Time for an upgrade Autocruise Stardream to sub 7m HYMER.

May 23, 2018
Autocruise Stardream
So, we’ve had the Stardream for almost a year, and it was never meant to be permanent, I was just keen to stop tugging and start motorhoming. I love it, and motorhome with my eight year old. So we are two but not a couple. We often Britstop, so need to be self contained, but also take her friends on holiday when we stay on sites and spread out. We routinely carry an ebike, a kids bike, kids toys, a pop up tent, two lafuma chairs and the usual paraphernalia.

I hadn’t initially wanted a garage, but now I definitely do. I also ideally want single beds. There weren’t many MHs around with singles over a garage when I started looking, but it seems to be an up and coming trend, so I may consider new. Budget is flexible, as I will finance if need be. I don’t mind whether we have 2, 3 or 4 berths or travel seats, but I want them to correspond. Additional travel seats and accompanying dinette are not an ideal layout for us, but I will consider them if the rest of the layout is good for us, as my mother and my daughters friends do travel with us. But there’s no sense in having one and not the other. I do need a very tiny dinnette for my daughter to eat at (a drop in table between the cab seats would be fine, like pvcs have)

I MUST have a decent kitchen. My biggest problem with 4 seatbelts is you never get any worktop space. Not even a little bit (covers over hobs and sinks don’t count, I need to use them all together, need to drain the drying up somewhere and make a coffee!) and sadly, I need a microwave to feed the ravenous-every-45-minutes-child (either built in somewhere ideally or space on the fabled 'worktop' for one) I have no use for a grill, even at home, and am prepared to go without an oven. I’m also happy to compromise worktop/hob space by having two burners (ideally one gas and one electric) at the back and workspace at the front like the L kitchens sometimes have. Or two electric burners, we are on hookup more often than not. I am happy to pay to retrofit both the microwave and the hob if I can find someone who will do it without looking at me like I have grown an extra head.

The Stardream is pretty good, except for no garage, no dinette (a drop in table in the cab would be fine, but it’s not possible) and it has a separate shower, which we don’t need (and use as a garage, as the external lockers are poorly accessible) and is a smidge too big for our soon-to-be driveway. I’d like to stay nearer 6m than 7, and a bit less width would be helpful. It will fit on our new drive, but it’s a squeeze, and there a dogleg to reverse around so I’d like to go as small as practical.

I’m thinking about the HYMER Exsis i474 or 504 (both of which are really too much bed and not enough kitchen) or the B444DL (which is way too much kitchen and not quite enough bed). With the exis, I’d have to pull out hob and put a smaller one in, and strap the microwave to bed steps. Will anyone undertake such sacrilege?. The really frustrating thing is I could easily do it in a 6m, if manufacturers would increase kitchen space before bathrooms. The 504 would be perfect if they would just squidge up the bathroom a bit to the 474-size and bung in a smidge more kitchen instead (I’m not preparing banquets, I’m talking about a single, square foot of worktop in use *at the same time* as the hob and sink. So radical! I’m usually cooking on the hob and throwing dirty dishes into the sink!)

So I’m looking for hive mind suggestions, general criticism and ideas, and specifically can you get power into a drop down bed? Can you leave the bedding on them? (electric blankets and device charging required. I suppose I’ll have to give up on sitting up reading) and is a smaller hob replacement going to be something I am tutted at and generally fobbed off about until I give up (like with the drop in table in table I want in the Stardream. You’d think I was asking for a bloody nuclear reactor fitted, the way everyone went on about how difficult it was) I’m going to be fitting an electric legless awning and automatic levelling as those are chores I particularly hate. Am I nuts for considering new, when we are fairly new at this, and probably in a few years my child will mutate into a teen and never want to see me again, let alone holiday with me. Should I bite the bullet and go a custom route? (But the Hymers are so sleek, and custom builds always look a bit clunky). Is anybody still reading......
Oct 18, 2015
Since 2009
I wish someone like you could design motorhomes that are useful and practical!
Some of the designs are obviously planned by someone who has never been on a holiday in one!
Good luck with your search.
We do find we have had to compromise on every van we have and we are on our 4 th van in 20 years!!


