The beauty of owning a motorhome is the freedom you have to roam around the world, to choose when you want to stop and pull up at caravan and motor parks at your own convenience. You have more control over key elements of your holiday and you can decide on what home comforts best suit your tastes for a particular trip.
However, if you’re deciding to buy a motorhome, perhaps for the first time, the range of options are often bewildering.
What size do you want? How important is engine capacity? What kind of facilities do you expect to be included in the interior?
The other main concern is that of brand names and makes of motorhomes. With cars and vans, the mass market brands are familiar names – Ford, Vauxhall, Peugeot, Renault, Volkswagen and so on are part of our everyday vocabulary.
Even in the luxury market, brands like Rolls Royce, Lamborghini and Porsche trip off our tongues (not that the vast majority of us will ever own one!).
But if we asked you to name the most popular brands and makes of motorhomes – or RVs as they’re also known – the chances are you’d be hard-pressed to name even a few unless you’ve had experience in this market.
We’re here to bring you up to speed on the top brands and makes to consider when choosing your new motorhome.
That way, you can be sure you’re making the right investment and get on with those wonderful open road adventures you’ve got planned.
Speaking of investments, there’s no purchase more valuable than that of insurance, the right kind that will keep you covered no matter what you encounter.
So we’ll also cover why choosing good motorhome insurance matters, and what you might want to think about when you go to get coverage.
First things first
Brand new or second hand?
Buying a used motorhome is worth looking into. Regardless of how you buy, you will be spending a lot of money – it might be a good strategy to let someone else feel the pain of depreciation.
One way to address the choice between used or new is to find a nearly-new vehicle, calculate the difference between its price and the retail price if bought brand new, divide the figure by the number of miles covered.
Realising how much the owners have paid per mile since they bought the motorhome brand new helps you to appreciate how these vehicles lose value.
Where to buy from
Local, one-off specialist dealer - very good for the specialised service and attention but obviously, if they’re at the other end of the country...
Multi-Dealer network - this is convenient and gives a good degree of consistency of service and product range.
Direct sales (manufacturer) - these are small in number. Their niche is bespoke vehicles, so if you have the budget, they are usually very happy to build to your specifications.
One key thing to remember is depreciation rates. Motorhomes generally have high residual values, but standard models from mainstream makers are especially likely to hold their worth.
Types of vehicles
We need to make a quick distinction between the generic term ‘motorhome’ and the term ‘campervan’, which is what the majority of this market consists of:
Motorhome - a vehicle built on a truck, bus or van chassis, designed to serve as self-contained living quarters for holiday travel.
Campervan - a self-contained travelling home with no division between the cab and the living quarters behind. Basically, there are three categories of motorhomes:
Van Conversion: (also known as Class B or Campervan): as the name suggests, these use existing models of commercial vans and re-imagine the inside and make some structural changes for the needs of the long-distance traveller.
The most common ‘base’ vehicles used are VW, Ford, Fiat and Mercedes. This category is very popular, as the trend is towards downsizing, which means there are more motorhomes under 6m in length on the market.
Coachbuild: These use the cab and chassis from a commercial van and then the motorhome body is built onto it.
These vehicles can sleep two upwards and usually have a built-in shower and toilet as well as a kitchen area and, sometimes, a fixed double bed.
Class A (also known as RV - Recreational vehicle): Class A RVs are easy to recognise because they are so big in comparison to the other two categories. They also have a distinct boxy shape and put the ‘home’ in motorhome.
They are often built on a bus or truck chassis, but can also be custom-built. Inside, space rules, so they can fit more people, more fittings and be more spacious.
Fuel economy isn’t great and you do need to bear the dimensions in mind if driving a large vehicle like this.
If you’re travelling abroad, remember ferry companies can charge by vehicle length and you might need to check whether you need any special licence.
Fixtures and fittings
Ask yourself the following questions when it comes to fixtures and fittings:
What do I want to pay?
What will my budget get me?
What do I want inside?
How many people will be using it?
How much time do we expect to spend inside?
The higher up the market you go, the larger the motorhome, the greater the space and the more options in selection, quality, adaptability and layout of fixtures and fittings.
And the higher the price, of course.
When inspecting a potential purchase, consider the motorhome's layout and have a good nosy around. Check out things like:
Toilet and shower - do you need these or can you use campsite facilities? This is the single group of fittings which will determine how large your motorhome is going to be.
Kitchen - will a microwave suffice? Is the cooking equipment of high enough spec and functionable?
Storage – it looks flashy and impressive, but will it be practical enough for your storage needs? Keep in mind, this vehicle will also be your living space.
Sleeping - do you find the beds comfortable? Lie on them for a while and make sure.
Relaxation - how important is a lounge area to you? Can you adapt/convert space used for other purposes?
Use of space/layout
Look for build quality and attention to detail. If you don’t like the decor or seat covers, the manufacturer may let you choose from a range of different finishes if you’re buying new.
However, the clearer you are in your requirements, the easier it is for them to help you, so make a list of your must-haves – passenger seats, type of roof, heating, bedsize and so on.
You can then easily compare models and prices using the same criteria.
Choosing the best motorhome for you
As we’ve seen above, there are a great number of factors to consider and decisions to make.
