Buying a motorhome: The ultimate guide
So you’ve decided you want to buy a motorhome or campervan — you should have a pretty good idea about the size, type and layout of motorhome or campervan you’re after (if not, read our handy guides to the types of motorhomes available and the various motorhome layouts) — but where do you go from here? Here's our ultimate motorhome buyer's guide...
Buying a motorhome from a dealer
How to haggle for your dream motorhome
Buying a motorhome at auction
Buying a motorhome privately
The MMM Essential Guide to Buying Your First Motorhome
Making sure you choose the right motorhome or campervan is vitally important to prevent you making a costly mistake, so here are some top tips on how to buy a motorhome, what to look for when buying a motorhome, where to buy a motorhome from, as well as tips on securing the best deal:
1. Write a motorhome wish list
Creating a list of what you must have in your new motorhome and what you would like is the essential first step. Your ‘must have’ list will feature things like the number of travel seats and berths, bed lengths, washroom and toilet facilities, overall motorhome length and weight, payload, kitchen facilities, etc. Not sure what’s available? Click here for our guide to motorhome layouts.
The ‘nice to have’ list will be things like a TV, reversing camera, awning, etc. Keep these lists and make sure any motorhome you’re interested in ticks off all the essentials.
2. Consider hiring a motorhome before you buy
This is a great way to try out various layouts before you commit to purchasing a motorhome, and you will often get your hire fee refunded if you buy from the hire company. Read our advice on hiring a motorhome.
3. Ask the motorhome experts
The choice of motorhomes on sale can be confusing, so ask an expert. Talk to motorhome dealers, friends, and other motorhomers, or talk to the experts at MMM magazine, Britain's best-selling motorhome magazine, at the various motorhome shows throughout the year (see below), or contact the MMM, What Motorhome and Campervan teams via email, Facebook or Twitter.
4. Visit a motorhome show
Visit motorhome shows before you buy to help you narrow down your choice. These provide excellent opportunities to check out several similar vehicles in fairly close proximity. You’ll find it a lot easier to rule out certain motorhomes if you can nip back and give them another once-over, rather than relying on your memory.
Warners, the company who publish MMM, What Motorhome and Campervan magazines, hold a number of motorhome shows throughout the year — find out more about Warners motorhome shows here.
5. Should I buy a new or used motorhome?
Buying a new motorhome means you get a full manufacturer and base vehicle warranty, as well as the advantage of being the first person to use everything. But, of course, this comes at a price and there may be limited stock of specific new models at this point.
Buying a used motorhome means someone else has taken the depreciation hit and previous owners may also have added extras like bike racks, satellite TV systems and towbars. You may also get a dealer warranty of between six and 12 months on used motorhomes.
6. Can I drive a motorhome?
Check your driving licence. If you passed your test before January 1, 1997, are under the age of 70 and have a C1 category on your licence, you will be able to drive motorhomes up to 7.5 tonnes, unless you have a restricted licence due to health concerns.
If you are approaching 70 years of age and currently have the C1 entitlement, then, when you celebrate your seventieth birthday, you need to reapply to keep the C1 entitlement, which involves a undergoing a medical, with the process being repeated every three years. If you only have the B category licence then you’re limited to a motorhome weighing no more than 3.5 tonnes. Read more about motorhome weights and driving licence restrictions here.
7. Try out the motorhome
When you’ve found a motorhome that suits, try everything out:
- Sit in the driver’s seat and make sure it adjusts to suit you
- Sit on all the seats
- Try the beds for comfort, size and access, and, if they need to be made up, then do so and then convert them back into seats
- Manoeuvre around the washroom as if you were using it
- Open all the cupboards and try to imagine where you would put everything – storage, especially in multi-berth motorhomes, can be limited.
- Test everything and anything and get the salesman to demonstrate anything you’re not sure about
- Finally, make sure you take a test drive.
8. Try to find a motorhome locally
You may find the right motorhome but discover it’s being sold by a dealer hundreds of miles from your home. If so, consider the cost and inconvenience of getting to and from the dealer for servicing and warranty work. If it’s a problem, ask the dealer if it’s willing to work with an approved workshop closer to you for service and warranty work.
Large motorhome dealer groups like Marquis also offer to move the motorhome you’re interested in to the nearest Marquis dealer so you don’t need to travel too far.
9. Haggle for the best motorhome price
As with any purchase, new or used, haggle for a discount, better trade-in value or accessory packs thrown in. If you are a first-time motorhome buyer it might be handy to get the dealer to include a gas bottle, hook-up lead and other essentials, but don’t be unrealistic about how far you can haggle. Make sure you’re buying the motorhome you want rather than being tempted by what looks like a good deal. Click here for information about motorhome finance and other funding methods.
10. Don't forget to ask about motorhome warranties
Most used motorhomes come with six months to a year’s warranty, and the terms can be restrictive, so make sure you know the details. Will a service be needed to fulfill the terms of the warranty and where will the service need to take place (franchised base vehicle dealer, dealer you bought the motorhome from, etc)?
