Beginners Guide to Motorhome Ownership – Types of Motorhomes

Campervans (VW Campers)

These iconic Volkswagen campervans are still being produced today and have a dedicated following, with a range of clubs and magazines available to enthusiasts.

Campers will generally sleep between 2 and 4 comfortably but are small enough to be driven in cities as well as on the open road, making them famously popular for touring around Europe.

They are available with a huge range of features including raising roofs, windscreen sun visors, surfboard roof racks and chrome trims and fittings – either direct from Volkswagen or through a number of specialist converters.

When it comes to insurance for older models, you may have to consider a ‘classic’ vehicle policy as many specialist motorhome policies have a vehicle age limit

Van conversions

Often referred to as panel van conversions, these medium to large sized motorhomes are built using well known commercial vehicles as a base unit and nearly always feature a sliding side door.

They offer a good amount of space inside and many come with roomy wash rooms and better equipped kitchens than the smaller or micro-sized van conversions.

Many have a double bed at the rear, running across the width of the van, so taller motorhomers may struggle to fit. For this reason it’s important to check the layout and dimensions of the van before buying.

Popular manufacturers of van conversions include: Autosleepers, Bilbo, IH Motorhomes and Murvi

Conventional coachbuilt motorhomes

These are possibly the most common type of motorhome on British roads, and are characterised by their large over-cab hump which often houses a bed or spacious storage area.

These motorhomes are popular as they offer a practical solution for small families or couples wanting to travel throughout the UK and Europe. They typically have a washroom and kitchen fitted as standard, along with room to sleep between 2 and 6 people.

The front end cabs of coachbuilt motorhomes may look familiar – that’s because the ‘base vehicle’ of such motorhomes are popular vans such as Ford Transits, Peugeot Boxers, Fiat Ducatos and Mercedes Spinters.

Popular manufacturers of conventional coachbuilt motorhomes include: Autocruise, Autosleeper, Elddis and Swift

Low profile coachbuilt motorhomes

Very similar in style and features to the above ‘conventional coachbuilt motorhome’ the low profile design does away with the over cab bed in favour of a lower roof and streamlined shape, this gives better clearance and more car like handling.

Tag axle (twin axle) motorhomes

Some very large coachbuilt motorhomes require a third set of wheels to support the weight and length of the unit in a similar way to a ‘twin axle’ caravan, this third axle is know as a ‘tag axle’.

Tag axle motorhomes allow even more space inside but the twin rear axle means that driving them may take a little adjusting to.

A-class motorhomes

These often very large motorhomes are recognizable by having no separate cab area as common with conventional coachbuilt motorhomes, as well as a ‘bus like’ large front windscreen, and are usually imported from Europe or further afield.

Built from scratch on a bare chassis by the motorhome manufacturer you can expect bags of room and home comforts including domestic style washrooms and kitchen fixtures, as well as full sized beds and spacious living areas.

Popular manufacturers of A-class motorhomes include: Frankia, Pilote and Hymer

American ‘Recreational Vehicles’ (RVs)

Coming from the USA these units are typically big, bold and brash – but can offer massive amounts of space, comfort and features including full sized refrigerators and ovens as well as king sized beds and washrooms with domestic spec fittings. Many even feature ‘slide outs’ – which mean certain sections of the motorhome can be extended to create extra floor space.

Typically used for long tours or full timing around Europe or the US these huge units are unrivalled when it comes to luxury and comfort.

Popular manufacturers of American RV motorhomes include: Georgie Bay and Winnebago

Home built motorhomes

Some enthusiasts design and build a motorhome themselves to suit their needs. These can range from simple van conversions up to impressive custom builds and there are a range of websites and clubs dedicated to self builds that provide helpful info for any would be DIYers.

Watch out though as many insurance companies cannot provide cover for home built motorhomes.

Micro motorhomes

These tiny motorhomes are usually conversions of small van style cars and offer limited space for one or two people to sleep, as well as basic cooking equipment and space for a small cassette toilet.

Their diminutive size makes them a breeze to drive, particularly in typically crowded European towns where narrow streets and busy roads make the city centre a no go area for all but these nippy little motorhomes.

Popular manufacturers of micro motorhomes include: Romahome and Drivelodge

RV and Motorhome Vacations Offer Discount Travel Options

More and more Americans are enjoying the versatility, security, convenience and the grandeur of visiting and touring the country with motorhomes, more popularly known as RV’s.

