Motorhome Facts Forum banner

what size vehicle should I go for?

3659 Views 16 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  rambling_sid
hello, I have asked one question already today,sorry but I have a few more;
We have 3 children so I am looking for a 5 berth even maybe a 6 berth, my question is;
is it best to go for one under 20ft in length?
does it work out more expensive on ferries, campsites etc, the longer the motorhome?
is there a maximum length a lot of people go for for this reason, or doesn't length matter?
It is just that I saw a swift sundance today (are these ok by the way?)which seeemed the perfect layout but was 22.4 in length and my husband reckons we should stick to below 20ft for the extra expenses which may be involved etc, is he right? (he used to own a vw camper so has driven large vehicles previously so I don't think difficulty in driving is the problem)
sorry for so many questions, thankyou natalia
1 - 17 of 17 Posts
Hi Natalia, and welcome to MHF!

I'm sure you will get lots of replies and advice - though it is a bit quiet on here this weekend.

As a 'starter for 10', think about :-

Storage space - where will you keep it and how much room is there?

How you will use it - campsites only, wildcamping, CL's, aires, rallies, shows?

How often will the 5 of you spend long periods indoors? Cabin fever can be alleviated to a certain extent by space.

How often will you use ferries? Mine is 21 feet long, and I have never paid more than £90 return dover-calais. Cheapest was £28. Many ferries charge a small premium over 6metres, but longer isn't a huge issue for cost - my mate just booked car/caravan for June and it's over £400, but his combination is over 12 metres - 40 feet or so. Try pricing different sized vans on the ferry to compare cost.

Anything over about 18 feet won't fit in a normal car park space, anything less will struggle to accommodate 5 people (even little ones).

Definitely think about hiring before you buy - you may not be able to hire the exact layout you want, but it will focus the mind on what works and not for you.

John's Cross does, I think, do a hire before you buy scheme - may be worth a look.

In terms of running costs, longer is not necessarily more expensive unless you go for a tag axle (two axles at the back) where you have 2 extra tyres/sets of brakes and suspension components. Campsites tend to charge per pitch/person, not length of van.

I have no experience of Swift vans, though many on here have them and Swift are members here and appear to be customer-focussed.

If you intend to use it all year, and particularly if going skiing, then think about how 'winterised' your prospective van is.

Hope this helps

See less See more
It is only ferries that will cost more. Most sites charge per person. We have an 8 metre van with room to sleep 7 (Burstner 747).

We have always got on to sites abroad that tend to have marked out pitches with hedges.
All the one we have used over the years in this country have been open fields.
The camping and caravan club don't like to book you in on the internet 8 metres and over.

ain't no good buying a van that s no good for your use, sub 6m is good for ferries but no good if you want more room, buy something that suits you. dennis
hi Natalia

we have an 18' motorhome (5.5 metres) that is supposedly a 5 berth 8O

there are only the 2 of us and its fine, but when we take the grandson, it is very noticeable that there is another person on board.

I would think that you need a van larger than 20', probably quite a bit larger, to be comfortable in.

My son has 2 youngsters and he would not entertain using our van :D :wink:

Just another thing to consider. Check that a MH that is 'six berth', also has safe, belted seating for all your family. This seems to be an issue with some MHs, enough room to sleep but not to travel safely and comfortably.
Good luck with your search, and hope you can get out on the road with those lucky children.

thanks, oh that is good news, I think I would rather be comfortable than all squashed in a small area, so I will look for ones with the best layout and ignore the length,
a bit worried about the seatbelts though as most of them only have 4 in total, 2 in the front and 2 rear ones, which is no good,
is it easy to get another one fitted? and is it costly?

thanks ever so much for all the fast responses, cheers natalia
Hi Natalie

ours has 6 seat belts, 4 on the dinette ( 2 full belts on the forward facing seats, 2 lap belts on the rear facing seats) plus the normal driver/passenger belts so they do exist :D
StAubyns said:
Hi Natalie

ours has 6 seat belts, 4 on the dinette ( 2 full belts on the forward facing seats, 2 lap belts on the rear facing seats) plus the normal driver/passenger belts so they do exist :D
exactly like ours which is a mclouis tandy 615.
8.5 metre van with a garage to take 2 motorcycles cost significantly less on the ferry than 6 metre van with small MC trailer.

Go for the biggest you can afford if its a family van, you can never have too much space.

You soon get used to driving the size.

Take care buit TAKE IT.

First MH

I think hiring one (any one really), just to experience moving about inside, going to bed, getting up in the night for a pee... all those things you'd probably never imagine: you'll then have something to go on; either what you did like, as well as possibly things you didn't too. It's not something we did, and I now think it'd have been a useful and informative experiment.

We're on our 1st MH; we have a 2 yr-old, so just 3 of us. We didn't give much consideration to layout beyond a couple of afternoons at a local dealer's looking around their 2nd hand vans. But it was pretty clear a 3 berth wouldn't have been big enough for comfortable extended periods (we're planning a 2-month trip).
What we got (click the garage link) is apparently a 5-berth, but other than 'on the floor' I can't see where number 5 would sleep!

We've an over-cab double, which is great because it's always made-up, although really cosy, and 2 bunks at the rear: one folds up creating more storage space in the 'garage cupboard'.

It's not that I think we made a bad choice at all; and it'd be unlikely you'd end up with something you just couldn't work around, but I now think that there are quite a few more options out there we could have explored than those we initially considered.

Even going to a car-park in the woods for a night in a hired van would give you a benchmark to make decisions against.

