Living with a motorhome

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  • Living with a motorhome
  • Premier Icon Blackhound

    Mrs B and I today had our first look at motorhomes and are still trying to decide what we require. It is all a compromise but do we go for a VW campervan sized vehicle or something a little bigger like an Elddis Autoquest? (Had a nearly new Elddis at a good price) Something we need to decide about carefully especially as it is likely to be our only vehicle.

    Salesman reckoned VW would do about 40mpg and a LWB Boxer based van would be about 36/37 mpg. Realistic mpg’s?

    How much is insurance on these vehicles? (Over 50, clean licence)


    Its all a compromise

    Live in it the biggest thing you can find, long ish trips nit your usual vehicle then largish. your only vehicle …dont bother IMHO

    Worst of both and you have a crap vehicle for daily use and not big enough when away. I had one of the original citroen romahomes [and i lived in an Iveco = 20 mpg ]

    I would rather camp or take a caravan tbh.
    if you must whatever has the best mpg, the cheapest parts and can park under height restrictions would by my choice.


    Insurance on campers is about as cheap as you will get motor insurance, I use Shield.
    I would personally go bigger, but as you say it is all a compromise.
    Drive away awnings are good for increasing your living area, just not as quick as pulling up, handbrake on, kettle on.


    Also depends on if it’s your only vehicle and if you need to commute in it. City driving? Not too fun in a big van.

    If that’s not an issue then go big!


    Take the same tip as buying a tent if its two persons then buy a three persons tent
    for when it rains and space is a premium.
    But in saying that find the ones you like then Hire them out especially whens its raining
    so hire your short list out.
    Also if you buy second hand and you want to drive through London make sure
    they are the correct age being emission failure is a fine of £ 200 per one day.

    Premier Icon DavidB

    We had a high top VW as our only car for years. The best thing about them is that they will go anywhere. With the motorhome I now have to look at height restrictions and widths etc…. Also there was nothing on the VW that I couldn’t bodge somehow if it broke. I have a big motorhome with bunks for the kids now, but as soon as they fly the nest it’s back to a VW for me. Miss it like hell.

    I’ve got a VW T5 Transporter and I think I’d be lucky to get 40mpg out of it. I certainly don’t consider it thirsty but I’ve never sat and worked out the MPG. I have the 2.5 engine with the 6 speed box so it’s very frugal on the motorway but powerful enough to not be frustrating.

    It’s very nice to drive and just the right size to be a ‘proper van’ without jumping up to Transit size. VW Campers are very popular but very cramped. Better to think of them as a motorised tent than a motorhome. You really want something a bit bigger for spending any amount of time sleeping or living in especially if you want to carry bikes on the inside.

    This is my only vehicle and I love it. I once had a LWB transit as my only vehicle and I ended up hating it. It serves it’s purpose very well but I’m already planning to get something bigger when my missus gets a car for daily duties. There’s just no room to do the kind of camper conversion I want and still have room for bikes and all the dirty kit that goes with them.

    Premier Icon Blackhound

    Thanks. It would only be for me and Mrs B (who doesn’t drive anyway) and we are both retired so no commuting or pesky kids to worry about. The go anywhere VW -v- looking out for height restrictions in a motorhome is on our mind. Good that insurance is not to bad.

    My current Berlingo has done 42,800 miles in over 9 years from new so I don’t drive loads anyway. Usually have a bike with me when I do!

    b r

    Keep the Berlingo or swap to a car and get the motorhome for touring.

    Also our Ducato 2.8td based high-bay horsebox does 35mpg, loaded or not.

    Premier Icon steveh

    T5 vans will do 40mpg at best and the camper will weigh a bit more so likely to be slightly less. Full size motorhomes tend to be 30mpg at best due to the hideous aerodynamics.

    Premier Icon easygirl

    We’ve got a 2.4 transit base on a chausson and it never gets mre than 27 m.p.g
    Only gt 14k miles on clock, so may get better, but not holding my breath


    I had a two berth motorhome based on Fiat Ducato base for a few years, and lived in it with my gf for 7 months on an extended surf trip down the Alantic coast of Europe. Found it completely liveable, but we are pretty laid back

    I got about 25mpg in mine, it was a 2004 2.0l engine. I think the dealer is overestimating somewhat. Check out the weight of the motorhome/vw conversion compared with the base vehicle and you’ll understand why fuel consumption suffers. Essentially you’re driving around a loaded van. The VW conversions will be better, as retain the van aerodynamics I guess. Ours was very rattlely as well, again a think a conversion may be tighter.

