Pros and Cons of a Motorhome over 3.5 tonnes

Pros and Cons of a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes

Our last motorhome was a Swift 496 Esprit. It’s 7.8m long and weighs a healthy 4 tonnes, give or take. We owned her for 18 months, which seems a reasonable length of time to discuss the pros and cons of owning a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes, instead of a small motorhome like our current camper.

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Why did we buy a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes?

We didn’t set out looking for a motorhome over 3.5tonnes, but we DID see a layout we loved but couldn’t afford. (A brand new Bailey Autograph, if anyone’s interested!) 

The Bailey motorhome was actually less than 3.5 tonnes (just!) but there was no way we could afford it, so we set out to find something similar on the market. Enter the Swift 496.

She has a fantastic layout AND we got her for a great price as she was an ex-hire vehicle and one of those great used motorhomes for sale. There were several problems, including the fridge and solar panel, but we knew we could sort those out with this used camper.

We discussed whether the weight would be a problem, as it meant I couldn’t drive our new motorhome due to licence restrictions, but we agreed that Mr WB prefers to drive anyway and I prefer to navigate, so it wouldn’t be an issue. 

A large RV, over 3.5 tonnes, sitting in front of some snow-capped mountains.
A large RV, over 3.5 tonnes, sitting in front of some snow-capped mountains.

Pros of a large motorhome

There are some obvious advantages to a bigger motorhome. 

Let’s go through those a little. We deliberately chose a motorhome with an end lounge area and a separate dinette.

When buying a motorhome, it’s always a toss-up between cost, layout and availability- and somewhere there needs to be a compromise.

Better living space in a larger motorhome

We LOVED (still do!) the living space and it was perfect for us over all our travels, including 5 weeks in Norway, several weeks in Germany, France, Italy, and much more. 

Better storage space 

We also loved the storage space- the van holds SO. MUCH. KIT and campervan gadgets and it’s never an issue because our payload is crazy.

Seriously, we’ve put hydraulic legs, kayak, paddleboard, solar panel, motorhome generator, and a million other things onto it… and we still have about 300kg of payload left if we want it.

We just always practice certain motorhome security basics to ensure all of our gear is secure.

Other than that though, I love having a motorhome where we don’t need to worry about storage if we go off for a couple of months at a time. 

However, we recently hired a small motorhome under 3.5 tonnes and loved it. We loved how easy it was to park and how much storage there was inside.

Although the van we had wasn’t our dream layout, we really enjoyed experiencing a different type of motorhoming with an under 3.5-tonne motorhome hire. It opened our eyes to the possibility of what we could get with a smaller van.

Which brings us to the cons of a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes.

A motorhome over 3.5 tonnes, sitting in front of a beautiful lake with snow encrusted mountains in the background.
A motorhome over 3.5 tonnes, sitting in front of a beautiful lake with snow encrusted mountains in the background.

Cons of a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes

  • Speed limits are lower on roads in Europe
  • Toll charges are more
  • Difficult to get toll passes, vignettes or other such things for vehicle over 3.5 tonnes
  • I can’t drive it
  • Longer = harder to park

We loved our motorhome, we really did. But there are some things about it which just didn’t work for us- and most of them revolve around the weight/ size of owning a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes.

Reduced speed limit for motorhomes over 3.5 tonnes

One of the biggest problems is the reduced speed limits for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. We do a LOT of driving both in the UK and Europe. So, having to almost double our journey time during a UK road trip can be frustrating. You can find a list of European speed limits here.

And no, it’s not a typo- if your vehicle weighs over 3.05 tonnes, you can only do 60 on UK dual carriageways, 50 on other roads unless a lower speed limit applies. 

motorhome buying toolkit
motorhome buying toolkit

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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 

Vignettes/ Toll passes

Also, we LOVE travelling Europe in our motorhome, but toll passes and some vignettes are only applicable to vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes. After that, you need to go to one of the official border crossings and fill in paperwork. In some countries, you need to have a box installed which tracks your mileage. 

Restrictions on driving licences

All our travelling has made it really difficult to get my C1 (that, and a lack of motivation!!) But honestly, it’s silly having a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes that I can’t drive should I ever need to. Safety first.

