GETTING THE MOST out of a motorhome show – a guide for prospective buyers
Thinking of buying a motorhome or replacing your existing one?
Then visiting a motorhome show could be a time, energy and cost- effective way to find what you are looking for.
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View motorhomes of your favourite size, style and floorplan
With motorhome manufacturers and dealers coming from all over the country to display their current models in a collective space, it’s possible to see and compare numerous ‘vans in one hit.
But with so much on offer at a show (motorhomes, accessories, activities) it’s easy to wander around aimlessly and get distracted. After a while you may find all the motorhomes you’ve seen might start blurring into one in your mind. So here are some ideas on how to make the most of your day when searching for a ‘van at a motorhome show.
Our story as motorhome buyers
We bought our first ‘van – a family coachbuilt – at a motorhome show. That wasn’t the plan! The idea was to take a good look at what was available and then buy our chosen motorhome second-hand. But we were offered such a good deal (a show price and lots of extras) that we decided to take the plunge and buy new. We never regretted it. Five years down the line we decided to downsize, so it was back to a motorhome show to look again…
What to do before the show
It’s worth spending a little time before the show:
1. Make some decisions. How many travel seats and berths do you need? How much do you want to spend? Where do you plan to store the vehicle – what’s the maximum length, height and width of a ‘van you could put there?
2. Do some research. Unless you intend to spend several days at the show, it will be impossible to look at every motorhome on display. Make a list, in priority order, of things you want in a ‘van. Get some idea of your preferred internal layout and the types of motorhome you want to look at, for instance coachbuilt motorhomes or panel van conversions. Do you have a favourite base vehicle on which your motorhome should be built?
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Some motorhomes are built on a Mercedes Sprinter base vehicle
Many motorhomes are built on the Fiat Ducato (Euro 5 engine)
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The Ford Transit chassis is a popular motorhome base vehicle too
Tip: Practical Motorhome magazine has a Buyer’s Guide section that addresses many of these issues and will help prepare you for your visit. We found hiring a motorhome before the show was also an excellent way to test out our research and clarify what are priorities were.
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In Practical Motorhome magazine you’ll find the Buyer’s Guide, which lists all the makes, models and prices of new motorhomes
Arriving at the show
Get to the show early so you can pace yourself; it can be tiring spending a day browsing motorhomes. Leave plenty of time to get parked and into the show area.
Wear comfortable shoes. There’s a lot of walking involved at a motorhome show. And for indoor shows don’t overdress, they tend to be warm.
Pick up your show guide on arrival. If you have certain motorhomes you would like to see, highlight their location in the guide, then try to see all the stands of your choice in one given area. This will prevent having to double back on yourself and save valuable time.
Tip: Stay focussed. If you really are using this visit as a mission to find a suitable ‘van, be careful not to be drawn in and spend too much time looking at motorhomes that don’t fit your criteria on travel seats and berths. It’s very easy to get carried away browsing all the interesting innovations and flash interiors, and before you know it the day will have gone!
Take a close look at a new motorhome
Now for the fun bit! If you see a motorhome you like the look of, make sure you take a good, thorough look at it.
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Rob checks how easy it is to turn the seats into a bed and back again
Sit on all the seats. Are they comfortable?
- In the kitchen area, look closely at all the appliances – will these meet your needs?
- Think about storage – where will you put your bedding, clothes, and shoes; cutlery, crockery and pans? What about food, outdoor table and chairs? Then there’s the electric hook-up cable and perhaps a hose to fill the fresh water tank.
- Are you going to use the motorhome for outdoor pursuits? If so, where will you store all your kit?
- Open every cupboard door and locker. Don’t assume they will all be for storing your possessions. The water heater, electrics and gas bottle have to go somewhere. And that overcab storage area that you earmarked for your bedding may just be full of cushions to make up the bed.
- Look for other less obvious storage spaces, under fixed beds or inside/ beneath seats. How easy are they to access?
- If the beds are made up from seats, get the sales person to demonstrate how they are assembled. Then have a go yourself. Would you be happy to do this every evening and the reverse every morning? I came across a ‘van where the seat was too heavy for me to lift back into its driving position – not a viable option so it didn’t make the shortlist.
- If there is a fixed or drop-down bed, can you get in and out of it easily? What about at night if you need the loo?
- Try out all the beds. Lie down in the position you favour to sleep in at home. Is the bed comfy? Do you have enough room? You may feel a tad uncomfortable doing this at a show with lots of people about, but a bed is an important part of buying a motorhome, so it has to be right.
- What about ventilation, especially at night? Bunks and overcab beds can get stuffy; is there a window or roof vent that you can open?
- Sit at the table to make sure you can eat comfortably. If the table is not on display, ask for it to be put in place.
- If there is a toilet/shower room, is it going to work for you?
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Our Sarah leaves nothing to chance
Tip: Make notes on the pros and cons for each motorhome you like. Viewing lots of motorhomes can make it difficult to remember the finer details for each one. Taking photos will also help aid your memory.
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If you haggle the dealer might throw in a microwave to clinch a sale
The next step – taking a second look
Have a break and make a shortlist of motorhomes that have taken your interest. Now go back and have a second look at them.
- Spend some time just sitting in the ‘van and then move around as you would on site. How does it feel? Do you have enough room?
- Ask the sales person to close all the doors for a few minutes, with you inside. Could you spend long periods of time like this? If you are touring in the UK, with our varied weather you may do so!
- Try out the cab seats in the driving position.
- Is anything else important to you that you would like to try?
Tip: Additional display lighting is used in some ‘vans, particularly at indoor shows as a substitute for daylight, so look out for it and make allowances.
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Motorhomes should have a place for everything
Things to consider if buying new at a show
So now you’ve found your perfect ‘van and you’re thinking of purchasing it at the show… Ask these questions:
- Is there a ‘show price’ – a discount for buying at the show? Are any extras offered, such as an awning or alarm? Some dealers have these offers displayed, while other dealers may be ready to negotiate.
- If there is a ‘show price’ is it valid for the whole show period? Could you return in a day or two once you have ‘slept on’ on your decision or phone with the deposit before the show ends (as we did).
- How much is the deposit and is it refundable subject to a test drive or cooling off period? If not, are you sure about your decision and prepared to part with your money?
- How will you pay for the ‘van – are you a cash buyer or will you need a loan? Most dealers and manufacturers offer finance or you may prefer to shop around.
- If you have a motorhome to sell, do you want to trade it in? What price will they give you and is it subject to an inspection? Get any verbal quotes in writing.
- When will the ‘van be ready? It could take several months until you are in possession of your new motorhome; it may need to be built. Delays from the original date given do occur, so it’s wise not to book a holiday until you have the keys in your hand.
Tip: Buy as close to home as possible. One thing that often gets overlooked when purchasing at a show is the distance between home and the supplying dealer/manufacturer. You may be happy to travel a long way to test drive and collect the vehicle, but what about when those new ‘van teething problems need sorting out under warranty?
Which show to go to?
Tip: If you are going to a motorhome show to see specific ‘vans, contact the dealer or manufacturer to make sure they will be on display. The whole range may not be taken to all shows.
Share your own stories with us all
Have you been to a motorhome show? Had any experience of searching for or buying a ‘van there? Any thoughts or tips you would like to share? We’d love to hear from you on the Practical Motorhome Forum, Facebook or Twitter.
By Nicki Hatton
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