Guide to buying a used motorhome

MMM editorial
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The big advantage with buying a used motorhome is the price but, if you buy well, you can also get one that has all the extras already fitted and all the teething problems sorted out.

When buying a used motorhome, make
up all the beds...and lay on them!

Find a nearly-new motorcaravan that suits your needs and there it is possible to enjoy huge savings over buying a new model. While motorhomes retain their value at a much healthier rate than cars, they still depreciate so a top-end three-year-old motorhome can offer a substantial saving over its new sibling.

Depending on the model, some nearly-new motorhomes can be up to £10,000 cheaper than new, although others can be much closer to the original price.

In addition, motorhomes that are one or two-years-old can often have covered less than 10,000 miles and should hopefully, have had any problems sorted out under warranty by the first owner.

You can also drive the actual vehicle before buying, rather than ordering a 'van that is yet to be built. This of course all relies on being able to find the layout, type and size of motorhome you want at the right price.

One of the best places to buy a secondhand motorhome is at a show, you can get a list of the outdoor motorhome shows by
clicking here, or failing that, you can search a wide range of used motorhomes for sale on this website.

It is only dealers who sell at the outdoor motorhome shows, so you will still be able to ask for warranty cover options and have a contact should anything go wrong. This is not the case if you buy privately. Buying from a private seller can save you compared to buying the same model from a dealer, but you have no comeback once you've parted with your cash.

If you do plan to buy a motorhome privately, then:

  • Have a full damp test carried out by a professional. If serious damp is found, consider very very carefully whether you want to proceed and ensure the asking price reflects the level of repair work needed
  • Have a HPI check to ensure (as best you can) that the vehicle is not stolen or is an insurance write off
  • Ensure you view the motorhome at the seller's house. Check this against the owner documents when you arrive
  • Always bring someone with you if possible, especially if you are carrying large amounts of cash
  • If you are not sure what you are doing, get a mechanic to check the base vehicle and the cab - electric windows and mirrors, radio, sat-nav, air-con, lights, etc
  • Take it for a test drive, but ensure you have insurance cover
  • Check the gas and electrics in the habitation area - so check the fridge works on battery, gas or hook-up or all three if appropriate; check the oven, grill and hob all work; check the 240v sockets work if there are any; check all the lights; check the electric awning if it has one
  • Check everything in the washroom works - shower, flushing toilet, sink taps, etc
  • Have a lay on the bed and make sure it is comfortable to get in and out off, especially if it is over the cab or above a high-level garage
  • Construct any beds that are made from the seats, even if you plan not to use them
  • Check the cab seats - do they swivel and lock into place, can they be adjusted to your comfort levels, especially the driver's seat for comfortable driving
  • Check the interior and exterior for damage
  • Ask the seller for proof of work done and check to see that it has been done by a reputable dealer, especially work like fitting a bike rack or television satellite system
Of course one of the downsides of buying a used motorhome is that someone will have slept in the bed and used the facilities in the kitchen and bathroom. So check everything is clean and well cared for. If not, don't instantly walk away but haggle for a reduction in the asking price and treat the motorhome to new bedding, kitchen facilities and a good overhaul of the WC with the savings. You could even get it re-upholstered and new cushions added.

Check everything, including
the fridge works

Ten tips to consider when buying a used motorhome:

  1. Get up close and personal: look along the sides for ripples or dents, check where sealant has been applied and the care that has gone into the build
  2. Remember, stickers applied in unusual places could be hiding something sinister
  3. Press against the side of a coachbuilt – judge the thickness of the aluminium and quality of the build
  4. Have a good sniff around. A musty scent is a good indicator of damp in a motorhome
  5. A spongy feel can mean delamination of the floor – fixable but costly
  6. Make sure the payload is sufficient to your needs – insist on a trip to a weighbridge to make sure you’re not being short changed
  7. If buying from a dealer, check how good the dealer's warranty is compared to competitors
  8. If buying from a dealer, make sure your deal is done subject to you seeing systems working and beds made up
  9. Take a test drive over bumpier roads, not just the forecourt's smooth surface
  10. Remember, it's ok to haggle!
Buying used is of course worth some serious consideration. You'll be parting with a large amount of money - letting someone else take the hit on depreciation can be a very canny idea.

A good way to motivate yourself in this search is to find a nearly-new example, then calculate the difference between its price and new, then divide this figure by the number of miles covered.

When you see how much from new the owners have paid per mile it can be mind boggling - more so, when you realise that the trade-in figure will be rather a lot less than the ticket price.

Decide what's realistic for your needs. 
It's important when buying new or secondhand that you consider what's right for you in your 'van.

Consider the motorhome's layout when buying including:

  • Toilet and shower - Do you need these and is the shower realistically usable?
  • Kitchen - Will a microwave suffice? Is the cooking equipment clean and in good order?
  • Storage - As good as anything might look, is it practical for your storage needs? Remember, you'll be living in your vehicle.
  • Sleeping - Do you find the beds comfortable? Lie on them for a while and make sure. Are the beds sagging after just a few years?

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