Purchasing a Bourton Auto-Sleeper

By: Jill Malcolm, Photography by: Jill Malcolm


In this monthly column, Jill Malcolm interviews veteran travellers Bruce and Gail Hudson, owners of a Bourton Auto-Sleeper, to learn how they made their decision

When I met them, veteran travellers Bruce and Gail Hudson had just returned from a month of motorhoming on the eastern seaboard of Australia in a rented vehicle.

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Bruce and Gail Hudson talked to a lot of people before buying their RV 

Back in New Zealand they had recently downsized their own motorhome from a TrailLite Kapiro 300 to a new Auto-Sleeper to fit the change of circumstances when they moved to a retirement village. It’s also fitting that the name for their new motorhome is ‘Going Places’.

Tell us about your RV experience so far… Were you experienced before you bought your new vehicle or are you new to motorhoming?

We’d say ‘experienced’ as we started out in 1968 when we built our first motorhome in a Commer van. We’ve been on the road for several months each year since. Back then, being able to get away from our stressful work situation changed our lives. We’ve now owned 14 motorhomes and have travelled in them extensively in Canada, Australia and North America as well as in New Zealand.

Why did you decide to downsize?

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These experienced travellers down-sized to suit their new living arrangements

We are in our 70s and have recently moved into a retirement village. It was a matter of logistics. The storage that was available for a motorhome in our new living situation was not big enough to accommodate the 7.8-metre long TrailLite. We had to make the decision to downsize even though we’d considered the TrailLite to be our perfect RV.

Tell us how you decided on this make and model

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For Bruce, a deciding factor was the ease of driving the Mercedes 

We chose a Bourton Auto-Sleeper because of its size and because it contained all the features we didn’t want to compromise on. It is 6.5 metres long on a rear-wheel drive Mercedes Sprinter 316.

Auto-Sleepers are British-built at a factory in Willersey in the Cotswolds. We wanted a Mercedes vehicle, because we’ve had several over the years and they’ve given us very little trouble.

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Bruce is a tall man but the Auto-sleeper is comfortable on all levels

We thought about a Mercedes van but it was a bit narrow at just 2.2 metres wide. The Auto-Sleeper is 2.3 metres, which doesn’t seem much wider, but it has straight sides and that gives us quite a lot more room.

Another factor was we could buy it through TrailLite and we knew and trusted the company. We’d bought four TrailLites in the past, and from our first dealings we found the staff to be professional and knowledgeable. They do everything with a smile and give very good after-sales service.

How did you go about researching and working out what you wanted?

By looking, talking and watching. We don’t use the internet, so our research is a little different to that of many people. Because we have owned so many motorhomes we could be very specific about the things we needed.

What were the deciding features of your RV?

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The compact low-profile Auto-Sleeper is a rear-wheel drive

Apart from the smaller size, a must-have was a rear-wheel drive. This narrowed our selection right down as the options for suitable rear-wheel drive vehicles are very small.

The Mercedes has a straight automatic gearbox, which was another of our requirements. We also wanted a vehicle that needs a WOF not a COF because having to renew a COF is becoming more and more complex.

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The bathroom combination is arranged to isolate the shower when it’s in use 

In the home itself we wanted separate beds we could make up permanently if we wanted to, and a good shower and bathroom arrangement. When we saw the Auto-Sleeper, things fell into place. It had our must-have criteria as well as many other items on our list.

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The kitchen at the rear has a pull-out shelf for more bench space

The Auto-Sleeper has the kitchen and bathroom at the back, and although the kitchen bench is quite small there is a shelf that pulls out from under the stove top, which gives it a lot more room.

The configuration of the bathroom and shower is very clever. Although it is all-in-one, there is an option to close off the shower so we don’t have to wipe everything down after showering.

How did you find the process of buying and the handover?

Deborah Mercer was the handover girl. And we were very impressed with her professional approach. Although she is not a motorhomer herself she had done a lot of homework so she knew the vehicle thoroughly and could answer all our questions. The whole process was very enjoyable.

Is there anything about your new RV you’d change or improve if possible?

The only thing we’d change is the vent in the bathroom. It is a bit small and we would prefer one with an electric fan.

What advice would you offer others?

The most important thing about buying a motorhome is to do your homework and do it thoroughly. Everyone’s needs and wants are different. Coming back on the ferry from Picton a while ago we sat opposite two women who were coming to the North Island to buy a motorhome.

They were first-time buyers, but they had done so much research, they knew exactly what they were looking for. They had pages and pages of notes. So even though they didn’t know the make and model they were going to buy, I don’t think they were going to make a mistake.

I think it is also important not to get carried away by the bling – the bells and whistles. Sort out what you really want rather than what you would like to have. If people buy for the extras, they’ll probably be back in a year or two to buy something else.

Of course, a lot of people buy on price and, although that is an important factor, it shouldn’t, on its own, drive the purchase. Buyers also need to recognise that there will always be compromises.

In any motorhome virtually a whole household has to fit into a space that is smaller than the average bedroom so there are always going to be some things you’d prefer to be otherwise.

It is good to acknowledge this before setting out to buy. Our compromise is mainly on space. We have had to become a bit more structured in our routines and learn to put everything away after we have used it.

What travel plans do you have?

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Still going places after 50 years of motorhoming

We go away a lot. We are currently planning a trip to the South Island and will be going back to Australia, but we won’t be taking the Auto-Sleeper. We intend to keep travelling as much as we can, while we can.

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