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?

Yes, it is possible to import a US motorhome to the UK, but there are certain steps and requirements you will need to follow to do so legally and ensure that the vehicle complies with UK regulations.

The Government website states that to import a motorhome into the UK permanently you’ll need to register it. There is also a limit on size – you can’t register a motorhome more than 12 metres long and 2.55 metres wide.

The measurements do not include driving mirrors, rear bumpers, lamps, or reflectors.

While there is no height limit, if the motorhome is over 3 metres high, you must have a notice showing the height where the driver can see it.

Here’s a general outline of the importation process:

  • Import Duty and VAT: You may need to pay import duty and Value Added Tax (VAT) when importing the motorhome. These fees can vary based on the vehicle’s value and age. Check with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for the latest rates and requirements.
  • Vehicle documentation: Gather all necessary documentation for the motorhome, including the title, bill of sale, and any other relevant paperwork. You’ll need these documents to prove ownership and value when importing the vehicle.
  • Conformance to UK standards: Ensure that the motorhome complies with UK vehicle standards. This may involve making modifications such as adjusting lighting, installing side mirrors, etc.
  • Type approval: Some vehicles may require type approval in the UK to ensure they meet safety and environmental standards. Check with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to determine if this applies to your motorhome.
  • Insurance: Obtain UK insurance cover for your motorhome. Insurance providers may have specific requirements for imported vehicles.
  • Registration: Register the imported motorhome with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). You’ll need to complete the necessary paperwork and pay any required fees.
  • MOT Test: Ensure the motorhome passes the Ministry of Transport (MOT) test, which is mandatory for all vehicles over three years old in the UK. This test checks the vehicle’s roadworthiness and emissions.
  • Road Tax: Pay the appropriate road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) based on the motorhome’s emissions and specifications.
  • Drive on the left: Keep in mind that in the UK, you drive on the left side of the road, so make sure the motorhome’s controls and driving orientation are suitable for UK roads.
  • Customs clearance: If you are shipping the motorhome to the UK, you’ll need to go through customs clearance processes at the port of entry.
  • Consult experts: It’s advisable to consult with experts or specialists in vehicle importation to ensure that you follow all the necessary legal and safety requirements.

Please note that regulations and requirements may change over time, so it’s essential to check with the relevant UK government agencies (HMRC, DVLA, DVSA, etc.) for the most up-to-date information before importing a US motorhome to the UK.

Additionally, consider consulting with a customs broker or import/export specialist for assistance with the process.

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.

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.

The Caravan Club also has some additional, useful information.

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 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;
  • in some situations, parking your motorhome on your property might be an issue with neighbours if their view or light is suddenly restricted;
  • 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.

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.

Here is a selection of some motorhome FAQs that we often receive here at Derby Motorhomes. Of course, if you have any questions or queries relating to your motorhome or buying one, please do not hesitate to get in touch!

Will I be able to drive a motorhome on a standard licence?

The answer in many cases is yes – but that might depend to some extent on the specific motorhome you want to drive (specifically its weight) and also the date you passed your driving test.

The current driving licence requirements are clearly set out on the government website or complete the brief online questionnaire to find out what vehicles you can drive.

How easy are motorhomes to drive?

Modern, new, or well-maintained motorhomes are very easy to drive. If you can drive a car, then you should be immediately at home behind the wheel of this type of vehicle too.

Nevertheless, your motorhome is going to be bigger than the family car, so you might need to take a little extra care and practice with manoeuvres such as reversing and parking.

Even better, you might want to consider signing up for one of the motorhome driving courses organised either by the Caravan and Motorhome Club or the Camping and Caravanning Club.

Can I take my motorhome abroad to wherever I like?

There’s no technical obstacle to taking your motorhome to any foreign country you choose – provided you’re willing to abide by that country’s rules, of course.

Countries in the European Union should pose no issue whatsoever. You can also take your motorhome to the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey. Because of the limited space on the islands, though, you need to camp only at authorised sites and arrange a special permit in advance – either through the site at which you have booked your stay or directly to the relevant authorities on either island.

You’ll need to ensure that you have appropriate motorhome insurance cover for the countries you’re visiting or transiting. While there may be no physical barriers to your target destinations due to the motorhome itself, some insurance providers may exclude certain destinations outside of the EU that are perceived to be too high a risk.

Is it better to buy a motorhome for cash or take out finance?

We cannot provide financial advice about the way you choose to use your personal finances.

What we can say is that there are several funding options that may be open to you including Hire Purchase (HP). Some of these will be subject to your overall financial status – and we’d be more than happy to outline those motorhome finance options for you.

There are arguments for and against using cash savings as opposed to finance. If you’re uncertain as to the best way of financing the purchase of a motorhome given your particular personal circumstances, you may wish to do further independent research on the subject or consult an independent financial advisor.

Can I park up overnight in lay-bys?

Strictly speaking, this is likely to be contrary to local by-laws. Most such spaces are under the control of a local authority and typically they’ll prohibit overnight parking.

In purely practical terms, though, the rules and by-laws may be very difficult to monitor and enforce, particularly in very rural areas – so, you might be tempted to take your chances.

Remember, too, that your insurance policy might explicitly forbid overnight stops anywhere other than on an appropriately licenced and regulated campsite.

Is there a best-practice driving code for motorhomes?

There is nothing enshrined in law as such – although you might turn up some good and helpful guides, including those recommended by the Caravan and Motorhome Club or the Camping and Caravan Club on the driving courses we have already mentioned.

How often do I need to empty the WC?

Questions on this subject are also regularly – usually somewhat shyly – raised in motorhome FAQs forums!

The answer, of course, depends on two factors:

  • the capacity of your WC’s storage; and
  • how often you use it.

