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Ultimate Guide to Buying a Motorhome

Monday 9th September 2019
By Neil Fahey
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By Neil Fahey
Image credit: Germane Jaws (Unsplash)

If you think buying a motorhome is a big decision, you might be in for a shock. Your decisions are only just beginning.

You’re in luck, though, because Camplify is here to take you through the entire process of kickstarting your dream lifestyle - from narrowing down the range of possibilities and where to find motorhomes for sale, to making the purchase and navigating the rules and regulations.

If you’re not sure what we mean by ‘motorhome’, we’re not talking about campervans here. Motorhomes in Australia are generally divided into Class A, Class B and Class C. The distinction between campervans and motorhomes can become a little blurry in Class C but generally, if it has a toilet and/or shower then it’s more likely considered a motorhome.
Camplify offers all kinds of motorhomes available to hire directly from their trusted pool of friendly owners. If you’re having trouble figuring out what type of motorhome you want for yourself, it might be worth hiring one (or more) before you make your decision.


Decide what you plan to do with your new home on wheels

Figuring out which type of motorhome you want to buy can be a daunting task, but it makes sense to start by asking yourself what you want to do with it.

Firstly, how many people do you need to sleep and seat? Most Class C motorhomes are only suitable for 2-3 people, so if you’re a family with three kids then you’ll need to go bigger. It’s not just beds you need to worry about here but also how many seats the motorhome has that can legally carry passengers. In Australia, all seats must have seatbelts and be certified as safe by an engineer.

The next question to ask is, realistically, what kind of trips will you be taking in the motorhome? Are you likely to only use it for a handful of weekend trips every year? Do you tend to head off with the kids for a week or more every school holiday period? Or are you a retired couple and planning to hit the road indefinitely? The longer plan to spend travelling, the more you’ll need to think about how much space and how many features you’ll want (and need).

Industry research says that, on average, motorhomes are only used for 6 weeks of the year in total. This means they likely sit in the garage for the rest of the year. Camplify’s owners are making money from this downtime by sharing their love of the road with other families while they’re not using their van. If you think this sounds like a good idea, head over to our owner page to find out more. This may also come into your choice of motorhome.


Which features do you want? And which ones do you really need?

Deciding what you’ll be doing with your motorhome has likely narrowed the field of choices significantly, so it’s time to start thinking about the features. Start by brainstorming a list of features you’d love to have access to on the road, then narrow them down starting with what you consider which are necessities. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Stove
  • Fridge
  • Lighting
  • Curtains
  • Table and seating/dining area
  • Sink
  • Water (and grey water) storage
  • Cooking space
  • Power/dual batteries/solar panels
  • Storage
  • Airconditioning
  • Fans
  • Bike racks
  • Roof racks
When you’re spending all this money, you’re going to want some luxuries but keep in mind that every feature you add is likely pushing up the price of your motorhome. If buying used, some features may even be tricky to find, so be open-minded about those luxuries.

Decide how much you’ll spend

Weighing up your wants versus your needs and balancing extra features with the potential issues (and extra cost) they might lump you with down the track can be one of the hardest parts of the motorhome buying process.

Unless you’ve won the lottery, though, you’re likely to have an idea of what you want to spend before you even start looking. This will help inform every decision you make. If you’re on a tight budget, you’re probably going to need at least $20,000 to $30,000 for an older model Class C motorhome. For Class A and B, you can spend hundreds of thousands or beyond. With that in mind, now might be a good time to start reconsidering some of those luxuries you were listing earlier.

On top of your purchase budget, you’ll also have to consider what you can afford to spend on the ongoing costs for years to come. Registration and regular servicing alone are a large ongoing investment.


Narrow down the models you’re shopping for

The first decision to make is if you’ll buy new or used. Aside from the budget factor, each has its upsides and downsides.

A new motorhome will be between a few weeks and a few months off the assembly line, obviously with no damage or wear and tear, will come with a full manufacturer warranty, and the manufacturer will be able to offer a level of customizability of colours, features and layouts. The higher price tag isn’t the only cost consideration though, as you’ll also be slapped with a higher insurance premium and its value will depreciate more quickly.

Most buyers will buy used because of the bigger range of choices. New motorhomes on the market may not offer the ideal features and layout for you. When you buy used, you’re more likely to find the perfect RV and if you can’t then you can always renovate. The major downside is that you never really know for sure what the previous owners have put the motorhome through. An ex-rental motorhome from one of the major rental companies might be a good option, as they tend to not keep their fleet for very long before replacing them. This means lower mileage and a guarantee that they’ve been well serviced and had any manufacturing flaws attended to. If you go with this option, the end of summer is the best time to buy, since this tends to be when companies replace their fleet.

With that decision made, do some quick research, find out what’s available, and narrow your choices down to a few models. Then it’s time to dig deeper and find out everything there is to know about the models you like. Internet discussion forums are a great place to read about other owner’s experiences and opinions. Lots of people have been through this decision-making process before you, so make the most of their insight. A Google search for the model name, year and the word ‘problems’ or ‘issues’ will likely come up with a few results, no matter which model you’re looking at. No vehicle is perfect, so don’t be too put off by the issues you find. Just keep them in mind and consider the extra cost they might add.


