Motorhomes can actually be very reliable. A well maintained and well-built motorhome can give you years of trouble-free travel. Even an ancient motorhome like ours can be surprisingly reliable.
The reliability of motorhomes is a tricky subject, How reliable a motorhome is really depends on how well it has been looked after in the past and how well it is being looked after right now.
The better the owner knows about the workings and systems of the motorhome the better cared for that motorhome will usually be.
If you enjoy just jumping into the motorhome and riding off into the sunset until something breaks then your motorhome will slowly become less and less reliable. These complicated machines need a bit of preventative maintenance to work well.
When you consider all the moving parts and equipment in a motorhome it’s a miracle that they actually go anywhere.
When you get your motorhome there is a steep learning curve on how to use the motorhome properly. Every mistake can have costly consequences – here are some of ours;
There are a few factors to consider when talking about the reliability of a motorhome. When asking the question do you mean the reliability of the running gear and engine, the actual mechanics of the vehicle or are you talking about the reliability of the motorhome equipment such as taps, heating electrical system etc?
That is the problem with a motorhome, it has two sides. There is a vehicle and there is a living space and both the areas require different types of maintenance.
The Mechanical Reliability of a Motorhome
Most people tend to worry about the mechanical reliability of their motorhome. After all, this is the part that can leave you stranded or not even started on your holiday. There is no worse feeling than setting out on your holiday to find yourself in a layby after a few hours.
Motorhomes are built of different base vehicles. The most common one in Europe at the moment appears to be the Fiat Ducato. This is the base vehicle that ours is built on and it’s still going 30 years later.
Peugeot, Renault, Citron and Mercedes all do base vehicles for motorhomes whereas Volkswagen seems to dominate the campervan space.
These engines have been around for a very long time and if looked after should be good for many hundreds of thousands of miles and that seems to stand for all the makes.
Ours is about 120,000 miles (190,000 km)and there is still plenty of pull in it and will sit on the motorway about 65mph (104kph) no problem. It feels like there is still plenty of life left in it and that is a 30-year-old engine.
The crucial thing about the reliability of a motorhome engine is the maintenance.
Now that we own this motorhome and have had the engine refurbished after being neglected for many years we have now got a maintenance schedule for it. You want to pay a small amount every year to make sure the fluids and oils are clean and fresh and this goes a long way to keeping the motorhome reliable. At a cost of about £100 per year, you can avoid most of the major engine problems you may suffer.
I am not saying that you will never break down but by investigating strange noises changing the fluids and keeping it clean even underneath you will save yourself the problem of having to have your motorhome picked up from somewhere, followed by a huge garage bill.
You do not want to get into the habit of driving your motorhome to failure, that’s going to cost you in both money and lost holiday time.
Reliability of the Living Space in a Motorhome
The next area that may cause reliability issues is the living space. The actual part that you spend your holiday time in.
In order for a motorhome to last the interior space must be well built. Not only this, reliable equipment needs to be used as well. With our motorhome being around 30 years old the equipment in the motorhome like the taps, fridge, heating system, charging system are all coming to the end of their useful lives. So we are expecting a level of reliability that is quite low. Obviously, if you are buying a new motorhome you would expect the flawless operation of your motorhome for years.
Even with the knowledge that the fridge is past its life – it still works as does the heating system and the hot water boiler and even the old charger.
In the habitation side of the motorhome, less is better. The simpler the equipment is the easier and cheaper it will be to repair.
The better built the motorhome is the better the reliability will be. Again, when you use your motorhome, if you use it with care you will get better reliability of everything you touch. All our equipment is very old and we have found that if you do not force things and are very gentle everything keeps on working. The only times we have damaged things is when we are rough with them.
As well as the equipment you will use on your holiday you want the living space to be dry so you need to be constantly on the lookout for any water or damp areas. Damp is not good for a motorhome and can cause hefty damage in a very short space of time.
The Hymers have an Aluminium skin that seems to last a very long time. You just have to watch the joins and any holes and you should have a really dry living space. At 30 years old I have started finding the seals around the hatches and some of the windows are leaking slightly. Luckily the seals are very easy and cheap to repair. Once repaired should be good for many years to come – hopefully, another 30 years.
Now I have been going on about getting a motorhome that is really well built with very reliable appliances and usable parts which is great and Hymer seems to have really considered this in the 1990s. There is a problem with high-quality parts and that is when they finally do break down they can be very costly to replace if they need to be replaced.
The good thing, apart from the long life, is that you can usually get parts – even after 30 years I am amazed at what you can still get parts for. Just about all of the heating system parts are still available, you can get the windows and hatches, you can still get most parts for the boiler.
With all this equipment it is amazing that you get any spare time to go on holiday and for our first year that was true, we just seemed to be working on it constantly. After a bit of hard work, we have greatly increased the reliability and we now make sure we know where and what the problems are and prioritise them. Do the urgent things first – simple
Just remember that the complexity of these machines generally means that something will go wrong at some point.
What are the Most Reliable Motorhomes?
Deciding on the best motorhome available is quite tricky. Motorhome manufacturers change, new manufacturers come along, others disappear. Some motorhomes are built for luxury some are built for low weight purposes. But after years of research and many sleepless nights, I have come to the conclusion that the best motorhome that money can buy is – no idea.
We went for a make of motorhome with a reputation of great build quality, and a bombproof interior, fitted with reliable parts on a mechanical base that you can still get (most) parts for.
Sounds like an easy task but it took us years to narrow down the search to something that was great quality and, probably way more critical, was in our price range.
That’s about all you can do. It seems to have worked for us and even though we had a few engine problems at the beginning it was all quite fixable and now we are enjoying a trouble-free motorhoming – for the moment.
There are some tips for buying a motorhome on this site here;
As well as a look at the costs;
These should help to decide if you want to step into the Motorhome world and find yourself a good, well-maintained example that you can look after and care for.
So back to the original question – are motorhomes reliable? That depends……..on you.