Buying a motorhome in the UK: complete guide and top tips

So you’ve decided you’re ready to take the plunge and purchase your own RV. But where do you start? What type of caravan, conversion or van do you need and what do you need to consider when buying a used one?

The market can be a minefield, but Auto Express is here to help with some words of wisdom before you go, plus some top tips from our very own CEO, Nicola Bates.

Motorhome Buying Guide

what to look for

If you’re shopping for a new RV, you’ll want to consider things like interior design and storage, especially if you plan on bringing bikes or other bulky gear, but buying a used RV requires a little more thought.

Perhaps the most obvious is the condition of the van. People often live in them for weeks and that can take its toll. Make sure all specified kit is present and correct, whether it be cushions or mattresses,
or even discs for factory installed navigation systems.

Many trucks have removable gas tanks. These aren’t always expensive to fill, but the boats are sold on stock, so you’ll need to return one to avoid paying twice. Make sure they’re where they should be, and take some money from them if they’re not.

Finally, many trucks will be sitting idle for the winter, which is not good for any vehicle. Make sure the tires are in good condition (many need special tires, rather than normal road car tires) and that the water tank is clean and free of mold. The same goes for the cabin; Conversions are particularly susceptible to condensation, which can lead to unwanted odours.

Is bigger always better?

Larger vans often have more amenities and larger beds, including bathrooms and showers. But they also have their limitations. Size can influence route choice, as narrow roads and rural campsites can be a hindrance for larger trucks. Larger vehicles, especially those weighing more than 3,500 kg, may also need additional license categories or more confidence to drive. Many will also be speed limited, making longer trips more of a chore.

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The space and practicality of the smaller models may surprise you. Many have folding beds to maximize interior space during the day and folding tables or folding chairs that can be hidden away when not in use.

Factory build or conversion?

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between a factory-built motorhome or a converted motorhome. A conversion allows you more input into the design or features of the truck, but what appeals to you may not appeal to used buyers when it comes to selling.

While going factory-built is likely to be more expensive, the quality is often superior, with warranties similar to buying a new car. And with competitive financing, it may be cheaper than you think.

rent before you buy

You can hire vans and motorhomes for the weekend, the month or more from around £40 a day (out of season). It’s a great way to see which vehicle best suits your needs. Just book early to avoid the summer rush.

In fact, Nicola is a shining example of how renting an RV could even save your marriage. She and her husband knew they didn’t want a huge RV, so they borrowed a Volkswagen with a pop-up roof.

motorhome bed

“We came very close to divorce one night trying to make the bed!” She told us. “We realized what
we needed was a [boot] that was big enough for a scooter or bikes, and enough storage space to be self-contained. We also wanted fixed beds, so we didn’t have to make the beds every night.

Case study

Q&A with Nicola Bates – CEO Autovia

What type of van do you have and why did you buy it?

We have an Adria Supreme SL. We went through phases to determine what we needed and decided
that this particular van was going to be perfect.

How often do you use your van?

We are outside all the time, even in winter. We have used it in November, December and February, and went
to Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago.

What kind of trips do you usually do in the van?

They are mainly on weekends. Normally you say: ‘are we going on a trip for a weekend?’ You book a hotel and before you know it, over dinner, you’ve lost between £600 and £700. But with the motorhome it’s £25 for most places we stay.

Either you love it or you don’t, but waking up in a different place every time? There was a place on the Isle of Skye overlooking a loch with otters floating around and we thought ‘this is quite special’.

Do you find it frustrating having to pack everything to go anywhere?

Usually, if we are not too far from home, we take a car and use it. But since fuel is astronomical by the minute, if there’s only an hour and a half to go, we ask ourselves: ‘can we afford to take two vehicles?’ If it’s further, we will
take the bikes; We have electric mountain bikes.

You get into your routine when you’re away. We just get up and go [my husband] does that, I do this. The most important thing is to make sure that everything is secure and that it does not move while we are driving. My best advice is to have plenty of towels in the dish cabinets!

motorhome worktop

What could you live without?

The toilet! But there are also USB ports everywhere so you can plug in and keep your phones charged. Many people have proper ovens; we only have a gas hob. But then we usually have outdoor barbecues, or tapas.

Any big plans for the summer?

We want to make Norway. My husband has done it on a motorcycle and he thinks it would be awesome in the van. Also the south of France, but it’s just finding the time to do it. There are plenty of places closer to home that are good to go out for when you want a change of scenery.

Caravans and motorhomes at Auto Express…

caravans

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