    Also it’s worth googling damp problems and motorhomes…

    The extra width never bothered but the height is a pain at some carparks.

    Have you considered a caravan? I know they aren’t exactly cool, but having to keep packing the van up everytime we went to the beach, supermarket etc could be a pain.

    The motorhomefacts forum is well worth joining to get some more informed views

    Premier Icon PePPeR

    I’m another Chausson transit owner here, and i reckon on 25-27 to the gallon, my little vauxhall vivaro works van fully laden most of the time manages 34-36.

    Salesmens figures are always taking the figures from the brochures…


    PS …. for comparison my lightly laden Renault Trafic gets close to 40mpg, mainly A roads


    I’ve got a t5 transporter with a caravelle rear triple seat which turns to a bed. Planning a semi camper build but with units sink being removable not fixed.

    With the seat and associated fixings my little 1.9 T5 still returns low 40s mpg on a run, low to mid 30s around town.

    It does struggle on long uphill drags but I didn’t buy it for speed.

    Whatever you do will be a compromise.. Either compromising your space in the van/motor home Vs the routes you can take… I wouldn’t fancy trying to get a motor home down some single track country roads/lanes, then there’s the issue of height too.

    Also worth bearing in mind how long you intend to keep it. Motor homes are generally fibreglass bodies and will require more attention and care if you’re planning a long ownership.

    Premier Icon takisawa2

    I’ve no experience of a campervan, other than my old man’s DIY conversion involving lots of plywood & a brush painted Commer van. 🙂

    But we do drag a caravan around from time to time these days. Love it. Depends how big the van, & your choice of tow car, but you won’t get any more than low 30’s hauling a tin tent. Plus it’s 60mph & all the drama of towing to contend with.


    I’ve also got a 2.4 Transit based motorhome and got low 20’s to the gallon when driven gently but as low as 15mph on 80mph motorway runs (which I tend to avoid!).


    I love ours, plenty space yet small enough for daily use.

    Sharkattack is spot on in my view.

    I’ve got a VW T5 Transporter and I think I’d be lucky to get 40mpg out of it. ………..VW Campers are very popular but very cramped. Better to think of them as a motorised tent than a motorhome. You really want something a bit bigger for spending any amount of time sleeping or living in especially if you want to carry bikes on the inside.

    I’ve got a T5 and no way it gets near to 40mpg.
    It is very cramped, 4 people in a long wheelbase.
    When you spend a few days in it you realise what the difference between a campervan and a motorhome is…. you need to get out of a campervan to get various things done. I like it for overnight trips without much stuff but for longer trips it is a bit of a pain having to rearrange everything.
    It’s also not ideal in crime ridden areas, eg most of the UK south of the border, mediterrainian (sp) France, Italy etc. You end up having to pitch a tent to leave all your stuff in during the day anyway,

    Should have added…

    On the obvious plus side, it’s not too bad to drive round day to day. I drive to work in is 2 or 3 days a week and it’s fine. If a little thirsty.
    Fits in car parking spaces no problem, which I think the next size up wouldn’t.

    It’s also not ideal in crime ridden areas, eg most of the UK south of the border, mediterrainian (sp) France, Italy etc. You end up having to pitch a tent to leave all your stuff in during the day anyway,

    Erm… care to elaborate? Are T5’s some kind of thief magnet? I’m going to be spending a couple of months in Italy and the France this summer. Will I die?

    EDIT: Just re-read your post. Do you mean your stuff might get knicked if you’re using a tent all the time because the van isn’t big enough?

    Depends on what type of camping you are going to do really. If you both like camping in a tent and want to do short breaks then I would go for a T5 style camper. If not then I would suggest going for something a bit bigger which has its own bedroom compartment. If you do go in this direction you would really need to be using it regularly to justify the expense. I was looking into it for our family of four kids but TBH even the huge camper vans seem to have less space in them than the caravan we already have. I am based in Germany and we have met loads of German retired people who have bought the bigger style camper vans like this one and basically spend half the year travelling around Europe.


    Was going to suggest you might end up hating it as an only vehicle and suggest you got/kept a car too but probably not doing so few miles!

