Expert advice and guidance
Find free, impartial advice on the laws of motorhomes, security, driving and more…
Expert advice and guidance
Find free, impartial advice on the laws of motorhomes, security, driving and more…
Expert advice and guidance
Find free, impartial advice on the laws of motorhomes, security, driving and more…
There’s not much that can beat the freedom that comes with owning a motorhome. All those miles of open road, with nothing but adventure ahead of you and all the comforts of home travelling behind you. It’s the best feeling in the world, and more and more people are joining the vanlife tribe every year.
But there are plenty of practical things you need to know and rules you need to follow to ensure your motorhoming experience is not only happy and safe, but legally compliant.
Here you’ll find a collection of articles offering free, impartial advice and guidance on a range of motorhome topics, from what to look out for when shopping for your first one to the laws and regulations governing motorhome use, so you can be sure you’ll have the best experience possible, every time…
Advice for new motorhome owners
So you’ve taken the plunge and decided to buy a motorhome. Congrats! You’ve just opened up a whole new world of adventure for yourself, and you’ll never look back. You’ll want to get on with booking your first holiday soon, no doubt. But are you really ready for your first trip? Here are our top tips for motorhome newbies…
Home from home
You’ll have invested plenty of time, energy and money into finding the perfect motorhome, agonising over layouts, weighing up specs and choosing all the fixtures and fittings you want. Now you need to make sure your home on wheels is kitted out with all the things that are going to make life on the road everything you want it to be. And if you plan on heading away regularly, that’s going to mean investing in some basics that you can leave in there year-round. Things like pots and pans, a kettle, toaster, washing up bowl and sets of crockery and cutlery are essential, but what about the luxuries? You might want to kit yourself out with things like televisions and sound systems to make those rainy days more bearable, and maybe have a stash of board games and a deck of cards that have a permanent home in there. It might even be wise to have separate duvets, blankets and pillows, to save you the hassle of stripping and remaking beds every weekend. Whatever you need to make your home away from home, essentially. There are a few essential functional items you’ll need to buy, too. Take a look at our checklist here.
More bang for your buck
No matter how on point your motorhome layout is, there’s only so much floor space you’re going to get. If you relish having enough room to swing a bigger- than-average-sized cat, an awning is a great way to double the size of your moveable living quarters and ensure everyone makes it back from the weekend in one piece. Awnings, like motorhomes, come in all shapes, sizes and specs, so you’ll want to shop around for the one that best suits your needs. If you don’t have enough sleeping room in your motorhome to host your travelling tribe, a large awning with in-built sleeping cabins will be invaluable. It might be that you just need an extra bit of dry space where you can store bikes or surfboards after a day spent exploring, or somewhere to put a table and chairs when there’s a nip in the air. In this case, a smaller, drive-away awning will do the job more than adequately. Or perhaps you just want guaranteed access to a bit of shade or shelter wherever you pitch up – a simple canopy awning, which attaches to the side of the motorhome and works like a roller blind, will do the trick here. Be aware that attaching this type of awning is a specialist job, so you will need to visit your local motorhome dealership to get it done. Before setting out for your site of choice, make sure you have the right awning pegs for your pitch. If you’ve booked a hardstanding gravel pitch, you’ll need steel rock pegs to secure the awning properly.
Join the club!
One of the best things you can do as a new motorhome owner is to join one of the UK’s clubs. Both the Caravan and Motorhome Club and The Camping and Caravanning Club have been lighting the way for motorhome and campervan owners for more than 100 years and bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the field (so to speak). Members of both clubs benefit from exclusive access to certain sites, special offers on other sites, kit, days out and travel, and monthly magazines packed with helpful advice and tips. One of the greatest benefits of club membership is the access you get to like-minded people through the online forums, where insider knowledge is shared in abundance (want to know the best-kept secret sites? Someone will have posted it in the forums) and no question is too silly to ask or impossible to answer. For both clubs, membership is reasonably priced and can be bought online in minutes. Pick your club and start exploring.
As a car user, satnav can be your best friend. But as soon as you get behind the wheel of your motorhome, you need to start questioning everything it tells you. That’s because satnav systems don’t necessarily take into account everything you need to, as somebody driving a large vehicle. Things like bridge height or road width, access points and sharp corners. That’s not to mention the fact that most postcodes in rural areas cover vast open spaces, and inputting that into satnav won’t necessarily lead you to the exact place you want to be. The chances are, it might even put you on the wrong side of a river or valley, meaning a massive diversion to get you to the campsite. Luckily, most campsites will offer motorhome-friendly directions on request, or even as part of the booking confirmation, so be sure to print those off for reference en route. And it would be wise to keep an old-school map book in the cab so it’s there whenever you hit the road. Just in case.
