1 vehicles. This includes most motorhome models, and a weight of up to 7,500kg.
But if you passed the test after January 1997, then you will only have a standard driving licence. Meaning you will only be allowed to drive category B and B1 vehicles. The standard licence normally still covers you for driving campervans and motorhomes on the smaller end of the scale sizewise. But it won’t cover you for the larger ones.
A lot of motorhome manufacturers deliberately try to build their motorhomes under the weight of 3,500kg (the maximum under category B). So that most people can legally drive them with ordinary driving licences. But this isn’t always possible. If the motorhome of your dreams requires an extra driving test, then it is imperative that you take it.
Driving a motorhome illegally could invalidate your insurance.
Motorhome driving and the C category licence
The criteria for driving a C category licence is much tougher than an ordinary driving licence. For example, you must pass a medical before even applying for a provisional. And, once you have a C category license, you must renew your medical every 5 years from 45 and onwards.
Until you reach the age of 65, when it gets even tougher. After the age of 65, you must pass a medical every year to continue driving a C category motorhome and vehicle.
3: Commonly asked questions about buying a motorhome
Buying a motorhome for the first time is a pretty big deal, so it’s common for people to have lots of questions about it. Here are the questions — and the answers — that are most often asked about the subject:
Q1: What is the best time to buy a motorhome?
This is a question with lots of different answers, depending on who you ask. Some argue that shopping for a motorhome is like buying a car. The high season for buying a car is April — September. So theoretically, any time in October — March should count as the best month to buy a used motorhome. And therefore increase your chances of getting a bargain.
But a lot of people will tell you that there is no “best time”. And that you can get a bargain at any time of the year.
Q2: Is it worth buying a diesel motorhome?
Diesel motorhomes are more fuel efficient than petrol motorhomes. Which can make those long trips across the country much cheaper if you account for the fuel only. So if you plan on travelling to the ends of the Island, or across the English Channel to the ends of the Continent, then a diesel may be your best option.
However, the UK government wants to phase out diesel vehicles in the not-too-distant future to help the fight against climate change. From 2035 there will be a ban on the sale of diesel motorhomes. It’s a tricky situation to talk about, but there can still be a great deal to benefit from buying a diesel motorhome in 2021. If you’re unsure what to do, you can always get help by asking a motorhome expert.
Q3: How much should I pay for a used motorhome?
Like the used car market, you can get some great deals on motorhomes that are used but not-that-used and not too old. You can save nearly a quarter on the price with a “nearly-new” model as to a brand new one.
The average cost estimate for a used motorhome is £49,000. For a brand new model, the average cost is £67,000.
Q4: Do motorhomes hold their value?
Motorhomes are very good at holding their value. Typically, a brand new motorhome will still retain about 70% of its original price after three years. Motorhomes hold their value in much the same way — and in many cases better than — second-hand cars do. Lots of people want them, but not many people can afford to buy them at a brand new price. This keeps the prices of the second-hand (used) models high.
Q5: What are the most reliable motorhomes?
This depends entirely on who you ask. Recent market research suggests Mercedes-Benz models are the best, with Volkswagen and Renault close behind. But Lunar Campers, Toyotas and Hymer models are all very highly rated, too. The best thing to do is research the model you are interested in carefully, or ask an expert for help.
Q6: How long do motorhome tyres last?
About 6 years. Actually, the number depends on how often you travel. Some people will say between 3 — 6 years. But if you are travelling a lot, you might need to replace them sooner. Always check your tyres for roadworthiness and for safety reasons before going on the road.
Q7: What is the life expectancy of a motorhome?
About 20 years, or 200,000 miles. If you take good care of them and provide regular maintenance. The same lifespan is generally thought to be the case for all of the Class A, B and C models. From the smallest camper vans to the largest RV models.
Q8: Can I live in a motorhome on my drive?
Yes — you can live on your drive and anyone else’s drive (with their permission). Actually, there is nothing under current UK law that says you cannot live in your motorhome or campervan full-time in general. As long as it has passed its MOT and is roadworthy, then you’re good to go. For more information on living in a motorhome full-time, check out our complete off-grid motorhome lifestyle guide here.
Q9: Are there any essential accessories I should get for my motorhome?
We would recommend a second leisure battery for when you go off hook-up. Adding a second battery will give you access to more amenities, and you won’t have to worry so much about other devices draining too much power. A motorhome-friendly sat nav or mobile app is also essential, in our opinion.
Other accessories and key things to take in a motorhome we would recommend include: a reversing camera, a dashcam, solar panels and a bicycle rack — but of course you would only need one if you plan on doing a lot of cycling.
Q10: What kind of motorhome layout is best?
