Motorhome FAQsPlease let us know of any further topics you would like to see covered here.
What is a motorhome - How is a motorhome is defined?
Types - What different types of motorhome are there?
Driving Licences - What driving licence is required to drive a motorhome?
Terms - What do the terms and abbreviations mean?
Toilets - How do motorhome toilets work?
Buying - What should I be aware of when buying a motorhome?
Training - Is training available to help me drive a motorhome?
Seatbelts - What are the requirements for seatbelts in a motorhome?
Servicing - What sort of servicing is required?
Speed Limits - What speed limits apply to motorhomes?
MOTs - What sort of MOT do motorhomes need?
Road Tax - What road tax is payable, in the UK, and if I travel abroad?
TV licence - Will I need a licence for the TV in my motorhome?
Overnight parking - Are there laws on where I can park overnight?
Storage - Where can I keep a motorhome safely?
Towing - What are the rules on towing with a motorhome?
Tachographs - Do I need a tachograph?
Tyres - What do I need to know about motorhome tyre pressures?
Type Approval - What is Type Approval for motorhomes and how does it affect me?
LEZ - How does the London Low Emission Zone affect motorhomes?
Hosepipe ban - Can I fill my motorhome water tank when there's a hosepipe ban in force?
What is a motorhome?
Although the term motorhome is very widely used, it is not officially recognised in the UK as a vehicle type. The legislative term used in the UK is motor caravan.
Under the European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA) scheme a motor caravan is defined in the Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) Manual for Vehicle Category M1 (Passenger Vehicles) as follows:
A special purpose M1 category vehicle (vehicle having 8 or less passenger seats) constructed to include living accommodation which contains at least the following equipment:
- seats and table,
This equipment shall be rigidly fixed to the living compartment. The interpretation applied to this definition is as follows:
Seats and a Table
• Are required to be an integral part of the living accommodation area, and mounted independently of other items.
• Must be an integral part of the living accommodation area.
• That are an integral part of the vehicle living accommodation and is mounted independently of other items.
• Storage facilities must be provided by a cupboard or locker.
The above requirements apply to new vehicles.
For conversions, or the import and registration, of existing vehicles the DVLA has to make an assessment as to whether the construction of the vehicle meets the criteria required to justify registering it as a motor caravan.
VOSA have produced guidance documents to assist in this assessment:
See also details of recent changes to the DVLA policy on reclassifiying conversions as motor caravans here.
[Updated Feb 2013 - change to C1 test]
A question often asked is 'Can I drive a motorhome on my car licence?'
If your motorhome is over 3.5 tonnes MAM but does not exceed 7.5 tonnes you will need to hold a driving licence that includes category C1 entitlement. If you passed your car test before 1.1.97 you will have C1 on your licence. If your licence does not include category C1 you may not drive a motorhome that exceeds 3.5 tonnes until you have passed the C1 driving test..
An amendment to the EU Driving Licence Directive requires that the test for vehicles of category C1 should be adapted to the different characteristics of the vehicles falling under this category. This should mean that there is a different test for drivers who require C1 solely for leisure purposes. For example it would not be necessary to demonstrate knowledge of legislation that applies only to commercial drivers. The change is required to be implemented by the end of 2013, the Driving Standards Agency have told us that they hope to consult on the changes in May 2013.
If your motorhome exceeds 7.5 tonnes you will need a Category C (HGV licence).
A common misapprehension was that, as a motorhome is not a 'goods vehicle', you could drive any size on a standard car licence, this is not the case. The DVLA have confirmed that the licence requirements apply to all vehicles.
As we understand it, when renewing a C1 entitlement (over 3500kg up to 7500kg) at age 70 and above, you need to send a Medical Examination Report (D4) that has been filled in by a doctor. You will need to do this every 3 years.
The fee charged for the medical is up to the doctor, but it doesn't have to be done by your own doctor.
If you don't want to take the medical (or don't pass it!) an alternative is to have your motorhome downplated so that it is certified to operate at 3500kg. Before considering this you must check that your motorhome weighs no more than 3500kg when loaded with everything you need, once downplated it will be illegal to operate it at over 3500kg. If you want to downgrade, which may have other advantages but bear in mind that you will have to pay more road tax, contact SVTech for details.
The Directgov website has a useful article on driving licence requirements and size regulations as they relate to motorhomes here.
