Your Perfect Motorhome "First Time"
Your Perfect Motorhome "Made Simple"
Buying a camper van or motorhome is
a big decision, they are a lot of money and
you probably have a long list of questions.
This article will help you to understand all
the considerations and will tell you where you
can get the best expert help.
You can live full time in a motorhome, tour
Europe with ease, or make the most of the winter
sun in Spain, Portugal or Morocco. Best of all
you can explore by motorhome the most diverse
country in Europe the UK.
following is an abridged version of
Chapter 2 from Go Motorhoming and Campervanning
offer over 1000 new models and there is a bewildering 90 year history of earlier models
to chose from. Whether you are one of
the 9000 people a year who buy a new
motorhome or prefer to buy a used motorhome,
the following information will help
you ask the right questions. The conclusion
tells you how to ensure you buy your
perfect motorhome first time!
Motorhomes are divided into three main categories,
referred to as classes A, B and C.
Most motorhomes utilise an existing light commercial
vehicle engine and chassis. Commonly used are
Fiat-Citröen-Peugeot, Ducato-Relay-Boxer built
in the same Sevel factory. Others include Mercedes
Sprinter, Iveco Daily, VW Transporter and Renault
Master. Some motorhomes have an AL-KO galvanised
A class represents all motorhomes that are 'coach
shaped' the smooth lined body added to a bare
B Class are panel vans (such as transit
vans) fitted out as motorhomes. These are also
called day-vans and camper vans.
C class refers to a chassis cab conversion with
purpose built 'caravan' body attached.
Motorhome Buying Considerations
Budget "how much does a motorhome
Consider both the purchase price and running
costs. As prices range from £1,000 to over £1,000,000
it is easy to become carried away, and you will
probably find you need to spend more than you
originally thought. Factor in insurance, servicing
and recovery charges as well as fuel economy.
Don't forget your add ons and extras (chapter
Check the overall condition of the motorhome
including; chassis/underneath, engine and mileage.
Check the seals and trims on the outside for
cracks, sun damage, knocks and scrapes. Inside
the motorhome check carpets, cupboards, handles
and upholstery, be aware of any personalisation.
Damp in older motorhomes can be a problem and
must be checked for, but can normally be cured.
Motorhomes suffering damp have a distinctive
smell, mildew in cupboards is a sign but an
inexpensive damp metre is worth having. Motorhome
floors can de-laminate giving a bouncy feeling,
again this can be cured. Wear and tear should
be in line with the age of the motorhome. Ensure,
by testing, that all gas/electrical parts are
working. An older motorhome in excellent condition
may be preferable to a younger one in poor condition.
Buying a New Motorhome?
If your about to spend £30,000 plus on a new
motorhome, we have one piece of advice spend
£12 and buy Go Motorhoming Europe, the odds
are 3000 to 1 hardly a risky gamble.
living accommodation Compromise
is the only word that explains the situation.
Thousands of motorhome layouts have
been designed and continue to evolve,
but there is no easy way to squeeze
a kitchen, bathroom, dining room, lounge
and bedrooms into a motorhome, so try
not to be too ridged, as none of them
will be perfect.
Bathroom - Not all
motorhomes have a separate shower or
a toilet, those who can rough it will
survive without, but in reality this
Poor sleep can be a big problem when
away in your motorhome, roughing it
for a week can be fun, but after a month
you may not be laughing.
Kitchens - Can be cramped
so ensure there is enough space to prepare
a meal, but as with bathrooms they only
need to be just big enough.
The above are likely to be your first considerations
when buying a motorhome, however Go Motorhoming
Europe unravels all the other considerations
you need to know to ensure you buy a safe, legal
and manageable motorhome.
Maximum Technically Permissible Laden
Maximum Vehicle Weight, Gross Vehicle
Weight (GVW), and Maximum Technically
Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) all refer
to the legal maximum loaded weight including
all occupants of a motorhome. Converters
of motor caravans can have the vehicle
weight re-assigned both up and down.
