If you’ve been bitten by the bug, then sooner or later you’ll be thinking about buying a motorhome – whether it’s new or one that’s pre-loved.

Here, we offer our tips about buying a motorhome – together with some thoughts and suggestions about driving it when you’re sitting behind the wheel of your very own home away from home for the first time.

Stating the obvious

Buying a motorhome is exciting! More often than not, it’s a case of a dream come true.

Without wanting to put any kind of damper on that wonderful feeling, the purchase invariably represents a major financial commitment. To state the obvious, you’ll be taking the purchase very seriously indeed – and our following tips are offered in full recognition of that fact.

Research and research again

You might have to rein in the sheer enthusiasm to prevent your eagerness from getting the better of you. Beware of being pressured into over-hasty buying decisions.

Remember, too, that buying a motorhome isn’t just about price and fittings. Many other things need to be considered including:

  • likely fuel consumption;
  • inevitable rate of depreciation;
  • reliability of your chosen vehicle; and
  • ease of re-sale.

You’ll not want to make these kinds of judgements based upon a single motorhome that has attracted your interest and give the necessary considerations just a spare 5-10 minutes of your time. Instead, put some serious time to one side and research the market and your options thoroughly.

How are you going to use it?

It’s highly advisable to sit down and think seriously about how your motorhome will fit into your recreational plans. That might sound glaringly obvious, but a little more thought might show you the value of doing so.

For example, do you see yourself:

  • taking very extended holidays in the motorhome;
  • using it overseas;
  • inviting others, such as family members, to join you on trips at times; or
  • taking a lot of home comforts with you every trip?

These are important deliberations because they might play a big part in influencing your choice of motorhome. For example, purchasing one that’s too small or incorrectly configured in terms of the number of berths might restrict how often you can invite others to join you.

Critically assess your requirements

Try not to be overwhelmed by the huge range of choice that’s available – both in terms of different motorhomes, their fittings, and equipment.

Inevitably, each model will have its pros and cons in terms of how it fits into your requirements. Assessing that isn’t something you can easily do from a zero-knowledge base just by looking around a motorhome or two on a dealer’s site.

For starters, therefore, focus instead on some serious internet research about the models you might have become interested in and take the advice of experienced dealers in motorhomes – such as ourselves here at Derby Motorhomes, of course.

The size and type of motorhome you select should be heavily influenced by your own requirements and capabilities. That is likely to depend on your understanding of things such as:

  • whether you are happy driving a large vehicle or would prefer a modestly sized motorhome;
  • how often you are likely to use it and typically over what distances/durations;
  • whether you have a driveway or garage big enough to accommodate it (remember, some local councils might have restrictions on driveway parking of motorhomes and your neighbours might object too) – if not, is there a secure motorhome storage facility relatively close to you and does it have vacancies; or
  • whether it is going to be used largely by you alone, you and a partner, or you and a larger family.

All these factors – and others like them – need to be clear in your own mind before hitting the showroom trail.

Be cautious about buying small as a default option

Our motorhome buying tips would not be complete without a very gentle warning about buying a vehicle that is too compact – unless you’re sure that it’ll meet your needs in the medium to longer term.

If you purchase a motorhome that’s perhaps a tad too large for your average needs, then it might represent a marginal cost-inefficiency but having a vehicle that proves to be too small in many cases can be a near insurmountable problem, short of replacing it.

Once again, seek appropriate advice.

Incline towards established brands

This might appear to be a slightly controversial point in motorhome buying tips, but it remains the case that if you choose a well-known marque, with established reliability and a reliable track record in aspects such as build quality and power plant (engine), this can reduce many of the risks in making such a significant investment.

Look carefully at any customization

Naturally, this typically applies only to pre-loved models, but it’s worth noting that some previous owners might have “tweaked” things around the motorhome.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that – providing it was done properly and with approved fittings and parts that meet the manufacturer’s standards.

It’s worth being aware that in many cases, DIY customisation and “improvements” reduce the value of a motorhome. In fact, many dealers will remove them from the vehicle so that it is returned to its factory specification before a re-sale. That should tell you something!

Private purchases versus dealerships

On this particular issue, there’s probably no cast-iron or indisputable advice.

Broadly speaking, buying a used vehicle privately might offer you some ticket-price cost savings. However, against that, you’ll need to keep in mind that you’ll typically have no post-sale support or service and your post-sale legal rights when dealing with a private individual may be limited to non-existent.

