Buying a motorhome abroad – Part 2
Some European dealership are much bigger than anything in UK and have extensive export experience

Some European dealership are much bigger than anything in UK and have extensive export experience

Buying a motorhome abroad, especially in Germany and Belgium, seems to be quite a popular activity – and to my surprise it’s seems to be done fairly widely on a semi-DIY basis, i.e. buying from a dealer over there but doing the collecting and/or all the importation paperwork yourself. It is not for the feint hearted but it obviously can be done and the DIY approach is obviously the way to save most money compared with buying in UK.

If you have read my previous article on this subject then you will be aware that I have used an experienced British agent, Nick Legg of Bundesvan, to do the inspecting and importing for me which I found as easy, if not easier, than buying from a UK dealer. I told Nick what I wanted (which I knew pretty much exactly) and paid him a deposit – and in due course he turned up with the new motorhome at my door to exchange it for my banker’s draft.   That was a few years ago and nowadays electronic payment would work better.

He also handled the few warranty issues we had very well iq option and I fancy that Nick’s contacts and experience with German motorhome dealers allowed him to negotiate a better deal with them than I could have achieved myself – and indeed he did secure a big “trade” discount on one of the vehicles we were looking at just recently.   Unfortunately so far we have been less successful, although not, I hasten to add, due to any fault of Nick’s.

But clearly it is possible to do it all yourself, providing you accept that effort and some extra risk are required – for example because it seems to be impossible to get anything other than third party cover for your transit journey back to UK.  Anyone (or at least lots of people) could work out how to use the internet to search for suitable dealers and motorhomes and there are some well written guides to the importation process on the internet too, for example there is a good one on Adam & Sophie’s Blog covers a lot of the ground.

The paperwork with the DVLA is a bit daunting, especially because now that you can no longer use a continues………

Buying a motorhome abroad
A step up to real luxury when touring

A step up to real luxury when touring

We have been looking for a change of motorhome for quite a few months, or rather toying with the idea, with no particular timetable – nor indeed much in the way of dissatisfaction with our existing vehicle, a Hymer B674 which we bought new eight years ago.

The temptation was that there are always bigger and better motorhomes and we were of an age when we wouldn’t be continuing to tour extensively for many more years, so if we were ever going to treat ourselves to the next step up in luxury, now was probably getting close to the time.

Budget comes into it too of course, and Lancashire Thrift, so there is no way we would be buying a brand new top specification monster of a motorhome. But we’re on our second Hymer and we like them, and we have always fancied their top of the range S Class models, so maybe we should have a serious look at getting one of those.

We would never have bought a new S Class because they cost roughly twice as much as the “ordinary” B Class but they depreciate more quickly than cheaper models and they tend to get looked after quite well, so a used one would be a possibility providing we didn’t mind buying a used one again, which we didn’t. On this basis what would have been way outside our budget was potentially affordable so we started looking around.

Our current vehicle is a 2006 Hymer B674 which I mentioned we’d had from new. It was our third motorhome and we’d reckoned we’d learned enough about what we needed so although we did look at some in the showrooms and at shows, we actually ordered it from the catalogue and from a small unofficial importer of German motorhomes called Nick Legg continues………

1970s Wessex Sidecar For Sale – Now Sold
Wessex Sidecar with fat man inside and Dalmatian trying to join him

Wessex Sidecar with fat man inside and Dalmatian trying to join him

Edwards’s sidecar is also for sale as a result of the decision to refurbish him as a solo bike, so here is your chance to buy an interesting 1970s period sidecar with a full set of fittings.

Modern sidecars might be more comodious but for a classic bike there is something about a period sidecar which just fits.  This one has a graceful and attractive line and doesn’t look at all old fashioned.

SONY DSCRelatively few of these sidecars were made, perhaps as few as seven of this particular type.  It has an integral frame inside a glass fibre moulding construction which is both strong and elegant and reasonably light.

