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RV Buyers’ Guide – Length, Layout and Bedding

by SmartRV | Feb 03, 2019
Hymer ML-T 580 King size bed

Choosing a motorhome interior layout to suit your lifestyle requires a little imagination. It’s a time to think about how you want to live while on the road, and how many of you will be along for the ride.

Layouts and length can vary widely depending on how much space is given over to beds and lounge areas, and even the type of beds will need consideration. Here, we look at what to think about when selecting the right layout for you.

Length

Modern motorhomes generally range from six to nine metres in length. Thanks to clever contemporary design, a smaller motorhome doesn’t necessarily mean fewer beds or less living space. You can find a 6.5m motorhome that sleeps four, for example, and still has a good-sized dining area. But a longer vehicle can give you more options when it comes to additional lounge seating, fixed beds (as opposed to those that tuck away) or extra garage storage space.

It’s also important to think about what you’re comfortable driving. As with anything, driving a large motorhome just takes practice, but a 7.5m vehicle can be a lot easier to manoeuvre and park than a 9m one.

Layout

How do you see yourself using your motorhome? What’s most important to you when it comes to life on the road? You will need to make some compromises as a motorhome has to pack a lot into a small area, so you may want to choose more lounge space and a smaller bathroom, for example.

Below are some key things to consider:

  • How many of you will travel regularly?
    How many people would you like your motorhome to accommodate, and how will they sleep? (e.g. couples together, children separately etc.) Even if it is just two of you travelling regularly, a three or four-berth motorhome can give you more flexibility, with the option of a double or twin sleeping arrangement for you and your partner, or the ability to take friends or grandchildren along.
  • Combined or separate shower and toilet?
    More travellers means having a separate shower and toilet is more convenient, although a bathroom that combines the two will take up less floor space.
  • Will you travel with children?
    A separate toilet and shower can be useful here, as well as additional living space.
  • Will you travel year-round?
    Being on the road in New Zealand inevitably means a few wet and windy days. Having space to sit and relax inside without feeling cramped is a must.
  • How important is cooking to you?
    Do you want to whip up gourmet meals off the beaten track, or are you happy with a basic stove top and space for a microwave? Kitchens vary, so look at bench space, cooking facilities (oven and stove-top) and storage.
  • Does the motorhome have swivel front seats?
    Motorhomes with front seats that swivel make much better use of the living space because the driver and passenger seats become part of the dining area when you're parked up.
  • Does the motorhome have a walk-through cab?
    Most modern motorhomes have a semi-integrated cab, which means you can walk through to the living area without going outside. This is a must-have in New Zealand as wet and windy weather is not uncommon.

Berths and bedding

The bed layout tends to dictate the remainder of the space, so let’s look at the various options you’ll come across.

  • Drop down
    Ixeo IT680G Drop down bed

    A made-up bed that ‘drops down’ from the ceiling using a hand crank or push button. Because the bed drops down when you need it at night and disappears into the ceiling cavity during the day, these have revolutionized modern motorhome layouts as they allow for extra living space.

  • Fixed beds
    single-bed

    Beds that are part of the floor plan and cannot be tucked away. The most common floor plan includes a fixed double bed at the rear of the vehicle that can be curtained off for privacy. Sometimes this will be transverse (across the width of the back), other times an island bed (with space on either side), or a French bed (accessed from one side only). This is the most popular floor plan in European motorhomes because the bed doesn't double as a lounge. It has a slatted base and a high quality mattress, which makes for a good night’s sleep. Fixed single beds can be ideal for couples who prefer their own space at night, and if there is a drop down bed up front too it can be a great option for families, as the kids can sleep in the single beds.

  • Lounge bed
    Carado T448 bed in dinnette area

    The lounge converts to a double bed. During the day you can enjoy a spacious lounge and dining area, then at bedtime you lower the table so it becomes part of the bed base and arrange the seat cushions to fill the void. The main disadvantages of this set-up are comfort and convenience. You’re sleeping on lounge cushions designed for seating and you have to unmake the bed every morning and remake it every night.

  • Luton/cab over bed
    Motorhome Luton bed

    An area that extends over the top of the cab and provides a second double bed accessed by a ladder behind the driver’s seat. These are found in many New Zealand-designed four and six-berth motorhomes. Lutons are great space savers, but can make the motorhome top heavy, causing drag and reducing fuel efficiency. Some motorhomers prefer a more aerodynamic integrated body.

  • Permanent: not to be confused with ‘fixed’, this simply means the bed is made up (with bedding) but can be tucked away. You will sometimes see the term “permanent drop down” bed. This is a made-up bed that tucks away into the ceiling, then drops down and is ready to use.

All these bedding options can be used in different ways to create myriad motorhome layouts, and it will simply come down to what works best for your needs.

Comfort and other considerations

  • Mattress quality is crucial. These will differ between motorhome manufacturers. Look for a good mattress, ideally with a washable cover, over a base that allows the mattress to remain dry and healthy.
  • If you or your partner are tall, or you’re travelling with growing teens, check bed length to make sure everyone can stretch out and be comfortable.
  • Check lighting around beds (e.g. adjustable for reading), and bedside storage.

Also in SmartRV’s ‘Buyers’ Guide’ series:

RV Buyers’ Guide – Budget
RV Buyers’ Guide – Motorised or Towed?
RV Buyers’ Guide – Self-Contained Vehicles
RV Buyers’ Guide – Chassis and Construction

More helpful reading:

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