So you’re thinking of embarking on a motorhome adventure, but don’t know where to start?
Motorhomes are big investments, so it’s essential you know what you’re buying before you start planning your dream holiday.
Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that would-be owners pose, from driving licences to toilets to motorhome insurance.
Are motorhomes easy to drive?
Do you dream of owning a motorhome, but you’re discouraged by the thought of manoeuvring one down a narrow country lane or reversing into your driveway?
Motorhomes are certainly larger than your average family car, making squeezing into parking spaces a test of your patience and driving skills. If you’re driving a larger model, you’ll want to avoid three-point turns unless absolutely unavoidable.
But you’ve no doubt seen even sizeable motorhomes being driven smoothly around winding mountain roads and down potholed tracks. It’s perfectly doable for confident drivers.
In fact, they generally handle in a very similar way to your average car – particularly the smaller models.
The biggest difference is probably in terms of rear visibility, but motorhomes do have excellent wing mirrors to help you reverse. Make sure you have good motorhome insurance in case of any prangs!
If you’re less confident, you can take motorhome driving courses to learn tips and tricks that will get you motoring smoothly.
Or why not hire before you buy? Many types of motorhome are available for hire, giving you the chance to get a feel for driving one so that you can decide whether investing in a motorhome is the right choice for you.
Can I drive a motorhome on my car licence?
Generally, yes – providing your motorhome weighs less than 3,500kg, as all but the very largest vans are.
If you want to drive a vehicle over 3,500kg and you are aged over 70, you’ll need to take a medical test. If you got your licence after 1st January 1997, you’ll need to take an additional driving test.
Most other ordinary car licence holders are able to drive motorhomes up to a whopping 7,500kg. That’s a pretty hefty home-on-wheels, best suited to larger families or longer trips.
Whatever you choose, make sure you’ve got dedicated motorhome insurance to keep your vehicle and its contents covered.
What are the different types of motorhome?
For the novice, the motorhome world can be a bewildering one. So before you turn up at the showroom, it’s wise to have an overview of the types of motorhome available.
The largest are the top-of-the-range A-class motorhomes, which have a fully coach-built body with no separate cab.
They’re the ones that may have captured your attention at campsites: they’re equipped to a high specification, containing everything from wet rooms to kitchenettes to luxury lounges. If you’re off on a long trip, or cannot bear leaving your mod cons at home, these are the right vehicles for you.
You’ll need to consider where to store them when you’re not on the road: these are a serious investment which you’ll want to protect. Get insurance to cover any damage to the vehicle and its contents, too.
Next rung down are the coach-built motorhomes with caravan-type bodies built onto a chassis cab. Not as roomy or high-spec as the A-class, they’re still spacious and well-insulated, making them a good option for many travellers, even for longer trips.
You can also buy American-style recreational vehicles or RVs, but they’re less common in the UK. These are a little smaller than the types listed above, but still provide a good amount of space.
You may be wondering where campervans fit in. These are usually compact and adapted from panel vans and are excellent if you’re on a tight budget or just want to visit festivals or enjoy the odd weekend away. Best of all – they’re easy to drive and park and are excellent for weekend travellers.
For these vehicles, you’ll need campervan insurance.
Do I need seatbelts?
Now here’s a complicated question. Legally, it all depends on when the van was made, and where the passengers are sitting.
Recent models should have three-point seatbelts for the driver and front passenger. Seats in the rear must be fitted with two-point or three-point seatbelts. If your vehicle is fitted with seatbelts, you must wear them when travelling.
For older vehicles, there may be exemptions – check the law for details for your particular set-up. For example, it may be that passengers in the rear do not need seatbelts if they’re not fitted.
However, it’s always illegal to carry passengers in a dangerous manner – and whatever the age of your vehicle, the police could decide that’s the case, particularly if you’re doing 60-plus on a motorway with several friends rattling around in the back.
Then there’s the issue of young children. Those under 12 or below a certain height should always be transported in approved car seats, fastened to the seats in your van with seatbelts.
Even though some older vans are exempted, it’s always strongly recommended to get good seatbelts fitted. Furthermore, your insurance is likely to be invalidated if you have an accident while carrying passengers without proper seatbelts.
What toilets are available for motorhomes?
One of the great pluses of camping in a motorhome is that you can bypass campsite toilet blocks in favour of your own private loo.
One of the great minuses, however, is that you’ll need to empty your toilet on a regular basis.
There are several categories of toilets for motorhomes.
The luxury options are Gravity Flush and Vacuum or Macerator Flush toilets. All of these come fitted to water tanks and waste tanks. They’re as convenient as your loo at home – but emptying the waste tank is an unpleasant task.
Cassette toilets are similar, but the waste goes into a small integral “cassette” rather than a separate tank. Emptying it is simple, but it fills up frequently.
Many people use these only as a back-up, preferring campsite toilets where possible.