According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, 1 out of 12 American families own motorhomes, thus the increase of 7.8 percent of the numbers of such vehicles in the past four years. To stretch the statistics further, this means that seven million families or households have RV’s.

So why is there an increase on the use of motorhomes? Post September 11 analysis reveals that people want to have more control of their trips and are opting to travel more by land than by air. Aside from this, they want to avoid airport hassles and traffic.

But more than these reasons, Americans want to enjoy more times with their families and to be in control of their travel schedules. And in these stressful times, going outdoors and communing with nature seem to be one of the solutions which can be greatly accomplished by motorhome traveling.

Motorhomes have become more comfortable and more luxurious since the release of the first RV. Some motorhomes nowadays, have complete upholstered furniture, state of the line appliances like microwaves, televisions and refrigerators. Other deluxe motorhomes provide features such as dining and living areas, queen beds, cabinets and storage plus a shower in the full-size bathroom.

Other motorhomes also became flashier with stereos and CD players installed in the vehicle and other enhanced comforts such as double door refrigerators and wooden tabletops. Moreover, they have also become efficient in terms of the space and materials they use for their construction.

Aside from these conveniences inside the motorhome, motorhome vacationing also became popular because of the improved campgrounds and fancy motorhome resorts. Some motorhome resorts offer luxurious amenities such as swimming pools and golf- courses. Fitness enters for the health conscious can also be found in such motorhome parks aside from computer centers. Aside from these, others also provide schedules for sports meets and dance activities.

Beyond, these perks and joys, however, traveling in a motorhome needs some planning especially on the activities you and your family want to accomplish on the trip. Aside from these, your motorhome should be equipped with the following essentials before you hit the road:

  • batteries
  • binoculars
  • bottle/can opener
  • camera and film
  • firewood
  • first-aid supplies
  • fishing gear
  • flashlights and lanterns
  • folding chairs
  • games
  • grill and fuel
  • insect repellent
  • maps
  • matches
  • nature field guides
  • picnic basket
  • road flares
  • rope, cords, or wire
  • shovel (small, folding type)
  • sports equipment
  • sunscreen
  • toilet paper
  • tool kit
  • trash bags
  • umbrellas
  • water hose

Aside from these, families and individuals also have responsibilities in conserving energy and making a conscious effort of taking care of the environment while traveling on the road and while settling in camps. Here are some few tips you need to know also while traveling in your motorhome:

1. To decrease emissions and to conserve energy, keep the motorhome well tuned.

2. Make sure that the campsites where you camp are marked as “RV campsites”.

3. While driving, make sure that you stick to the roads that the motorhome can travel into.

4. Try to avoid using disposable things such as cups, plates and spoons.

5. Make sure that the campfires you make are small and avoid putting stuff into the fire that will not burn such as rubber, foil, plastic etc. It is also important to note fire rules in motorhome campgrounds.

6. Avoid using supplies for cleaning that can be toxic. Look for ecologically friendly cleaning stuff.

7. If you are bringing your pets in your motorhome travel, and they are permitted in campgrounds, make sure that they are kept inside the motorhome or use stakes to tie them there. Barks can be damaged when they are tied in a tree.

8. Be considerate wit your neighbors when playing music or when playing computer games. Other campers may consider this as noise.

9. Always make sure that you recycle while traveling.

10. Make sure to leave all areas in the motorhome park clean and dispose your trash in properly designated areas in the park.

Top 20 Must Have Accessories for Living in a Motorhome Full Time

Motorhome Must Have Accessories

Since I now live fulltime in a motorhome in the UK and have had quite a learning curve on how to survive in a confined space, I think this article will be invaluable to those who are thinking of taking the plunge and those who ‘Wild Camp’ for extended periods of time.

I have spent some time going over all the things that I find essential to live in a Motorhome, Camper Van or RV. Some things on the list are common sense and others are things you may well overlook, so please read through each item and the reasons I feel them essential to live in a motorhome.

1. 12V Freeview TV

A TV may sound a little obvious to most of you since it is something that most of us spend a long time watching at home, however, when you are Off-Grid and away from everyday civilization, it is important to keep informed from time to time, of what is happening in the world. I find that 15 minutes in the morning of local and national news is enough to keep your knowledge current.

