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Beginners Guide to Buying a Motorhome

Many people dream about buying a motorhome and hitting the road. If you’re tempted by the nomadic lifestyle and can’t wait to drive off into the sunset, you’re in for an adventure of a lifetime. But first, you need to find the right vehicle for you. If you want to buy a motorhome, there are many factors you need to consider before making your final decision. However, our guide should provide you with enough information to let you make an informed choice. Here’s what you should know about buying a motorhome:

Choosing the right type

So, you’ve decided to buy a motorhome. Now you need to figure out what exactly you want. There are many different motorhomes classes; each of them will suit you differently and may also differ when it comes to the price. Here are some of your options:

  • Class A motorhomes: This is the most luxurious option that can give you a full mobile home experience. Class A motorhomes are completely coach-built and offer you the most space and comfort. They’re perfect for long-distance touring holidays with friends or family.
  • Coach-built motorhomes: Also known as Class C motorhomes, built on a van cab and chassis, can be perfect for two people and some models even come with a fixed double bed. The space above the cab can be used for storage or additional sleeping quarters. Coach-built motorhomes may not be as comfortable as class A motorhomes, but they still include kitchen and bathroom facilities.
  • Over-cab motorhomes: They feature a permanent double bed space over the driver and passenger seats with an undisturbed lounge area, which makes them a perfect choice for families with small children. However, they’re often at least 3 meters high, which makes them a bit bulky and less aerodynamic.
  • Low-profile motorhomes: If you want something more aerodynamic and fuel-efficient, choose this type. Low-profile motorhomes are about 5.5 to over 8 meters long, and they’re license-friendly – many models stay within the 3,500 kg weight range.
  • Campervans: Motorhomes and campervans are totally different, with the former being larger, heavier, and having separate driving and living areas. However, a campervan might be just what you need because it’s smaller but still has enough room for cooking, sleeping, and storage.

If you want to know more about this RF, we have prepared another guide suitable for beginners about what is a motorhome, its history, and typical features and equipment you can expect.

motorhome travelling

More about motorhome layouts

Buying a motorhome is like buying a house. You need to think about your comfort, so you need to figure out which areas are the most important to you and how much space you want to have. These aspects will vary depending on your original purpose for buying a motorhome. Do you want to use it mainly as a means of transport, or do you prefer it as a mobile home? Here’s what you should consider:

Berths and beds

Some motorhome layouts force you to make your bed every time because they don’t have a fixed sleeping area. This can become a nuisance after some time, especially when you’re going on a long road trip with a larger group of people. As such, you should consider purchasing a motorhome with enough space for a fixed bed. You don’t have much choice when it comes to beds in a motorhome. The most common options include a double, a twin, or a French bed.

If you choose a large motorhome, then you’ll be able to fit in the largest of the three types: a double bed. A two-berth motorhome is smaller, and you need to ensure it’s long enough for you. If you’re short on space, then a French bed would be your go-to type because its cut corner lets you accommodate a shower or a toilet.

Read more on motorhome layout and bed systems.

Bathroom area

Depending on your preferences, you can save on the bathroom space and opt for a portable toilet you’re going to use for roadside or midnight emergencies. If you plan on going to campsites instead of wild camping, you probably won’t have to worry about bathroom facilities.

However, if you want to go off the beaten track and use your bathroom comfortably, then you need to ensure it’s just as convenient as you want it to be. If the size of your motorhome allows it, you can fit in a fixed cassette toilet, a basin, and a separate shower. Keep in mind, though, that the space for other areas is limited, and bathroom facilities tend to take up a lot of it.

Kitchen and dining area

Once again, you should figure out how often you’re going to use this area and how many people it will accommodate. If you prefer to cook and eat outside, then a small kitchen area won’t take away from the overall functionality of your motorhome. On the other hand, if you’re going to cook a lot and use your kitchen full-time without resorting to outdoor cooking gear, then it would be best to pick a motorhome with more dining space.

Still, you should try to keep your kitchen area as compact as possible. Equipping it with pull-out worktops would be a great idea, the same goes for swivel seats. Some motorhome models will also have a kitchen that would extend outside, which would require you to keep the main door open – but that’s also an option to consider.

Read more on motorhome kitchen appliances.

New or second-hand?

motorhome travellingIf you decide to buy a new motorhome, you’ll get a vehicle that hasn’t been used before and that’s covered by a full manufacturer’s warranty. You get the say in all the details and can customize your motorhome according to your preferences, from colour to layout options. However, it’s the most expensive option and it might cost more to get the right insurance.

