Where to buy a motorhome and campervan
So, you've decided the time is right to buy a motorhome or campervan, but where should you buy from? For potential motorhome and campervan buyers, there are a range of options, from buying at one of the many shows around the UK, to buying online, buying from a private vendor or finding a motorhome and campervan dealer near to where you live.
Here, MMM takes a closer look at where you can buy a motorhome or campervan.
Buying a motorhome or campervan online
The best place to start the search for your first motorhome? It has to be online. For the sheer convenience of browsing hundreds, if not thousands, of motorhomes for sale from the comfort of your own home – or from anywhere, via a laptop, tablet or mobile phone – the internet really is the go to place. It’s an excellent resource for researching models and prices, and understanding the different available layouts.
Most reputable dealers have websites, detailing the models they have for sale, complete with images, specifications and prices.
If you live within close distance of a dealer, it might be worth looking them up online first, to see what models it stocks, before making the visit in person to view them.
A great starting point is our motorhomes for sale section where you’ll find exactly that – thousands of new and used models available to buy. To make your task easier and more effective, the search functions allow you to browse by motorhome make, condition – new or used – and to set a minimum and maximum price, so you can adjust it to fit your budget.
You can also include your own postcode, and set a distance limit from that to help narrow down your search. This is especially helpful if you’re reluctant to travel more than, say, 40 miles, to view motorhomes; not everyone is prepared to trek up and down the country. There’s also a function to search by dealer, which is especially handy if you want to look up a few well-known names from one website rather than looking each one up individually.
For each motorhome, you can see a summary of key features, and important details such as the number of berths, the model year, steering position, whether it has a manual or automatic gearbox, the mileage, and more. You’ll also, of course, be able to see the price of every listed motorhome or campervan, and details of the seller – private and trade.
Buying a motorhome or campervan at shows
Visiting a motorhome show is another excellent option for viewing new models. Much like browsing online, a show is a convenient opportunity to see a lot in a matter of hours – an all-under-one-roof solution, if you like.
In 2020, there’s an extensive schedule of motorhome and campervan shows all over the UK, so the chances are that there’s one near you. One of the largest and best-known events is the Motorhome and Caravan Show, which is hosted every October at Birmingham’s NEC.
This is something of an annual showcase for the latest motorhome and campervan models – as well as caravans, too – and, as such, a great opportunity to see many of the major brands at the same time. If you’re just starting your search for a motorhome, you’ll need a full day there to get around all the models on show, but it will be time well spent as you can thoroughly inspect a vast range of motorhomes and campervans. You can also ask questions of brand representatives and dealers, and really get a ‘feel’ for different models.
You may also find that there are special show offers available, too, providing discounts or tempting upgrades. Just make sure you’re not dazzled by an offer and pressured into making a commitment to buy on the spot. There’s no rush to buy; take your time. If you’re unable to attend October’s show at the NEC, the same venue hosts another event every February.
Many of the shows are organised and hosted by Warners, the publisher of MMM magazine. Among these is the National Motorhome & Campervan Show in Peterborough in April, which is the largest of all the outdoor events in the series and has a huge selection of new and used motorhomes. For 2020, there is a brand-new event as the Scottish Motorhome and Campervan Show comes to Edinburgh in July.
Buying a motorhome or campervan at auction
Buying a motorhome or campervan at auction is another option, although it may not appeal to everyone. You can expect find to a range of motorhomes and campervans at auction, from new to used. Some of the newer vehicles are typically there because there have been defaults on finance payments. Some may be bespoke conversions that there isn’t a demand for. Others might be simply deemed not worth the extra work required to restore it back to full working order. If taking on a motorhome or campervan that needs a bit of care and attention doesn’t faze you, you could pick up a bargain at an auction.
At an auction, what you see is definitely what you get – although the auctioneer will specify any known faults or declare the motorhome as sold as seen. The auction experience might seem daunting to complete beginners. You’ll be bidding alongside traders and those who are used to the environment. If your bid is the highest and you win, you’ll need to pay a deposit to the auctioneer immediately and then pay the balance in the office. Bear in mind that you must remove the vehicle at the end of the auction, so you’ll need to make arrangements regarding getting it home.
If you plan on driving it away, you’ll need to have insurance in place and ensure all is in order with MoT and tax.
Buying a motorhome or campervan from a private vendor
Buying a motorhome or campervan privately – just as you would a car – remains an option. It’s a perfectly valid one, too, provided you give it proper thought. If you see the specific vehicle you want, either advertised or perhaps even passing by it locally, is it time to act? Possibly, but think it through properly.
The advantage of buying privately is getting a bargain. You might get a few extras thrown in – outdoor furniture, gas cylinder, etc – especially if the seller is giving up on motorhoming altogether.
What you won’t get, of course, is any kind of warranty, which could be a problem if things go wrong. But, if you enjoy tinkering and are looking for a project ’van, then you can certainly get a good deal by buying privately.
Insist on seeing proof of up-to-date servicing of the base vehicle, as well as the habitation area, and preferably a full service history of both. You should also ensure that viewings take place at the seller’s home address, as this should match the address that appears on documentation such as the V5, confirming proof of ownership.
Check out the private ads in MMM and view thousands of motorhomes and campervans for sale here.
Unlike buying from a dealer, with a private purchase, the onus is on you to check out aspects like the authenticity of any documentation, and a whole lot more. Do a background check – an HPI check is just one on offer and the best known, but there are others. Companies like the AA will also carry out a vehicle inspection, which is a good idea with older vehicles.
Finally, remember that legislation like the Consumer Rights Act only affects a transaction between an authorised commercial seller (ie the dealer) and a purchaser.
Buying from motorhome and campervan dealers
Look for specialist motorhome dealers with some long-term pedigree, as well as backing for their workshops, such as approval from trade body, the National Caravan Council.
Another ‘stamp of approval’ is the Preferred Dealer Scheme operated by the Camping and Caravanning Club (campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/helpandadvice/preferred-dealer-scheme) and the Approved Dealership network, which is administered by the National Caravan Council (approveddealerships.co.uk).
Many specialist dealers are family-owned and can point to long histories – start with the About Us section that many websites usually have.
It’s even better if they can show long-term affiliations with specific manufacturers. A long history with a manufacturer will pay dividends in terms of expertise and experience.
Overheads regarding buildings and staff mean prices for vehicles will be that bit more, of course, but the compensation is the whole aftersales package that a leading dealer can offer – that’s everything from handy tips and advice through to servicing, repair and accessory fitting services, too.
Buying a motorhome or campervan for the first time? For everything you need to know, get our Buying Your First Motorhome guide - the 2020 edition is available from February 17 here.