Driving a motorhome for the first time can be a daunting experience, whether it’s a hire vehicle or your newly-purchased pride and joy. They’re wide, they’re long and, let’s face it, they’re not cheap.
But it needn’t be something to worry about. In fact, motorhomes are surprisingly easy to manoeuvre.
Here are our top tips for your first time behind the big wheel.
Check you’re legal
Before you even insert the key into the ignition – or push the ignition button if you’re really upmarket – make sure you are legally capable of driving your motorhome.
If you took your driving test before January 1997, you are automatically allowed to drive category C1 vehicles up to 7,500kg.
If you took your driving test after January 1997, you will have a standard driving licence that only allows you to drive category B and B1 vehicles. Many motorhomes are 3,500kg and under – but if you are driving one in excess of that, you will need to take an additional driving test.
Make sure you also know the speed limits of your motorhome for each road type, as these differ slightly depending on weight.
Get used to your surroundings
Even if you are a confident, competent car driver, spend a little time getting used to your motorhome before you take it on the open road.
Have a sit in the driver’s seat and make sure you know where all the key controls are so you’re not scrambling around while driving. Look for the things you will need most often and most urgently, such as the windscreen wipers, the lights, the full beam, the heating and the horn.
Adjust the mirrors and the seat so they’re in just the right place. You want to feel comfortable and in control.
Ideally, take your motorhome out for practice runs when the roads are quiet.
Size her up
Make sure you know the dimensions of your motorhome so you are not flustered when faced with a low bridge or a narrow road. If you know exactly how big the vehicle is you will be able to proceed without worrying about taking the roof or the side off.
The average motorhome is almost one meter wider than the average car.
Try to drive slightly closer to the pavement than you normally would to accommodate for this extra width. You could practice this in a car before moving onto the motorhome. Make frequent checks to ensure you are not straying into the opposite lane.
You will need plenty of room to swing out of junctions, so it’s best to wait until there are no cars coming in either direction.
Stick to the main roads
Most of us have become a bit too reliant on Google Maps. As fantastic as sat navs are, we have all found ourselves taking an ‘interesting’ detour from time to time.
While travelling down country lanes is not a huge issue in a car, it’s not something you want to be doing in a motorhome – and certainly not on your first outing.
Plan the route ahead and stick to the main roads as much as possible.
Some sat navs give you the option of selecting routes suitable for larger vehicles.
Make parking as easy as possible
Parking and reversing are the most difficult parts of driving a motorhome. It will come with practice but, until then, give yourself the best chance by choosing parking bays with no obstacles.
If you have one, get your passenger to help direct you into the space and use your side mirrors frequently. Parking sensors and cameras are a huge help.
Go slowly and get those indicators on. Park facing outwards whenever possible to make departure much easier.
Watch your speed and give me a brake
Heavier vehicles take longer to brake than cars. To compensate for this, leave plenty of room – more than you would do ordinarily – between you and the car in front.
Most experts recommend that you give yourself at least an extra six seconds between you and the next vehicle.
Plan more breaks and take your time
Driving a motorhome takes more concentration and effort than a car. Plan regular rest breaks to recover and regain peak focus.
Most of all, just take your time and try to enjoy the journey. Many mistakes are made when rushing or stressed.
Try to remain calm
Chances are you will find yourself in a sticky situation on your first couple of motorhome outings. Whatever may come before you, try to remain calm and composed. Draw on your driving experience and don’t be pressured into rash manoeuvres. It’s better to be slow and safe, even if other motorists around you are getting frustrated.