Choosing your motorhome

What do look for when you a choosing your motorhome?

Where do you start?

A friend asked me the other day what they should think about when choosing a motorhome, well the list is endless (well almost…) As recent buyers of a new to us motorhome I have listed the things that we found useful in helping us to determine what motorhome would be right for us, when we considered when buying KEN.

I hope you find it useful, and please do leave comments if you have anything else useful to add on this post.

Motorhome engine size and power

Expecting to cover many miles on our journeys, it was important that the motorhome did not feel ‘underpowered’.

  • Does the engine have sufficient power to make driving easy? – check the engine size and reported bhp
  • What weight will you be carrying? – see “carrying capacity” below
  • Will you be able to get up those hills in Scotland or the Alps?
  • What effect does that have on the fuel efficiency?

Carrying capacity (payload)

  • Check that there is sufficient weight capacity for the vehicle to carry you and all passengers and luggage within the maximum weight the van is licenced to carry. Some motorhomes have a very small available capacity once the vehicle is in “on the road” mode including fuel etc. If not, it is worth looking into whether it can be uprated, which is possible on some vehicles as a paper registering exercise.

Age and mileage of the motorhome

We wanted to take long journeys to Southern Spain and other places in Europe including the Nordic regions, so we needed to think about reliability.

  • What age would we consider
  • What mileage would be reasonable – many are extremely low mileage but it is worth remembering that the base vehicles they are built on are used to travelling well over 100,000 miles when used as commercial vehicles

The ‘wear and tear’ of the vehicle

We didn’t have deep pockets, so we needed to have value in the motorhome we could afford. We looked around the following to assess if ‘extras’ may cost us more money:

  • Tyres – although motorhomes do not do many miles a year, many motorhomes keep their tyres longer than the advised 5 years. We accepted that we would probably need to put new tyres on any vehicle that we ended up buying.
  • Seals and blinds – what were the seals like around the windows and doors – did they all open and close properly? Were they all watertight?
  • Gas pipes – when were they last replaced? The hoses have a ‘shelf life’ printed on them, check to see if these will need replacing.
  • Batteries – are the vehicle and leisure batteries fairly new? If not, be prepared to replace them in the short to medium term
  • Check for damp in as many areas as possible using a damp meter, especially in the top and bottom corners. If there is any damp, is there an obvious visible cause such as poor external sealing, which is easily rectified, or is it a bigger problem?

Layout

This always down to personal preference. There are so many options

    • French style fixed bed
    • Island bed
    • Overhead cab bed
    • ‘U’ shaped lounge and converting to double bed
    • Lounge sofas behind the cab converting to double bed

As we saw ourselves touring for the odd night here and there, we were originally convinced we wanted a ‘U’ shaped lounge at the rear which would allow us to ‘crash’ overnight in bed in the two single spaces without having to make the bed up. However, many of the ‘U’shape we saw did not have long enough single mattress length. The bed was made up across the van, which meant that we would not have been able to use it as two quick single beds.  Also for us, we did not want a bed where there was only the option of a complete ‘climb’ over the other person to get out of the bed! We would have loved the island bed, but unfortunately, this is a fairly modern addition to motorhomes and it was out of our budget. We settled on the fixed French style bed, for us the advantages include:

    • Space under the bed in the garage area (we need room for golf clubs and trolleys)
    • The bed is permanently made up, so when you are tired or if one person is ready for bed, the living area is not compromised
    • No need to store bedding, it is left on the bed
    • With a ‘decent’ opening at the end, one person can get in and out without having to clamber over the other person sleeping
    • No fitting of various cushions to make the bed up, one comfortable mattress, always in place

Left hand or Right hand drive

We planned to drive more in Europe than in the UK so for us we wanted the advantages abroad. Also, we found out that generally left hand drive vehicles are slightly cheaper in the UK – so you get more ‘bang for your buck’ – for us they offered greater value.   We have driven left hand drive cars in the UK historically we owned a Chevrolet Camaro (in another life) and are used to driving our right hand cars in Europe – so for us, we were not worried about driving on the wrong side of the road when in the UK!

Bathroom

I really liked the idea of a separate shower cubicle. I hate shower curtains – memories of living in a flat years ago, when cold the wet curtain always seems to attach itself to your body (not a cosy feeling). Also, I liked the  idea of the shower, being separate from the toilet and bathroom section – where toiletries would not get wet whenever you had a shower.

Air conditioning

Having travelled in Southern Spain for over thirty years, for us air con in the summer is a must. If you travel with the old fan system, you just get hot air blown on you and find driving becomes more tiring. We find an air con system allows us to get to our destination feeling fresh!  So for us our ideal would be hab and cab air con systems.

Kitchen facilities

I do not see us cooking big three course meals in the oven, I am more likely to bring pre-prepared home cooked meals and heat them up in the motorhome. Also, we do like chilled drinks and ice (especially in the heat of southern Europe), so a big fridge was a must for us. We really like the bigger fridge and small freezer (rather than the little fridges with just ice boxes inside) – this would allow us plenty of space for food and drinks. A microwave would be more important than an oven, for heating up those pre-prepared meals (when on electric hook up).  For general cooking, a hob and grill would suffice for us. I intend on buying a portable gas barbecue for use when we are parked up for a few days. I also have an electric teriyaki grill which is great for when you are on hook up. So the larger oven for us, would be no more than a cupboard most of the time!

Seating & storage

The main issue for us was having somewhere for one person to sit when the other is in bed! I had experienced a motorhome in the past where when I got up in the morning, the only place I had to sit was in the cab area. The bed was made up from the sitting area. This works out okay, if you are in a warm climate and can sit outside. I remember waking up and making a coffee and with nowhere to sit, thought I would go outside. I forgot that it was New Zealand in the Southern Alps and it was -2 at the time with ice under the vehicle!!! So I had to go back to sitting in the cab area, without a table for my breakfast until my partner surfaced! Space was limited in the motorhome we hired in New Zealand and we had to use the cab area for storage (clothes, shoes etc) once we made the bed up. So again, sitting in the cab area for breakfast was cramped. We knew we needed more space in any motorhome we would look to buy! Swivel chairs – these seem to be a standard option on the modern motorhomes, but provide a great, comfortable way to use the table and extend the seating area within the habitation area. As golfers, we wanted room for clubs, trollies, batteries, golf shoes etc that all comes with the sport. We would also want walking shoes and clothes for the 4 seasons you can get in the UK on any spring day! Somewhere to dry waterproofs would also be useful.  As I will be working on the road, I will need to store papers and electronic devices. So for us, the overhead cab bed was a waste of space. We would not be sleeping above the cab and preferred the option of cupboards and storage. 

Size, look and feel of your motorhome

This is personal choice, but like everyone we wanted our motorhome to have ‘kerb’ appeal and to look nice!  We didn’t want the motorhome to be too big and excluded the vehicles over 7.5m in length, or too big an overhang from the rear wheels.  However, having hired a smaller motorhome in New Zealand, we knew we needed sufficient space to ensure the sleeping (and living) areas worked for us. Space is a compromise, the smaller vehicles are great for getting parked up and driving on the country roads, but we planned to be touring mainly in Europe and felt the larger space would provide more comfort, even if it meant we were unable to get along some roads. Maybe we would invest in bicycles in due course! So having worked out what sort of vehicle we wanted, we then set about our search to find the right one. If you are thinking of buying a motorhome and don’t know which style to buy, I hope you find this useful. You may be interested to read Tips on viewing and how to buy a motorhome  Cheers for now Ax

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