The north-south, bed-over-cab layout is one of the most popular amongst motorhome enthusiasts. As it grants inhabitants a large lounge at the rear for relaxing, and the joy of a permanently made bed that’s out of the way. Children are also very fond of this plan, found primarily in Over Cab models (hence the name).
But there are literally hundreds of motorhome layouts, and the north-south, bed-over-cab one might not be the best for your situation. If in doubt, visit a motorhome show or dealer and ask to look inside and test drive the different motorhome classes with a variety of different layouts.
Getting the right motorhome insurance
There are many different types of motorhome insurance and — obviously — having some insurance policy is a legal requirement. You cannot drive without insurance.
However, the “right” type of motorhome insurance is the one that will meet all of your and your family’s needs — and one that will cover and compensate you for any problems and issues that are likely to arise and affect you personally.
For example, if you plan on travelling to Europe a lot, it would be sensible to look into a type of coverage that offers further protections in case you’ve had an accident abroad. European breakdown cover for older motorhomes is especially important. But if you don’t think you’ll be crossing over to the Continent anytime soon, then this is a type of coverage policy that you could perhaps do without.
To find out what motorhome insurance you need, have a brainstorm and think about what your motorhome hobbying will be like, and what policy cover you think will be the best for this. Including:
- The extent of an accident — do you want minor damage, such as small dents, covered or just major incidents?
- Vandalism or accidental damage — are you willing to take the risk and do without coverage?
- Road breakdowns and recovery — some policies will cover road breakdowns but they won’t recover and repair your motorhome. This makes them cheaper, but obviously comes with greater risk.
- Break-ins and theft — again, some people forego motorhome insurance that protects against robberies.
- Legal fees — some policies will cover more legal fees that others.
If you travel with a group, then your insurance policy needs to cover them too. And of course, any other drivers will need to be insured to drive your motorhome.
Your motorhome insurance policy will vary depending on your budget, the level of cover you go for, how much you plan to use and travel in it, the type of motorhome you have, the number of drivers and more. It isn’t as “easy” as car insurance to understand. So you should speak to a specialist motorhome insurance provider if you have lots of questions about it.
Driving motorhomes and the law
A life in the motorhome driver’s seat is a life of greater freedom. But unfortunately, there are also some rules and restrictions that you must know. The list (below) doesn’t cover everything. Far from it. But it does cover some of the most important rules that people often don’t know about.
Rule 1: You can’t just park up anywhere for the night
Actually, you can and you can’t. It’s another subject that we touch upon in more detail in our off-grid motorhome guide.
The problem is much of the land in the UK is owned by somebody. So you need to ask their permission before doing so. Trespassing is not a criminal issue, however. So all the landowner can really do is ask you to leave (and you should).
The law is slightly more relaxed in Scotland, compared to England and Wales. You can camp out on most unenclosed lands in Scotland.
It seems reasonable to say that you can park up and sleep in your motorhome on the street. As there is no specific law against this. But that’s not to say you won’t get woken up by the police or the local authorities. In which case, you will be asked to leave.
Rule 2: You cannot ‘overload’ your motorhome
Every motorhome has a maximum weight set by the manufacturer. This is normally declared in the manual and on the VIN plate in the motorhome itself.
Exceeding the maximum weight will make your motorhome ‘overloaded’ — which is illegal. Remember that the weight tally itself will include any travellers that you take on the road with you. Check your mass in running order motorhome limits to be safe.
Rule 3: You must have the right licence to drive a motorhome
Most motorhomes can be driven with an ordinary driver’s license. And if you happened to have passed your test before 1997, you can drive ALL sizes. But if you passed your test after 1997 and want to drive a Class A model or something over 3,500kg and up to 7,500kg, then you will need a ‘Category C1’ driver’s license.
See out section above titled: ‘Do I need a special driving licence to drive motorhomes?’ for more information about this.
Rule 4: Speed limit signs can be misleading to motorhome drivers
Some motorhomes have to keep to different speed limits than ordinary cars. This means that the speed limits you see on road signs might not be accurate for the speed you need to keep. So you must check the maximum speed limits for your vehicle before you start driving about.
See the section ‘Driving a motorhome for the very first time’ and the header ‘Know your legal speed limit’ in this guide for more information about this.
The hidden costs of motorhomes
It’s important to know that running a motorhome can get expensive. And aside from the ‘obvious’ costs — such as insurance, servicing, etc. There are lots of ‘hidden’ costs too.
Failure to know of — and account for — these hidden costs can be difficult if you have not, or cannot, budget for them. Here are some of the most prevalent hidden costs for you to watch out for:
- Campsite fees — If you stay at campsites, you will have to pay for the privilege. The price increases as the campsite’s quality increases. And overall costs are higher during the peak months, in spring and summer.