There has been some concern than new legislation means that some motorhome owners will have to take an additional driving test.
We asked the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) to comment on the introduction of the driver Certificate of Professional Competence and the implementation of the EU Third Driving Licence Directive. We are are indebted to Nigel Lawson and Martin Russell from the Agency, for their help in answering our questions (Feb and June 2008):
Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC)
What does that mean?
Confused by the terminology? We'll try to help, some commomly used terms are listed below - If you come across a term you are not familiar with let us know and we'll add it to the list.
Aire - The most commonly used term for official motorhome parking or service points in France, may also be refered to as Aire de Service, see our article . Be aware that motorway service areas and rest stops are also called Aires, or Aire de Repos.
Air-rides - Proprietory name for spring assisters fitted to the rear axle, said to improve handling characteristics
Black Water - waste from toilet holding tanks
Cassette toilet- A very common type of toilet where the waste is held in a removable container, which you carry to a CDP to empty, see below for more details on toilets.
CC - Caravan Club
CCC or C&CC- Camping and Caravanning Club
CDP - Chemical Disposal Point, for emptying toilets
CL - Certificated Location, small sites often on farms, that are limited to 5 caravans or motorhomes, open to CC members only. The Motor Caravanners' Club also use this designation to identify sites approved by them, usually open open to all motorcaravanners.
CS - Certificated Site, as above, but open to CCC members only
FSH - Full service history
Grey Water - waste water from sinks & showers
GVW - Gross vehicle weight as marked on the vehicles VIN plate. It means the maximum amount the vehicle and all its contents can weigh. Now usually referred to as MAM or MTPLM. It is illegal to operate a vehicle in excess of the maximim weight marked on the VIN plate.
LWB - Long wheelbase
LPG - Liquified petroleum gas, comes in two types: Propane, good for all season use; butane, no good in the winter as it won't produce gas below 0°C
MAM - Maximum authorised mass, see GVW
Marine toilet - Toilet with a fixed waste holding tank, see below for more details on toilets.
MCM - Motorcaravan Magazine, a popular magazine for motorhomers in the UK
MHM - Motorhome Monthly, a popular magazine for motorhomers in the UK
MIRO - Mass in running order. For motorhomes this is the mass of the unladen vehicle plus a 75kg allowance for the driver, plus an allowance for engine coolants, a full fuel tank and water and gas tanks at 90% capacity. It would normally be available from the motorhome manufacturer.
MMM - Motorcaravan, Motorhome Monthly, a popular magazine for motorhomers in the UK
MTPLM - Maximum Technically Permitted Laden Mass, see GVW
MVWP - MotorVan Waste Point, a road level dump point for motorhomes with on board grey or black water holding tanks
PAS - Power assisted steering
Payload - The weight of the extra items that you can carry in the motorhome after an allowance has been made for driver, passenger, water, fuel, gas and certain other essentials.
PMH - Practical Motorhome, a popular magazine for motorhomers in the UK
PIR - Passive infra-red, security device that detects heat sources
RV - Recreational Vehicle, used in the USA to mean any type of camping vehicle, often used in the UK to refer to the large American motorhomes
Silver Screens - Proprietory name for insulated covers for the cab windows
SOG - A forced ventilation system for cassette toilets, see below.
TD - Turbo Diesel. The engine is fitted with a turbocharger which uses energy from the exhaust to power a turbine which forces extra air into the engine air intake. This gives an increase in power. Many diesels are fitted with a turbo as standard, those without can be fitted with them by specialist companies.
Top Box - A, usually plastic or fibreglass, storage box fixed to the roof of a motorhome
Zig - Proprietory name of a company that produces caravan and motorhome electrical equipment, often taken to refer to a mains powered charger for the motorhome 12V battery
Cassette toilet: A fixed toilet in the motorhome with a removable box (cassette) to hold the waste. Some types have a built in water tank for the flushing water, others use the onboard water tank. The cassette is accessed from outside the motorhome and is carried to a disposal point for emptying. This is the most common type to be found in motorhomes.
Portapotti: Is a portable self contained toilet, usually in two parts, the top part comprises the bowl and incorporates a tank for the flushing water, tho bottom part is a removable waste tank that is carried to a disposal point for emptying.
