Beginners Guide to Motorhome Ownership – Buying Your First Motorhome

One of the first things to decide when buying a motorhome is whether you want a new or second hand vehicle. On the one hand, with a new vehicle you get the feeling of being the first to own it and the safety of a manufacturers limited warranty, on the other hand, a pre-owned model can often be picked up with big savings against list price just a year or so after manufacture.

Everyone’s different, but most first time buyers opt for a second hand motorhome as the financial investment is less – and it gives the chance to find out whether motorhoming suits you without being left out of pocket.

Another initial consideration is your budget. Think about what you would like to spend and also what you are willing to spend as a maximum, this gives you a price range to work within and means you’ll be less tempted to overspend.

There are motorhomes available in all shapes and sizes, and to fit all budgets, so think carefully about which type of motorhome suits you best – is it a small panel van conversion or a large A-class or American RV that takes your fancy? If you’re only buying the motorhome for short holidays then a small or medium sized motorhome would most likely meet your requirements, but for those intending on travelling for months at a time a larger, better equipped motorhome may be what’s needed.

Finding a motorhome which meets your requirements can be tricky, and you’re unlikely to find one which ‘ticks all the boxes’ straight away – the key is prioritising your needs. Write a list of things you need from your motorhome, not features as such but just broad requirements you have of your new investment, things such as ‘sleeps 4 people comfortably’ or ‘small enough to drive in European cities’. You can then use this list to figure out which models suit you best and which features are most important to you – doing things this way round ensures you aren’t convinced to buy a motorhome with fancy features you won’t use.

When you’re looking at a prospective motorhome, and particularly when buying second hand, make sure you test out all the features before buying – that doesn’t mean cooking a three course meal, but it does mean pulling out the beds, stepping into the shower area to test its size, opening and closing cupboards, sitting on the sofa etc.

When looking at second hand motorhomes you need to scrutinise the fixtures and fittings even more, making sure you check the water runs properly and all the electrics are working as they should – it only takes a minute to fill up the water tank to test the system, and any person serious about selling the motorhome will be happy to do this.

Never buy a motorhome without seeing the water system, electricity and motor running in full working order, and always go for a test drive which includes roads which you can get up to 50mph on, as some problems won’t make themselves known at low speeds. Don’t be offended if the owner won’t let you drive though as not many people have ‘any driver’ insurance and it’s still the sellers responsibility if anything happens. If you do sit in the passenger seat on a test drive, simply keep an ear out for any unusual noises from the engine, wheels or brakes and an eye on the driver’s hands – are they working hard to turn the wheel? Do the gears change smoothly and easily?

It’s also vitally important that the waste water system is clean and works properly, this should have been done by the seller prior to them putting the motorhome up for sale so get them to show you how the cassette is removed from the toilet unit so you can see whether this has been done – it’s not a job you would want to do after buying!

Make sure you shop around for the best deal, look online at plenty of models but don’t make any decisions until you see the motorhome first hand, no matter how many pictures you look at you won’t get a true feel for the interior spaces until you look around in person. When you’re ready to buy try and use local dealerships with good reputations, that way if anything goes wrong you haven’t got far to go for repairs or advice. It’s also a good idea to check out the insurance costs as you may find some of the larger motorhomes come with larger premiums. Always opt for a specialist motorhome insurance policy rather than a standard motor policy as this will give you more comprehensive cover.