Are you buying a motorhome or campervan in the UK? Are you looking for a checklist or questions you need to ask? This post runs you through what you need to do when you find a motorhome, campervan, or RV that you LOVE.
Buying a motorhome or campervan for the first time is daunting. There are JUST SO MANY options- and how the heck do you know what to look for? And how do you know if you’ve found a good one?
When you’re spending so much money, it’s important to make sure you do the proper motorhome checks before you buy.
If you’re still searching for your perfect motorhome or campervan, grab our FREE motorhome checklist below and make sure you remember to check EVERYTHING you should!
This post & checklist are still relevant if you’re buying a motorhome or RV in Europe, USA or elsewhere- just use the appropriate camper terms! 🙂
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Buying a motorhome checklist
Want to download the checklist to take with you when you go to look/ buy? Just tell us in the box below where to send it and we’ll email it across to you.
Buying a motorhome or campervan UK – External checks
When you first walk around the camper, take the time to look very closely at the exterior condition. This will give you a really good indication of whether the motorhome has been looked after or likely has some problems hiding somewhere!
Walk around the outside, and look for:
- Scratches on bodywork and on windows
- Loose panels or bumpers
- Anything which looks DIY’d or repaired. Check these areas carefully for water ingress or damage.
- Check all paintwork
- Missing things (exterior lights, filler caps etc)
- Petrol cap- make sure it fits AND locks with the keys
- Gearbox- is it a manual or automatic motorhome gearbox
- Water filler cap- same
- Make sure drain hoses are connected underneath the van- our first van wasn’t connected properly and it caused a right mess!
- Check inspection caps on water & waste tank (Our newest van, the Swift Escape 685 didn’t have these fitted! We had to contact the dealer from France and ask them to send some over!)
- Ensure gas locker opens & locks
- Check cab locks manually & automatically
- TYRES! Make sure there are ‘camper’ tyres fitted- not standard car tyres. And make sure the tyres are in good condition, not cracked, swollen or damaged.
- Spare wheel or inflation kit
- Look underneath for oil leaks (or any other leaks!)
- Check underneath and around exhaust for rust or corrosion
- Ensure there’s a jack suitable to lift Motorhome
- Check all driving lights work- brakes, indicator etc
If you are collecting the motorhome after a waiting period (VERY common when buying a motorhome from a dealer or showroom), do these checks AGAIN to make sure no damage has occurred since you agreed to buy.
Buying a used Motorhome- Interior checks
Let’s be honest- when you first saw the motorhome, you probably rushed inside, realised it was perfect, got a rush of adrenaline and have fallen in love.
Tell me everyone else does that, right?
If you’re looking at spending all that money on a used camper you don’t LOVE, then walk away and think about it for a while as it’s possibly not the right van for you. Anyway, I digress…
Now it’s time to put your sensible head on. Go back inside and LOOK for faults. Find as many reasons as you can NOT to buy it.
I know that sounds crazy, but trust me. You need to break the magic bubble and realise that there will be some faults/ drawbacks/ compromises on the interior.
You also need to make sure you know about anything which isn’t working correctly so you can ask the dealer to fix it or negotiate a better price with the private seller.
If you’re buying a second-hand motorhome, there WILL be things which don’t work or are broken. You need to find them.
Buying a used camper- things to check:
- Hab door (door to main living area) shuts and locks from inside and out all windows open, close & lock from inside
- Same for sunroof and vents. ESPECIALLY check sunroof if it is electric- these break very easily!
- Check windows open, close and lock
- The fridge works (see below)
- Oven and hob (see below)
- Lightly press on ceiling and walls. Are they ‘spongy’ or do they look discoloured? (this could indicate a leak or dampness)
- Internal electrics power up- lights etc. You should be able to check this on mains electric.
- Water pump works AND switches off when water is turned off
- Electric bed goes down & up
- Solar panel- look on the control panel to see if the solar panel is working
- Find out where ALL your motorhome batteries are and visually inspect them. Make sure nothing is covering, touching or able to fall onto the terminals. You should have 2 batteries minimum- one engine, one leisure.
- The toilet flushes & learn if it uses water from the main water tank or separate filler (if separate, where is the filler?) Check for leaks/ bad smell in bathroom
- Which types of 12v fuses are used in the power supply unit & other places so you can get spares. BUY THEM ASAP– Chances are high for blowing it on your first trip- especially if you’re new to motorhomes and not used to low power unit. Here’s a guide on what to do on your first motorhome trip.