You’ve identified the site for your first trip, and now you’re faced with choosing from a number of pitch options. So how do you go about choosing the best one? As with everything, it will depend on what you’re looking for from your stay. Do you need to be near the toilets? Do you mind being within earshot of people traipsing back and forth to the shower block first thing in the morning? If you want a bit of peace and quiet, a pitch on the outskirts of the site and/or away from the facilities might be better. If you want to be near the action, are there pitches near the club or café available? And what about kids? If you’ve got any travelling with you, a pitch by the play area will mean you can turn them loose while still being able to keep an eye on them. Regardless of the nuances of your pitch wish list, wherever possible you should try and get a flat, well-drained pitch that’s sheltered from wind by a hedge or neighbouring unit. And be aware that, while pitching among the trees might have a certain romantic appeal, trees are home to birds, and we all know what they do. You don’t want to spend the week following your trip scrubbing bird droppings and tree sap off the roof.
There are plenty of behind-the-scenes essentials you need as a motorhome owner. Here’s our handy checklist of must-have items:
- Water carrier (or aquaroll, which you can fill up and plumb in when you’re on site)
- Wastewater carrier and flexi waste pipes (to hook up to your on-board drainage system)
- Toilet chemicals and flush additive
- Gas bottle (try a refill agreement, which will allow you to exchange your empty for a full one)
- Regulator and gas hose
- Gas spanner (for changing cylinders)
- Wheel clamp
- Motorhome step
- Carpet or groundsheet
- Smoke and carbon monoxide alarm
- Leisure battery (for when you’re on a pitch without hook-up)
- Levelling ramps, wheel chocks and blocks (for uneven pitches)
- Fire bucket, extinguisher and blanket
- Tool kit
- Spare vehicle fuses and bulbs
So those are the general need-to-knows for any motorhome beginner – those little things you might not have thought of but probably need to consider. Get all those basics covered, and you’ll be ready to start enjoying the freedom of the road. Just be sure to keep your motorhome secure, both while in storage and on site. Check out our tops tips on security here. You’ll also find plenty more handy tips and guidance over on the Wrapper blog
The different classes of motorhome
Large and luxurious or compact and nippy – there’s a motorhome out there for everyone. Which of the classes you choose will depend entirely on what sort of adventure you’re looking for…
Similar in style and shape to the famous American recreational vehicle (RV), the A-class is the biggest type of motorhome available that isn’t actually an American RV. Big, bold, luxurious – an A-class really does let you take all your home comforts away with you, wherever you’re heading and however long you’re going for. Most A-class motorhomes are imported from Europe, with the body entirely coach-built by the motorhome manufacturer around a bare chassis from one of the big commercial vehicle makers. A-class motorhomes are easily identifiable as having the cab integrated into the rest of the vehicle, not only maximising the living space but ensuring the driver and front-seat passengers get the plushest of rides in a demi-armchair. Permanent beds, fully-fitted kitchens, ample storage – there’s not much you’re missing with an A-class.
This is the most common type of motorhome you’ll find on UK roads. The motorhome body is built on to the cab and chassis of a van, and equipped with beds, shower room, cassette toilet and living area. Low-profile versions might have a fixed bed mounted high across the back of the motorhome with storage underneath, while conventional coach-builts will feature an over-cab sleeping or storage compartment. As an off-the-production line motorhome, the customisation options are fairly limited, but when everything including the kitchen sink comes as standard, you’re good to go almost immediately anyway.
We all know the classic Vee-Dub campervan – it’s been an icon of freedom and adventure for more than half-a-century. Volkswagen is still making campers, of course, but there are plenty of other manufacturers and specialist converters out there who are doing great things with campervans. The main advantage of a campervan is that it’s big enough to host a longer-term escape, but small (and economical) enough to function as an everyday run-around, meaning you only need one vehicle to cover you for work and play. A campervan will generally have either a high top or a rising roof, so bear that in mind if you often need to park in a multi-storey or height-restricted car park. The custom options are virtually endless with a campervan, so you can pick your sleeping arrangements, facilities and layout and get the van of your dreams.
There are plenty of reasons why converting a panel van like a Ford Transit is a great option. Firstly, they offer much more living space than a standard campervan, allowing for better cooking and toilet facilities and the option to have a fitted double bed. They’re also tall enough to stand up in, in many cases, and are generally a bit more comfortable to move around in. Again, the custom options are virtually endless and you’ll have some fun building the motorhome you want.
These small but mighty motorhomes are generally based on small vans or people carriers, and are perfect for solo travellers or couples who relish a regular weekend adventure. The cab area is mostly integrated with the lounge, and there’s just enough room inside for basic cooking facilities, a cupboard and a small portable toilet. Most micro-motorhomes will have a lifting roof of some sort, but you can also get high-top varieties. You probably wouldn’t want to spend an extended break in one of these – at least not without other facilities nearby – but a micro-motorhome is a great, affordable option for weekend escapes and mini adventures.
Whether you’re looking for a micro-motorhome for weekends away, or an A- class to facilitate a life of digital nomadism, there are plenty of options when it comes to buying a motorhome. Before you part with your hard-earned savings, be sure to check out our guidance on things to consider before buying a motorhome [Link to Things to consider article], and our advice for beginners [link to advice for beginners article]. For more tips and advice, check out the Wrapper blog [link to blog].
