There are many ways to stretch the budget, some very simple, though this is not an exhaustive guide to money-saving. We take a look at ways to save money when getting the most from your new, or nearly new, motorhome. There are many ways to stretch the budget, some very simple, though this is not an exhaustive guide to money-saving. Expert tips will always come and go, but above all, make sure you have fun and enjoy your cherished motorhome.
Buying a motorhome
It’s an exciting time, for sure. You’ve taken the decision to invest in a vehicle that will be your passport to years of future motorhome holidays, with all the memories, fun and experiences that come with the territory.
But a word to the wise, tread carefully as there are countless cases of motorcaravan owners who feel their ‘van doesn’t quite meet their requirements, or whose lives have ‘moved on' from the time when the motorhome was acquired. Perhaps, whisper it quietly, they made the wrong decision in the first place….
Read all about it. It’s probably obvious but do the desk research, read the reviews, scour the articles and pore over the motorhome floor plans. Look out for Buyer’s Guides in the magazines, visit shows and talk to people, compare all the models and become something of a motorhome expert.
The reason for all this legwork is simple: if you make a mistake and want to change the motorhome you’ve just bought, it will be expensive. A dealer may very well be sympathetic but that new vehicle you bought from him a few weeks ago is now a second-hand motorhome. What’s more, no matter how generous he is with the replacement, you’ll still be paying 20% VAT.
Try before you buy
Of course, hiring a motorhome for a few days does not itself save you money. But it can help avoid costly mistakes. You’ll get the chance to see if the layout really does suit you, you’ll discover what is missing from your ideal spec and whether there is enough room. Drive down some country lanes, imagine having to accommodate extra guests (grandchildren perhaps), do you need belted rear seats after all? The whole hire experience can shine a light on your preconceived ideas.
Where to buy your motorhome
A big decision is whether to buy privately (cheaper but no guarantees) or from a dealer (more expensive but with a warranty and a reputation to protect). Either way, do shop around, take precautions when buying privately and, as ever, caveat emptor.
On the motorcaravan dealer forecourts, look out for ‘last year’s models’ which can often be good value. As with many products that are constantly evolving, older specs are often sold at significant discounts – dealers and motorhome manufacturers will always want the spotlight on the latest must-have models where margins are highest. But the truth is the specs are often little different or at least may not offer you benefits that you are prepared to pay a premium for.
Many people use motorhome finance to pay for their van. Most dealers will offer finance and this can make things convenient but it will not usually be the cheapest. Bear in mind that an apparently tiny variation in monthly interest payments can add up over the years – so keep that APR as low as possible! Compare with various providers, as well as the main clubs and banks.
Once you’ve bought the ‘van of your dreams, don’t neglect the need to use a little elbow grease now and then. Keep the roof clean of green mould and leaves, give it a good wash now and then (we use Silky Cream Cleaner to get the really stubborn black streaks off), and keep the components in good working order. In time, when you come to sell it, you’ll find that the care of your investment will have paid off. A well maintained and fully functioning motorhome will always command a higher price.
Driving your motorhome
Look after your motorhome and it will provide you with wonderful holidays for years to come.
All the usual rules apply when driving a motorhome: maintain constant speed in a high gear where possible, don’t drive fast and so on. A sleek motorhome with less wind resistance will improve fuel efficiency, and certainly if you can remove items from the roof (bikes, canoes, boxes etc) that will reduce drag further.
Similarly, by avoiding unnecessary weight you’ll see better fuel consumption. If you know you can fill the tanks with water at the next stop, why transport a full tank there?
Always keep an eye on your tyres, their health will pay dividends in both cost-saving and safety. Check the tyre pressure as a modest drop can impact the fuel efficiency too. And do check pressures when you have changed the payload significantly. A portable 12v compressor is always a good investment and can save money on roadside callouts in the event of tyre problems.
Uneven wear might suggest alignment issues or that the tyres are over or under-inflated. Some drivers like to swap front and back tyres from time to time to ensure even wear and extend tyre life (those on the drive axle are generally the first to show signs of wear).
On holiday with your motorhome
Where you park up is, of course, what owning a motorhome is all about. Choose a campsite for the convenience of services and facilities and remember that prices will vary usually depending on the level of facilities, location and any official accreditation.
A good way to save on campsite fees is to avoid high season. Doing this means you’ll also enjoy a calmer atmosphere, better choice of pitch and less crowded roads too. There are also various money saving schemes to make it easier on the pocket and campsites in some areas will often offer extra nights free when you stay a few weeks. In Spain particularly, these winter offers can mean you’re paying, on average, a fraction of the usual pitch fees.
Other ways to save money will include staying on pub campsites (often where you can sleep for free if you have a meal) and the clubs’ own Certified Locations (CLs), Certified Sites (CSs) or ‘no-frills’ sites.
On the continent caravans and motorhomes are welcomed in the villages and small towns more warmly than in the UK. You may well be able to park up in the village and enjoy a meal locally, meet the locals, buy bread in the morning and generally contribute to the community. In France the aires de services are hugely popular with motorhomers looking for a simple, basic stopover and the option of staying on a farm is often an option (you are expected to buy food, jams, local produce or wine from the farm in return for a simple pitch).
If planning to cross the Channel the ferry can be a significant cost. Shop around, use the comparison sites and online platforms and see what the clubs can offer. You may be able to recoup the cost of membership with cheaper ferry prices.
And when you arrive in France, why not explore the northern regions? Many holidaymakers hurtle south in search of sun, completely missing out on some of the most lovely parts of the country. Save a fortune in fuel, time and hassle by staying in the north.
Trading in your motorhome
Hold your horses! Do you really need to change your motorhome? If you don’t, then it’s the quickest way to saving a fortune. And if you’ve convinced yourself there are issues with the current ‘van then maybe they can be remedied without resorting to a complete change of vehicle. A hard bed can be changed or a foam topper added. Upholstery can be changed for a fresher look. Battered cupboard doors can be changed to look like new.
The Alan Rogers Team
Every year our team of expert assessors visit hundreds of campsites throughout Europe, in search of the best.
Alan Rogers started with the specific aim of providing people with the necessary information to make an informed decision about their holiday destination. Today we still do that.
The information we provide now takes many forms, not just printed guides. One element that has not changed is our expertise.