If you've not driven one before, you may be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to drive a motorhome - whatever its size. Key benefits include being higher up (for superior views out) and large wing mirrors. Other factors include:
- Diesel or petrol. For economy reasons, diesel has been the preferred fuel option in recent years, usually with the added performance that turbocharging brings. Fuel consumption varies from vehicle to vehicle as well as with individual driving styles. Engine size isn't always the best indicator of its suitability - compare power and torque outputs.
- Most motorhomes have a manual transmission though automatic is more widely available now.
Key magazines are: Motorcaravan Motorhome Monthly (MMM), Practical Motorhome and Which Motorhome. Also, Motorhome & Caravan Trader and Caravan, Motorhome and
Books include The Motorcaravanning Handbook and The Motorcaravan Manual, both by John Wickersham.
Motorhome safety and the law
There are several key aspects which could have significant impact on your choice of motorhome:
- You'll need to check the limits of your driving licence before you take to the road with a motorhome.
- Data Sheet 40 - driving licences has detailed information about the limitations of a licence.
- Seat belts. You will still see some new motorhomes with more sleeping berths than belted travelling seats. Since 20 October 2007 seat belts have not been permitted on side facing seats because their use in the event of a crash can cause injury. It is not recommended for passengers to travel without seat belts on the grounds of safety and in some circumstances it could be considered illegal.
- Payload. As owner, it is your legal duty to ensure you do not overload the vehicle beyond its rated gross weight or axle limit. Remember your available payload reduces when items are added as fitted extras so check that sufficient payload is available for the number of people and kit you intend to carry. For details see below.
- Speed limits. If your motorhome has an unladen weight of less than 3,050kg normal car speed limits apply, unless you are towing. Above this (or if you have more than 9 seats) in most cases you'll be restricted to 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual carriageways, though the limit is still 70mph on motorways.
It's tempting to think you can put as much as you like into your motorhome because it's based on a large van that can carry heavy loads, but this isn't always the case.
Your unit will have a set user payload - the amount of extra kit you can transport - that depends on its construction. In some cases this may be restricted because of the chassis it's built on. In others it may be ar tificially limited so those with specific driving licences can drive it or for other reasons. In these cases you can ask your motorhome supplier to uprate its classification so you can carr y a larger payload.
It's also important to consider how you position the payload in your unit. Each axle has its own loading limit, which you must not exceed when you're on the road. In most cases, the majority of the weight of the engine, fuel and passengers will be over the front axle so your luggage and other loads should be positioned over the rear axle (see the diagram above).
The best way to make sure you're motorhome is correctly loaded is to pack it and take it to a weighbridge to check the loads on each axle. Contact your local Trading Standards office or go to www.gov.uk/find-weighbridge to find your nearest public weighbridge.
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