Safe as houses: How to keep your motorhome secure
A motorhome is a significant investment and it’s undoubtedly one you’ll want to protect. Unfortunately, motorhomes and campervans are an appealing prospect for thieves, who will think nothing of taking the entire vehicle if they can, or at the very least breaking in and making off with your personal possessions.
But when your motorhome is the place your family sleeps, where you keep your valuables and make your memories, the possibility of a break-in is too important to ignore. It’s your home away from home, and you need to treat is as such when it comes to keeping it secure.
The good news is, there are plenty of motorhome security devices on the market to help keep your property safe.
General motorhome security tips
It’s commonly accepted that as-standard motorhome door and window locks are not the most robust, so improving the security of these entry points should be your first consideration. Have a word with the dealer you buy your motorhome from and see if they can fit some sturdier locks before you pick it up. If your dealership can’t offer that, or you’re still looking to beef up the security of your habitation door, BrightLock is a nifty and ultra-secure bit of kit that uses LiFi technology to allow you to lock, unlock and monitor your motorhome’s door from your smartphone.
For extra protection at your windows, you could try a window alarm, such as those from Doberman Security, which stick to your windows and sound off when they detect the telltale vibration of someone trying to break in. And because they are visible, they will act as a deterrent in the first place.
There are some general tips you can follow to help prevent opportunistic thefts, including making sure all doors and windows are locked whenever you leave your motorhome unattended, and keeping all valuables out of sight either in a cupboard or in a safe or lockbox that can’t be seen through the window.
And don’t be complacent when you make any stops en route to your destination, because the sad fact is you’re vulnerable even when you’re stopping for 10 minutes to grab a bite to eat. Deploying an immobiliser or activating your alarm will only take a couple of minutes, but it could save you an awful lot of heartache.
Motorhome security devices
Most newer-model motorhomes come with various security devices hardwired as-standard, including immobilisers that will kick in when the engine cuts out and alarms that are activated when somebody opens a door or window. But even if you’re driving an earlier model, there are plenty of devices on the market that can help keep your motorhome secure while in use or in storage. The important thing to remember is to check with your insurer before buying or fitting any security device, as they may insist you use a specific brand or product. They will invariably want you to choose a product that has been tested and approved by Thatcham or Sold Secure, which set the industry standards for security.
A quick and easy security measure that renders your motorhome undriveable, a steering lock has the added benefit of being immediately visible to any would-be thieves taking a furtive peek through your window. That sight will be enough to deter all but the most committed of criminals. Designed to fit across the steering wheel, these can be a bar-lock, a circular lock or even a chain and padlock and will stop anyone driving off with your pride and joy. They’re also fairly small and are easy to store, which is essential in a motorhome.
Bear in mind that, while a good hitch lock might deter an opportunist thief, it’s probably not going to stop a determined one when used in isolation, so you should always combine it with other security devices.
Another nifty little device designed to make your motorhome undriveable, a clutch claw locks the driving pedals together, making it impossible to operate them. Again, it won’t prevent the initial break-in, but it will mean the thieves won’t be able to drive your motorhome away. These devices are also fairly compact, helping you save on that all-important storage space.
In the event that an aspiring thief does manage to break into your motorhome, an immobiliser will stop them driving it away. Immobilisers work by disabling the starter motor, fuel system or ignition of your motorhome, killing your engine as soon as you turn it off, and keeping it dead until the key is used to bring it back to life.
As mentioned above, most new motorhomes come with a manufacturer-fitted immobiliser, but they can also be fitted retrospectively to most models. Be aware that many thieves these days carry a device that overrides factory-fitted immobilisers, allowing them to start the engine without the key and drive off with your pride and joy. For that reason, it’s always sensible to have other security measures in place as well.
Granted, a tracking device isn’t going to stop anybody from stealing your motorhome, but it will increase your chances of getting it back at some point. A tracker is a device that emits a GPS signal to a central control room, showing you exactly where it (and thereby your motorhome) is at any given time. You’ll need to register your device with the manufacturer’s control centre so they know it’s being used, who by and what it’s attached to. In the event that your motorhome does get stolen, it’ll be a quick phone call to let them know, and they’ll be able to tell you where it is so you can inform the police.
Wheel clamps come in all weights, sizes and qualities, so be sure to get one you’ll be happy to use. What we mean by that is you’ll probably be less inclined to use a hefty 27kg clamp while you’re on holiday and moving from site to site every few days, because it will be so cumbersome to fit. A lightweight, 13kg one is going to be much more useable in those instances and should provide a decent level of protection against thieves. You might want to have a heavier one standing by for when you’re ready to park your motorhome up for a few months, though, because they do offer much better protection.
Be aware that some clamps leave the wheel nuts exposed, meaning that determined thieves who have come prepared will still be able to take the entire wheel (including wheel clamp) off, fit some new ones and make off with your motorhome and everything in it. Perhaps think about investing in some locking wheel nuts too, in that case.
As with house alarms, motorhome alarm systems won’t necessarily stop anyone breaking in, but they will certainly act as a deterrent, especially when flagged up with window stickers and combined with other security devices.
