Swift Live - Roaming Radfords Guide to buying your first Motorhome.
A few weeks ago we were contacted by Leisure Vehicle Manufacturer; Swift. They asked us to produce a video giving our top tips for buying a first motorhome. Steve and I spent few days planning, filming and editing and the video was shared exclusively on their Swift Live event. If you haven't seen it already, click here to register and access the full Swift Live event.
We are regularly asked "What kind of Motorhome should I buy?", and our answer is always "Layout, Layout, Layout", and this will forever be our answer. But, before we move on to that, it's really important to consider wether you want a Motorhome or a Caravan? Our very first questions to you are... What kind of holiday do you want to have? And, what is more important to you - the road trip, the destination or both?
When we owned a caravan, we found it was best suited for holidays at campsites. A caravan was perfect when we wanted to create a base in one area, enjoy a campsite’s amenities and explore the local area by car. Exploring the same area each day using the motorhome is more of a faff, each time you want to leave the pitch you need to pack up fully and finding parking in city centres can often be “difficult”.
Before I move on, I should probably address the elephant in the room: Towing. A lot of people we know let how they feel, or how they think they feel about towing a caravan to influence their choice. BUT, towing a caravan is a skill that you can quickly and easily master, we don’t think that fear of towing should put you off considering buying a Caravan.
We like to tour. It's usual for us to only spend 1 or 2 nights at any destination before moving to our next stop. We love to keep moving and exploring, and our motorhome is the perfect vehicle to do this. This is especially the case in Europe. In addition to fabulous campsites, many countries in Europe have Aires or Stellplatz which provide super cheap or even free overnight parking and are only open to Motorhomes, not caravans. We find that our perfect family holidays are a mix of Campsites, Aires and Wild Camping.
Wild Camping means off grid parking, not plugged in to electric and usually these spots are completely free. There is something magic about driving your motorhome to the top of a mountain or pulling up at a beach, putting the handbrake, popping the kettle on and enjoying your cuppa with an incredible view.
Layout, Layout, Layout!
Once you have decided on your base vehicle it's time to move on to the fun part - Layout! Picking a layout is always about compromise. Unfortunately it's possible to fit a 4 bedroom house in to a 6 metre box - Who knew?
Layout; Living Space - how much living space to you really need?
As our boys have grown, we learned that we didn't want to compromise on living space, especially when a lot of our trips are in the UK's "Winter Weather". We wanted to have two versatile but separate living spaces. The compromise to this is that we can't have a fixed bed. But to us, that’s OK, we are very happy to make our beds up each night AND put them away each morning.
Layout; Sleeping Space - so many questions!
Do you mind making your bed each night, and putting it away each morning? How accessible are the beds? Are you comfortable climbing ladders or steps to bed? The beds in some Caravans and motorhomes are built against a wall and it's not until that first night when you need to climb over your partner to go to the loo that you realise that bedroom layout doesn't work for you. If you mostly travel alone, it's never going to be an issue, but if you are looking for a fixed bed, is it easy enough for everyone to access?
Layout; Bathroom Area - is this an area for compromise?
Another area to consider when choosing a layout is the bathroom. Do you need a shower? In the past we have had wet rooms where the shower is built into the sink. When we changed vans last time, I really wanted a separate shower with enough elbow room to comfortably shampoo my hair. BUT, most campsites have excellent shower and toilet blocks, so do you really need a separate shower? Is this an area for compromise?
Layout; Kitchen - do you need a full size kitchen?
As Motorhomers who travel extensively in the UK, we felt having a good kitchen was important. We use our Hob and Fridge all the time, the oven is really useful in winter, and the microwave is an excellent breadbox and is rarely used at all. On our warm summer trips, we tend to BBQ and cook outdoors as much as possible, but in the winter we like to be able to cook proper meals for 3 ever growing sons.
Layout; Berths & Travelling Seats
We have a Swift Kon-Tiki 649 Motorhome, which has 6 berths and 6 belted travelling seats. This may seem really obvious, but not all motorhomes will have the same number of seatbelts as berths. Make sure you choose a motorhome with the correct amount of travelling seats and enough beds for everyone you want to travel with. And if you are taking a pet make sure there is enough floor space for them to be comfortable too.
Size & Weight
The size and weight of a motorhome can impact you in some obvious and some more subtle ways. The obvious consideration is Where are you going to store it when you aren’t using it? How big is your drive? How easy is it to access your parking area?
The less obvious consideration is your driving license. If you passed your driving test before January 1st 1997 then you will automatically have a C1 which will legally allow you to drive any vehicle over 3.5 tonnes. If you passed after this date, then you will need to take an additional test to drive heavier vehicles.
What our boys say:
When we asked our children what they think is important when buying a motorhome they each gave us a different answer…
Eddie is 15 and thinks a large fridge with Lots of Food is important.
Our 13 year old, Harry suggested decent power to keep the tech charged for rainy days
And George said a good plan to visit Great Campsites and make new friends
Because we feel layout is so important, our best advice is to go and look at as many different options as possible and imagine how you will spend your time using the space. You could even consider hiring a motorhome before you buy one. It's the quickest way to understand what you love, what you hate and what you are happy to compromise on! Take your time to research the market and understand price points. Then set your expectations in line with a realistic budget and start planning your trips!
We really hope this helps you choose the right motorhome for you, feel free to email us if you have any specific questions. And once again, here is the link to Swift Live!
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