First motorhome - seeking more advice about narrowing options (1 Viewer)

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Nov 6, 2018
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Morning, lovely people,

This is my second post on the subject of: which 'van to buy for us soon-to-be ex-caravaners. Having applied your past advice to actual viewings, discussed (I.e. Re-negotiated...) with our teenagers' their holiday expectations and re-shuffled our priorities, here's what we think we want, but I'm after a reality check from those that have already walked this walk. Don't be shy - do say, in no uncertain terms: you'll live to regret it... So here goes:

1. Unless we get something really small, which will drive us mad, we just won't be able to do things we do now with the car/caravan combo (nipping in to town for a quick look round a museum, for example) if a whopping great height/length/life un-restricted car park isn't within a short walk - or bike ride at best. Or public transport is on tap in the right place at the right time - what are the odds...
2. If we want this freedom or if we want to occasionally emulate caravan holiday arrive-and-flop experiences, the simple solution is to take a small car too - not a big deal for us as we both drive and the faff of driving two vehicles is more than offset by the faff of prepping a caravan (fuel cost aside, but life's a compromise).
3. The rest of the time, we get the added bonus of flexibility in terms of quick getaways, quick set-ups and the mysterious yet wonderful world of continental stopovers not available to caravaners.
4. Our kids will be coming with us less and less as they grow older, but we may be underestimating their appetite for freeloading holidays from us forever (one is on the autism spectrum; the other is in the nerd spectrum - delights, both of them, but they don't find it as embarrassing to come on holiday with mum and dad as the average teenager...).
5. We don't want to go over 7 metres (for max out-and-about flexibility) and will probably find sub-6 metres insufferably small. It seems the right compromise for us, but could be kidding myself.
6. Priorities are a decent living space and enough kitchen and bathroom facility to make going off-grid from time to time a pleasure rather than a chore (but we don't suffer from the allergic reaction some motorhomers seem to have to campsites - it's all about location for us - if it's near what we want to do, it's the right place for us to stop).
7. My son has grudgingly accepted that my daughter can have the window seat and my daughter has grudgingly accepted she'll put up with sitting right next to my son if she does get the window seat. All agree maximum flopping and tv viewing space is a priority (you may have gathered my kids aren't the types to make a beeline for the nearest night club or party in the evenings...). So we can get away with two extra seated belts right next to each other.
8. I'd like something that's comfortably usable year round- our main beef with the caravan is that it's underused, especially if we go on a long haul flight holiday as our main holiday, as we don't use it for weekends as its such a faff to set up and we can't do anything on a Sunday other than come straight home with a big fat caravan strapped on the back of the car, after we've been kicked off a camp site at around 11 am... so winterising is attractive, to some degree or other.
9. But what brand, what facilities, what really matters in the final choice (price aside...)? I hear loud and clear the advice that German makes are sound and I'm now understanding the lure of the A class better - those insulated double floors, that big front end not wasted by a big front nose of engine; the possible fuel and noise advantages... But for every assertion, there's a contradiction, so here are a couple of motorhomes within our budget that we're looking at today - what do you think of these choices and is there anything to be gained from going older and cheaper, but then upgrading to suit us (e.g. Well want reversing cameras, bike racks, upholstery that isn't migraine-inducing etc). And is there an age cut-off beyond which you wouldn't go because general build quality/wear and tear don't make it sensible? Thanks again for any advice, thoughts or suggestions:

Budget is up to 35K but would love to spend less if it won't make enough of a difference to pay more...:





Thanks very much.
 
OP
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Sorry - should have added we're both in our 50's and our driving licences are equally ancient, so don't need to worry about the post-1997 restrictions...
 
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MisterB

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enough to know i shouldnt touch things i know nothing about ....
we partially faced a similar dilemma - whether to spend up to our max or whether to spend less on an older motorhome that still had the same or similar layout/facilities. we ended up going for an older model and are very happy with it, but its not perfect, though we worked out that a lot more money being spent would also never be perfect (for us)

if I was doing the same thing again, I would be looking at what we need, rather than what we want (or think we need)

our layout of fixed bed and front lounge table area suits us perfectly, giving great space for living even with four people, but our biggest bugbear is making the second bed up if needed (which has only been twice so far - so not a massive problem) - I would be tempted in your case to look for a six berth with two fixed double beds (if the kids would share?)- making beds up is a pain, having to move people around or getting them outsideand then the same when you get up next day.

all the other stuff, air con, larger fridge etc would be great to have, but the way you use your van should dictate the layout you want

as for an A class - be sure youre happy with the driving position and your partner is aswell if you share the driving. they look great and spacious but I hate the set back driving position from the front end, to me its like sitting in the back seat of a car and driving from there !

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M-J

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Loads available with your budget and without weight limits.

Nice layout would be fixed rear bunks or twin singles with an over cab double for yourselves which leaves the lounge/dining area available at all times.
 