There are various types of alarm available, including ones with internal motion sensors to detect intruders, those that will alert you to somebody trying to drive your motorhome away, and others that will sound if anyone tries to jimmy open a door or window. Many motorhome manufacturers will fit alarms as standard, but there are plenty that can be fitted retrospectively.
If you keep your motorhome parked up at home, some alarms will allow you to connect it to your home alarm system and control them both from the same unit. In some cases, you can even link a fitted tracker device to give you complete peace of mind.
Again as with house alarms, you need to make sure your motorhome system is reliable and fit for purpose – you don’t want to be ‘those’ people whose alarm sounds off as soon as somebody sneezes in the wrong direction. Not only will you become extremely unpopular with your campsite neighbours, it will also make it much less likely that anyone will respond in the event of a genuine incident.
There are plenty of options for keeping your motorhome safe and sound, so shop around, do some research, read reviews, and choose the device that’s best going to fit with your needs. Just remember that, once you’ve bought and installed your device of choice, you’ll need to let your insurance company know – not only will that keep your policy relevant and providing you with the right cover, it might also bring down your premium. Got the security issue covered? Check out more helpful tips and advice over on our blog. [link to blog homepage]
Buying your first motorhome: Things to consider
Whether it's been your aim for years or have only just started considering it, there’s no denying that buying your first motorhome is a big investment. And while we know how exciting it can be looking for your perfect home-from- home, there are a few things you need to consider before you take the plunge and hand over any of your cash…
What type of motorhome do you need?
The most important thing you’ll need to think about is what type of motorhome is going to suit you best. There are several different types available, of varying sizes and capabilities, and everyone will be looking for something different from a motorhome. Do you want to replace your family car with a campervan you can use for weekend escapes? Or do you need a bigger A-class to accommodate a larger family for longer breaks? Check out our guide to the different classes of motorhome [Link to different classes of motorhome article] to get an idea of your options.
Try before you buy
As with anything you’re going to use regularly, you don’t necessarily get a full picture of what’s going to work best for you until you are using it. But a new motorhome represents a massive investment in terms of both money and time, so you need to get this one right. In that respect, it’s probably a good idea to spend a few holidays hiring different motorhomes with different layouts, gadgets and amenities to determine what works for you and, more importantly, what doesn’t. How many berths do you need to give you the amount of space you want? What living-space layout will work best? Try as many different types as possible, and you’ll make the best, most informed decision you can when it’s time to buy. A quick internet search will tell you where your nearest motorhome hire place is.
Will you need to tow your car?
One thing you’ll want to consider before buying a motorhome – and something you can test out as you try different models – is how you’re going to travel while you’re actually away. A motorhome is a great base and will serve you well from an accommodation point of view, but it might not be the most practical way of getting out and exploring from the campsite. Smaller micro-motorhomes or campervans might be fine for daytrip adventures, but if you choose a bigger A- class model [link to Classes of motorhome article] it might be more practical to take your car with you as well. And if you don’t want to have one person driving the car and another driving the motorhome, that will mean towing the car. Be sure to suss out what car-motorhome combo is suitable, that you do your research about length and weight restrictions, and you get an appropriate towing mechanism in place.
Where will you store it?
Another thing to think about before you buy a motorhome is where you’re going to keep it when it’s not in use. Will you park it on your property? Is there a preferred campsite you can park up at? Or are you going to need to store it in a shared facility? If you’re storing it at home, you’ll need to ensure you can do so safely and legally and following all the laws and regulations outlined here. [link to laws article]
Specialist storage facilities offer a good, secure option for those who lack either the space or the inclination to have their motorhome parked at home, and there are plenty available around the country. You can choose from covered or open- air storage, and fixed short-term or annual plans, but these ongoing additional costs will need to be a consideration when buying your motorhome – you’re looking at anywhere from £30 a month for annual storage.
Be sure to insure
Another ongoing cost you need to consider is insurance for your new motorhome. It’s a legal requirement [link to Motorhomes and the law article] for starters, but given the cost of buying it in the first place you’re no doubt going to want to protect your investment anyway. Unfortunately, motorhomes are an attractive prospect for thieves looking to make a quick buck, and they are vulnerable when left parked up. There’s plenty you can do to make your motorhome more secure [link to security devices article], but an adequate insurance policy is the best way to keep your asset safe. Shop around for the one that offers the type of cover you need, and make sure you declare any modifications, including any security devices [link to security article] you’ve installed.
New or second-hand?
It might actually be that the bloke down the pub is selling a motorhome that’s perfect for your needs, and by all means you shouldn’t rule it out just because it’s not hot off the production line. In fact, if you’re a first-time motorhome owner, there are plenty of reasons a second-hand one is the more sensible choice.
For one thing, a brand-new motorhome will, like a new car, depreciate in value as soon as it leaves the dealer’s forecourt. Secondly, and more prudently, you are bound to pick up a few scuff marks in the early days as you get used to driving a bigger vehicle, and you’re going to be much less anxious about that if your motorhome isn’t all gleaming and sparkly-new.
