With staycations more popular than ever before, motorhome and caravan ownership is said to be at an all time high. Motorhomes and caravans are perfect for family holidays while at the same time being handy for social distancing because they are pretty much self-contained.
Adrian Flux has assembled a team of in-house experts who delight in motorhome and caravan ownership and provide some words of wisdom to those who may be considering investing in a holiday home on wheels.
The team includes Simon Chainey, the General Manager at Tyne Valley Motorhomes, Elliot Pocklington of Adrian Flux, Graeme Lewin whose daughter Allison is on the staff, and Adrian Flux sales manager Peter Cook.
Here they answer all your questions about motorhome and caravan ownership.
A TV and a gas barbecue: Two luxury items recommended for your camping trip by Simon Chainey, the General Manager of Tyne Valley Motorhomes.
What are the top 3 tips or things to look out for when buying your first caravan/motorhome?
If you’re looking to buy a second-hand camper you will need to check the mileage, service history and try to assess how much it is loved by the current owners!
If it’s a caravan you are looking for the service history will be important but you will also need to study the layout and make sure it will suit you and how you want to use it. I would always look for a caravan with a toilet that is separate from the shower so the whole bathroom doesn’t get wet.
Does your driving licence cover the gross weight of the motorhome, and is the maximum user payload (the additional amount you can carry in the vehicle) large enough (especially if you need to take bikes or additional equipment for disabilities)?
Be sure the layout works for your needs (i.e. fixed bed, lounge area, bathroom etc.) and work out where it’s going to be kept when not in use.
The most important thing to check is the servicing of the motorhome you are looking to buy. Firstly check the habitation servicing by an approved NCC Workshop (National Caravan Club) has been done annually as this will eliminate the risk of water ingress in the motorhome, as well as the appliances such as the water boiler, heating system, fridge, oven, etc. and all gas and water fittings.
Secondly check the mechanical servicing and timing belt replacement – this should be done annually but where motorhomes are normally low mileage it is often missed or erratic. The timing belt should be replaced every six years regardless of mileage; this is essential as failure of the belt could mean you need a replacement engine or huge reconditioning.
The average mileage of a motorhome is 5,000 miles per annum. If the mileage is excessively high there is a good chance it has been a rental motorhome, which will have a negative impact on its value. Be very careful on the mileage unless the vehicle is priced accordingly but also bear in mind the wear and tear a rental motorhome will experience.
Carefully check the walls of the tyres for cracking as motorhomes tend to sit for prolonged periods of time and tyre cracking is common. If tyres are cracked they will need immediate replacement as there is a risk of blowouts.
I own a 2007 VW T5 with a custom conversion. It was bought as a standard van and custom fitted with running water, gas cooker, fold out sofa/double bed and a tonne of storage!
With that in mind, I would recommend that people see the potential in the vehicle they are thinking about buying because most things can be changed, customized and upgraded. Pick something to suit your needs but don’t go too big!
What advice would you give people towing a caravan for the first time?
Once you’ve got it home, take it to a local industrial estate and practice reversing, parking and any other manoeuvres you may need to make.
If you haven’t towed anything before it can be an unusual feeling so you should have a test run if possible. Be aware of the law and towing, especially speed limits.
The loading of the caravan is important to ensure good weight distribution as this will affect the towing and remember, your fuel consumption will be significantly higher when towing a caravan.
First time caravaners should “be aware of the law and towing, especially speed limits.” according to Graeme Lewin.
Do you have maintenance tips for how to look after your caravan/motorhome?
If you own a campervan and you are not going to use it through the winter I would recommend you empty the petrol and buy a cover to keep it clean.
There’s not that much that can go wrong with a caravan but nonetheless I would recommend you get it serviced regularly every year or so, depending on how many miles you are doing in it.
An annual habitation service ensures there is no water ingress and things like gas equipment are safe. A motorhome will also need the base vehicle serviced and an MOT.
