Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Picking a motorhome for full timing in Europe

Considerations when buying a motorhome for full time travelling and free camping.  We've lived in over a dozen variations of motorhomes and these are our conclusions.

A class motorhomes -
Pros - Lots more space inside as the cab area is as wide as the vehicle and the seats often swivel around to integrate into the living space.
A drop down bed gives you a permanent bed with no loss of living space.
These are usually amongst the most expensive vehicles to buy
Cons - The drop down bed is shorter due to the space required for the lifting hydraulics, no good for my husband who is 6'1" tall.
In the unlikely event you needed to drive off quickly the bed would have to be put back in place before you could get to the driving seat

C Class -
Pros - Excellent value for money
Usually you get a large over cab fixed bed
The over cab area can also be excellent storage space
Of all the motorhomes these usually have the most headroom inside
Cons - You have to climb up to the over cab bed

The over cab beds can seem claustrophbic if you don't have much headroom, windows or ventilation
The cab is narrower than the rest of the vehicle so even with swivel seats it does not integrate quite so well as the A class

Lowline -
Pros - Cheaper than both of the above
Often slightly more fuel efficient
Cons - Less headroom inside
Less berths within the same length as A or C class motorhomes.
Note - the newer ones have a bed above the dinette that drops down but this leaves very little headroom within the vehicle and when down it restricts access to the cab but would be great for occasional visitors.
Most often these are owned by couple who have no intention of having grandchildren to visit!

American -
Pros - Superb for full time living as all the fixtures and fittings are more sturdy.
Very plush and comfortable
Cons - Expensive to buy
Very expensive for fuel
Often difficult to get parts or repairs done
Wider than European models so can make navigating small villages more difficult

For full time living we think having a fixed bed is essential, much more comfortable and less hassle than making one up every night.

We like rear wheel drive and twin wheels making the vehicle very stable and safe for carrying extra loads.  Also we have found we are less likely to get stuck than people in front wheel drive models. The tag axles are not so good as they cost more on toll roads, are more difficult to ramp and manouvre.

The garage design motorhomes are brilliant if you have a motorbike or pedal bikes and even if you don't they offer lots of extra storage however it does mean you have to step up onto the bed above.  it.
Note - Some of the latest more expensive models now have hydraulics on the over garage bed enabling you to lower it over the garage contents then raise it for easy access.

For full time living you will proabably need more stage space but also need to be sure you are not overloading the vehicle (another plus for twin wheels).

The length and width of the vehicle is a major question.  The narrower the vehicle the easier it is to navigate through small towns and villages (the newer motorhomes on the Ford Transit and the narrowest of the coachbuilt whilst the Americans are the widest.)  Many aires only offer parking for motorhomes up to 7m, but you can usually get away with up to 7.5m when it says this.  We have had more problem with the width of a vehicle than the length.

The duration of the trip and expected weather will also affect the size of vehicle, in Australia where we expected perfect weather we lived in a Hi-Ace pop top and basically just slept and drove in it as everything else was done outside.  In Europe in the winter you can expect cold and rain and to be inside the vehicle more so will need a larger model and indoor cooking and bathroom facilities.  Overall the smaller and shorter vehicles are easiest, you are never penalised or prevented from going somewhere because you are too small!

Tank size is more important when living in the motorhome so check how much fresh and grey water the vehicle holds. The minimum we can manage on is 15 litres of fresh a day for everything and this is being very careful.  Usually when we are parked up at a beach lack of water is the first thing that makes us move on.

A large fridge and separate freezer is a real bonus as you can store more food and also cook in bulk and freeze meals.  A gas oven is great if you like to bake.  Don't worry if there isn't a grill as you can buy stove top toasters and most things that you grill can be cooked other ways. We've lived in motorhomes with everything from just a 2 burner hob up to 4 burner hob with oven, grill and microwave - we ate well in all of them, you soon adapt your cooking to suit what is available.

European versus UK models.  Probably the best basis for this decision is where you are going to spend the most time bus assuming you have bought the motorhome to travel full time you are most likely to spend more time in Europe.

Having a European model you will find many more dealers in Europe and also find it easier to sell abroad.

Left or right hand drive, again as we travel mainly in Europe it has to be left hand drive, also giving us the option of selling it abroad.

New or used?  Finance and mechanical ability will no doubt affect this decision.  If you have a new or nearly new motorhome you should have warranties (usually valid at any dealer within Europe) and also will not need to return to the UK for an MOT until it is 3 years old.
Buying new will mean lots of extras on top of the price, batteries, gas bottles, awning, solar etc adding a few thousand to the price.

Used vehicles will save you money but if you buy from a dealer the warranty is often only any good if you take it back to them.  When have bought used privately and figure the money saved would pay for any work needed and we could get it done when and where we wanted.
Used vehicles often include the extras such as gas bottles and extra batteries.

Hope this helps a little but feel free to ask me if there are things I have not covered and I will update this entry.




4 comments:

Peter Phoenix said...

Can you recommend any dealers in Germany who you have experience with in buying a motor home? My intention is to buy a van in Europe and store it somewhere over there while I travel elsewhere

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