Equally, dog owners and families might see the advantages of buying a used motorhome rather than a new one. It’s a much less terrifying prospect to let a muddy dog (or child) into a motorhome to climb all over the seats if it has cost £20,000 less in the first place and the carpets and cushions have already seen a bit of adventure. That’s not to say a used motorhome will necessarily be shabby and dated, of course – there are plenty of as-new second-hand ones for sale, if you spend some time looking.
The important thing to remember when buying second-hand is to carry out all the proper checks of ownership and paperwork – the last thing you want is to find you’ve bought a stolen motorhome and are now facing legal charges. See our checklist for buying a used motorhome here. [link to checklist at bottom of page]
Buying a brand-new motorhome is your other option, and there’s plenty of excitement in the window-shopping phase. How many berths do you want? What sort of accessories would you like? What about the fixtures and fittings? Everything’s shiny and new, and the possibilities for building your perfect home on wheels are endless (depending on your budget, of course). Just be sure to consider whether you’ll need to tow a car, and to check whether your motorhome will be able to safely handle towing the car you’ve got. Bear in mind the total length, too, because you’ll need to be confident about manoeuvring it around some potentially tight spaces – see our guide on driving a motorhome here. [link to Advice on Driving a Motorhome article here.]
Where to buy?
Shows are a great place to check out a wide range of new and used motorhomes in the flesh, giving you the opportunity to see the latest layouts and styles and talk through your options with the dealers. Most brands will be represented, and you might even benefit from being able to whip up a bit of a bidding war among them, grabbing yourself a substantial discount or offer. Just be aware that if you do decide to buy from a dealer at a show, you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons of their location, because the chances are you will have to travel to them for any repairs carried out under warranty, as well as for annual servicing. Will you be able to travel there and back without too much hassle if they need to keep your motorhome for a few days?
As with most things these days, buying online offers seemingly endless options. A quick internet search for ‘Motorhomes for sale’ will return loads of results, but make sure you head to a reputable site that you are confident offers some level of buyer protection. You don’t want to end up paying upwards of £10,000 for what turns out to be a picture of a non-existent motorhome. Carry out a thorough check on any caravan that piques your fancy, and if in doubt, shop elsewhere.
The two big clubs, the Camping and Caravanning Club and the Caravan and Motorhome Club, both have classifieds pages on their websites and in their magazines, and these are generally reliable sources for buyers. You’ll have access to both new and used models here too, and you can filter by make, number of berths, location andbudget, so these might be good places to start if you know a bit more about what you want.
When buying a used motorhome, there are certain things you need to check.
- Do a thorough check for damp – or get a professional to do it for you.
- Have an HPI check done to ensure (as best you can) the motorhome isn’t stolen.
- Check all the documents are intact for the gas, electrical and water systems, and that the original owner’s manual is there.
- If there’s a service history, make sure this is up to date.
- Check the owner documents match the details of the person selling the vehicle.
- Carefully check the exterior for dents, missing or broken trim, and anything else that might indicate an ongoing issue or present a problem down the line. Double-check any areas where it looks like a fix has been carried out and/or painted over.
- Check the tyres for excessive wear.
- Check the living areas and bathrooms to ensure everything is in full working order.
- Construct any beds that are made from the seats to make sure they work
– even if you don’t plan on using them.
The important thing to do before buying a motorhome is to shop around. There really is no one-size-fits-all, and you need to find one that’s going to work for you, providing you with a home on the road for years to come. Have fun in the hunt, and ready yourself for the incredible sense of adventure that comes with being handed the keys to your very own motorhome.
Taken the plunge already? Check out our advice for beginners, which covers everything from tips on awnings to the benefits of club membership [link to advice for beginners article], and be sure to read our guidance on manoeuvring your motorhome [link to article on driving a motorhome] before you hit the road. Happy adventuring!
Rules of the road: Motorhome laws in the UK
Arguably one of the greatest things about owning a motorhome is the freedom it brings. The ability to take off for a week at the drop of a hat, taking all your home comforts with you, is absolutely priceless. But with that freedom comes responsibility, and there are certain laws, rules and regulations you need to abide by in order to keep yourselves and other road users safe.
Do I need a licence to drive a motorhome?
Yes, you do. The type of licence you require will depend on certain factors, including the size of the motorhome you want to drive, when you passed your test and how old you are.
Anyone who passed their driving test before 1 January 1997 is legally allowed to drive any motorhome on a standard UK driving licence, provided they are under the age of 70.
Anyone who passed their test on or after 1 January 1997 and holds a standard Category B or B1 licence is restricted to driving a motorhome up to 3,500kg and towing a trailer up to 750kg behind it.
If you want to drive a larger motorhome – any with a maximum allowable mass of up to 7,500kg – you will need to pass a Category C1 test.
Drivers over the age of 70 will need to renew their licence, regardless of what they want to drive. Be aware that, if you are over 70 and you renew your licence via the standard procedure, your C1 entitlement will be automatically suspended and you will be restricted driving a motorhome with a MAM of up to 3,500kg. If you are over 70 and want to drive a larger motorhome, you will have to pass a medical with your GP to upgrade to a C1 licence.
