How to drive your motorhome for the first time safely
Motorhomes are great for holidaying in the UK, but they can feel intimidating if you’ve never driven one before. Here’s how to get over the fear...
So, you’ve got yourself a motorhome. You’ve chosen the model, gone for a strong and efficient engine, fitted it with the perfect colour of trim, and added few choice options, if you’ve bought new at least. Now, how to get it home?
There’s no denying that motorhomes are bigger than the vehicles most people are used to driving. After all, these vehicles are intended to be used for a lot more than just driving. But there really is no real need to be apprehensive to get behind the wheel; a few simple preparations before you drive your motorhome for the first time will take the fear out of it.
Make sure you’re legally allowed to drive
For a start, make sure you’re legal. If you passed your driving test before January 1, 1997, you’re legally allowed to drive a vehicle with a Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of up to 7500kg, which covers even the largest motorhomes you’re likely to find in the UK.
If you passed after January 1, 1997, you can drive a motorhome with a MAM of up to 3500kg. If you’re in doubt, any motorhome should have its MAM printed on its vehicle identification (VIN) plate.
Also, you need to make sure you fully understand the speed limits that apply to motorhomes of certain dimensions and weights. These vary depending on the size of motorhome you're driving, so you don’t want to come home to a series of speeding notices.
Get on course
The next best way to prepare is to undertake a driving course. There are plenty of these available, some run by clubs such as the Camping & Caravanning Club and The Caravan Club, but there are also courses run at your local HGV training centre.
Any of these will teach you how to safely and confidently manoeuvre your motorhome. A couple of hundred pounds here will be well spent if it prevents you from damaging your motorhome the first time you try and park it.
Practice makes perfect
Once you’ve completed a course, it makes sense to practice, so why not head out in your motorhome at times when the roads might be a bit quieter, such as at the weekend or in the evening.
It can also make sense to find an empty car park to let you rehearse parking and manoeuvring into tight spots. Motorhomes will require a bit more space for turns, so you’ll need to practice leaving extra space to negotiate junctions and corners so that you don’t clip kerbs with your rear wheels.
Assuming you’re now confident and ready to hit the road, there are a few things to do before each journey. Indeed, think of these as pre-flight checks and you’ll get the idea.
Check the tyres for tread, damage and pressures, make sure all the lights are working as they should, including any running lights and numberplate lights, and make sure your mirrors are undamaged and clean. Wipers should effectively clean the windscreen, and the washers should be topped up with fluid.
Distractions are one of the major causes of accidents these days, so it makes good sense to minimise these.
As part of this, you need to ensure that everything in your motorhome is tidied up and put away before you leave. The last thing you want is that all-important crockery falling off the table and rolling around the floor just as you join a slip road for the motorway.
As you should have found out during your driving course, motorhomes aren’t actually that difficult to drive. However, they are considerably bigger than a normal family car, so it makes sense to be fully aware of your motorhome’s dimensions. You do not want to be the person that gets stuck under a bridge or who blocks the entrance to a car park.
By the same token, you’ll need to keep an eye on any overhanging branches and vegetation at the side of the road, because the larger dimension of a motorhome mean you may need to take avoiding action.
Bear in mind, too, the weather. If it’s a windy day, a large vehicle such as a high-sided motorhome will be more affected by crosswinds than smaller cars.
Other road users
A motorhome isn’t just a big vehicle to drive – it’s also one that looks big to other road users, so consider this when encountering them. Cyclists and pedestrians will thank you for giving them a wide berth, because a motorhome will generate quite a bit of buffeting as it passes.
As you can see from the tips above, a lot of what will make you a calm and safe motorhome driver comes down to preparation. Make sure your paperwork is sorted, your motorhome is fully operational and you’re comfortable with driving it, and you’ll minimise the chances of anything going wrong.
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