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OP
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would be tempted in your case to look for a six berth with two fixed double beds (if the kids would share?
Alas, Mister B, teens sharing a bed is off the table - I've used all bargaining power to talk them into sitting next to each other when travelling, but the two long sofas seem to require minimal faffage. We have looked at bunk options, but the compromise is more length, smaller lounge and/or smaller bathroom/kitchen. Tricky though -definitely an ongoing dilemma...
 
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Jul 12, 2013
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I have read your thread with interest and would like to offer the following thoughts.
There is no van that will fulfil all of your expectations. The perfect motorhome has yet to be designed or built.
At one time I drove a coach, one of those big things which would obviously not be possible to park anywhere, yet in reality I never had a problem.
We have an average 7.5 metre van with a couple of bikes that we use for shopping if we do not want to move the van. We very rarely find a car park we cannot use unless it has a height barrier.
With a family travelling with you, you do need space and size if only to accommodate everyone's clothes, swimming gear and all the usual paraphernalia that goes with camping and holidays. I can think of nothing worse than sitting in a field, raining, cold and with all the space taken up with bodies.
Our van accommodates just the two of us and that gets filled with clothes and the garage is usually brim full.
So please think twice about buying a smaller van.
 
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OP
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So that's another vote for bunks. We'll likely only have our daughter for weekends and shorter hols. Son is most likely to come only for a Europe tour type holiday. What do you think of best trade off in those circs? It really is down to bunk v sofas v more length v smaller bathroom/kitchen. Toss a coin...?!
 
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RowleyBirkinQC

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I guess an A class with twin singles at rear and drop down over cab bed could work, you only then need to use drop down bed when kids in tow. I wouldn’t want bunks if your kids will only be with you a subset of the time. I would also say that it’s not always a faff making lounge benches into beds, but it does then compromise the lounge space if you don’t all wish to retire at the same time.

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M-J

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A touch over 7m and couldn’t tell you anything about the maker but this layout would be amazing based on your description.

Bottom bunk can be moved to create large garage locker too which is a bonus if one of the kids isn’t with you.
 
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OP
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Our van accommodates just the two of us and that gets filled with clothes and the garage is usually brim full.
So please think twice about buying a smaller van.

Thanks so much Rosalan - we're having difficulty, however, ignoring this ditty from vicarious media's publication aimed at newcomers:

“Six-metre rule – Six and below the benefits will show, six to seven is close to heaven, but seven or more will be a chore.”

Excerpt From: VicariousMedia. “Go Motorhoming and Campervanning.” iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Any other thoughts on this advice? It's our main dilemma.

Thanks so much for all thoughts and ruminations
 
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A touch over 7m and couldn’t tell you anything about the maker but this layout would be amazing based on your description.

Bottom bunk can be moved to create large garage locker too which is a bonus if one of the kids isn’t with you.

Funny you should say that -we saw one of these locally an loved it - it was only when we saw fuel consumption figures and variable comments about quality that we started looking at whether we could get similar space benefits from a shorter A class, picking up bonus build quality/fuel/handling advantages along the way... again, tricky...
 
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Jul 5, 2013
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“Six-metre rule – Six and below the benefits will show, six to seven is close to heaven, but seven or more will be a chore.”

Excerpt From: VicariousMedia. “Go Motorhoming and Campervanning.” iBooks.
T
Absolute nonsense. The width is much more critical than length when driving it and parking it in car parks. Anything over 5.5m will overhang most car park bays and all are a bit too wide for most car park spaces, unless you do not want to open your doors! There are narrower coachbuilts and A classes about so worth looking at if you are that worried.

We have a 7.5m A class with normal width and have never had any trouble because of its length.
 
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Feb 26, 2013
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I wouldn't worry too much about having to make up beds as long as there is good storage space for bedding. We have a central lounge that makes into a huge double bed and it takes us less than 2 minutes to make up. It would be even quicker if we were using them as singles. Our van is just under 7m and its fine for us two plus two dogs but I wouldn't want to go any smaller as we're both quite tall. Yes, it does limit a bit where you can go, but you've obviously thought about that.

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hilldweller

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the lure of the A class better .

Just be aware of the difficulties of mechanical repairs on them and the sometimes extortionate spares prices.

C-class can also have double floors, just home in on "winterised".

Cash looks fine. You just need to keep hitting the dealers or wait a bit for the big shows where hundreds of MHs all be together.
 
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I am just going to pick up on a few points you have mentioned.

I would have said that with a possibility of 4 on one trip and the teenagers being of opposite sex that some layout with some single beds would have been a prority, but now you have said both offspring are unlikey to be coming on the same trips, and one or both may soon elect for different holidays, then the choices are more flexible.