Marine toilet: Is a fixed toilet that is connected to a fixed waste tank in the motorhome, flushing water is usually from the onboard tank. As the waste tank is fixed you have to drive to a ground level disposal point for emptying which is accomplished by opening a valve and allowing the contents to drain out. This type of toilet normally has the largest capacity waste tank and is often to be found in American motorhomes and some European ones.
How can I keep my 'marine toilet' holding tank clean?
Seatbelts and the law
We asked the Department for Transport for their interpretation on the law as it applies to seatbelts fitted in motorhomes, this article gives the essence of the information that they gave us.
The information below relates to the fitting of seatbelts and the wearing of seatbelts by adults. There is specific legislation, introduced in 2006, concerning the carrying of children in vehicles. Rather than trying to present all the somewhat complicated regulations here, please see: www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Yourchildshealthandsafety/Roadandtravelsafety/DG_10037077
For vehicles built up to Oxtober 2007 there was no legal requirement to have
seat belts fitted to side-facing seats or seats that make up the accommodation
area in motor caravans.
Seats in the rear of a campervan/motorhome did not, prior to October 2007, require seatbelts (whether forward, rearward or sideways facing) and it is not illegal to carry unrestrained passengers in them while travelling, providing the vehicle is not overloaded. It is not something we would recommend, however.
Although current seat belt wearing regulations do not prohibit
carrying more passengers in vehicles than there are seat belts available,
the police may prosecute drivers for carrying passengers in a manner
that may injure someone. [see legislation extracts below]
An EU Directive (2005/40/EC) on the installation of seat belts required that from 20 October 2007 new vehicles have to have seat belts fitted on all seats except those seats intended solely for use when the vehicle is stationary.
The original advice given to us by the DfT was that, where seat belts are fitted, from May 2009, the seat belt wearing Directive would prevent more passengers being carried than there are seat belts in the rear of vehicles. This would have meant that from May 2009, in any vehicle of whatever age, where seat belts are fitted in the rear, more passengers may not be carried in the rear than there are seat belts available.
They now tell us:
"There will be no change in the regulations in May - our lawyers tell us that is not necessary because the existing regulations already adequately deal with the requirements of the seat belt wearing Directive. Our earlier view that we would need to change the regulations was mistaken."
"Seat belt wearing regulations cannot apply in seats where seat belts are not fitted. Therefore there can be no specific prohibition on using such seats even if other seats in the rear of the vehicle have seat belts fitted. Specifically, the regulations exempt passengers from using a seat belt if a seat belt is not "available". If all the seats with belts are already occupied, then seat belts are clearly not "available" and the remaining passengers can use the seats without belts."
The advisability of carrying unrestrained passengers is another matter, to quote the DfT spokesman:
'... the police can already act where people in the rear of any vehicle are considered to be carried in a dangerous manner because they are unrestrained. [Owners] should beware of unbelted passengers. In a crash, they can injure others in the vehicle ...'.
In addition to considering the legal and safety issues involved, owners who intend to carry passengers in unbelted seats must check with their insurers to confirm that this is acceptable to them.
Our advice is that, regardless of the letter of the law, all passengers should wear seat belts.
Extract of relevant additional legislation relating to the carriage of passengers:
Road Traffic Act 1991 Section 40A:
A person is guilty of an offence if he uses, or causes or permits another to use, a motor vehicle or trailer on a road when—
(a) the condition of the motor vehicle or trailer, or of its accessories or equipment, or
(b) the purpose for which it is used, or
(c) the number of passengers carried by it, or the manner in which they are carried, or
(d) the weight, position or distribution of its load, or the manner in which it is secured,
is such that the use of the motor vehicle or trailer involves a danger of injury to any person.
The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986
(1) A motor vehicle, every trailer drawn thereby and all parts and accessories of such vehicle and trailer shall at all times be in such condition, and the number of passengers carried by such vehicle or trailer, the manner in which any passengers are carried in or on such vehicle or trailer, and the weight, distribution, packing and adjustment of the load of such vehicle or trailer shall at all times be such, that no danger is caused or is likely to be caused to any person in or on the vehicle or trailer or on a road.
MOTs for motorhomes
There is sometimes confusion, even within the MOT trade, over the type of MOT test that motorhomes are subject to. Motorhomes are registered with the body type 'motor caravan', in the past this description was applied quite loosely but recently the DVLA and VOSA have been more rigid in aplying the regulations. In fact anyone registering a change of vehicle type after carrying out a conversion, or registering an imported motorhome, is likely to be required to have the vehicle checked at a VOSA Testing Station before DVLA will issue a new registration document.