The MTPLM should not be confused with
the Gross Train Weight (GTW) a higher
figure that specifies the maximum combined
weight of the motorhome when towing
We cannot stress enough how important it is
for you to understand payload, and we make reference
to it throughout the book. Payload refers to
the leftover weight between an empty motorhome
(as calculated by manufacturers) and fully loaded
to its specified MTPLM. We believe the payload
should be sufficient in normal use to prevent
you exceeding the MTPLM. Unfortunately this
is not as straightforward as it seems as motorhome
manufacturers include or exclude different items
into the empty weight that is known as Mass
In Running Order (MIRO).
Mass In Running Order (MIRO)
MIRO refers to the entire manufactured weight
of a motorhome and the equipment required to
operate and in the case of motorhomes includes
'essential habitation equipment '. Currently
each manufacturer interprets the regulations
differently. Therefore motorhomes bought before
harmonization due July 2011 and then subsequently
second-hand may have different MIRO and payload
calculations. (This is a big subject and is
vital to understand. We have produced a detailed
chart of 70 motorhomes out of the 1000+ 2005
& 2006 new motorhomes you could buy that
will provide you with sufficient payload).
overhang and clearance
Wheelbase is the distance between the centre
point of the front and rear wheels of a motorhome.
Overhang; the distance from the centre point
on the rear wheel to the rear of the motorhome,
ideally this should be less than 55 per cent
of the wheelbase to allow for towbars or bike
racks, however 60 per cent is the recognised
maximum legal limit. We once measured a factory
standard motorhome with a 71 per cent overhang.
Axle weights may total more than the maximum
vehicle weight MTPLM as this allows for load
variation. Motorhomes with 60% overhang or longer
increase the risk of exceeding rear axle weights.
The most likely thing to cause an overloaded
rear axle is 2/300kg of scooter and rack hanging
off the back of a motorhome. Axles are always
numbered from front to rear 1-2 and 3 when a
tag axle is present.
In the United Kingdom the maximum permissible
size of a motorhome is 12 metres (39 '4") long
and 2.55 metres (8 '4") wide. Six metres is
the benchmark between medium and large motorhomes.
Campsites, road tolls, ferries, insurance and
recovery prices are normally fixed for motorhomes
up to six metres.
||The above section briefly explains some
of the legal issues of buying and using
a motorhome. Ignoring these points could
lead to you not being recovered buy your
breakdown company, not being covered by
insurance if involved in an accident or
traveling illegally and having to answer
to the police.
Go Motorhoming Europe also reveals many
other factors involved in buying a motorhome
including: The availability of parts,
fuel - whether your motorhome should run
on diesel, Petrol or LPG, Left or right
hand motorhomes, accessories.
We said at the start that this is a highly cut
version of chapter two of Go Motorhoming Europe.
We are repeatedly thanked and told that reading
Go Motorhoming Europe has completely made people
re-think what motorhome they thought they wanted
and that it will probably save them thousands
of pounds and countless of hours of research.
We expect you to go away and try to find the
answers to your questions but remember Go Motorhoming
Europe is the only complete guide to buying,
using and enjoying your motorhome. The answers
are in one convenient place and the choice is
yours but for the sake of £11.99 there really
is no choice.
in the wild or relaxing round the campsite
you chose to go and stay
has a great impact on
your holidays. A motorhome
is an excellent tool as
it allows you to get out
in the wild, off the tourist
Even if you want to stay
in touch with civilisation
a motorhome gives you
the opportunity to stay
in some fantastic locations.
Campsites vary widely some are in the
most amazing situations, whether you want
a beach holiday, mountain retreat, city
break or even a Spa holiday, there is
something to suit everyone.
over 30,000 European campsites
to choose from or put another
way enough to sleep in a different
one every night for the next 82
years, there really are campsites
to suit every budget and taste.
Large commercial campsites can
have swimming pools, fitness centres,
bars and restaurants with plenty
of organised activities. There
are even campsites that allow
you to walk around with no clothes
At the opposite end of the scale there
are thousands small farm camping sites,
very similar to CL's in the UK.
Spain is Europe's most popular winter
destination for both caravaners and
motorhomers, this is mainly due to it
being the warmest place to spend the
winter. There are plenty of campsites
open all year, those in the north tend
to be around Barcelona, but there are
plenty in Southern Spain. These campsites
cater well for the long stay visitor.
