A motorhome is a huge financial investment. So, when you purchase a new or second-hand model, you want to know it’s going to be good for holidays for years to come.
A warranty covers the cost of repairs to your vehicle if a fault develops – though beware of the terms and conditions that apply!
It’s also a guarantee: if your vehicle’s still under its manufacturer’s warranty, it’s reasonable to expect it’s in pretty good nick.
However, there are several different types of warranty. And many owners think their motorhome is covered for all repairs – only to get a nasty shock when their claim is rejected.
So, what warranties might you be offered? What’s covered, and what’s excluded? How can you make a claim under your warranty? And how do they differ from motorhome insurance?
Read on for our guide to motorhome warranties.
Most motorhomes are a base vehicle (such as a Fiat Ducato) that has been converted by an accredited company into a home-on-wheels. So, when you buy a new vehicle, you actually get two warranties: one from the manufacturer, the other from the converter.
The manufacturer’s warranty is the most comprehensive, covering the mechanics and electrics of the vehicle: its engine and transmission; fuel and ignition system; gearbox; steering and suspension; clutch and brakes and so on.
Often, roadside assistance is included in case your new vehicle breaks down.
In short, this type of warranty covers the costs of repairing just about anything that the manufacturer has claimed should not require repair in the specified time frame, so long as the vehicle has been looked after properly.
It’s likely that it won’t cover ‘consumables’. Essentially, this is anything that would normally require replacement after a certain amount of usage like wiper blades, tyres, brake pads and so on.
Another common exclusion may be ‘diagnostics’. So, if you believe there’s a fault with your vehicle, you’ll need to pay for it to be diagnosed by a professional. The manufacturer will pick up the tab only for any repairs needed.
Many manufacturers offer ‘no quibble’ warranties on their new vehicles, as they’re confident that you won’t encounter problems within the first year or two of ownership.
The length of the warranty varies depending on where the vehicle was manufactured. If it’s in Britain, it’s likely to be three years, but if the base vehicle was manufactured in Europe, then two years is more common. So make sure you check when you purchase your vehicle.
Be aware, too, that this period may start from when the base was manufactured, and it could already be a year old by the time you purchase your motorhome.
And don’t confuse the warranty with your motorhome insurance, which covers things which the manufacturer could not be responsible for such as accidents, damage, theft of the motorhome or its contents, and fire, depending on your policy.
The converter’s warranty covers the work done by the conversion company – that which transforms the van base into a liveable home-on-wheels. Exactly what’s covered may vary from company to company, so always check the small print.
Even more confusingly, there are likely to be two parts to this warranty.
The first covers repairs to the motorhome and its fitted equipment. That could include the external body shell, the electrical system, the water system, appliances such as the refrigerator and the cooker, the toilet, and the windows.
The second part is called a body integrity warranty, and essentially covers water ingress, or leaks, through fixed seam or seal joints in the living area of the motorhome. Not all converters offer these – it depends on the type of motorhome you’re buying.
Just as with motorhome insurance, you may have to pay an excess for any repairs done under warranty. There will also be exceptions for things which might be expected to deteriorate, such as window seals.
And if your converter’s warranty is valid for several years, the terms might be different after the first year or two: perhaps covering fewer elements, or with a higher excess.
Dealer’s or insurance-backed warranty
If you buy your motorhome nearly new, you may be able to get the original warranties transferred to you, perhaps for a small fee.
However, if the vehicle you’re buying is a few years old, the original warranties will have expired. Instead, your dealer may offer you a warranty – sometimes for free, sometimes at an extra cost.
This will be underwritten by an insurance company and will cover both the base van and the conversion. If you don’t like the warranty your dealer is offering, or if you’re buying a second-hand model from a private owner, you can shop around and find an insurance-backed warranty yourself.
Many buyers are dismissive of dealers’ warranties, believing that there are so many exclusions that they’re scarcely worth the paper they’re written on. While that’s not always true, the terms do vary hugely, so check the wording carefully to see exactly what’s included and for how long.
Like manufacturers’ warranties, they will almost certainly exclude wear and tear. They may well also exclude ‘consequential loss’ – that is, damage to an insured part that is caused by a failure of an uninsured part.
Some extended warranties can last for 10 years. However, there may be a sliding scale of how much you will be expected to contribute to any repair costs. So the older your vehicle, the more you will have to pay when something goes wrong.
While warranties are backed by insurance companies, they don’t replace your motorhome insurance policy.
What’s the difference between a warranty and motorhome insurance?
So what is it that sets warranties apart from motorhome insurance policies? There are several key differences.
A warranty is essentially a protection against faults developing within your vehicle, with no external cause. Insurance is protection against financial loss caused by external factors, such as accidents, theft or vandalism.
