Life on the road: Meeting Marguerite & Stewart and their Pilote 650 Essentiel

By: Jill Malcolm , Photography by: Jill Malcolm

In this monthly column, Jill Malcolm interviews the owners of RVs to learn how they made their decisions

Couples Betty and Stewart Bent and Marguerite and Maurice Lovegrove knew each other for 50 years and - for six of them - shared their motorhome adventures. Their families grew up together. Two years ago, Marguerite lost her husband, and within a short space of time, Stewart lost his wife.

Marguerite and Stewart Bent are stoked with their Pilote 650 Essentiel

Stewart and Marguerite retained their long friendship and, four months ago, they married. Each of them wanted to keep the motorhome they owned as a reminder of the happy times they’d had in it. But, gradually, they came to accept that the only way forward was to sell both and buy a new one in which they could create different memories together.

Tell us about your camping/RV experience before your recent purchase?

Both of us had many camping and caravanning holidays with our parents and had taken our children on camping trips when they were growing up.

How did you go about researching what you wanted?

As we had been motorhoming before, we had already worked out what we wanted. We looked around many dealers and went through friends’ motorhomes. The knowledge we acquired was helpful but also confusing. So we went to the motorhome show at Mystery Creek, Hamilton, and spent two days looking at everything in one place where it was easier to make comparisons.

What was the biggest challenge when choosing the right RV?

By far, the biggest challenge was deciding on the right type of motorhome to suit what we needed.

Why did you decide on the make and model you bought?

A permanent bed means the dinette is sm

We’d worked out our wishlist and knew the things upon which we were willing to compromise. A permanent island bed was a must. We’d had the experience of having to make up a bed each day and climbing over a partner in the night to go to the loo, and we were past that.

As we are older and uncertain about what the future holds, we both needed to be able to drive. So it was necessary to have an automatic vehicle that could be driven on a car licence.  Another point is that we live in a retirement village and, while we can’t keep the motorhome onsite, we wanted to be able to park it outside our unit to load and unload. In that regards, it needed to be under 7000mm in length.

Top of their list was a queen-size island bed

At the show, we discovered that an island bed in a motorhome under 7000mm is hard to find. We looked at a Pilote and immediately were drawn to its spaciousness and the light in the bedroom. Unfortunately, it was 7500mm.

Then, in conversation with Brett Smith from Deluxe RV Group, we learnt that he had a 2019, 6500mm second-hand Pilote with very low kilometres. It was only a few months old. We’d never seen a motorhome that small with an island bed. Imagine our delight when he said there was one.

The only hiccup was that the van was in Blenheim and we were in Auckland. Matt showed us photographs and explained in detail how the 6500mm differed from the 7500mm version we’d been looking at. We bought it sight unseen, and now we are the delighted owners of a Pilote 650 Essentiel.

What were the other features that led to your decision?

It was on a Fiat Ducato chassis, which was familiar to Stewart because his last motorhome was also on a Fiat. It has a 130-litre freshwater tank, and functional fridge space and the large garage is impressive for such a small van.

How did you find the process of buying, the handover and follow-up?

Matt Gibson and Brett Smith from Deluxe RV Group in Blenheim were extremely helpful. Stewart still had to sell his van. Deluxe gave him a trade-in price but also four weeks to try to sell it privately, which he did. Brett suggested we stay in Blenheim for three or four days in case we had any queries.

This proved to be useful as we were a bit slow in getting onboard with the fancy electronics of a modern van. We were given plenty of attention, and it’s comforting to know, now that we are back in Auckland, that a phone call, day or night, will provide us with the information we need. After-sales service like this is essential.

Did you end up buying the RV you imagined owning?

Yes. In fact, the more we use it, the more we realise the Pilote is all we could wish for.

Would you do anything differently?

Probably not spend so much time going around the dealers and becoming confused. It is best to wait for a show when all the different models can be evaluated at the same time

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

The only thing would be to bring back the old-fashioned turn-a-knob instead of having to ask a five-year-old grandson how modern electronics work. (I suppose that is giving away my age.)

What advice would you offer others who are looking to buy an RV for the first time?

Decide whether you want to freedom-camp or if you are happy going to campgrounds. Talk to others who have motorhomes and get as much advice as you can from people who have similar interests to yours.

Does travelling in a motorhome meet your expectations in terms of enjoyment?

Yes. We get tremendous pleasure in seeing this great country, and all its lovely scenery and beaches. Meeting other RVers is also great.

What travel plans do you have?

We plan to spend time on the road, searching out-of-the-way places. We are members of the Good News Vanners, a Christian sub-group of the NZMCA, and have been to many of the rallies and safaris. In February, we’re going around the East Cape with them. We intend to have a good look at the Wairarapa, and we’re planning an extended holiday around the South Island.

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