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What is a Motorhome – Ultimate Beginners Guide

This beginners guide is for everyone who’s new to motorhoming and trying to figure out how it all works. It’s also for those who are wondering whether motorhome travelling is for them. There are loads of reasons why you might want to get away from it all but is a motorhome the suitable mode of transport?

We’re going to look at some of the things you need to consider, introduce many different aspects of the motorhome experience, and hopefully, help you find the best fit.

What is considered a motorhome?

A motorhome is a self-propelled recreational vehicle that’s got many of the comforts of home, much like a trailer for living in. It will have a kitchen area, beds, lots of storage, bathroom facilities, and a driving cab at the front for the driver and passenger seat.

A motorhome usually has additional space and facilities for between two and eight people, depending on the size of the vehicle.

Motorhomes come under the umbrella of RVs or recreational vehicles, which include trailers, toy haulers, campervans, and other similar vehicles.

What’s another name for a motorhome?

In the US and the UK, the term motorhome is very common, but on occasion, it might also be called a motor caravan or motor home.

People often interchange recreational vehicle and motorhome, but recreational vehicle (RV) is a term that refers to a wide range of vehicles, including camper vans, caravans, and camper trailers.

What are motorhomes called in other countries?

  • Germany: Wohnmobil
  • Sweden: Husbil
  • France: Camping-car
  • Italy: Camper
  • Spain and Portugal: Auto caravana or auto-caravana
  • The Netherlands and Poland: Camper
  • Australia and New Zealand: Campervan and housebus

There’s one more term that has become very popular for people to use when referring to motorhomes, and that’s Winnebago. However, this is just a brand name that has entered into common usage.

Short History of Motorhomes

Short History of Motorhomes

You’d be wrong in thinking that motorhomes are a relatively recent addition. The first motorhome (a Touring Landau) was released in 1910 and paraded in Madison Square Gardens. It looked nothing like the motorhomes of today but had seats you could fold out and make into a bed, another folding seat, and a chamber pot for a bathroom.

Fast forward a few decades, and a more advanced version came on the scene. There was no toilet, but it did have an actual bed together with a desk. The manufacturer was Ford, and they called it a House Car.

Modern motorhomes are modelled on this early version, and you can see the similarities as it was larger, had a VW Campervan style shape, along with a roof that expanded and popped up.

In 1947, along came the iconic VW Campervan. It’s got a rounded design and is synonymous with hippy adventurers. Inside this infamous motorhome, you’ll find a full-size bed and cooking facilities. One of the reasons for the popularity of this small RV is that the interior can be taken out and changed completely to suit individual needs.

In 1966, Winnebago managed to change the image and shape of motorhoming forever. These US motorhomes have a range of facilities that had never been seen before. It was a massive hit, and millions were sold.

Another iconic motorhome is the GMC motorhome. It had an enviable reputation for being reliable and robust. It was also the first motorhome-style vehicle that was built by just one company.

The final reincarnation of the motorhome came in the shape of the Erbia-Hymer GmbH in `1980. Inside they’re pretty rustic and very 70s but included modern features such as fold-out beds, a kitchen area, plug sockets, a floor plan, and leisure batteries.

What are the different types and classes of motorhomes?

Basically, there are three main classes of motorhomes: Class A, Class B, and Class C. There are features that are common to all motorhome classes, but there are also some distinct differences.

Class A motorhome

Class A motorhomes tend to be larger and boxier. Class A motorhomes tend to be built on a truck or bus chassis, but quite often, the chassis is custom-made.

Up to ten people can sleep in them, and they have lots of luxury living quarters and features such as sofas, bedrooms, bunk beds, kitchens, and large bathrooms. But unfortunately, they are incredibly uneconomical when it comes to fuel consumption.

Class B motorhome

Class B motorhomes are a much smaller vehicle, but fuel economy tends to be better. However, there tends to be much less space. Class B motorhomes likely has a small kitchen, bathroom, and living space, but a Class B isn’t ideally suited for living full-time. On the other hand, their size makes them more affordable, and you’ll have no problems parking.