It has a “bubble”, aircraft cockpit-style canopy which hinges forwards to assit entrance and exit and there is plenty of room for an adult of any size, although a tall man would probably find his head up in the fresh air, as in the photo.  For a lady or child passenger it provides plenty of height, under the cover if necessary, as well as plenty of width for anyone.

The sidecar also has a large luggage compartment behind the seat; plenty big enough for luggage and camping gear as necessary – more or less as much as you like.  Both sidecar and the linkage bars are very rubust and there is really no prospect of overloading it.

It is in excellent original condition apart from the tyre of course, which was a new one quite recently.  It takes a mini car tyre so there is no danger of not being able to get one.  It has a built-in sidelight/indicator and tail/brake/indicator combinations.

Nightstop Thoughts – by Ian Biggar and Sue Stanley
Ian & Sue's Blog offers some good reading

Ian & Sue’s Blog offers some good reading

Editor’s Note:  This article was submitted as a comment on a previous article on this subject but it runs to 1,500 words and is very well written, so I thought it deserved a bit more accessiblity than it would have posted as a Comment.  Ian and Sue are experienced motorhomers and they write their own Travel Blog, which you can visit by clicking HERE.  It contains some very good reading.

I see you are pursuing a topic close to our hearts.

Although members of the Caravan Club for many years, we haven’t been following the forums on CC for the very reason that you felt driven to set up another venue for discussion of this topic! So here is our five-pennyworth on the subject…

The establishment of plentiful aires/overnight stopovers for motorhomers around this country is a dream close to our hearts and we have followed the progress of various UK campaigns, but their dedicated efforts seem dwarfed by the enormity of the project to catch up with our continental neighbours.

Most local authority’s departments that have an input to this are ignorant of what motorhomes are and what motorhomers do, and show indifference to the revenue motorhoming can bring to tourism in their area. They seem unable to swiftly remove itinerants on public land, yet are up to their eyes with over-restrictive by-laws, planning rules and regulations, which they hasten to embellish and over-use to restrict even daytime parking for motorhomes, let alone overnight stops!

An important distinction, regularly re-iterated in Europe, is the difference between “parking” and “camping” – as soon as the chairs, table or awning come out you are Camping and the authorities will take a stern view. We as motorhomers need to remember that and act accordingly if we are not to damage our own interests. We mustn’t act like itinerants of the infamous kind, or give the impression we want to park up for months, raise our kids, pester the populace and despoil the area! All we are asking for is the right to park.

So, the various motorhome groups are all doing their bit, but who has influence with the real power brokers in government, tourism and local authorities?

Lets look at the situation in France, Germany and Italy. All are countries with strong and continues………

UK Nightstops – Discussion Summary
Some motorway service areas have quiet corners

Some motorway service areas have quiet corners

As I mentioned, I originated a Thread on the Caravan Club forum to explore ideas for nightstops for motorhomes in UK, and to include provisions for other camping units, notably caravans.  I’m hoping the Caravan Club would get involved in providing them, to bring a bit of experience and weight to the scene, to set a better standard for UK than the variable one found abroad and, for the benefit of CC and its members, to broaden the scope of CC’s commercial activities.

Clearly any caravan site, including CLs, is capable of providing one night accommodation for motorhomes (and caravans and trailer tents) but they are primarily holiday locations and they are geared to advanced booking, relatively early arrivals and longer stays.  In contrast nightstops cater for casual arrivals, parking rather setting out a pitch and a shorter stay pattern.  The busier arrivals and departure pattern which shorter stays and later arrivals would bring to a Club Site would probably be unwelcome to many holidaymaker caravanners, wanting a bit of peace and quiet.

