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Buying a motorhome: a beginner's guide

June 19, 2012
by Laura Canning | guides

Peterbilt 387 Conversion 2009 Motorhome

We are trying our absolute best in this blog post not to salivate over the Big Daddy of motorhomes, the £750,000 precisely-named Ultimate Class Teschner XLII Prevost XLII Series Bus , or the £250,000 Peterbilt 387 Conversion 2009 Motorhome, as doing so looks a bit weird and last time we salivated over a top-of-the-range motorhome there was a very awkward conversation with the local bobby. Instead we’re going to take a look at what types of motorhome are out there for the non-millionaire buyer, and what type of features you can expect when you shell out on your first motorhome.

A motorhome is basically a more fancy-pants version of a campervan, giving you a fair bit more space and very likely a good few more mod cons than your average vintage VW. Think of the RV owned by Robert de Niro’s character in Meet the Fockers and you’ll have some idea both of what a motorhome can be capable of and of how unfair life can be for we plebs. Motorhomes are a hefty outlay at first, and can be expensive to run as they’re so big – but once you take this into account a motorhome is the perfect way to travel, around the country, around Europe and even further afield. We’re amazed people ever buy houses, frankly.

First things first when buying your motorhome – how much space do you want? Or, probably more likely – how much can you afford? It’ll obviously depend on whether holidays are going to include the four kids, the dogs and Auntie Mabel, or whether you’re going to hit the road in misty-eyed solitude with song lines about drifters walking alone ringing proudly in your ears what size you go for. But any motorhome is going to be a good size compared to a small caravan or campervan, so think about price, parking, storage, petrol costs, insurance, driving licence restrictions and even whether you’ll be able to manoeuvre a walloping great hunk of metal around easily before you pick your motorhome size.

Confident that you’ve picked the right size of motorhome for the type of trips you want to take – a stonker of an RV will be no use on 'off the beaten track' countryside trips, for example – the next thing you’ll probably think about is what you want on board. Comfy seats and a decently sized lounging area are obviously good if you’re travelling any distance, and you’ll probably be keen on having a shower and loo on board too (remember though that in this case you’ll need to find water and waste hookups, as well as electrical if you’re planning on cooking ). Bed space is another thing to consider: even if you’re not going to be travelling with kids, think about whether you and the other half might occasionally want a few friends along on your trips – and where they’re going to sleep.

Add DVD players, music systems, ovens and whatever else you want if the motorhome supports it – this is a big investment so spend time getting it exactly how you want it. You can have pretty much what you like in a motorhome these days if you can afford it, so have a think about what facilities you need and what extras you have to have.

Now that you know roughly what size of motorhome you want and what you want it to contain, it’s time for the best part of motorhome purchase – drooling over different makes. The Autoquest 100 is billed as a good starter motorhome for beginners, as are the Autotrail Apache and Arto Motorhome . And of course there are also the American RV style motorhomes which are becoming increasingly popular to buy in the UK.

If you’re finding yourself a bit spoiled (or confused) for choice, a motorhome exhibition show such as the Motorhome & Caravan Show is an excellent place to start and to see all the new models due to be released. Over a third of the 90,000+ visitors are there to research their first ever caravan or motorhome say the event organisers, so you’ll be in good hands if you’re a motorhome newbie. You can find other motorhome and caravan shows by using the festival finder on the Pitchup.com homepage: search for 'motorhome' to bring up a list of shows around the country, with details of where to stay nearby. You’ll have your own little (or humongous) home on wheels before you know it.

Updated June 2013.

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