The great day has come. As the proud new owner of a motorhome, you’re ready to embark on your very first trip!

It’s worth curbing that natural enthusiasm for just a moment or two longer to carry out a few helpful “pre-flight checks” and check over your travel plans for once you’re on the road. For the purpose of these few tips and suggestions, let’s assume that you’ll be staying within the UK for at least your first foray or two.

Eventually, and with experience, you’ll almost certainly discover that the time well spent on these pre-outing preparations become second nature and practically automatic.

To give you some idea of the importance of getting the packing, stowing, and last-minute preparations right, the website Wandering Bird has devoted several pages to the subject – and if you’d rather watch than read, there is even a self-explanatory video to accompany their article.

As a rule of thumb, the checklist is likely to feature all or some of the following.

For example, have you:

The vehicle

  • checked that everything inside is correctly stowed and secured – get it right to avoid spending a potential fortune later if things go wrong, suggests a piece written by the Gap Decaders;
  • walked around your motorhome and inspect it from the outside to be sure that everything appears to be where it should;
  • made sure that all the mechanics and internal fittings are working correctly;
  • disconnected all gas supplies (disconnection is not always quite as straightforward as it seems, so you might need to follow the manufacturer’s specific advice on that one);
  • checked that all your electrics – the vehicle’s external system for signalling and lights and internal illumination) – are OK;
  • remembered to confirm where you stand in relation to any need for a TV licence – broadly speaking, if your normal place of residence will be empty while you’re away or nobody will be using the TV there, your motorhome TV should continue to be covered. But if someone else back home will be using the TV there (your grown-up kids might have stayed behind, for example), you may need a separate licence for your motorhome’s appliance;
  • packed a good toolkit;
  • included some emergency lighting and reliable, fully-charged torches;
  • made certain that you have a good first-aid kit available that is within its “use by” dates;
  • taken some sort of sensible heating with you or verified that anything built-in will be adequate – as any native will know only too well, that might be important even at the height of a British summer, so it’s certainly worth checking;
  • made sure the appropriate water reservoirs have been filled;
  • included all your electrical and plumbing connectors;

The adventure

  • double-checked the location of your site and the reservations you have made there – this is doubly important if your first trip happens to coincide with a bank holiday or any school holiday periods, and especially at a time when staycations have become so popular within the motorhome community;
  • planned your route carefully – whether you use satnav or good old-fashioned maps, this is important since you won’t want to discover low bridges or impassably small access tracks only for the first time when trying to reach your site by that scenic route;
  • planned a route that avoids as many towns and village centres as possible – old narrow streets and large motorhomes can be incompatible with public harmony and tranquillity;
  • checked that your insurance is valid and up to date – which it probably is, though always good practice to check such an essential before you set off;
  • got maps to hand – even with a satnav on board, having a big-picture old-fashioned map, opened in your passenger’s lap, is sometimes invaluable when the electronic device just doesn’t seem to be making sense or you need a quick decision;
  • practised with your vehicle beforehand – if you’re still a novice, or with motorhomes in general, learning for the first time as you set off on trip number one might not be the best idea, so instead, take your new motorhome somewhere quiet and safe, like a supermarket car park when it’s closed, and practice your basics like reversing and parking before you load up and set off;
  • brushed up on the best practice rules of the road for motorhomes – manoeuvres such as attempting to overtake lorries and getting stuck in the outside lane because your motorhome can’t quite make it can quickly lead to difficulties and dangers. You can also invest in a motorhome manoeuvring course to build your confidence.

Daunted by this seemingly long list of tips and suggestions? Don’t be intimidated by it. As we have said most of it will become second nature after your first couple of excursions so, enjoy what will be the first of many – it’s a great moment to celebrate.

The term “auto-sleeper” (or auto sleeper) is sometimes used to mean motorhomes in general or at times, specifically campervans. They are also, however, a renowned English manufacturer of campervan motorhomes that we at Derby Motorhomes are proud to sell.

Here, we’ll interpret auto-sleeper as a generic term referring to any kind of motorhome or campervan and offer some thoughts and suggestions about buying one.

Our approach is along the line of “top motorhome buying tips” – and we’ll take the liberty of assuming that you are completely new to all questions related to motorhomes or auto-sleepers.

Some first principles

Here are the basics, as we see them:

The most suitable auto-sleeper for you and your travels

  • think carefully about what you expect to get out of the experience when using your vehicle on holiday;
  • so, ease and convenience plus low running costs might immediately spring to mind and that might steer you towards a smaller and more compact campervan;
  • but then ask yourself what happens if your grandchildren want to come with you one long weekend – all of a sudden that campervan might seem to be the small side of “compact”;
  • from most angles, we’ll remain pretty much in the dark on this score since the answers to the questions are about your dreams, ambitions and how they will affect the choice of the most suitable vehicle for you;