Caravan Sites and CLs are regulated according to the provisions of the Caravan Site and Control of Development Act 1960 together with model standards for things like pitch spacing and the provision of camping facilities.  This might lead you to assume that all overnight stops for camping vehicles and trailers would come under the same regulation – but no, because in UK there is already provision for overnight parking which operates simply as permitted parking.  Overnight stops on motorway service areas are one example and there are some local authority car parks (not that many at present) where overnight parking of camping vehicles is permitted. Some private car parks also permit overnight stays, for example motorhome dealerships. continues………

UK Nightstops for Motorhomes – The Practicalities

NightstopA discussion on this subject has been running on the Caravan Club’s Forum, Club Together, for a couple of weeks but  an attempt to concentrate on the practical design aspects has run into difficulties, with too many off-topic and otherwise unhelpful posts.  So I thought I would offer a more sheltered opportunity to progress the discussion on this Blog.

The proposition is that Nightstops for motorhomes (and potentially caravans) have developed along ad hoc and sometimes messy lines on the Continent, so could the Caravan Club, a big player in the UK recreational market, do better for UK by developing a more planned and coordinated set of nightstops to complement their existing and extensive network of large touring camp sites and smaller, five van, certificated locations?

Small ones?

Small ones?

Nightstops provide overnight parking and they might also have facilities for taking on water and dumping tanks, but they are not campsites.  They don’t provide the facilities of campsites, like shower and toilet blocks or resident staff.  They are for short stays, either as rest stops in transit or sleeping locations while touring an area, rather than for any sort of residence.  At their simplest they are simply car parks where motorhomes are permitted to stop overnight.

Parking rather than camping rules will therefore apply and the units will usually be closer together (i.e. parked side by side) rather than spaced out as on campsites, with room for awnings and tables and chairs.  They are therefore more like lorry parks, where drivers can park together, sleep for a few hours, maybe do some local shopping or visiting and then move on.

Big ones?

Big ones?

Along transit routes, nightstops on the Continent (called Aires and Stelplatz) are often large parking areas and they get very busy but nightstops are also found in rural villages and those may accommodate only a small handful and rareful be full.  Parking may be restricted to motorhomes but is often shared with other vehicles, including lorries, although caravans are often prohibited.

Piecemeal development is taking place in UK using a mixture of exiting locations like pub and other car parks and some local authorities in tourist areas are recognising the value of providing for motorhomes rather than shunning them, but it’s patchy and slow.  There are hopes for a positive impact on local tourism and businesses and concerns about an adverse impact on campsites and about Travellers and others abusing them.

There is an article on the All the Aires Website which condenses ideas from continental experience and suggests way to construct a good nightstop – and this is worth everyone who is interested in this topic reading as background information.  The message is that they can be successful (and lucrative) but money should be taken for parking charges rather than services like water, which it is expedient and more practical to provide free of charge instead.

Service points can be simple

Service points can be simple

Could a big player like the Caravan Club usefully get involved and start to develop a network of Nightstops, big, small or a mixture, to compliment its camping locations?  And if so what types should they be and where?

The Motorcaravan Club is actively engaged but is trying to provide nightstops as small camping locations, which brings them under camping regulations.  The Caravan Club is already planning to give Nightstops consideration and is being encouraged to think outside that box – and the discussion on their Forum has already developed into the nuts and bolts of the idea: the types and sizes and locations and practical design aspects.

But it is getting clogged up with a lot of off-topic stuff, hence this invitation to discuss.  Anyone may contribute but please note that comments which aren’t about the nuts & bolts of nightstop development and design will not be accepted.

How do you think nightstops can best be developed in UK?   Over to you  ……………………………………………

Motor Insurance is challenging these days
If you've got it, flaunt it,- but are they both covered in this combination?

If you’ve got it, flaunt it,- but are they both covered in this combination?

We punters get taken advantage of quite a lot because we don’t bother to shop around and that’s particularly true of motor insurance.  Even though we have to renew every year, which reminds us of the need to take stock, some of us won’t bother to shop around to compare the price.

Insurers want to keep our renewal business so they don’t particularly want us to shop around – and they are not above trying to make it less likely that we will do so.