We asked VOSA about the regulations that apply to motorhomes, as far as the MOT test is concerned., with particular reference to motorhomes with garages, or other storage areas. The issue being that some Testing Stations were insisting that such motorhomes were 'Living Vans' and as such, if over 3500kg GVW, require a Class VII MOT test every year from new.
The matter has now (17/11/06) been resolved by VOSA who state that it is up to the motorhome owner to declare if goods are to be carried, when submiting the motorhome for an MOT test. If a declaration is made that goods are not carried the Testing Station should accept that the vehicle is a 'motor caravan' and that a Class IV test is appropriate.
Details of our discussions with VOSA can be found here
What road tax (VED) should I be paying?Virtually all motorhomes with a revenue weight (equivalent to gross weight, MAM or MTPLM) of 3500kg or less should be taxed in the PLG category, all motorhomes with a gross weight of over 3500kg should be taxed in the PHGV category. Many VW Californias have been classified as 'Diesel Car' instead of PLG - see our Motorhome Road Tax page for more information.
Do I need to pay UK Road Tax if I'm travelling in Europe?
As we understand it for all EU countries, all visiting vehicles must be road legal in their country of registration, which effectively means that you must have a current UK Road Tax disc and a current MOT Certificate. This may also be a requirement of your insurance company.
The Caravan Club runs a limited number of motor caravanning courses, which are held mainly in the winter. They are designed for participants who are contemplating buying a motor caravan for the first time, or who have very little practical experience. Non-members are welcome. For further information, call the Club on 01342 336808.
The Camping and Caravanning Club also run Motorhome Manoeuvring Courses. Call them on 0845 130 7412 or see their website for more details.
It's important to have your motorhome properly serviced. This will certainly be a condition of any warranty that you have, and full service records will be a great asset when you come to sell your motorhome, not to mention the safety aspects of ensuring that all the equipment is operating as it should.
The base vehicle should be serviced in accordance with the manufacturers instructions, and the accommodation part also needs an annual check over. The converter may well have a service schedule which you need to adhere to in order to maintain the warranty, and you may in fact need to take the motorhome to a workshop approved by the manufacturer whilst the warranty is in force.
The National Caravan Council (NCC) produde a checklist, used by the members of their Approved Workshops Scheme, to indicate the checks that are carried out in an annual habitation service check. We have their permission to reproduce the checklist to help owners understand what is involved. The checklist can be found here. Bear in mind that this is only a 'check', it does not involve servicing of any appliances or equipment.
Motorhome Speed Limits
For speed limits in mainland Europe the Caravan Club have produced this useful table: European Speed Limits (PDF 75.4kb).
In the UK motorhomes are subject to the same speed limits as private cars, unless they exceed 3050kg unladen weight, or they are classed as 'living vans' which are subject to goods vehicle speed limits:
VOSA's definition of 'unladen weight' is:
'The weight of a vehicle inclusive of the body and all parts which are ordinarily used with the vehicle when working on a road. Unladen weight does not include the weight of water or fuel used for the propulsion of the vehicle, or of loose tools and loose equipment.'
We take that to mean, in the case of motorhomes, the weight of the bare vehicle, without any posessions, portable equipment, water, gas, etc. Many motorhomes with a GVW of 3500kg or less will have an unladen weight of less than 3050kg, but if you are in doubt about the unladen weight of your motorhome you should get the figures from the motorhome manufacturer.
See our page on motorhome speed limits for further information on UK limits.
Do I need a TV licence?
If you have a licenced TV at your home and you watch or record TV programmes on an additional TV in a touring caravan or vehicle, or a boat, you do not need a separate TV Licence; you will be covered by the TV Licence for your main residence.
If the television in use in a motorhome is the only or main television then a licence will be required. These can be registered using the registration number of the vehicle and an address of a designated site (a permanent address or, most likely, the pitch which is used most regularly). For those people living and travelling in their motorhomes who don't have a regular pitch, a postal address where mail is received, such as an accommodation address or PO box can be used.
Can I sleep in my camper when it's parked on the road or in a lay-by?
