How do you Choose?
Buying a motorhome is a huge investment. You are potentially going to be spending tens of thousands of pounds on it. It is probably the biggest purchase after a house that you will make.
And it is a minefield! How do you choose which one you want? There are two things to consider really – the first is to decide which type you want – and that is what we cover in this article.
Once you have decided the practicalities of driving and storage, then we can go into more detail about the functionality of your motorhome and what kind of layout questions you need to consider.
What type of motorhome do I want to buy?
Again there are a huge amount of questions that you will be asking when you want to understand what type of motorhome that you want – So lets start with the basic questions:
- What is the difference between a motorhome and a campervan?
- What types of motorhomes are available?
- What will I use my motorhome for?
- Can I drive on my current drivers licence?
- What is my budget going to be?
Motorhome and van styles
Microvans are just that. Small ‘car’ like vans where you can get a double bed in the back when all the cushions are laid out appropriately and some pull out storage that would take a small gas camping oven, store plates and cutlery for 2.
Super cute for overnighting in – but if it rains – you are pretty much sitting in the back of a car.
A camper van tends to be either a high top, pop top or converted panel van which has living space in the back. The classic campers are the VW camper.
Instantly recognisable and uber cool. VW T5 or T6 transporter will also fall in this range of camper – and the ones with conversion kits have seatbelts and can be used as a family car.
The most popular panel van conversions are Mercedes Sprinters. This was what I first had my eye on. I was thinking Instagram, funky and fun and not working, rather than fulltime freedom living for two people.
Think of the cool van pics on Instagram with the doors open at the back, overlooking the beach with blue seas and skies, some floaty white curtains and a bit of bunting!
‘C’ Class Motorhome
A motorhome is generally speaking a larger vehicle that is ‘coachbuilt’. Coachbuilt is when the manufacturer of the vehicle puts the living part of the vehicle onto a base chassis. These are smaller than the A class, easier to drive and comfortable for 2 – 4 people This is what we have. Freddy is 6.5m, so technically a small motorhome (20ft – 40ft).
‘A’ Class Motorhome
What will you use your motorhome for?
This is something that you will start to be thinking about when you start to look at layouts of the different vans.
The reason that I have asked this question is because although it might not help you which type of vehicle you want – it will most likely help you to narrow down what type of vehicle won’t work for you. Fulltime living for a family of 4 is highly unlikely to want a microvan or a T4/T5.
It focuses on how much time you will be spending in the vehicle as well as how many people.
Lets think of some scenarios that people have before buying a motorhome or campervan.
- We want to go to festivals and have fun at weekend
- We want to go on holiday, just the two of us for a week or two at a time
- We want to holiday as a family of 4
- We want to travel to warmer climates for the winter (ie 3 months plus)
- We want to live in our vehicle fulltime
- We want to wild camp/be off grid
What are the essentials that your motorhome must have?
Whilst the last question for buying your motorhome was about how much time you spend in your vehicle, this question is about what kind of things do you need to have available to you to be able to enjoy your time once you get to your destination.
This really is about the levels of luxury you need to have in your surroundings – or how much will you do without before it is an issue? You are starting to touch on the layout side of things – we cover this in much more detail in our article of ‘Which Layout Should I Choose’.
What type of things might you want to think about here?
- Do I want a fixed bed? (That is a bed that is permanently made up, so it is there all the time and you don’t have to make it up each night)
- Do I need a bathroom? (Toilet and shower or just toilet?)
- Do I need to be able to stand up properly in it?
- Does it have to be under 3.5 tonnes? (Driving licence implications)
How many berths and seatbelts are needed?
This one will have a big baring on the size of the motorhome you end up with.
You should compare the berth number to the seatbelt number as all travellers will be required to wear seatbelts for legal reasons. You could find they don’t tally up. You may read lots of different things about seatbelts and legalities – both in the UK and abroad. You NEED ONE FOR ALL passengers.
A motorhome sleeping 6 or 8 people is likely going to be on the large size – or you could be bickering like crazy after 7 days.
At the same time, do you really need to buy a 6 berth motorhome, if most of the time you are travelling as a twosome? You could purchase an awning attachment to your motorhome for that extra space if you need it on occasion, or make your motorhome lounge area into a bed for the odd occasion.
Under or over 3.5 tonnes?
There are 2 motorhome weights that you need to know about – under 3.5 tonnes and 3.5 tonnes – 7.5 tonnes. There are a few reasons why this may be important as part of your considerations when buying your motorhome.
Will my driving licence cover me?
There are also 2 driving licence types – a C and a C1. The final factor that you need to consider is age. For once it pays to be older . . .
If you took your test before 1st January 1997, then you will have a ‘C1’ marked on your licence, which means that you can drive over the 3.5 tonnes with no impact.
If you took your driving test on or after this date, then you only have a ‘C’ on your driving licence and will need to take an additional test to get the ‘C1’ which will allow you to drive over 3.5 tonnes.
The cost of driving is more expensive.
Tolls can be more expensive when driving in Europe. Toll charges can be between 10 and 30 euros more expensive in France. Italy are also an average of 20 euros more. Some countries have toll tunnels as well as toll roads. You can buy the appropriate electronic charging device on the borders (ie Vignette or Go-Box)
Some campsites in Europe will only take up to a certain length – ie no motorhomes over 8 metres. This is in the UK as well as abroad. Consider that you may also be towing cars or bikes, meaning the length is even longer.
Speed Limits come into play.
This is particularly applicable in Europe. You may well be limited to 50 or 60 mph meaning travel time will take longer between your stops. This should be factored in.
What is my budget?
The final big question when you are looking at buying your motorhome is what your budget will be. This is going to be a massive one really. If your budget is £10,000 then I would suggest you rule out looking at the ‘A’ class motorhomes.
If your budget is £60,000 – you are probably already not thinking about MicroCampers or Campervans – you could buy them brand spanking new for less money than that and would probably have done that without doing this research!
If you are in the £30,000 region – you are probably thinking possible C Class or converted panel van with a few miles on the clock.
Motorhome shows and large motorhome showrooms are great places to go and Just browse motorhomes! And they are great fun too!
We had a fantastic time at the Birmingham NEC Motorhome show. All the brands and types are all there for you to look at. It is a great day out – walking in and out of a variety of motorhomes and campervans of various sizes – and caravans too! Its a great way to get a feel of both space and facilities.
Have a read of our ‘Which Motorhome Layout Should I Choose’ article as well as this one – and get some motorhome show tickets and have a weekend of fun!
And so . . .
Hopefully our tips and advice on buying your motorhome will help you to understand what kind of motorhome you are actually looking for now – or at least narrowed it down for you to start doing the fun bit which is actually looking at them!!
The recommendation is that you view as many as possible.
I genuinely think that Damo and I got lucky when buying our motorhome Freddy. It really did have pretty much everything we needed (other than the roof deck) and we bought the first one that we saw – but I also don’t recommend this course of action for most people.
We did go through the process of understanding how we needed to use our motorhome, or at least how we thought we were going to use our motorhome to allow us to come to the right conclusion for us!