Owning a motorhome is likely to open up a whole new world of travel – one that allows you the freedom of the open road and the ability to travel under your own steam, whilst all the time having your own home from home in the very vehicle you are driving.
To take full advantage of that exciting new world and to make the most of what is likely to be a quite significant investment, it is clearly important to know just what you are getting yourself into.
The Gap Decaders website has listed 20 good reasons for owning a motorhome and enjoying the freedom, adventure, outdoor life and friendships that ownership can bring. To be fair, they also found 10 downsides to that argument – and not least was the cost in buying your first motorhome and the relative lack of space even within more luxurious models.
The pros and advantages in owning a motorhome most definitely win out – though to be doubly sure, you might want to hire, or borrow a friend’s vehicle, for a week or two before committing to your own make and model.
Here are some considerations before you take the plunge. Of course, if you have any questions or queries, please feel free to contact us – we’d be delighted to help.
Choosing your motorhome
Whether you have arranged first-hand experience or are simply browsing the online catalogues and specifications, you will soon learn that motorhomes come in all shapes and sizes – with prices to match.
Choosing the one best suited to your particular needs and requirements is obviously important, but, given the sheer range of different makes and models, is likely to be bewildering at first and need a good deal of research.
Some of that might be gleaned from friends or colleagues who already own a motorhome or your researches on the internet. But for an up-close and personal, first-hand experience, think about visiting a major dealer and distributor at their own exhibition space – or, from the comfort of your own home, browse our website to see the latest motorhome options.
New or second hand?
When you have narrowed down your search for the suitable size, sleeping accommodation, make and model, you need to consider whether you want to buy new or second hand.
Once again, many specialist dealers offer the advantage of having both types on display – and are constantly on hand to offer advice on the relative merits of new versus older models of any motorhome you have in mind.
Buying from a motorhome dealer
The distinct advantage in buying – new or preloved – from a reputable dealer is the security and peace of mind you will have in getting a motorhome that has not only been thoroughly inspected, tested and serviced, but also comes with the dealer’s warranty and the specialists to whom you might turn if anything goes amiss post-sale.
Buying privately second-hand
If you are looking at a private sale of a used motorhome, you need to beware, of course, of simply taking a shot in the dark and trusting to nothing more than hope that you are buying a reliable and well-maintained vehicle.
Examine the detailed service history of any used motorhome you are thinking of buying, together with its MOT certificates and, of course, the registration document (which must demonstrate the DVLA’s approval of any conversions).
One of the problems with used or older motorhomes may be condensation – and the accumulation of moisture, damp, and mould – so, make sure to check the interior with a moisture meter.
More detailed checks, suggested in a guide published by the Caravan and Motorhome Club, suggest that you:
- check that all the gas equipment works – even if that means taking along a spare cylinder to any viewing;
- if a mains electricity hook-up is installed, ask to inspect the latest electrical safety certificate – these should have been issued regularly;
- are the tyres the correct size and specification for the vehicle? Do they need replacing because of their age – they might look fine, but need to be replaced at least every five years;
- lift up mattresses and cushions to look for any evidence of damp underneath them;
- inspect under the sink and look at any joints around pumps and fittings for evidence of any leaks; and
- make sure that the wooden tops supporting the beds continue to take their weight and that fold-down equipment, such as tables, stand firm and stable.
Your driving licence
The government website makes clear that any motorhome you drive in this country must comply with UK size limits and you must have the relevant driving licence.
Your eligibility for a licence to drive a motorhome depends on your age and the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of the vehicle – namely, the weight of the motorhome and its maximum permitted load.
Your regular car driving licence (Category B) is likely to qualify you for driving the majority of motorhomes – especially if you have held your driving licence since before the 1st of January 1997, because you are then also qualified to drive what are now Category C1 vehicles (those with a Maximum Authorised Mass, or MAM, of between 3.5 and 7.5 tons – practically any type of motorhome except for the largest of American Winnebagos).
The Camping and Caravan Club draws attention to an important consideration for drivers approaching the age of 70, the risk of losing automatic entitlement to drive a Category C1 vehicle, when you come to renew your driving licence, and the need to ask your GP to complete the relevant medical declaration on your behalf.
Care for your motorhome
Whether you bought it new or second-hand, your motorhome is likely to cost you a significant amount of money. You will want to look after that investment, therefore, by taking good care of your motorhome.
As with any motor vehicle, safety comes first – and this means ensuring that your motorhome remains completely roadworthy, in accordance with the law. If you are circulating the vehicle in anything like an unroadworthy condition, be sure that it will soon attract the unwelcome attention of the police – and you stand to face stiff penalties.
To keep on the right side of the law, therefore, you must ensure that your motorhome receives regular mechanical servicing and maintenance.
But your motorhome is more than just a vehicle, it is also your second home, so servicing and maintenance also needs to take care of the many appliances, fixtures and fittings invariably included in today’s motorhomes. A habitation service is just as important as the mechanical service.
An article in Practical Caravan explains that an annual habitation service can involve as many as 50 separate checks and jobs, which are typically divided into five main categories:
- the electrics;
- gas systems;
- water systems;
- bodywork; and
Ventilation might seem to be an odd heading under which to conduct service checks. But some of the particular vulnerabilities of a motorhome are likely to feature the twin problems of mildew and mould.
Not only are these unsightly and damaging to the inside of your caravan, they are also dangerous to your health – yet once they have taken hold, they are notoriously difficult to treat or to banish – prevention, therefore, is many times better than cure.
Your new motorhome
Beginning a life of new adventures with a motorhome is exciting. The challenges facing any newcomer, however, are fairly easy to overcome – especially if you are open to advice from the experts and specialists in the business and the wider community of motorhome owners.