Nick HardingSee other Advice articles filed in ‘Used motorhome buying guides’ written by Nick Harding
If you are new to motorcaravanning, don’t overspend. Keep within your budget when you buy your first vehicle. There are a few excellent reasons for this; the main one being that at lower price levels you won’t lose as much in depreciation. If you decide against the motorhome life, you still get an optimum price for your vehicle, but if you love it then you’ll get a good trade-in against your next, newer motorhome.
That’s why the focus in this article is on buying cheaper motorhomes – yes, £15k to £26k really is the lower end of the market. With a typical new motorhome costing from around £50,000 (once you add in optional extras), you do get the occasional sub-£20,000 vehicle on the forecourts of specialist dealerships, but these tend to be the exception rather than the rule. But, as with any purchase from a dealer, what you do get is the reassurance of full servicing to both the base vehicle and the habitation area, backed up by a warranty. The examples here come with a 12-month warranty from Dolphin Motorhomes, a motorhome dealership in Southampton.
By pure coincidence, the three vehicles we’ve alighted on this month are based on the previous generation versions of the most popular Fiat Ducato/Peugeot Boxer base vehicle. (Both the Ducato and the Boxer come from the same Sevel factory in Alessa, Italy).
All three are within the 3500kg maximum, too, so you won’t need to worry about whether you have extra entitlement on your driving licence.
Are you ready to take the plunge?
Dolphin Motorhomes – the next generation
As for many dealers, 2015 was a ‘good year’ for Dolphin Motorhomes, a motorhome specialist that can boast almost limitless market experience. The company was set up in 2003 by brothers Josh and Tom Willis, who can point to a lifetime in motorhome retailing – their father, Dave Willis, was the co-founder of the network that he subsequently sold and which has gone on to become Marquis Leisure.
Says Josh “At Dolphin, we’ve always recognised the importance of really looking after our customers and we believe that nothing is too much trouble.
“We recently had a visit from a couple who had a list of very specific requirements for their motorhome. We took the time to source the perfect vehicle for them, which they came in to view and fell in love with. If you’re looking for a particular vehicle, or one with a certain layout or particular feature; try us. We just might be able to help you!”
Dolphin operates from two branches. Southampton is the main one, but around three years ago it also took over the dealership formerly known as Hants and Dorset Motor Caravans, just along the coast at Christchurch. The firm stocks Autocruise, Auto-Sleeper, Auto-Trail, Bailey, Elddis, Swift and Tribute motorhomes.
In this article we select the best used motorhomes we found at Dolphin Motorhomes when we visited, picking bargains at three price points up to £26,000.
As good as new option: Auto-Trail Cheyenne 630 LB
On the forecourt we found two motorhomes for sale for £25,995: a Dethleffs Advantage Elegance (see below) and this one – a 2006 (56) Auto-Trail Cheyenne 630 LB.
Of course you’re going to compare the two, but the chances are, you’ll find the layout and kit in the two-berth Cheyenne 630 LB are more suited to your requirements, so we'll look at the Cheyenne first.
This British-built Auto-Trail has had one former owner and comes with a full mechanical service history, but no habitation service history. It's based on the 2.8-litre JTD 127bhp Fiat Ducato, was first registered in November 2006 and cost £40,888 when new.
It's 6.48m long, 2.31m wide excluding mirrors and 2.95m high. The MTPLM is 3500kg and you get a user payload of 465kg.
As it is, this two-berth is in excellent order, although there are some old-fashioned aspects like a fixed carpet and a Truma S heater.
It’s a popular British layout, with the kitchen across the back and washroom in the nearside rear corner, with curtained double-door wardrobe alongside.
The lounge has long sofas with higher-than-average backrests and sprung base cushions – ideal for two single beds or a large double. The kitchen has a Spinflo Caprice cooker with dual-fuel hob and separate oven and grill, with a sink and drainer to the right.
This is an early example of an Auto-Trail SE model, with a small flatscreen TV over the cab, a stereo system, a reversing camera, a recessed awning and more. This example has extra window alarms.
It's worth noting that Dolphin Motorhomes holds the franchise for new Auto-Trails. A sign that you’ll get good service? Of course.