Aug 6, 2014
Warden isle of sheppy
A Class
Since 2004
Sorry but have no idea about a motorhome which would suit you. You may be able to find one with bunk beds at the back which would suit your needs as the bottom bunk can be lifted to provide a garage. Unfortunately you'll never find everything you want in a motorhome. There are always compromises to be made.

Good luck in your search.

Feb 16, 2013
ambulance conversion
50 years
dont know what the vans are like you are considering , but one thing we have in our self build , is the sink and cooker across the front , then when the side door is open we have another work surface that hinges up from the side , so just ordinary small kitchen untill you open the door when it almost doubles, of coarse you have to have the door open but we always tend to do that anyway. It can be seen in this photo down, and obviously could be as big as you need20180917_182151.jpg
Nov 6, 2008
Ramsey, Isle of Man.
Coachmen Concord 300TS
8 years with an RV
What a lovely worded post, I agree that you should be on the design team of a motorhome manufacturer. Sorry I can't help with your quest, as I don't know a lot about UK/Euro motorhomes, I like US RVs'.

I wish you all the best in your search, and maybe a bespoke MoHo may suit your needs better. Please let us all know how you get on.

Jul 5, 2013
Tunbridge Wells
A class
Since 2013
Why are you so keen on electric hobs? Gas is much quicker and more controllable and can be used anywhere, especially important if you use Britstops. And many hook ups you find in Europe do not have enough capacity to use them. If you are worried about getting gas in Europe why not go for refillable bottles like Gasit or Gaslow.

Twin single beds over a garage have been made by European converters for many years and you should find plenty of second hand ones about, although they seem to sell at a premium because the layout has become so popular.
Jan 22, 2019
Van Conversion
Rented a few times...now an owner.
I'm going through the process of trying to narrow down options at the moment - Not sure I can help much as I'm looking at Panel Van conversions, but first thoughts are to prioritise a bit into whats non-negotiable and whats nice-to-have?. It will help in the selection and keeping eye on payload.

For example if you're planning to keep it for 10/15 years then not specifying a shower might work - personally I would never buy a van without one simply for resale values (and for times when you're off-grid, site facilities not up to much etc) The market seems to want M'homes with showers and without one, trade-in could be tricky.

Like you, I don't want something too big and 6-6.5m sounds about right. There are plenty of PVC's around the 6m mark with single beds (that also transition to doubles), that have 4 travel seats and 4 beds, and a table that stows away. Again I will buy one with 4 beds - not because I expect to do lots of 4-up travelling, but because if I did need to sell, small-children families will be in the market as well as couples, plus if I want to, I can still use the garage at the back and sleep at the front.

Good luck with the search :)
May 23, 2018
Autocruise Stardream
Thanks for all the replies (especially the nice ones about punctuation et al, although I did notice I missed a possessive apostrophe and a question mark in there!)

I know I will have to compromise to some extent, but you may as well start out with laudable aspirations! The thing I really enjoy about forums is explaining things helps clarify my reasoning and people come up with ideas and suggestions I never would have thought of, and solutions I haven’t come across. It’s a lovely way to pass the time and spend a whole whack of cash!

I have spent literally years designing my self build van, then my car packed up and had to be replaced in a hurry. I was faced with the choice of buying a car I didn’t want to tow a van I didn’t want, or buying a car I did want, and replacing the van with a motorhome so we could keep our summer plans. So I more or less impulse-bought the Stardream. I thought I wanted a PVC with a rear lounge to use as permanent single beds, and although the Stardream isn’t perfect, I do like the additional width you get with a coach built and I would really like a garage. Part of reason I took the plunge and went for used is that you never get it right first time. (I’m not sure you get it right second time!). I would definitely like the van to be self contained, though. (I would not have been happy to have needed to open the door to cook last night, for example)

I like both gas and electric, but we spend most of our time hooked up. For the time we aren’t, I’m happy to carry a single gas burner. I have done it the other way round, but the single induction hob I have is a) massive and b) more difficult to site as it needs plugging in. The Stardream has both, which is my preference, but if I have to choose between, I’d go electric. I would much prefer lpg, but I haven’t seen tanks on any vans I’m pondering, except the Wildax PVC.