It's very difficult to give a straightforward answer, the problem is that many bits of legislation may apply, including the Caravan Sites & Control of Development Act, and more recent legislation covering gypsies and travellers. As a motorhome or campervan is classed in law as a 'caravan', sleeping in it may be regarded as 'human habitation' which is covered by the Caravan Sites & Control of Development Act, we have a resume of the requirements of the Act in our Motorhome Stopovers section here. Other than that, as far a we have been able to discover, there is no specific UK legislation which would make it illegal to sleep a vehicle at the roadside.
Our interpretation of the law is that you cannot 'camp' on land in England & Wales (the law may be different in Scotland and N. Ireland) without the permission of the land owner. As far as the highway is concerned (this includes lay-bys) the land owner is normally the local authority.
However, whether you are moved on or not will depend on the attitude of the local authority or the local police. Our opinion (and it is only an opinion) is that you are unlikely to be moved on if: The vehicle is not causing an obstruction (but remember that there is no 'right' to park any vehicle on the road); there is no specific local by-law prohibiting overnight parking or sleeping in vehicles; you are not in the same place for more than a day or two.
Having said that, we don't encourage overnight parking other than at official sites (sometimes known as 'wild camping'), however we know that many people prefer it. Anyone considering it must be aware of the risks involved, and must have a responsible attitude to the local environment and other users of the location. As the old saying goes: 'Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs'. We know of several locations formerly used for overnight parking, that have been lost to all motorhome users because of the irresponsible actions of a minority.
For what it's worth, during our 28 years of ownership of campers and motorhomes we have never been moved on from any lay-by or roadside stopping place in the UK - but we only use them as an overnight stop on a long journey.
Many countries in Europe have networks of approved stopovers for motorhomes and there are moves to establish a similar provision in the UK. Some councils are starting to make provision for overnight stays by motorhomes, see this page for more information.
I've bought a motorhome, but I don't have room to keep it at home
You probably need to find a secure storage site, to satisfy your insurers. Have a look at www.cassoa.co.uk , they are a nationally recognised body providing an official register of safe and secure storage sites. They have a list of sites on their website. Alternatively, some campsites offer long term storage, you could try any that are local to you, just be sure that any site you choose is acceptable to your insurance company.
What sort of trailer can I tow?
If you hold a standard car licence that was issued on or after 1/1/1997 it will have a category B entitlement, meaning that you cannot drive a motorhome with a MAM of more than 3500kg:
In order to drive a motorhome (up to 3500kg MAM) and trailer combination outside the above limits you will need to pass a B+E test.
If you hold a standard car licence that was issued before 1/1/1997 it will have a category B, C1, B+E and C1+E entitlement, meaning you can drive a motorhome of up to 7500kg MAM:
How can I tow a car behind my motorhome?
Our view is that the safest method is to use a purpose designed trailer. There
are devices known as A-frames which allow a car to be towed directly, the
manufacturers of these devices will assure users that their use is legal.
For the Department for Transport's official view see this Note.
Does my motorhome need a tachograph?
Having heard from some owners of motorhomes with a GVW of over 7.5 tonnes that they had been told by VOSA that their vehicle must be fitted with a tachograph, we asked the Department for Transport for clarification of the legislation. The following summary has been agreed by the DfT as representing an accurate interpretation of the legislation:
For a motorhome (i.e. a vehicle with the Body Type recorded as 'Motor Caravan' on the V5C and fully fitted out as a motorhome) of any GVW there is no requirement for a speed limiter to be fitted, there is no requirement for a tachograph to be fitted (or if already fitted, to be used), and drivers hours regulations do not apply. In all cases, provided that the vehicle has less than 9 passenger seats and that the vehicle is not used for carrying goods.
'Living Vans', also 'Motor Caravans' of over 3500kg GVW used for carrying goods (for example traders who use their motorhome for carrying stock) are subject to goods vehicle regulations.
What should my motorhome tyre pressures be?
The only way to be sure that you are using the right pressures is to get the information from the tyre manufacturer themselves. Any vehicle-specific information is only going to be a general guideline and may not take into account the type of tyres fitted and the actual loading. Some tyre manufacturers have this sort of information on their website.
You will need to get the individual axle weights of the vehicle when it's loaded as you would normally have it for travelling, then go to a weighbridge and note the weight on each axle, most operators don't charge if you don't need a weight ticket. Armed with the axle weight you'll need to either look up the tyre manufacturers website to see if they have pressure info available, if not you'll need to contact them directly.
