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Types of Motorhomes

So you have decided you want to hire a motorhome but there seems to be a bewildering choice. Currently, there are over 90 manufacturers of motorhomes available in the UK but they fall into a few broad categories:


1. Panel van conversions. These motorhomes are based on a commercial metal-panelled van and so are fairly basic.

2. Coachvbuilts. Here, the manufacturer takes a chassis and cab from the commercial vehicle manufacturer, but fits its own (usually fibreglass) body to the rear.

3. A-class. Similar to coach built, the manufacturer just takes the chassis from the commercial vehicle, and fits their own cab and body.

4. RV. These Recreational Vehicles are usually imported from the USA and are the Rolls Royce of the motorhome world.

5. Demountables / fifth wheels. Rare in the UK, these are usually of American design, and use a pickup to carry the camping body, either on the pickup directly or towed from the pickup bed.


Which motorhome?

The smaller the vehicle, the better the fuel consumption, and the convenience in day-to-day use from the point of view of parking and access to narrow roads but it really does depend what you want to use the motorhome for. Small vans are normally restricted in space and storage; the more space and facilities, the bigger the van.


Who can drive?

Before January 1st, 1997, anyone passing their driving test is permitted to drive a motorhome up the 7.5 tonnes - this is called a category C1 entitlement. Anyone passing their test after that year is only permitted to drive a motorhome up to 3.5 tonnes - category B entitlement. Anyone wishing to drive an American RV weighing more than 7.5 tonnes will need to take an LGV driving course and pass the test to obtain a category C entitlement licence.


When do you want to hire the motorhome?

All motorhomes are good for use in fine spring to autumn weather and some motorhomes are designed for slightly colder climates. They can be built with double skin floors, so water tanks are contained in an enclosed (sometimes heated) space, to avoid getting frozen. The insulation (between the outer skin and the inner walls) can vary. Category 3 (winterised) is the best insulation category, which specifies that the water system is be able to be kept frost-free. But if you aren’t looking at using the motorhome in cold weather or taking it on a skiing holiday you probably won’t need this.



How many people need to sleep in the motorhome?

Before hiring your motorhome work out how you will all sleep in the space available and be realistic about this. Don’t hire a three berth when you really need four; everyone will be uncomfortable and you won’t get the best from your motorhome hire.   You may see a motorhome advertised for rent as ‘6 berth but you must consider in what sort of comfort will this be? Are the beds or bunks big enough? And are there mobility issues, with climbing over items for people to use the toilet in the night? And although you might be happy with the sleeping arrangements, what about the cooking? You need to decide if the kitchen area is big enough to cook in and that there is a big enough area to eat inside in case the weather isn’t good.

You also need to look at how comfortable and safe your passengers will be as you move from place to place. Current UK law states that all travelling passengers must have seat belts if they are seated in forward-facing seats.  You can travel without a belt in the rear of a vehicle if there are insufficient seatbelts, but this isn’t really a great idea. Not wearing a seatbelt (where there is one available) carries a fine of £500.

Children can sleep in tents by the side of the motorhome, and some motorhomes have ‘safari rooms’, which are zip-on tents attached to an awning on the side of the van. You must consider the possibility of bad weather or illness, and you may need to accommodate everyone in the motorhome.


The open road?

Some motorhome holidaymakers are happy to stay the UK, where there is reasonable access for a large vehicle. France and Germany also have good road networks for the most part, but in Spain and Portugal and from Italy east, the roads can become challenging to a large motorhome or RV and you may wish to consider a smaller motorhome or van conversion. Bear in mind there are a lot of toll motorways in Europe so factor this in when deciding your routes.



Most modern motorhomes use efficient diesel engines, but the more weight the more fuel you will use. A small panel van conversion could give you around 35 miles per gallon, a medium-sized coach built - 20mpg to 30mpg, and an American RV a measly 10mpgSize limitations for storage



For some motorhome holidaymakers, an additional vehicle is useful for exploring the less accessible places. A small motorcycle or scooter can be carried on a rack fitted to the back of the motorhome, or a small car can be towed behind the motorhome.