So, to sum up. what do we like and dislike most about the Auto-Trail Cheyenne 630 LB?
- Likes: classic two-berth layout, quality upholstery
- Dislike: no habitation service history
Value for money option: 2005 (05) Dethleffs Advantage Elegance T6611
When it was new, the Dethleffs Advantage Elegance T6611 cost £40,045, so the used price of £25,995 for this 2005 means that it offers excellent value for money. Based on the popular Fiat Ducato with a 2.8-litre JTD, 127bhp engine, this Elegance T6611 has just 28,100 miles on the clock, offers two beds and four travel seats. It's 6.83m long, 2.26m wide and 2.82m high.
With an MTPLM 3500kg and payload of 510kg you'll find it very practical for two.
Of course, one of the big advantages of buying pre-owned is the extras you often get. This particular 'van comes with lots of extras, such as cruise control, an awning, a tow-bar, mains sockets, solar panel, reversing camera, satellite TV dish and a status TV aerial.
A more important thing to consider is whether the floorplan suits you. The Dethleffs Advantage Elegance T6611 has a half-dinette lounge and a central area that incorporates a small kitchen, slightly larger washroom and, at the back, two steps up to a bedroom offering two longitudinal single beds or a double, set over a garage storage area that’s accessible from an offside exterior hatch.
The kitchen lacks both worktop and storage, but the washroom has a fixed corner basin, swivel-bowl toilet, and shower space, with the sink’s mixer tap doubling as the showerhead.
The cab boasts air conditioning as well as a Sony radio/CD player and an after-market cruise control. There are alloy wheels and the front bumper is colour-coded. There’s a real blend of style and quality here, aided by some upmarket extra fittings.
It’s had no less than five previous owners, and you’re probably going to have to live with that DIY patch on the fridge door, but don’t let that put you off – the overall quality still shines through in a layout that’s very much up-to-the-minute.
The washroom’s separate shower cubicle has a hanging rail for wet clothing, plus there’s a swivel toilet and a basin that looks like it’s been resealed a few times.
So to sum up, what do we like and dislike about the Dethleffs Advantage Elegance T6611?
- Likes: Premium build quality, single beds or a double.
- Dislike: tight kitchen.
Super saver option: 1998 (S) Autocruise Vista
The Autocruise Vista is a well-put-together compact coachbuilt ’van that’s ideal for those starting out in the pastime who don’t want to spend too much.
The 1998 example we saw cost £14,995, a saving of £10000 on the price when new of £24,995. It is built on the Peugeot Boxer 1.9-litre turbodiesel, 91bhp and was first registered in 1999. It has clocked up 73,437 miles, offers two berths and two travel seats. It will be easy to drive, because it is just 4.8m long, 2.21m wide and 2.82m high. This example comes with an awning, which would have cost extra when new. The MTPLM is 3000kg and the user payload is 545kg, which should be plenty for a couple.
It’s got deep side skirting and an offset habitation door at the back, with GRP-clad bodywork. There’s a higher spec here, too, because this model was sold new as a Marquis dealer special.
The layout is roomy. An L-shaped sofa combines with the swivel cab seats for a good lounge, and slides out at night to make up into a double bed. The kitchen runs along the nearside and includes a Spinflo Caprice cooker (with four rings and separate grill and oven), a sink with drainer and an Electrolux fridge.
Inside the back door is a small washroom with a deep shower tray, a Thetford bench toilet and a drop-down basin. Opposite, on the nearside, is a wardrobe that is also home to the free-standing table.
Signs of wear are largely superficial: the upholstery is fine, the curtains a little faded and the push-button catches still work.
Despite a full mechnical service history, there is no habitation servicing record, but this is where a good dealer makes sure that everything is in safe and sound working order for the next – and third – owner.
So to sum up, what are our likes and dislikes for the 1998 (S) Autocruise Vista?
- Likes: Compact size, good quality construction.
- Dislike: Looks a bit dated in places.
Which would you choose? Make sure you do plenty of research by reading our used motorhome buyer's guides, motorhome reviews and classified adverts. Then check out our general advice on buying used motorhomes. Enjoy shopping around – and don't forget to haggle for the best price. Good luck!