Hiring a motorhome: the inside line

Carlton Boyce / 13 June 2016

If you're thinking about hiring a motorhome, here's what to expect and some tips to help you enjoy your trip.



While most of us have wasted at least a few hours of our lives dreaming about selling up and travelling the world in a motorhome, few of us will actually do it.

This is probably due to the fact that living in a motorhome is, for many people, something of an unknown quantity and the easiest way to get around that particular issue is to hire one for a weekend or so and try it for yourself. Who knows, it could be the start of a beautiful relationship!

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Different types of motorhomes

Motorhomes vary in size from a Volkswagen camper-style minibus that sleeps two on a fold-down bed, all the way to an American behemoth that sleeps eight or more on full-size permanent beds plus a decent kitchen and sitting room.

As with so many things, bigger isn’t necessarily better: the larger motorhomes do offer more comfort but will be harder to park and drive along the sort of small country lanes we have here in the UK.

On the other hand, the VW will be a doddle to thread along the road less travelled but will be a bit of a squeeze if you’re going to be spending much time in it. 

Nor do most of them come with onboard toilets or showers, which means you’ll be stuck using ‘proper’ campsites that have a full-range of facilities.

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How much will it cost?

Of course, the price will vary depending on the size of the motorhome and how long you want it. Hiring one for a weekend in the peak summer months will cost a lot more than a mid-week break in November.

However, as a guide, a small VW campervan can cost anything from £50-125 a day, while a full-size, four-berth motorhome will cost around £150 a day in low season and more in the summer. 

You may also have to leave a security deposit against the safe return of the motorhome.

Don’t forget that you will need to add the cost of fuel and campsites to these prices. You’ll also need to know if there is a mileage limit during the hire period and what it will cost if you go over that limit.

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What you get for your money

As well as the hire of the motorhome, the rental fee will normally include gas for cooking and heating, as well as basic insurance cover.

You’ll probably be offered car hire excess waiver insurance, or Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance too. Whether or not you take it out is a matter for you, but if you click the link you might be surprised to read that automatically saying ‘yes’ might not be the best course of action.

You might also be offered the opportunity to hire bedding and towels if they aren’t included in the basic price. Again, it’s up to you, but taking your own does save money…

What to expect

You’ll need to take your driving licence and check code, plus a credit or debit card for the payment and deposit. There will be a myriad of forms too, which is pretty much par for the course when you’re hiring any vehicle.

You should also be given a full handover when you collect the motorhome. This must cover operating the heating system and cooker, plus emptying the toilet if it has one. 

You’ll also need to know where the fuse box is, how to top up the drinking water tank, and how to connect to an electric hookup point.

There should also be a smoke and carbon monoxide detector, plus a fire extinguisher. Please do make sure you know how to use all three.

It’s also worth asking them to demonstrate how to fold down the bed and swivel the front seats because some of them are surprisingly complex and trying to do it in the dark isn’t the best introduction to a life on the road.

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Driving a motorhome

My number one piece of advice is to take your time. The motorhome will probably be a lot bigger than anything you drive on a daily basis, and tight bends and low car-park barriers will catch you out if you forget what you’re driving.

Having said that, driving one isn’t physically hard, so you’ll be fine as long as you and your passenger are alert to the extra size you’re toting around.

Some sat-nav systems allow you to change the type of vehicle to a motorhome, and if it does it may well warn you about low bridges and take the vehicle’s size into account when it calculates your route and how long your journey will take.

Read more articles on caravans and motorhomes.

Campsites

While rough camping is completely legal in Scotland, it isn’t in England and Wales, so you’ll need to use a campsite to stay within the law.

While a lot of the appeal of a motorhome is the freedom it provides, I’d recommend making a reservation for the first couple of nights, especially in the summer when the better ‘sites tend to be fully booked months in advance.

Making the most of it

While almost every motorhome will have a cooker, I’d advise against cooking in the smaller campervans as the smell will get everywhere and condensation can be a problem too. Best to stick to making an early morning cup of tea or coffee initially and either eating out or having an al fresco  barbeque.

Other tips for enjoying your time in a motorhome can be found here.

Do you have any tips for readers who are hiring a motorhome for the first time? I’m sure they’d appreciate hearing them in the comments section below!

For more tips and useful information, browse our motoring articles.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.