Keeping your motorhome well maintained is part and parcel of responsible ownership. Just as you make sure your house is safe to live in, it’s just the same for your home on wheels. Staying in an unsafe motorhome will create needless stress and danger on your trip.
Having motorhome insurance will help alleviate some of those worries, but there’s no substitute for getting an expert to perform a motorhome habitation check. Making sure everything is in tip-top shape before you head out next season is money well spent.
What is a motorhome habitation check?
Essentially, it’s the equivalent of an MOT, but for the living (habitation) areas of your motorhome rather than for the mechanics. It’s a series of in-depth checks which test the gas, electrical and water systems in your vehicle. All to make sure they are working as they should and are safe to be used by you, your family, and friends.
It’s not a check as to the vehicle’s roadworthiness so won’t look at things like the engine, lights, steering and suspension, brakes and tyres. However, it does include checks of the following.
- The gas system, pipes and all associated appliances. They will check the condition of all the parts of the system including hoses, regulators, valves, tanks, vents, manifolds, flame failure devices and appliances. They’ll make sure the gas compartment seals properly and gas tanks are properly secured. They’ll also check for leaks in the system. If they find any then they’ll advise on what needs to be done and carry out any necessary works. But this would be an additional cost on top of the habitation check. They’ll check appliances ignite safely and promptly and that flame-failure devices work.
- The water system and tanks need to be inspected thoroughly to look for leaks and blockages that could cause damage. They check water is flowing correctly though the 12v pump and inlet and none of the pipes, valves or seals are leaking. Even a small leak can cause a huge amount of damage over time. Hot and cold taps and the hot water heater need to be checked. And your toilet will be inspected to make sure it’s correctly sealed and flushing correctly. In such a confined space a leaky toilet is not something you’ll want to live with!
- Both the 12v and 230v electrical systems will be checked including plugs, lights, and wiring. They’ll also take a look at the health of your leisure batteries to ensure the correct current is being maintained. If you’ve added water heaters, air con systems and solar panels these might not be checked as part of a standard habitation check. It’s worth verifying beforehand if they’re included.
- Safety equipment including smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, extinguishers and fire blankets. Carbon monoxide poisoning kills around 60 people in England and Wales every year. Having functioning safety equipment and knowing how to spot carbon monoxide poisoning is essential if you want to protect yourself and others. There’s really no excuse for taking a chance on this!
- While they’re not checking for roadworthiness, they will take a look at the motorhome’s bodywork for damaged seals and cracked panels. Door and window security are checked while they’ll also inspect vents. Finally, they’ll perform a damp check. This will use a moisture meter to detect water ingress on the internal walls, ceiling and floor. Damp is just one of the many nasty niffs that motorhome and campervan owners have to deal with. Read our recent article on what to do about such unpleasant smells and how to stop them from happening again.
Do you need to have a habitation check done?
Unless requested to do so by your motorhome insurance company or you’re renting your motorhome out to other people, there isn’t a requirement for a habitation check. Unlike an MOT, you don’t need to have a habitation check before you can legally drive or use your vehicle. As long as you have appropriate insurance cover, MOT and tax then you can tour for years without such a check.
That said, there are plenty of reasons why we would recommend you to get a habitation check done. Here are just five of the top ones!
- For peace of mind
When you’ve bought a second-hand motorhome, you’ll no doubt have asked plenty of questions of the seller to work out if it’s the right choice for you. However, performing a habitation check is the best way to see what condition your purchase is truly in. You’ll want to know everything about your vehicle’s condition before your first trip out. After all, you don’t want to be left without gas or electricity when far from home!
And if you’re thinking of selling your beloved motorhome then a habitation check is also the perfect way to ensure you receive the best possible price.
- For maintenance troubleshooting
Having a detailed list setting out the condition of your motorhome is a great reference tool when it comes to maintenance. Getting things fixed before they cause more damage is a great way to save money in the long run.
- For your warranty
Whether you’ve bought a brand new or second-hand vehicle, dealers will often provide a warranty. However, to keep that warranty valid you’ll need to get a habitation check done every year. By keeping your warranty valid, you and your vehicle will be protected for longer in case of problems down the road.
- For protecting your investment
Motorhomes are more popular than ever. And part of their appeal lies in the fact that with proper care and maintenance, you can sell a motorhome for not a lot less than you bought It for. A habitation check is the ideal way to protect your investment. Buyers love to see that a motorhome has been well looked after. In fact, some careful and canny owners make more from their motorhome than they paid for it!
