Guide to buying a used motorhome

11th January 2015

Looking to buy a previously owned motorhome? Why not start with a list? Once you’ve determined your budget and preferred layout, just list the features and fittings you want in your ideal motorhome – then decide whether you consider them essential or just desirable.For help choosing the right layout for you, check out our handy guides to the best motorhome layouts for families and the most suitable motorhome layouts for couples.

We’re assuming you know what type of motorhome you want (panel van conversion or coachbuilt, up to American RV), as well as what your driving licence entitles you to drive.

Getting the right layout is key. Consider the number of occupants, who will sleep where and whether they can travel safely, as well as the kitchen and washroom equipment.

Set your motorhome budget

Pricing motorhomes is far trickier than cars, for a number of reasons. The trade uses a publication called Glass’s Guide to assess pricing, but it can be inconsistent. Your best bet is to study the specialist motorhome publications. It always pays to fully research the market, sector and even the model you intend to buy.

Timing is also a factor, as vehicle prices tend to peak around Easter, at the onset of the touring season, and are lower during the winter months – although choice is likelier to be less then.

If your budget allows, consider buying a nearly-new motorhome as an alternative to brand new. A previous owner will have taken the depreciation hit, and any early glitches will have probably been sorted. It may even come with some useful optional extras.

Your local motorhome dealership has to be the best place to start – not just in the hunt for the right vehicle, but also for the specialist knowledge and advice he/she can impart. There are other places to buy – from private purchase to shows and even auctions – but it’s with a purchase from a specialist dealer that you have more legal rights and can benefit most from after-sales service.

Occasionally, self-built motorhomes are available for sale. If the vehicle is not from a known converter, it should come with an engineer’s report stating that all gas and electrical installations are to the required safety standards.

Do keep notes of any vehicles you go to view. It’s surprising how often folk forget what they’ve seen! Also, consider where you are going to take your motorhome for future servicing, repair work or even the fitting of accessories. Any dealer will (quite rightly) put its own customers first in such situations.

Don’t haggle, negotiate

Any motorhome purchase should not be a rushed one. Do your research and you’ll reap the benefits. Speak to other motorhome users, visit shows and dealers (including any special exhibitions) and read the specialist press.

Negotiate your way through a deal by asking about the cost of any cosmetic work (inside and/or out) that may need attending to, as well as considering such aspects as extending any warranty offer.

Ask about any fitted optional extras – to determine whether they are factory-fitted or retrofit items. If the latter, ensure they’ve been fitted by a specialist and make sure you will get documentation, as this could effect your motorhome insurance policy.

We would suggest a test drive before you go ahead with any motorhome purchase (– assuming your licence entitles you to drive the vehicle and you’ve made any necessary motorhome insurance arrangements). A test drive, no matter how short, allows you to get an indication of driving position for comfort and overall cab ergonomics.

Official paperwork will help prove ownership (especially if buying privately) as well as verifying other key credentials. Ask for details of service history (covering both the base vehicle and the conversion), MoTs (which help verify any mileage claims), and any fitted extras. And finally, once you’ve made that purchase, do make sure you get a receipt for payments made.

Motorhome checklist – items to consider:

  • Dimensions – is there sufficient space for living, meal preparation, seating, beds and general storage? Also consider where you intend to store the vehicle when not in use.
  • Look for signs of exterior damage and/or repair work. If it’s a van conversion, check for any corrosion; if a coachbuilt, look for any damage to the main body (which is usually aluminium, sometimes GRP or even polyester) that could be allowing water to get in. Water ingress, where dampness gets into the bodywork and can rot it away from the inside, is a major failing of coachbuilt structures – good dealers conduct thorough damp tests.
  • Other exterior items to focus on include windows; locks and handles should all work properly, as should corner steadies and steps, if fitted. Finally, spare wheel condition and accessibility should be assessed.
  • Inside, check out the condition and signs of excessive use of all the major items of equipment. Sit on the seats to gauge comfort and support levels, make up the beds to check out ease of changing from seating to bedding as well as ensuring all the right cushions are still in the unit!

If a used motorhome isn’t for you, check out our handy guide to buying a new motorhome for all the help and advice you’ll need.

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