Ten Motorhoming Tips

When looking for our new motorhome (before starting Vantage) what surprised us most was that the sales people who were trying to advise us knew very little about camping or motorhoming. They did not understand the key aspects of our hobby and there was no sound practical advice available anywhere. All they wanted to do was sell us anything, even if it was not entirely suitable for our needs!

We made several mistakes along the way which cost us many tens of thousands of pounds, and it is this experience we would like to share with you to ensure that you don't make the same mistakes.

While choosing your ideal leisure vehicle you may wish to consider the following key elements:-

  1. Overall vehicle size - Consider the height and width as well as the length. If you're planning to go down country roads in Cornwall, rural France and Europe forget a bulky coachbuilt, as you will not see 'the road less travelled'. Go too small and you'll only be one step above camping.
  2. The right layout - in a panel van conversion choose either a front or rear lounge layout. A front lounge layout will give you an open aspect through the sliding door whereas a rear lounge arrangement will often create a dual zone allowing swivel seats in the cab area to create an additional sitting area/dinette even when the bed is made up. Most motorhomes are designed to be used primarily as a two berth leisure vehicle. Often people make the mistake of trying to include additional passenger seats to accommodate grandchildren/elderly parents etc at the sacrifice of their ideal layout. The novelty of the extended family coming along can be very short lived, so for the short periods you feel you need extra berths you may find it more cost-effective to hire a larger motorhome. This will allow you to choose your ideal layout for the 90 to 95% of the time your motorhome is being used as a two berth. Decide who you are buying your motorhome for and exactly how it is going to be used the majority of the time.
  3. Comfortable sleeping arrangements - ensure the bed size is big enough and decide whether you prefer single beds or a large double. If you are less able, watch out for the 'climb over' scenario where a night-time visit to the loo will involve one person climbing over the other. Avoid the kidology that a 4' 2" x 6' bed is a double. About 50% of your time in your motorhome will be spent in bed so this is a key element of your holiday/leisure.
  4. Build quality - check the overall build quality for substance and grade of materials. Catches, hinges and fittings are often a source of penny-pinching and replacing them will be time-consuming and extra hassle.
  5. The insulation of your vehicle - avoid single glazed side and rear windows at all costs. They will not keep you warm in winter or cool in summer. They will run with condensation and will invariably have some kind of non-blackout, flimsy curtain arrangement. Often this type of window will not open either. This aspect is very often not obvious at first glance but it is extremely important and can easily be overlooked. If you have double glazing at home, surely you'll want double glazing in your motorhome.
  6. Workable kitchen with a good size fridge and everything to hand - drawer storage is the key to easy accessibility. Watch out for valuable kitchen storage taken up by the gas box. Have a place for everything and everything in its place. Choose your hob, oven and grill preferences to suit your cooking style and ensure the hob is well ventilated near the door, not near the lounge area adjacent to soft furnishings.
  7. Loo, washroom and shower - a fitted flushable loo, washbasin and shower will give you independent washing facilities. However, it is probable that when on site you will use the facilities provided. Don't be fooled; a Porta-potti is barely adequate.
  8. A comprehensive base vehicle package - which should include passenger and driver airbags and adequate payload (500kgs). Add other options such as cab aircon, reversing sensors, alloy wheels etc to suit your budget. Your safety, travelling comfort and resale value are key here!
  9. Versatile alfresco solutions - including outside table use and a wind-out awning. A solar panel adds independence and a healthy trickle charge to your batteries. For easy access ensure that all service points i.e. water filling and drainage, cassette loo and hook up are all located on the offside of the vehicle away from the immediate sitting area outside your sliding door.
  10. Buy from a reputable European Type Approved company with a proven track record for producing a quality product and providing a reliable after sales service - avoid the back street 'we can do anything' one man band workshop and friends. Whilst the deal may appear cheap and the overall finish adequate, the poor after sales support and resale value of your vehicle will almost certainly cost you more in the end. Be aware that bespoke conversions rarely hit the mark. Larger manufacturers will simply churn out vehicles via a network of dealers. Poor quality mass production techniques, cheap fittings and a lack of dealer support is usually the problem here.