There is a very useful booklet about motorhome tyres, with some guidance on pressures for various tyre sizes, downloadable from the TyreSafe website: Motorhome Tyres
What is Type Approval and how does it affect motorhomes?
[Last updated August 2012]
Motor Caravans are in the M1 Special Purpose category, manufacturers have had the option, since 29th April 2009, to submit their models for Type Approval. From 29th April 2011 it has been mandatory for all NEW types of motor caravan to be Type Approved, and from 29th April 2012 it has been mandatory for manufacturers to have obtained Type Approval for all EXISTING types of motorhome still in production.
The Department for Transport have produced (in July 2012) a brief guidance document about Type Approval and motorhome conversions or imports, you can download it here: http://assets.dft.gov.uk/publications/dft-information-sheets/motor-caravans.pdf
Modifications to Type Approved motorhomes
Many owners may wish to carry out modifications to their motorhomes and have concerns about invalidating the Type Approval. We asked the Department for Transport to comment:
"In the UK we do not have a concept of invalidating type approval - or at least, it could only be invalidated BEFORE registration with DVLA. After a vehicle is registered, type approval is "spent". HOWEVER - that does not mean you can do anything of course - you have to comply with Construction & Use Regulations, Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations and all other applicable requirements."
However, in some cases the regulations explicitly lay down more stringent requirements for vehicles that have been Type Approved, we are aware of two such specific cases:
Towbars, which must themselves be Type Approved for fitting to a Type Approved vehicle.
Electronic equipment added to a Type Approved vehicle must comply with EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) regulations. It must be approved and "e-marked", or CE marked if it is not associated with control of the vehicle. For example Sat nav, TVs, DVD players, radios and so on need a CE mark (which they almost certainly would already have anyway) if they are connected to a vehicle power supply.
We specifically asked about the question of MTPLM upgrades on Type Approved motorhomes and it was confirmed that "... upgrading the MTPLM (gross weight) of a vehicle has no effect on the type approval and does not "invalidate" it."
How does the London Low Emission Zone affect motorhomes?
The LEZ applies only to diesel engined vehicles constructed on or after 1st January 1973. It does not apply to petrol engined vehicles nor to diesel motorhomes of less than 2500kg GVW.
How it affects other diesel motorhomes depends on the Euro standard of the engine, see our London Low Emission Zone page for more details
Can I fill my motorhome water tank when there's a hosepipe ban in force?
The restrictions on the use of hosepipes is officially known as a Temporary Use Ban and includes: 'Drawing water, using a hosepipe, for domestic recreational use.'
We consulted with Thames Water and they have advised us as follows:
"The definition of domestic recreation use is:
a) recreational use in connection with a domestic swimming or paddling pool or on land that is used or enjoyed in connection with a building, or part of a building, used principally as a dwelling, other than for the purposes of a business;
b) recreational use on land that is used or enjoyed in connection with a building …used principally as a dwelling….
Therefore it will be possible to fill a motorhome or caravan water tank using a hose during the Temporary Use Ban. "
Basic buying advice for choosing a motorhome
If you are completely new to motorhomes, the best advice is to look at as many different types as you can, there is no substitute for seeing a motorhome 'in the flesh' - they often look quite different to the pictures in magazines and manufacturers promotional material. The best places to see lots of motorhomes in one place are the motorhome shows that are organised around the country, we have a list here.
A very good book, almost 'essential reading' for anyone considering buying a motorhome, is Go Motorhoming, written by Meli George and Chris Doree. It's full of useful information and even 'old hands' will learn from it. Complementing this is a new (2008) book from John Wickersham, The Motorcaravanning Handbook. It has a much more technical bias.
If you want to get the feel of a motorhome before spending a lot of money, try hiring one. Check out the hire listings in our Directory for a company near you.
A motorhome, whether new or used, is a sizable investment. In addition to being a motor vehicle, it's a home. For many people, it's the second-largest purchase they will ever make. It's important to remember that whichever motorhome is selected, it probably will not be the last one purchased. Just as needs related to permanent housing change as a family changes, motorhome-related needs also change. Obviously, this article will not give the definitive answer to all of your questions, but perhaps it will provide the information needed to begin your search.
The first question many people who have never purchased a motorhome ask is
about the cost.
