In October, like many others, we made our annual pilgrimage to the NEC and the Motorhome and Caravan Show. Our intention was to start making a short list of motorhomes to consider buying towards the end of 2017.
Early in 2016 we had made the decision that we would keep our existing Mandale Liberté motorhome for another couple of years. Later in the year I unfortunately suffered problems with my back on two major trips, to Scotland that spring (see Great Glen and Caledonian Canal) and again in our autumn trip to France. It meant I was unable to load or unload our bicycles on the high rack. The discomfort and lack of flexibility also made the transverse bed difficult. Hence the decision to change our motorhome during 2017. It also compounded the lack of a lounge separate from the bed which we had to keep made up so I could stretch out whenever we stopped.
As we explored the Motorhome and Caravan Show it became obvious that prices were going to rise substantially in 2017. The pound had collapsed after the Brexit referendum decision and we realised that would be reflected in the price, along with the usual rise due to inflation, of motorhomes after the show. Even UK built motorhomes use a high proportion of imported components, not least because many are built on Italian Fiat Ducato chassis or its siblings. We would feel the full effect as we wanted fixed beds and a front lounge, a popular continental layout, so our next motorhome was probably going to be built somewhere in Europe. We came to the conclusion, without the help of exhibitors, that the weakness of the pound was going to trigger a price rise of 10-15% if we did not take the benefit of the deals on offer at the show. We quickly decided to bring our buying decision forward.
As a result of issues with my back we were looking for fixed rear beds, double or singles, above a garage that would take bicycles. We wanted a front lounge to make it more sociable and easier for me to work at a computer as I am a writer and photographer. The big step was that we would go to a coachbuilt (of up to 7m) which we had avoided in the past because of how we hoped to travel. The last four years had made us realise that our motoring vision was no longer realistic in UK or France. Even minor roads (B-roads in the UK and D-roads in France) now often bypassed the interesting villages and other places (see Byways and bypasses) that we used to drive through when we first started touring by car. Increasingly they are featureless main roads simply intended to get traffic between destinations.
Fortunately we had gone to the show with a list of key requirements to help us create a short list for more detailed consideration. As we toured the show it was clear that the layout we wanted would be from a continental rather than a UK builder. We collected details that met the high level requirements and each time we took a break we reviewed and culled the list, as it stood, against our other preferences ; it stopped the bag getting too heavy. By the middle of the afternoon, when we had originally planned to leave the show, we had reduced the list to five possible motorhomes. We then revisited each stand to get a price, check delivery and to consider more closely the details of each 'van. Before we left we got our list down to two, both German and rather more expensive than our proposed budget but they matched our specific requirements and the detailing was to our taste.
We revisited those two stands for more detailed discussions. We made it clear that we would not be making our decision there and then but would go home to consider our options in more detail overnight. We stressed that we would be making a decision and that we had got the choice down to two. Fortunately we only live forty miles from the NEC so it was not going to be a problem to go back the following day; both exhibitors offered to provide us with free tickets to the show when we returned the following day.
Overnight we ran through the list of questions that we had on the two possibilities and created a checklist of features that each offered so that we could cross-compare. Alison and I created a separate list of questions that we then consolidated into a single list that we would ask the following morning. That was the Saturday and we do not recommend it if one wants to do serious business, Saturday gets very busy with families.
We sat down with each exhibitor and worked through our checklist. Either motorhome would have worked but as we talked it through it became obvious that Alison and I were both leaning towards the same choice. On a purely objective basis either the Hobby or the Bürstner would have been a suitable choice but it was the less tangible aspects, the more instinctive perhaps emotional, characteristics that made the Bürstner Nexxo the right choice for us. By lunchtime we had placed the order for collection at the beginning of February, in time to give us some short trips to get prepared for our longer spring and summer trips.
As an aside it would appear our assessment of price increases was spot on. For 2017 a couple of dealers have since told me they were facing price increases of 12.5% on new orders; our purchase looks a wise one.
We have since collected our new Bürstner Nexxo T690G Sovereign and made our first two night shakedown trip which will be the subject of the next article. We are now raring to go with longer trips, we have some scheduled and just need to get them planned. Then we can hit the road.