Always fancied the touring lifestyle and answering the call of the open road?
If are about to take your first steps into our fantastic pastime, here we answer all your questions on licences, layouts and much more.
So no matter if a VW camper van or a driveway-busting A-class is your dream home-from-home, here are 20 top tips to get you started! Talking of which…
1. How big can you go?
Consider what the largest motorhome you can comfortably drive would be.
How long is your drive at home and, if you plan to store the ’van under cover, check the height.
If you live near country lanes, consider buying a narrower van conversion – or maybe a camper van.
2. Double-check your driving licence
If you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997, you can drive a motorhome up to 7500kg on your B+C1 licence.
When you reach 70, you must renew your licence to continue driving a ’van over 3500kg, and do this every three years.
Those who passed their tests after 1 January 1997 must pass a C1 test to drive a ’van heavier than 3500kg.
3. Choose the right layout for you
Yes, there is a bewildering choice of layouts on the market!
Compare floorplans and consider how many belted travel seats and berths you need on your motorhome holidays.
Think about whether you need a shower and a toilet, whether you would prefer a fixed bed or one you make up. Will your circumstances change?
And we are here to help! As well as our motorhome reviews, be sure to read our annual Owner Satisfaction Awards reports to find the best brands and dealers among our respondents – for 2017’s results, click here for new motorhomes and here for used.
4. Separate ‘likes’ from ‘must-haves’
Draw up a shortlist of preferences – motorhome ‘must-haves’ (belted seats, beds over 6ft, for example) and ‘would-be-nices’ (maybe a microwave or a reversing camera).
Be prepared to compromise on the would-be-nices.
Then draw up another shortlist, this time of motorhomes.
5. Where to buy?
But this is only an option for those who are experienced and know exactly what they’re looking for.
Buying new or pre-owned from a local dealer will ensure you have a warranty, which will offer some peace of mind.
6. Visit a show
Motorhome shows are great for shopping around for a starter ’van.
Having a host of models in one place makes it easy to compare similar ones, back-to-back, while your memories are fresh.
Also, you’ll usually be in a good position to negotiate a deal – plus, some manufacturers offer show-only deals and discounts.
Similarly, large dealerships may offer a selection of new and pre-owned models for you to compare and contrast.
7. Try before you buy
Motorhome hire is here to help!
Rent a ’van with the same (or similar) layout to the one you’re considering, to find out how it suits your practical requirements.
Also, a number of dealerships offer try-before-you-buy discounts if you go on to purchase from them.
8. Take a test drive
You’d not buy a car without driving it – and it’s the same with a motorhome.
If you’re buying used, take a thorough test drive, ideally on a mix of open and urban roads.
Make up the beds and lie on them – even if the beds are fixed, make sure you can fit on them comfortably.
Also ensure that all the components (heating, water systems, 12V electrics and so on) work as they should.
9. Sort out your finances
Regardless of whether you pay for your prospective motorhome purchase out of savings, a retirement lump sum, equity release or a finance deal, set yourself a budget.
And stick to it!
10. Get the right insurance cover
Take out a dedicated motorhome policy, and go fully comprehensive.
Check age limits for policyholders, and study any breakdown cover offered as part of the policy – are there limits on the size of the vehicle that can be recovered?
Get the motorhome’s contents covered, too.
11. Where can you keep your ’van?
If your house deeds or lease have a covenant preventing you from keeping your ’van outside your home (or you just don’t have space), then you may have to consider dedicated motorhome storage.
Both the Caravan and Motorhome Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club offer storage at selected sites, or try the Caravan Storage Site Owners’ Association (CaSSOA).
12. Start by going local
Don’t head out on an epic adventure for your first trip in your new ’van.
Be prepared to discover the odd niggle and to return to your dealer to get it fixed under warranty.
Some dealers will encourage you to spend your first night on one of their on-site pitches – it’s a sensible option.
13. Where to stay in the UK
Our Top 100 Sites Guide is here to help! Its listings are based on voting by our readers and is a must-read.
If you missed your free copy with our May magazine, head to our sister site Practical Caravan which hosts the online version of the guide – you can filter your searches by region and facilities – and you can download previous guides to keep for reference!
Both major clubs have their own site networks with online search capabilities.
14. Where to pitch on a budget
Both clubs have comprehensive networks of minimum-facility, five-pitch CS/CLs (certificated sites/locations).
They also offer cheap temporary holiday sites, which can run for a number of weeks and cost just a few pounds a night.
And don’t forget our own Nightstop network of safe, legal stopovers across the UK!
15. What about wild camping?
These are overnight stays not on a campsite, but in a location off the beaten track.
While there is no national legislation to prevent roadside parking in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, equally there is no right to do so.
Find out more about wild camping here.
16. Your first trip abroad
Take your V5C (logbook), MoT and insurance certificates when you go abroad, along with a high-vis jacket, beam deflectors, warning triangle and first-aid kit – check the requirements of each country you intend to visit.
Keep within speed limits, particularly when taking holidays in France.
Beginners nervous about touring abroad could try an escorted motorhome tour. The main clubs also offer escorted tours, including booking ferry crossings and touring sites, and giving other help in advance.
17. Go independent on the Continent
Those who would prefer to travel independently around mainland Europe should consider using Camping Cheques (Alan Rogers) and Touring Cheques (Select Sites).
These offer low-cost camping during low season.
18. Save euros abroad
They’re safe and legal and, for a few euros, you’ll be able to hook-up to electricity, take on fresh water and drain your waste-water and toilet tanks.
Aires and their equivalents outside France are listed in the in-depth guides by Vicarious Books. Caravan Europe volumes are also worth taking on tour.
19. Which accessories must I have?
At the very least you should take toilet chemicals, grip mats, levelling ramps, a CO detector, a fire extinguisher, a torch, camping chairs, and a basic toolkit for simple repairs and maintenance.
For other ideas when it comes to motorhome and camping accessories, just click here.
20. Belt-up on board
Laws mandating the wearing of seat belts in the rear of motorhomes can seem a little confusing.
Motorhomes first registered on or after 20 October 2007 must have belts for front- and rear-facing travel berths.
If a belt is fitted, it must be worn.
Draw up a shortlist of preferences – motorhome ‘must-haves’ and ‘would-be-nices’