As well as length, I reckon power is an important consideration not to overlook: ours is the 2.3 jtd and has enough 'guts' for general driving without being frustratingly slow, although of course you can relax and drive with the lorries to save fuel and the planet. I'm glad we didn't get a lower-powered unit: again, by hiring and trying one, you'd have a bench mark.

So, length: OK on the inside, bigger will always be best; it's just great to have space (within reason), but I must admit, having done a few trips now , to still being a bit phobic about driving into places I can't then turn around in etc. I guess this becomes less daunting with experience; but must always ultimately be a limiting factor to some extent.

I don't mind admitting that the first time I drove the small windy, overhanging, blind-cornered roads between Snowdonia and Portmaddog; I was 'bricking it' and was constantly worried about leaning trees at the side of the roads hitting our top corner: particularly after an oncoming vehicle wiped out my driver's side mirror! I've driven many types and sizes of vans up to 7.5t over the years, but a MH just seemed to be worse somehow; perhaps it's having the family on-board?

So, considering all the above; and assuming you've storage space to park it, I wouldn't shy away from a bigger one, particularly given your numbers.
We've at least once benefited though, on a campsite that was 'almost full', by "Oh, alright then; it's not a very big one is it."

Hope that helps!

Oh, nearly forgot to add: reversing camera =absolute must; such a help / comfort being able to actually see your own *rse!
See less See more
what size motorhome

We also have 3 kids(14,12,10) and owned a 5 berth mclouis glen (21ft) for the 1st year, but after numerous holidays last year it was just too tight for us all to have any breathing space, and kids using power too quickly so we always stayed on sites, we have now changed to a 28ft rv and the difference in size and comfort is fantastic, not had any problems with any sites so far and the ferry cost (dover /calais) is same price as mclouis last year(£109 return) and when not on sites the built in genny will give us any power we need, the beauty of it was that it was cheaper to buy as well than the mclouis(albeit older) and with lpg it's almost as economical, take your time choosing and hiring would be a good idea, preferably for 2 weeks as well to get the feel for it and find out how you deal with the available space as a family.
See less See more
I would look around very carefully, and work out what best would suit you - we hire out 20 foot motorhomes, and we keep roughly to that so the inexperienced are not put off by the size (and so we minimise damage! lol!)

They are 5 berth, but to be honest, finding a 5 berth that is spacious, has storage for 5 people - and this is the important bit - is comfortable for all five to stay in for a day if need be! You never know, you could find a day with a storm and you are all sat of top of each other. It's little things like this that you have to consider or elae it will ruin the whole experience.

Most ferries will only charge say £10 more for a few extra feet - and is comfort worth spending that? How many ferries are you planning to be on? If you spend £100 in two years, would it be worth the extra comfort?

Also bear in mind, apart from space and layout - the smaller then van the less storage - which means a roof box, and that means more height restrictions, again is it worth the pay off?

I would have a serious look into it and have a chat - by all means hire a 20 foot motorhome and see how you get on - but do remember, you may manage just about now, but kids grow! lol! They may get too big for the bunk, or you might get a heavier foot landing on your head each time they climb down! lol!

Try to think of every scenario, and remember you are investing alot of money into it, so make sure you make the best choice you can - if you end up buying the wrong one, and have second thoughts and change vans, the depreciation will cost alot more than a few feet extra in ferry charges!
See less See more

With that size family just shop at Tesco's and you don't need to worry about the cost of crossing the channel it will all be done for you and without chasing children around a ferry, just jump in the tunnel and you are there in 35minutes on ready to go. Using Tesco vouchers

We have friends who hired the CI 656 with 2 bunks , came away with us holiday to France with us and loved it so much came back and in 3 weeks had bought the Rollerteam 700 (quite a few owners of these on here now) . just to show you the van and the new price not recommending the seller, never heard of him

It seats 6 with belts and 6 to eat not many do that, you can sleep 7 if you wanted to. It is on a Ford RWD so very litltle problems with getting stuck in muddy fields.

If you need more info someone will have the answer on here I am sure.

Good luck
See less See more
Hi, Natalia, and welcome :D

Some really good advice from other posters. You might want to look at our >> Beginners' guide << which discusses a number of points.

One point that hasn't been mentioned yet (I think :oops: ) is payload. This is dictated by the maximum weight defined by the van manufacturers and also your licence. The guide will help with this, but it is something very important to look up on any van you're considering. You have to consider the weight of the people on board, and the amount of stuff you're carrying.

thankyou everyone for your detailed replies, if meeting people like you whilst motorhoming is what we will encounter, then I can't wait to get started!
It is a bit of a minefield, but we have decided we are going to be strict about purchasing one with at least 5 seatbelts in total, and hopefully two dinnetts (if that is what you call them!) and a 6 berth.
As we have 3 children we do want them to have their own seating area as you cannot rely on the british or french weather for outdoor seating.
We are planning on using it for long holidays and just for weekends in uk and france, so we do need as much space as we can have. We are outdoor people so it makes sense to buy a motorhome.
We have looked at a few,
so far we like the rollerteam, swift sundance, and kontiki, but the more I look the more models keep on popping up with better layouts,so we have to do a bit more homework, thankyou all and I will update you on our purchase, but no doubt I will have a few more questions beforehand if that is ok, bye for now natalia
See less See more
I have an 18' long motorhome - 20' is my absolute limit for parking on the drive. This is fine for the two of us plus a cocker spaniel, but I really wouldn't want to try it with any more, especially in bad weather. Mine is Swift, almost 10 years old, and I have found it to be well designed and reasonably robust.
1 - 17 of 17 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.