I have space at the side of my property that allows me to have electricity connected during the winter period and maintain a low-level heat to prevent condensation and to keep the leisure battery charged.
If either are stood for long periods (maybe over winter) tyres can develop flat spots.
Annual checks are essential to the maintenance of your motorhome, both mechanically and habitation. Make sure genuine parts are used on engine servicing and that the habitation servicing is done by an NCC Approved workshop.
Regular charging of your leisure battery helps prolong its life and regular driving of the vehicle is important during the winter months to keep the vehicle battery up.
If it is standing for prolonged periods, deflate the tyres to half pressure to prevent tyre walls cracking.
Motorhome covers offer good protection for the motorhome over the winter, keeping the roof clean from leaves and grime build up. It is also worth running the heating from time to time to stop condensation from building up inside the vehicle.
Always drain water tanks between use. And never store food or drink in the camper when it’s not in use.
What must-have items do you take to make your caravan/motorhome holiday easier?
Camper: Phone charger lead and lead to plug your phone into the stereo, portable toilet and tent, and extra bedding to make the bed more comfortable at night.
Caravan: Portal speaker to chill out in the open, Cadac grill to cook outside instead of the caravan, and an electric kettle so you don’t have to wait for ages for a gas kettle to boil.
Name a checklist to ensure nothing is forgotten. Get a spirit level because not all pitches are level and you’ll need levelling blocks too. I would also recommend some form of mattress topper as the beds are often not as comfortable as at home, especially if it is converted seating.
Make sure you check your gas bottles are full before your trip and that your batteries are fully charged and always take a selection of different fuses with you in case one blows while you are away.
You’ll also need a selection of tools such as pliers and screwdrivers for any little maintenance jobs that crop up while you are away.
Essential items for your trip include dissolvable toilet tissue which shouldn’t clog the toilet cassette and plenty of bottled water. I use bottled water for drinking and cooking because the supply in the freshwater tank can sometimes leave an unpleasant aftertaste.
I always ensure I have a USB battery, window shades and plenty of food and drink.
What tips do you have for eating and drinking while on your staycation?
We cook up a big chilli before we go so after a long day travelling you can just heat it up, grab some nachos and have a lovely meal in front of the fire.
And when we go for longer than a weekend, we always get an online supermarket to deliver the shopping to our pitch. We’re on holiday, we don’t want to waste time wandering around supermarkets!
This depends on the equipment in your van. Many caravans and motorhomes have large fridges with freezer compartments allowing for a wide range of foods.
I always use bottled water for drinks and take a few tins and packets of things for a quick meal if necessary. If eating out, if you are in a motorhome parking is something that has to be considered.
I’m diabetic and on my own so tend to eat much the same as if I were at home.
Very popular at the moment in the UK are Britstops UK, a directory with various locations such as pubs, restaurants, cafes, and farm shops which offer free stopovers for your motorhome in return for buying their produce or eating and drinking at their restaurant or pub. The feedback I have had is fantastic and well worth investigating.
What are your top tips for how to get a good night’s sleep while caravanning/on a road trip?
Gin, plenty of gin! More seriously, have some earplugs and an eye mask, just in case you end up with noisy neighbours or on a site that is close to a busy road.
Mattress toppers are probably the main thing. It’s also worth remembering that caravans and motorhomes do not have the same insulation as homes and can become quite cold at night, especially outside of the summer.
When making a seating area into a bed, often the cushions won’t sit totally flat, this will be uncomfortable to lie on. The best option is to purchase a mattress topper from Duvalay or a similar supplier. When spread across the area the topper will give a soft cushioned and even surface to aid a comfortable sleep.
In the summer, always park in the shade if you can. Caravans and campers can get stifling and hot in the sun and a little shade will make for a cooler night’s sleep.
What tips do you have for ensuring travel goes smoothly?
Create some games to play with the kids such as spot the Mini, car snooker, or just eye spy. We also pack a little bag of new items and books for them to read to keep them occupied.
