Buying a campervan or motorhome is a big investment and there are several things to consider.
They have the added advantage over a caravan in that your living accommodation is self-contained so there’s no need to worry about whether your car is capable of towing the van and no need to hook and unhook your living accommodation. On the downside, a campervan goes where you go so if you’re planning on finding a site then heading off to explore a lot of the time, remember that the whole van goes with you. This can be extremely important if your road trips often take you off the beaten track and onto narrow winding country lanes.
Brand new campervans
A brand new van can cost anything from £30,000 and upwards – the sky’s the limit! They are usually denoted by ‘A’ and ‘B’ class. ‘A’ class vans are usually coach shaped and are much larger than the ‘B’ class which are more compact ‘panel’ vans, similar in size to a transit van but which come fitted out as motor homes. There is no direct definition as to what constitutes a motorhome and what makes up a campervan but the generally accepted view is that a campervan is much more compact and used more for small groups for day trips or weekend stays away. Motor homes are usually thought of as being far larger, can accommodate more people and can literally be used almost as a mobile ‘home from home’.
Things to consider when buying
Whether you choose a small or larger model, it’s important to try and compromise in your exact specification preferences as thousands of campervan layouts have been designed and continue to evolve but there’s no real easy way to squeeze a kitchen, bathroom, dining room, lounge and bedrooms into what is, after all, a motorised vehicle. So, whilst designs can be pretty spectacular these days, try not to be too rigid as none of them are likely to be 100% perfect.
Not all campervans have a separate shower or toilet but that might not be a problem for you if you always plan on staying at designated camp sites where those facilities will be provided for you. Therefore, you may decide to compromise on choosing one without a bathroom if that means the lounge, bedroom or kitchen area will be greater. It’s really all about personal preferences and your needs. Also, remember that the kitchen area or bathroom might be a lot smaller than what you hoped for but think “is it adequate for my needs?” In other words, whilst they may be small, can you comfortably move around? For many people, they may be planning on just going away for the weekend so, though small, the facilities might be perfectly suitable for such a trip. Obviously, if you plan on being away for a considerable length of time, then you might need to consider one of the larger ‘A’ class type of motor homes.
Whilst compromises will need to be considered, the bedroom (or alternative sleeping area) shouldn’t be overlooked lightly. Nothing can ruin a trip more than a poor night’s sleep, so do ensure that the sleeping accommodation is comfortable and suits the size and the number of people who are going to be using it.
Buying second hand
It’s crucial to check every aspect of a campervan if you’re thinking of buying one second hand. Check underneath the chassis. Rust can be major problem and is very costly to put right. Check the engine and see how many miles the van has clocked up. Look at the seals and the trims on the outside for cracks, and see if you can identify any knocks, scrapes or signs of sun damage.
Inside, you should check cupboards, handles and upholstery. You can usually tell if a van suffers from damp as it will have a distinctive smell and/or you may also spot signs of mildew in cupboards. Damp can be cured and repaired but, depending on the extent of the damage, it can add up to a significant sum of money on top of the cost of the van itself to put right.
You should also check that all gas and electric functions are working.
Wear and tear should be in line with the age of the van itself and it’s worthwhile making a few comparisons with other vans instead of jumping at the first purchase to give you more of a feel for what’s good and not so good value.
There are also certain restrictions on the size of vans you can drive in the UK so if you’re considering buying a larger one, make sure it complies with the law. If it doesn’t, you may find that you will not be covered if you break down and might not be covered by your insurance if you have an accident and your van does not comply with the size regulations.
Also, bear in mind that the larger the van, the greater the costs to run it so this should also be factored into your budget plans. Lastly, it’s more than about just appearances. An older van in excellent condition might be much more preferable to a younger model that’s not been well cared for so it’s crucial to check a few vans out before going ahead with your purchase.