Review your finances – carefully

  • no list of tips and suggestions about buying a motorhome would be complete, of course, without a word on the hot topic of money;
  • after your house, your motorhome is likely to be the single biggest expenditure you’ll undertake in your lifetime;
  • once again, there’s little specific we can say here other than for you to be certain you’re taking into consideration the running and maintenance costs of your auto-sleeper, as well as its purchase price;
  • incidentally, don’t assume that paying cash is necessarily the most suitable option either – at Derby Motorhomes, we can introduce you to a range of finance companies that offer all the options you might want to consider, from loans, to hire purchase, and even personal contract purchase (PCP);
  • you can find out more on our blog: Motorhome financing options;

Consider your own driving experience and comfort zone

  • almost anyone can learn to drive even the largest motorhomes safely and your standard driving licence – the one you use to drive your car – is typically sufficient;
  • for chapter and verse on your eligibility for driving any particular motorhome, though, you might want to consult the advice on the relevant government website;
  • that’s not to say that everyone wants to drive the biggest possible auto-sleeper – instead, be sure that you select a size of vehicle that you and if relevant, your partner, would both be happy driving;

Think about your expeditions

  • choosing a small campervan might be ideal for a couple or people with a young child or two, irrespective of the journey distance;
  • as we grow older, though, many of us prefer a little more space and comfort – one or two nights in a restricted space might be fine but not if we’re going to be living there for perhaps two weeks at a time;
  • so, if you have lots of long-distance explorations planned around Europe and the UK, you might want to incline towards vehicles that are slightly larger, better equipped, and more comfortable;

Take advice on new versus used

  • you may be surprised to discover that, unlike most cars, motorhomes tend to hold their value very well – so, don’t expect vast reductions on say a two-year-old model against a new one – but we’ll be happy to help you think through any issues about that;
  • of course, if you’re buying second-hand from a private individual, do please make sure that you’re qualified to assess the vehicle and adopt all good security practices to protect your financial interests.

When all’s said and done, you’ll discover that there are some really beautiful motorhomes and campervans out there. Given the amount you’re likely to be spending, it only makes sense to spend time researching the main makes and models – their upsides and any downsides – before you set your heart on any particular one.

Once again, of course, we’d be only too happy to offer some general awareness-raising advice in that area if you wish. Why not contact us to find out more?

As one of the country’s leading motorhome dealers, we’re often asked for our tips and suggestions about choosing and then using a motorhome.

Here are just a few of the pieces of advice we have offered over the years – and which you, too, might find useful.

Take the time to choose a motorhome that’s appropriate for you

Finding you’ve purchased a motorhome that’s just too big or too small – or whatever its fault – can be a serious annoyance and potentially a poor use of your money. So, just remember that nine times out of ten there is absolutely no need to rush.

So, take as long as you need to evaluate the market and to choose one that’s right for you and your life circumstances. Of course, we make no secret of the fact that we’d love to assist you in that!

Think carefully about how you plan to use your motorhome and where

We’d be the first to insist that motorhomes are truly flexible and adaptable vehicles. Nevertheless, some of the smallest camping sites in remote, rural and or especially wild locations well off the beaten track may be difficult to access if you choose one of the larger or heavier motorhomes available on the market.

The Almost Wild Campsites selected by Cool Camping may give you some idea of the wilder side of adventures in your motorhome.

If you really like getting off the beaten track, then a smaller vehicle might be more practical.

Involve your family in the decision

Given the size of the financial outlay almost certainly involved, you probably wouldn’t even dream of spending the money without consulting your partner or spouse – plus, perhaps, even your adult children.

We’d go one step further by suggesting, in one of our top motorhome travel tips, that you engage those others in the detail of your motorhome too – such as the choice of different interior layouts and vehicle powertrains.

Further reading: Buying the right motorhome.

Consider driver-training and breaking yourself in gently on trip number one

You need to be sure that you have a licence that will permit you to drive the motorhome you’re thinking about. The government’s website containing advice from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is the place to start, of course, but if you’d like further help about what that all entails, by all means, please contact us and we’ll happily explain.

Even if your licence is fine, some basic familiarisation training would be highly advisable – and it’s typically not so expensive.

Finally, even if you’re experienced with motorhomes, almost every vehicle handles and performs differently from another. It’s perhaps a good idea to make your first trip in your new motorhome a short one to to learn its handling characteristics.

Plan a few journeys based largely around bigger roads and motorhome parks with good access and turning facilities. Don’t test your close manoeuvring and reversing skills in a tiny site on your very first trip!

Don’t skimp on motorhome insurance

Your motorhome, its accessories, and all your camping gear will be expensive.

As with almost all forms of insurance, the cover provided by one policy might be significantly different to that offered by another. It’s not a question of being better or worse but simply which one will be suitable for you, your motorhome, and the way you plan to use it.

For that reason alone, you might want to avoid choosing the cheapest insurance policy but instead spend some time researching which motorhome insurance offers the most cost-effective cover for the level of protection you need.

Head over to our motorhome insurance guide which discusses how to choose the most appropriate insurance for you as well as covering the need for GAP insurance and breakdown insurance.

Research the road rules when going abroad

Over the last 30-40 years, most road rules have more or less converged in the EU.

