Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Second-Hand Motorhome

August 4, 2022 in Tips for Owners

Buying a motorhome is always an exciting experience, especially if it’s your first! This vehicle is going to be a landmark in your holidays to come, so you really want to pick the right motorhome.

Choosing to buy a second-hand campervan is a smart decision, not only because it’s far more budget-friendly, but also because you’ll find more personalised options. These campervans have lived a life before you reach them, and their owners can give you great tips and tricks. Additionally, it’s far more sustainable to purchase a motorhome second-hand. It allows us to make use of existing vehicles rather than constantly creating more.

We’ve rounded up everything you need to consider when buying a second-hand motorhome so you can make an informed decision and find your perfect vehicle.

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1. Try before you buy

We always recommend testing the motorhome you plan to buy. This is the only way to be sure about a vehicle type and size. 

You may think you want a Volkswagen with a pop-roof until you’re actually sleeping in one and find it to be claustrophobic. You may think you want a luxurious Swift motorhome. Until you’re trying to park it near your home or back up onto your driveway. 

Hire the vehicle you intend to purchase so that you’re sure. Hire several types just to be sure. This will also highlight which amenities you actually use, such as a shower or toilet.

2. Determine exactly what you want

After hiring a motorhome, you should have a good idea of what you’re looking for. But make sure that you know exactly what you want before you go to purchase a motorhome. Even deciding between two almost-identical models is necessary. 

If you have any doubts, ask fellow motorhome owners! They know their motorhomes best, so they can tell you the advantages and disadvantages of it. We recommend checking out the various motorhome forums online.

3. Use trusted resellers

One of the perks of purchasing your second-hand motorhome from an official reseller is that you’ll usually have a year guarantee or so. This can be quite a relief, even if you don’t end up needing it. This guarantee usually extends to small things as well, like curtains, fridges, appliances and more. 

We’d recommend checking out Motorhome Depot as a motorhome reseller. They’re also experts in the field, so they can advise you correctly and help you to choose the right vehicle. 

But that isn’t to say that you can’t find a great second-hand campervan from a private seller. It just requires you to take some extra steps for verification before committing to anything. It might also be worth getting agreements down on paper, so you can have your own guarantee, even if it’s just for a few months after purchase. As for finding a private seller, check Facebook groups, forums and even eBay.

4. Take a test drive

It may seem obvious, but it’s always worth reiterating. Never purchase a motorhome that you haven’t taken for a test drive. You might think you know that model well, but each van is different, especially once it’s second-hand. 

You need to check each vehicle to see how well the clutch works, if the brakes are smooth, how the engine runs and more. Take it for a drive of at least fifteen minutes to be sure, as that’s when signs of wear would show up. Then wait ten minutes before turning on the engine again so that it’s had time to cool down in between for the most accurate picture. Also, see how the engine runs when the vehicle isn’t going anywhere, as even stationary, there should be no issue. 

If anything sounds or feels off, wait with buying. Even if something seems like a simple fix, it might be difficult to source parts or turn out to be far more complicated.

5. Check the body

You don’t need any technical knowledge to be able to check the body of a motorhome. Check that there aren't any tears, as this could lead to moisture damage on the vehicle. Rust on the exterior could suggest rust within the vehicle, which can become a larger issue or highlight what you should be cautious about. 

A second-hand campervan doesn’t have to look perfect, a few dents aren’t an issue, but any damage could be indicative of other issues.

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6. Examine the tires

Always ask when the tires were last replaced but also take a look for yourself, as even recent tires can be worn out. Walk around the vehicle and check each tire, as replacing all four could easily cost you upwards of £700. Check the profile and feel of the tires

On the side of the tires, you can see two numbers following a code; these numbers refer to the year of manufacture. Most insurances don’t cover issues involving tires that are over six years old. 

Don’t forget to check the spare tire if there is one included. 

If you plan to travel when it’s snowing and would require winter tires, always check that these are available for the motorhome you plan to purchase.

