Buying Your First Campervan or Motorhome

If you’ve made the exciting decision to buy a campervan or a motorhome, you might be wondering where to start. With so many makes and models available, all designed to deliver slightly different experiences, it can be tricky to know what you should be looking at. We’ve put together this guide to help you choose which type of camper or motorhome might be right for you and to help translate some of the jargon you might encounter. 

1. Set yourself a budget

First things first, a purchase like this can be a big investment, so you’ll want to think carefully about how much you can spend on your campervan or motorhome. Having a clear idea of this from the start will help you narrow down what sorts of models you should be looking at. It will also help you decide whether you want to buy a new vehicle or a used vehicle.

You’ll find that many dealerships now offer financing options on many of their leisure vehicles, so it’s worth thinking about this too. It could open up some more options for you or could mean that you can get yourself behind the wheel of your dream motorhome sooner. 

2. What sort of campervan or motorhome is best for you?

Now you’ve got a good idea of budget, you can start researching the different types of motorhome to see what would suit your needs. There are three main types of motorhome:

  • A-Class: These tend to be the top of the range models and at the more expensive end of the spectrum. They also tend to be the biggest models, built from the chassis up and have more space and usually include more luxuries than any other type of motorhome. The size is both their biggest advantage and disadvantage as they’re not so practical on smaller country roads and it can take a while to get used to driving such a large vehicle.

  • Over-cab coachbuilt: These also tend to be on the larger size and there is a section which extends over the cab. This is usually used as storage or as an extra two berths and are popular with families looking to maximise the space available to them.

  • Low-profile coachbuilt: These are very similar to the over-cab models but they don’t have such a large section over the cab. These models tend to be slightly easier to drive due to the reduced height and are more aerodynamic, meaning fuel consumption is better.

You might also want to consider a camper van. These vehicles don’t have the same amount of space inside, however, you’ll be surprised at how many features they include. They can also be a more practical option if you’re looking to explore a little further off the beaten track as you won’t have to worry so much about narrow country lanes. Many campervan owners use these vehicles as their everyday car as well and are much better suited to the school run or a quick trip to the supermarket than a motorhome.

Again, there are three main types of campervan:

  • Fixed Roof: These are usually the smallest campervans out there and often don’t have very much headroom. These are more suitable for short trips for one or two people.

  • Pop-Top (or elevating roof): These campervans offer a bit more flexibility. The roof section allows for a bit of headroom or can be used as extra sleeping accommodation. This is great for kids or for those who don’t want to have to convert the living area each night.

  • High Top: These campervans are a little more luxurious with a permanently raised roof. Some of them feel much more like a motorhome than a camper but are generally easier to drive. Some of these vans even have room for facilities like shower rooms. If you’re looking for a camper suitable for longer trips, you’ll be more comfortable in one of these.

So, now you know a little more about the types of campervans and motorhomes that are on offer, how do you choose the one for you? 

The first thing to think about is the sorts of trips you want to go on. Will your leisure vehicle be used mainly for long weekend trips? Or do you see yourself heading off for weeks at a time and covering many thousands of miles?

The best way to work out what is best for you is covered in our next point…

3. Rent a camper or a motorhome for a trial trip

The best way to work out what you’re going to need from your campervan or motorhome is to go for a trip in one. Try and make the trip long enough that you can get a real feel for what works for you and what doesn’t. Pay attention to things like how much space you need to feel comfortable and how much storage you need for the kit you’re going to want to take with you. 

Do you need bathroom facilities on board? Or do you prefer to use the facilities provided at campsites? How much cooking gear do you need? Ask yourself questions like these and you’ll start to get a feel for what your ideal camper or motorhome would look like.

Also pay attention to things like how comfortable you feel behind the wheel. If you’re considering a larger motorhome, it’s important that everyone who will be driving the vehicle feels confident doing so. 

4. Visit a dealership

One of the best ways to make good progress on choosing a vehicle is to visit a specialist dealership or go to a camping and motorhome show. The staff should be able to help answer any questions you might have and show you around a few vehicles. This will show you what’s available and they might be able to point you in the direction of your perfect vehicle. 

Don’t feel that visiting a dealership means that you’ll be pressured into making a decision there and then. Any good dealer will understand that this is a big purchase and will offer their honest advice and opinion without pushing you into a deal. 

5. Buying a used campervan or motorhome privately 

Many first time campervan or motorhome buyers choose to purchase their vehicle from a dealership, even if they’re looking for a used one. This offers the extra peace of mind that all the paperwork will be sorted and that all of the necessary checks have been completed. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good deals to be had by buying privately. Here are some extra tips if you’ve spotted your dream camper or motorhome available from a private seller. 

  • Check all of the paperwork thoroughly. If it’s a conversion vehicle, make sure the DVLA has been informed and check that you’re dealing directly with the current owner. Meet at their home if you can, so you can match up the details on the documentation. Make sure you’re provided with the vehicle’s servicing history too.

  • Check the exterior of the vehicle for any damage. Look out for any dents in the bodywork and pay particular attention to the tyres. These are easy enough to replace, however, it’s a potential additional cost that you might want to consider.

  • Check the interior with a moisture meter. Damp can be a serious problem for leisure vehicles so never buy one without doing a proper check. Look under the sink and check the plumbing in the bathroom. Take a good look in cupboards and storage compartments and check soft furnishings for signs of mould or stains, particularly underneath.

  • Test the beds and get a good feel for the cab. You could be spending a lot of time in the vehicle so make sure you’re comfortable. 

  • Check that all of the windows open, all the lights are functioning and that latches on locker doors and drawers all work. 

  • Test all of the appliances and ask for a demonstration of anything you don’t know how to use. It might mean you have to take a gas bottle with you but it’s important to check everything is in working order before any money changes hands. 

  • Once you’ve checked that you have the correct insurance, take it for a spin. You’ll need to make sure you’re confident behind the wheel.

  • If you’re not confident carrying out the checks yourself, you can always get a professional in to take a look for you.

A dealership will have sorted any issues out before advertising the vehicle but still feel confident in asking questions about things like damp tests if the salesperson hasn’t mentioned it. 

With so many options out there, you’re sure to find the right campervan or motorhome for you. Take the time to consider each type of vehicle, give your preferred option a go and don’t be afraid to get an expert’s opinion before making your final decision. Our friendly team is on hand to help whatever questions you might have. Come and visit us or give us a call and we’ll help match you up with the perfect vehicle.