However, not all the road rules have and some, to unaware UK drivers, may come as a surprise. Although no shocks are anticipated in the immediate future, the UK’s departure from the EU might result in greater divergence in the respective rules of the road between the two places. Two examples of lingering divergence are the “priority to the right even if a minor road” and some old “priority to vehicles that are joining the roundabout” systems which are still fairly widely found in France.

Even if you know these from car driving, remember that your braking distances will be longer in a motorhome because it’s a heavier vehicle.

As always, the bottom line of any advice on driving abroad is to research in advance the road systems in the country you’re heading off to in that new motorhome! Further reading: Taking your motorhome to Europe.

Whether you are the proud new owner of a motorhome or a seasoned old hand, you almost certainly share a particular and important concern – and that is the need to insure your motorhome.

Motor insurance

Motorhome insurance is not just a recommendation; it is required by law the moment you take the vehicle onto the roads or drive it in any other public space.

The minimum legal requirement is for third party insurance. The reason for this minimum standard is simple – so that you have insurance to guarantee compensation to other road users or members of the public whom you injure or whose property you damage. Third party insurance, therefore, offers protection to those who suffer any loss because of your driving but in no way protects against loss or damage to your motorhome.

A modicum of additional protection may be provided by very basic motorhome insurance cover for third party, fire, and theft insurance – which adds some protection against the loss of your motorhome through fire or theft.

For the security of protection for any motorhome you might think about buying from us here at Derby Motorhomes you are almost certain to need the full insurance cover. And that means cover against all manner of theft, loss, and accidental damage – afforded by comprehensive insurance.

Although there are many potential providers, you might want to insist on arranging your cover with a specialist motorhome insurance provider who is going to understand the specific needs of a motorhome owner.

Security

Comprehensive cover may also be needed because of the sheer value of your motorhome and its vulnerability to theft, attempted theft, and break-ins.

That, in turn, makes security of your vehicle of paramount importance – to you and to your insurer.

An article in Out and About Live on the 23rd of September 2020 considered the wide range of security devices and systems designed to hinder or prevent the theft of your motorhome itself and its equally valuable contents. When adding further security to your motorhome, always ensure that any components have received the Thatcham seal of approval and certification – an organisation that sets the benchmark in vehicle security.

There are currently five distinct categories of security equipment – from electronic alarms and immobilisers to vehicle trackers to aid the tracing and recovery of stolen motorhomes.

Whatever categories of security demanded by your motorhome insurers – or categories which earn valuable discounts on the price of the premiums you pay – here at Derby Motorhomes we have the experience and expertise to advise you on ways of meeting those standards (which are already likely to have been met by any vehicle we supply).

Valuations

It is essential to have an accurate and up to date valuation of your motorhome and its contents for insurance purposes. The total sum insured is the maximum amount any insurer is obliged to pay out in the event of a claim, and you want to make sure it is sufficient for the repair to any damage or the replacement of your motorhome if it is a total loss.

Once again, our expertise and experience here at Derby Motorhomes may help you arrive at a realistic and up to date valuation of your motorhome and its contents.

Who’s driving?

As with any type of motor insurance, your motorhome insurance also needs to account for the number and identities of those who are covered to drive.

The most comprehensive coverage is given by policies that cover any driver, but you might choose to restrict driving to named drivers only or even to yourself alone in order to gain further discounts on your premiums.

Excess

Your motorhome insurance may already incorporate a compulsory excess which is payable in the event of a successful claim, but you might opt to accept a further voluntary excess in return for cheaper premiums.

No claims discounts

Just as with the insurance for the car you drive, motorhome insurance typically offers valuable discounts on the price of your premiums if you remain claims-free from one year to the next – remember to make sure that any no claims discount to which you are entitled is reflected in your quotation or renewal notice.

GAP insurance and other insurance cover

Finally, remember that there are additional types of insurance you may wish to consider for your motorhome such as GAP Insurance (which  covers a shortfall in value if on motorhome finance), motorhome warranty, breakdown cover,  and travel and health insurance.

Spring is already upon us – or just around the corner at least. Camping and caravanning sites all over the UK are opening again for business. It’s high time, therefore, that you get your motorhome ready for the season ahead!

Here are a few tips from Derby Motorhomes about things you can be doing right now – or in the near future – to prepare your motorhome in anticipation of the good weather to come.

Internal safety

Perhaps the most important thing is to check all of your gas appliances and installations for any indications of deterioration over the winter. Depending upon the nature and sophistication of your equipment, it might be highly advisable to get professionally qualified assistance in doing so.

You should also carefully check all of your ventilation and venting systems. They can sometimes get blocked by pests and some other forms of infestation. A guidance note published by the Caravan and Motorhome Club stresses the importance of adequate ventilation in your motorhome.

While you are inside, make sure that all the seat belts are working smoothly and correctly.

Check and test any smoke and CO/CO2 detectors, together with the vehicle’s anti-intruder alarm.

Finally, you should also thoroughly inspect all your electrical installations – once again calling on the services of a specialist if necessary.

Mechanics

Have a measured and attentive walk around your vehicle, looking for any obvious signs of problems.

