Do you love the outdoors and enjoy wild camping? Have you considered campervans and motorhomes to get the most out of the experience? But how do you decide which recreational vehicle (RV) is the best for you?
In this post, we look closely at campervans and motorhomes, highlight the advantages and disadvantages of both vehicles, and hopefully point you in the right direction. Your choice of RV will depend on how you plan to use it, how often, the people enjoying the experience with you, and where you plan to go. So check out the following before you come to a decision.
What Is the Difference Between a Campervan and Motorhome?
Let’s discuss the difference between campervan and motorhome RV vehicles. Both a campervan and motorhome essentially serve the same purpose – as a mobile home. You use one because it provides a place to stay, sleep, and eat, wherever you choose to go wild camping. There is a wide range of different types and some critical differences between them.
What is a Motorhome?
A motorhome consists of a caravan-type living space constructed on top of an existing chassis. However, compared to a standard van, the body is much taller and broader. In general, it is a much larger vehicle.
Traditionally, a motorhome had a divider between the living quarters and cab with the steering wheel. However, with many modern motorhomes, this is not the case. The design of a motorhome means you can use it as a self-contained living area and travelling vehicle.
New motorhomes can be either bespoke or a conversion. The facilities usually include a bathroom, proper kitchen/cooking amenities and often fixed bed options. Motorhomes are also roomy and come with all the comforts such as a separate shower, TV and air conditioning.
Different Types of Motorhomes
Motorhomes come in a range of different types. Some of the most common include:
- Panel Van Conversion Motorhome: A panel van has slightly more facilities and living space than a campervan. Most people choose to convert a used van or commercial vehicle.
- Coachbuilt Motorhome: Two cabs are joined together to form the basic construction. A lightweight chassis is built, and then a body is created using wood, aluminium, or fibreglass.
- Overcab Bed Coachbuilt Motorhome: This type includes room for sleeping or extra space over the cab.
- A-Class Motorhome: A-Class motorhomes are the largest and are usually coachbuilt. They offer more comfort, possibly even a cocktail cabinet, but come with a higher price.
- B-Class Motorhome: Features will include a combined shower and toilet.
- C-Class Motorhome: Tends to have a coachbuilt body, along with a semi-integrated cab.
- Size: Various motorhome options range from the shortest (6m) to the longest (10m+). Ideal for families.
- More Space: There is considerably more living space because of the motorhome body shape, and it could include a front lounge and a well-equipped kitchen.
- Insulation: The motorhome style is generally better insulated.
- Washing Facilities: The increased size of a motorhome allows room for a separate WC and shower.
- Layout: The longer wheelbase lends itself to several configurations and sleeping quarters are far roomier.
- Outside Storage: Increased outside storage options that could include a garage where you could store camping gear, a scooter and possibly even a second vehicle.
- Manoeuvrability: Such a large size can be cumbersome to manoeuvre – particularly if you want to drive along narrow roads to remote campsites.
- Driving Licence: Some vehicles weigh more than 3,500 kilos. Therefore, UK residents may need a C1 driving licence for a larger motorhome.
- Price: Although small motorhomes cost around the same price as a campervan, larger A-Class motorhomes have a higher price tag and could set you back as much as £100k.
- Camping options: Depending on the size of your motorhome, you could find wild camping more difficult.
- Insurance: Motorhomes are usually more costly to insure.
- Fuel economy: Motorhomes are very thirsty, which bumps up the running costs.
- Height restrictions: Larger motorhomes, particularly those with an over-cab, can be an issue if there are barriers or height restrictions.
What is a Campervan?
Campervans are also built on a van chassis and based on a standard van with a modified interior. However, campervans are generally shorter, thinner, and have much less headroom than you find in a motorhome.
The most iconic campervan and maybe the first RV built was the VW bus. But modern campervans can be based on almost any vehicle, from a larger Transit-style van to a much smaller Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Boxer, Fiat Doblo, or Renault Kangoo.
