The motorhome equipment, options and accessories available to you when you buy a new or second-hand motorhome can be bewildering. Just like choosing your motorhome, what equipment you choose will be determined by how you’re going to use your motorhome.
What Motorhome Equipment, Options & Accessories Do You Really Need?
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When deciding on equipment and options at the specification point of buying a new motorhome, consider how much weight each will add to the MRO (maximum running order), which is the van’s weight when it leaves the factory. The higher the MRO the less payload you will have available for your day to day running gear. Ask the manufacturer for a list of options weights before deciding on what is essential and what’s a nice to have. You can find out more in our easy weight guide.
Automatic Energy Selection Fridge
Most fridges will now come with an AES option. This means that you don’t have to manually select the energy used to cool your fridge. The fridge will choose electric if you are hooked up, gas if you’re not or 12v if you’re driving. In reality this is a nice to have but does mean you don’t have to remember every time to leave somewhere or arrive at a destination, to change your fridge settings.
Consider how you will use your motorhome. This probably comes in the ‘nice to have’ bracket, especially if you’re touring in the UK or using the motorhome for a few weeks a year.
Air conditioning is an expensive extra and needs at least 10A of EHU to be effective, any less and it will cut-out. Do not even think about operating from your leisure batteries unless you have a specialist set-up! Depending on the unit, you can also choose blown hot air which may supplement your heating system, or be all you need.
Modern units can be directed and often have a ‘silent’ mode for night use. I don’t think they are that silent and generally, once your van is down to a nice comfy temperature you probably won’t want your air conditioning on at night unless you sleep above the cab which can get quite warm and stuffy in hot weather.
In our opinion, a must for weather and sun protection. An awning light, linked to an inner switch is also helpful if you’re cooking or sitting outside after dark. You will need tie-down straps and may want to consider bolt-on options such as a central rafter, a sun screen, a wind diffuser and a safari room which closes your awning on all sides. Thule are the main manufacturer or motorhome awnings and accessories in the UK.
If you mostly wild camp, you may not use an awning that much as you won’t be anywhere you’ll want to put it out, or be bothered if you’re moving on…that’s our experience. We know people who carry a large parasol instead!
Make sure that you angle your awning to allow rain to flow off or it will fill up and collapse. Always ensure your awning-straps are in use if there is the slightest chance of wind, awnings are an expensive bit of kit to lose.
There are hundreds of types of bike racks to suit all needs, motorhomes and campervans. Investigate and check recommendations before purchasing, generally you get what you pay for.
If you have a tow-bar you can get racks to fit which means no drilling into the rear of your van. However, if you have a long back end, this will weigh you down further and may cause you to bottom out on speed bumps and ferries.
You may want a bike cover and this will need to have a warning sign attached, (as do the bikes without a cover) according to the laws of the country you are travelling in. Fiamma have a good selection. Check out this post for more information on bikes and motorhomes.
Sometimes called legs, these rear corner steadies are manually lowered or raised by turning a threaded spindle. The legs make contact with the ground and provide stabilisation when people move around inside the motorhome. You may find it helpful to carry two small pieces of wood to place underneath the legs to help spread the load.
This simply means that you can extend or retract a fixed step up into the habitation door electrically (runs from 12v). The step is fixed to your chassis and slides beneath when retracted. This can sometimes be done from the drivers chair as well as by a switch by the door. An alarm will sound when you start the engine to remind you to retract the step before driving away.
External Gas Point
This is really useful to have if you intend to cook out a lot using a Cadac or other similar grill. The point is normally fitted somewhere in a storage area on the habitation door side of the van and is connected to your integral gas supply. They are very simple to use and mean you don’t have to carry a separate gas bottle.
Consider how you will use your motorhome. If it’s for short summer trips then you won’t need heating. If you intend to spend the winter in southern Spain or Portugal on a campsite with EHU, you would manage with a plug in oil filled radiator or fan heater. If you want to venture into the mountains (even in southern Spain) in the winter you will definitely need heating.
You have a choice between wet or blown air. In our experience wet is by far the most effective and comfortable. Blown air tends to dry you out! A wet system will also supply you with hot water, it is worth considering a system with a boost feature if you like a longer shower or there are more than two of you. You will also need to consider how to get gas in Europe, refillable systems are best and described further down the page.
Any heating system will need regular servicing, approximately every two years, and will use some form of fuel. With an 11kg and a 6kg gas bottle; continuous heating run time is approximately 48 hours, depending on your system. In reality, once you get toasty, the van will hold the heat even for quite some time. We’ve never needed our heating on for more than a couple of hours a day, even in minus temperatures.
An invertor converts your 12V power to 230V meaning you can use three pin plug-in devices and appliances. We don’t use things like a toaster though, or other appliances which draw a lot of power as they significantly deplete your batteries.