To help protect your interests if buying privately, carefully check and confirm that:

You may pay a little more in terms of the price through a dealership, but you should get that legal protection of your rights and post-sales support.

Know your technical limitations

You certainly don’t need to be a qualified engineer to enjoy a motorhome! Even so, when buying, there may be technical issues that need to be taken into consideration.

If you’re mechanically and vehicle minded, then fine. If you’re not, call upon the help of either someone who is or a quality retailer of motorhomes with the experience to guide you through some of the technology and what it might mean in terms of influencing your final decision.

Prepare your funding options in advance

Finding the wherewithal to finance your purchase, of course, depends on your personal means and circumstances.

You might want to be a little cautious about using your cash reserves or retirement kitty. It may make sense to use one of the various motorhome finance options that might be available to you such as HP, a personal loan or lease purchase, for example.

Look into your options – including potential fund providers – and be sure you’re clear about your overall financial position, before starting to look at vehicles in dealers’ showrooms or on websites.

Motorhome driving tips

Now you’ve bought your motorhome, what about the challenge of driving one?

In fact, you’re likely to discover that – with a little practice and growing familiarity – it is probably no more difficult than driving your own car.

The following tips may help to explain how you may overcome any initial doubts or worries:

Look and learn

  • when you get behind the wheel of any vehicle you have not driven before, you usually spend a moment or two familiarising yourself with the controls, so that you know where everything is and know just how it all works – especially in an emergency;
  • getting behind the wheel of a motorhome is unlikely to be so different and a few minutes just making yourself comfortable, adjusting the seat, and getting familiar with all the controls is likely to pay dividends;


  • you’ve made yourself at home in the cockpit – and the spacious interior, no doubt – so you’re probably looking forward to moving off;
  • if there’s still any trepidation, though, or if you want to play it extra safe, you might want to enrol on one of the motorhome courses run by the Caravan and Motorhome Club or the Camping and Caravanning Club;
  • these manoeuvring courses aim to teach you all about handling a larger vehicle – forwards and in reverse – simple maintenance, routine safety checks, and the law, with a feedback session typically closing the session;

Moving off

  • now that you’ve gained a little confidence, there are just a few things to remember – especially until you’ve become familiar with the length, width, and size of your motorhome;
  • the golden rule is to relax, slow down and enjoy the journey (likely to be at least half the enjoyment of outings in your motorhome);
  • while you are on the move, you might tend to forget some of the key dimensions – the height and length of your motorhome – so take a look in your owner’s manual and learn them off by heart, so that you are not caught unawares when approaching low bridges or especially narrow and winding roads along the way;
  • with the extra length of the vehicle, you may need to take corners wider than you are used to, but be careful, of course, of swinging out into oncoming traffic, slow down and look well ahead when cornering;
  • in fact, you might want to kill your speed more generally while getting used to driving your motorhome – it’s not designed to be driven as fast as the car you use for work or trips to the shops and, besides, slowing down may help you to enjoy the journey better;
  • if your motorhome is less than 3,500 kg unladen weight (as most are), then the rules of the road, including speed limits are the same as for the car you normally drive – but if it is above 3,500 kg then remember that lower speed restrictions apply;

Park and Ride

  • even though you may have become familiar with the handling of your motorhome, it is rarely a clever idea to take it into already congested and sometimes narrow inner-city streets; so,
  • Park and Ride schemes are a boon to motorhome owners since they let you park easily away from all the congestion, with your vehicle waiting safely for you at the end of your visit to the city.

By following just a few simple tips and suggestions, therefore, you are likely to find that driving a motorhome presents no great challenge – and you soon take to it like a duck to water.

Buying a motorhome – it’s a decision you’re unlikely to take lightly. It’s almost certain to mean a significant investment. Plus the wide range of options and choices you’ll need to make can prove bewildering.

Here at Derby Motorhomes, we can help with a lot of those decisions. Although the following top buying tips are aimed at people considering their first purchase in the field, if you’re a seasoned veteran, then you might also learn something new!

