One of the most common recurring questions in letters to
motorcaravan magazines; Which van should we buy?
Or which one is the right van for us? It's a
difficult question of course because everyone's needs are different, it all
depends on your age, your lifestyle, personal preferences and ambitions.
people rate having their own loo as no1 others will tell you they've never
used it, ovens are regarded as essential in British 'vans but we once bought a
second-hand one where the oven had never been used.
Our latest 'van
has' picture windows' but I know a man who would describe this as 'like
living in a goldfish bowl' - so everyone is different, really
Let me give you some examples to get you thinking...
We are great tourers of wild places, always moving on, in
all seasons and in all weathers too. Much of this takes place down
country lanes and tracks, sometimes a very long way from the nearest campsite
so until recently we ran a smallish but well equipped motorcaravan - a reasonably drivable
'hightop' or 'panel van conversion'. For its size the hightop had a decent
toilet, shower, blown air heating, a hob and oven,
fridge, extra leisure batteries and reasonably large on-board fresh and waste water
tanks - all essential for our wild touring lifestyle. And the
drawbacks? - well it was a bit cramped at times even for two, storage was rather limited and the
double bed a bit lumpy being made from several separate sections.
To overcome these
drawbacks, we bought a small coachbuilt to provide added space and
comfort and a permanent overcab bed. We also wanted more berths to
accommodate our new grand-daughter and to be able lend it to my
daughter as a family 'van complete with adequate seat belts for
everyone - which is more difficult to find than you'd expect!
But as a result of its extra width
there are small lanes that are now 'off limits' to us - in the end
every motorhome choice will be a compromise.
We have friends who are keen on motorcaravanning but only
use their vehicle as a 'day van', preferring to stay in a bed and
breakfast. Despite having a similar liking for wild places their
requirements are quite different - the bed and shower are now redundant but
living space is important and so is convenient storage capable of taking bags and cases
since they need to remove and replace them most nights and mornings.
Different again are those who stay on well equipped
campsites in major holiday locations, often near the sea. Toilets,
showers, cooking, restaurants, etc are all on-site and some campers will not
leave the site at all during their stay of one or two weeks save for a daily
walk to the beach or pub or into the surrounding countryside. Some
will have families too in which case the ample space and comfort of a larger
coachbuilt van with permanent or semi-permanent beds will be extremely
attractive. Electric hook-up to mains electricity is a must when
staying in one place for long periods. Winding narrow lanes just don't come into it (unless they
hire a bike!).
Finally (although by no means the last possibility) are
those 'full timing' - touring the UK, or indeed the World, at a leisurely
pace going on or staying put as they please. Plainly you need a little
comfort and space to do this - you'd have to be a very special kind of
person to spend your life in the confined space of a little 'volky' -
especially if there are two of you! And how big are you?
Over 6 feet? Five foot four? Ten stone, Eighteen stone?
It all makes a big difference to your choice - especially over beds
which are not necessarily standard sizes.
I hope you will see that no two sets of requirements can be
the same - so the real question is not, what is best? or what should I choose? but how do
I prioritise my needs? What is essential - top of the list, what is second, third and
Given the limitations of available budget, this is the
way to decide on your perfect van. There is a final sting in the tail
though - everyone will tell you that however hard you try, your first
motorcaravan will never be your last, nor as perfect as you thought it would be
- the fact is that your ideas will change once your start
motorcaravanning! The good news though is that motorcaravans hold their
prices well, so trade-ins are often much less painful than with a car.
Seat Belts are a surprisingly difficult topic. The
twin sofa and rear u-shaped lounge have been popular UK layouts based on
earlier caravan designs. Neither has seat belts and neither can have
them retro fitted. (in fact retro fitting belts in motorhomes is always
very difficult often impossible). If the vehicle is pre-October 2007
there is no requirement for passenger seat belts to be fitted in the
rear and so no requirement to wear them. BUT and it's a big but the
police can prosecute for carrying passengers in an unsafe manner - this
is most likely if a loose passenger injures another during an accident
or emergency stop. For vehicles after October 2007 motorhome
manufacturers have to designate the number of travelling seats and
provide them with seat belts. Insurers then limit the number of insured
passengers to the number of designated and belted seats. This applies
even if there are more seats available, you are only insured to carry
the designated number. There seems to be a trend to apply that
retrospectively to pre-07 vehicles so do be careful over this - ask your
While on the topic how much would you expect to pay?
Well, second-hand, I've seen everything from £500 to £200,000!! Many
new vans will be in the £18,000 to £45,000 range but it's not difficult to
find new 'vans advertised under £10,000 to nearly £250,000. Once hooked you might
even want to run a cheaper car and a dearer motorcaravan as we do! Consult the pages of
Motorhome Monthly (MHM), MotorCaravan Magazine (MCM), Motorcaravan Motorhome Monthly
(MMM), AutoTrader and of course our own Classifieds pages.
Types & Names