Make sure you have plenty of food, snacks and drinks to keep everyone happy.
I always street map the route at the end when you get off the motorway or A roads, so you have a rough idea of the road size to make sure the caravan can get through at tight spaces. Even the caravan satnav apps can send you down really small roads when you are towing a twin axle, so it is always best to check.
I always try to find the supermarkets. They usually have good parking and if they also have a filling station the fuel is usually cheaper than roadside garages.
If using a sat-nav, then try to get one designed for use with a caravan or motorhome. Ordinary satnavs can lead you down routes that are unsuitable. At the same time be aware of where you are going and what potential problems may exist.
Caravans and motorhomes are generally suitably equipped to allow for televisions and the more modern ones will have USB sockets to facilitate phone charging and music.
The most important for navigating safely is to purchase a motorhome specific satnav system. There are many popular brands such as Garmin and TomTom and they store safely away out of view as they are portable and compact.
Spare face masks are essential for all travel.
Always look for motorway service stations as they will have allocated parking bays for motorhomes, normally in the truck/coach stop areas. The other advantage is the higher headroom in the filling station.
My travelling never goes smoothly. I just take what comes around the next corner and just go with the flow!
You can’t be sure of what’s going to happen so it’s wise to protect your pride and joy and all your camping gear with insurance, says Peter Cook.
Why is caravan/motorhome insurance important?
Like anything in life, you can’t be sure of what’s going to happen so it’s wise to protect your pride and joy. The cost of insurance for your motorhome or insurance for your campervan is incredibly small in comparison to the cost you may face in the event of an accident, theft or damage.
Motorhome insurance is required by law. It is a vehicle and the insurance will provide both the legal cover needed as a vehicle and the fact that it is a mobile home.
Caravans don’t require insurance by law but it would be foolish not to have it as they are prone to theft and also to accidental damage, despite that, specialist caravan insurance is still reasonably priced.
Whichever you have, for peace of mind I would advise you make sure some form of recovery option is included in the case of an accident or breakdown.
Insuring with a motorhome insurer is vital. They can provide cover for your vehicle and your belongings, while parked or during a journey.
They will also probably offer breakdown cover tailored to the size and weight of your motorhome.
Campervans and motorhomes are big investments so they really do need to be protected with the right level of insurance cover, that’s why you should consult a specialist insurance provider.
What’s the best thing about owning a motorhome/caravan?
A campervan gives you the freedom to jump in and get away from it all, even for just a couple of nights, without a major operation.
In a caravan you can get to your destination and, within an hour, you are set up and can relax for two weeks without hassle.
The joy of owning a motorhome is freedom. I am retired and able to spend time travelling around the country in my motorhome. Yes, I book sites in advance, but outside peak holiday periods this can usually be done at short notice. If you have dogs as I do, then they can go with you too.
The best thing about owning a motorhome is the freedom to plan your trips, to go where you want and to enjoy a different location whenever it takes your fancy. It’s a joy to explore and be self-sufficient and not be tied to hotels.
It’s great to be able to pull up in a safe location, have a cup of tea, a sleep or a bite to eat, and take a break from your journey.
It really is the freedom. The campervan allows you to be master of your own destiny during your holiday.
What is the one luxury item you would like to take with you on your camper trip?
The luxury I take for myself is books, plenty of books… and for the wife, it’s hair straighteners.
My luxury would probably be my coffee maker, although I do have two mobile phones on different networks and that means I’m normally able to get a good signal wherever I am.
Two luxury items to take are a gas barbecue and a TV, but the real luxury is just being able to get away during the uncertain times we have experienced through this pandemic.
The motorhome industry has seen huge levels of sales as customers have looked to staycate. Motor homing and caravanning has enabled people to go on holiday while self-isolating while enjoying the freedom to explore and discover some of the beautiful scenery and sights we have here in the UK.
My recommended luxury item to take with you is a spare key. Failing that, good key care insurance cover. There is nothing worse than being locked out of your van in the middle of nowhere!