Buying an RV

Recreational vehicles, RVs, motorhomes or campervans; whatever you call them, they have a certain romantic appeal. They do after all give you the freedom to drive where the spirit takes you. Once there, no matter how remote it is, you can bed down with a hard roof over your head and wake to a home-cooked breakfast.

There are many different sorts of these vehicles to suit many different budgets. Here are five of the most popular categories.

The American-style RV

In many ways, the recreational vehicle typifies the American dream. It's the modern equivalent of hitching your wagon and heading into the wilderness with everything including the kitchen sink. Pull-out sections increase the floor-area to yield sufficient space for a family to live comfortably without feeling too claustrophobic.

However, some US-style RVs are so large, you need to pass your HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) driving test to be allowed behind the wheel. A huge vehicle requires a massive engine. And you don't get many miles to the gallon out of nearly 9-litres of truck engine in some.

There's also the not-so-small matter of purchase price. Although some models are available for around £70,000, the sky's pretty much the limit when it comes to cost. The Winnebago Grand Tour features a power-reclining king-size bed, an en suite bathroom to its 'master bedroom', a retractable HD TV, porcelain floor tiles and even a fire place. Prices new for all that luxury start at $446,832 (£314,000).

Price range: £70,000+
Sleeps: 8
Engine: 8.8-litre diesel

The new motor caravan

For people who want the flexibility of staying in a caravan without the hassle of towing something behind their car, the motor caravan or motorhome is the way forward. These come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and prices. Usually around £50,000 will buy a brand new model that will sleep anywhere from two to seven people.

Motor caravans are usually built around tried and trusted commercial vehicles that are designed for big mileages. That means reliability that's usually fairly bulletproof. But they can feel a bit lumbering for anyone stepping out of a regular car, as drivers who've followed one winding its way slowly up a steep mountain pass will testify.

They make up for their lack of agility with remarkable creature comforts considering their relatively compact size. Features include a shower, washroom and toilet plus cooking facilities including a fridge/freezer, oven and running water. There are fold out beds for up to seven but it might feel a little cosy with that many people on board.

Price range: £35,000-£65,000
Sleeps: 7
Engine: 2.3-litre diesel

The used motor caravan

Unlike their car equivalents, motor caravans cling to value like a mountain goat to rocky terrain, so second hand ones aren't as affordable as an aspiring happy camper might hope they'd be. So the less money you're prepared to pay, the older the vehicle will be. For around £24,000, you'll get a model that's between 8 and15 years old depending on whether you buy privately or from a dealer.

Unlike buying a car of a similar vintage, as these are generally used for holidays and weekends away rather than every day, mileages tend not to be too high. Pleasingly, many 10 to 15 year-old vehicles will show less than 30,000 on the clock.

Inside, you'll have all the mod cons of a newer model. And if it's a bit tired around the edges, that shouldn't be too much of a problem. The accommodation areas are frequently hand built by small manufacturers so it's usually not difficult to get damaged parts replaced or - if budget permits - to splash out on a refitted interior.

Price range: £24,000+
Sleeps: 7
Engine: 2.3-litre diesel

The classic camper

Several generations of surfers and festival goers have grown up yearning for the Volkswagen T1 and T2 models. With an image that's laid back, permissive and effortlessly cool it's easy to see why.

But it's important to remember that these have no on-board toilet and just a small sink for washing in. Some of them are also old vehicles and if you're used to the effortless speed, comfort and relentless reliability of modern cars, an older model's peccadillos might take you by surprise.

VW made the T2 until 2013 and you can still buy new models, complete with luxuries such as air-conditioning and a flat-screen TV. As all these campers are now considered classics, people will pay a premium for them. Brand new models cost £39,645 while 'original' 1970s versions sell for around £10,000.

Price range: £10,000-£50,000
Sleeps: 4
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol

The part-time camper

Anyone who wants a hybrid between a modern people carrying MPV and a camper van is well served by the modern equivalent of Volkswagen's T1 and T2. Called the California, it's based around VW's T6 commercial vehicle.

Like its ancestor, the California doesn't have a toilet. It does have sleeping for four, a sink, fridge, cooker and storage for plates and pots and pans. But where the California really triumphs is by feeling like a large modern car to drive with all the safety features, economy and convenience that implies. New Californias cost from £38,214 but you can pick up used versions for around £28,000.

Price range: £28,000-£50,000
Sleeps: 4
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel

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