Top 10 tips for buying a motorhome
Get it right from the start by following these simple tips on how and where to start looking for your first motorhome
1 Do your research
Don’t rush into it. On average, most first-time motorhome buyers take up to two years before taking the plunge, so take your time.
OutAndAboutLive is the number one destination for all your outdoor leisure needs and we have:
- A dedicated motorhome buyers' guide which gives you all the very latest prices
- Browse vehicles for sale or see what vehicles are available to hire - try before you buy
- A destination to purchase magazines like Buying Your First Motorhome and What Motorhome magazine, which is dedicated to helping buyers chose the right motorhome.
While browsing the internet and leafing through brochures is a great place to start, there’s nothing like getting hands-on. Visit a show like the October Motorhome and Caravan Show at Birmingham’s NEC, or one of the many Warners’ motorhome shows held throughout the year, and visit your local dealer.
View the motorhomes: sit on the sofas, lay on the beds (are they long enough?) and make them up (is it easy to make the bed?), stand in the shower (is there enough headroom?), check the storage and payload (can you put your bike/s inside the garage and is there enough payload?) then take it for a test drive… this will help you discover your own personal likes and dislikes when it comes to motorhomes.
2 Make a list
With so many types of motorhomes and campervans on the market to choose from, it’s important to identify exactly what you’ll use it for. First be clear on how many berths and travel seats you need. Will there be just two of you or four or even six, will you lend it to your family and friends or take your grandchildren away? Will you be taking your pets with you?
Then think about what the layout (see point three).
Perhaps you want to tour all year round and for months on end, in which case you’ll need a motorhome with a Grade III insulation rating and one that is fully winterised with heated water tanks or one with a double floor, which has all the tanks within the floor void.
Or maybe you’re just after a campervan with seats for ferrying the kids during the week but which doubles up as a practical camper come the weekend.
Or perhaps you need lots of storage and payload for transporting sports equipment like bikes or skis. Making a ‘must-haves’ list will help you narrow down what things you can’t compromise on.
3 Choose the right motorhome or campervan layout
Once you have defined how many people will travel and sleep in your motorhome, the most important thing to decide upon with a new motorhome is the layout. Get this wrong and, however good the deal is, we guarantee you will be swapping it within a year.
We have produced a guide to all the motorhome layouts here.
The layout is key to you finding the home-from-home comfort that works for you. Consider whether you want to make up beds each night or prefer a fixed bed. Fixed beds are great but take up lots of room however making a bed up every night can be frustrating. Drop-down beds are an ideal compromise, so maybe a motorhome with a drop-down bed is for you.
If you go for a fixed bed, try it not just for length and comfort but also look at whether it is up against a wall or is high-level – climbing over your partner to get out and negotiating steps may not be your idea of night-time fun.
Sit down and relax in the lounge and relax – how comfortable is it, can you all se the TV (if you want to)? Is there enough seating to entertain guests?
Ask yourself how much cooking you plan to do, as this will help you decide if you need an oven and microwave, or if a basic hob will do. Most British motorhomes come with kitchens to rival those in a typical home but do you really need a 150-litre fridge/freezer and a full oven, hob and grill?
Then think about the washroom – will you actually use the shower and, if so, is there enough headroom and is the shower powerful enough (and the water tank large enough) for your needs? Sit on the loo – is there enough leg room and can you close the door?
Then check there’s enough storage space for all your belongings and enough payload to carry it all.
4 Try before you buy
Once you have decided on the must-have elements of your new motorhome and the layout most suited to you, the fun really starts.
Use the buyers’ guide database on outandaboutlive and narrow your search down to specific models and then look to rent one or get one through a dealer on a try-before-you-buy scheme.
Renting a motorhome for a weekend or a longer holiday is a great way to give it a go, no strings attached, and get a taste and feel for it. There are lots of specialist motorhome and campervan hire companies out there.
And, as mentioned, some dealers also offer try-before-you-buy schemes. Use the experience to learn all about fitting gas bottles, disposing of grey waste water, emptying toilets, etc, as well as picking up tips on driving larger vehicles.
5 When to purchase
If you have your heart set on a brand-new motorhome then one of the best places to strike a deal is the October Motorhome and Caravan Show at the NEC. You’ll have the biggest choice at this time of year, but bear in mind that delivery times can be very long.
If you’re after a new model but not concerned about whether it is a new-season model, then the autumn is also a good time to hunt for one of these.