Some aftermarket warranties (and some new motorhomes) come with limited breakdown cover, but this often is only for specific things on the base vehicle, so you are likely to need a comprehensive, motorhome-specific breakdown policy, too. The dealer is likely to want a deposit, and this is not normally refundable. The amount will vary depending on the motorhome and the dealer.
NCC-approved dealers adhere to a code of practice, so ask if it is an approved dealer and buy from one if the deal is right. You can read the NCC's Motorhome Sales Code of Practice here.
11. Don't rush to buy motorhome accessories
Once you’ve done the deal, don’t buy lots of expensive extras you may never use. Wait until you have your new motorhome and use it for a couple of trips before you decide to accessorise.
Motorhome dealers are a great place to browse new and used stock. If it's new you're after and you know which manufacturer you're looking for, you can easily find out which dealers are appointed as a franchised dealer.
You can't let yourself assume that a new Auto-Sleepers dealer would have only used Auto-Sleepers. The majority of dealers will offer a good range of used models, both bought at auction and taken in part exchange.
When buying from a dealer, the vehicle should be fully valeted before you pick it up and will generally come with a warranty of varying lengths of time depending on the vehicle's age. All new motorhomes will get a manufacturer warranty, while older ones, whose initial warranty has expired, can often be offered with a dealer warranty.
One main bonus of buying a motorhome from a dealer is that you know where you need to head if there are any problems, which is not the case when you buy privately. The dealer you buy from should arrange all warranty work and issues you have with your motorhome. There is a dealer standard called the Approved Workshop Scheme, which is managed by the National Caravan Council (NCC). Search for your nearest AWS workshop here.
It’s also worth looking out for ‘dealer specials’ or ‘special editions’ from larger motorhome retailers. These are motorhomes based on existing models but with the addition of loads of extra kit specified by the dealer. The benefit to the buyer is, potentially, better value for money as costly accessories like wind-out awnings, reversing campers and satellite TV systems are included in the price. Some even come with extras that are not available at all on standard models, including exclusive furniture finishes and engine upgrades.
If you’re buying, selling or part-exchanging your motorhome, whether it’s privately or through a dealer, making the pennies count is important. And haggling is the way to get what you want at a lower cost to you.
Trading in your motorhome
Trade-ins are always a tricky subject. Be totally honest about the condition of your current motorhome if you have one, because if you miss out any important issues like damp problems, defects and dents when describing the motorhome, the dealer can’t even hope to offer an accurate value. This will be noticed when you bring the motorhome into the dealership to swap and your trade-in values will be adjusted.
Check our online Motorhomes for Sale section or your local paper or dealer websites to find a model in similar condition and to get an accurate value. Read our essential advice on selling your motorhome here.
Consider motorhome dealer margins
All motorhomes are bought by dealers at a cost price from the manufacturer and then sold on at a profit. This is your margin for haggling on new motorhomes.
Be mindful that dealers do have to earn a living too, so you can’t expect to get a major discount. One bargaining tool is to get the delivery charge waved, which can be high for those built on the Continent.
Used motorhomes are a completely different matter. The margin is the difference between whatever the dealer bought the motorhome for and what they can sell it for — and this may be significantly higher than the margin they buy from the manufacturer — so there’s often more margin for haggling.
Take out a finance package for a better motorhome deal
A dealer can probably make more money selling you motorhome finance than on the actual sale of the motorhome. So if you are already planning on taking out a finance package, you may be able to negotiate yourself an even better price. But take care that you are not paying over the odds in interest.
Think like a motorhome dealer!
- Adopt an attitude — the key is to convince yourself that you don’t actually need the motorhome you’re trying to buy — it’s the dealer’s job to persuade you otherwise
- Never take the first offer — there is ALWAYS room for negotiation in every purchase and when it happens, don’t remain calm. It is better to appear shocked and surprised by an ‘outrageous’ offer, even if it isn’t unreasonable. The worst that can happen is they just say no to your lowest offer
- Stay silent. If you’re quoted a price that’s still too high just say: “You’ll have to do better than that...” and keep quiet — make the salesman do the talking
- Never offer to split the difference — always wait for the dealer to offer
- Have a small concession that you’re willing to give up at the end, so that the dealer can have the satisfaction of winning something and his pride remains intact
- Never, ever tell the dealer, first up, what you have to spend — he’ll make sure you spend every penny of it
- Prepare in advance. Know what constitutes a fair price for whatever you’re selling or buying. Shop around, not only to make comparisons, but to gain confidence.
While some vehicles you see on a motorhome forecourt are trade-ins from that dealer, many are brought in from specialist auctions. While margins vary from dealer to dealer, the ‘forecourt price’ is always higher than the ‘trade price’ and this can mean the difference of several thousand pounds.