    Always the option of hiring a car if you need one or city car club.

    Might be worth renting a camper van (if you haven’t already) to make sure you both enjoy it.


    We would have loved a T5 but for the very reasons mentioned above they do become a bit cramped. Hence we bought a Fiat Ducato crew bus and had it converted. They measure up about 20cm wider which doesn’t sound much, compared with a T5 however we seem to have so much more space. The T5 feels smaller due to the inwards sloping walls too, where as the Fiat etc is more boxier.
    You can be smart with storage, we had a couple of clever storage extras to our conversion that are very useful indeed.
    I would fully recommend having a van converted as you can spec it exactly as you require within £££ limitations of course!

    Are T5’s some kind of thief magnet?

    Seeing as my T5 Multivan got nicked last Tuesday night I would say yes! 🙁

    In reply to shark
    What i meant was that many of the places I go with the van are notorious for theft from vehicles. If you are camping or caravanning then you can easily leave your stuff in the campsite where it is safe. With a campervan it`smuch more tricky. You either leave your valuables at home, take them with you for the day, pitch a tent in the campsite and leave them here or leave your van in the campsite, which is kind of restrictive.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith

    Having lived with a half done van conversion and doing 30mpg day to day. Having a second cheap car for nipping to the supermarket etc. This means you can get the van you want for going away and still live with it.

    Premier Icon Blackhound

    My Berlingo only gets 40mph amd I drive that with care on the fuel front so thought salesman’s mpg estimates on generous side. Figures suggested above a bit closer to what I would have expected.

    Probably will keep any purchase awhile, only had 2 vehicles in last 20 years!

    We are in our mid 50’s now and thinking of camping a bit less as we get older, we also have more time being retired. We did hire a VW Westphalia for SSWC 2007 in California and that was a positive experience. Even that was for us to see what we thought of the idea.
    It is all the compromise stuff about only vehicle/narrow roads/ height restrictions/space inside/toilet (for occasional use) that we need to get out heads around. Thanks for responses.

    Premier Icon Steelsreal

    Spando sir, like the look of your van, any pics of the inside and spec etc…

    Premier Icon althepal

    Spando- has the side door come off yet? My work invested heavily in an entire fleet of Peugeots v similar to yours and our mechs hate them!! Changing the clutch is a two day job apparently..


    Will post more pics soon.
    Allthepall no not yet! Hope it doesn’t, though I’ve had various transit vans at work that the doors fell off! I’m sure there will be maintenance nightmares along the way but that’s life living with a van you love. Fiat have the largest market share for motor homes so can’t be that bad.


    Spando sir, like the look of your van, any pics of the inside and spec etc…

    Its a 2007 Fiat Ducato 2.3 was originally a crew bus. We got it converted by Mill Garage in Duns, they offer a great service and are happy to build any design to your spec.
    They have a Plan A and a Plan B layout and an options sheet for things like heating, extra swivel seat, kids bed etc.
    If you have your own specific layout ideas then they will build it for you no problem. Cost wise we found them to be middle of the road. The quality and flexibility that they offer impressed us.
    It is a costly project and there are always compromises, its just a case of weighing it all up.
    We have had ours since Nov, we’ve used it loads and love it.


    Go on then, I’ll wade in.

    I currently drive a SWB T5 with an Angel camper conversion from Amdro:

    I did the conversion myself using the kit, but they will do the full lot for you.

    Myself and the little lady lived in it on a European road trip lasting from April to September, from Norway to Southern Romania, the year before last. We did have a small awning too, but didn’t always put it up.

    The kit performed flawlessly, and a massive advantage is a fixed boot area, which you often don’t get with rock’n’roll style beds. It held two road bikes, two deckchairs, an awning, a BBQ, charcoal and other random bits of stuff that accumulated over the months. For me it was a key selling point.

    It’s right that you should think of it as a mobile tent, rather than a mobile home: you can’t stand up and walk around in it, but find a more stormproof tent 🙂 It’s completely waterproof and windproof, you don’t need to pack it away wet, with a two ring stove, running water, a stereo, a heater (if you fit hookup) and a comfy bed. It is also very comfortable to sit in reading or whatever when the rain’s bouncing down outside. And you will spend time outside of it when the weather’s good, but that’s kind of the point of camping isn’t it?

