Are you thinking of buying a motorhome, but don’t know where to start?
Buying a motorhome can be an expensive business, so you’ll want to make sure you find the right one for you. In this guide, we’ll take you through the main things for consideration before you commit to a purchase. So, what should you be looking for?
You’ll find everything you need to know with regards to buying a motorhome including:
A motorhome is a recreational vehicle with self-contained living quarters. Motorhomes are typically manufactured using a truck or bus chassis as the wheelbase, with custom-made bodywork. They have many of the features you would find at home such as a kitchen, bed, bathroom and storage facilities, and a cab at the front for the driver and passenger seats. Motorhomes are sometimes referred to as trailers, campervans, motor caravans and RV’s.
Before you think about buying a motorhome, you’ll need to check you are legally permitted to do so.
In the UK, being able to drive a motorhome is dependent on two things:
• When you passed your driving test
• The vehicle’s maximum authorised mass (MAM). This is the vehicle’s weight plus the maximum load it can carry.
If you passed your test before 1st January 1997, you will automatically be licensed to drive category C1 vehicles, meaning that you can legally drive vehicles weighing up to 7,500kg. This will be enough to cover almost all motorhomes, except for large, American-style RVs. The exact categories of vehicles you can drive will be shown either on the back of your photo card licence or the front of your old-style paper licence.
If you passed your driving test after 1st January 1997, you will only be licensed to drive vehicles up to 3,500kg. These vehicles fall into categories B and B1. You will also be allowed to tow a trailer weighing up to 750kg behind your vehicle. Most UK manufactured motorhomes fall within the limitations, but you will need to sit an additional driving test to add category C1 vehicles to your licence if you wish to buy an American RV.
If you are aged 70 or over, you’ll need to be careful when it comes to the category limits. When you renew your licence at 70, the category C1 permission will be removed from it. If you wish to drive motorhomes weighing between 3,500kg and 7,500kg, you will need to request a completed form D4 from your GP.
If you’re wondering if buying a motorhome is the right thing to do, there a few questions you’ll need to ask yourself.
- How often do you plan on using it? Will it be used throughout the year, or just through the summer months? Motorhomes are expensive. Will you get good use out of it?
- How far do you intend to travel? The bigger the motorhome, the heavier it will be on fuel consumption.
- Do you plan on staying on campsites or parking off grid? If you’re planning to stay off grid you won’t be able to use an electric hookup cable to power electrical appliances. Therefore, you may require solar panels to power your leisure battery.
- What would be the maximum number of nights you would stay in it, in a single trip? This will determine the features you’ll want it to have, such as a bathroom with or without a sink and shower. What built in facilities do you require, as standard? Where do you plan to eat? Do you want a kitchen table area or are you happy to eat off your lap? Think about your ‘must haves’ as opposed to your ‘would likes’.
- Who will drive it? The type you go for will depend on the type of licence each driver has, and you’ll need to decide if you want an automatic or manual transmission.
- How many belted seats will you need and how many people will it need to sleep? You will need to consider how many passengers you’ll have and sleeping arrangements.
- What’s your budget and how do you plan to finance it?
- Where do you plan to keep the motorhome?
The price you can expect to pay for a motorhome is usually determined by the make, age, and specification of the vehicle. Motorhomes range from £10,000 for a used vehicle, to £300,000 plus for a new, high-end model, so it is important to have an idea of what you want to spend and the specification you require.
Buying a brand-new motorhome will cost considerably more than buying a used model. New motorhomes also decrease in value the moment they leave the showroom. You’ll generally get more for your money when buying a used vehicle and the depreciation rate is much lower than that of a new motorhome. The downside of buying a used motorhome is that it will have more mileage on the clock, although this is still likely to be much less than that of an everyday vehicle.
When it comes to purchasing, you can often find dealerships that offer financing. Entering into a finance agreement can be a good option if you don’t want to buy one outright and would prefer to spread the cost, however it is important to be aware of the interest rate and potential default charges that may apply to a finance agreement
With so many motorhomes on the market, it can be difficult to know what’s what. In this section we’ll explore the main body types.
When you are looking at motorhome specifications, you should think about the following:
Sleeping arrangements: How many beds do you need, and would you prefer them to be fixed in place or fold away when not in use? When talking about motorhomes, 'berths’ is the official term used to refer to how many people a motorhome will sleep, so if a motorhome is referred to as four berths, this means it can sleep 4 people.