Class C motorhome

Somewhere between Class A and Class B are Class C (coach built) motorhomes. Quite often, you’ll find Class C motorhomes have a van or truck chassis and have a driving cab attached as well as an area over it that can be used for storage or sleeping.

Their price tag is very budget-friendly. They are great for family vacations but might not suit you if you want something full-time.

In addition to the main motorhome classes and types, there are also a variety of motorhomes or recreational vehicles, for example:

  • Foldable or pop-up trailers: These are compact and have canvas sides you need to unfold before you use them.
  • Travel trailers: These towables come in a range of different lengths and configurations.
  • Toy haulers: These feature additional space at the rear where you can store large toys such as motorbikes, ATVs, or snowmobiles.
  • Fifth-wheel trailers: These are the largest type of RV available but also the heaviest and require a special truck to tow them.

Common features that every motorhome should have

Common features that every motorhome should have

Everyone is different, which means the list of features you’d want to have in your motorhome is not going to be the same as everyone else. Instead, the features you choose for your motorhome will depend on the type of motorhome you choose, how you prefer to camp, what you plan to do when you’re traveling, and how you’re going to use your motorhome.

Before you head out to purchase your vehicle, a good thing to do is to sit down and write a list of the things you’d love to have, compared with the motorhome features you need. Ideally, you want to find the balance between both.

To help you come to a decision, here’s a list of some features you should consider:

  • Sleeping arrangements: How many beds do you need, and would you prefer them to stay in place or fold away when not in use?
  • Seating arrangements: Consider how many people will be travelling in your motorhome. Do you plan to entertain? Is a dining area essential? Would you like to have a seating area where you can kick back, relax, and maybe watch TV?
  • Kitchen area: You’re going to need some kind of kitchen area that includes a fridge, sink, and cooking appliance. The size of the kitchen very much depends on the size of your motorhome. Small motorhomes have equally small kitchen areas, while larger motorhomes will have grander and more luxurious kitchen areas.
  • Storage space: You’ll find motorhomes with more space and others where there’s not enough to store a hat. To help you decide how much storage you need, ask yourself the following questions:
  • How many dishes/mugs/cups/cutlery/containers/pans/ and food do you plan to take with you?
  • How many items of clothing will you have?
  • Will you need some additional space for all those odds and ends you might need?
  • Are you going to eat out every day, or will you fill your motorhome with food?
  • Bathroom: Small motorhomes might not include a bathroom. In many, it might be just a wet-bath. This is a small room in which you can sit on the toilet as well as use it as a shower room. If your motorhome is larger, the bathroom facilities you include might be a toilet, small tub or shower, and sink.
  • Entertainment options: A stereo system might be helpful as well as a TV hook-up. Some of the more up-to-date motorhomes have an external entertainment system, which can be excellent for tailgate parties and entertaining.
  • Slide-outs: These can be a really cool addition because they make the internal space in your motorhome larger. However, don’t forget that this feature adds weight, and you need to find a parking space that’s big enough to use such a feature.
  • Important systems: You need some kind of power, and hookups and electricity are generally standard. If you’re planning to camp off-grid, you’ll also need another power source, such as a battery or solar panels. Another standard system is running water. Most motorhomes have fresh water tanks and separate tanks for holding waste.
  • Air conditioning: This is a feature that is becoming more common. It’s a nice luxury to have, but it will need power.

Main Motorhome Layouts

Main Motorhome Layouts

When it comes to the layout of your motorhome, there are hundreds of different floor plans to choose from. Here are some of the most common:

  • Single beds: Two single beds are at the rear of the motorhome. There might also be a bathroom at the back. Alternatively, the bed and living space have a bathroom in between.
  • Rear Island Bed: There is a fixed double bed that is actual size, with access on both sides.
  • Island bed (East-West): A full-size bed area is between the rear and the lounge at the front. The bathroom is generally at the rear of the vehicle.
  • Bed over the driving cab: This layout means you can have a larger living space because the sleeping space is over the cab.
  • Rear u-shaped lounge and a drop-down bed: This layout makes good use of available space. The bed is stored during the day, and you just push a button to lower it at night.
  • Front lounge and a drop-down bed: This is virtually the same as the previous layout. Only the lounge and sleeping area are at the front.
  • French bed: There will be a couple of single bunk beds at the rear of the motorhome and a drop-down full-size bed in the lounge.
  • Slide-outs: These are the ultimate when it comes to floor plans because they offer a massive amount of extra space. It will make your motorhome feel like an open-plan apartment. What you use the slide-out for is your choice.