Compost toilets are the newest option and are great for the eco-minded traveller. While they don’t need to be plumbed in, some versions do require an electricity supply to operate fans to aerate the compost.
In theory, you can dump the compost on your own garden heap, though if you’re away for a while you might need to find an interim solution!
Finally, portable camping toilets range from mini-commodes down to “bucket-and-chuck-it” models. These budget options are fine if you don’t mind roughing it, but less pleasant for longer trips.
Motorhome toilets vary massively in terms of price, ease of use, smell, noise and chemicals required, so do your homework before you choose the loo that’s right for you.
Good motorhome insurance should cover any damage to – or, worse, caused by – your on-board toilet.
Can I tow a car or a trailer?
Larger motorhomes are great for allowing you to live in luxury as you travel from campsite to campsite.
Once you’re pitched up, however, some travellers prefer a smaller vehicle for day trips to explore the local countryside, or for driving round – and parking in – towns.
In the UK, it’s generally permissible to tow a car in a purpose-designed trailer which allows the vehicle to be towed on its own wheels.
However, some countries ban these and may prevent you from using them. Therefore, it might be best to tow a car with all its wheels lifted off the ground on a braked trailer.
Take care, however, that your licence allows you to drive a motorhome plus trailer. Otherwise, you could be breaking the law – and invalidating your insurance.
Can I park up and sleep by the side of the road?
The ability to just park up anywhere overnight seems like one of the great advantages of motorhome travelling – at least if you’re a sound sleeper and you’ve parked carefully. Designated stopover sites are a feature in many European countries.
However, in the UK, it’s a bit of a grey area. Legally, you need the permission of the landowner, which, for most roads, is the local authority or the Highways Agency. In reality, you’re unlikely to be moved on if you’re parked safely and stay for just one night.
Your motorhome could also be classified as a caravan, and therefore come under legislation around human habitation. Again, it’s unlikely that you’ll attract any unwanted attention from the authorities, but not impossible.
As for car parks – these are often privately owned, and expressly forbid overnight parking. Take heed of notices, otherwise you could find yourself rudely awoken and moved on in the middle of the night.
What type of pitch should I choose at a camp site?
Far better than parking in a layby, and far more likely to allow you a good night’s sleep, is pitching up at a camp site.
Here, you’ll be able to hook up to electricity, fill up with water and empty your waste tank, as well as just chill and enjoy the peace and quiet.
It’s best to choose a hardstanding pitch. If only grass pitches are available, check the softness of the ground with your foot before driving on, otherwise you’ll soon be getting that sinking feeling.
Good motorhome insurance means that you’re covered for any damage to your vehicle!
If you’ve got a very large motorhome, it’s best to check the sizes of pitches before you book.
What is the difference between propane and butane?
These two gases are both commonly used for heating and cooking in motorhomes, but which one’s best? It all comes down to temperature.
Butane only changes from a liquid into a gas at temperatures above 0˚C, making it most suitable for use between spring and autumn. It’s usually sold in blue cylinders in the UK, but double check as some manufacturers differ.
Propane, however, will become a gas at -40˚C, making it suitable for use in winter or all year round. In the UK, it’s generally sold in red or green cylinders.
Both are types of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). You can buy refillable cylinders, which you simply fill up with LPG or Autogas at regular petrol stations.
Be warned, though – this is likely to be a mixture of propane and butane, so may not be suitable for very low temperatures.
What electricity supply is available in motorhomes?
Today’s motorhomes are fitted with all mod cons, from wardrobe lighting to full-size fridges. So how are all these gadgets powered?
First up, there’s the leisure battery. This supplies currents over several hours, so is suitable for powering all the appliances in your motorhome. It’s designed to be charged up and discharged many times.
Your motorhome leisure battery is not to be confused with its regular automotive battery, which supplies a brief burst of power to start the engine.
Don’t use this to run any other devices except in an emergency, otherwise you may not be able to start your vehicle!
Then there’s electric hook-up available at campsites. You can use this to power your motorhome appliances, and also to recharge your leisure battery for later use off-grid. That means you can travel in comfort and style wherever your adventures take you.
Get a quote for motorhome insurance today
Today’s motorhomes are wonderfully well-equipped, so it’s essential that you protect your investment with the right insurance.
Motorhome Protect arranges specialist cover to suit your vehicle and your budget.
Benefits* can include unlimited cover across the European Union and unlimited mileage, which can give you peace of mind as you embark on the trip of a lifetime.
Cover of up to £150,000 is available for your vehicle, and up to £3,000 for camping personal effects.
You can even get an introductory No Claims Bonus, and discounts are available for members of various clubs.
If you have previous driving convictions, or have made insurance claims in the past, you will still be considered for insurance.
Get a quote from Motorhome Protect today and get ready for the holiday of your dreams!
*All features and benefits are subject to eligibility and underwriting criteria