The importance of a 12 Volt TV with build in Freeview is that you can run it from your leisure without mains electricity or an inverter, this means you will use less of your valuable battery power.

2. Diesel Night Heater (Webasto)

Heating is something you never think about until it is too late. At home, in a domestic environment, heating is taken for granted but when you are living in a motorhome heating is a matter of life or death.

In my Motorhome I have a fantastic remote controlled electric fan heater, this is fine when I am hooked up to the mains electricity supply (Like on a campsite or Motorhome park) but when you are completely Off-Grid and in the middle of nowhere then a reliable, efficient and warm heating system is essential.

There are various gas heaters available on the market but I would not recommend Propane or Butane heaters in a confined space due to Carbon Monoxide poisoning. You can have one fitted that vents to the outside but Gas is a commodity that I would save for warm food preparation.

Now I will begin by saying that Diesel Night Heaters are expensive, they are however, invaluable to those of you who are considering living in a Motorhome fulltime. They are extremely efficient and run straight from the main diesel tank and seem to almost run on fresh air. I would recommend if you are going to invest in one then the Webasto range are the king of Diesel Night Heaters. The fantastic thing about them is they are a form of indirect heating, this means that the fumes can not mix with the hot air entering the motorhome living space, this makes them extremely safe to operate. My motorhome (A Kentucky Corall 4. 6 Berth) has a thermostat so I can control how warm I desire it to be and the Webasto Night Heater unit does the rest.

I have the following hot air ducts situated around my Motorhome.

1 Hot air outlet in the kitchen kick board

1 Hot air outlet under the main seating area

1 Hot air outlet in the doorway step area

1 Hot air outlet in the bathroom and shower area

2 Hot air outlets in the garage to keep stored items warm and dry

1 Hot air outlet in the over cab king sized bedroom

1 Hot air outlet in the over garage double bedroom

3. 3-Way Fridge Freezer

Although a fridge freezer may not sound a necessity in a motorhome it does give you the option to keep consumables for longer periods of time without the need to have to return to shops on a daily basis. So although there is an initial outlay in purchasing a 3-Way Fridge Freezer you will save money in the long run.

There is a difference in a domestic fridge freezer and a 3-Way Fridge Freezer. A domestic fridge freezer runs of mains electricity (230V AC in the UK and 110V AC in the USA) so when the mains fails then the fridge freezer does not operate. A 3-Way Fridge Freezer is far more sophisticated in that it can run on mains electricity, 12 Volt DC (Leisure Battery) electricity and also Gas (Propane or Butane)

The fridge freezer I purchased is a Dometic AES (Automatic Energy Selection) fridge freezer. I have the ability to manually select the power source I wish to use i.e. 230 Volt Mains Electricity, 12 Volt DC battery power or Propane / Butane Gas. The best feature it has is an automatic selection function, when this is selected it first uses 230 Volt mains electricity to run, in the event of the fridge freezer not detecting mains power it then switches to Gas (Propane / Butane) to run. If for any reason gas is not present or the gas supply runs out then it finally switches over to 12 Volt DC leisure battery power. This is to ensure that the batteries are the last power to be drained by the fridge freezer.

4. Solar Panels & Charge Controller

Battery power is something anyone living in a motorhome needs to consider. Without it you will have no lighting, TV, Cooling or charging for accessories. Generally speaking most Motorhomes / RVs / Campervans come fitted with a 110AH 12V deep cycle leisure battery. Without supplementary charging the battery will soon become depleted, leaving you with no power. One way to charge the battery is to run the motorhome engine but this is a very inefficient way to charge the leisure battery unless you are actually travelling somewhere. The best solution is to fit a solar panel system that will charge the battery in daylight hours, the bigger the panel the better.

Now I have to be careful not to go into too much depth with the subject of solar panels since it is partly what I do for a living and there is lots of additional information on this site that covers the technical aspects of solar panels, charge controllers, inverters and installation.

I will cover this topic relating to Motorhome Solar Panels in a separate post in the near future. Anyone wanting specific information should contact me via email.

5. Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detector

Carbon Monoxide kills! A Motorhome is without a doubt an extremely hostile environment to live in. Gas cookers, Gas Hobs, Gas water heaters and sometimes Gas Space Heaters all operate within a Motorhome, simply put here is a LINK to a must have item, install it correctly as per the manufacturers instructions and if possible buy more than one and test them once a month. If you take nothing more from this article, please for safety’s sake, buy a combined Carbon Monoxide and Smoke detector and use it.