- For safety
The most important reason by far for a regular habitation check is to keep you and your family safe. After all, you wouldn’t let your family live in an unsafe house, would you? So why would you let them stay in an unsafe motorhome? By discovering potential or existing problems with the gas or electrical system, habitation checks have saved countless holidays, and lives.
In view of these benefits, many owners get a habitation check performed every year. Usually at the start of the year or after a period of disuse, such as after time spent in winter storage. But not all do, and apart from the gas and electrical system checks some owners also choose to do the checks themselves.
However, a key reason to get one carried out by a suitably qualified person is that at the end of the habitation check, you’ll receive a certificate for your records. You might need this for your motorhome insurance provider. And it’s also useful when it comes to selling your motorhome as it shows you’ve been diligent in care and maintenance.
How to get a habitation check done
Arranging a habitation check should be relatively straightforward as many motorhome dealerships and larger garages offer the service. That is, provided you can get booked into an appropriate garage. Be warned, they can get booked up months in advance, so it’s well worth planning ahead.
Something you’ll need to decide on is whether to take your vehicle to a garage workshop, or to book a mobile engineer to visit you. To help you make the decision here are some of the key differences between the two.
- Because your motorhome will be under cover at a workshop, any work can be carried out regardless of the weather.
- Workshops will have space to keep items in stock. So, if something needs to be repaired or replaced this might happen quicker as they won’t need to send away for the parts.
- Some dealers send out service reminders so you never forget to book in for your yearly check.
- You usually have to deliver your motorhome to the workshop. Depending on the dealership this might not be close by.
- The service can take a few hours so you might have to find something else to do while you wait.
Mobile service engineer
- The engineer can come to your home or wherever you’re storing your motorhome. Remember to check with your storage provider before booking a mobile engineer to visit.
- The engineer will need at least one metre of clear space around your motorhome. They’ll also need access to 230v power and water.
- Because they’re travelling to you, this can be a more convenient and fuel-efficient option.
- By not having to drive to and from the workshop you’re saving valuable motorhome time.
If you’re having difficulty finding a workshop or engineer to carry out the work then there are so-called ‘Approved Workshops’ that are worth looking up. These are a large group of independently assessed workshops, regulated by the NCC (National Caravan Council), The Caravan and Motorhome Club and The Camping and Caravanning Club.
There are currently over 530 fixed and mobile Approved Workshops across the UK, offering a high benchmark for motorhome care. Workshops are tested annually via inspection by independent assessors and must comply with the scheme's standards. Simply search on their website to find one near you.
How much should a habitation check cost?
As you can imagine the price of a habitation check can vary depending on where you are in the country and the level of checks you require. The Wandering Bird website says you should expect to pay around £200. While The Gap Decaders warn that if you’re quoted much less than £150, you need to check exactly what it is you’re getting.
Getting ready for a motorhome habitation check
So, you’ve managed to book your motorhome in for a habitation check. What do you need to do before the inspector arrives?
- Make sure you’ve got keys to all doors, windows and lockers. The engineer will need to access all areas of the motorhome.
- Declutter as much as possible. It’ll be much easier for them to check for damp and water ingress.
- Don’t bother filling the water system before the check as they will usually drain the system anyway.
- For the gas check, they’ll need gas in the bottles.
- They’ll need a mains electric connection to perform electrical system checks.
- They’ll need to be able to access your leisure battery.
Can you do a motorhome habitation check yourself?
If you’re confident you know enough about the systems on your motorhome, then you can certainly do the majority of the checks yourself. However, some of the gas and electric tests are probably best left to the professionals.
Simply get yourself a habitation checklist and start working through it at your own pace. Then, if you come across anything you’re worried about or don’t understand, you can take it to a professional for them to check.
It’s also a good idea to check you’ve got the right tools before starting. For example, you’ll need a damp meter so you can check the walls and other surfaces for damp.
Bear in mind that if you’re doing it for your warranty or insurance purposes, you’ll want to get a professional check done so you have the certificate as evidence. That said, there’s nothing to stop you doing it yourself, and it can be a really useful learning experience.
Protect your motorhome with the right insurance cover
Alongside a motorhome habitation check, there’s so much to remember to do before setting on your next grand adventure. However, in the excitement don’t leave home without ensuring you’ve got the right motorhome insurance cover for your needs.
Our bespoke cover can include benefits such as:
- Unlimited cover for countries part of the EU
- Cover for motorhomes valued up to £120,000
- Cover for camping personal effects up to £3,500
- Unlimited mileage cover
- Consideration of all claims and convictions
Call Motorhome Protect and get a quick quote for motorhome insurance today.