The terms you will encounter

As you begin to think about your possible purchase, it will be helpful to familiarise yourself with a few of the terms you are likely to encounter:


  • these represent the upper end of the type of motor vehicle you may both drive and live in – they are sometimes called motor caravans;
  • at the front, there is the driver’s compartment – usually screened off or separated from the living quarters behind;
  • all tend to be spacious inside and are very well equipped;
  • as the Camping and Caravanning Club’s guide to motorhomes explains, however, there are still several sub-categories, generally divided by their size and the levels to which they are equipped;
  • at the top of the range, for example, are the large, roomy and luxuriously appointed American motorhomes from the iconic Winnebago, some might be so long they incorporate a third axle (a so-called tag axle), others might be coach-built “A” class motorhomes, while still others might be conventional coach-built homes on a standard chassis vehicle;

Camper vans

  • at the other end of the scale are more basic motorhomes, which are typically referred to as camper vans;
  • this is no misnomer, since the camper van is to the motorhome, in much the same way as camping is to caravanning;
  • camper vans are medium to larger size conversions of mass-produced vans – the VW “combo” being perhaps one of the most widely used and affectionately owned versions.

Campervan versus motorhome

Broadly speaking, campervans are smaller and less well-equipped than full motorhomes.

Campervans are often exceedingly ingenious in their use of relatively limited space, but even so, there is a certain connotation of needing to “rough it” a little – hence the reference to camping in their name.

In our experience, motorhomes are usually favoured by families and more mature couples, who prefer a few luxuries in life. Campervans are typically more appealing to single people or younger couples – but that’s by no means a hard and fast rule!

Choosing your motorhome

In addition to that basic difference between motorhomes and campervans, it is vital to appreciate the vast range of motorhomes themselves – whether new or second-hand.

It is worth giving careful thought to how you intend to use your motorhome – in terms of its ease of driving and manoeuvrability, its size, level of accommodation and fitted equipment, and the number of people it needs to accommodate.

Parking and storing your motorhome when it is not in use may also be a significant consideration – especially given the length and size of some versions – suggests Saga magazine in one of its several guides about caravan ownership.

If it is to serve as a motor caravan, a home from home and base from which to enjoy your holidays with relatively little driving about in between, for example, you might want to choose a larger model, with higher standards of accommodation.

On the other hand, if it is to be used mainly for touring, with comfortable enough accommodation in which to sleep overnight, a more basic camper van is going to prove more manoeuvrable, cheaper to run, and may provide the ideal solution.

Big U.S. RVs

These Recreational Vehicles are undoubtedly eye-catching and a byword in luxury but remember that you may need to pass an LGV (Light Goods Vehicle) driving test before you are legally able to drive one.

Big versus small

In our experience, people new to this recreational field often assume that the bigger the motorhome, the better it will be for comfort, facilities and so on.

Actually, that’s not necessarily always so. Some motorhomes that are smaller in terms of their floor area might well have far superior levels of equipment to some that are technically larger. A lot depends upon the marque and the designers’ skills.

Think about a driving techniques course

The vast majority of motorhomes are easy to drive and, in many respects, they’re not significantly different from driving an ordinary car.  In most cases, subject to your age, aspects of the vehicle’s weight and when your licence was issued, you may be able to drive them on a standard driving licence.

However, they are still slightly larger vehicles and may need a little getting used to in terms of things such as parking, manoeuvring, and reversing.  This isn’t exactly rocket science, but there are some modestly-priced courses out there that will help you get to grips with safe driving techniques before you necessarily take your vehicle on the road.

The Caravan and Motorhome Club’s Motorhome Manoeuvring Course, for example, lasts just six hours but covers practically everything you are likely to need to know.

Do your homework – and speak to an expert

Because of the extensive variation in styles, size, and suitability – not to mention cost – you might find it difficult matching what’s on sale to your particular needs and requirements.

For a much better comparison of both new and used motorhomes, therefore, you might want to visit a specialist motorhome dealer.

On that score, the larger, the better and the more comprehensive the range of motorhomes you can view while tracking down your perfect match.

The larger dealers, such as ourselves, who have established a reputation built on many years’ of experience are likely to offer not only extensive exhibition space but additional facilities, such as online chats and listings, to help you narrow down your search.

There are lots of great things to learn about motorhomes, and all of them will potentially have some influence on your eventual decision as to make and model etc.

Most of those lessons are positive ones, relating to different types of benefits that come with different versions of motorhomes. Still, it’s also important to be aware of certain things to watch out for too – and that is where our expertise and experience might come in.

Think, too, about what is important to you. It can be all too easy to go along to a couple of showrooms and be swayed by motorhome characteristics that might subsequently prove to be mostly irrelevant in your particular situation.

For example, the internal upholstery might be especially attractive in one model, but that will count for nothing if the driver and passenger seats prove to be uncomfortable on long journeys.