Some of the giveaway symptoms may be familiar – and haven’t changed that much in years. If you see any indication of oil patches on the floor, mysterious oil where it shouldn’t be underneath the engine or around the wheels, it’s time to get it to the garage. Damp and rust patches should also be quickly investigated.

Check the vehicle’s lights and signalling equipment to make sure everything that was working well at the end of last season is still doing so today.

Ultimately, the only way to thoroughly test your vehicle is to take it out on the road. Your first drive after an extended period parked-up should be done at a quiet time, with Sunday afternoons being a fair bet.

Under controlled and entirely safe conditions – an empty car park, for example – test your breaking, reversing, horn, and instrumentation. Thoroughly inspect the tyres and check them not only for the legal depth of tread but also for bulges, discolouration, or indications of uneven wear.

You must check the tyre pressures, too, before you take your vehicle out on the road for its first test drive before the start of the season.

Comfort and services

Water systems are amongst those things that can, sometimes for little obvious reason, cause trouble after the off-road season. You might find it helpful to review the discussion on motorhome water systems that was published by Out and About Live on the 27th of July 2020.

So, make sure you check taps, drains, WCs, showers, and water tanks, close by the comfort and convenience of your own home. If anything isn’t working, then it’s better to find out in that environment rather than when you’re away using your vehicle on your first trip of the season.

You can also check things such as your internal lighting, heating, and any recreational equipment you have had fitted.

Summary

Assuming that your vehicle was parked up at the end of last season in good overall condition, there is absolutely no obvious reason why it shouldn’t be in good working order for the start of the new season. Although that assumes, of course, that you took the appropriate closed-season storage steps.

Even so, spending an hour or two in some of the above basic checks and tests may ensure your safety and help to avoid the frustration of discovering glitches when you’re out on your first significant journey of the year!

If you are thinking about getting a motorhome, here are some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) we receive about the subject.

Can I drive a motorhome on an ordinary driving licence?

This is probably one of the most common questions we are asked here at Derby Motorhomes.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, thankfully, the answer is quite simply “yes, you can”. The exceptions largely relate to the weight of the motorhome you want to drive, how long ago it was that you passed your driving test, and your current age.

Essentially, anyone with a full driving licence for a car can also drive any motorhome up to 3,500kilos of Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) or the weight of your vehicle when it is fully loaded. To drive a motorhome with a MAM of more than 3,500kilos, you will need to have passed your test before 1st January 1997.

Note that if you’re over 70 years of age, you will need a medical examination if the vehicle weighs more than 3,500kilos.

To double-check your eligibility to drive any particular motorhome, refer to the date on which you took your driving test, your current age, the weight of the vehicle in which you are interested and cross-reference to the official government website.

Can I import a supersize motorhome from the USA?

This is another question we are often asked – and it might be inspired by all those road-based TV shows and films from across the pond!

Once again, the simple short answer is “yes you can import such a motorhome” (or RV as it will be called in its native country) – but be prepared for it proving to be a most expensive business.

More seriously, US motorhomes will need an “EU certificate of conformity” in many cases and some may not be road-legal in the UK without significant modification.

Also bear in mind that if you do import an RV, you may have difficulty with parking spaces when you use it, due to its size.

Do motorhomes need an MOT?

Once your motorhome is more than 3 years old – just like your car – it will need an annual MOT test.

There’s nothing special about it apart from the fact that some MOT testing stations might not be big enough to accommodate larger motorhomes.

Can I take my motorhome abroad?

Indeed, you can.

It’s one of the big attractions of this type of leisure holiday because the world becomes your oyster. In fact, many EU countries have arguably more and better facilities for casual motorhome parking than you might typically find in the UK.

Make sure your vehicle is fully legal on the road and that your motorhome insurance is up to date and valid for EU cover.

You may also need additional documentation such as an international driving permit and Green Card post-Brexit.

Pay particular attention to the fact that many motor insurance policies have a maximum number of consecutive days outside the UK or the maximum number of permissible days in total throughout the year.

If you are considering taking your motorhome outside of the European Union, plus those countries that are associated with it such as Norway and Switzerland, the position may be a little more complex.

First of all, you may be faced by the fact that your motor insurer requires the payment of an additional premium for such extended cover.

Secondly, some countries outside of Western Europe and the EU may have quite different rules of the road and particular requirements and rules governing the use of motorhomes.

If you are thinking about taking your motorhome to places in the Middle East, North Africa or countries in the far eastern parts of Europe, such as Russia, you might want to pay particular attention to government travel advice.

Is Brexit likely to make a difference to taking my motorhome abroad?

At the time of writing, the exact implications of Brexit for UK drivers taking vehicles abroad are unknown – with any specific requirements still to be determined.

However, most sources suggest that there will be no significant change to the current position even after the UK has formally left the European Union.

If I buy a motorhome second-hand from a private owner, are there risks involved?

If you are looking to purchase a motorhome through a private sale – because you’ve seen it advertised online or in the classified ads of your local newspaper, for instance – you need to be aware of the risks you are running.

Just like buying a second-hand car, the seller’s responsibilities after sale are limited – arguably, to the point of being zero.

