Typically, most motorhomes betray their commercial vehicle origins in the cabs. Although most built since the late 1990s have come with power-assisted steering, it's only recently that items such as twin airbags and air-conditioning have become more readily available. Plus, if you want a better-than-average stereo system (although again bear in mind most motorhomes are a lot noisier than modern-day cars), you'll probably have to specify it as an option.
The most popular motorhome base vehicles are the Fiat Ducato (also marketed as the Peugeot Boxer), the Volkswagen Transporter, the Mercedes Sprinter, the Ford Transit and Renault's Trafic and Master. Each come with an array of engine, overall specification and even payload options - be sure to check these out carefully to ensure you know exactly what you are getting.
You can request a test drive if you are close to making the decision to buy. If you're driving a motorhome for the first time, remember motorhomes are based on commercial vehicles and have different driving characteristics to cars. Larger motorhomes can have considerable tail overhangs (the distance between the rear wheels and the end of the vehicle) that need to be taken into consideration in general road use as well as for tight manoeuvres.
In their role as - homes on wheels, all motorhome interiors are a compromise between space and specification. Take into account the number of occupants, who will sleep where and whether they can travel in seats designated for travel, as well as your priorities for kitchen and washroom equipment and space.
Smaller motorhomes can be easier to park and store, while obviously larger units offer more interior space that can be so vital, especially if you're considering using your vehicle over longer periods of time.
Most motorhomes can accept an awning, which adds extra living space. Similarly, some owners like to make their vehicles even more versatile with the addition of bike racks, extra storage boxes and so forth.
Consider also when you'll be using your vehicle. For example, if you're planning extensive winter use you'll need to ensure the location of water tanks and plumbing are capable of coping with extremes of cold. In hotter climates you might consider an air-conditioning unit for the living quarters.
The majority of motorhomes have their own mains hook-up, allowing you to plug into a 230V electricity supply on a UK site. This is often allied to a charging system and a 12V leisure battery supply. Here are some other aspects to consider:
- Sleeping berths and ease of bed making. Recent trends point towards the increasing popularity of fixed beds, with bunk beds being especially popular with children. Make sure you're happy not just with the size, but the location of the beds, especially the overcab bed where head space can be limited and access not always easy. Ventilation and heating can also be issues here.
- Kitchen facilities. You can expect to find fridge/freezers, full cookers, microwaves and hot and cold running water in a modern motorhome, or just a couple of gas rings. As well as the location of such items, check also for workspace and overall storage.
- Washroom facilities. Expect anything up to plumbed-in, water-flushing toilets and large shower cubicles. Space is often at a premium here, especially if the washroom is to double up as extra storage space or drying rooms for wet clothing and the like.
- Lounging. Seating is another matter of personal taste. If TV-watching is a priority, consider where the TV will go as well as whether the seating arrangements are suitable.
- Storage. Layout often dictates how much space is left for storage, and the other items you want to take with you may determine your storage preferences (bikes, fishing gear, outside chairs and tables, barbecues and more). Floor plans that include fixed beds often mean large storage areas under the beds themselves, which may be accessible from outside. Another fairly recent trend is for "garage" models, normally a coachbuilt motorhome with a large exterior-access storage area at the rear.
- Winter travel. If you're likely to camp in colder weather consider choosing a unit with an insulated water system so it will still work on a freezing morning.