When you buy new as a motorhome owner, you’re usually guaranteed that either your vehicle is of top quality and a lasting product, or you’re given a guarantee that guarantees you a refund in the case that it’s not! Second hand motorhomes, however, are a different game all together and judging the potential longevity of a motorhome is an incredibility difficult task. To try to negate at least a part of this risk, an inspection is an essential part of purchasing a second-hand motorhome. So, to help you through what can be a tricky task, here’s our guide to second-hand vehicle inspections.
Initial Visual Inspections
In theory, the outside of a motorhome should be pretty much spotless. It might not be clean, but it shouldn’t be dented, scratched or damaged. In reality, of course, it’s a very different matter and you’ll struggle to find a motorhome in such condition. However, a visual inspection gives you an idea of what you’re working with on two fronts.
Firstly, a motorhome with lots of dents and scratches might tell you the previous owner (or owners) were not as careful as you would like. This could mean that mechanical parts – in particular the clutch – are not what they should be. Equally, larger surface dents can actually be indicators of greater problems under the surface: has that rear-bumper prang damaged the exhaust system? These are all clues and questions you should ask.
Once you’re satisfied with the condition of the outside of the vehicle, take a look inside. Here you’re likely to see the most signs of age and you might find that upholstery is worn or damaged slightly. The oven is a key area you should check and they tend to pick up damages very easily; electric hobs are especially notorious for wear.
You should also make an inventory check inside. If you know what model of motorhome you’re looking to buy, you should do some research and check what it would have come with as standard. If there’s anything missing you may have a good case for a deduction in price to fund a suitable replacement.
When it comes to the engine, things get a little bit tougher and really only trained mechanics are able to just look at an engine and give it a good assessment. Here you have a couple of options, you can either get a professional mechanic to complete the checks for you or, alternatively, you can take a look yourself.
Companies like the AA offer a various pre-purchase checks of different levels and for a fee you may find your local motorhome dealer will help you out. If you want to do the research yourself, you should ensure you know what you’re looking for first. Any obvious visual damage (split pipes, loose cables or frayed electrics) should be flagged up first and though the engine will be oily, parts which are extremely grimy, dirty or worse, rusty, are a problem.
Take It For a Spin
Your next task should be to take the motorhome out for a drive to see how your motorhome handles and how well you get on with it. A thorough test might be about 20 mins (though you shouldn’t waste too much of your potential seller’s petrol!) and during that time you should try it at a variety of speeds, ideally on a dual carriageway or motorway and also try a bit of manoeuvring.
You should of course be looking to identify potential problems here but also get a feel for how the motorhome handles. You just might not like the driving position, handling or it might be a bit low on power. Whatever you feel, make sure you use your opportunity to drive any model and remember that sometimes it’s just a matter of taste.
If you’re satisfied that the motorhome you’re looking at is up to scratch in every other respect, you then need to ensure the paperwork is all in order. A full service history along with proper registration documents and a motorhome insurance history or, alternatively, a statutory off road notice (SORN) is essential.
This is also a good chance to enquire about other information that might be useful to you if you are to buy the motorhome. Find out when the last service was, when the tyres were last changed and whether they’ve always been insured by the same company. They’re all money saving tips that can help you to get a good deal in the future.
A thorough second hand inspection might take you about forty five minutes or an hour, but don’t worry about the time, just make sure you complete everything you need to. If you identify a serious problem early on it’s also wise not to waste anyone’s time: just let the seller know why you’re not interested and be on your way.