Do motorhomes need MOT, road tax and insurance?
Yes, in all three cases. As a road-going motorised vehicle, motorhomes are subject to the same laws as a car. That means they need to be certified road safe and road legal, taxed, and insured to protect you and other road users. In law, motorhomes are generally referred to as ‘motor caravans’, and the law states that any that is more than three years old is subject to an annual MOT test and road tax payment. In terms of insurance, at the very least you will need third- party cover, but given the variety and value of the contents of the average motorhome, as well as the cost of repairing damage caused by accidents or vandalism, a more comprehensive cover is generally advisable.
What’s the speed limit for a motorhome?
Smaller motorhomes with an unladen weight of 3,050kg are subject to the same speed restrictions as a car – that means you can do 60mph on single-lane roads, and 70mph on dual carriageways and motorways. Motorhomes with an unladen weight of more than 3,050kg are restricted by law to 50mph on single-lane roads and 60mph on dual carriageways, but are still allowed to do 70mph on motorways.
Regardless of the size or weight of your motorhome, if you are towing a trailer or car, you mustn’t exceed 50mph on single-lane roads or 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways. You’ll also have to stick to the left two lanes on the motorway.
Do motorhome passengers need to wear seatbelts?
As with any other vehicle travelling on UK roads, the driver and front-seat passenger of a motorhome are required by law to wear a three-point seat belt whenever the vehicle is moving. If your motorhome was manufactured after 2006, you’re also obliged to have seat belts fitted to any and all other designated travel seats in the vehicle, including ones in the living area. Travel seats must be either forward- or rear-facing (not side-facing), and can have a two- or three-point seat belt fitted. Any and all passengers travelling in those seats are required to wear a seat belt whenever the vehicle is in motion.
For motorhomes manufactured after 1 October 1988, all forward-facing seats are legally required have seat belts fitted, and they must be worn whenever the vehicle is in transit.
Any passengers travelling in the living areas of motorhomes manufactured before October 1988 are not legally required to wear a seat belt, but be aware that if you’re travelling at high speed and get stopped by the police, they may well consider it unsafe and therefore an offence, so it’s always much better to err on the side of safety and fit seat belts wherever practicable.
In terms of any children travelling with you, your motorhome is subject to the same seatbelt laws and regulations as any other vehicle in the UK. All children must use the appropriate child seat, and these must be used in forward- or rear- facing seats – never side-facing ones. If your motorhome’s living area can’t meet that requirement, the child seat will have to be fitted to the front passenger seat and the child will have to travel alongside the driver. While it’s not technically illegal for passengers to travel in side-facing seats in the living area, it’s really not the safest thing to do. You’re actually not allowed to fit a seat belt to a side-facing seat because of the increased risk of injury in the event of a frontal crash, so it’s much safer to stick to having passengers travel in front- and rear-facing seats and using seat belts.
If you are planning on having additional seat belts fitted in your motorhome, be aware that they must all comply with the latest British or European standards and carry either the ‘e’, ‘E’ or BSI Kitemark. And given the nature and importance of the job, it would be advisable to have them fitted by a qualified professional rather than trying to do it yourself – your dealership or any commercial garage should be able to help.
How many passengers can I carry in my motorhome?
The number of passengers you are allowed to carry in your motorhome will depend on the size of your vehicle. Generally speaking, you should never carry more people than your motorhome was designed to carry. That means a two-berth motorhome with only the two belted cab seats should never carry more than two people. Your motorhome manufacturer will more than likely specify the maximum number of passengers to be carried in each model.
Be aware that carrying more passengers than your motorhome can provide seat belts for may affect your insurance. If you intend to travel with passengers who don’t have access to a seat belt, you’ll need to let your insurance company know and they will advise you about the best course of action.
How much stuff can I carry in my motorhome?
All motorhome and campervans have a maximum payload – a weight that they can safely carry – and it’s vital that you know what this is and that you never exceed it. You should be able to find your motorhome’s payload on the weight plate, which will be located either in the cab door or under the bonnet. Of course it’s not always easy to pack lightly when you’re a motorhome owner, especially not when you’re taking off on a six-month road trip and you need to take your entire life with you. But the more you travel, the more you will know which items constitute a safe weight. Bear in mind that the payload includes literally everything you’re carrying, from passengers and gas bottles to the contents of your fridge. The safest thing to do is, before each trip, load your motorhome with everything you want to take with you and then visit your local weighbridge to ensure you’re within the legal limit before you hit the road. If you’re not, it will just be a case of unpacking the things that aren’t strictly necessary.
Do I have to pack my motorhome a certain way?
Yes, you do. As well as having a maximum load weight, each axle of your motorhome will have a permissible load weight and it’s important you don’t exceed these. Again, you will find these details on your motorhome’s weight plate, located in the cab door or under the bonnet.
You need to make sure the weight in your vehicle is distributed safely, evenly, and in accordance with the axle loads before setting off on any journey. Pay special attention to any unstable items, such as those that might roll or slide while the vehicle is moving, because these can shift dangerously in transit, causing you to lose control of the vehicle – it’s a good idea to make sure these are secured somehow.
