BUYING A USED MOTORHOME / CAMPER VAN
We all love to peek inside brand-new top-of-the-range motorhomes, but for many of us they are aspirational and we have to set our sights lower. But you might be surprised by what's on offer for a relatively modest outlay. We've compiled this guide to buying used to show you what you can get for your money, and to steer you clear of pitfalls. There are many great pre-owned motorhomes on the market, and there are a number of things you can do to make sure you get one which is right for you.
In the pages which follow, we show you where to view vehicles, how different designs suit different needs, how to find a diamond in the rough, and the financial options available.
SET YOURSELF A BUDGET
Decide what you can afford and stick to that figure, then you won't be swayed by some of the beautiful but expensive vehicles you're bound to come across. There are plenty of great second-hand vans out there at a reasonable price – so be realistic.
You may find one or two motorhomes to fit the bill in our classified pages, starting on page 178. If you know what you're doing, you can get yourself a bargain here. For instance, you may be able to find a motorcaravanner who's giving up the hobby who will be prepared to throw in all their extras, including an awning, crockery and the like. But when buying privately, you need to take certain precautions:
• Make sure you check the seller's credentials. Are you viewing the motorhome at the vendor's house? Check the address in the logbook.
• Keep the original advertisement. Legally, the vehicle must be 'as described'.
• Take a witness in case the seller misleads you, and the van later proves faulty.
• Check the chassis and engine number against the vehicle's log book.
• Check the vehicle's history. Call HPI Equifax (01722 422422) to see if any outstanding finance is owed. This service costs about £40.
• If you're not mechanically minded, get the van inspected by a professional. The AA offers a two-tier service: a one-hour inspection and road test; and a full inspection with history check. The cost depends on the size of vehicle. For example, a 2.8-litre Fiat Ducato-based motorhome would cost £145 and £249 for the two different levels of inspection. Phone 0800 085 3007 for details.
BUYING FROM A DEALER
At a large dealership, you will be able to see a large number of second-hand motorhomes in one place. (See our magazine for a nationwide list, and location map.)
Buying from a dealer may be a more expensive option than buying privately but you'll get peace of mind because the dealer has a duty to tell you of any problems and the cost of rectifying them, as well as giving the van a pre-delivery inspection (PDI) before you collect it. You'll also be offered at least a few months' warranty on used models, which is something you're unlikely to get from a private vendor.
See as many different motorhomes as you can before making your decision. You'll soon start to get a feel for what represents good value for money. Also, see our price guide to second-hand motorhomes in the magazine.
A number of regional motorhome shows take place around the country throughout the year, and these are attended by dealers and specialist importers.
The shows provide a great chance to browse through a vast range of pre-owned vans, and dealers will be able to tell you what else they have in stock so you can decide whether a visit to their premises is worthwhile. If you buy at the show you may also be able to negotiate a sizeable discount.
Try to build a relationship with a dealership that is local, or close to, your home address. Then, if problems arise or if you need some general maintenance work carried out, the cost of return visits to their premises shouldn't be too damaging to your wallet.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT VEHICLE
Consider whether your motorhome will be your only form of transport, or if it will be used exclusively for leisuretime. How many people is the motorhome going to accommodate? Do you want belted passenger seats for all the occupants? If you plan to travel with the kids it's no use having six beds and only four safe passenger seats. And what about storage space? If you plan to spend long periods away from home, will a narrow wardrobe suffice? And, most important; before you buy, make sure that the vehicle will fit onto your drive at home.
The more facilities you want in your motorhome, the more it will cost. Flushing toilets, showers and full-sized cookers cost money. Decide whether you'll be more likely to stay at all-singing, all-dancing campsites where you may not need these things, or whether you'd prefer to camp at 'minimum-facility' sites. Have a go at making up the beds yourself and at working the onboard components and electrical control panels for confidence in setting up on site.
Consider hiring a motorhome before you buy. This will confirm whether or not motorcaravanning is really for you, and which of the facilities you're likely to need. (For details of hire companies, see our classified pages at the back of the magazine.)