Meet Sue & John: from boats to buying their second motorhome

By: Jill Malcolm, Photography by: Jill Malcolm

How, when, what, and why are essential considerations when it comes to buying a motorhome or caravan. In this monthly column, Jill Malcolm meets Kiwi RV owners to find out what drove their purchase

Sue and John Skeen  - now committed motorhomers after a shaky start.jpg
Sue and John Skeen – now committed motorhomers after a shaky start

Sue and John Skeen had been messing around with boats for a large part of their lives. They had also both lost their partners to cancer, and about seven years ago they met and were later married. Their plans for their new phase of life included buying a motorhome and exchanging their adventures at sea for exploring on land. Sue explains more about how, after a little trial and error, they finally found their perfect home on wheels.

Were you experienced campers/RVers before you bought your new motorhome?

Yes we were; I am an experienced tramper and had often camped under canvas. John had owned so many boats he can’t remember them all. The first motorhome we bought together was a seven-metre Mercedes Sprinter 311. But after a few trips, we came to the conclusion that we’d made the wrong move. Even though we’d liked the idea of travelling in a motorhome, it seemed too much of a hassle. Generally we found it inconvenient and uncomfortable. The spaces were too narrow, and we didn’t like having to make up the bed each night. Having decided motorhoming was not for us, we sold the Sprinter and bought another boat. And then we found we were not getting much use out of that either. We were getting older and managing a boat was becoming more difficult. We didn’t like going out in choppy seas any more.

Why did you decide to buy your latest RV?

We were not convinced we even wanted another motorhome but we kept looking out of curiosity. Many of the second-hand ones we looked at had huge mileages. But as we warmed to the idea of giving it another go, we began to formulate the criteria we would not compromise on. Our first motorhome taught us a lot.

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

For over six months we searched on the internet and visited dealers. This helped us decide what was important to us. Firstly, the motorhome had to be well maintained and have a low mileage. We didn’t want to go with anything longer than seven metres because the ease of driving and parking was important. And we definitely needed a permanent bed. Someone suggested we might prefer single beds. We hadn’t thought of that before but it sounded even better. So two permanent single beds became high on the list. A modern and spacious shower and toilet were imperative. We are both tidy people and it was important that the home had been looked after and was in excellent condition. We were not prepared to buy anything that did not meet these conditions and, of course, we wanted them all within our budget.

The Magis 85p turned out to be just what the couple wanted.jpg
The Magis 85p turned out to be just what the couple wanted

Why did you decide on the make and model?

We just happened to be passing TrailLite one day and we saw a Magis 85p built by CI (Caravans International) in Italy on a Fiat Ducato with automatic transmission. It had a low-line silhouette and was 6.88 metres in length. This had everything we wanted except that it was being sold on behalf of the owners and the price tag was too high. So we negotiated and the price came down low enough to meet our budget. The Magis is perfect. Apart from meeting our must-have criteria, it has good storage space, an extendable kitchen bench, a decent sized fridge, and a heater. After keeping it for five years the owners were upgrading to a larger model and the mileage was only 23,000km. The interior was immaculate, with leather trim and unblemished light-coloured decor.

How did you find the buying process and the handover?

Marvellous! We’d bought and paid for it, but before we could pick it up we went into the level four COVID-19 lockdown. When the level changed, TrailLite delivered the motorhome to our home on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula and it came with a comprehensive CD that explained everything we needed to know about the workings of the vehicle. We felt confident that anything that wasn’t right would be fixed.

Have you had any problems since, and how were they dealt with?

So far there has just been one small issue. We were having trouble with elevating the TV disc. One Sunday, we were passing through Pukekohe, and although TrailLite was closed we called in just in case there was anyone there. A technician happened to be working out the back and he quickly fixed the problem at no charge. That really impressed us.

Did you have to buy any extra items?

We have bought a small microwave and are deciding where to put it. And we are considering having air-conditioning installed but will wait until summer to see if we need it. We’ve also thought of changing the manually operated TV dish to an electrically operated one, but at the moment the manual is working perfectly well.

Would you buy a similar motorhome again?

Yes, definitely. With all this comfort, our attitude to motorhoming has completely changed. Although we usually go overseas in the winter we obviously couldn’t this year and so we have been travelling around New Zealand and have found it wonderful.

Any advice for people thinking of buying a second-hand motorhome?

Go for a low mileage vehicle and make sure you check the service record. Know what you want but also listen carefully to advice offered by others. Be patient; you will get there in the end.

What are your travel plans?

I’m an enthusiastic tramper who gets restless after a day or two of doing nothing, so I often leave John reading in the van while I go walking. So far I have done 40 day or overnight walks and I intend to make that 50 when we can fit them in. We make sure we go to places where there are good walks.

What are two of your favourite parking spots so far?

We are in our 70s and enjoy a bit of comfort so we prefer to stay in campgrounds rather than freedom camp. So far our favourite places have been Waihi Beach Holiday Resort and Ruakaka Beach Holiday Park.

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