You also have a budget which should allow you to find a secondhand 'A' Class to suit. I would urge an 'A' Class as it allows more elbow space for a family on a wet/windy day. Our N&B Arto was 6 years old when we bought it 10 years ago with 16,000 miles and cost £27,500 in a private sale, so there are MHs out there within your budget
.
I would also suggest that a garage is paramount - for bicycles, sports equipment, and extra space for shoes/boots and clothing(winter/summer) not in current use, especially for 3/4 persons and their interests.

You might still want a bed layout that puts mum and dad in a double with somewhere for one offspring and a possibility of another bunk when there are two of them. As it happens I think our layout(not for sale) would suit as we have a fixed bed over the garage and a drop-down over the cab area, but also a long sofa which can be turned into a single berth, so 3 sleeping areas. Our N+B Arto(2003) has this in 7m., but we have a combined shower/toilet The more recent trend is for separate shower toilet but takes up more floor space and that is at the expense of a loss of seating and or storage, so to compensate one might have to go to 8m.

Another point on single beds is that they are longditunal and so take up more length, same a point above, unless they are transfer positioned bunk beds, but you cannot find them in a proper garage model.

As to length there are not many places we have not been able to park, except for height restrictions but they apply to all models except small campers. This is especially easy in France, Germany etc. Nearly all makes of 'A' and 'C' Class are 2.3m. wide so cannot go through 2m. restrictions.

I do not know enough about the CI and Laika models you asked about. However, with your budget I would be concentratig on 'A' Class European build quality - we have only a had bits of plastic(e.g. in fridge), a tap microswitch, a door hinge and a oil pressure transmitter(FIAT) go wrong in 10 years.

Hope this is useful.

Geoff
 
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138go

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The Laika looks a nice MH. We have had our Laika for nearly 3 years and it’s been great.
 
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MisterB

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enough to know i shouldnt touch things i know nothing about ....
if the kids will be 'irregular' guests on your trips, have you considered an awning or even pup tents?
 
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Thanks so much Rosalan - we're having difficulty, however, ignoring this ditty from vicarious media's publication aimed at newcomers:

“Six-metre rule – Six and below the benefits will show, six to seven is close to heaven, but seven or more will be a chore.”

Excerpt From: VicariousMedia. “Go Motorhoming and Campervanning.” iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Any other thoughts on this advice? It's our main dilemma.

Thanks so much for all thoughts and ruminations

I think it should really be:

Upto 5.5m its like a big car, no extra planning other than height
Between 5.5 and 6.5m its like a larger chelsea tractor, no more planning other than height
6.5m up to 9m its like a commercial vehicle, you just need to plan your routs and trips out more.
Over 9m Its like using a rigid bodied HGV. Plan well ahead and avoid certain small villages and roads.

But, if you have a PVC rather than a coach built you have narrower width so easier on narrow roads etc.

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Jul 12, 2013
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My low profile coachbuilt Dethleffs 7.5 uses in the region of 30 mpg of diesel.
Width, yes it is wider than a car but experience has shown that even in the narrow backstreets of towns, cars still need to leave a gap for delivery vans etc which are about the same width as our van.
For many reasons people choose a van size to suit their needs and may vote for their van being the best size etc. However starting with your immediate needs, I would still consider larger rather than smaller. They cost the same to buy, insure and run.
 
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OP
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Again, thanks so much for your replies - definitely getting a better sense of what the realities are re: different sizes of vehicle and what might/might not be problematic.

As for using pup tents, at least one my kids would assume we were joking if we suggested nothing but a thin sheet of fabric should separate them from the rest of the world... but then again we're not dealing with standard teenagers... we did once tour the Balkans with a tent as back-up if we couldn't book hotels etc on the hoof. My ears are still bleeding, 3 years on, from the indignant tenting complaints...

Can I just ask one more, probably very stupid, question: do you all have no compunction about simply parking up on a street within towns/cities if there are no restrictions and the width of your vehicle isn't a hazard/obstruction? It's the type of thing you just can't/wouldn't do with a car and caravan combo, but is it safe to assume that: if a ford transit could safely park here, so can my motorhome...?
 
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Can I just ask one more, probably very stupid, question: do you all have no compunction about simply parking up on a street within towns/cities if there are no restrictions and the width of your vehicle isn't a hazard/obstruction? It's the type of thing you just can't/wouldn't do with a car and caravan combo, but is it safe to assume that: if a ford transit could safely park here, so can my motorhome...?


Yes. As long as you're not causing an obstruction it shouldn't be a problem.
 
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MisterB

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depends on where and in which country AND if youre looking to stay the night. if all youre doing is parking up, then if theres space then go for it
 
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Some versions of the Hymer B524 have a double bunk across the back. The lower one can be flipped up (possibly removed temporarily) to make the garage bigger if only 3 of you were going on a trip. They are 6.4m long I think so not the largest of lounges.
 
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