Another frequent question is what size motorhome is needed. Buying a motorhome
is similar to purchasing a suit: You should purchase the one that fits you.
A size 52 suit is not the best purchase for a person who wears a size 44,
even if they both cost the same.
Sit on the couches, are they comfortable, do you hit your head on the cupboards above? Is there space for a TV if you want one - can you see it easily from the seats? Decide if the layout will suit your lifestyle, some people like room to sprawl, others prefer to sit more upright
Several types of sleeping arrangements are found in motorhomes, you need to
decide which one is for you. Many have an over-cab sleeping space, but some
people find this claustrophobic - make sure that you can get up and down easily
and that there is sufficient headroom if you like to sit up in bed. Most motorhomes
have some beds that are made up from a seating area - pretend to make up the
bed to find out how easy it is and whether all corners can be reached easily.
Some people prefer a fixed bed that can be left made up in the daytime, but
you need to bear in mind that this may take up valuable space. The 'drop-down'
bed often found in A-class motorhomes can give you the best of both worlds,
a permanently made bed that is simply lifted out of the way during the day.
Make sure that you pull it down and push it up again to check how easy this
is. Climb into the bed, is it easy to get in and out, can you sit up in the
No matter how small a kitchen is in a stationary home, it's probably larger than the one in a motorhome. Buyers must ask themselves what kind of meals they will prepare in this kitchen. Many pre-owned motorhomes feature ovens that have never been used. Many continental motorhomes have no oven or grill fitted. Perhaps a simple microwave or combination microwave-convection oven is sufficient if you intend to use electric hook-ups most of the time. If not, conventional ovens and other kitchen appliances are available to be retro-fitted. Make sure the galley has adequate storage for both the food that will be prepared and for the utensils and crockery that will be used to prepare it and serve it. Is there a spot big enough for the largest pan or portable appliance that will be used? Pretend to prepare a meal, is there enough room to cook whilst others are sitting in the seats? Do the drawers and cupboard doors work easily yet have some provision for not coming open as the motorhome is driven?
Motorhome owners seem to fall into two categories when it comes to bathrooms. Some like large bathrooms, while others prefer to have the extra space utilised elsewhere in the motorhome, because of the relatively small amount of time spent in the bathroom or the fact that they always use the on-site facilities. Keep in mind that the water heater probably will hold only a few gallons, while the one at home will have a much greater capacity. Thus, frugality with the hot water may be essential. Obviously, the same is true when using the shower. Whichever style of bathroom is chosen, make sure it fits the your lifestyle and physical body. Take off your shoes and stand in the shower to see whether 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.
The test drive
When test driving a motorhome, it's a good idea to take it on a selection of road types of roads. It's unlikely that any motorhome will handle the same as a family car, but if you feel that it's too cumbersome, it will not be used as much as it should. Make sure the mirrors can be adjusted for good visibility. If vision to the rear or side is a problem, cameras and additional mirrors to minimize this problem are available and can be installed at any time. Also, make sure the co-pilot has a chance to drive the motorhome before purchasing it.
Ask the seller what the motorhome weighs. Ideally you should know the weight carried by each axle and compared them with the weight ratings given on the vehicle's VIN plate. If the seller doesn't know this information you should ask if the vehicle can be taken to a weighbridge for checking. If you find that your motorhome is overweight it may be possible to have the chassis upgraded on some models by specialist companies. An overloaded motorhome can be unsafe and illegal to operate. If the motorhome is empty, remember that water, fuel, tools, food, clothing, people, and all of the other things that go into most motorhomes will weigh hundreds of kilogrammes. The power, acceleration, and handling of the motorhome during a test drive may change once the vehicle is fully loaded. If possible, talk with other owners about their experience with the same motorhome.
If the motorhome being bought from a dealer, check the terms of any warranty.
Check to see whether the manufacturer is still in business. Although parts
such as pumps, water heaters, and windows are often made by various manufacturers
regardless of motorhome brand, parts such as body mouldings, trim pieces etc.
can be difficult or impossible to locate if the motorhome manufacturer is
no longer in business.
When owners are asked for a one-sentence summary of what they tell their friends
to do when contemplating the purchase of a motorhome the following advice
comes up time and again:
Remember, there is a new or used motorhome for just about every budget and every family. It just takes some time to find it.
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