Motorhomes are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative for family vacations. However, so that the adventure does not turn into a nightmare, it is advisable to take a series of precautions and follow some basic advice when it comes to this type of vehicle.
TEXT: RAMÓN OLIVER
It is the feeling of freedom and of traveling without obligations or a fixed destination. It is the pleasant impression of safety and comfort that always makes you feel at home. Or it could be the magic of traveling the world aboard a ship on wheels, a home-from-home, equipped with everything you need to enjoy a great adventure with your family. The fact is that there is something about motorhomes that hooks those who try them. And in the upcoming summer vacations, many people will be taking to the roads of the world at the helm of one of these truly mobile homes. But what should you know about this type of vehicle before turning the key in the ignition?
A different way to take a vacation
Although the first motorhomes date back to the 1920s, it was not until a few years ago that their sales gained unprecedented momentum. At the European level, Germany is the king of motorhomes (675,000 in use in 2020), ahead of France and the United Kingdom. Spain, with 80,000 registered motorhomes, is in seventh place in this ranking. Even so, in this country, the registrations of this type of vehicle have grown by an average of 29% each year over the last eight years. In fact, there are waiting lists for new vehicles, and the summer rental fleet has been practically booked out since May.
Factors like the pandemic have favored this boom, since motorhomes have made it possible to enjoy a few welldeserved days of vacation while still complying with hygiene and safety protocols, thanks to the high degree of independence they provide. This is confirmed by data from the Spanish Caravanning Industry and Trade Association (Asociación Española de la Industria y Comercio del Caravaning; Aseicar), who report that the number of people who bought a motorhome for the first time during the COVID-19 period was 30% higher than pre-pandemic levels.
As for 2021, a total of 895 motorhomes were registered in Spain in June. Their average price is around 60,000 euros, while that of smaller camper vans is between 35,000 and 45,000 euros. In terms of types and models, motorhomes up to 3500 kilos are the most soughtafter, due, among other factors, to their ease of use (they can be driven with a B-type license).
For those who do not have the budget or do not want to invest in an itinerant residence until they have checked out its advantages, there is always the more than interesting option of renting. The average motorhome rental costs between 150 and 200 euros per day, an amount that is multiplied by the average duration of a standard trip, which is usually around 17 days during the summer period.
Motorhome vacations are an increasingly desirable option for a growing number of people who appreciate the flexibility of forgetting about plane tickets, hotel reservations or being enslaved by fixed arrival and departure dates and schedules. But the undoubted advantages of this option should not obscure its risks. Fundación MAPFRE has released a series of recommendations to motorhome drivers to guarantee a safe trip during the upcoming summer vacations.
Checking the condition and pressure of the tires, testing the oil levels, as well as the coolant and windshield washer fluid are elementary precautions to take before setting off on a longdistance trip with any type of vehicle. These recommendations should also be applied to motorhomes.
Inexperience at the controls of this type of vehicle can take its toll on drivers, since some maneuvers, such as parking, reversing or tight turns, are more complex with a motorhome than with a regular car. For this reason, Jorge Ortega Pérez, technical specialist in Road Safety at Fundación MAPFRE, advises that we “practice these maneuvers in a controlled environment before starting the trip”.
Once on the road, Fundación MAPFRE’s road safety expert stresses the importance of driving smoothly. “Rapid acceleration and sudden changes in speed should be avoided”, he points out. Sudden braking, or overtaking more than one vehicle at once, are also discouraged, since motorhomes are heavy and do not have the responsiveness of a lighter, more powerful car. Whenever you go down a steep slope, the specialist recommends “using the engine to brake so as not to overheat the vehicle’s brakes excessively”.
orge Ortega also reminds us that, due to their size, motorhomes are particularly sensitive to side winds, so special attention should be paid to this situation, “especially when exiting tunnels and when overtaking trucks”.
The presence of blind spots while driving, which are more numerous and more pronounced in vehicles of this size than in a conventional car, is another risk factor. Keeping this in mind, and making sure to look in the rear-view mirrors several times before maneuvering, it is essential to check for the possible presence of other cars, motorcycles, bicycles, scooters and pedestrians, in order to avoid surprises.
Passenger safety in the passenger compartment is a priority. Current regulations require the use of approved seats, with their corresponding seat belts. Children less than 1.35 m tall must use a child restraint system, although Fundación MAPFRE recommends doing so until they are 1.5 m tall, just like in passenger cars; pets must travel in a carrier or with a suitable harness.
All the cargo, including food and hygiene products, clothes, toys, chairs, umbrellas and other belongings should be stored in the vehicle’s lockers and compartments. These must be fitted with closing and locking systems to prevent objects from flying out in the event of an impact or sudden maneuver.
Motorhomes are not allowed to exceed 120 km/h on freeways and dual carriageways, and may not travel below 60 km/h. If the maximum authorized mass (MAM) is over 3500 kg, the maximum speed of the vehicle is 90 km/h.
On secondary roads the speed limit is 90 km/h (80 km/h if over 3500 kg), while on urban roads with only one lane in each direction the maximum speed allowed is 30 km/h, and 50 km/h when there is more than
Inexperience at the controls of this type of vehicle can take its toll on drivers.
Parking and camping
But the questions do not end once the engine has been switched off. Where and how to park and camp is, in fact, a recurring question among novice drivers.
A quick answer to this question is that motorhomes and camper vans can be parked anywhere where parking is allowed, unless there is a municipal ordinance that prevents this or the vehicle’s dimensions hinder the normal flow of other vehicles. It is advisable, in any case, to use chocks, especially if parked on a slope.
It is also worth remembering that free camping is prohibited in Spain, and that it is only possible to set up camp in designated camping areas. A motorhome is considered to be camping –and not simply parked– when some of its elements, such as the awning and tilt-and-turn windows, protrude from the vehicle, or when tables and chairs are used outside. Finally, it is not advisable to spend the night in the service areas of highways or freeways, to avoid noise and theft.
It is essential to always be prudent and responsible in order to make a motorhome trip a real pleasure. Happy camping!