- Check all cushions there to make up all beds. Often spare infill cushions are used (and lost!) Ask for a demo and make sure you have enough to make up all beds at the same time
- If you have a drop-down bed, make sure there is a ladder if needed. Also rails to stop children rolling out if required.
- Table & leg- make sure they fit!
- Window blinds or clip up covers to cover windows at night.
- Blinds & flynets on windows- make sure they work on all windows
- Door flynet- many motorhome doors have a flynet you can pull across- and many motorhomes have damage to these! If there is one, check it’s ok.
- DOES IT SMELL? Can you smell mustiness, dampness or anything ‘funky’?
- Lift up carpets to check the floor and look for soft/ wet/ weak points
FRIDGE– Ideally, you want a 3-way fridge which works on electric, battery and gas. Word of warning- the battery setting usually only works when the engine is switched on and you don’t normally buy a motorhome with a gas bottle fitted, so you may have trouble checking the fridge on all settings but you should be able to see it working on mains.
Turn it on and check it a few minutes later- it should be getting cool. Motorhome fridges take a while to cool down completely.
OVEN/ HOB– the same applies to the oven and hob. You may not be able to test them due to lack of a gas bottle (unless you’re buying your motorhome from a private seller.) This is where a warranty becomes useful.
Want to get ALL our best buying tips, tricks and ways to save money?
It contains everything you need to go step-by-step through the buying process, including tricks for saving money, what to look for when you buy, what to do when you collect and much more. Check it out now.
And don’t forget to grab your FREE buying checklist here
How to buy a motorhome- what happens after you’ve agreed a deal?
Once you’ve found your perfect motorhome, you’ll do a deal with the seller and probably arrange collection at a later date– especially if you’re buying a new or used camper through a motorhome dealer.
We highly recommend using a motorhome dealer, but I know there are plenty of great deals on marketplace websites like eBay. Just beware, there are a LOT of scams on these sites- be very careful what information you share with people you find on eBay or Gumtree. We highly recommend using a reputable firm like Leisure Seller for deals and offers you can trust.
You’ll probably be asked to pay a deposit. DO NOT DO THIS until you have done these 2 things:
ESSENTIAL!!!! Do an HPI check BEFORE you pay any deposit and definitely before you buy the vehicle outright. You want to use a company which checks outstanding finance and also if the vehicle is stolen.
Don’t trust the dealer or private seller and don’t trust any existing HPI checks or paperwork they may show you- spend the £19.99 and do one yourself. We use hpicheck.com but there are lots of companies available.
A motorhome is a lot of money and you will lose it if it turns out to be stolen/ financed. (Or you’ll end up in a legal battle. Either way, it’s not going to be fun.)
Seriously, please don’t skip this.
Check if the motorhome is an ex-hire vehicle
Check in the paperwork if the camper has been used as a hire motorhome. It’s not a big problem if it has (our Swift 496 motorhome was ex-hire) but it makes selling a motorhome a LOT harder – as we discovered!! It’s definitely something to know before you buy so you can make an informed decision.
Top Motorhome Tip: If you DO buy an ex-hire motorhome or campervan, make sure you part exchange it for your next camper. Your life will be a whole lot easier!!! (Sorry- I’m talking about your next one when you’re just buying this one…!)
Check your legal rights to drive the motorhome
After a period of impatiently waiting, you need to collect your new vehicle. Do you know what questions to ask? What checks to make on collection day? What you need to do before you arrive?
When you’re buying your first motorhome, there are so many things to remember, so here’s a handy checklist and guide to help you out. Yes, you can download it and print it to take it with you on the day- the seller won’t mind (and if they do- run!)
Buy used motorhome – basic equipment
When you buy a used motorhome from a dealer, you should be provided with:
- Freshwater hose
- Electric cable
- Maybe levelling ramps (but not always)
- Keys x 2 for everything- check they fit!
Remember, you may have automatic locking on the cab, but the habitation area will always need to be manually locked- don’t forget this!!!
You will need many other things before you can use the motorhome- here’s a list of essential motorhome accessories we recommend.
But before you leave, we also recommend you:
- Check oil and water levels in the engine
- Check AdBlue if it is used- if you’re not sure, FIND OUT!
Buying a motorhome or RV from a private seller
Oh, I understand. The savings you can get on a motorhome, campervan or RV if you buy used from a private seller are HUGE!
