Are you thinking of buying a used ‘van privately? Then there are some important choices and interior checks to be made that are sure to help you choose the best used motorhome for you.
Take notes while you are assessing the ’van and use any repairs that are required to bargain the price down.
Before viewing, and even if you’re not intending to, ask the vendor if you can have it checked by an AWS-approved technician. If they have anything to hide, they won’t get back to you to arrange your viewing.
Lounge / dinette checks
Trust your nose
How does the motorhome smell when you first step inside? If it smells damp or fusty, walk away or take extra time with your damp checks. Be very wary of over-fragranced interiors, or ’vans with the door and windows all open when you arrive. If they’re baking bread, just run!
Do all of the blinds pull out and retract properly?
Ensure the foam cushions in the upholstery haven’t sagged or slumped from repeated use. Upholstery should retain its bounce and springiness, returning quickly to its original shape.
Motorhome upholstery is generally very durable, but bad batches can creep through. Look for wear on edges. I once saw a luxury ’van with stylish PVC piping on its sofas. The ’van was newish but well used, and the PVC had started to crack and peel. Replacement upholstery could run into thousands of pounds.
Set up the freestanding dining table. Can the whole family sit around it comfortably? Does the top extend properly?
On the carpet
Investigate the condition of the carpets. Anyone can spend a day tarting up their ’van for sale, but dirty, damaged carpets are harder to hide, and a sign the vehicle hasn’t been cared for as well as the vendor is suggesting.
In good trim
It might be superficial, but check all decorative trims are properly fixed. Motorhomes have lots of colour-coordinated panels and elegant styling touches, but these can come loose.
Dinner for two
Can you all get around the dining table when it’s set up in the lounge? Can two of you dine or snack easily at the extended table? Is the dinette big enough for you all? A slightly-too-small dinette is a waste of vital space.
On the radio
Check the radio/MP3 player is functioning as it should.
If the sofas will become beds for kids or guests, are they long enough? Take a tape measure and check.
Are there sufficient plug points and USB charging points in the ’van?
In the corner
Check for damp in all of the key places around windows and in corners, including under beds/sofas and in overhead lockers.
Check that all of the interior lights are in good working order.
On the mattress
What condition is the mattress in? Has it had a protective cover on? Replacement motorhome mattresses typically cost anywhere from £150 to £400. You might want to factor that in.
Back to base
Do the hydraulic dampers on the bed bases work properly? Can you lift them up easily?
Future-proof your purchase by considering how fast any kids are likely to grow in the next two or three years. Will bunks/beds be big enough if your early-teen becomes a six-footer in 18 months? Should you go for a twin-lounge layout now? You might as well be ignored from the far end of the motorhome!
Heat and light
Check the heating and facility control panels work by asking the vendor to turn on the water heater before you arrive, and the Alde heating, if it is fitted. Blown-air heating can be checked easily for heat and circulation.
Renew the loo
You might want to allow for the cost of a toilet renewal kit from Thetford. These include a new seat and lid, plus a fresh cassette. They cost around £100 to £150.
Mind the gap
Panel fit is crucial as it indicates the rigidity and structural integrity of the ’van. Look for (uneven) gaps between cupboards and wall panels. A millimetre or so is generally acceptable, but if it’s any bigger than that, it might be wise to walk away, or at least have the vehicle checked over professionally.
It may be cool and chic but does the layout suit your touring lifestyle? Will you be making up the bed each evening? And is it easy to do? Check the bed base slides out easily. Do the sofa bases need to be turned, and can you do it?
Look for leaks under the sink and basin, and around the base and edges of the shower unit.
Make sure that the fridge is working by asking for it to be turned on ready for your arrival. Do all the hob rings work, plus the grill, oven and microwave?
Looking for more tips and advice to help you buy the ideal motorhome for you? Then be sure to head to our Back to Basics – Buying a van category, where you can find plenty of ideas that will help you buy the perfect ‘van for you!
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, why not get the latest news, reviews and features delivered direct to your door or inbox every month. Take advantage of our brilliant Practical Motorhome magazine SUBSCRIBERS’ OFFER and SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER for regular weekly updates on all things motorhome related.