Villanova Park just south of Barcelona
is one of our favourites, offering plenty
of evening entertainment to ensure everyone
gets to know each other (you're invited
whether you stay one or one hundred
nights). The facilities are excellent,
both clean and modern. A bus leaves
from reception to the local town and
from there a train can be taken to Barcelona.
All in all, very easy and convenient.
is no need to limit yourself to
campsites as there are over 6,000
camper-stops in Europe. You may
have heard of 'aire de service'
camper-stops in France, these
are special places where motorhomes
can stop for a few nights, dump
and replenish water tanks often
for free. There are also camper-stops
in other European countries, a
brilliant resource often in fantastic
locations, but only available
to motorhomes and camper vans.
Camper-stops vary from parking
areas to gardens, farms, and sometimes
even inside campsites. We have
spent a very enjoyable tour through
Tuscany staying in camper-stops
completely for free. Many farms
and vineyards offer this facility
and some very enjoyable experiences
can be had sampling local produce.
Finally the motorhome offers the chance
to free-park, also known as 'free camping'
or 'wild camping'. This is legal or
tolerated in many European countries
and can be liberating and truly identifies
with the essence of motorhoming. Sometimes
when you are in a rush, or awaiting
a ferry, it gives an opportunity to
stop without paying a campsite EUR20
to do so. In Norway we spent three days
by a fjord enjoying the scenery and
wildlife, the silence was deafening
and only broken by sheep bells and the
seven vehicles that drove past. In Spain
and Sicily there are some excellent
free-parking opportunities right on
the beach. These are well known and
widely used by motorhomers and tolerated
by the police. Porto Paulo in Sicily
is a favourite and one we never get
bored of. You park in the harbour, and
there is a bar, restaurant and shop
is just a short walk away. There is
a sandy beach one side and a rugged
nature reserve to enjoy on the other,
it doesn't get much better than this.
It can be very difficult to find the
right campsite, camper-stop or know
which countries allow or tolerate free-parking.
The correct information is essential,
although this can be difficult to find.
When we first started we found it very
hard, and even now we are constantly
coming across new information. Chapter
6 of Go Motorhoming Europe
completely explains all the accommodation
options, and provides contact details
of the best campsite and camper-stop
guide books, as well as information
on how and where to free-park. Chapter
9 provides essential information on
all European countries, where and when
to visit and detailed information on
campsites, camper stops and free-parking
in that country. When new information
is found it will be undated on the website.
We would appreciate readers updating
any information on the website too.
If you have any questions please contact
We are frequently asked 'should we buy
a caravan or motorhome?' It is a question
we ourselves agonised over. There is
a huge difference in cost between a
motorhome and caravan and then there
is the tow car, providing a useful advantage
Prior to owning a motorhome we enjoyed
many weekends in our touring caravan,
it was always left set up and could
be taken away at a moments notice. The
quandary arose when we decided to visit
Europe, what should we do, take a motorhome
or a caravan?
We began looking at Motorhomes to try
to work out what they provided. Thankfully
we lived in the Midlands so we could
visit several large motorhome dealers
in a weekend. We always came home with
a headache - as there were so many models
and sizes to choose from. Then there
was the price, we could get a very nice
caravan and tow car for the cost a fairly
old second hand motorhome. We even wondered
whether we should buy a day van and
caravan, a fifth wheel, a de-mountable
and even looked into self building.
For us the decision was made based on
our prior continental camper experiences.
We had participated in humanitarian
aid convoys to Kosovo and Ukraine. On
these trips you needed to be totally
self sufficient, as nights are spent
sleeping by the side of roads or in
compounds. It could take hours, if not
days, to get through the then difficult
borders. If we did have to free-park
we felt it was imperative to be in a
self-contained unit so we would be able
to drive off if we felt threatened without
having to leave the vehicle. In addition
these convoys covered huge distances
in few days, we enjoyed this and we
knew ultimately we would tour.
||Was it the right
decision? For us taking a motorhome
on our European tour was the completely
right decision, if we had taken
a caravan it would have been a
very different experience. However
since our full time motorhome
tours we have wintered in a caravan,
owned a campervan/day van, and
now own another motorhome. All
have distinct advantages and disadvantages
dependant on where are you going
to use it and for how long at
Go Motorhoming Europe
discussed the advantages and disadvantages
throughout the book, giving clear advice
as to when a motorhome or caravan is
Our first motorhome,
a 27' (8.23m) American a class RV, was
purchased with our grand tour in mind.