In order to discourage shopping around and encourage renewal with them brokers or insurers may:

  1. Encourage  automatic renewal if we pay by direct debit
  2. Send the renewal letter as late as possible
  3. Play hard to get with NCB confirmation
  4. Counter-offer with a lower premium but only if they think they are going to lose you.

Only the last one of these is helpful to you, because even if they offer automatic renewal they will still want you to confirm that you’ve had no claims or earned no points on your licence.  If you have had claims that they don’t know about or collected new points on your licence, they will want to charge you extra if they can and may start to treat you like a captive customer.

Our opportunity at renewal time, especially if we have not become a captive customer, is to shop around to make sure we’re not being taken for a ride.  This article is about why and how to do that. continues………

Digital Radio on the move

Sony DAB*

Digital radio has been around for a while and it’s very clever – providing crystal clear sound and a much wider range of stations than you can receive with ordinary FM.  It’s now also available for use in vehicles in UK, i.e. for use on the move.

There are other systems around the world but DAB (digital audio broadcasting) is the digital radio format used in UK.  It allows far more stations to be squeezed in and the inclusion of additional digital information, including for example the name of the tune currently being played on a music station.  The sound is crystal clear and cross country reception is seamless.

Ordinary FM radio still works well enough on the move for many of us and thanks to clever old RDS (radio data system) which Honda introduced with the GL1800 as it came to Europe in 2001, provides traffic alerts and seamless access to national radio channels as we cross the Country.  Together with MP3 players and the like to play recorded music through the bike’s powerful stereo system,  those Wingers who like sound while they ride are well provided for.  And installing a replacement radio in a GoldWing isn’t exactly straightforward anyway, as is the case in many modern cars, where the manufacturer has deterred theft by building the radio into the dashboard rather than using a standard sized rectangular slot.

DAB is better but there isn’t really enough improvement for many people to want to continues………

Motorhome, GoldWing, brake lights and a cruise control fault
Rainy Suffolk - awaiting unloading

Rainy Suffolk – awaiting unloading

Our motorhome hadn’t turned a wheel since we came back from France in early October last year; it hadn’t even had the flies cleaned off the windscreen.   That wasn’t the plan when it was parked in the garage but subsequently there was always either too much else to do or too little interest in getting it out again just to clean off some flies.

Owning a silver-coloured motorhome has its advantages when it comes to hiding the dirt if you are not fond of cleaning and polishing.  Keeping it in a garage makes life a lot easier.

As part of our de-cluttering at home, prior to migration to Suffolk, closer to grandchildren, I needed to move one of my GoldWings to Suffolk ahead off the main move.  My GoldWings are ageing classics and so am I these days, so riding it down there in January didn’t appeal.  So the box van trailer I bought some years ago for moving bikes around (to go touring in the Alps) was the way to do it.  I could pack all sorts of other stuff into the trailer too and because of this the towing job was going to be too much for our car, but the motorhome, with a much bigger towing capacity, could do the job.

Both motorhome and trailer would however need some work to ensure they could make continues………

Failing older drivers – and motorhomes

If you live in Lancashire, ring 01772 456412

As we get older, we inevitably suffer decline in our reaction times, awareness of what’s going on around us and some other elements of our driving skills.  Those of us who don’t recognise this and take appropriate action, or decide to carry on regardless anyway, can become a source of serious risk to other road users.

Even previously very good drivers can become bad and dangerous ones unless we do something to prevent it.  Every so often we see a news story about some elderly driver causing chaos by driving the wrong way around the M25 or something along those lines.

What can be done?  How can we extend an individual’s safe driving career when derioration starts and, if that’s not achievable any longer, how can we safeguard the interests of other road users, by making sure that older drivers give up driving when they need to do so?

Refresher traing is one way of helping, and that’s what this article is about.  I volunteered for such a Course and enjoyed it.  It helped me to consider whether I was driving safely and showed me how to keep myself driving safely for longer.

Formally re-testing older drivers might be another way of discovering who is developing continues………

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