At the same time every year (September to January and sometimes even into February and March) dealers will be selling their previous season motorhomes. These are brand new but not the very latest models. This means they have no (or very low) mileage on the clock and no-one has slept in them or used the facilities and yet they will carry significant discounts.
The downsides are the choice will be limited and reducing all the time as models get snapped up by other buyers. Also, the models in the showrooms will be all that are available so you may have to settle on a model with the wrong fabrics or a specification that might not be ideal. The upside is you will get a great deal and can drive it away immediately.
At this time of year you can also grab a great deal on an ex-demo model, which tend to come kitted out to a very high specification.
The best place to find run-out stock and ex-demos is at the Motorhome Show Season Finale in Lincoln in September.
As we approach April and the start of the new camping season (and new registration plate numbers), many dealers will be taking in trade-ins against the new models they have sold at the October show. This means, if you’re on the hunt for a used model, the months up to April are a great time to go shopping.
One of the best places to pick up a used motorhome us at the Peterborough National Motorhome and Campervan Show.
6 Location, location, location
It’s easy to fall in love with a motorhome at a show or spot what sounds like your perfect model on the internet, but always think about the location of the dealer.
Don’t forget that warranties are issued for a reason and things can, and do, break or need attention. A motorhome has a huge amount of technology and, even new models, may need warranty attention.
You don’t want to be driving halfway across the country to get a faulty fridge or light switch repaired. Any saving you managed to get on the motorhome may be quickly wiped out if you need to pay for fuel to and from a dealer a long way from home and an overnight stay if they can’t repair your motorhome immediately.
And remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of bogus online listings.
7 Get the extras you want
That might sound obvious but don’t forget about the motorhome extras you might need, as the cost of these can add up.
Check whether your motorhome comes with an awning, a bike rack or satellite dish, and that the swivelling cab seats, a sat-nav, and anything else you want is included, as such things are expensive to buy later on.
Your initial list of must-haves should have elements like oven or shower on it but extras can make or break a holiday so think hard about what you really want and need and what is just a nice-to-have.
Extras that generally cost more are things like more powerful engine automatic gearbox, alloy wheels, air-conditioning, satellite navigation, a TV, a bike rack and an awning. We suggest looking at dealer special models, which are sold exclusively by a dealer and often include all of these extras as standard.
MMM, Britain’s best-selling motorhome magazine produced a supplement on the latest dealer specials free with its March 2020 issue.
8 Ask lots of questions
Ask lots of questions and check all the details before buying a motorhome. There is no such thing as a daft question so, if you don't know then ask. Good dealers encourage you to do this, so don’t feel pressured by a pushy salesperson at a show, for example.
We recommend walking around a motorhome at least five times, as it can be hard to spot the wood from the trees. If possible, bring friends and family along to viewings – the more eyes, the better.
Consider evergything from the position of the driver’s seat and the ease of driving to the comfort of the beds and the kitchen facilities. Look at the size of the water tanks, the insulation rating, the size of the fridge, the storage…
9 Check before signing on the dotted line
You wouldn’t buy a house without doing a survey, so don’t buy a used motorhome without getting it thoroughly checked first. A HPI check will confirm the legal owner, confirm whether the vehicle has ever been in a serious crash or not and highlight whether there is any outstanding finance.
Companies like the AA offer a vehicle inspection service, too, and they’ll check for things like rust, the brakes, clutch, steering, tyres, etc.
And don’t forget to ask for the service history for both the base vehicle and habitation area, as this will help to see how well it’s been looked after since it left the workshop.
And always get a recent damp check certificate. If the seller will not supply one then walk away.
Then get a recent weighbridge certificate. Again if the seller will not provide one, walk away. When you do get one, check you have enough payload for what you need. This applies to new motorhomes as well as used models.
Finally, make sure you get a full handover before you drive it away so you not only understand how everything works but can also see it working.
10 Read all about it
Both are available as digital magazines .These are both filled with inspiring travel features and ideas to ehelp you get the most of your new vehicle. These magazines will also help keep you up to date with valuable information, such as any changes in legislation.
With a wealth of experts on hand, you’ll learn all about doing DIY projects, adding the latest accessories, taking your motorhome abroad, and much more.
Finally, if you want more tips and advice, have a look at these articles on buying a motorhome:
- Choosing the perfect motorhome for you
- The ultimate guide to buying a motorhome
- Buying a motorhome from a dealer
- How to haggle for your dream motorhome
- Buying a motorhome at auction
- Buying a motorhome privately
If you are ready to start searching for your new (or newer) motorhome have a look at the motorhomes and campervans currently on the market here.