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What to Look for in a Motor Home

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 25 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Motor Home Camper Van Parking Space

A motor home is a bigger, more luxurious take on the camper van, something that’s really suited for those who want to spend time on the road, but who have no desire at all to rough it. Completely self-contained, it's truly a home that's mobile.

There must also be the strong wish to spend money, since a real motor home doesn’t come cheap. The vehicle itself is expensive, even second hand, and they drink petrol – but then again, they are large, with big engines. Once you've made the initial outlay however, the vehicle will potentially pay for itself as holidays should be cheaper over the years to come.

Of course, most come with plenty of 'mod cons', but there’s a range of options, and extras worth looking for when you’re considering the purchase of a mobile home. As always, a lot depends on your needs – and also on your budget.

What Size Motor Home to Choose?

One important question is how big a vehicle do you feel comfortable handling? Some mobile homes can be around 10 metres long, which means they’re not easy to manoeuvre, and need plenty of parking space (which can be a major problem in the winter). Others, of course, are more compact, but still not exactly tiny. You should assess how you feel on the road, and try out different vehicles before settling on a general size. Where you're planning on travelling will have some bearing here. Many parts of the UK and Europe have roads which pre-date the motor vehicle and have been updated but not significantly widened. You may find a larger motor home difficult to drive in those interesting little villages in the Pyrenees for example.

A Note About Motor Home Sizes and Your Driving Licence

If you passed your driving test before 01/01/97 and are under 70 you can drive up to 7500kg MAM (maximum authorised mass).

If you passed your test after 01/01/97 your licence covers you to drive up to 3500kg MAM. To drive heavier vehicles you will need to take an additional test. If you are 70 or over the 3500kg rule applies and you'll need to take a medical if you want to retain your higher weight entitlement.

How Many People Will be Travelling?

If you have a family with younger children you'll need a motor home with more sleeping space. If your kids are older, they might be happy sleeping in a pup tent or in an awning space.

If you regularly travel with another couple or have guests staying occasionally, their privacy and space requirements will of course be different to those of children.

Budget for Your Motor Home

Here are a few financial points to consider when choosing a motor home:
  • Fuel economy - this might not be a prime consideration but it’s still worth taking into account – the better the fuel economy, the less you’ll spend on driving. Take the time to research the vehicles within your desired size and price range; it will pay off in the long run
  • Insurance - check out how much you might spend on insuring your motorhome. The size and specification of the vehicle might affect the cost. You'll also need to ensure your possession, fixtures and fittings are included
  • Budget - think about how much you can spend, or how much you want to pay out on a monthly repayment scheme. Set a realistic budget and stick to it. Don't be swayed by attractive gizmos or smooth talking salesmen!
  • Servicing - You might want to ask your dealer how much annual servicing is likely to cost and establish the intervals between a major service.

Accommodation and Facilities to Look For in a Motor Home

Your motor home will need to have the basics but depending on your needs, here are some of things you might want to consider:
  • Comfortable chairs for the driver and passengers if you're planning on driving long distances
  • At least one big bed (and probably other space that can be converted into a bed)
  • Room to eat and relax. If you'll be wandering from the "beaten track" - you'll want a more comfortable lounge area than if you plan on eating out each night.
  • A kitchen including built-in microwave, sink, and cupboard space. If you're planning on eating out as much as possible, or stay at sites that have restaurant facilites then a microwave might be sufficient. If you like to self cater, opt for a hob too - and if possible a conventional style oven.
  • A toilet and a shower - the level of these facilities will depend upon whether you intend spending the majority of your stays at larger sites where showers are freely available or whether you'll be out in the sticks

The more you pay, of course the more you’ll get, but it should be equipped all of the above. That’s what sets it apart from a camper van. Plenty will also come equipped with a satellite dish – all you need to do is provide the TV.

Using the Shower, Toilet and Electrical Appliances

Something to be aware of is that a toilet and shower mean you’ll require hookups for water and waste, so these need to be easy to access. You’ll also want an electrical hookup for cooking and other appliances. For staying places, you’ll really want somewhere that can offer all those, as well as spaces large enough to accommodate the vehicle.

The Extras

As far as extras go, the sky can pretty much be the limit. Some examples you might want to look for when you're choosing your motor home:
  • Extra storage space
  • Built in television and DVD players, Sky
  • Built in GPS/Satellite Navigation
  • Parking Sensors

You do want a unit with enough electrical outlets for things you might bring along, so be sure to check for those. After all, if you’re buying something this luxurious, you want to make sure it has everything you need.

When you’re buying a second hand mobile home, have it inspected by a mechanic. As a general rule, motor home owners look after their vehicles well, but here are just a few things you can look out for to make sure you're getting a good buy:

1. Security - Check that locks and hinges, move freely and feel secure.
2. Watertight - Check the fit of doors, windows and sunroofs etc and make sure there's no perished rubber, badly fitting openings, internal condensation (in double glazing) or cracking (in plastic windows).
3. Gas and Electrics - Have the gas and electric system checked out by a professional and look out for signs of poor DIY work on these fittings.
4. Damp - Damp problems can be very expensive to rectify, so if you can smell or see damp act cautiously. A damp meter can help establish the location and severity of the problem.

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