Building a Motorhome
We receive several emails every week from people who enjoy reading our blog and who have questions about how they too can begin to enjoy the lifestyle that we live. We enjoy reading these emails and like the feedback, there are always a number of questions about building a motorhome. In this article I would like to put forward my opinion on building your own motorhome.
My first chunk of advice for those who are considering buying an old bus and converting it into their very own home on wheels is “DON’T DO IT”! I seriously suggest that anyone who thinks they are capable of turning an old bus into a practical, functional, robust motorhome on any sort of reasonable budget and in a reasonable timeframe, without any previous experience is deluding themselves. Now I am not saying that it is impossible, I am just saying that it is probably 10 times more difficult, and twice as expensive as you think. If you don’t believe me, have a look in local papers and on eBay at the number of “incomplete project busses” that are for sale – these people found out the hard way just how expensive and time consuming it is to do your own conversion.
So what is the alternative? I suggest that the best way to get on the road is to buy a bus that is already converted. Look for something that is close to what you want – then spend the time and money making the changes.
Lets compare the two options:
|Build Your Own Motorhome||Buy An Already Converted Motorhome|
|On day one after the purchase, you start removing seats. You have drawn you design based on what you think will work for you and you start building. The motorhome has to be almost finished before you can try out the design by taking the motorhome away for a weekend. By the time you realise that it is not quite right, it is too late.||On day one you drive a fully functional motorhome onto your property. On day two you decide to spend the night in it and pretend that you don’t have to go to work the following day. The next weekend you take it away to try it out. During this time you get some ideas about what needs to be done to make it suitable for full time living.
A month later you take it away for your first week long trip. This is where you really start to figure out what full time motorhoming is all about. By the end of this week you have altered your 2 year “get on the road” plan to a 1 year plan, have some real plans for alterations to the bus and definitely do not want to go to work on Monday.
|Six months after buying the bus, it still doesn’t look anything like a motorhome. You cannot believe how expensive all the parts are. The gas fitter and the electrician have quoted outrageous prices and your mate who was going to help you always seems to have something else on.
Someone said that the household fridge you bought for the bus would require too many solar panels and the large water tank you had built is just a fraction too big for the space you allocated for it.
|Six months after buying the motorhome, you have been away in the motorhome 9 times and the 1 year plan to get on the road is looking more like a 9 month plan. You have already started selling all the stuff you won’t need and have secured a storage unit for the stuff you have to store. The alterations on the bus are complete and they have been tested.|
|Nine months after purchase, you are over the whole thing, doing 3 hours work on the bus after work each day and two full days at the weekends has worn you down. You cannot understand where all the money has gone and it still looks nothing like a motorhome.
You decide to advertise it on eBay as a partly completed project.
|Nine months after buying the motorhome you are finally on the road. The bus has been well tested (all those weekends away) and the alterations are working well.
No work tomorrow!
Ok, so that is perhaps a little over dramatised, but it is fairly representative of how many of these stories go. All I am suggesting is that you think very carefully about what skills and experience you have in designing and building motorhomes, really check out the prices of fittings (some are up there with marine fitting prices) and realistically consider the amount of work that is involved.
Selecting a used motorhome
Before you even start looking at motorhomes you must make some important decisions. The first and most important is “what sort of traveller am I?” By this I mean, will you be driving from caravan park to camping ground or will you be wanting to free camp 95% of the time. I suspect that most people who are reading this will opt for the latter. Clearly, the advantages of setting up your motorhome for freedom camping include a vast reduction in ongoing expenditure (no or few caravan park fees) and the ability to stay that that magic place in the middle of nowhere.
The downside is the cost of the motorhome fit-out. Setting up a bus to be fully self-sufficient and independent is far more expensive than simply equipping it to accept the services from a caravan park.
Having decided on the type of travelling you will be doing, you now need to start listing what the motorhome will require…
How big does it need to be?
How much water will you need to carry?
How much food storage?
What is the best type of refrigerator?
What type of fuel will the vehicle run on and what tank capacity will you need?
How will you make power and how much storage will you need?
Solar – how much?
Once you have answered these and all the other important questions, you can make a list of what the ideal motorhome will contain. Of course, you won’t be able to find a motorhome that is for sale that meets all of these requirements (Hobohome is NOT for sale! 🙂 )– but you will find one that is close, it will require some time and money to get it to where you want it to be – but it will be a manageable project AND you will be able to use the motorhome on day one.
Be honest – if you have never lived in a motorhome for an extended time away from services, how can you be expected to know what it takes? Taking your newly purchased motorhome away for a week at a time before you start spending any money on it, is one of the best ways of finding out -without spending money on mistakes.
Motorhome mistakes are typically very expensive!
Do you agree or disagree? Do you have a story about building your motorhome? Have you bought someone else’s mistakes? I’d love to hear from you – why not use the “leave a Reply” box below and tell us about your experience.
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Thanks and happy Motorhoming and Caravanning - Gavin & Tracey.