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Motorhoming in the USA (Martin Webb) PDF Printable Version E-mail


Taking a European Motorhome to the USA

Some notes by Martin Webb
May 2010

See also Cindy and Martin's account and images of their own 30,000-mile tour of the USA in an imported European motorhome.

Things to consider: It all depends on the kind of camping you will do, for example commercial sites have full facilities - mains hook-up, water, grey and black water waste dump, shower rooms etc.  At the other end of the scale, State Park campgrounds are often VERY basic - water from a hand-pulled pump and a deep pit toilet.  We used all kinds depending on where we wanted to visit.  The Forestry Commission and State Park sites are very much cheaper and of course in very scenic locations.  And make sure to buy a season ticket for the National Parks. Very good value.
We met Europeans who didn't bother with the electric hook-ups, in which case ignore the following re electrical.
Electrical: 110v system requires a 240/110v converter (obtainable from any good electrical shop/internet site, since many builders in UK use 110v generators).  They come in 3 stages - 1, 2 or 3 kw.  All you do is wire your mains supply through the box.  You will also need a thicker/higher amp mains cable (1 kw will just about be ok with the UK 16 amp cable).
In any event, solar panels will be very useful for recharging computers, batteries etc.
Gas: Your regulator should be fine but the real problem arises from getting gas bottles refilled. We naively thought we could sort this out when we arrived and had great difficulty getting our bottles adapted to use at filling stations.  There are 2 options:
1) buy new bottles when you arrive and leave them behind when you return
2) consider a refillable system, eg Gaslow - they certainly provide adaptors for the whole of Europe but you must check with them re US fittings.
Water: Buy new tap fittings for your hose out there or from an American RV supplier in the UK.  A watering can is useful for use with pumps.
Servicing your vehicle: Make sure your tyres are fit for the miles you intend to travel - it is impossible to obtain tyres in US or Canada with the ply rating for European vans (theirs all have 6 wheels to "spread the load").  Also, take your own engine oil, as finding the correct grade out there is difficult and generally they supply a very very inferior grade when servicing which needs replacing much more often (and draining out when you return to the UK).
Shipping: If possible fit a removable partition between the driving area and the rest of the van, giving the handlers only access to actually drive the vehicle (we were warned regarding the vehicle sitting on docksides on both sides of the pond and even removed the cab radio).  Consider fitting additional locks to the other doors for your general safety in any case when on the move.  Certainly we were very aware of security (and a good alarm/security system is always useful, even when using Aires in Europe).  We successfully used Wallenius Wallenson (not sure of the spelling!) from Southampton to Baltimore, which has a weekly service serving most of the east coast of the US, although we have since read that shipping from the east coast of the UK is very much cheaper than Southampton.
General: We covered 30,000 miles in one year (Baltimore, Keys, Texas, California, Alaska, Newfoundland & Labrador) on some very punishing roads (investigate the Alaskan Highway and the Yukon: gruelling but so very worthwhile).  If we repeated this trip we would fit air-ride suspension, fit new tyres (we had to get Michelin tyres (of the correct ply rating) flown out from UK to Vancouver!!!!!) and take far less possessions than you think "may be useful" - we ended up dumping a whole load halfway through our year to lighten our load!
There ... if that hasn't put you off, you will have a whale of a time - especially if travelling in a right-hand drive - every campsite gets you new pals "Hi, did you ship it over?" "Gee, your wheel's on the wrong side!!"  "Hey, you've got a stick change, that's cute" and lo, you have another set of new chums.
Good luck 

Martin Webb