Buyer's guide: Purchasing your first motorhome

Buyer's guide: Purchasing your first motorhome Buyer's guide: Purchasing your first motorhome
Buyer's guide: Purchasing your first motorhome Buyer's guide: Purchasing your first motorhome
Buyer's guide: Purchasing your first motorhome Buyer's guide: Purchasing your first motorhome

MCD checks out Mandy's handy tips on buying your first motorhome

Motorhomes and caravans are an appealing choice for so many people. The freedom of a new destination or view every day lures many in, as there’s nothing quite like a motorhome or caravan for escaping everyday life to explore our beautiful country.

Motorhomes and caravans come in many shapes and sizes, and it’s important you’re clear on how you intend on using your chosen model, where you’ll be taking it, and who’ll you’ll be sharing it with. Make sure you are well informed and have answers to all the questions and most importantly you have clearly identified your list of non-negotiable requirements.

What base vehicle is right for you?

This largely depends on how you plan on using the motorhome and your version of the dream lifestyle. That’s why I encourage everyone to think first about the dream and to get clear on what your needs are before thinking too much about the product.

When it comes to base vehicles, there are two main categories available to new motorhome purchasers—European and Japanese. Both offer outstanding quality, so in many cases, your choice will come down to personal preference. Whatever your choice, you can rest assured that Euro 6 emissions control is now standard for all new base vehicles. What’s more, safety features have come a long way recently with dual airbags and ABS brakes as standard.

However, factors you should consider include:

European style (Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Fiat Ducato, Ford Transit, Iveco Daily, Volkswagen Crafter)

Comfortable, refined, car-like, European-style base vehicles can have more safety features. They are economical and mostly can be driven on car licenses, so are typically used for smaller motorhomes. Lower to the ground, they generally enable you to walk through from your living area to the cab and swivel seats can extend the living area.

One thing to watch for is that the ‘nose’ of these vehicles generally sticks out, giving you extra metres of ‘parkable’ length that don’t provide extra living space.

Japanese style (Mitsubishi Fuso Canter, Isuzu N-series)

Large and powerful and ideal for towing, these vehicles offer bulletproof reliability. Very cost-effective, they are ideally suited for larger motorhomes, offering more options for storage, batteries, etc.

One key factor to consider is that the Japanese-style vehicles offer more options for repairs to be carried out by trained and experienced service departments. For example, most decent-sized towns in New Zealand have a Mitsubishi or Holden (Isuzu) dealer, whereas there are few agents for some of the European makes of base vehicles throughout the country.

Other points to consider:

  • Check your new motorhome comes with a full factory-backed warranty on the base vehicle. Some simply come with a mechanical insurance policy that may not guarantee original factory parts and service.
  • What transmission will you choose? The three main transmissions are manual, automatic, and AMT (automated manual transmission). Major manufacturers report the trend is definitely towards automatic, with many people preferring that it’s the same as the vehicle they drive at home.
  • If you’re unfamiliar with driving a larger vehicle, that fact that it’s auto means you’ve got one less thing to think about.
  • Be aware that some European chassis will be front wheel drive, including the Fiat Ducato and the Ford Transit.

Do I need a vehicle designed for freedom camping?

Motorhoming is a growing trend worldwide. For many people, it’s not just a hobby but a dream lifestyle, as they leave their everyday worries behind and hit the open road, often for extended periods.

In most overseas countries, that usually means hopping from one camping ground to another. But in New Zealand, we have almost unlimited access to the ultimate form of motorhoming—freedom camping. That’s the ability to search out and park up your fully self-contained motorhome, far from the madding crowd, in one of the many idyllic spots that abound in our beautiful country.

One of the most scenic countries on Earth, New Zealand offers the diversity of stunning beaches, bush-clad valleys, rolling pasturelands, majestic mountains and pristine lakes and rivers—all within easy reach.

And DoC camps, regional parks, council parks, NZMCA camps, and POP stops offer locations that money can’t buy but are available to you at a nominal cost as a motorhome owner.

But beware, some motorhomes on the market are not going to provide the resources you need to enjoy the wonders of freedom camping at all. And the limited resources in others will only enable you to freedom camp for a night or two at the most.

The key is large fresh water and wastewater storage, battery capacity (measured in ampere hours, the number of batteries tells you nothing about how much capacity they have) and solar power, gas storage, refrigeration capacity and general storage. The more you have of these resources onboard, the longer you can stay away from civilisation.

Some things to look for in a motorhome to optimise your freedom camping experience:

Purpose-built motorhomes will have at least twice and maybe up to four to five times more water storage capacity

The average water consumption is 50 litres per couple per day and that can significantly increase when you have the kids or grandkids aboard. What this means is that a 100-litre water capacity won’t last you long before a campsite or supply visit is required

Make sure you check the grey and black water capacity as well. It should be equally suited to your water capacity.

Mandy's five top tips:

1. Make an appointment with TrailLite for a no-obligation needs assessment.

2. Be clear on the specification you need to achieve the vision including battery size, water tank capacity, and what base vehicle is right for you.

3. Do your research.

4. Develop a non-negotiables list before narrowing down products. Until you have your non-negotiable list, how do you know what are you looking for?

5. E-mail to get a free copy of our booklet with more questions just like these. Or call in to our stand at the Covi Supershow and pick up a free copy.

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