I’m not at all bothered about the shower. We have never used ours, despite being away for six weeks solid last summer. We used a mix of sites and britstops, and either used site facilities, or on one or two sites when they were a bit yucky or the weather was a bit iffy, we went swimming instead. I do wonder if that might change if we have a posh one and do more touring as the GirlChild gets older.

Current thinking is that I will not buy new. If I’m buying new, I want to nail down all the specs, not buy off the forecourt and there won’t be time for that before I want to get in and go. Also, I think I’m going to go for the bigger end of my range, as we will mainly be on sites and will often travel with my daughters friends or relations over the next few years, until she turns into a teen proper and never wants to see me again. Then I’ll go smaller again, I expect this to be in about 5-10 years. I just don’t think we’ll have the storage we need with the drop downbed wiping out all of the front locker space.

I now have my eye on a Carthago Compactline 143, having spotted one at Bleinheim this afternoon. Ticks all the boxes, with extra floor storage. It’s a bit longer than I’d like, as it’s nearer 7m than 6, so I’ll have to reserve judgment until I’ve got the Stardream on and off new the drive a few times when we complete on the house sale in three weeks time. Seems to be similar prices to the Exis, but higher spec (double floor etc). It does have an all gas hob, but the cover is at least split, so there is some worktop space at the same time as cooking space. Anyone got one and got anything to say about them?
Dec 17, 2016
Hymer A class
Don't know much about the Carthago beyond them being good quality. We ( 2 adults and a 13 yr old) looked at th Hymer B504 and slightly longer B534. In the end we bought a B525 -similar layout but Merc based. Ours is 6.4m but newer ones are 6.7 I think. Agree that the work top tends to be small but you can use the table. We leave bedding on the drop down bed and can still fold it away. We have rigged up a 12v socket to power phones etc by the bed. You probably could run an electric blanket from the 13a 230v socket on the settee behind the passenger seat -we do take hot water bottles but have hardly used them. Our daughter likes having the single bed at the back as she can shut us out using the curtain (your daughter will be a teenager soon although it's hard to believe at aged 8!). You can fit a microwave in the cupboard above the sink if you take the door off -we removed it as we tend not to use EHU.
Aug 27, 2018
Low profile coachbuilt
Newbie swapping from caravan
I have no suggestions regarding your requirements as a whole but with reference to the shower, like you we have not used our built in one as anything other than storage.
We do however have an external shower point fitted.
As we ride mountain bikes we often return to the van muddy and wet.
I bought a ‘toilet tent’ and we put that up behind the van next to the external shower and use that to get clean if we need to undress or just hose off our legs without the tent up if we are in a trail centre car park or similar.

Lenny HB

Oct 18, 2007
On the coast in West Sussex
Hymer B678 Dynamic Line
Since 2008 & many years tugging
I think you will struggle finding a van to suit all your needs under 7m the Hymer & Carthago you mention are probably your best bet. Seeing your age do you have a C1 licence as if you went for the Carthago you would probably need to upgrade to 3850kg might get away with the Exsis at 3500kg.
Must admit I don't see the point of having an electric hob or microwave, nothing that can't be cooked on gas.
May 23, 2018
Autocruise Stardream
On, great news that you can get power into a drop down (depending on where the sockets are). I think my Little Lady would love to shut herself away in her own bed. In fact, she has told me so, as we went shopping at the nec yesterday (only half an hour away, and too good an opportunity to miss. I’d go every year if it weren’t over half term and I can’t go on my own). Only got to see a few vans, due to attention span (not mine) but very happy with what we saw.

