Buying advice: top tips on buying a used motorhome or campervan
Buying a pre-owned, used motorhome or campervan is certainly a lot more complex than purchasing a used car.
For a start, there is a bewildering array of makes and models available, many of which may have only sold a handful of examples in a given year.
If you don't really have a clear idea of the specific model you want, it's recommended that you spend a bit of time researching the various brands available. Head to outandaboutlive.co.uk/motorhomes/for-sale where you can browse the listings of motorhome and campervan models in your own time.
Setting a budget and choosing a layout for your used motorhome or campervan
However, you will encounter a mass of choice and to fine tune any search, it’s much better to decide first on the type and size of motorhome or campervan that you want, be it a pop-top campervan or a luxury A-class. Of course, it’s important to set a realistic budget.
There’s no point of dreaming of a nearly new motorhome if your funds are limited to £20,000. In fact, unless you can stretch to at least that amount, you’ll probably be looking at private ads, auction websites and a few specialist dealers who focus on this end of the market.
Next, you’ll need to think about the type of motorhome layout you like. This is the area that many first-time buyers get wrong and, if you want to avoid a costly mistake, it’s important that you don’t fall into the same trap.
One of the key decisions is whether you want a motorhome layout with a fixed bed or not. If you’re really not sure, you should hire a motorhome or campervan first to see how you get on.
Hiring a motorhome or a campervan is a good investment anyway as it means you can try the lifestyle and see how you feel about driving a larger vehicle and how you enjoy this style of holidaying and touring.
Once you’ve decided on a layout, size of vehicle and style of motorhome, then it's time to revisit outandaboutlive.co.uk/motorhomes/for-sale with a much more focused search criteria.
Checking finance, insurance and the history of a used motorhome or campervan
When you’ve identified some potential purchases, you’ll want to be sure that the vehicle you’re looking at has not been stolen, has no outstanding finance on it, and is not an insurance write-off.
A HPI check will give you the necessary reassurance regarding its history and, if buying privately, only do so at the seller’s home, which should match the address on the registration document.
Also, you can check gov.uk/checks-when-buying-a-used-car which has free information about vehicle recalls and MOT histories. Remember that, if the price looks too good to be true, then proceed with caution and do some further research.
Many buyers prefer to use a dealer, where you will get aftersales care, a warranty and the security of dealing with an established business.
Wherever you’re buying your motorhome, you’ll want to be sure that everything works – there’s a lot of kit in a motorhome, from leisure batteries to water pumps, from fridges to heaters.
Even more importantly, especially on coachbuilt vehicles, you’ll need to check for any damp problems caused by water ingress. Even on newer vehicles this can be an issue, especially as a result of accident damage or poorly installed accessories. A damp meter can be used to check for problems or use the services of a vehicle inspector. Also ask for an up-to-date habitation service certificate.
If you don’t feel confident checking over a vehicle for yourself, an AA or RAC inspection may help, but this will only cover the mechanical/base vehicle side and not the habitation part.
Arguably, it’s aspects like the gas and electrical parts of the latter that need your attention, so look to specialist inspection providers such as Habcheck or via The Caravan and Motorhome Club.
Check the weight and payload of a used motorhome or campervan
Don’t forget to consider weights, too. Be sure that you have a C1 category driving licence if you’re considering a vehicle of more than 3,500kg gross weight.
Then, think about the payload you’ll need for the kit and people you’ll be carrying. Most quoted payloads allow only for a driver and fuel/gas, but not water or any accessories that have been added.
Options such as automatic transmissions, awnings, bike racks, etc, can eat into payload figures, so, to be certain that you’ll be driving legally, it’s essential to get a weighbridge certificate for the actual motorhome you're looking at. Only that way can you be sure that you’ll be travelling safely.
Having got this far, it’s worth checking that there is still some aftersales support for the model – is the manufacturer still trading, or is the brand still imported here? If you’re buying a nearly new vehicle do consider whether the saving is worthwhile compared with a (discounted) new one.
And, finally, if buying through a dealer, check what warranty is provided and whether you should negotiate for an extended cover.
If it’s a fairly modern motorhome or campervan, it may have had a water ingress warranty of anything from five to 10 years from new, but this may have been voided if regular inspections have not been carried out – and be sure that it can be transferred to subsequent owners.
More advice on joining the exciting world of campervans and motorhomes can also be found in the annual publication, Buying Your First Motorhome. A digital version of this magazine can be downloaded at pocketmags.com/buying-your-first-motorhome-magazine or a printed version can be ordered from outandaboutlive.co.uk/motorhomes/store/reader-offers