By contrast, a dealership will have legal responsibilities that are more demanding and some of those will continue after the sale – particularly if they offer warranties, guarantees, or special servicing agreements, and the like.

Of course, you might sometimes find slightly lower prices from a private seller. It’s a question of weighing up all the risks of buying privately against the benefits of buying from a franchised dealer.

How easy would it be to customise my motorhome’s interior?

Assuming that you have the tools and equipment required, changing the layout of the interior of your motorhome can be relatively straightforward. However, it’s necessary to pass on a word of warning.

Firstly, be aware that there may be certain regulations governing health and safety of things such as electrical and gas fittings. Changing those about, as an amateur, might contravene regulations and be dangerous – not to mention the extent to which it will probably invalidate your insurance cover.

Secondly, buyers are typically inclined to be suspicious of DIY-type modifications to the interior of motorhomes. In fact, many dealerships remove all such modifications in order to get the vehicle back to its manufacturer’s standard in situations where they have purchased one that has been modified.

Of course, there are specialist organisations and workshops who will modify the interiors for you – if you require a more professional job to be done.

I have heard that parking at home can cause disputes

This is often very significantly over-stated and problems over parking your motorhome at home are rare.

We would suggest that there are basically five issues you need to think about in advance:

  • your local council might ban on-street parking for safety or environmental impact (if you live in a conservation area, for example);
  • the same might apply in rarer cases for on-driveway parking – this is usually again related to concerns about the appearance of the local area;
  • it’s possible your deeds or lease might be subject to covenants prohibiting the parking of motorhomes or caravans on driveways – although these may not always be enforced or even known about by potentially affected neighbours;
  • your motorhome insurance might have restrictions on where you can park at home – on-street parking, for example, might be excluded while some policies might also require that your motorhome is parked in a garage (at your home or on an approved site) when it is not in use.

Typically, though, finding somewhere to park your motorhome is not a common cause for concern, providing a little common sense is used in advance.

Is it easy to sell a motorhome?

This is another question we are often asked – together with related enquiries about the extent to which a used motorhome may hold its resale value.

Broadly speaking, there is a significant demand for pre-used motorhomes. As a result, they typically hold their value well – particularly when compared to conventional motor cars.

It is rare indeed for any motorhome to appreciate in value so, it is best not to look upon it as any type of financial investment. There might be some exceptions, such as if you’ve significantly improved or enhanced your motorhome – but generally they depreciate. In other words, it will typically be worth less when it is 7 years old than when it was brand new.

However, typically motorhomes depreciate far more slowly than the typical car. In that sense, they hold their value well. Of course, a lot depends upon things such as the condition of your vehicle, its age and mileage plus where you are selling it.

Although you might typically anticipate a higher value by selling to a private buyer, the delays in finding someone can be longer on average than if you’re selling to a dealership or using it as part-exchange.

Remember to be careful and adopt all “best practices” to protect your interests against fraud if you decide to sell to a private individual.

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

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.

Looking for and buying a new motorhome is exciting. It can be great fun and just looking at the models on offer can really whet your appetite.

You’ll be spending a significant amount of money. Understandably, you’ll want to avoid making any errors in deciding eventually what motorhome to purchase. Of course, it is entirely up to you what motorhome you eventually choose to buy – it isn’t up to us or anybody else to tell you what is the most suitable motorhome for you.

But we do believe that it’s our primary duty is to offer you objective advice and guidance as you go through the process of selecting a motorhome. So, here are a few motorhome buying tips to help you get started. They’re based on the assumption that you’re new to motorhomes rather than a seasoned veteran of many such purchases and also that we’re discussing new rather than pre-used vehicles.

Preparatory work

Signing the bottom line for the purchase of a new motorhome is not difficult.

What’s important is the preparatory work before getting your pen out. Here we examine some of the key points, including one or two that are sometimes overlooked in the excitement of such a large purchase.

Research

Sometimes reviews of makes and models of motorhome can be difficult to interpret if you’re unfamiliar with the appropriate terminology. The same can even apply to some of the more technical motorhome buying tips.

Take some time, therefore, to thoroughly research and read-up on motorhomes, their main components and the sometimes specific language used to describe them.

No manufacturer or dealership is likely to publish negative reviews on their website about their services or a vehicle they’ve sold. Thankfully, there are plenty of unbiased and objective review sites online. Use them to check out what real buyers have thought of the vehicle you’re considering and, if possible, the post-sales service standards of the dealership.

Once you’re up to speed, look at those reviews of given models to check things such as:

  • reliability;
  • comfort;
  • driving ease;
  • running costs;
  • power/performance (this isn’t about speed, it’s about how easily the model will cope with hazards such as steep hills when fully loaded);
  • the flexibility of configuration (your requirements may change between one trip and another).

Take advice

There are specialist and generalist motorhome dealers.

The difference is usually visible in terms of whether they have the odd motorhome for sale amongst lots of other vehicle types or are clearly dedicated to motorhomes as a business. Typically, the specialists will be able to offer more focused and broader-based advice than a generalist might be able to.