Longer = harder to park

Lastly, this isn’t down to weight, but having a longer vehicle is harder to park- especially when we attach a 3m motorbike  trailer to the back of it! With our van and a trailer, we are longer than two parking spaces, making it tough to pop into a supermarket or car park as we travel- we’re always hanging over the edge somewhere! 

We also have to avoid some aires around Europe, as they are restricted to up to 8m. With a shorter van, we can squeeze in, even with the trailer!

A large motorhome parked in front of a picturesque lake.
A large motorhome parked in front of a picturesque lake.

So, with all that said, we decided to sell our large motorhome and get a motorhome under 3.5 tonnes! People often say the third boat you buy is the perfect one for you- I wonder if the same applies to buying second-hand camper vans? 

Should you buy a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes?

So, should you buy a motorhome of over 3.5 tonnes? Absolutely, if it’s right for you!

There are some INCREDIBLE cused ampers around and if you’re not affected/ not bothered by any of the above-mentioned points, then definitely go for it, especially if you have a family and see a fantastic motorhome for sale.

We’ve been ALL over the place in our motorhome and the size/ weight wasn’t a problem at all until our daughter stopped travelling with us and we realised we didn’t need a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes. If she were younger and still adventuring with us, we wouldn’t have downsized our motorhome at all. 

Which is why there are so many types of second-hand motorhomes on the market- one size most definitely does NOT fit all and you need to pick a motorhome which works for the stage of life you’re in right now. You can also do a motorhome under 3.5 tonnes hire first and see if this size is right for you.

And if you’re choosing a motorhome or camper at the moment, let me know what you pick! 

Next steps

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!

motorhome buying toolkit
motorhome buying toolkit

More things to help you move forwards:

Buying Motorhome checklist

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  1. We have recently purchased an Auto Sleeper Fairford, cannot fault it build quality, layout, driving comfort …

    1. Wandering Bird says:

      Sounds lovely! May it bring you many adventures!! 🙂

  2. Mark Rocks says:

    We bought our first motorhome in August last year. It’s a 2014 Rapido 891F A class. We were pretty clueless when we bought it but it suits our needs well and at 7.37m long it has plenty of room for us, 2 plus dog and the occasional friend. It’s 3500kg max loaded up though at the time I didn’t give the weight a thought. Our old licences had c1 and c1e already. It’s 7.37m long and has plenty of space for us. I didn’t apreciate the sub 3.5 ton weight until we were Europe this Spring. We were class 2 on the Frence tolls and our vignettes for Switzerland and Austria were as cheap as chips…

    1. Wandering Bird says:

      Yeah, it makes a big difference!!

  3. Wendy Read says:

    Hi Kat, I have just been looking at the speed limits in Europe (was reading towing caravan instead of motorhome by mistake!) and noticed on the caravan limits quite a few seem to be back to front ? with higher speeds allowed where you would think it should be lower , not sure if anyone else has spotted this or if it’s just me being a moron ?. We are hoping to start travelling Europe soon (was supposed to be early July ) but waiting for a scan on a small lump in hubbies neck and possible biopsy and results first , please keep your fingers crossed for us …… We just want to be on the road and free . Thanks for all the info it’s very helpful. X

    1. Wandering Bird says:

      Hi Wendy- how strange, I’ll have a look at that! Good luck with your hubby- let me know how it goes. I’m sure you’ll be free and clear in no time. Safe travels x

  4. Hi, 3.5t is always a difficult choice. Speed limits are the same in uk for a 3.5 or a 5.5 ton and only different in france on motorways. Only thing i will say is have you ever actually weighed your mh fully kitted up for a long trip with all tanks full, tools, food, people and dog? Suggestion for a video maybe? In my experience most people go over!!

  5. Stephen Harding says:

    Hi Kat
    I bought a Hymer B774 (sight unseen) a couple of months ago. I am going to the UK to pick it up tomorrow. It’s 7.8 mtres and 4500kgs. So should be interesting 🙂
    I had a 3500 Kg before and the weight margin meant that I was travelling with 200Kgs overweight (I discovered later). Hence the move up to a big girl, this time 🙂
    Great articles. Keep up the good work.

  6. Glen Allsopp says:

    Is it possible to buy a motor home that caters only for two people? There’s just my wife and I, there will never be anyone else sharing our mh. We don’t need that bulky drop down bed, also losing it will reduce the weight. Just the centre fixed bed is all we need!

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