- Electricity bills — Motorhomes are like any other home. Stuffed with electrical appliances that will cost you over the long term.
- Laundrette bills — If you have a washer/dryer, then you won’t need to visit a laundry room (though your electricity bills will be higher). But although laundrettes are cheap, the cost can add up over time.
- Toll roads, tunnels and bridges — Perhaps the ultimate hidden cost. Some toll bridges can charge as much as £16 to crossover once. The bigger the vehicle, the bigger the price. Beware of these toll choke-points when you are going on long trips.
- Gas bills — Your motorhome will slowly consume gas to power the fridge, the hot water system, for heating and the stove. And you will need to refill or replace these gas cylinders regularly. In the winter, or in particularly cold climates, you will burn through them a lot quicker.
- General maintenance and repairs — Like with ordinary cars, things may go wrong from time to time. Market research suggests that motorhome general maintenance and repairs may cost their owners anywhere from £400 — £1,000 a year.
- It costs money to make it homely — Of course, your motorhome will already have a bed and a sitting place, but it will cost a considerable bit more to transform that preset into something you can call home. People splash out on everything from motorhome bedsheets to new motorhome cookware. Of course, these aren’t necessary expenditures. But if you don’t feel “at home” in your motorhome, what’s the point?
- Winter skirts, protective sheets and other accessories — A motorhome skirt will help with insulation and prevent freezing pipes in the winter. Protective sheets can add additional benefit against dirt and damage on the road. The truth is, there is an accessory for everything and there may come a time when you feel like you need them all.
- Storage bills — If you aren’t using your motorhome, you might have to pay to store it someplace. A lot of people give up the hobby for the winter, picking up again in spring. Unless you have a large drive or space at the house, you will need to store it. You will also need to winterise your motorhome, which will cost a bit of money in getting the right equipment. (Check out our guide for more information on winterising a motorhome.)
Lifestyle – Making the most of your new motorhome hobby
A motorhome has the potential to radically change your life. Including your outlook on life, the way you socialise, the hobbies that you enjoy, and more. Here are some of — in our opinion — the best lifestyle opportunities that you explore once you’re behind the wheel:
Attend events and shows
Shows are great places to expand your knowledge and experience of motorhome life. Not only are they opportunities to see and touch the latest models, but they are also exhibitions for the latest must-have accessories.
They are great places to spend a spring or summer’s day, and often come equipped with live demonstrations, talks, food and entertainment (such as live music). And there are always experts waiting to answer any questions you might have.
Some shows even have mini-crash courses with tips and tricks on how to improve your motorhome driving. Shows are fun for everyone, not just the motorhome-obsessed individual in the family. You, your partner and kids will love spending a day at one of these events.
Join a club
Owning a motorhome immediately places you in a like-minded community with hundreds of thousands of people all over the country. And so it is a great opportunity to get out there and meet people from all over the place with similar interests, and with their own stories to tell and experiences to share.
A convenient way to meet new people is through membership of a motorhome or caravan club. There are all types of similar clubs operating in the UK. They usually have their own campsites and come with benefits, such as discounts on motorhome parts and accessories.
Clubs usually organise holiday rallies or ‘meets’ on weekends and throughout the year. And a lot of the time really special motorhome excursions are planned this way. For example, ambitious road trips abroad together.
Clubs also release magazines and letters with the latest news to help and inspire the motorhome life.
Take up a new hobby
Now that you have a motorhome, why not take up a new hobby? A hobby doesn’t have to be adventurous, such as cave-diving or surfing (although, they are certainly great options if you’re up for it).
Hobbies can be as simple as visiting all of the UK’s castles or walking along Britain’s best beaches, or parking up near scenic landscapes and painting them.
Whatever hobby you have that lights up your soul, the freedom of motorhome travelling can make it happen.
Learn to live a simpler, more minimalist life
You’ll soon find out what you need and what you don’t need in a motorhome. That’s because space is no longer the luxury it was back in the bricks-and-mortar home.
It sounds cliché, but with less stuff around, the less “cluttered” your mind is, too. And (more clichés inbound) less clutter can also help the life around you “slow down” in a good way.
With less clutter, you can appreciate the simpler, finer things in life. Without feeling the need to immediately move on to something else.
3: We hope you’ve found this guide useful
We hope you have enjoyed these beginners campervan tips and tricks — and tips for the first time motorhome owner. There should be more than enough in the content here to set you well on your way to buying your first motorhome. But it would be impossible to cover every motorhome and campervan question that you might have.
So if there’s something that needs asking, let us know! Our experts are always happy to answer questions, and even happier if it means inspiring you to take up the reigns of motorhome life and join our ever-growing community.
See you at the next show.