Think carefully about your needs and requirements

Think about your recreation plans in general. It goes without saying that they are almost certain to be based around mobile holiday concepts and the great outdoors. However, you’ll need to think about:

  • whether this just you and your partner primarily or whether you intend to invite others (e.g. children, grandchildren, relatives, friends) to join you? That makes a big potential difference in terms of the size and configuration of the motorhome you might select;
  • your destinations. Even if you won’t ever have others with you, if you plan to use your vehicle regularly and over very long distances say around Europe, having a larger and more spacious vehicle might make more sense than opting for a smaller one; and
  • do you prefer preparing food yourself or do you see that as a chore to be avoided in favour of restaurants when on holiday? If the former, you might choose a motorhome with a top-of-the-line specification kitchen.

Here are some of the additional questions you might want to ask yourself before firming up any decisions:

  • just how often and over what sort of distances and durations, you think you might want to use your motorhome;
  • how your requirements sit with regards to the distribution of space between the driving cab and lounge areas;
  • how many berths you will require on a typical use basis;
  • your views about the running costs of the various models;
  • whether or not you are comfortable driving larger as opposed to intermediate or smaller motorhomes;
  • the level of equipment you need. Some motorhome owners like to have the ultimate in comfort and equipment whereas others prefer a slightly more camping-type experience with more modest equipment levels;
  • how much you would normally like to take with you, in terms of clothes and other possessions, when you are setting off on a trip. If that might seem a strange question, it is, of course, related to balancing things such as additional berths versus larger storage units in the motorhome; and
  • your preference for the driving experience. The engines in motorhomes and the driving seat/instrument configurations can vary significantly from one chassis to another. Some may suit you well, others perhaps less so.

The above list is far from comprehensive but it’s illustrative of how we like to get to know our potential customers so we can play a productive part in helping them to make the right choice.

Clarify your finances in advance

One of the major additional considerations is your budget.

A significant number of motorhomes are purchased outright using cash. You might have been fortunate enough to pick up a lump sum through something such as an inheritance, a pension lump sum, an unexpected windfall and so on.

However, you may wish to think carefully before spending your disposable cash in this fashion. Once converted into a motorhome, remember that your money will start to depreciate, and you also may not be able to access it quickly or cost-effectively if you need it for an emergency.

So, invest some time in planning your motorhome finance before starting to look at those vehicles and their purchase deals.

It’s often advisable to think more roundly about your finances and to look at a number of options including motorhome finance provided by a specialist. Having, for example, a hire purchase agreement in principle in your pocket might strengthen your negotiating position with dealerships.

If you plan to buy your motorhome with the help of finance (which we can help you with), how much you will be able to comfortably afford each month by way of repayments. That will also highlight the importance of your credit rating.

Typically, questions about financing your purchase fall into two broad categories:

  • understand what you can afford in terms of purchasing cost and if you’re opting for motorhome finance, how much you can comfortably repay each month; and
  • do your sums on the annual running costs of any particular vehicle you may be interested in buying. Make sure your budget includes the cost of trips in your motorhome – you’ll want to get the maximum use out of your new vehicle.

Check the depreciation

Different models may have significantly different depreciation curves. That is essentially showing how much their value from new will reduce over the years ahead.

The good news is that, typically, new motorhomes tend to hold their values well when compared to most standard motor cars. Even so, there may be variations in that depending upon the make and model you select, so this is something that is useful to know in advance.

Don’t underestimate extra comfort

It’s often worth spending what might be relatively modest extra sums to provide you with a few optional extras or even a model upgrade if it helps make the motorhome feel more like a true home-from-home.

Don’t over or underestimate your required space

There is an entire science behind estimating just how much space you will be comfortable within your motor home. The answer, of course, it varies from one buyer to another.

There are many guides that are worth consulting to try and make sure you don’t end up with a vehicle that is too small for your comfort or so large that you don’t feel easy about driving it.

Inspect, view and test drive the model of motorhome you’re interested in

It can be risky to base such a large purchasing decision on an inspection of a model a dealership tells you is “fairly close” to the one you have in mind. After your own house, of course, a motorhome is likely to be the second most expensive purchase you will ever make.

You wouldn’t normally decide to purchase a property unseen based on a viewing of one that was vaguely similar many miles away, so don’t be tempted to do the same where a motorhome is concerned.

Consider a basic familiarisation course

If you’re unused to driving a motorhome, it can be slightly intimidating initially. For example, even with modern all angle cameras in the cab, reversing can be an acquired art.

Many dealerships will be able to recommend a quick overview, familiarisation and manoeuvring course – such as those offered by both the Caravan and Motorhome Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club. It might be an idea to take one in advance of deciding on a specific purchase, as it might even influence your final choice of vehicle.

Summary

The most important of all motorhome buying tips is – take your time and avoid rushing. Getting a good fit for your situation, needs and requirements is imperative.

At Derby Motorhomes we can help you with your decision so that you find the right motorhome for you. Call us today on 01332 360222 to see how we can help!

Although winter might bring some days of unexpected sunshine, this is probably the time of year when you are thinking about putting your motorhome into some form of storage. The days are getting noticeably shorter and the clocks will be going back anytime soon, so you might be using your motorhome less often as the weather closes in.