Motorhomes come with different types of beds, so there is something out there to suit most people. Some of the most popular types of motorhome beds are as follows:
Motorhome storage is something that needs careful consideration. When you invest your money in a luxury item such as a motorhome, safe storage should be at the forefront of your priority list. You wouldn’t buy a Bugatti Veyron and park it on the pavement outside your house, would you?
How you store a motorhome not only plays a big part in keeping it secure, but also has a bearing on the insurance premium you pay.
Generally, the most cost-effective way to secure your motorhome is in a locked garage on your property. However, due to the size of a motorhome, standard domestic garages are rarely big enough to accommodate them, unless purpose built.
Storage sites are a good option when space on your property is lacking. As storage sites are generally renowned for having less break-ins and thefts, this will have a positive effect on the premium you pay. Please be aware that not all storage sites are as safe as they claim to be. When searching for a site, it’s advisable to check the site’s security and be sure that it has the following in place as a minimum standard:
Reputable motorhome storage sites will have public liability insurance and owners’ liability insurance, which may cover you if there is a fire or flood but are unlikely to cover accidental damage to your motorhome.
We recommend considering a CaSSOA site for motorhome storage. CaSSOA sites are rated bronze, silver, and gold, depending on the level of security and service available, and on some sites, they can hold up to 500 vehicles.
It’s important to be honest about where you intend to store your motorhome when you get an insurance quote. If you say it’s parked on your driveway, you won’t be covered if you park on the public road outside your home.
Motorhomes under 25 years old are likely to be fitted with an immobiliser and possibly an alarm. Factory-fitted immobilisers are tricky to bypass as they’re often integrated into the ECU (Engine Control Unit). However, the basic motorhome security devices are always fitted in the same place, meaning they’re easy for thieves to locate.
If you’re looking at buying a motorhome which is valued at £50,000 or more, you will need to have a tracker fitted. Trackers should always be fitted by an expert and a copy of the installation certificate is needed, for insurance purposes. If the motorhome is stolen, a tracker will send a signal to a control centre, pin-pointing the vehicle’s location, making is easier to recover. Some insurers will only accept Thatcham approved trackers for motorhomes, so this is worth bearing in mind when shopping around.
As with buying a car, the options are pretty much the same.
Buy from a dealer: Buying a motorhome from a reputable dealer is likely to be the best option for both new and used motorhomes, as they are likely to come with a warranty to give you that extra peace of mind. Look for specialist dealers with approval from a trading body such as the National Caravan Council. You can also check out a dealership’s reviews online, to read about other people’s buying and aftersales experiences.
Buy at a show: Shows and exhibitions are also good places to buy a new motorhome. You can often get some of the best deals here, as dealers and manufacturers are competing for business. The only downside is you may end up purchasing from a dealer who is located miles away from where you live, and if there is a problem post-sale, then it may be more costly and time consuming to resolve.
Buy online: You can pick up some bargains online, but when buying a second-hand motorhome from an auction site like eBay, you should do so with caution. If something seems too good to be true, the likelihood is that it probably is. Do not part with any money until you have physically seen the vehicle.
When buying a pre-owned motorhome, we recommend following our checklist which highlights some of the things you should look for, regardless of the buying route you choose to go down.
Check service and MOT history: There should be a detailed history of all the services, MOTs and recent advisories the vehicle has had. MOT checker online is an easy way to check the MOT history, by simply keying in the vehicle’s registration number.
Check the registration documents: Ask to see the V5C logbook. Check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) against the information in the V5C. The VIN, also referred to as the chassis number, serves as the vehicles unique fingerprint, as no two vehicles in operation have the same VIN. A VIN is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) and can normally be found in places such as the underside of the bonnet or the inside of the driver’s door. Check for continuity, particularly if you are looking at a conversion; the DVLA should be informed about conversions.
Check for signs of damp: Look out for perished rubber around windows, doorways and roof hatches, and evidence of mould or mildew. Another sign of damp is staining on cushions and mattresses. Strange smells or odours, and “spongy” flooring could also indicate the vehicle has a damp problem.
Check gas and electrics: Check the operation of all gas equipment and ask to see a copy of the most recent electrical inspection certificate. Electrics inspections should be carried out annually if the vehicle has done high mileage. It’s also worth asking when the motorhome last underwent a habitation check. Although not a legal requirement like an MOT, habitation checks can identify fire hazards, ventilation, water and gas systems issues, as well as problem areas like damp and electrical faults. Some insurers may ask if your motorhome has undergone a habitation check. While a habitation check is not a compulsory requirement for insurance purposes, it proves it’s being adequately maintained, which in turn could mean that in the event of a total loss of your motorhome, your claim payout is not adversely reduced. If nothing else, habitation checks offer reassurance that everything is in good working order. Make sure you have the instruction manuals for built-in appliances.