Be aware that some invertors do not give you full 230V at every socket; you may have some 230V sockets and some 12V. Make sure you know what you are having fitted and ensure you get an investor large enough for your needs. Read more about motorhome power here.
All motorhomes need a leisure battery. How many, the type and the size of leisure batteries will depend on how you are going to use your motorhome. If you are buying a used motorhome, you should consider how old the batteries are. Battery life is approximately 4-5 years depending on usage and type.
The batteries are usually charged automatically when you are plugged in to 230V, are running the engine and trickle charged by solar power, if you have a solar panel fitted. There is usually a regulator fitted which manages the different charges and maintains your batteries in their optimum state. Batteries are a complex subject, talk with a dealer who can give you more expert information.
There are lots of options here from simple levelling ramps to ‘steadies’, which are wind down adjustable legs at the rear corners, to full on all-round hydraulic systems which can be operated from the cab.
We’re not experts but you can find a good article here which will help you understand what these systems do, cost and effectiveness.
Oven & Grill
Some vans come with a (usually) Dometic stack of fridge freezer and oven or microwave. You should consider carefully what type of food you will be cooking to help inform your decision. Our van came with an oven; we debated bringing a microwave but realised we only really heated up baked beans at home! We didn’t think we would use the oven, and we didn’t in the summer, but come winter we are glad we have it. If you decide on an oven, consider adding a grill element. It’s great for toast if you don’t want to carry a toaster or will be off-grid a lot.
Refillable Gas System
Re-fillable gas cylinder systems such as Gaslow and Gasit are housed in your gas locker and can be filled at any LPG station in UK or Europe. It is a must if you’re travelling in Europe for any length of time. You will not be able to re-fill or replace UK cylinders outside of the UK. It costs approximately £500 but is well worth the investment and cheaper to fill than replacing conventional bottles.
LPG is readily available with a little forethought and planning. We usually fill up once we have switched to the small bottle and use the myLPG.eu app to find garages selling LPG (often known as GPL in Europe).
If you are having a refillable system fitted, you should also consider having a filter fitted at the same time due to the high levels of butane found in Spanish and Portugese LPG. It won’t filter out the butane but will remove any damaging particles.
You may also want to consider an accident recognition system such as Truma MonoControl which means you can travel with your gas switched on as the integral sensor stops any gas flow immediately it senses a collision.
If you have one fitted, a twin lens is the optimum type as this gives you a rear-view mirror view. Consider where you will be driving and how often you will reverse your motorhome. If you are going to one site for six months it may not be worth investing. If you are wild camping on cliffs then it’s probably a must!
There are so many sat nav options nowadays. If you are buying a new motorhome, a fully integrated in-dash sat nav can also link to a reversing camera and provide a full media system for your motorhome. This will cost you upwards of £1.5k.
Read our post about the best retro-fit and dash-mounted motorhome sat nav’s here.
This requires a dish or dome and lots of wiring internally. There is more information about satellite and streaming on our post about getting TV in your motorhome here Suffice to say it is not a cheap option and not always effective in more southern parts of Europe, Morocco and Turkey.
A genius invention which prevents a smelly loo and eliminates the need for any chemicals. On opening the toilet blade (the flat plastic cover that separates bowl from cassette) a fan starts creating negative pressure, extracting the unwanted odours from the cassette through the roof or side of the van depending on where your loo is located. This means no need for expensive chemicals and no smells and best of all, it’s environmentally friendly. We’ve had this fitted on all our vans, for us it really is an essential motorhome accessoryTo find out more about SOG toilets, read our Easy Guide to Motorhome Toilets, Waste & Water.
A must if you’re wild camping. Our van came fitted with a single 120w solar panel which trickle charges the 3 x 110AH leisure batteries via a regulator. If we are careful about how much tv we watch, we can have light and charge devices overnight knowing the solar panels will recharge the batteries the following day (unless of course it’s really cloudy, but we don’t seem to get much of that!). We can manage without EHU for around 2-3 days on dull days and indefinitely when the sun shines.
Additional panels can be fitted, providing you have the space on the roof. Alternatively, you can carry a mobile solar panel which needs to be set-up and dismantled each time you move. This technology is improving and developing rapidly so check with a dealer or supplier who can give you more information. Read more about motorhome power here.
How Does Your Motorhome Work?
If you are buying new or second-hand, we strongly advise you to ensure you get a full handover of the vehicle, equipment and control panels on collection.
When we bought our first motorhome, we didn’t do this and it took us some time to puzzle out how it all fitted together….every time we thought we had a problem with the van, it turned out to be a problem with us!
If you’re motorhome beginnerslike we were once, there’s loads of tips and advice in our HUGE guide. Or head on over to our motorhome resourcespage for tips onliving in a motorhome and practical motorhome advice.