So that your motorhome stays in peak condition, protected from the elements and other wear and tear, here are some tips and suggestions as you prepare the vehicle for winter – so that it is ready to use come springtime.

As you prepare to winterise your motorhome, bear in mind that your motorhome insurance policy may spell out certain obligations as to what you need to do when storing your motorhome. Some may also offer discounts if you store your motorhome at a recognised storage site – speak to your insurer for clarification.

Insurance considerations, for the moment, to one side, let’s consider the main areas of focus before you store your motorhome away for winter:

Storage

One of the great things about a motorhome, of course, is its versatility and the way it is more or less always ready to get out on the road for excursions even during the winter months. Depending on your lifestyle and the type of motorhome you own, however, you might prefer to think in terms of more secure, off-road storage.

The Caravan and Motorhome Club has 3,000 such pitches at various secure storage sites around the country and many of these are also accredited by the Caravan Storage Site Owners’ Association (CaSSOA) – where the level of security and safe-keeping might even earn you a discount on your motorhome insurance premiums.

Preparation

Whether you decide to winterise your motorhome by putting it into storage or keep it on your driveway ready for sunnier winter interludes, now is the time of year to give it some pre-winter care and maintenance:

  • wash and clean off the summer’s dust and debris before giving the whole vehicle a good wax – to provide that extra layer of protection that helps preserve the bodywork’s sheen;
  • remember that your motorhome needs to “breathe” when it’s not in use – air vents need to be kept open to prevent damp and mould – so avoid covering the vehicle with any type of tarpaulin;
  • lubricate mechanical parts on the exterior of your motorhome, including the door hinges – this will also help repel moisture and reduce corrosion;
  • check the tyre pressures and inflate them to the recommended working pressure, but remember that the rubber is going to deteriorate faster if the weight of the vehicle is kept on the same tread for too long – better to raise the vehicle on axle-stands to take the weight off the tyres;
  • carefully check the state of all seals around doors and windows, making sure that the rubber has not perished or become damaged – this is one of the most common sources of ingress of water, which may quickly cause very costly, longer-term damage; and
  • if there is evidence of any water ingress, make sure to trace and remedy the problem.

Mechanical

Although a full mechanical service may wait until nearer the time you next use it, prepare the motorhome for its period of storage by changing the oil and consider adding a fuel storage stabiliser (to combat corrosion and prevent the build-up of gum and varnish deposits).

Here at Derby Motorhomes, we advise against the temptation to turn over the engine by starting it too often, since this is likely to circulate the acids and sludge that accumulate in the system. If you do start it, however, make sure to run it for at least half an hour.

An altogether better solution is simply to disconnect and remove the battery, charging it regularly – perhaps with a solar trickle-charger, as advertised by suppliers Maplin.

Interior

Give the interior a thorough cleaning, too – not simply for appearances’ sake, but also to help prevent a build-up of damp or to deter pests. Food and crumbs that have accumulated during summer outings present an irresistible treat to mice and other pests during the winter months. So, remove all food from the fridge, clean the inside thoroughly and leave the door ajar.

A quick checklist of further good housekeeping points for the interior of your motorhome includes:

  • draining down all water systems and blowing compressed air through the pipes to ensure that every last drop has been expelled;
  • this is an essential precaution, since any water that freezes in cold weather may burst not only the pipes and storage tanks but also the fittings;
  • disconnect and remove the auxiliary battery or batteries for storage in a dry place where they will not freeze and remember to keep them charged since cold weather shortens their effective working life;
  • disconnect and remove any gas (butane or propane) cylinders and store in a safe and dry place;
  • take out all the bedding and soft furnishings, wash or dry clean it and store it indoors at home.

Ventilation

One of the trickier issues is maintaining ventilation – to discourage the spread of damp and mould – whilst at the same time weather-proofing those openings to prevent insects and other pests from getting in.

Larger ventilation portals, for example, might be covered up with plastic or polythene which is simply taped into place.

Awnings

Ensure that any awnings have been thoroughly dried so that they can be rolled up and put away until they are needed in the spring or summer.

Checks

Whether it is sitting on the driveway at home, or in more permanent storage, visit your motorhome from time to time and, if possible, take it out for a drive, to help even out wear on the tyres that have been bearing the weight of the vehicle for all this time.

Regularly check tyre pressures, oil, brake, and clutch fluids.

Ready for the next season

A little care now, as you winterise your motorhome, may help to ensure it is ready for another season of faithful service come the springtime.

Take to the wheel of any motorhome and the freedom of the open road is all yours. Take to the wheel and drive your motorhome in Europe and that open road is practically boundless.

Whatever time of year you are proposing to go, a little advance planning and attention to what you need to take with you may save heartache – not to mention disaster – further down the road.

So that your adventures on the continent run smoothly and with as little unwelcome incident as possible, however, here are some of the factors to keep in mind – from the planning and paperwork, to preparation of your motorhome, to driving in Europe.

Planning

Whether you have a fixed destination in mind or are planning for a magical mystery tour to wherever takes your fancy on the day, beware of overly long and tiring hours behind the wheel.