This includes everything from where to buy your vehicle, to the fixtures and fittings you want as well as what kind of specialist motorhome insurance to take out.
The best way to manage all of this information is to know it! Several sites offer a set of criteria to help you to make a choice and this data sheet from the Caravan and Camping Club is as good a guide as any.
Best brands and makes of motorhome
We don’t have room to list every brand and make of camper van, motorhome or RV here, but there are certain names and models which tend to recur in searches.
The purpose of the selection below is to highlight these.
Three Bridge has a Multivan option based principally on VW campervan conversions.
They discuss requirements and work towards the final full build work using the customer’s specifications.
Jerba is a Scottish company specialising in conversions.
For example, its J-Pod brand offers four different configurations; full campervan layout, family car, awning (outside space with utilities connections) and a half-in, half-out set-up.
Auto Campers’ Day Van (based on a Ford Transit Tourneo) is a popular model.
Versatile in its uses for camping and many other activities, it’s designed for frequent use rather than just camping.
The fixtures and fittings are modular so extra costs are involved in many cases.
Auto Campers also offer an award-winning MRV with openings on both sides, including a kitchen which can be used from inside and out.
Rolling Homes use a Mercedes Vito as the basis for conversion.
Just as an idea of what you get for add-ons to the basic model, the ‘Executive Upgrade’ costs £3,995 and includes air-conditioning, cruise control, body-coloured bumpers, rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and driving lights, leather steering wheel, fog lights, heated mirrors and more.
Honourable mentions for:
Sun Living 65SL (fixed bed motorhome economy) – approximately under £50,000
Hillside Horton campervan (van conversion without fixed bed) – around £46,000
Sunlight Cliff 600 (van conversion with fixed bed) – around £41,250
Class A motorhomes
Rapido 8094f (around £70,000)
This is a top-notch motorhome. There are various configurations of seats and space is used imaginatively.
The decor looks high quality and it has an array of centrally locked drawers for storage. The kitchen has all the details and more and, notably, it has a spacious lounge area – handy if you’re waiting for the rain to stop!
Dethleffs Globetrotter XLi 7850-2
Fiat Ducato base. More expensive than the average but the build quality is excellent. Used by the Force India F1 team last year.
French Pilote Pacific 706GJ Essentiel
This has a Fiat Ducato base designed with a French flourish (this brand is well known for its quirky motorhomes).
It’s very well served in terms of storage, and the beds are a good size, too.
Spanish Benimar Mileo 283
This smart, compact motorhome from the popular Spanish brand offers a huge range of kit as standard.
It’s UK-friendly – the accommodation door being on the 'correct' side is just one example – and it has a rear lounge.
It’s a good all-round performer in most reviews.
Hymer B-Class Supremeline 708
Hymer is a German company serving the upper end of the motorhome market but this venture into class B, although expensive, is like the equivalent of buying a Mercedes in terms of quality.
It has a deep double floor containing services like the heating and extra storage, as well as creating the largest garage in its class.
Honourable mentions for:
Dethleffs Advantage Edition T 7051(fixed bed mh) – around £50,000
Chausson 711 (family coachbuilt) – around £55,000
Pilote G 781C A heavy-duty large motorhome with a Fiat Alko chassis, available in three editions (Essential, Sensation and Emotion).
Each edition offers an increased level of performance and luxurious extras.
Full double floor, well-insulated with lots of storage, a rear island bed, and a spacious L-shaped lounge. Prices start in this range from £70,900.
Dethleffs Globetrotter XLi 7850-2 DBM It has a very well-equipped, large living space, 6-speed automatic transmission, air-suspended seats, barrier-free between bed and kitchen and parquet flooring.
Not the cheapest in this segment, but excellent quality. Around £119,000 brand new.
Concorde Liner Plus 1136 G
This is in another class in terms of price. You get double-heated floor, xenon headlamps, illuminated electric step, digital lock and a Mercedes Atego engine.
Basic prices start from around £200,000.
On the whole, the number of people buying motorhomes is relatively small, globally, but they are truly passionate about their activities and there are a lot of flourishing forums on every subject you can imagine.
Owner satisfaction awards
The results of this annual survey distil the experiences of the reader base of Practical Motorhome and members of The Camping and Caravanning Club.
Readers give feedback on their motorhomes, and the dealers they used. This includes buyers of new or pre-owned vehicles.
Satisfaction survey 2020
Practical Motorhome’s survey is currently open for its 2020 edition and you can take part, even if you haven’t yet bought a motorhome – it will give you a true insight into what’s important for the people who matter.
Your motorhome insurance
One of the smartest things you can do as a motorhome owner is investing in coverage right from the start.
Motorhome insurance specifically covers the kinds of risks you may encounter when out on the road or stationed in a particular place.
A motorhome is a seriously valuable piece of machinery, so you need the right specialist insurance to protect your investment.
The potential risks are greater and more varied than those when insuring a car:
- You have articles of value you store inside and you’re usually away on holiday for some time
- The fittings and fixtures can be very valuable in themselves
- You may not be used to driving a vehicle like this and you may be travelling around places where driving is inherently riskier; this can increase the risk of prangs or bumps caused by narrow roads, blind bends, manoeuvrability when reversing, turning tight corners and so on.
Play it safe and get a quote for motorhome insurance by visiting us today.