And remember that, if you’ve visited the weighbridge and are within the limits, any extra items you pack after that (such as adding bikes to the bike rack) could push you over the axle limit and invalidate your insurance.
Can I park my motorhome on the road?
Yes, in certain circumstances – although the law doesn’t provide a great deal of clarity on this issue. Your non-negotiable legal obligations are to ensure your motorhome is parked in such a way that it doesn’t cause an obstruction, and that it isn’t parked dangerously. You also need to make sure your motorhome is lit at night, and that the rear lights are visible for approaching traffic.
Everything else comes down to the authorities in charge of the local highways, as you have no entrenched ‘right’ to park any vehicle on the road. Another thing to bear in mind is that, if you value harmony with your neighbours, parking considerately is a must. Try to think about how you would feel if the roles were reversed and it was your neighbour’s motorhome. Don’t block driveways, garages or gates, for starters. And try not to park anywhere you might block people’s views or light – although not illegal, you’re likely to find yourself becoming extremely unpopular with the other residents in your street.
Can I live in my motorhome?
Happily, yes you can. As long as your motorhome is fully road-legal and has a valid MOT, you are free to live in it full-time and make your life on the road. The only thing you’ll need to bear in mind is where you will park up, because despite the romantic appeal of the freedom, there are strict rules governing where you can park overnight. Wild camping, for example, is illegal in Wales and most of England, and you can’t just park up on the roadside or in a layby to sleep. There are parts of Dartmoor and Scotland where wild camping is permissible, but be sure to do your research on the specifics before you set out. You’ll also find that many landowners are happy for you to park up on their land overnight – it’s courteous to try and seek permission first, but even if you can’t do that you should be OK to stay, as long as you are respectful and leave no trace.
Do I need a TV licence for my motorhome?
Yes, you do. If you want to watch, stream or record any live TV while you’re on the road, you’ll need a licence to do so. The good news is that if you’ve got a TV licence that covers your main residence, you don’t need a separate one for your motorhome. If, however, you live in your motorhome, or the TV in your motorhome is your main one (i.e. you don’t have a TV in your main residence), you’ll need to get a TV licence. You’ll be able to use your vehicle’s reg number to register it, alongside a physical address such as a PO box or designated site such as a pitch you use regularly.
Do I need planning permission to store my motorhome?
You’ll need to check your local council’s housing permissions on this point, but in most cases you can freely store your motorhome in your garden or on your drive, as long as it meets the UK definition of a touring caravan. This means it is:
- A habitable structure that can be moved.
- A maximum of 20m long, 6.8m wide and 3.05m tall.
If you intend to store your motorhome on agricultural land or elsewhere on your property, such as in a field, you might need to get planning permission, so it would be wise to check your local council’s rules on this. You will also need planning permission if you are using your motorhome as a self-sufficient, self- contained home rather than an extension of your current residence.
As with any and all laws and regulations, the rules for campervans and motorhomes are subject to review from time to time, so make sure you keep up to date with the latest local and national government guidelines. And if you’re planning on travelling abroad, be aware that the laws for motorhomes will be different depending on where you’re going. Do your homework and make sure you know exactly what you are and aren’t allowed to do before you set out on your next adventure.
Tips for driving a motorhome
If you’re new to motorhoming, the chances are you’re going to be a little nervous about hitting the road. After all, that’s a whole lot of vehicle to be manoeuvring! Luckily, with a bit of practise, a lot of patience and a few helpful pointers, anyone can drive a motorhome…
Take your time
Even as a car driver you’ll know how much harder it is to drive safely when you’re in a rush. The same holds true for a motorhome, and the one thing you don’t want when you’re driving one is to be up against the clock. So one of the best things you can do to avoid a stressful journey is to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. Happily, as the owner of a motorhome, you’ll know full well that the journey itself is as fundamental to the sense of freedom and adventure as the destination is, so you won’t mind if it takes a little longer to get there.
Give yourself extra time
Giving yourself extra time to make the journey is one thing, but you’ll also need to give yourself extra time to make manoeuvres while driving. That’s because, when you’re driving a motorhome, with all the extra weight and size that entails, literally everything takes longer. Braking takes longer. Accelerating takes longer. Reaching the speed limit takes longer. Overtaking takes longer. And manoeuvring definitely takes longer. You’ll need to bear this in mind every time you need to pull out of a junction, overtake another vehicle or enter a roundabout, as well as always leaving extra space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can brake safely.
