24 point checklist for Motorhome buyers

by Phil Linnell

We have recently moved from a 1986 Autotrail to a much newer van and here are our experiences in the form of a 24 point check list for other potential buyers:

1. How easy is it to clean?

The toilet on our new van is a cassette type. It is surrounded by nooks and crannies that are very hard to get at. We have also found that unless it is emptied regularly or swished around, our cassette loo tends to smell more than the older type portable toilets. The sink tips back - however the waste has to drain down the plug hole before tipping, or it goes everywhere!

2. How do you make the bed?

Where is it and how close is it to the cooker? Our newer van has a dinette-cum-double-bed opposite the cooker - I do not believe it is safe to make tea with the bed out. Can you get in to and out of the Luton? (most people leave their ladders at home!)

3. Does it have a carpet?

How will it cope with rain and a muddy camp site? Will it affect the second-hand value if the carpet is shabby? You will never be able to replace it. Carpets hide leaks (our 3 year old water heater leaked badly and we couldn't trace the leak)

4. Storage?

Can a frying-pan fit in the cupboard? Can you get under the seats easily? Is there a place for outside chairs, wellies, wet coats or wheel ramps? How does stuff stay in the Luton? Spare wheel?

5. Will it last?

Modern materials look wonderful, but I doubt if they will last as long as our 15 year old van, that still looks good. Particularly check clips and catches and get some spares! The cupboards on our new van have strange catches that stick out and have pierced coke cans when the doors are shut. Check the warranty carefully.

6. Can you relax in it?

Is it possible to stretch-out in an area designed for a dinette? How many people can see the TV? (The TV seems to be the best thought-out area of any van I've seen!) Don't expect to use the cab radio when stationery - unless the ignition is on.

7. Can you get your legs under the table?

Is it too low and are its 'outdoor' legs stowed in your way?

8. Ventilation?

Where do the shower steam, cooking smells and cooker exchaust go?

9. Seams and water ingress?

No-one mentions water ingress until its costing you money. Have a new van tested and guaranteed, if it looks like it could leek, it possibly will. One-piece fibreglass roofs shouldn't leak. Seams can go on vans as young as 4.

10. Cooker, Microwave?

Or the space for one?

11. Engine size?

Minimum 2.5L turbo diesel on a coach-built - anything less feels under powered

12. Body weight?

Motor caravans went through a stage of being near their maximum axle weight - adding passengers made them too heavy (i.e. illegal)

13. Winteriseable?

How easy is it to drain all the water out of tank and water heater?

14. Hot water route?

The new van has a modern style heater stuck in a vulnerable position at the very back of the van, with the sink near the front. As you can imagine the hot water has to flow for some time to get any heat through. This is water that has been carried to the van, and becomes waste water that has to be disposed of.

15. Water replenishment and waste disposal...

How do you get water and dispose of waste without driving the van around? Where do the water/waste carriers go the rest of the time? Some vans mix toilet waste with sink and shower waste. How do you clean the pipes/tanks?

16. Gas tap?

Gas is dangerous - but is it really necessary to go out in the rain to switch it on and off?

17. Passengers?

Children wander about if not strapped down. Can you talk to the passengers, or are they stuck at the back? If they are at the back, how could you tell if they were touching a rear window or door...

18. Driveability?

Modern vans are a dream to drive, in many ways easier than a car. The only problem we have is seeing the traffic that is right behind us.

19. Tent, awning?

Awnings are not satisfactory on a motor caravan. On Caravans the awnings are attached properly to the side, but of course this is not possible with a Motorhome A tent type has to 'fit' onto the van somehow (The doors are very high and there has to be a duct), and the folding canopy types don't stop the wind and don't give you anywhere to store chairs, bicycles or tables.

20. Side windows?

My parents had a panel van conversion. The side windows slid to open, which, on that shape of van, let the rain in.

21. Driving lights - does it have a reversing light?
and are the rear lights bright enough?

This was a problem on our older van. The electric's weren't really up to it.

22. Repairable? How do you repair the caravan skin if damaged? (You must keep the water out.)

We have found glassfibre boat repairers can also fix glassfibre caravan skins

23. Insurance?

Surprisingly cheap, compared to cars.

24. What's it really worth?

Our newer van has a trade value of £17,000, yet a similar one is on a popular dealers site for over £27,000! (This is probably because most makes are quite difficult to sell).
Haggle - there really is a serious recession going on.