Before you go to a showroom, think about things such as:

  • how regularly you are going to use the vehicle on long-distance journeys. That might tell you a lot about your requirements for driving position comfort and things such as engine power and tolerable noise levels etc.;
  • just how many people it will need to accommodate, on average, over a typical year. Having multiple extra berths might be a lot less relevant to you than having a larger bathroom area (or vice versa); etc.

Of course, many other things should be on a list of this nature. The point is, have as good an idea as possible about your priorities before you start looking at individual motorhomes.

Look at your budget

Not only do motorhomes come in all shapes and sizes, but there are also just as many variations in the price – and that means giving careful thought to your budget.

It’s also fair to say that new motorhomes or those that are relatively modern, even if pre-owned and pre-loved, aren’t likely to be describable as “cheap”. Having said that, keep in mind the good news – typically they hold their value well in terms of future re-sales (unlike most cars).

Being clear how much you are willing/able to spend in advance is important in terms of influencing your viewing and researching strategy.

At the same time, however, try to avoid becoming fixated on price. True, there’s little point in evaluating motorhomes that you can’t afford. Even so, going around looking for the cheapest possible vehicle you can find isn’t always the most advisable tactic from a finance point of view.

For example, some motorhomes may depreciate rather more quickly than others. It can also be deeply frustrating to find after purchase that you may have saved £2,000 by selecting a cheaper model, but the result is a motorhome that just isn’t meeting your requirements.

While affordability and budget are significant factors, try to avoid thinking about the price before you are clear on your “must-have” requirements. Compromise is always a good thing, but it can be taken too far and leave you full of regret when using your new motorhome. That £2,000 might not seem such a big deal in those circumstances.

Clear your finances in advance

Nothing is more frustrating than getting excited about a particular motorhome, only to find that you can’t secure the financing subsequently. A variation on the same is when the decision on the money takes so long to come through that the vehicle is sold elsewhere in the meantime.

Make sure, therefore, that you have thought about your budget and agreed it in advance, in principle at least, with an individual funding provider. Significant numbers of motorhome dealerships might be able to assist you in your search for funding if required.

You’ll be pleased to know, therefore, that our finance service here at Derby Motorhomes offers a wide range of products designed to help fund your purchase – and, if your motorhome finance application is accepted, clearing those funds typically takes little time at all.

New or second-hand?

There is probably little we can add about the attraction of buying new rather than second-hand.

There’s probably nothing to equal the pleasure and satisfaction of knowing that you are the first ever to drive and sleep in a brand-new motorhome. On the other hand, assuming all else is equal, such as marque and model, a used motorhome is likely to cost less than one that’s brand new. And the depreciation will typically be less.

It’s always advisable to source a used motorhome from a reputable and highly experienced dealer. Purchasing from a street-corner generalist type car dealer might be risky, as they may lack the experience to offer you full advice.

A note of caution if you choose to buy privately

Purchasing privately from an owner is, of course, also an option. Apply all the usual review and research criteria. Do keep in mind that your legal rights of redress should something go wrong post-purchase, may be far more limited than might be the case if purchasing from a company.

Motorhomes typically hold their value far more than the average motor car. That means even if they are pre-used, they’re likely to cost you a substantial sum of money.

As a result, there are crooks out there who will seek to take advantage of unwary buyers typically through a combination of identity theft and selling motorhomes that aren’t theirs to sell.

This is a big subject, and it can’t be adequately covered in a brief article. You should, therefore, research it online and take all steps necessary to protect your interests when buying from a private individual.

Provided you are aware of the possible pitfalls and scams and continue to exercise a buyer’s caution, you might be able to strike an attractive deal on a used motorhome bought privately. Make sure you doubly protect yourself from possible fraud by:

  • making identity checks, to be sure you know exactly who you are dealing with and that the address they are giving you is, in fact, real;
  • verifying ownership of the vehicle – to be sure that they own the vehicle they are selling;
  • conducting outstanding finance checks, to be sure that you are not inheriting any potential debts with the vehicle; and
  • making any cash transfer with as much security protection as you can muster.


Questions about the size of the motorhome that best suits you, makes and models, use of your recreational vehicle, finance options, and whether to buy new or used, from a dealer or private sale – you’re likely to be faced with many decisions if you’re looking to buy a motorhome.

We have lots of other useful motorhome buying tips plus general advice and guidance for those who are purchasing a motorhome.

Why not contact us for an initial friendly and entirely non-committal discussion? We’d be delighted to help!