Cartwright Chronicles, Features

Do your research before the October NEC show

Dan Cartwright has over 12 years of experience in the caravan and motorhome industry. He is a judge for a number of prestigious leisure vehicle awards and regularly heads off in his motorhome with his family. Every week, Dan shares his insights with the community. Here’s what he has to say this week.

Today is the first day of September and, as the back-to-school rush begins and supermarkets start crash sales on kids’ shoes, the children finally realise that never-ending summer is in fact drawing to a close.

In the caravan and motorhome world, the significance of today is that it means the Caravan and Motorhome Club’s Motorhome and Caravan Show is fast approaching. It might seem like a long way off, given that it’s in… well, October. But it’s actually just six weeks away, which means six weeks of research for anyone thinking about buying a new leisure vehicle.

To add context, when I judge vehicles at the Caravan Design and Motorhome Innovation Awards, we have somewhere around 70 entries. It takes three weeks to look through manuals, websites and brochures, before four days of physically visiting each caravan, campervan and motorhome and validating those scores.

However, this is an exercise well worth considering if you’re thinking about buying a leisure vehicle. My best recommendation to anyone in this position is that in one day at the show, without conducting any prior research, you won’t even see all of the models available. You won’t be able to find them or even know in advance where they’ll be.

Moreover, a large proportion of all caravan and motorhome sales in the UK take place at the October show. It’s an appealing proposition – dealers will offer a trade-in, take your old leisure vehicle at the end of the season and deliver you a brand new one before the start of the next.

But, just because it sounds good, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your research in advance.

How to prepare for the October show

British manufacturers showcase more than 350 individual leisure vehicles at the show. This doesn’t include the smaller, boutique converters – just mainstream manufacturers. So, the choice consumers have is huge.

Including all of the European-manufactured vehicles, there are thousands of options to choose from. Of course, most people will have ruled out two-thirds of these, based on whether they want to buy a caravan, campervan or motorhome. But once you’ve broadly decided on the type of vehicle you want to buy, you’re still left with hundreds of options.

Prices can range from the cheapest options to higher-end vehicles that come in four or five times more expensive. It’s not always clear to see how – or why – they cost so much, but start by looking at the layout. To see every layout will be impractical, although it is the biggest factor that will affect your holidays.

So, decide on this in advance. I’d recommend you consider it a non-negotiable when talking to sellers. It’s so easy to see something that doesn’t have the ideal layout, but comes with all the bells and whistles which convince you to buy it and, inevitably, regret it.

If you consider it a hard stop, it should cut your number of potential new leisure vehicles down to roughly 15 to 20 UK options, or 40 to 50 if you include all the European ones as well.

Now your list of leisure vehicles to inspect is much more condensed, grab a copy of the NEC floorplan and take note of where you’ll need to go. Some considerations you should think about before visiting the show include practicalities such as load capacity and, in motorhomes, the freshwater tank capability. Other aspects to watch out for are:

  • Electronics
  • Charging
  • Off-grid capabilities
  • Solar panels
  • Battery inverters

Once you’ve found a leisure vehicle that has your desired layout, consider how important individual items are to you. Is it vital to have a separate oven and grill? Will you need a dual-fuel hob? If you answer these questions in advance and come to the October NEC show prepared, it’ll make buying much easier and you’ll end up with a leisure vehicle you’ll enjoy a lot more.