We have looked at several motorhomes from private sellers and the process for buying a motorhome is nearly the same as if you buy through a motorhome dealer- with one big exception- you probably won’t get a warranty.
This means you are buying ‘sold as seen’ and any problems you find after you drive off will be too late.
In this case, you NEED to do your checks VERY carefully. Also, make sure you do a test drive and have a good look inside the cupboards and under the van. You are looking for damp, warping and many other hidden problems. We always recommend asking for a full motorhome habitation check to be done before you agree to buy.
We sold our last motorhome privately and the motorhome buyer asked for a hab check before he bought it. He did have to pay the deposit first, which is standard, but he was sensible asking for one- even though he followed the blog and sort-of knew who we were!
A motorhome is a big investment. Don’t trust anyone else’s word on its condition (even if they’re friends/ family) and trust your judgement. If you’re not sure, get a professional check and make sure you understand what the report means.
Motorhome buyers- paperwork you need before you leave!
When buying a motorhome, before you leave the dealer (or private seller!) you need to make sure you have the following paperwork:
- V5c slip filled in correctly (same as a car)
- Warranty info- you’ll probably need to update this with the company yourself when you get home
- Service history for motorhome
- Receipt for purchase- make sure your details and the Registration number are correct.
- Instruction Manuals for appliances if there are any. Most owners will keep them but some (like us!) don’t have space to store a lot, so we only keep the ones we feel will be most useful!
Buy Used motorhome or campervan UK- Things to do before you buy:
- Motorhome Insurance
You need to make sure you are insured the moment you get into the vehicle and drive. As soon as you sign the paperwork, the vehicle is legally yours and MUST be insured unless you are declaring it off-road.
You can, of course, arrange motorhome insurance while you are there, but it often takes a while on the phone and you can search for the best deal if you do it in advance.
Again, vehicle tax becomes your responsibility when you officially purchase the vehicle. This is something we often do while we’re there- it’s very easy to set it up online and I prefer to check the paperwork first and make absolutely sure the vehicle is correct (and the registration number is right) before we pay the tax.
Questions to ask when buying a camper
I get it- it’s so tempting to rush all this and drive off in your new toy on your first motorhome holiday. Heck, maybe you aren’t buying your first motorhome and you think you’ll figure it all out later.
But try to ask these important questions BEFORE you leave!
- What is your height (not YOUR height- the motorhome’s height!!)
- Weight of motorhome dry (how much it weighs without fuel, water, stuff and people- although sometimes the driver is included)
- Is it over 3.5 tonnes?
- What is the motorhome weight limit and payload– how much STUFF, fuel, water, people you can put on board before it goes over its weight limit.
- Petrol or diesel- useful to know!
Buying your first motorhome – Driving off for the first time
Ok, here is it- your big moment!! You’re about to pull away in your first motorhome.
Take your time. This is not the moment to impress people with your amazing boy (or girl) racer skills. If you’ve never driven a motorhome before, it can feel incredibly intimidating- more than you might expect.
- Set up your seat so it’s comfortable. Check mirrors are correct for you.
- Look at your FUEL status- you’d be amazed how many people run out of fuel on their first motorhome trip!
- Check clutch, bite point & brakes
- Make sure you know how to reverse- there’s a high chance you’ll need this on your first trip, even if it’s just to park up. A motorhome reversing or rear-view camera is essential.
- REMEMBER YOUR WIDE ASS. Seriously, motorhomes are LONG- even the little ones. And wider than you might be used to. It takes a while to get used to it.
- Know where you are going. Set up the motorhome sat nav (these are our favourites) and know BEFORE YOU SET OFF which way you are turning out of the dealership or parking area. It’s so easy to get it wrong. And then you have to turn around…
And that’s it! Congratulations on your new motorhome. Don’t forget to get your free checklist!
If you want further help, here’s a step-by-step guide to your first trip. Read through it before your first trip so you can be prepared!
If you’d like some more help figuring out what vehicle to get (and how to buy the RIGHT one for you), grab a copy of our Complete Beginners guide to Motorhome Buying here– a course of videos, downloadable eBook and worksheets to help you make the BEST decision for YOU!
More things to help you move forwards:
Kat never planned to buy a motorhome. She also never planned to quit her job as an air traffic controller, go touring around Europe in said motorhome, start one of the UK’s largest motorhome travel websites… or get a cocker spaniel.
If you’d like to connect with Kat, send her an email or follow her adventures on social media.