Nick HardingSee other Advice articles filed in ‘Used motorhome buying guides’ written by Nick Harding
We Brits certainly like to do things differently from the way they’re done on the Continent. Take motorhome beds, for example. While mainland European motorcaravanners were sleeping comfortably on permanent beds when touring, we clung to interiors featuring lots of seats that had to be converted to beds each night. Even now, UK manufacturers produce such models, because they continue to appeal to us.
However, domestic brands are also promoting growing numbers of floorplans that feature permanent beds in a wide variety of formats.
Yes, you’re far more likely to get a comfortable night’s sleep on a proper mattress, and you don’t have that hassle of converting seating into mattresses – and back.
The only downside is the amount of daytime living space that a permanent bed occupies. But again, motorhome designers have successfully overcome the obstacle by turning it to their advantage, for example by using under-bed areas for large storage spaces that are accessible from outside as well as from inside.
The next question is what kind of fixed bed you want – double, singles, French, island, drop-down? What about the rest of the layout? When you're browsing motorhomes for sale, you need to consider the whole package. Call it a ‘British thing’, but we still expect plenty of lounge space... and proper kitchens... and fully-equipped washrooms.
The good news is it can all be done. We’re going to compare three models, generously supplied by Chelston Motorhomes, that do it all from what’s become a plethora of designs.
As good as new – 2014 (63-plate) Auto-Trail Tracker FB
Seeking two-berth, French-bed perfection? It might just be here.
Chelston is one of Auto-Trail’s largest retailers, so this is a good place to start looking for one as a pre-owned bargain.
The chassis on this French bed model was upgraded to 3650kg, so you’d have to be sure that your licence allows you to drive that much.
This Lo-Line variant has a streamlined overcab pod with opening sunroof and locker. The GRP-clad exterior includes a rear panel with an integrated spare-wheel carrier and a recessed awning.
The front lounge has short settees and a freestanding table that is stored next to the tall fridge/freezer.
The L-shaped kitchen has a sink with a recessed drainer and worktop between it and the dual-fuel hob. You also get a separate oven and grill, and a microwave oven.
At the rear are a nearside fixed bed and a washroom opposite. The configuration is tight, but the latter boasts a shower cubicle along with the toilet and fixed basin.
The Media Pack, a £999 option when the ’van was new, includes a TV/DVD player, a reversing camera and a stereo upgrade, which made the offer too good to ignore.
This Tracker has the usual Auto-Trail peculiarity of overhead lockers without positive catches. Otherwise, it is a fully loaded two-berth in pristine condition.
- Price now: £44,995
- Price new: £50,905
- Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato
- Engine: 2.3-litre turbodiesel, 130bhp
- First registered: 2013
- Mileage: 5483
- Berths/belts: 2/2
- Length/width/height: 7.09/2.35/3.03m
- Extras: Media Pack
- MTPLM: 3650kg
- Payload: 400kg
- Plus points: Generous specification, extra payload
- Minus point: Nothing!
Value for money – 2007 (57-plate) Bürstner Solano T710
The Bürstner brand stands for a blend of good quality, innovation and appealing prices.
Bürstner has built a strong UK following with coachbuilt and A-class motorhomes that are smarter than the norm. By the way, Chelston is a Bürstner agent.
Could this be the right fixed-bed model for a couple who want plenty of kit? It bears comparison with the Auto-Trail Tracker, but there’s a key difference: the washroom here is full-width, extending behind the fixed double. The fully lined shower cubicle is across the dressing area from the toilet and basin. The end washroom allows more floor space by the bed.
This layout, as well as the red upholstery and light wood effect, is aimed at Brits. The same holds true for the kitchen, whose L-shape allows space for a three-burner hob, circular sink and separate drainer. Plus, there’s excellent under-counter storage, including drawers.
The main reason for all this kitchen storage space is the Dometic Tec Tower fridge/freezer with oven/grill across the corridor. That grill may be considered too high by many, though. Adjacent is a floor-to-ceiling wardrobe.
A TV bracket is fitted at the foot of the luxurious bed, which is flanked by large side windows. A vanity unit with a mirrored lid plus drawers is across the aisle. A pleated divider ensures privacy from the rest of the ’van at night.
- Price now: £34,995
- Price new: £39,000 (est)
- Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato
- Engine: 3-litre turbodiesel, 160bhp
- First registered: 2007
- Mileage: 10,100
- Berths/belts: 2/3
- Length/width/height: 7.29/2.3/2.85m
- Extras: None
- MTPLM: 4000kg
- Payload: 860kg
- Plus points: Only one owner from new, powerful engine upgrade
- Minus point: Location of the grill
Super saver – 2007 (07-plate) Hobby Van T500 Exclusive
A German-built compact coachbuilt for under £30,000? Let’s investigate!
German build quality does not often come this keenly priced; that’s because it is riding on a Ford Transit – a lower-cost alternative to Fiat’s ubiquitous Ducato. Nevertheless, the cab’s spec is generous: twin airbags, cruise control, steering wheel controls and air conditioning. There are also neat blinds to the windows.
The Exclusive tag denotes the distinctive bodyshell. Worth noting, also, is the matt finish to the bonnet and door mirror casings. Be sure to check the solid mouldings, inside and out.
It is also narrower and shorter than the other used motorhomes for sale at Chelston that we're looking at here, but it packs more living space than you’d think, especially given the full-feature washroom. The round shower cubicle occupies most of the area here, and the stylish splash of mirrors cannot disguise its compact dimensions.
Curves elsewhere don’t just add to the style but help make the most of the space. The kitchen comprises some compromises, such as a three-burner hob, and smoked-glass covers for it and the sink, plus a combined oven/grill. Storage and worktop are tight.
The transverse fixed bed is set so high that you won’t be able to sit up in it. The payoff is the large garage below.
- Price now: £29,995
- Price new: £38,600
- Base vehicle: Ford Transit
- Engine: 2.2-litre turbodiesel, 115bhp
- First registered: 2007
- Mileage: 25,346
- Berths/belts: 3/4
- Length/width/height: 6.05/2.04/2.71m
- Extras: Awning, oven/grill
- MTPLM: 3500kg
- Payload: 790kg
- Plus points: High-quality bodywork, compact dimensions
- Minus point: Bed practicalities
The small print
- Vehicles are viewed and reported on as seen. Bear in mind that this is usually before any base-vehicle and habitation servicing, including any rectification work, before they go on to their next owners.
- Dimension and payload figures refer to official measurements before the addition of any extras, unless stated otherwise.
- Call ahead before making any visit to see a featured vehicle. Stock shifts fast!