7. Walk through the living space

The technical aspects of a motorhome take priority, as they’re more difficult to change and not as personalised, but the state of the living space is also worth checking. Be sure to not only walk through the living space of the motorhome but to check various things. 

It may seem trivial, but test everything in the living area. Pull the curtains open and closed, check if all the locks work and if doors close properly. Is there suitable lighting? Avoid unpleasant surprises and costs later by checking absolutely everything in the campervan.

Aside from its functionality, also check whether you like how things work. Is the driver’s seat comfortable and clean? Is the height alright, even with the sunscreen lowered? These are worth thinking about during your test drive as well.

Check the bed, namely the height and length of it. Replacing a mattress is quite simple, but search the measurements to ensure the dimensions are common. 

It might feel silly but try sitting on the toilet and standing in the shower, just to be sure nothing is out of the ordinary. 

Lastly, check the kitchen thoroughly. Do you have enough space to cook? Are there enough spots on the stove? Consider the height of the stove and countertops; as if you have to constantly bend, you’ll likely feel a strain on your back. 

8. Ask to see the maintenance history

The majority of motorhomes don’t go great distances in a year, even though a holiday will involve a lot of driving. This is because they spend many months standing still on a driveway unless the owner is earning through hiring out their motorhome. 

But motorhomes still require regular checks and maintenance, precisely because they’re standing still so often. Ask to see the maintenance history of the vehicle, even if it’s been standing still for a while. If they perform their own maintenance, ask for a complete list of checks and consider having a garage check it as well. 

9. Be cautious of the vehicle's age

Older motorhomes tend to be cheaper, which is perfect if you’re working with a smaller budget. Or perhaps you just appreciate a vintage aesthetic!

But there are several things to consider with an older vehicle. Firstly, the potential cost of repairs and replacements. Just because it’s cheaper to buy the older vehicle, that doesn’t mean it’ll be cheaper overall. Secondly, whether you can still obtain certain parts for the older vehicle. Check if reserves are even available anymore and easily found so that if you break down in a foreign country, you can still get it fixed easily. 

Also, consider whether the vehicle can enter environmental zones, as many older vehicles cannot drive in major cities without a big fine. 

10. Watch the weight

The weight of the vehicle will impact whether it can be driven with a regular B license or requires a C license. Vehicles over 7.5 tonnes require a C driving license. Not only do you need to have the right license, but it’ll impact whether you can lend your vehicle to friends or family, or if you eventually hire it out. 

Motorhomes with a larger weight will also use more fuel, so ultimately cost more to maintain. 

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11. Don’t rush things

It may sound obvious, but purchasing a motorhome is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Don't feel pressured into making a decision quickly. Never make your decision when you’re with the owners, seeing the motorhome. Always sleep on it, preferably a few nights. If the motorhome owner is pressuring you to decide immediately, then this is a red flag. There’s always a chance you’ll miss out on a good deal, but that’s far better than purchasing a van you’re later not happy with.

We also recommend bringing someone with you when looking at a second-hand campervan. People always notice different things, so their perspective could turn out to be really helpful. People tend to have different driving styles, so both testing the vehicle will allow you to truly get a good sense of it.

12. Visit a garage

So you’re completely sold on this second-hand motorhome? Great! Then the final step is to take it to a garage for a proper check. This will ensure that you’ve received accurate information, and they might pick up on things the owners didn’t realise themselves. Aim to do this at a different garage to the one the motorhome has visited before, again for that fresh set of eyes. They’ll also check things that are far harder to see yourself, like water damage. 

Once you’ve purchased your second-hand motorhome, you can start looking at how you’ll personalise it! Maybe you want to add more storage space to your campervan, or perhaps you’d like to redo your motorhome kitchen completely.

Relieve the large initial cost by listing your vehicle for hire! It’s completely free and you can earn over £700 a week in the summer by hiring out your motorhome. So within a year, you could earn back everything you spent on buying a second-hand campervan!