    I now use it as my daily commuter and get about 38mpg. It also fits in standard parking spaces, multi-storey car-parks and costs the same as a normal car on ferries.

    If you’re anywhere near Cirencester you’re welcome to come round and I’ll give you a tour 🙂

    Have had a Mazda Bongo for 2 years and love it. 6 weeks round France in the summer was no bother and I used it as main vehicle (though have a small, very cheap car now as well)

    Fits in most spaces width wise, but not into height restricted car parks (nearly had a nasty accident at Glasgow Airport!)

    Not so good on deisel, hence the small car, get about 27mpg, but it is a great vehicle, full conversion.


    IHN good point, its always packed ready to go. We love camping but got sick of packing the car up and then sorting it all out when we got home. The van is so much easier, we keep it stocked with basic food and brew kit, a set of clothes each and toiletries. It takes just a few minutes to get on the road, happy days.

    Premier Icon Steelsreal

    Spando, thats very nice, like the shoe cupboard and the RIB seat…

    now you got me looking at Ducatos….


    We have a Ducato conversion, which suits Mrs M & I fine. The double bed at the back is up most of the time, so effectively the van is a small flat, with bathroom, kitchen, bedroom & living room. We had it converted by Autohaus, who were 95% ok, some compromises were made in our spec.
    However I really like driving it, except in town. Tis a bugger to park in tight spots, at 6m long. I can send pics if you want. We’ve hada couple of fortnight holidays, & it’s just great for 2 people.

    Try L&C vans in Stone. They know what they’re doing.

    We get 30-33mpg at 25000miles.

    It sounds silly but one of the criteria we had for our design, was to have a side door which slid open far enough for both of us to sit on the sill. It’s just very companiable, if not downright romantic. Coachbuilt campers have little awkward doors so you lose the open airness of van conversions, and the big sliding doors are very secure when closed.

    I agree that one of the virtues of a bigger camper is that we can keep basics in there are all times, so that a weekend away can involve just chucking a duvet & a pint of milk in there.
    Having the bed at the back ready made means that we can just pull up somewhere, make a cup of tea & crash without rearranging everything.


    If you want to use it as a second vehicle rather than exclusively for holidays, you want to be looking for a 6 metre panel van conversion (PVC).

    Up until recently we only had tight/competitive onstreet parking and its the sort of size where you can hang out the door to get into a tight space, as soon as you get to the wider coachbuilts you have to rely on getting out/a camera/a helper to park in tight spots.

    A 6m PVC will just about fit into your average sainsburys space (although normally I will take a tandem bay to dissuade people from trying to park right up behind me as my spare wheel makes the rear door vulnerable to damage) and if quiet I will take four spaces as it makes leaving much easier.

    The only time we’ve ever had issues with the high top is when we have been to forest car parks for biking, but its a good thing really as the last place on earth you want to leave a camper is in a deserted forest car park.

    Mine is a self conversion, and having stripped it out last year for a refit, I can say with confidence that a fixed rear bed with garage under/behind is many, many times more practical and more than outweighs the extra space it takes up. For us the fixed bed has become a second seating/lounge area whereas before it was partitioned off full height for bikes. Despite less floor space the van is easier to live in.

    Edit: Mr Moses, why are your pics marked ‘restricted’ and therefore outside my ‘safesearch’ settings?!


    Sorry, no idea why my pics are restricted. They’re all innocuous, I think.

    I can still see them, just caused me to hesitate, being on a work machine and all that 🙂


    I think my choice of camper would be dictated by it having it’s own toilet and shower. I would love a T5 sized van but I’m not using campsite toilets and in bad weather pooing in the bushes is not fun!


    I’m not using campsite toilets

    Why on earth not?

    in bad weather pooing in the bushes is not fun!

    And pooing in a cassette toilet housed in a wardrobe is? Not to mention the fun of emptying said toilet.

    Premier Icon pictonroad

    I have a VW T4 with a toilet in it. It’s a godsend when it’s raining at night, especially for the mrs. In addition car doors are noisy, you don’t realise until it’s 4am and deathly quiet on a campsite. They wake children up, I DO NOT want to wake my sleeping child and I like to drink a lot of beer when I’m camping…

    I was squeamish about chemical toilets for years, now I’ve got one and it’s really easy, takes 5 mins to empty but…

    no poos, never ever. ever.

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