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15th September 2020

Motorhome holiday rentals: a beginner’s guide

Thinking of hiring an RV for your maiden motorhome holiday? Here's the Sterling insurance beginner's guide to renting a motorhome or campervan for a break.

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If you’re thinking about a first campervan or motorhome holiday, it’s well worth considering renting a recreational vehicle (RV) for your maiden voyage, rather than splashing out tens of thousands of pounds buying a new one. 

There’s not much the team at Sterling insurance don’t know about the campervan and motorhome holiday and here they answer all the questions RV rookies will be asking.

motorhome holiday

What’s so good about a motorhome holiday?

In one word: “Freedom”. A campervan or motorhome holiday will provide an incredible feeling of freedom for you and everyone you are travelling with. 

You have the joys of the open road and the flexibility to move on and explore the coast and countryside at your own pace.

The motorhome holiday is a chance to get back to nature and revel in the great outdoors in a similar way to camping under canvas. But the beauty of the campervan or motorhome holiday is the warmth, cosiness, security and relative luxury you will experience once you pitch up for your holiday.

You can also take your dog with you, so there’s no need to fret about where to get it kennelled during your break.

And once you get your head down for the night there’ll be no damp flooring, no noisy tent sides flapping and no leaky canvas to keep you awake. 

The other great thing about a motorhome holiday is that you will not be restricted to the traditional holiday season. Camper and motorhomes normally have heating systems meaning you can holiday equally well in the spring, autumn and winter as you can in the summer, provided you book into a campsite that is open throughout the year. 

How do I choose which motorhome to hire?

When choosing which motorhome to hire, there is much to consider, not least where you plan to travel, how long you intend to stay and how many people you will be travelling with. 

Mention campervans and many people instantly think of the iconic and uber cool vintage VW. 

A well-preserved VW camper can be a good and cost-effective choice for your motorhome holiday and there’s no doubt you’ll look a real dude pulling up at Cornwall’s Fistral Beach in one of those bad boys.

But if there are more than two of you holidaying together remember space will be at a real premium and even for two, if it’s a long holiday those side panels will start to close in on you. 

Levels of comfort are also rather basic on old classic VW campers so it may be wise to let your romantic notions take a back seat and opt instead for a modern VW camper, perhaps a VW California, or a more luxurious motorhome. 

What motorhome holiday style choices do I have?

motorhome holiday

Classic campervans

The VW Splitscreen or Bay are great for two people although they probably claim to accommodate four. From experience, that is a real squeeze.

If you take a model with a pop-top you’ll have more sleeping space but you should consider taking a tent to pitch next to the van to provide more privacy and extra sleeping and storage space, which kind of defeats the objective of holidaying in a self contained motorhome. 

The other drawback with the classic VW camper is the performance on the road. Expect slow progress. If you motorway cruise at 60 miles an hour you will be doing well, the engine and gearbox will be noisy and the passenger seating unforgiving. 

This all combines to make the classic VW camper good for short trips for two, or two adults and two small children at most.

Modern campervans

Modern campervans based on the VW Transporter, Mazda Bongo and Toyota Previa will offer more reliability, practicality and higher levels of comfort. 

Newer campervans are ingeniously laid-out to take advantage of every available inch with fold-outs, pop-ups and hideaways at every turn.

They drive like a big car rather than a motorhome which makes them equally good around town, in car parks and in narrow country lanes. Their modern performance diesel drivetrains are quieter and more economic than the vintage VW options. 

The modern VW camper conversions will sleep four adults but Bongos, Previas and the likes are a little smaller. 

Factory model or conversion campervans

Conversions are vehicles that were manufactured as panel vans before being transformed into fully-equipped campers for motorhome holidays. The conversion may have been carried out by a professional company or, in some cases, by an enthusiastic DIY owner.

The DIY campervan conversion will probably be cheaper, but the factory job is likely to be more professional, durable and pleasing on the eye. 

Factory models are custom built as campervans by the manufacturer. This will usually mean a higher spec and more intelligent and coordinated use of space.


Motorhomes are at the top end of the motorhome holiday food-chain and because of the big outlay to purchase, it is a good option to hire for your motorhome holiday. 

They’ll sleep up to six in a range of fixed and fold-out bed options, and normally come with a loo, shower, fridge, ample cooking facilities and provision for a TV and other mod cons and loads of hidden away storage space. 

Many also come with made to measure zip up awnings which provide even more sleeping and storage space for all the motorhome holiday extras — surfboard, bikes, sun loungers, parasol  — that you will want to take with you. 

You’ll enjoy an advantageous high-up driving position but motorhomes are big and heavy. Driving a motorhome will be fine on the motorway but when you get on those quieter country roads it’s going to be a squeeze. And heaven help you if you meet another coming in the other direction.

motorhome holiday

Are there limits on the motorhome I can drive?

There are restrictions on the size of motorhome that some people are legally allowed to drive. 

If you passed your test after 1997 you will be limited to driving vans weighing less than 3500kg. For those who passed their test before then and are aged under 70, the C1 category on your licence will permit you to drive any motorhome up to 7500kg.

What else do I need for my motorhome holiday?

Now we’ve whet your appetite you can go out and find which sort of vehile you fancy for your first motorhome holiday. There are a number of supplier directories out there to help you make your choice.

Whenever you hit the road on your motorhome holiday and in whichever RV you choose to travel  — be it a cosy classic VW split-screen camper or a state-of-the-art six-berth Mercedes motorhome  — Sterling will be able to find value-for-money insurance to keep you, your RV and all your camping gear safe too.

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