6. LED Lights (Get rid of the old lamps!)

For a long time LED lighting has been peddled as the must have energy saving item to buy but the truth is until very recently the LED was not actually as efficient, in terms of light output, as the humble fluorescent lamps. Things have improved over the last 12 months to a point now where LED (Light Emitting Diodes) are now extremely efficient and the light spectrum range can be compared to both fluorescent lights and even incandescent lights.

When I first purchased my Motorhome I was stunned to notice that all the down lights in it (11 in total) where 20W 12V G4 capsule lamps. Yes the lighting from them was great but they will drain the leisure battery in no time at all. So the very first thing I did was to order a set of G4 12V SMD (Surface Mounted Device) They were very well priced and since installing them I have never looked back, they are bright, sharp and they run on next to no power at all without emitting masses of heat, unlike the incandescent G4 capsule lights.

7. Bed Throws

Bed throws? You may think this one is trivial but I can assure you that keeping warm at night is important. Not only for comfort but also for a good nights sleep, without plenty of layers, you will not be able to function.

I initially purchased some heavy tog bed sheets in the hope they would keep me warm at night living wild in the Motorhome but soon found that they alone were not enough. I tried various additional covers and finally found that layers were the answer to a warm bed. The more layers you have enables your body heat to warm the resulting air pockets up allowing you to have a good nights sleep, despite what the weather is doing outside.

8. Hot Water Bottles

Well when the weather gets really nasty (As it often does in the UK) then the solution for me is to heat up a kettle of water, fill a couple of hot water bottles and wrap them in a towel and pop them in your bed. I found that they kept me warm all night and were well worth having in storage just incase!

9. Wind Out Side Awning

If you are wild camping (Overnighting somewhere public, a supermarket car park or in a remote layby) then I would strongly suggest that you never wind out your awning as you will stand out like a ‘Sore Thumb’ What I find is that when I visit Motorhome parks or campsites that an awning is invaluable. It sounds trivial but if the sun is shining it is good for the soul to sit out in the shade of an Awning and read a book, work on the laptop and just get some fresh air and stretch out a little. My Awning more than doubles my living space and with the privacy sides attached is great for drying clothes in and carrying out various chores. If you can afford one, get one, you will not regret it.

10. Reversing Camera

My Motorhome is over 7 meters long, this does not pose a problem when driving in general but when you need to back up in a tight space then my reversing camera is something I am so glad I installed as I can get within inches without the need for guesswork. I initially bought the kit as a wireless reversing camera system but the wireless feature was nothing less than disappointing. With so many things using the wireless band waves now, wireless doorbells, wireless opening gates, Other wireless cameras the chance of interference if inevitable. Also they claim to cover over 100ft but in reading closer you find that is in ideal conditions with a clear line of sight.

I would say that a wireless reversing camera installed on a motorhome would be doing well to transmit and receive over a distance of 3 meters. Any more than that then you are taking a huge risk of little of no reception at all.

I stripped my Transmitter and receiver out of my system and hard wired it, it took 5 hours to install and was 5 hours well spent.

I not only use my wireless reversing camera for reversing but also it is great for motorway driving as you can overtake and pull in knowing you are not chopping someone up.

The Camera also has automatic infrared illumination so I still can see perfectly well in low or no light conditions. I doubt I would ever be without my Reversing Camera now. Great all round investment.

11. Kindle 3G With Free Internet

Many people these days have fancy broadband enabled mobile phones that can do just about everything but wash the dishes for you, however, these devices come with a price, mainly lengthy and expensive contracts. If you are like me and do not want to be tied to a contract and be free of the monthly bill lifestyle of today then this is the answer.

I bought my Kindle 3G with free internet access just over 18 months ago. I had doubts about it having internet access on it but I am pleased to say that it really does. No contracts, nothing fancy, just a one off payment for the kindle and you have internet for free. Now do not think that you can go surfing YouTube all day long as the Kindle Keyboard is incapable of such tasks and the connection is not a super fast 4G or 3G connection but what you can do is check your emails online, read the news and play on Facebook. The connection is GPRS so it is great for general surfing and emailing.