Auction stock consists of repossessed motorhome from finance companies, older vehicles that high-end dealers don’t want to sell, plus all manner of other vehicles. Unless you’re handy at restoration work, avoid any vehicles that need anything other than cosmetic work. Bodywork is expensive to sort on coachbuilt motorhomes, so is best avoided. If you’re not mechanically minded, take someone who is, and inspect the motorhomes on offer inside and out.
The good news is that anyone can buy from auction and get a motorhome at trade price. But not all auctions are open to the public, so check with the auction house first. If your bid is the winning one, you can pay in various methods, but some auction houses charge extra for credit card or cash payments so check before you bid. It’s also worth checking what extras — including buyers’ fees and VAT — you will have to pay in addition to the hammer price.
Buying a motorhome from a dealer offers more security, but there can be significant savings when buying a motorhome privately.
We all love a bargain. That thrill when you’ve bought something you know is a great deal. And many of us now buy online. But, buying a motorhome from an online advert has its risks. There is a simple rule: if an item has a very low price then it’s likely to be too good to be true. If you see a motorhome that is priced below the market norm, ask yourself why.
Check out the secondhand price guides in every issue of MMM magazine, Britain's best-selling motorhome magazine, for a clear indication of current used market values. There are many legitimate motorhome owners (and some dealers) placing adverts to sell their motorhomes online. But, as a buyer, it can sometimes be difficult to spot the genuine adverts from the fakes. With businesses and dealers it is far easier as you can make sure they’re a genuine business and then pay them a visit. But with private sellers you have to be more careful.
You can browse over 5,000 new and used motorhomes and campervans for sale right now through our online Motorhomes for Sale listings.
Questions to ask when buying a motorhome privately
Once you’ve spotted a possible motorhome to buy, make contact with the seller — it’s always best to get a landline phone number as soon as possible – but, at this stage, an email address will suffice.
Then ask the usual questions:
- Reason for selling the motorhome
- How long have they owned the motorhome?
- Who the motorhome is insured with?
- What’s the typical insurance premium?
- Which motorhome clubs are they members of?
- How long is the motorhome?
If the seller is not genuine, he may struggle to answer some of these immediately. If he does struggle, then be cautious.
Then ask the seller to email some holiday snaps with the motorhome in the pictures — genuine sellers will be able to supply these. Also, ask what problems they’ve had with the motorhome. Question the owner more carefully if they say they’ve had no problems as even the best motorhomes can suffer from niggles. If you’re not happy about the lack of information or answers aren’t provided, then move on.
Viewing a private sale motorhome
- If you can’t get a landline phone number, at least get a mobile number but treat this with more caution. Always try to speak to the seller. There may be genuine reasons they don’t want you to call them, but treat those who want to do everything by email with extra care
- Never buy a vehicle unseen and always view at the seller’s house or premises. Make sure the person lives there by asking to see proof of address and ID. A genuine seller will not object to showing a driving licence
- Then do all the necessary checks on the vehicle. Make sure the vehicle being sold is the same as that detailed on the registration documents
- Check the MoT and insurance certificates and make sure they all match. The DVLA now has a lot of information freely available online just by entering the registration number — click here to check a motorhome registration.
Paying for a private sale motorhome
Once you’ve found what you think is the ideal motorhome, you need to pay for it. It’s never safe carrying substantial sums in cash, so always bring someone with you if you intend to pay with cash and make sure they remain with the cash, until you have your keys and documents. You can pay using a bank draft, which is safer than carrying cash.
Never pay by money transfer — they aren’t secure — and never send confidential personal or financial information by email. High-value frauds sometimes involve the buyer being asked to send money by bank transfer to the seller who will offer to deliver the vehicle using a bogus shipping or escrow company. This is often using cloned information from genuine online adverts.
There are lots of scams out there and variations of them, so always be alert. If you think something is not right or the deal is too good, then walk away. If the worst happens, report the online scam to Action Fraud. Problems with companies selling online should be sent to Citizens’ Advice. If you have disclosed bank or credit card details as a result of a scam, report it to your bank immediately.
Are you buying your first motorhome? Check out MMM’s guide to ‘Buying Your First Motorhome’ here — produced by the publishers of MMM magazine, Britain’s best-selling motorhome magazine, this handy guide is updated every year with the most up-to-date motorhome buying advice.
From the latest motorhome and campervan launches to essential buying advice and tips for enjoying your new-found motorhoming lifestyle,‘Buying Your First Motorhome’ is your complete guide to buying a motorhome. Buy ‘The MMM Essential Guide to Buying Your First Motorhome’ for just £5.99 here, or download a digital version to your smart phone or tablet here.
Now you, hopefully, have a greater understanding of the motorhome buying process and have read all of the motorhome buying advice you need, it’s time to consider financing your new purchase. Click here for our guide to financing a motorhome.
Or, if you have a motorhome to sell, read our ultimate guide to selling your motorhome or campervan.