In other words, always plan plenty of pitstops along the way – and that means during the day as well as any overnight stops to sleep.

Your motorhome will be taking the strain, but also needs to be fully fit to do so. In that case, remember to plan an early visit to a servicing agent – ourselves here at Derby Motorhomes, perhaps, especially if yours is an Auto-Sleepers motorhome.

Paperwork

It’s important to have all the documents and paperwork you need to take with you.

Since some of these might take a while to arrange, it is worth getting them together in good time. Include the following in your checklist of documents:

Driving licence

  • at the time of writing, it is still unclear exactly whether the 1st of January 2021 is likely to arrive with a no-deal exit – but either way, after that date when travelling in Europe you will need to have your up to date UK driving licence with you at all times (one that qualifies you to drive your current motorhome, of course);

International Driving Permit

  • similarly, it is an open question whether you will need an International Driving Permit after the 1st of January 2021 – but it seems highly likely that you will;
  • you can visit the Government website for the most up to date information but probably the easiest place to get one is the Post Office, where you will need to show your driving licence (and a passport, if your licence is the older, paper type), a current passport-standard photograph, and the pay the £5.50 fee;

Motor insurance

  • as breakdown recovery service Green Flag explains, a minimum of third party insurance is obligatory throughout Europe, so you need to keep your insurance certificate with you at all times – having checked with your insurer that your policy covers you while driving in Europe;
  • you might also want to upgrade any minimum third-party cover provided by your motor insurer when driving in Europe to your normal, fully comprehensive cover;
  • also, ask your insurer for a “green card” showing proof that you meet the insurance standards required in the countries through which you will be driving;
  • the AA for one, suggests that both an international driving licence – whether you are driving your own vehicle or renting one – plus a green card confirming your insurance details are almost certain to be required in Europe after the 1st of January 2021;

Passports

  • even in the days when you enjoyed freedom of movement within Europe, the best means of identification for you and each of your passengers was your passport – post-Brexit, of course, passports are going to be essential and you may even need a visa to visit countries within Europe;
  • follow the news about any changes to the requirements – and remember that passports and visas invariably take quite a time to arrange.

Finally, don’t forget to take proof of ownership of your vehicle.

Preparation

Preparing to take your motorhome to Europe means making sure that your motorhome is ready for the adventure – and that it carries the equipment and any accessories that will be needed by law as you drive through European countries.

We have already mentioned the importance of a thorough service – inside and out – to ensure that your motorhome is roadworthy and capable of providing reliable and comfortable accommodation for several weeks at a time.

One of the first things you also need to ensure is that a “GB” nationality sticker is fixed to the outside rear of your motorhome – it is required throughout Europe.

Different European countries have different rules about the equipment that must be carried within your motorhome – so check carefully what is required in the countries through which you will be driving.

There is also considerable variation in the local requirements for equipment you need to keep on board:

Hazard warning triangles

  • practically every country requires that you carry a warning triangle, for example, but did you know that in Spain and Croatia you have to carry two;

Reflective jacket

  • for use in similar circumstances, you must also have on board a reflective jacket while driving in Spain, Austria, France, Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia;

First aid kit

  • in Greece, Germany, France, Croatia, and Austria, you must have a first aid kit on board – although it is a sensible precaution, of course, wherever you happen to be driving;

Fire extinguisher

  • a similarly wise precaution is to carry a fire extinguisher within your motorhome – and it is specifically recommended (although not obligatory) in Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, and the Netherlands;

Breathalyser

  • in France, you must also carry a breathalyser kit – although it remains a moot point whether the law is rigorously applied.

These are by no means the only local differences you are likely to encounter in the traffic regulations of the countries you are going to be driving through. The website Caravan Talk mentions several others which you may need to bear in mind. The RAC has also produced an on-board European driving checklist that you may wish to refer to.

Driving in Europe

The rules of the road in some parts of Europe may be different from those with which you are familiar at home. Despite everything you might read about the standardisation of rules throughout the EU, when it comes to local traffic regulations, there are important differences in each member country.

You want to stay on the right side of the law, of course, so before you go it is important to research the rules of the road in every country you are going to be visiting (and those you might need to drive through as the result of diversions or other emergencies).

You might start your researches, for example, by reviewing the list of tips published by the AA.

Some of the greatest variations you are likely to encounter are speed limits in different European countries – especially if yours is a larger motorhome. And don’t let variable speed limits catch you out.

In some countries, the rules may be especially quirky and convoluted, as the AA points out with reference to Spain, for example, where some one-way streets allow parking on the side of the street where houses have odd numbers on odd days of the month – and the side where house numbers are even, on even days of the month;

These are by no means the only local differences you are likely to encounter in the traffic regulations of the countries you are going to be driving through. The website Caravan Talk mentions a number of others which you may need to bear in mind – such as the motorway tax stickers (or vignettes) you’ll need to buy in Austria or the requirements in various countries for the use of snow chains.

Driving your motorhome in Europe expands your horizons, of course, but make sure that you go thoroughly prepared. And, as a final reminder, before you set off on your adventures in a motorhome, just double-check you have all the right documentation.