Equipment and accessories that every motorhome owner should have

Equipment and accessories that every motorhome owner should have

The list of accessories and equipment you might have in your motorhome is endless. However, weight limits are something you need to bear in mind and can affect your choice of motorhome accessories and equipment. Here are some of the most essential:

  • Bike rack: So you can take your bikes with you and explore further afield
  • Awning: An awning will provide some extra space, and there are many different shapes, sizes, and styles to choose from.
  • Outdoor furniture: For those days when the weather is nice, have some fold-up furniture so you can sit outside and enjoy the view.
  • Satellite TV: This is essential if you want to watch TV when you’re out on the road.
  • Wi-fi booster: Attach one of these to your motorhome, and you’ll be able to pick up that all-important wi-fi signal from longer distances.
  • Games: Bring some games along to keep the family entertained without having to rely on mobile phones.
  • Battery-operated lanterns: For those long summer evenings when you can sit outside, a battery-powered lantern will come in handy.
  • Barbeque: Your motorhome might have a well-equipped kitchen, but there’s nothing quite like food cooked on a BBQ.

Motorhome Maintenance, Storing & Security

You’ll be making quite an investment when you purchase your motorhome, so maintaining it is essential. Here are some maintenance tips you should consider:

  • Inspect the seals and seams on the roof of your motorhome. Repair any leaks before they cause serious damage.
  • Regularly check tire pressures and tighten lug nuts. This is important to ensure your safety while on the road.
  • Check batteries because you don’t want to find yourself in the middle of nowhere with a dead battery.
  • Maintain the wastewater system and always use the right chemicals for each system.
  • Maintain your motorhome’s brakes for the safety of everyone on the road, including yourself and your family.
  • Keep seals and slide-outs clean so that grime doesn’t build up and cause them to stick.
  • Change the oil seasonally to ensure everything is well lubricated and running smoothly.
  • Change oil, fuel, air, hydraulic, and coolant filters seasonally. This will ensure everything runs as best it can.
  • Maintain the awning and keep it clean to prevent a buildup of mould and mildew.
  • Use our motorhome storage ideas and hacks to keep your vehicle organised and save space.

Proper motorhome maintenance and security is crucial for the longevity of your vehicle. You should never overlook it even if it costs you a bit more than you have expected.

What does the law say about owning a motorhome?

What does the law say about owning a motorhome

When you become a motorhome owner, there are specific regulations you have to comply with. Knowing what these are will help you be a responsible motorhome owner and keep you on the right side of the law.

Location-specific traffic and road laws

The motorhome road taxes vary from location to location. To further complicate matters, new ordinances, rule revisions, and changes can happen at any time. As a result, you can’t be expected to remember every law, but you should always bear general standards and rules in mind.

  • Height limits may apply.
  • Motorhome lengths are often limited as well.
  • Sometimes you might not be allowed to transport LP gas between particular points, but most often on tunnelled highways.
  • In many locations, parking your motorhome outside your home is not allowed.
  • Some places permit the long-term storage of personal motorhomes in your property, but some homeowners’ associations or communities might not allow it.

Licensing regulations and rules

Licensing regulations and rules

These tend to be location-specific. The regulations you must follow are those where you register your motorhome. Generally, unless your motorhome is exceptionally heavy (over 7,500kg), you can get away with driving it on a standard driver’s licence.

However, you may require a category C if your motorhome is heavier than 7,500kg. The vehicle must also have specific safety features, such as air brakes.