Check kitchen sink and shower: Look under the kitchen sink and check the pipework to ensure joints have no leaks. The same applies to the shower and sink in the bathroom if the motorhome has either. Also check the bathroom for mould, damp, or any areas that may not have been properly sealed.
Check the Tyres: Tyres should be the correct size for the wheel rims and should be matching. They should also be appropriate for the maximum weight and speed of the motorhome. This article from Michelin explains all about motorhome tyres. Check the tread depth. The current legal requirement across the UK and Europe is 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tyre. Inserting a 20p into the tread grooves can help to determine if they are within the legal limit. If you can't see the outer band on the coin, the tyres are above the legal limit. Tyre age is also something else you should check. This information can be found on the sidewall of each tyre and is represented in the DOT code. The DOT code is a series of numbers, of which the 4 last digits represent the age of the tyre. In the example below the last four digits are 1423. Pay attention to cracks and bloating, which will also mean the tyres need to be changed. Having to replace tyres is one expense you’ll probably want to avoid.
Carry out an external check: Look for dents or damage to the body. Look for any mismatched paintwork as this might be a sign of a botched repair job or evidence of DIY modifications. This is important as any modifications made to the original structure can nullify insurance, if not declared. Check the exhaust for any signs of damage.
Check the windows and doors: Ensure windows and doors close properly and can be locked. You need to know you’ll be able to lock up without issue.
Take a test drive: One of the best ways to see how a motorhome runs is by taking it for a test drive, if this is something the seller allows. Not only will you get a feel for its size and handling, but you’ll also get the opportunity to pick up on driving faults and listen out for strange engine noises. If a test drive is not available to you, be sure to ask lots of questions and look under the bonnet. If you know someone who is good with vehicle mechanics, take them along with you for a second opinion. You also want to make sure that the base vehicle is mechanically sound.
With motorhomes being much larger than standard cars, the risk of accidental damage is also much greater. Thankfully, we’ve been supporting motorhome owners for over 40 years, so we know a thing or two about your insurance requirements. We work with leading UK insurers such as AXA, LV and Ageas, to provide feature packed motorhome insurance and optional extras, such as RAC breakdown insurance, to give motorhome owners peace of mind that they’ll be in safe hands should the worst happen.
For further details on the motorhome policies we have on offer, visit https://www.lifesure.co.uk/per...
Base Vehicle - The donor vehicle that provides the foundations for any motorhome or campervan conversion. Common base vehicles are VW Transporters and Mercedes Benz Sprinters for campervan conversions, and Fiat Ducato or Peugeot Boxer for motorhomes.
Belted Seats - The number of seats fitted with belts and therefore safe for travel.
Cab - The driving area of a motorhome or campervan with a driver and passenger seat, sometimes called the ‘cockpit’. The driver’s seat is sometimes called a ‘captain’s chair’ and both may swivel to face the habitation area, where the cab is not separate from the living quarters.
Cassette Toilet - A plumbed-in, flushing (electric or manual) toilet with a waste holding tank underneath, known as a cassette, that can be easily removed when you want to empty the contents.
CaSSOA - Caravan Storage Site Owners’ Association. CaSSOA approve motorhome and campervan storage sites across the UK, ensuring they reach a level of accreditation recognised by motorhome insurance companies.
Coach built – This is probably the most popular type of motorhome construction. As its name implies, it is built on a chassis cab, so retains the front cab (usually a Fiat Ducato, or maybe a Peugeot Boxer, Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit or a Renault Master). They are usually wider and better insulated than a panel van conversion.
MRO (Mass in Running Order) – The weight of the motorhome in standard specification and without any personal items loaded (formerly known as the ‘ex-works weight’).
MTPLM (Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass) – the maximum weight that the motorhome must not exceed.
Over cab – The coach-built body that continues over the vehicle’s cab, usually with a bed or storage space.
Payload – The difference between the MRO and the MTPLM. This is the maximum weight of items you can load into the motorhome.
Disclaimer: The sole purpose of this guide is to provide guidance on the topic covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We cannot guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information contained in the external links, which were live at the date of publication.