Carthago compactline wins (neither of us know why, completely un-objective, emotional reasons. We 'just' preferred it) so it’s onto which model. The 141 would be perfect, I think at around 6.8m with twin beds at the back. Herself likes the 138, with the transverse double 'all to herself’ but I am worried that we are losing so much locker space in the kitchen and bedroom that we will really need the second wardrobe and step storage. I know I’m gaining the garage and cellar, but I’m not going to keep my underwear or gin in the garage! I also just prefer the twin beds, and would find them useful for travelling and quick set ups. I do like the 143, because of the bigger fridge and separate freezer but I’m not sure if it’s worth the extra length (I was trying to downsize, so I don’t really want to to go up, even if it is only six inches)

We can’t have the 141, as it’s a new model, so can only be ordered for October. They did say they have a used 138 in stock, and will give me a guaranteed buy back price if I want to order the 141 next year, which seems like a great compromise. I will try and pop up this week to look at that. I’m unsure whether to go bigger or smaller on a temporary basis.

In the end, it will probably come down to driveway space. We are in the process of buying a new house, and I’m not going to make a decision until the house is sorted (should only be a few weeks) the driveway is long enough, but has a slight dogleg to reverse into, so that may limit us. I’m tempted to go for the freezer, so that I can feed the child from it on our Italy trip (she will try anything, but only really eats a small range of foods. English sausage only!) and then order the 141. But if we can get by with the 138 at 6.4m that would be amazing, and what better way to find out that try if for the summer.

(Electric hob is brilliant, as we spend a lot of time on hookups. Then I don’t need to carry, store or find worktop space that doesn’t exist for an electric kettle we hardly use. I do have a single plate induction hob, which is great, easily as fast as gas, but it’s much bigger than my single ring gas hob, so harder to site with limited worktop space. It’s much more likely we’ll be on electric than not, and if we’re off power, then we are britstopping for one night en route somewhere, and I’m not doing much cooking, just a quick coffee and breakfast for herself. Dinner will be in the pub!)

Interesting point about payload. No C1, so we’ll have to manage with 3.5t. It looks ok at first glance, but I probably need a spreadsheet. I definitely want automatically levelling (I hate levelling, and I hate living on a slant) and an electric awning (also a hated chore. I know it’s not hard, but I’ve vowed to eliminate jobs I dislike if at all possible. There’s no point being a grown up if you can’t pick and choose)
May 29, 2016
Bailey Autograph 625
August 2016 :-)
I can't really help with suggestions of any models, but I think your thought processes are a lot like mine...research research research and bouncing ideas around (y) Definitely try to prioritise your list into needs and wants though. The main thing that jumped out at me is your idea to rely on electric for cooking which I personally think is a mistake - especially if you're planning on heading abroad.

I'm not sure, but I get the feeling that most of your touring has been in the UK so far? In the UK when EHU is available then its invariably 16 amps, but in my experience that's not the case abroad: most seem to be either 6 or 10 amps - so you have to be a bit careful how much juice you're consuming if you don't want to trip the breaker.

The electric hot plate on our cooker is rated at 800W which means it draws around 3.5 amps - that only leaves you 2.5 amps for everything else so on a 6 amp hook up you wouldn't be able to run two electric hot plates at the same time anyway, even a microwave at the same time might be pushing it (and don't forget you need to allow for the fridge, battery charger, anything else plugged in to the 240v sockets).

You mention that you haven't seen many MHs with LPG tanks....that may be true but any MH can be converted to refillable LPG by simply replacing the existing gas bottles with refillable ones and fitting a filler in the bodywork somewhere. Running your heating, cooking and fridge off gas gives you a lot more freedom......if you wanted total freedom then you you could consider fitting an extra battery (or two) and a small inverter to run your microwave too.
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