It’s always best to check with your local vehicle authority website to ensure you follow the relevant motorhome licensing regulations and rules.

Motorhome Insurance

Again, motorhome insurance laws also vary by location. The same amount of liability coverage as you have for a car is needed for a motorhome in most places. There are some special cases, but you’ll most likely need a separate motorhome policy if your motorhome is Class A or B, if you took out a loan to purchase your motorhome, or if it’s a rental.

What can a motorhome be used for?

The most obvious reason for buying a motorhome is so you can enjoy vacations with family and friends. But there are lots of other things you can do with your motorhome:

  • Wild camping
  • Exploring new locations
  • Attending outdoor events and festivals
  • You can live full-time in a motorhome
  • Take your office space out on the road

What to look for when buying a motorhome?

There are lots of things you should look for when buying a motorhome for the first time:

  • Know how much your motorhome is worth, and never pay over the odds.
  • Always perform a close inspection of the motorhome, inside and outside.
  • Look for mould.
  • Check for floor damage.
  • Open exterior panels to see whether there is any rust or corrosion.
  • Check the tires.
  • Ask for the motorhome’s history.
  • Take the vehicle for a test drive.

Buying a motorhome can be a tedious task for a beginner so make sure that you have researched every important aspect before making a final decision.

How much does a motorhome cost on average?

The cost of a motorhome can be anything from £10,000 right up to £300,000 and more. The price depends on the motorhome’s style, features, and age.

Most famous motorhome brands

Most famous motorhome brands

The list of brands that manufacture motorhomes is a long one. But some are more well-known than others.

  • Coachmen
  • Entegra
  • Forest River
  • Bailey
  • Thor Motor Coach
  • Winnebago
  • Airstream
  • Keystone
  • Adria
  • Auto-Sleepers

Brands like Coachmen and Auto-Sleepers are considered as one of the best motorhome brands.

Can you live in a motorhome full time?

Can you live in a motorhome full time

Full-timing is something you can realistically do because no specific laws prohibit you from living in your motorhome, as long as the vehicle is roadworthy and legal.

The only problem you might have to deal with is finding somewhere to park. There are restrictions that prevent you from leaving it on the highway, and parking it in the nearest layby is also not an option. Where you can park depends on where you want to leave it, and different rules and regulations apply.

What is the difference between a campervan and a motorhome?

Generally, campervans are smaller vans that have been converted so you can sleep and cook in them as well as drive them around. On the other hand, a motorhome is a purpose-built home-from-home where comfort has been built in from the beginning. It will also have a longer wheelbase which means it will be much bigger than your average campervan.

When you compare a campervan vs. a motorhome, you should remember that there are some key differences that set them apart.

Is there a difference between RV (recreational vehicle) and motorhome?

The term RV really only means recreational vehicles. Motorhome is often interchanged for RV, but RV or recreational vehicles is an umbrella term that includes several types of vehicles, including motorhomes.

Final thoughts

Anyone who’s ever owned a motorhome will be only too pleased to tell you it was the best investment they ever made. However, as you now appreciate, there are many things to think about before you take the plunge.

You should always do your research and think long and hard about every aspect of your purchase, from the size of your motorhome to how many beds it features and other configurations.

Motorhomes can be great fun, but they also require some maintenance. You also need to learn the ropes of motorhoming, or you’ll be left stranded in the middle of nowhere without a clue about what to do. We’ve already opened the door to your next adventure, but make sure you pop back regularly because we’ll be sharing lots of motorhome tips and tricks on driving a motorhome and valuable advice for all you newbie adventurers.

As one of the leading providers of motorhomes for sale in the UK, Oaktree Motorhomes is here to answer all your questions and help you choose the best vehicle for your next 4-wheel adventure.

25 thoughts on “What is a Motorhome – Ultimate Beginners Guide

  1. very interesting info as we are going to buy a motor home very soon.
    Some very good practical advice
    Good reading

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    1. Hi, good luck with your blog. This is a custom theme which we built in house. We have quite a lot of tech resources so we are in the favourable position of being able to develop our own stuff rather than using off the shelf solutions

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