October is a big month in the calendar, it’s the start of a new season and we’re not talking about fashion! This is the time of year when the manufacturers of anything remotely camper related, take to the road to promote their offerings for the following year at the biggest UK show, The Motorhome and Caravan Show at the NEC, Birmingham.
As I write, those halls of the NEC will be full of the latest van models from across the UK and Europe. We’ve bought every caravan, motorhome and camper that we’ve ever owned from the NEC show….we just love a good show!!! That’s excluding our current van, bought from the Stuttgart Show in Germany!
We definitely enjoy a day at a show, even if we’re not buying. We’ve been to quite a few over the past 20 years and for us, we’ve found there is no better place to seal that deal!
So, let’s get to grips with what we’ve found best for getting the most out of the show experience and coming away with that dream van!
Before A Show
We research lots, with so much choice out there, just turning up at a show can be overwhelming.
If we were planning a self-build, we’d find a show is a good way to get ideas of layouts, fitments and technology.
Budget is key for us on deciding a base vehicle and the size, layout and actual habitation manufacturer.
We establish a short-list of vans suitable for us, thinking about where and who will be using it and what for, this was particularly important when we had our hire business. Also, UK only, hot or cold climates or both, shipping worldwide, short trips, full-time or somewhere in-between, these are all considerations.
Thinking about what suits us best, for example, is making a bed up every night what we really want or is a fixed bed better. What about storage for skies, bikes, kayaks, golf bags etc..the list goes on!
There’s the functional elements, such as heating options, water tanks, battery sizes, insulation, weights and payloads. If over 3.5 tonne, is the driver licence of the driver covered etc….homework is key!
Some smaller vans can be as functional as larger ones, it’s often getting the model, layout and storage options correct that make a difference.
Off-grid or campsites, self-sufficient or plugging in every couple of days, what most appeals, will determine the fitments needed to sustain the camper lifestyle that’s trying to be achieved.
Shows are a great way for us to see everything under the one roof, saving time and money travelling to individual dealerships.
At The Show
We pick up a show guide on arrival and head for the area that best suits us. These shows can be huge and it’s easy to end up in the wrong hall.
We like to have more than one day at a show to absorb everything.
We Look at everything that’s on our shortlist, if we haven’t done a shortlist we start doing one and use the show as homework rather than commit to it as the place to buy, especially if we’re short on time.
We Look and look again, we don’t feel pressurised and certainly don’t feel as if we’re wasting the sales persons time.
We go away, take a coffee break, pause and re-think, reading again any checklist of requirements, checking we haven’t forgotten a vital point.
We ask lots of questions and if the sales team don’t know the answer or if we are in doubt of the reply, we ask again or ask them to find out for us.
We check lead times and add on from what we’ve been told as manufacturers can go over.
Browsing at our leisure, if we don’t want to be pestered we just blend in with the crowds until we’re ready to make contact.
Sales staff are there to sell, we’re a little cautious on them being experts on all the vans they are selling or the wider industry! They may also be from dealerships across the country and just on a particular stand for the show.
The actual manufacturer may have staff present, so may be from Europe, for example, if a non-UK manufacturer. This can be very useful as they tend to be very knowledgable about their own product.
Show offers are usually pretty good and are there to tempt people into buying during the show itself. They probably won’t be available once the dealers go back to their dealerships. However, we don’t rush into a decision just because we’ll get a TV and an an awning thrown in! Instead we ask if they’ll keep an offer available for us post show and if so for how long.
We ask exactly what’s standard, the show model may be full of extra’s and £’s over the basic van.
We’re not afraid to haggle, at least we know we’ve tried even if it doesn’t work!
We carefully look at build quality both exterior and interior of fitments, furniture, everywhere!
When choosing colour schemes, think practically, is that light cream seating practical, is it a colour that we really like and can live with?
If we’re ready to do that deal, we just check on where the dealer is located, are we prepared to collect from anywhere in the country or do we have a maximum distance in mind.
Finally, if there isn’t the right van at the right price for us, we’re prepared to walk away, thinking of it as a homework exercise in preparation for next time or for when we’re ready.