Save £5000 buying a motorhome!

Contributed by Stan Wood
(note that this is a personal account written several years ago, you are advised to carefully check current regulations, prices and exchange rates)

A lot of people want to buy abroad, but are nervous of doing so. Having done so myself, successfully, saving at least £5000 in the process, as long as the price difference between the UK and Continental countries remain, I would NOT dream of buying a motorhome in the UK.

The first thing you have to accept is, it is not as convenient as popping down to your local dealer!!! So you say: "Yes but if anything goes wrong I can take it back to the local dealer", well, if you have saved £5000 THE ENGINE can fall out and you are still quids in.

I suppose we have to address the LHD question, I don't know what your circumstances are, myself I wanted a LHD, in a few weeks I retire and intend to travel mostly on the continent. I am much happier driving abroad in a vehicle designed for such conditions. Its easier to drive a LHD in England where I KNOW the road system than a RHD on the continent.

Where should I buy on the continent?

Germany has as three good points:

First, their MOT is called TUV a very stringent test.

Second, after searching the net for 12 months, I found Germany offered the lowest prices.

Thirdly (and to me, very important), I was concerned that the vendor had legal title to the vehicle, e.g., no outstanding finance on the vehicle, that he was the actual owner etc, etc. In Germany there are two documents that come with the vehicle called the FAHRZEUGBRIEF (this is the document they carry on the vehicle in case they have to show police in case of accident or speeding). The other is called the FAHRZEUGSCHEIN. (THIS DOCUMENT IS KEPT IN A BANK) it is the same as the deeds to your house, whoever has possession is THE LEGAL OWNER. In Germany they have no idea what an HP check is.

So, if you are still interested, a few tips, search and search the internet, the German motorhome magazines all carry great lists of m/homes for sale, if you see an advert for your ideal m/home, if the vendor is NOT on the internet FORGET IT, you will want pictures of the m/home, you will want a copy of the BRIEF and the SCHEIN, you will want answers to questions hence the internet, build a rapport with the vendor praise the German, or whichever build quality, assure them you are not a timewaster, don't be afraid to haggle, send him a picture of you and the misses, he then has a picture of who he is dealing with.

A few facts, Germans do not like cheques, arrange through your bank to have money transferred. If m/home is 6 months old or has 6000 miles on clock, no VAT to pay.

Drive straight off the ferry to home, spend £25 quid getting it registered in UK, Then have it MOTd and headlamps and rear fog light converted etc, etc. ALL this was done buying PRIVATELY, not from a dealer, from a dealer it would be a doddle.

My advice don't be a sap, DO IT

Resale value:

My motorhome is a Dethleff, a big German manufacturer. It is a 1995 M reg (had it 12 months now), it had 31000 kilometres (19000 miles) on the clock, the TUVs verified this, power steering, air assisted suspension, roof rack, double cycle carrier, Fiamma awning, 10 track CD player with top of the range Motorola radio, tape player. Fully winterised, imobilser. NO OVEN or GRILL, the continental manufacturers just don't fit them, (I met a chap in France who had bought one of the big Hymers, from the manufacturer in Germany, no GRILL no OVEN). Get a £34 skillet from the shows, we use ours in the house too, save ££££s on electricity.

WHAT DID I PAY?.....£11900

Expenses: 2 one way flight tickets to Hamburg, 2 nights B&B £48, diesel home, ferry from Calais.


If you don't want a LHD then forget it, they are all LHD. Anyway if you do buy LHD and one day want to change it, for a different model, what's to stop you going to the continent and part exchanging it.

What do you do about insurance for bringing the vehicle back to the UK?

You cannot drive back home on the original license plates. Buying private or from a dealer you will be issued with export license plates. Having this number, they will stamp you out a new license plate cost £5, all this is done at their vehicle registration dept, Comfort Insurance, who I asked how to get over this problem, said they would insure the vehicle on the CHASSIS number, and on return to the UK, after registration, inform them and they would issue new insurance documents on the new registration plate. I then asked what would happen if I didn't buy the vehicle? They said, no problem, let them know and all I would incur would be a small administration charge.

What is the procedure for registering the vehicle when you get it back?

The UK Vehicle Licensing people will issue you with a pack that contains all you require to register the vehicle in the UK. Fill out the form together with your export documents, and MOT certificate. Cost £25, plus your cheque for 6 or 12 months vehicle excise duty.

The language:

I used ALTA VISTA translations ( a lot of it is translated into gobbly gook, but you get the gist of the message. Anyway if the vendor doesn't speak English you can bet he knows a man that does, if you do email someone send it in English and an ALTA VISTA translation. Its not really a big problem, when I was in Germany the amount of Germans I met who spoke English really does put us to shame.

Some useful terms when looking at the ads (thanks to John Harris for these):

A more comprehensive list is available here (opens in a new window)

1 hand = 1 owner
Anhängekupplung, = Towing hitch
Auspuff = Exhaust ( honest )
Automatik getriebe = Automatic gearbox
Dachgepäckträger = Roof rack
Dachreling = Roof rails
Duomatic = Automatic gas bottle changeover
Erneuert = Renewed
Fahrertür = Driver's door
Fahrradhalter = Bike rack
Fahrradträger = Bike rack
Gründig Farb TV = Grundig Colour TV
Heckleiter = Rear ladder
Heckstützen = Rear wind-down corner steadies
Hubbett vorn, = Front bed
Klimaanlage = Aircon
KombiKassettenRollos = combined blinds and flyscreens on windows
Kuhlschrank 135 lt. m AES = Fridge 135 litres with automatic energy select
L- Sitzgruppe und Sofa, = 'L' shaped seating area with sofa
Luftfeder- Niveaulift,= Adjustable air suspension
Markise = Windout awning
Neupreis = New price
Neuwertige Bereifung = New tyres
Nichtraucher = Non-smokers
Pilotensessel = Pilot seats
Radblenden = Wheel Trims
Sat- Antenne = Satellite Dish
Scheckheft = Fully documented and serviced
Seitensitzgruppe = side seating ( normally lengthways seats )
Serviceklappe = Access door
Servolenkung = Power steering
Sicherheitsschlösser = Security locks
Sonnenmarkise = Sun Awning
Stauraum Außenklappe = External access door to luggage locker
Stereoanlage mit CD = Stereo system with CD
Thermomatten für Fahrerhaus = Insulated cab screens
Umluftanlage = Blown air
Vollautomatische Sat Anlage Typ Oyster = Oyster fully Automatic Satellite System
Vorzelt = Awning
ZusatzSpeigel = Additional mirrors


Another import story:

Good sites for motorhomes for sale in Germany are:

Useful sites:

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
How to Import a Vehicle into Great Britain

Vehicle Import & Export

Thanks to Stan Wood for much of the information on this page

So that you can work out the savings for yourself, here is a currency converter:

Use your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page after the conversion has been calculated

  I want to convert...
this amount

enter any amount
of this type of currency

scroll down to see more currencies
into this type of currency.

scroll down to see more currencies
By using this service, you agree to be bound by the terms of use agreement.