Most importantly, your motorhome insurance compensates other drivers for damage to them or their vehicles if you’re at fault in an accident. It’s therefore a legal requirement that you have third party cover as a minimum, with strict penalties if you don’t comply. However, there’s no legal obligation to take out a warranty.
Sometimes, you might need to claim on both. If your brakes were to fail in your new motorhome, and you hit another vehicle, then your warranty should cover the cost of repairing your brakes and your insurance the cost of the third party damage.
Optional extras such as breakdown cover might be included with both, so it’s always wise to make sure you’re not paying more than you need to. Check the terms and conditions of any warranty or insurance policy that you’re considering.
Warranties vs legal rights
In addition to your warranty, you have certain legal rights when purchasing a vehicle.
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you can reject a vehicle if it is faulty within 30 days of buying it and get a full refund in most cases. If you paid using a credit card or through hire purchase, you may have extra protection under the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
Manufacturers and conversion companies have obligations to provide vehicles that meet certain standards. Occasionally, they’ll have to recall a batch of vehicles due to a known fault in their production, and either repair or replace the vehicle free of charge. That might happen years after the warranty has expired.
What will invalidate a warranty?
You might also be shocked to discover that some normal motorhome usage can actually invalidate your warranty for good. The following are some of the most common reasons why a claim might get rejected but check the terms of your own warranty to be sure.
It might happen if you spend more than a certain number of consecutive nights in your van, or total nights per year. If you were planning on a long summer adventure, or perhaps hoping to spend the whole of the ski season on the slopes, then you could well exceed this limit.
You will probably also need to prove that you have had your vehicle professionally serviced at specified intervals, and there’s often a maximum mileage allowance, too. Missing a service or exceeding that mileage will invalidate your warranty.
If you’re a keen amateur mechanic, think twice before you attempt to rectify a problem yourself. If repairs are carried out by anyone other than an authorised professional, your warranty could be breached.
Any modifications to the vehicle are likely to invalidate the warranty, although they may be permitted if they are done by a qualified professional. So think twice before you install solar panels yourself!
You must also follow the warranty claims process. Usually, this means going through your dealer and getting approval from the manufacturer before you get a repair carried out, not afterwards. Owners often complain that this is a hassle, so it’s always wise to buy your vehicle from a dealer with a good reputation for aftersales service.
Of course, if you damage your vehicle through your own error, such as filling it with the wrong fuel, you’re unlikely be covered by the warranty. Another common error is to continue to drive your motorhome after a warning light has appeared on the dashboard or a fault has become apparent.
Many warranties are invalidated if you travel out of a defined area, such as Europe. Always check before planning your travels. Of course, you may choose to go anyway – but it’s best that you understand the implications, particularly if you were planning on selling your van after your trip. Remember that motorhome insurance often covers only EU countries, too.
Should I take out a dealer’s warranty?
So bearing all this in mind, is it worth paying for a dealer’s warranty on your second-hand vehicle? You need to work out which is likely to be cheaper in the long run: paying for a warranty or paying for repairs yourself. You also need to decide if you’re prepared to take the risk of running up a repair bill that you can’t afford.
Consider the following questions to help you decide.
- Which components of the motorhome are covered by the warranty?
- Is there a limit to the amount per claim?
- How much will you be expected to contribute to any repairs – particularly in the later years of an extended warranty?
- How simple is the claims procedure?
- If you’re buying a motorhome from a dealer situated a long way from your home, can you get it repaired by a mechanic near you, or will you have to return it to the dealership? Is there a network of approved repairers, in the UK and in Europe?
- Who pays for the cost of transporting your motorhome to the garage if it’s broken down?
- Do you get a replacement vehicle free of charge while your motorhome is being repaired under warranty?
- If the warranty is valid only with a regular service schedule, does it matter which garage carries this out?
- Is the warranty better suited to cars than motorhomes – does it actually cover the living area, or just the mechanics and engineering?
- Does it suit your planned usage – your likely mileage, and the countries you intend to visit?
- Does it cover leaks or water ingress?
Remember: just as with motorhome insurance, you can shop around for a warranty, rather than accept one from your motorhome dealer.
Get a quote from Motorhome Protect today
Even if your vehicle is covered by a warranty, you still need motorhome insurance to stay on the right side of the law, protect your investment in case of accident or damage, and compensate third parties if you’re at fault.
Motorhome Protect has decades of experiencing in arranging cover for all types of motorhome, up to a value of £150,000. We search the market so that you don’t have to, using our expertise to find you a policy that suits your requirements and budget.
Benefits of the policies we arrange can include unlimited mileage, discounts for members of certain clubs, and cover for travel within all countries of the EU.
We’ll consider applications from drivers with previous claims and convictions too.
Get a quote from Motorhome Protect and start planning your next road trip today.
Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.