If you’d like to ask, there are some rough guidelines we can provide. In passing, we’d just say that emptying the WC in modern motorhomes is typically fast, easy, and hygienic.

At Derby Motorhomes, there’s nothing we enjoy doing better than helping our clients and potential clients learn more about motorhomes. So, we’ve built up quite an extensive database of frequently asked questions or “motorhome FAQs”.

We couldn’t do better than to share some of those frequently asked questions.

What driving licence do I need?

The answer is just a little more complicated than you might have imagined and depends on your age, when you passed your driving test, and the weight of the motorhome you intend to drive.

If you passed your test before the 1st of January 1997, then you’re fine for driving a motorhome up to a Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) – the weight of the vehicle, plus its maximum loading capacity – of 7,500kg. If you gained your licence after that date, you are limited to motorhomes with a MAM of up to 3,500kg only.

If you passed your driving test after the 1st of January 1997, not only are you limited to motorhomes with a MAM of up to 3,500kg, but you must also pass an additional driving test category (C1) to drive a motorhome weighing between 3,500kg and 7,500kg.

If you are considering one of those super-large American motorhomes, you’ll typically need a category C licence (a Light Goods Vehicle).

You need to hold a full, Category B driving licence and be at least 18 years of age to apply for a provisional licence in Category C1 and must be at least 21 years of age to hold a Category C driving licence.

Please note, this information is correct at the time of writing – June 2020.

How easy are they to drive?

In terms of the basics, they’re not significantly different from a car, and most or all of the controls will be familiar. The designers have also put huge amounts of effort into making them easy to drive.

It’s worth remembering, however, that once they’re fully laden, they’ll be much heavier than most conventional cars and their handling characteristics will be different as a result. It’s not a question of easier or harder, it’s just that they’ll feel “different”.

The larger the motorhome you choose, the more you’ll notice that handling difference over and above a car.

Almost everybody gets to grips with this very quickly. There are courses you can take to help, and they might be advisable – particularly for the larger motorhomes. Motorhome manoeuvring courses are offered both by the Caravan and Motorhome Club and by the Camping and Caravanning Club. Don’t also forget that you may need to change your driving licence category (as we explained above).

What are these giant US motorhomes I see on TV?

In the US, motorhomes are typically called “Recreational Vehicles” or “RVs”.

Some are almost the length and weight of an articulated lorry, and biggest of these types of US RV would not be road-legal in the UK or EU.

Some that are imported into the UK are road-legal, of course. Keep in mind that parts and servicing might be an issue and that in some cases they may not be drivable with a standard licence.

Are the bigger motorhomes the most expensive?

This one is commonly encountered in motorhome FAQs – and, as a general rule, of course, the answer is yes – but that’s not always the case.

For example, a slightly smaller model that’s a prestigious marque and superbly and luxuriously equipped might command a higher price than a slightly larger campervan.

It’s rather like comparing say a small Porsche to a large Ford. In the case of some campervans, you’re paying for engineering, build quality and design, not its cubic volume inside.

Can I drive my motorhome anywhere, on any public road?

Yes! Of course, you will have to comply with any road signs indicating that there is a limit on height or weight of a vehicle (if your motorhome exceeds it).

Some “unmade-up” roads in poor condition or off-road tracks might also be unadvisable for larger vehicles, including motorhomes. That’s largely a question of common sense.

How much does a good motorhome cost?

That is such a difficult question to answer because so much depends upon the type of vehicle you’re interested in.

To give an extremely broad view, a new 2-4 berth quality marque Auto-Sleeper is likely to cost from £55,000 upwards. For most of us, that’s likely to be our most expensive ever purchase after our house – and that’s why expert advice and guidance on your purchase is likely to prove so important.

Is it cheaper to buy second hand?

It is – but subject to a couple of caveats:

  • motorhomes hold their values well if they’ve been looked after. Don’t expect to see the same percentage depreciation on a two-year-old motorhome as you might expect to see with a two-year-old car;
  • be sensible when purchasing a second-hand motorhome from a private individual. Unless you’re an expert, that could be risky in mechanical terms, and you’ll get little or no post-sales support.

As a final tip, of course, remember that if a second-hand motorhome price seems too good to be true – that is highly likely to be the case.

Why do I see advertisements for seasonal motorhome storage?

Comparatively few people wish to use their motorhomes in the winter months.

Just like any other vehicle that’s parked-up and not in use, the weather can start to take its toll. Given the cost of such vehicles, many owners prefer to put them into secure and weather-proof storage units over the winter months.

Your insurance provider might also offer you discounts for doing so!

How do the toilets work?

Yes, this one has a certain fascination for potential first-time buyers, and it features regularly in our motorhome FAQs!

There are, in fact, a number of different types:

  • the cassette. Here, the waste is collected in a storage cassette which is extracted externally and taken into a waste site to be manually emptied. This is probably the most common;
  • the portapotti. This is like a portable toilet in two parts. The lower part contains the waste and it, too, is manually extracted externally and emptied. The top part contains the bowl and water;
  • the marine. This is slightly different because the waste is stored externally and then emptied by connecting it to a special on-site facility so it can be drained. Note that this system presumes you are on a site with suitable “evacuating” connections.

In terms of which to select, a lot depends upon how you think you’re going to use your motorhome. If you’re planning to stay on big, established, and well-equipped sites then all three might be fine. If you’re planning to get off the beaten track and use smaller sites, then one of the first two options might be more suitable.

Is a shower going to work properly?

Yes, but you will need to be realistic – particularly in the smaller motorhomes.

Water is heavy and takes up a lot of space. As such, the supply is limited, and you’ll want to use it sparingly while on the road. That means that those long, high-pressure showers you take at home are unlikely to be matched by the shower experience in most motorhomes.

Having said that, most people find them perfectly adequate.

We hope these motorhome Faqs have proved useful!