I got mine (UK version) and took it on the holiday of a life time, I spent 2 weeks cruising the Caribbean around 10 different Islands and believe it or not it worked in every port of the cruise. I took great pleasure in watching all the other passengers spending a fortune in the ships internet cafe whilst I could do everything I needed for absolutely nothing via my Kindle 3G.

12. Samsung Galaxy Tab P1010 (With Wi-Fi)

I am sure that most people are now familiar with Tablet devices, basically they are a PC without a keyboard which are highly portable and easy to use.

I use mine daily, it is great to connect to Facebook and Twitter to catch up with friends and quick for reading emails. To use it for the internet you must have a Wi-Fi connection, most public houses now have free internet access in the UK so it is great on an evening to go and have a quiet drink and get your news and emails for free.

13. 12 Volt Laptop Charger (12 – 22 Volts)

A 12 Volt Laptop Charger is something anyone wanting to Wild Camp for any extended period of time should have. There are tons of DC-DC Chargers on the market for very little money but the problem is they output voltages from 1.5V – 12V DC and no higher. As you know most laptops require a charging voltage of around 19.5V DC and for this you need to get an electronic DC-DC Charger which will provide power from 15 – 24V DC.

They are great to charge your Laptops up whilst you are on the road via your cigarette lighter socket.

14. Non Slip Roll Out Matting

All surfaces in a motorhome (Tables and worktops) tend to be smooth. Looks great and polishes up well but everything slips around. If you move in a motorhome (Even with the stabilizers down) so does the rest of the motorhome, it can become a right nightmare to keep things tidy and in the same place you left it earlier.

This Non Slip matting is the perfect solution, I use it for lining drawers, a table cloth and to line all the shelving throughout my Motorhome.

15. Halogen Cooker (For When You Are Hooked Up)

Of all the crazy thing I have purchased over the years that have ended up left in the spare room gathering dust only to end up thrown out with the trash the JML Halogen Cooker is, believe it or not, not one of them!

If you are hooked up to the mains electricity on a regular basis then I would recommend getting one. They cook the best baked potatoes in the world in around 30 minutes and you can actually cook just about anything in them once you get the hang of it. Plus at full power it runs at 1.3KW plus on a cold night it heats your motorhome at the same time. Definitely worth the money.

16. Travel Games

This one is a no brainer, I have found that a simple pack of cards can be a mans (or woman’s) best friend. Yes Laptops, Kindles 3G’s, Tablet PC’s are all great fun but sometimes the simple things in life are the best!

17. First Aid Box

A First Aid Box (Along with a Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detector) should be the first thing that you purchase for living full time (Fulltiming) in a Motorhome. I would say it is the most overlooked item in anyone’s arsenal of essential items. Don’t bother with the cheap kits you find on the market stall for a couple of pounds, when the time comes you will regret it.

Living in a motorhome or wild camping for any length of time requires you to be prepared for all eventualities, including illness and accidental injury. There are so many dangerous things in a motorhome, sharp objects, confined spaces and many sources of heat to be weary of. One slip and you will wish you purchased the right professional First Aid Kit.

18. Cordless Dyson Handheld Vacuum

I had to learn the hard way here, when it comes to vacuum cleaners the old adage stands, ‘You get what you pay for’ There are a ton of 12V DC Vacuum cleaners on the market, all aimed at the Caravan / Motorhome market, non will come close to a Dyson.

This is the only Cordless Vacuum cleaner on the market that can be compared to a mains electrically powered Vacuum.

Big outlay but amazing performance, I know, I tried all the cheaper models on the market and not one of them did a proper and thorough job of cleaning.

19. Portable Solar Charger

If you like walking whilst out and about then a portable solar charger will come in really handy for you. I use mine when I visit the Yorkshire Dales or go up to Cumbria to see the lakes (Windermere). It can be folded open and charges a battery, then when you need to recharge your mobile phone you have power to do so. Great also to leave in a window in full sun with your mobile plugged in, that way if you have to go out you can rest assured that your mobile is fully charged and ready to go.

20. Silent Generator (Petrol or Diesel)

If you require lots of power and are in a remote area in the winter than the only true option for maintaining mains electricity in your motorhome is to have a petrol or diesel generator. You can pick them up for less than £150.00 but these will run the possibility of damaging your sensitive electrical equipment due to poor electronic voltage regulation, they will also be really noisy and most probably cease to work within 20 hours of use.

If you want a good sound investment then get the best money can offer. If not then ‘Pay your money and take your chances!’