In this article, our aim is to help you decide which type of motorhome or campervan will be perfect for you, and also give guidance on how to avoid some of the latest scams that prevail in this industry.
Buying your first motorhome or replacing your existing one is a big decision in terms of cost and choosing the right one for your needs.
Buying your first motorhome or replacing your existing one is a big decision in terms of cost and choosing the right one for your needs. There are also scams that prevail in this industry which you will want to avoid at all costs.
The first steps may seem obvious, but we will cover them anyway. How many seatbelts do you require? And how many berths?
The number of seatbelts determines how many people you can safely carry in the vehicle whilst it’s being driven. It’s pretty obvious, but the number of berths indicates how many people can comfortably sleep in the motorhome or campervan.
Some four or even six-berth motorhomes only have two-belted travelling seats.
So, if there are usually going to be more than two of you travelling, you will need to make sure you have the required number of belted seats.
For vehicles manufactured up to 1988, there is no requirement for rear passengers to have seat belts.
If your vehicle was manufactured after 2006, you must identify which seats are designated travelling seats and it must have seat belts for all designated passenger seats. Side-facing seats cannot be designated as travel seats.
If you passed your UK driving test on or after the 1st of January 1997, and you haven’t taken an additional test to get the full entitlement, then you will only legally be allowed to drive a vehicle with a maximum weight (“MAM” or ‘Maximum Authorised Mass’) of 3,500kg.
If you wish to purchase a motorhome over this weight and do not hold the required licence, you will need to take a C1 test before you can drive it. This would then enable you to drive vehicles up to 7,500kg MAM.
If you passed your driving test before the 1st of January 1997, then you should automatically have this C1 category entitlement. Just check the back of your licence to make sure.
Many motorhomes are rated at over 3,500kg and so to be certain, you should check the logbook and/or the chassis plate fitted by the conversion manufacturer.
Decide on a budget and set a price that you are willing to go up to.
Once the basics have been covered, the next step should be to spend as much time as necessary doing research on the web and visiting dealers’ forecourts looking at the various layouts and getting a feel for which one suits your needs.
There are also shows across the country that many motorhome dealers will attend with a range of motorhomes.
The Caravan camping and motorhome show held at the NEC is the largest of these shows, but is more specifically aimed at new motorhomes and campervans.
Other shows that are regional and have a varied range of new and used motorhomes and campervans are Warners shows. The link below will take you to a list of their shows taking place across the country – plus providers of slightly smaller shows.
There are several different categories of motorhome/campervan for you to choose from:
A Traditional ‘Motorhome’ or ‘Coach Built’
As you can see from the image, the motorhome is based on the chassis of a van, but the body behind the cab has been replaced with the coach-built ‘habitable’ area. These give more living space, but are then generally wider than the original van would have been. This makes them slightly less agile. If you intend to drive mostly around Cornwall, then you’d better get good at judging the width 😉
Campervan or Van Conversion
These are generally a bit smaller and are easier to manoeuvre around tight roads, although they still come with the necessary beds, cooking facilities and a bathroom.
They are basically converted vans – where the external bodywork is kept intact, with the addition of windows and doors etc. But, as you can see – the overall profile is the same as the original van upon which the campervan is based.
The low-profile coach-built is very similar to the over-cab. However, it does not have a bed over the front (above the driving area) and is much closer in width to the original van upon which it is based.
The handling and fuel consumption is slightly better, and an additional bed in the front is still available in these but generally lowers above the front dinette area.
The Over-Cabs are generally larger vehicles, offering extra living space – as their interior extends over the driver area. They can sleep anything from two to six people, and generally provide a double berth in the over-cab area.
A Class or Integrated
This is the most luxurious option, that can give a real feeling of space inside. However, the external look is not to everyone’s taste – as they have a large front windscreen and a fully integrated body with no separate cab.
They are built from the chassis up, including the cab. This means that the width is constant from tip to tail, and assists with better insulation of the cab area.
When you know which type you want…
When inspecting your prospective new motorhome, you should check as much of the paperwork as possible – especially if it isn’t brand new. Ensure it comes with a new habitation certificate showing that it is free from damp and other faults.
Make sure you are happy with the condition inside and out – and that the items you would expect to come with it are all present, such as tables, awning winders and that all of the appliances are present and complete.
It is advisable to purchase from a reputable dealer, who will have carried out HPI checks and offer a warranty – as well as the necessary safety checks before you receive your new motorhome. Essentially buying from a dealer eliminates many risks that can be inherent in buying a new motorhome.
When you buy from a private individual, you don’t benefit from the dealer’s expertise, backup, and consumer protection laws should something go wrong. This is known as the consumer rights act 2015.
You will also be provided with a comprehensive handover when you collect your motorhome to instruct you on how everything operates.
Scams to Avoid
Buying privately can offer some savings in terms of price, but there are a lot of scams around, and you should make sure you do thorough due diligence before handing over any money.
In particular, you need to be aware that fraudsters are currently flooding platforms such as eBay, Gumtree and Autotrader with fake listings copied from genuine adverts.
They are usually way below market price, and the story is generally that there is an urgency to sell due to health or family issues.
They will want the money transferred to a third party to hold until your inspection. This is usually an elaborate piece of work, including a mock-up email that looks like it came from one of the platforms offering to hold your money until you have inspected the vehicle and confirmed you are happy.
If in doubt, check with the platform’s customer service or safety centre before handing over your hard-earned cash.
The savings when buying privately can amount to several thousand pounds, but won’t justify the risk if you end up getting burnt in a scam. You also won’t get the backup, service maintenance checks and warranty – or the other dealer benefits that I mentioned earlier.
When you buy a new motorhome or campervan, you’re sure to want to maintain the value of your investment as much as possible. In our ‘How to maintain the highest resale value for your motorhome or camper‘ article, we explain which maintenance is essential throughout the year. We also explain how to ‘winterise’ it – and what makes us pay the most for trade-ins and vehicles that we buy privately!
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