Give yourself extra space
As well as extra time, you’re going to need extra space when driving a motorhome. That’s not only because of the sheer size of your vehicle (generally speaking, motorhomes will be a good 1m wider than a car, and a few times its length) but also because of the way the body is distributed in terms of the axles. Unlike when driving your car, you can’t just point your motorhome around a corner and expect it to follow the lines your wheels take. If you’ve got a lot of motorhome hanging past your back wheels, that portion of the motorhome is going to swing out in the opposite direction when you turn a corner. Likewise, the central bit of the motorhome, between the front and rear wheels, is going to want to follow the shortest route between it and the front wheels, meaning unless you pull out further from junctions before starting to turn, you risk the back of the motorhome mounting a pavement and wiping out any street furniture (or pedestrians). So you should always give yourself plenty of room. Pull out further than you think you need to, and then a bit further still. Depending on the width of the road you’re pulling out on to, that means you might need to use the other side of the road to swing round properly, so be sure to keep checking both ways for traffic. Think of those times you’ve waited while a lorry pulls out of a side street, and try to manoeuvre like that driver.
Know your limits
One of the most important things to do before setting out on a journey in any motorhome is to make sure you know the size, weight and limitations of the vehicle you’re driving. This is important not just in terms of making sure you’re always driving legally and at the appropriate speed [link to Laws for motorhomes article], but to ensure you’re not flinching every time you approach a bridge with a height or weight restriction. Knowing these dimensions and restrictions will also be vital when it comes to planning the route to your destination – you’ll need to know which roads to avoid, which diversions to take, and you’ll be able to prepare for any tricky corners. A good tip is to write down your height, width, length and weight and stick them to your dashboard for a quick and easy reference.
To make your journey planning a bit easier, there are several motorhome- specific satnav systems available, so you might want to invest in one of those.
Use your mirrors
One thing you’ll be struck by when you climb into the driver’s seat of a motorhome for the first time is just how much you can’t see. There are lots more blind spots in a motorhome than in a car, and it will take some getting used to.
The good news is, most motorhomes come with large and reliable wing mirrors that let you see all but the back and top of your vehicle, and some have rear-view monitors. Don’t rely on your rear-view monitors, though, as they will invariably be angled downwards and won’t help you spot any higher-up hazards or obstructions like overhanging tree branches.
As your wing mirrors are your only visual aids while in transit, it’s important to check them constantly. They will help you keep an eye on your position in the road (it’s easy to drift over the centre line if you’re used to driving further away from the pavement in a car), as well as any other traffic. In order to help extend your vision and eliminate some of those blind spots, you might want to invest in a set of blind spot auxiliary mirrors, which clip to your wing mirrors and help you spot pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists. These have the added benefit of giving you a better field of vision when it comes to reversing and parking, so they are generally a good idea anyway.
Parking and reversing
In the ideal scenario, you’d never need to reverse your motorhome. The chances are you might stumble upon this happy journey every once in a while, but you’re going to need to reverse at some point during the majority of your trips. We’ve put together some top tips for reversing your motorhome below, but there is some more general guidance for reversing and parking.
Firstly, don’t panic. If you can reverse and park a car, you can reverse and park a motorhome – it might just take a bit of practise. One of the best ‘tools’ you can use to help you reverse and park a your motorhome is a passenger who will hop out and guide you into a space or on to your pitch. You’ll probably need to come up with some kind of hand-signal language between you, so they can tell you (and you can understand) when you need to stop, when to go, and which way you need to turn the wheel.
You’ll also need to make sure your mirrors are angled correctly, as you’re going to have to rely heavily on these to get into parking spots and around corners. Ideally, you want a quarter of the mirror to be filled with the side of your motorhome, and the rest filled with a good view of the surroundings.
A good rule of thumb for parking is to always find the biggest space you can, and reverse into it so that you have a better field of vision when it comes to pulling out and away again.Top tips for reversing a motorhome
- Get out and have a look around. You’ll soon get used to being able to identify which spaces your motorhome will fit into and which ones it won’t, but there’s no harm in hopping out of the driver’s seat to have a good look around before you start reversing. This will mean you’re aware of any overhanging tree branches that could pose a hazard, as well as any hazards behind you.
- Take it slowly – the slower you make any reversing manoeuvre, the easier it will be. It will also mean that, if you do hit anything, the damage will be minor.
- Know the vital dimensions of your motorhome – height, width and length – and have them stuck on your dashboard as a handy reference. This will help you when you’re entering car parks or other areas with height restrictions and/or barriers.
- Check your blind spots. Even if you’ve got auxiliary mirrors and a rear- view monitor, you will still have some blind spots. Hop out and check them (or deploy your passenger to do so) before trying to reverse.
- Take into account any additional fittings that are outside of your field of vision, such as bike racks (and bikes) and tow bars.
- Use your parking sensors. If you have parking sensors fitted, make sure you listen to the alarms as and when they sound – it’s surprising how many accidents happen when people ignore their sensors because they think they’ve still got space behind them.
7. Go on a course
If you’re still unsure about driving your motorhome, there are plenty of training and practical courses you can sign up to, including with the Camping and Caravanning Club and the Caravan and Motorhome Club Caravan and Motorhome Club. These one-day courses cost less than £200 and cover everything you could possibly need to know about driving, manoeuvring and parking your motorhome. You’ll need to take your own motorhome with you, as well as your license, MOT and insurance documents. If you just want a quick taster, most of the big annual motorhome shows will offer you the chance to try your hand at driving one, and there will generally be someone available to offer advice throughout.