Last year when I retired we decided that we would upgrade the 1995 Mitsubishi Canter that we had owned since 2001 with something that was a bit more modern, a bit more spacious, has a decent kitchen and big garage but most importantly one that would have a fixed bed in the rear. So we didn’t really want much!
Like a lot of people buying motorhomes these days we trolled through Trade Me looking at the hundreds of listings at all sorts of varied prices trying to get a handle on what might be the best option. Realising that looking at pictures online was only adding to our overall confusion we decided to go out looking at various retailers.
We have the advantage of living in Auckland so most of the major brands are represented here. However one of the places we wanted to look was in Silverdale (north) another in Drury (south) and everything in between. As alzheimer’s is beginning to take over making true comparisons between brands is easier said than done. We wanted to be able to walk out of one and into the other. Have them side by side so to speak.
With this in mind we agreed between ourselves to head for the motorhome show in Hamilton and have a proper look. Since this show is on this week I thought I would talk about our experience at last years show and hopefully give you some hints about how to make the most of the show.
If you are already own a motorhome then you will probably want to stay in the free parking area provided by the show. Be aware that the parking area is huge with 500 odd motorhomes to be parked up. So if you are planning on meeting someone here unless you arrive together there will be no chance of getting close too them. So meet up somewhere first then follow each other in. (Gate 5 this year)
If you are attending this show to buy your first motorhome, make sure you read my blog about buying your first motorhome before attending. It has some really useful tips about buying a motorhome. Also make sure that you buy the three day pass, one day will not be long enough to accomplish what you need to do.
It doesn’t seem to matter how much preparation work you have done beforehand walking through the gates if you have never been to one of the shows is like an assault on your senses with this mass of motorhomes in front of you. The noise from the crowds and the crush of people make it hard to concentrate on what you are here for. This is where discipline comes in, you need to be resolute and strong to complete the first pass.
The first pass is where you walk the whole show and this will take hours. What you are trying to achieve here is a shortlist of those vans that both appeal to you and fit your budget. One of the problems here is often that there are 6 or 8 other people trying to squeeze into the same motorhome creating a real lack of space and at times giving you the feeling of claustrophobia. It is however absolutely vital that you take the time inside the ones that appeal to you and get out of the ones that don’t quickly.
On the first pass grab only the brochures of the motorhomes that appeal to you and take photos of the best features, don’t bother with brochures of the vans that don’t appeal or aren’t in your budget as this will only confuse you for the second pass.
At last years show in Hamilton it took Sarah and I almost the whole of Friday afternoon to complete our walk around, we had arrived at lunchtime. Which was fine but it just meant that the crowds where in full swing when we started the look around. An early morning start would be my recommendation if you are going to attend.
One of the things that always gets me about attending these shows is the extortionate amount of money they charge for food and drinks and this after you have queued up for 20 minutes to buy them. So take a backpack and at least put in a couple of snacks and bottles of water save yourself a few bucks and a lot of wasted time in the queues.
Last year a lot of the food stores had run out of food by 1.30pm on the Friday leaving little choice and that made the queues worse at the ones with food left. Hopefully this situation won’t repeat itself this year.
Once you have completed the first pass and you are satisfied that you have seen all of the motorhomes that are within your range it’s time to take some time out. I would suggest that at this point you either go back to your motorhome for a cup of tea or coffee or have a wander around the other exhibitors. Talk to the people from the NZMCA if you aren’t a member and discover the benefits of joining. Remember it’s their show they want it to be a success so if you have questions ask the team, you never know they might just have the answer.
Unless you are on a really tight timetable I strongly suggest that you save the second pass till the second day so that you will have time to work out who, what, and why. So once you have collated all the info from the first pass around the show sit down and spend some serious time trying to nail down the best options. Maybe there might be as many as 10 that you want to have a closer look at.
Day two is the start of the second pass around the show this is where you are going to take a really close look at the motorhome or caravans that really interest you from the list you made last night. It’s at this point that you start opening every cupboard door, try out the seats, whats the position of the TV, how much solar capacity does it have? for a list of options refer back to my post about buying your first motorhome, which could also be adapted for a caravan.
You might start negotiating a price at this point but do not buy yet! Last year Sarah and I made the mistake of almost buying something that we later realised would have been the wrong choice. We negotiated a price on a motorhome and went away to have a cup of coffee to think about it when we walked back to the stand they had just sold it! later we realised that this motorhome wasn’t what we wanted, but even if it was it’s not like they cannot get another one. Yes you might have to wait a couple of months but if you do it that way you can order what you want.
A lot of people don’t realise that you can custom order your motorhome so if you aren’t in a hurry to buy why not talk to the vendors about custom options, maybe it’s the upholstery that you hate but love everything else, can this be changed? If it’s only a 130hp Fiat can you get the 150 or 180hp version? Do they come with a larger garage space? unless you ask these questions you won’t know if you can really get what you want.
This second pass should take you quite a bit of the day it’s even possible that you might visit some of the vans two or three times because you really are trying to narrow it down to the final two or three that will satisfy you. Time now for some serious thinking.
Of course one of the drawbacks about buying a motorhome at the show is that you don’t get to have a test drive. While this is a genuine concern to some people I personally wouldn’t let it bother me to much if you are buying a new motorhome since 85% of new motorhomes are built on a Fiat chassis driving is going to be very similar from model to model.
You are now ready for the final decision or the third pass through the show. Personally I would be doing this early Sunday morning and would have nailed it down to either this one or that one (a choice of two, three max!). Now you really need to go through both vans with a fine tooth comb try the beds, sit in the chairs, open the fridge and oven doors. Stand in the shower can you turn around to wash yourself, sit on the toilet is it claustrophobic. Anything that you think is important to you now becomes critical or can you live with a compromise.
In most cases people buying a motorhome at this show will be spending more than $100K maybe $2/300K and if you are buying a caravan at maybe 50K plus once you have made the decision to buy it would be a really expensive exercise to change your mind so you have to know that you are doing the right thing.
Last year Sarah and I ended up not buying at the show as the model we finally realised we wanted actually wasn’t there. We did look at one that belonged to someone else parked out in the parking area. The couple who owned this motorhome very kindly showed us through and in the end helped sell it to us. Maybe you saw one of those motorhomes that you liked parked outside why don’t you go and see if the owners are there maybe you can ask them about how they like theirs.
So we brought our Dethleffs motorhome back in Auckland a couple of weeks later. Still getting a good deal. Which brings me to my final point do not believe that this special is for the show only! I am 100% confident that if you went to that retailer a week after the show to buy that motorhome that they would still give you the show discount.
At the end of it all it’s absolutely exhausting work buying your new motorhome or caravan and it requires a lot of homework as well as wearing out a lot of shoe leather. We both had really sore feet at the end of three days last year but it was a great investment of time to ensure we got the correct result.
What I haven’t really mentioned in this blog is all the other exhibitors selling accessories and other goodies that you might need for your camper. Last year there where a good number of these with some really great bargains. So it’s probably worth visiting the show even if you don’t want to buy a motorhome just to see what’s on offer here.
If you have any questions about this article or would like any further information feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org or make a comment below. I have also taken some of these photos from Google to help with the article.
Since I have published this blog before the show starts you can still buy tickets online and beat the queues by visiting the website or Facebook page I hope you enjoy the Show and look forward to seeing photos of your new motorhome or caravan on Facebook.
To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can click the links to read the blog about that area.
To view the Ratings we have done for other camps click here