Owning a motorhome is the dream of many New Zealanders. The open road, the freedom to go and stay wherever you want, the convenience of having your home just behind the driver’s seat – these are the things that inspire the traveller in all of us.

If you’re lucky enough to be considering joining the growing ranks of New Zealand motorhome owners, the tips below will help you choose a vehicle that’s right for you.

Assess Your Needs

It’s important to not to let the flashy look of a motorhome blind you other, more important areas. First and foremost, it needs to be functional. Think about:

  • How many people will be using it – will you have enough  beds?
  • Do you want to be a bit separate from the kids in the evening – is there an over-cab bunk to facilitate this?
  • How big a vehicle do you need – how much lounge space do you need to feel comfortable?
  • Do you need to be able to stand to your full height – is the roof high enough?
  • Where will you be staying – in fully serviced campgrounds, or out in the wild where there are no water and electricity hook-ups?
  • What distances will you drive in any given year?

Once you’ve answered the questions above you can start deciding on the particular features or aspects of the vehicle. Talking to other motorhome owners can be a great way of doing this. They know what you really need and what you can do without.

Petrol vs. Diesel

Consider your costs. Diesel is the cheaper fuel, but if you’re doing a lot of kms the road charges may outweigh the savings. Do your sums.


Big isn’t always better. If you can afford it, more living space is a luxurious bonus, but can you drive the thing? Some larger motorhomes require an HGV license and even some of those that don’t can be difficult to reverse or manoeuvre through narrow streets.

A Clear View

You need good visibility for safe driving, of course, but what about when you’re parked? You’ll be visiting scenic areas and you may want that view from your mobile abode. Alternatively, you might prefer the more private and secure feeling of less windows.

Body Type

Do you like the now-classic over-cab design (with its extra space), or do you prefer the clean lines of the newer “compact” motorhomes. Does it matter if the driver’s cab is separate from the body proper, or is an integrated cab more to your liking?


In the world of motorhomes the term self-contained has taken on new meaning. It refers to the ability of the vehicle to meet the sanitary and water-use needs of its occupants for a minimum of three days without the need to discharge waste. This ability minimises environmental impact, and it also means you can go further without needing a camping ground.

Storage Space

When you go away you take a lot of stuff with you. Is there enough storage space in the vehicle you’re contemplating? Remember, some compartments are only accessible from outside the motorhome.


However hardy you are, you’ll be camped at a camping ground sometime and you’ll need to hook up to water and electricity. You’ll also need to hook up to a waste station to discharge your holding tank. Your vehicle will almost certainly come with the right connectors, but make sure they’re conveniently located and easily accessible. Check, too, that there are enough electrical outlets inside the motorhome for your needs.

Second Hand

Many people will buy their motorhome second hand. This can save you a lot of money, but you need to take measures to protect yourself – motorhomes can turn out to be lemons, just the same as cars.

Look for a vehicle with a thorough service and maintenance history. Check for modifications, homemade or otherwise. Ensure that the body is watertight and that there is no leakage, water damage, damp or mould. Test the security of windows and doors – do they latch securely? Are the locks functional? And always have a professional check the gas and electrical systems, the plumbing and the vehicle’s mechanics.

The Wide Outdoors

Defining your needs, thinking realistically about how you’ll use your vehicle and what features you really need, will help you buy a motorhome that will serve you well as you venture into the wide outdoors.

Want to know more about buying a motorhome? Check out this video.

How to Buy a Motorhome, 4.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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