A Life in the Slow Lane

How we Chose Basil

The first fundamental decision we had to make was whether to buy a caravan, of which we had extensive experience or a motorhome. For reasons that are briefly explained here we decided on a motorhome.


Like many people I expect, we reached a decision on our ideal motorhome over a longish period, where our views evolved as we read about and saw more and more motorhomes. We went to motorhome shows in Newark and Peterborough and visited our local and not so local dealers.


We initially started out wanting essentially a caravan with a driving area! We were used to caravans and wanted a large lounge, but also wanted a fixed bed. We had decided on a fixed bed because although we didn’t mind making up beds on a two week holiday or a weekend, we thought this would become a bit of a chore when we retired and travelled for months at a time.


This led us to two basic options: first a huge motorhome with the length to accommodate a large lounge and fixed bed or a motorhome with a bed that pulled down from above the drivers cab. Sarah in particular did not want an enormous motorhome for reasons of driving difficulty and parking, so we first seriously considered an A Class with a decent lounge and a pull down fixed bed. The Hymer B544 was top of this list, but the one thing we were unsure about was whether we could live with the pull down bed.


Only one way to find out, try one. So we hired a very old and tired Hymer (not a B544 but one with a pull down bed) from www.hireahymer.com. This was much older than we had envisaged buying but it enabled us to try the concept of an overhead bed at a reasonable cost. We went for a long weekend near Cromer in Norfolk and had a great time. The dogs enjoyed it too, which was another unknown. However, although the overhead bed was large, comfortable and easy to deploy there was one problem – our age. At our age both of us normally has get up to use the loo at least once a night. The problem with the pull down bed is that you lie across the motorhome meaning that one of you has to climb over the other to go to the loo. Again this was not an issue for a weekend, but we decided would be problematic on long tour. We did however like the views and ride height of an A Class and were very impressed with the quality of the Hymer interior, given its age and the mileage it had covered.


We therefore resumed our search, concentrating on A Classes with fixed beds in addition to the overcab pull down bed, but which were not too long.


We also considered a relatively new idea: an A Class with a pull down bed at the front but where you sleep front to back and therefore don’t have to climb over each other. We liked the Hymer Duo Mobil with this layout, but it was out of our budget and also the Frankia 640. We really liked the Frankia 640. It offered a good sized lounge with a longitudinal pull down overhead bed, all in only 6.4 metres overall length. Ultimately however it stretched our budget more than we wanted and when the bed was pulled down much of the lounge disappeared, which meant that when one of us went to bed, we would both have to go to bed.


Thoughts turned back to Hymer, for a few reasons:


  • They have an outstanding reputation and have been building quality A Classes for many years. Some critics say that the quality is not what it used to be,. Whether that is true or not there is no doubt that there is a good demand for Hymer A Classes which ensures they hold their value very well.
  • We liked their products. Sure, there were some possibly slightly better products on the market, but these were all beyond our budget. But in the price range we were looking at we like Hymer better than Burstner, Knaus, Pilote, Dethleff etc.
  • We found that Hymers sold at a huge discount over UK prices in Germany. We hadn’t intended to buy brand new, but by buying in Germany the price of a brand new A Class Hymer was roughly equivalent to a 3 year old model in the UK. I deal with importing in a different post, but the van we eventually bought in Germany for £56,000, had a list price in the UK of £84,000. We had negotiated hard at our local Hymer dealer but there was no way we were going to get even £10,000 of their list price.


Having decided upon a Hymer with fixed beds, we then had to decide on the model. Having tried various bed types at dealers and shows, we had ruled out the French bed idea, because firstly in most the bottom corner of the bed is cut off and also it again requires one person to climb over the other to get out.Transverse double beds had the same disadvantage requiring midnight acrobatics. This left central longitudinal double bed and longitudinal singles.


At home we sleep in a King size bed, but we me being 6 feet 3 inches, we found that the double beds were a bit on the short side for me, but worse they were narrow, mostly narrower than a double bed in house. We therefore settled on a sort of single arrangement which could quickly be turned into a mega king size in seconds. To see the arrangement go to the page where we introduce Basil.


There was not much to choose between the Hymer A classes offering this arrangement in our price bracket and we eventually opted for a B588, which offered a wardrobe which several of the others did not and was relatively short at 7.5 metres.


After that it was a matter of finding one meeting our requirements in Germany. We had decided on a left hand drive because we were planning to do most of our touring in continental Europe, but it had proved easier that I thought to drive it in England, because being in an A Class you can look over the top of cars in front removing many of the disadvantages of a left hand drive vehicle in England.


An oven was not a must have, given that we had always caravanned without one, but as luck would have it the model we finally located in Germany contained one. It also an upgraded and engine and many more extras besides.
As we set off on our first big European trip, we have travelled over 7,000 miles in Basil and spent more than 100 nights in him. The only problem so far was a draw that didn’t open smoothly which has now been sorted out under warranty and a failed LED and side light, which have both been replaced.. So far we are happy with our choice and having spent time in him and know what else is out there, we wouldn’t make a different decision if we were choosing again.