We thought it was fantastic, the common
consensus at the time agreed it was
ideal for visiting Europe. We joined
the American motorhome clubs and attended
their very enjoyable organised rallies.
Although it answered our every living
space desire, spontaneity was seriously
reduced. It was difficult to park in
towns or drive down country lanes. Not
all UK campsites, especially smaller
farm style sites, have suitable pitches,
entrances or approaches. We hated having
to phone round campsites, only to discover
their nervousness over accessibility.
This lack of mobility proved too much
of a compromise.
We down sized to a 6.5m (21'4'') European
motorhome, proving comfortable for two.
The compromise on the living space was
worth it for the manoeuvrability and
running costs, but it was on the cusp
of being too big. Once a slight navigation
error led to tight squeezes past low
balconies in narrow back streets, a
refrigerator left on the pavement had
to be moved so we could pass. Visiting
one campsite out of season meant navigating
through a maze of narrow residential
streets before discovering the gate
was locked and the campsite closed.
Our length prevented us from performing
a turn in the road so 15 minutes of
intricate reversing was required. On
campsites, especially Mediterranean
tree lined ones, we often found we could
just get round, but half a metre off
the back would have really helped. As
for living accommodation we had too
much. A smaller motorhome, with a different
layout would have provided just as much
comfort but much less stress on the
A down size further and we had a Mazda
Bongo. This is a great vehicle for getting
out in the wild, being lightweight and
4x4 provides for some amazing opportunities.
We found pubs and farmers were much
more willing to allow us to stop for
the night, and we were privileged to
stay in some fantastic locations. The
down side is the living space is very
difficult, the seat bed was uncomfortable
without modification and you do have
to be very organised. We enjoyed a two
week tour without staying on any campsites
and cooked all our own meals but compared
to our other motorhomes this was hard
work. However this was the best day-to-day
vehicle we've had and ideal for occasional
||We now own a 5.25m (17"3') British
motorhome with a perfectly adequate
layout for long-term use. We drive
it everywhere there is tarmac
or a reasonable hard surface.
Often we find ourselves without
mains electricity, reliant totally on our gas
and 12 volt systems. We spend our New Years
Eves in a very remote country pub on the welsh
border, sleeping in our motorhome in the car
park. This year we toured through the country
between Christmas and New Year. We managed to
time our route perfectly with snow all the way,
it was cold and our gas heater had to be used
frequently. Unfortunately our motorhome has
only 2 x 4.5kg gas bottles and by New Years
Eve we had nearly run out of gas, we were very
worried that we would use it all during the
night and not be able to have a cup of tea on
New Years Day. Thankfully this crisis was avoided
but it did draw our attention to gas usage and
gas locker size.
In the UK we predominantly use Calor Gas. Wherever
you are in the country you are never very far
from a supplier, often the local petrol station,
so bottle size isn't so important. If you intend
to take your motorhome across the channel you
need to be aware that exchanging or refilling
Calor Gas bottles is not possible because every
country has its own gas supplier and bottles.
The only gas available Europe wide is camping
gas, but unfortunately these bottles are so
small they are only viable for the smallest
When choosing a motorhome you intend to use
abroad, don't overlook the gas locker and bottle
size. Consider how you will use your gas, especially
if you intend to use the oven, heater and shower
regularly and calculate how much you will need.
From this calculation you can work out how much
gas you will need to take with you and will
ensure your foreign foray is remembered for
all the right reasons.
It is not possible to take enough gas for an
extended tour and alternatives will need to
be addresses. Go Motorhoming Europe
discusses how to deal with this issue, and the
possibilities of using continental gas bottles
or a purpose built refillable bottle. In addition
Chapter 3 discusses 12v power, generating electricity,
using mains power and water economics.