If you want to save some money, buying a used motorhome might be the right option for you. It will cost less than a new motorhome, even if it’s only a few months old. You can rebuild and redecorate it to your liking, and insurance rates will be lower. You’ll need to remember about a few drawbacks as well. Sometimes you may not realize there are some underlying problems that need fixing. The costs of servicing and maintenance will also be higher, and the manufacturer’s warranty may be expired.

Ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to drive a brand new motorhome or if you want to save some money and buy a second-hand vehicle.

Setting up a budget

If you dream about travelling in a motorhome, you need to be prepared for extreme pricing. It all depends on the size and standard of your dream motorhome, but there are also ways to save money on your purchase.

On average, if you want to buy a campervan or a motorhome, you can spend anything from a few thousand pounds for a smaller, second-hand vehicle, up to over £100,000. However, the newest and most luxurious motorhomes can cost as much as £250,000, and the price often goes higher than that. Adding to that, there’s the cost for annual motorhome maintenance, which is around £250 – £500 per year. You also need to think about getting insurance for your motorhome. The full-time insurance cover would be the most expensive option.

Fortunately, there are some factors that can allow you to buy your dream motorhome at a lower price, probably the most important one being new vs second hand. The most reputable motorhome brands will still hold their value in the second-hand market, so you can get a really good deal here.

The make and country can make a difference as well. Vehicles manufactured in the UK are cheaper. However, whilst German models are more expensive, they’re also considered superior when it comes to build quality and performance on the road. If you want to save up money, you can also check foreign motorhome markets. Supposing you live in the UK, you can find cheaper motorhomes in France or Germany. However, you need to remember that the exchange rate may bump the costs a notch.

Before you finalize your purchase

Can’t wait to hit the road in your brand new motorhome? Not so fast! Besides the technicalities, there are several things you need to know before you buy a motorhome. These include:

Driving licence

Driving licence requirements depend on when you passed your car driving test and your age. If you got your driving licence on or after January 1, 1997, you can only drive a vehicle of no more than 3.5 tonnes maximum weight. If you want to have a full entitlement, you’ll have to pass an additional test. However, if you passed your test before that, you may drive a vehicle that weighs up to 7.5 tonnes.

motorhome travelling

Regardless of when you got your driving licence, once you reach the age of 70, you’ll be allowed to drive vehicles up to 3.500 kg. If you want to keep your 7.5-tonne entitlement, you’ll have to undergo medical checks and apply to the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). Then, you can extend it every three years.

Parking spot

You may be surprised, but you can’t just park your motorhome right on the street if it’s not a designated spot. What’s more, you can’t sleep in your motorhome when it’s parked on the street. While off-street parking may not be the best nor safest option, the best solution to park your motorhome overnight is to find an “approved stopover“, where you’ll also be able to socialize with other people.

Speed limits

Just like any other vehicle, there are speed limits for motorhomes as well. Here, the rule is quite simple, and depends on the weight:

  • Motorhomes or motor caravans with a maximum unladen weight of 3.05 tonnes may travel up to 70 miles per hour (112 kilometres per hour) on dual carriageways and motorways, and 60 miles per hour (98 kilometres per hour) on single carriageways.
  • Motorhomes or motor caravans with a maximum unladen weight that exceeds 3.05 tonnes may travel up to 60 miles per hour (98 kilometres per hour) on dual carriageways, 70 miles per hour (112 kilometres per hour) on motorways, and 50 miles per hour (80 kilometres per hour) on single carriageways.

When is the best time to buy a motorhome?

Generally speaking, it’s always best to finalize any purchases at the end of a season. For motorhomes, especially those from a dealer, this period falls in October and November. If you want to buy a brand new model, get in touch with your motorhome dealer a year before you decide to hit the road. That’s because you’ll have to wait for your new van from 6 to 8 months.

The same goes for used motorhomes; people usually put them on sale as soon as the season ends. However, if you keep looking, you’ll be able to find a bargain all year round. Keep in mind, though, that the best models sell the fastest during the usual selling period (between October and November).

Motorhome life: is it for you?

A motorhome is quite an expensive investment. There are many factors you should take into consideration before deciding on the final model. If you’re buying a motorhome for the first time, you definitely need to be 100% sure that you’re making the right decision.

The best way to do that is by testing. If you can, rent a motorhome for a weekend and see if you enjoy the experience. You can also visit showrooms, second-hand dealers, and motorhome shows. Ask for a test drive whenever it’s possible and see for yourself how it feels to drive a specific type of motorhome and how comfortable it is inside. If everything checks out for you, then you’re good to go. Happy trails!

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