CMCA - Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia
The Wanderer
Features Reviews Technology Cooking Destinations Stories Fishing
Try Before You Buy
Ease your way into the motorhome market – eyes wide open – with a rental
Words and Images by: KEA

There’s no doubt many CMCA members are old hands in the business of motorhome travel. Any number of us have owned several motorhomes, been around Australia numerous times and to a rally or 10 in our years spent on the road.

That said, there are undoubtedly some newer members who have never owned a motorhome but plan to invest in one at a later date. That’s not a silly idea at all, because experience shows research into acquiring a motorhome can be done in all kinds of ways.

Which brings us to the subject of this column – buying your first motorhome, the preliminaries. It’s a fact the motorhome lifestyle is attractive to many people. Some have been to several RV shows, noticed a few on rigs the road, or seen the Robin Williams movie RV or Robert de Niro in Meet the Fockers and decided, in spite of those movies, that touring in a motorhome is their retirement dream.


Because a motorhome purchase is expensive, research is a key factor here – getting to RV shows, reading relevant magazines, talking to other motorhomers and having a good look around the market (both new and used) to get an understanding of the prices and what’s available.

For a newcomer, there is one thing you should almost do before any of the above, or at least during the process: try before you buy. That does not mean a quick drive around the block. It’s more like spending a few weeks’ travelling in either a friend’s motorhome (if you are really lucky) or more likely, a hired rental.


It is not always possible to hire the same motorhome you plan to buy, but the point is to get an idea of the RV lifestyle and what you may or may not like. One person’s happy compromise  is often another’s constant irritation, so recommendations while helpful are not always totally relevant. For instance, I like to avoid making a bed up every night, particularly if I’m travelling for work. On the other hand, there are other travellers quite happy to do that, particularly if it means getting around in a smaller motorhome or one with a great daytime layout. Attitudes towards double and single bed layouts are equally divisive, where double beds might be preferred but single beds could be the practical reality.

Bathrooms are another issue. Some want the full kit with a separate shower and toilet but that takes up a considerable amount of interior space. Others are happy with a combo unit that offers the essentials in a relatively small floor space.

Now I realise this might come as a shock to some readers of this fine magazine, but there are people who find they simply don’t like the RV lifestyle. It’s much better to discover this after spending a few thousand dollars on a rental motorhome rather than $150,000 on a brand new setup. Or to figure out something’s unsuitable for your needs.

I actually know of one unlucky traveller who only discovered after hitting the road they couldn’t stand living in confined quarters, which became awkward for everyone, particularly their partner. The couple don’t motorhome anymore but happily live together and travel in a different style.


Driving a motorhome is different to driving a car and it takes a bit of getting  used to if you’re not experienced with larger vehicles. That said, it’s not difficult and there are many who enjoy piloting larger vehicles around the country. The current generation of cab chassis that power small to mid-sized motorhome are usually European in origin and are almost car-like and easy to drive.


Given most rental motorhomes are designed to be multifunctional, the layouts tend to differ from those in the retail market, but if you can find one that’s roughly similar in size to your intended purchase it can still help. Of course, rental motorhomes often have a maximum length of around 6.7m (22ft) so hiring anything much longer could be difficult. Furthermore, rental motorhomes are often narrower at around 2.2m (7ft 3in) than motorhomes designed for the retail market at around 2.5m (8ft). That might not sound much but it does make an incredible difference to the overall interior space, so bear it in mind.

Whilst renting a motorhome might sound very expensive, it could be a whole lot cheaper than purchasing something that is not for you. Besides, there are often some cheap off-season deals, especially in the Southern Hemisphere motorhome capital, a.k.a., New Zealand. The added bonus, of course, is that you get a holiday thrown in during the course of your research.


...On the subject of trans-Tasman travel. I am versed in the benefits of owning your own motorhome. However, there are some of us who, after a bit of research, maybe in Australia but possibly also New Zealand, discover they really like the fly-in and drive motorhome lifestyle. Their research continues in Canada, America, Britain and Europe where hiring a motorhome is easy to do, but somehow that’s as far as it goes, and the actual motorhome ownership never quite happens…

That doesn’t really matter because they’re still enjoying the motorhome lifestyle wherever they go. But what does matter for any would-be buyer is that they invest in researching their intended travel plans by “trying before they buy” and making, for many, what will be a once-in-a-lifetime investment in a very informed manner.

Tags: KEA Rental Ex Rental RV Motorhome Caravan Campervan Hire European new Zealand Canada America Britain
Category: Features
Written: Sun 01 Oct 2017
Printed: October, 2017
Published By:

Article Photos