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Buying 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.


The following is an abridged version of Chapter 2 from Go Motorhoming and Campervanning

Motorhome manufacturers 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!


Motorhome Classes
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 chassis.

A-Class Motorhomes
A class represents all motorhomes that are 'coach shaped' the smooth lined body added to a bare chassis cowl.

B-Class Motorhomes
B Class are panel vans (such as transit vans) fitted out as motorhomes. These are also called day-vans and camper vans.

C-Class Motorhomes
C class refers to a chassis cab conversion with purpose built 'caravan' body attached.


Motorhome Buying Considerations

Budget "how much does a motorhome cost?"
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 4).


Second Hand Motorhomes
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.


Motorhome 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 is inadequate.

Bedroom/sleeping - 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 Mass (MTPLM)

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 a trailer.

Payload
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).


Wheelbase, 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
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.

Size
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.

The conclusion
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.

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Washing in the wild or relaxing round the campsite pool

Where 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 routes.

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.

With 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 on.

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.

There 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 us.

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Motorhome or Caravan?
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 to caravanners.

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 a time.

Go Motorhoming Europe discussed the advantages and disadvantages throughout the book, giving clear advice as to when a motorhome or caravan is most appropriate.

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 Size Matters

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 road.

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 use.

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.

All gassed up

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 campervans.

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.

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