Should I buy or rent a campervan or motorhome?

Go Motorhoming and Campervanning cover

Do people buy motorhomes and campervans to go ‘motorhoming’ or to pursue their interests? Do you know where you want to go, how often and for how long? Why choose a motorhome over a caravan? Perhaps you are reading this webpage to answer these questions; the good news is that the book Go Motorhoming and Campervanning does answer every conceivable motorhome or campervan related question.

The text on this page has been taken from the book Go Motorhoming and Campervanning ISBN 9781910664025

Look inside the guide. Email this link to anyone you know that has a motorhome or campervan.

Throughout the Go Motorhoming and Campervanning book we use the umbrella term ‘Motorhome’ regardless of vehicle size and origin. Therefore Campervans, Mobile-Homes, Motor Caravans, Recreational Vehicles (RV’s), and Camping Cars, are all ‘Motorhomes’.

What is a motorhome? A car, a house, an escape? No wonder you’ve always wanted one. Whether it is the retirement present you have worked so hard for, or a cheap campervan to go on tour, you will love it just the same.

Why rent a camper van before you buy?
Just about all camper van and motor home owners would agree that hiring a motorhome before you buy, especially if you have not owned a touring caravan, is highly recommended. Ensure that you hire a motorhome with a toilet. Before you hire a campervan or motorhome, read the small print in the rental agreement, and check what costs are incurred for damage. Are there any territorial restrictions, for example GB mainland only? Australian hire companies exclude you from driving their campervans down dirt roads unless a 4x4 motorhome is hired.

The hire company’s handover may be basic. Ensure you understand how to turn the water and gas on and off, how to fill the water and gas tanks and how to empty the toilet and wastewater. Make up the bed and make sure you know where everything is before you leave the rental company. If something on the motorhome breaks down or gets broken, contact the rental company immediately as they may be able to give advice and suggest where repairs can be made. Always contact the camper van rental company before work is undertaken and keep any receipts. Do make sure you return a clean camper with empty empty toilet and waste tanks to avoid expensive post hire cleaning charges.

Can you hire cheap campervans and motorhomes?
Hiring a campervan or motorhome might seem expensive but will almost certainly save you money in the long run and the experience will probably cause you to choose a completely different motorhome to what you originally thought. Some hire companies offer special purchase deals post hire.

Why hire a motorhome or campervan when you can buy a cheap one?
An equally viable option to hiring is to buy a budget motorhome that has reached the point where depreciation is entirely down to condition. Therefore, if used sympathetically for a short time there should be little difference between purchase and sale price. This is a great way to find out what you must have but more importantly what you can do without. Buy carefully and you should have no problem reselling. See Chapter 2 for a full explanation. The success of your first trip will depend on your forward planning.

What is the best chassis for motorhome and best donor van for a Campervan?
Most motorhomes are built upon or utilise some or all of a light commercial vehicle. Fiat’s Ducato has been the dominant base vehicle in recent years, but its siblings Citroën Relay and Peugeot Boxer are also used. All three brands are manufactured in the same SEVEL factory in Italy. Other makes include Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, Iveco Daily, VW Transporter and Renault Master. Fiat and Ford produce special low and wide-track motorhome chassis that offer enhanced ride and handling. Their design means the caravan body floor is closer to the ground. Some motorhomes have an AL-KO galvanised chassis providing similar attributes but also has independent torsion suspension.

Should I buy a motorhome or campervan with a petrol or diesel engine?
Most modern motorhomes and campervans have a diesel engine as standard, older, small and American RVs may be petrol driven. Diesel engines offer high torque at low revs so are the most suitable for heavy motorhomes. Diesel is often considerably cheaper than unleaded petrol in Europe so it is worth choosing a diesel engine. Leaded petrol is not widely available on the continent, but the lead substitute added to unleaded fuel is. LPG is available on the continent but not widely in every country. See Chapter 3 for LPG fuel station locations.

What is the difference between a motorhome, campervan or RV?
There are three distinct motorhome types: Van Conversions, Coachbuilt, and A-Class. ‘White-Van’ Man can deliver anywhere and manoeuvrability is what makes Van Conversions so practical. Coachbuilt motorhomes are the most common conversion and offer the best value for money. A-Class motorhomes are the cream of the crop and can cost as much as a house. Van Conversions are converted panel-vans, sometimes referred to as PVCs. Modern vans have a car like drive, and despite modest proportions, many Van Conversions are practical for long-term touring. Converters adapt everything from car-derived vans right up to the biggest Mercedes and Iveco high cube monsters. Ignoring length, panel vans have less internal space than Coachbuilt and A-Class motorhomes for two reasons. Coachbuilt and A-Class motorhomes have upright sidewalls but panel-van sidewalls slope inwards slightly. Coachbuilt and A-Class motorhomes are generally 2.3m (7’7”) wide but a panel-van is 2m (6’7”) wide or less. Converting a panel-van is awkward because most of the work has to be done within the confines of the van. This is time consuming and therefore increases the conversion cost. Van Conversions have had a revival recently, mainly due to the increased width of modern vans. Two metre wide vans can have widthways beds long enough, to be comfortable, for people up to 1.83m (6ft) tall. Transverse beds across the back of the van are popular and functional. Often there is a large storage space under the bed or it folds up creating a walkway through the middle. This makes it possible to load bikes or even sheets of plywood for a DIY project. Big, sliding side doors bring the outside in and there is nothing nicer than sitting comfortably inside looking out over a great view.

A-Class motorhomes
A-Class motorhomes look similar to a coach because the donor vehicle cab is not used. The smooth-lined body and purpose-built front end is built upon a bare chassis cowl (engine, electrics, axles, suspension etc, but not the cab). The purpose-built front end has to be designed to be passenger and pedestrian-friendly (complying with European Community directive 2007/46/EC) an expensive and time-consuming process. To make the most of the extra front-end space the driver and co-pilot’ seats normally swivel around to become part of the lounge or dining area and a drop down bed is often found above. Probably the best thing gained is the panoramic view out of the front windows.

How much do you need to spend to buy a campervan or motorhome?
Consider both the purchase price and running costs of your motorhome. Factor in insurance, servicing and recovery charges as well as fuel economy. Prices range from £1,000 to over £1,000,000 so it is easy to get carried away, and you will probably find you need to spend more than you originally thought. With some negotiation, £32,000 will buy you a brand new entry level motorhome. £10,000 will buy a good 20-year-old motorhome. Under £10,000, there are plenty of Van Conversions, VW Campervans and Coachbuilt motorhomes aged 15-30 years.

 How do I find the answers to all my campervan and motorhome related questions?
If you have plenty of time, you can read the posts on motorhome, RV, and campervan forums. You could spend £10 to £15 buying the various campervan and motorhome, motor caravan monthly magazines. You could talk to everyone you know and meet that has a motorhome or campervan. Or for £11.99 you could buy and read Go Motorhoming and Campervanning ISBN 9781910664025.