Motorhome for beginners

Tips, Hints & Plans Every Newbie Should Know Before Hitting the Road

Freedom. Adventure. The open road. Motorhomes and campers are a fantastic way to explore the world and to make the most of your leisure time. But which motorhome is right for you? And what are the best tips and tricks that you should know when buying, driving or camping?

Our beginner’s guide to motorhomes will help you along the path to making the most of this fantastic hobby.

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What makes a good motorhome for beginners?

There are several types of motorhome, but the two most common forms are known as van conversions and coachbuilt motorhomes. Van conversions, as the name suggests, use the steel body of the van on which the motorhome is based, while coachbuilt motorhomes only use the basic chassis cab, with a bespoke section built on the back.

Coachbuilt vans offer more flexible accommodation options than van conversions, but can be much larger and trickier to drive, manoeuvre and store.

If you’re worried about parking/storage, then a smaller van conversion would be an ideal starter van – a VW-based or Fiat-based camper with a pop-up roof is ideal here. But if you want a little more luxury and space in your motorhome, then you might want to look at the cheaper end of the coachbuilt spectrum, as smaller coachbuilt motorhomes can offer more accommodation space for a very similar on-road footprint to larger van conversions.

What is the easiest motorhome to drive?

With all the conveniences you’d expect of a modern vehicle – power steering, cruise control, automatic gearboxes, parking sensors and reversing cameras – often available in motorhomes and campers, it’s fair to say that no modern motorhomes are really tricky to drive. However, larger units can feel a little intimidating to drivers only used to everyday passenger cars.

So as a general rule of thumb, the easiest motorhomes to drive are the smallest ones with the best all-round visibility. A VW camper-type van will be your best friend here.

How to pick the best family motorhome

Choosing a family motorhome that’s right for you really depends on how you plan to use it… and to a certain extent how big your family is.

If you’re quite adventurous and outdoorsy, and don’t ask for too much in the way of home comforts, then a small pop-top camper should suit your needs as a family, especially if you pair it with an awning tent. These small, approachable vans don’t offer much in the way of luxury, but there will be a bed in the roof space for the kids, one in the main living area for you, and basic cooking and washing facilities. Add a drive-away awning tent to this outfit, and you’ve got the perfect set-up for a family getaway.

If you’re after a little more luxury, a larger coachbuilt motorhome will most likely suit better. These can be up to eight metres long and can offer all sorts of accommodation permutations, including a permanent double bed for you, bunk beds for the kids and extra overnight accommodation in the form of sofas that can be reassembled into beds.

With larger coachbuilt motorhomes you’ll also get better kitchen and bathroom facilities, often including an oven, a decent-sized fridge-freezer and a toilet with a separate shower.

Is a motorhome a good investment?

While owning a motorhome certainly isn’t going to make you any money, they are a great way to make your holidays cheaper – no more pricey hotel bills or costly holiday cottages.

They also hold onto their value amazingly well. While you can lose thousands of pounds on the value of a brand new car as soon as you drive it away from the dealership forecourt, a motorhome will keep its value far better. You can buy a motorhome, enjoy a couple of years of touring holidays and then sell it on, with just a small percentage knocked from what it cost you brand new.

What do I need to know before buying a motorhome?

Know what layout you want:

There are almost as many layout options for a motorhome as there are motorhomes on the road. Do you want an end kitchen or a mid-kitchen? Do you want a permanent bed or one that you put away each morning to give you more living space? How big a bathroom will you need? If you’re after a smaller camper, these choices are easier, but bigger coachbuilt vans can offer a bewildering variety of layout options.

Know how many passengers you want:

Be aware that you can only put as many occupants in your van as there are seatbelts – some quite large coachbuilts only offer seatbelts for two people.

Know what you can drive:

Some motorhomes, especially larger and more expensive models, can be quite heavy. If you passed your driving test before 31st August 1997 then this is unlikely to be a problem as you’ll be permitted to drive anything up to 7.5 tons. But if you passed your test after that date you’ll need a special licence to drive anything over 3.5 tons.

Know where you can keep it:

Check you can store your van on your driveway or street – some houses have covenants concerning keeping caravans or motorhomes on the property or residential streets.

What sort of equipment do I need for my family motorhome?

The list of equipment you could have in your motorhome could be as long as you want it to be, but there are some items that are key to happy holidays:

  • Levelling ramps to sort out uneven pitches
  • A first aid kit
  • Toilet chemicals
  • A decent hose to ensure you can fill your water tank
  • Electric hook-up cable
  • A basic set of crockery and cutlery
  • Simple domestic store cupboard supplies (soap, salt, tea etc)

There's no doubt that camping with your motorhome is a fantastically rewarding adventure but it does require a bit of planning. So just make sure you do your homework and you'll be all set for the best getaways you could hope to experience!