Top 10 tips to buying a motorhome
Author: Malcolm Street Date Posted: 17 February 2020
Buying a motorhome or campervan is a big financial decision, and one you won’t make lightly. It’s hard to know what size you should get, what make or model, what internal layout will suit and whether you really do need all the tech gadgets in the world. Here are our top 10 tips to help make the process a little less overwhelming.
1. Create a wish list
All the bells and whistles would be wonderful, but do you need them? Start a wish list of the features that you would like to have, and put them in the order of importance. You might not be able to live on the road without a space heater, a satellite TV, an outdoor barbecue or ensuite, but you could probably be OK with cloth seats instead of leather, or forgo the washing machine and high-gloss cabinetry. Narrowing down your wish list will help to fine-tune the types of motorhomes that will suit you.
2. Make sure it has enough room
You’ll need a motorhome that can cater for all those who will travel in it regularly. If you’re a family of four, a campervan will be a pretty tight squeeze, but that size will suit a couple. If you like to spread out so that each person can be in their own ‘space’, you will need a more roomy RV. For taller travellers, check the internal heights and the length and width of the beds, too (a mini ‘sleep test’ should do the tick here!). A bonus that New Zealand has for families is that there are plenty of refurbished motorhomes for sale. The four and six berth units which suit renters are also ideal for a family on a budget.
3. Get the layout right
Motorhomes come in all shapes and sizes and internal layouts, and the choice really comes down to personal preference. The location, size and style of beds as well as the size and position of the lounge or dinette table as well as the placement of the kitchen will be different for everyone’s needs. If you dislike having to re-make your bed every night, then a campervan with a lounge that converts to a dinette and lounge might get ‘old’ pretty quickly. Handy tip: Imagine yourself in the unit on holidays - if it feels right, you could have a winner.
4. Triple check your cupboard space
One thing often overlooked but sorely needed in a motorhome is storage capacity. Most designs are super clever in making the most of all available space, but buyers can underestimate how much room they will need for their clothes, shoes, fishing gear, camping chairs, board games and bottles of Sauvignon blanc. Look closely at the storage capacity of each unit you inspect, both internal and external, and weight it up against the items you would want to take with you.
5. Stick to your budget
It’s easy to get distracted by something bright and shiny and end up spending more than what you have. Our advice is to resist! Spending more on the outlay of your motorhome means less
funds for options along the way as well as travelling costs – fuel can be expensive, particularly the further you travel from major cities. Try not to make decisions on a whim and weigh up all the pros and cons before you sign on the dotted line.
6. Look at new and used vehicles
Having something brand new to park in your driveway is the dream – an untouched unit that has no one else’s boot prints on it and a great warranty from the dealer. But, if a new model is out of your price range, or you can only afford a new but smaller unit, consider buying second hand. You can find some great bargains that may have been refurbished motorhomes, or models that have been rarely used by their owners who found they preferred other ways of travelling instead.
7. Find a good mechanic
When buying second hand, the most important thing to know about any model you are considering is how it stacks up mechanically. This means the engine, but also the brakes and suspension. It’s a great idea to pay an independent mechanic to take a look over the motorhome you are seriously considering to ensure it will last the distance for your upcoming travels. You would expect the interior to have signs of wear and tear, but those things are cosmetic and easily fixed. A major breakdown, however, is neither cheap nor fun! If you’re buying secondhand from a dealer, make sure you are getting the best deal possible on the warranty, too.
8. Join the Club
Even if only considering a motorhome purchase, being a member of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) is a great way to pick up all kinds of information. There are certainly plenty of experienced members, all of whom have a tale to tell. If you can beg, borrow or rent a motorhome then get along to one of the club’s rallies or events and meet the old hands. An NZMCA members gets all kinds of benefits and discounts so it pays to belong.
9. Make sure everyone can drive it
Everyone who will need to drive the motorhome needs to know that they can do it with confidence. Many people spend their lives only driving smaller cars, so a step up to a campervan or a larger motorhome could be a steep learning curve. Take as many test drives of different units as you can so you can feel more comfortable and know which models feel better on the road. You may also need a light rigid or medium rigid drivers licence depending on the weight and size of your motorhome so make sure you do your homework before buying.
10. Don’t forget insurance
You need to make sure that your motorhome is covered when you are travelling. It is a vehicle so it will need to have automobile insurance. You should also consider comprehensive breakdown insurance and roadside assistance. This is particularly important when travelling to more remote regions - no one wants to be stranded on the side of the road with no help on the horizon. Shop around to make sure you get the best deals and also make sure you read the fine print.