It’s time to start shopping

Firstly, keep in mind that if you can wait until the cooler months, you’ll likely get a better deal, particularly if you’re shopping in the southern states.

Whenever you’re shopping, you’ll need to know where to start looking. If you’re buying new this is as easy as a quick Google search for new motorhome dealerships in your area. Also, check if there are any outdoor living or caravan and camping shows coming up near you. The latter option may be preferable as you’ll be free to roam around and look inside the motorhomes, and less likely to be hassled by a salesperson keen to reach their targets for the day.

If buying used, there are several websites to start with, some of which will allow you to set up e-mail notifications for when a motorhome is listed that suits your needs. Shopping online is best, since visiting used dealers can be very time consuming and you’ll find that their motorhomes will be listed on the top two websites in this list, anyway.

Don’t forget that low mileage is the first thing to look for at this point. Lower is obviously better as it’s a solid indicator of engine condition and wear and tear.

You’ll want to search locally first but do consider travelling elsewhere to buy if you find the perfect motorhome for you at the right price. Just make sure you take into account the extra costs and time investment that this will require.

If you do end up at a dealership, be friendly with the salesperson. You never know, they might be willing to pull some strings to get you a better price if they like you or if they happen to be close to their quota for the day. Do be prepared to drive a hard bargain, though, and walk away if necessary.

You may need finance, so make sure you watch the market rates and be prepared to source your own finance rather than accepting what a dealer has to offer.

Found one you like? Check it out properly

Whether you’re inspecting the motorhome at a dealer or someone’s home, make sure you take the time to properly check it out before you make any decisions. If you have a friend who’s a mechanic, now is the time to beg for a favour (or just buy them a slab). Alternatively, if you have a trusted mechanic who isn’t too far from the motorhome’s location, it may be possible to arrange to drop in during your test drive and have them look over it for you.
There are so many things to look out for when inspecting a motorhome. This checklist from Popular Mechanics Magazine is an excellent, in-depth guide.

If you can’t organise for a professional to look over it on your first inspection, it may be worth organising a professional pre-purchase inspection. The $100 to $200 price tag is worthwhile in helping you make the decision to purchase the motorhome or steer clear. State Roads are an excellent, Australia-wide pre-purchase inspection provider.

Finally, make sure you check whether the vehicle hasn’t been written off or stolen and that it doesn’t have any money still owing on it (and is safe from repossession). You can do this for a small fee via the Australian Government’s Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) – it’s only $2 if you do it online or $7 if you’re old school and would prefer to do it over the phone. You’ll need the motorhome’s VIN/Chassis number, a debit or credit card and an e-mail address to order this report. You will receive the report immediately via e-mail.


Kick start the sale process

If you think you’ve found the perfect motorhome, there are just a few things left to consider before you hand over your hard-earned cash – registration, a roadworthy certificate, and insurance.

The motorhome’s registration will usually need to be transferred into your name within a few days, but fees will be very different from state to state. Having a Roadworthy Certificate is a legal requirement in some states but not others. Third-party insurance is compulsory across Australia but in some states, it’s included with registration. You’ll need to do some research on what is required of you, depending on where you live. Here’s a list of the government body responsible in all states and territories.

When you’re ready to pick up the motorhome, you’ll want to be covered by more than just third-party insurance. Before the day of your pickup, you’ll need to organise full comprehensive insurance and roadside assistance. It may seem expensive but so is your new motorhome. It’s worth the expense for the peace of mind and it will probably itself off over time anyway, especially if you’re using your motorhome to its full potential.

The only thing left to do is pay and there are a number of different options for payment methods. Since most of the risk in this situation lies with the seller, it’s best to ask them what they prefer and then weigh up the risks of that on your side. Once you hand the money over, ask the seller for a receipt no matter which payment method you’ve used.


Hit the road and enjoy your new motorhome

Considering you’ve chosen a motorhome over other (cheaper) RV options, you’re probably planning to make the most of your purchase one way or another. Now that you’ve finally made your purchase, it’s time to plan that exciting first trip. Better yet, start making a list of all the amazing places you want to explore. Get to know your new motorhome and figure out the best way to keep it packed up and ready to go. There’s nothing better than being able to get home from work on a Friday, throw some clothes in a bag, some food in the fridge and hit the road.

If you’re not planning to take off in the motorhome indefinitely, it’s likely to spend significant time in your garage. Why not make the most of your investment by sharing it with other travellers on Camplify?

So, what is Camplify? 
We are Australia’s largest caravan hire and RV sharing community, helping connect thousands of holidaymakers with RV owners. 
What does that mean?
Essentially, we provide a unique sharing service where owners of caravans, camper trailers, motorhomes, and campervans list their RV for hire while not in use. As an owner, this enables you to earn over $10,000 each year instead of having your RV just sitting around while you’re not using it. 
As a holidaymaker, Camplify helps you find an RV that is perfect for you so you can experience the joys of caravanning - without having to own one yourself. 
Interested? Learn more about Camplify here > 

To find out how Camplify can work with you and your RV, register today here.

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