To overcome the lack of headroom, some camper owners install a pop-up roof or expanding roof. This can be erected when parked. As well as allowing more headspace, this could also provide extra space for sleeping and living quarters. Installing an awning is also a popular option. However, because of the smaller payload inside a campervan, there is not quite as much storage, plus you might need to reconfigure the vehicle interior. For example, you might have to transform the seating into a bed for the night.
Features often found in a standard campervan include pop-up or fold-out beds, sink, fridge, gas stove, and storage areas. However, most have no portable toilet or shower built-in.
- Driving: A camper van is easier to drive and manoeuvre on the road and at a campsite.
- Versatile: You can use your campervan as a commuting or daily vehicle.
- Accessibility: With your campervan, you can access many more wild camping areas.
- Insurance: The cost of insurance for campers tends to be much cheaper.
- Fuel-Efficient: Campervans are economical, thanks to their aerodynamic design.
- Heating: Keeping a campervan warm in winter is much easier and quicker.
- Wider Choice: If you consider campervans below 3,500 kilos, there are more options.
- Height: Fewer restrictions, especially if you choose a pop-top model which is the same height as a large car.
- Space Restrictions: Space is limited, as even long camper vans are no longer than 7 metres.
- Limited Layout Options: Campervans tend to have just one design, which restricts the possibilities for modification.
- Insulation: Campervans require additional insulation, which takes away some of the internal space.
- Not Family-Friendly: If you want to go camping with more than two adults, you might feel a little cramped.
- Washing Facilities: Micro vans could be missing bathroom facilities such as a shower or portable toilet.
- External Storage: Space for storing items outside of the van is restricted. You might have to make do with just a bike rack for a couple of bikes.
- Access: You usually have to access the campervan by way of double back doors.
Are Campervans Converted Vans?
Yes, a campervan is, in essence, a converted van. A panel van body is used along with a van chassis. On top of this, there will be a range of facilities inside the body of the camper.
Here is an easy-to-read comparison of a campervan and motorhome.
A much cheaper option if your budget is limited
Top of the range motorhomes can cost upward of $100,000
More than a couple of decades
More than a couple of decades
Ease of maintenance
Easier to keep clean because of its size
A motorhome is large, which can make cleaning it difficult
Yearly servicing costs
Servicing and repair costs tend to be cheaper
You can expect to pay more to keep your motorhome well maintained
Campervans are far more fuel-efficient
A motorhome is not renowned for its fuel economy
Needs to be added, which can reduce the space inside your campervan
Motorhomes are usually well-insulated
Much cheaper for campervan owners to insure
More expensive to insure because of their size and value
Generally less than 7 metres in length
The largest motorhomes can be longer than 10 metres
Many campervans are not subject to road tax like a motor caravan
Generally taxed as a motor caravan as long as it meets specific criteria
Limited space restricts the layout, and often features have to be multi-functional
You can include many more features, and there are endless layout configurations, especially with the larger motorhomes.
Not as manoeuvrable
Cheaper in price than a motorhome
A top of the range motorhome will cost upward of $100,000
Campervans tend to retain their value, particularly if you own a VW camper van.
A motorhome can also be a good investment because it depreciates less than a car.
Type of driving licence required
If your campervan weighs less than 3,500 kilos, you can drive it on a standard licence.
To drive a motorhome over 3,500 kilos, you need at least a C1 licence. You may need to take an additional driving test.
Indoor features/living space
It depends on the size of the camper van, but expect a small kitchen area and seating area that doubles up as a sleeping area.
Kitchen and bathroom facilities, various bedrooms, lots of storage, and all the other comforts of home
Easy to drive over a range of different terrain
Their size and shape make driving or parking in rough terrain more challenging.
More manoeuvrable off-road than a motorhome
Not very off-road friendly
The table above shows that there are a lot of similarities between a motorhome and a classic campervan. There is no clear winner, so which one you choose could just depend on your personal preference.
However, if you want to compare the two extremes from each class, the size is the main difference. With one of the top A-class motorhomes, you could be looking at a vehicle that is more than ten metres in length. With such a massive vehicle, there are almost no limits to the features you can include.
At the other end of the scale is a small and neat van conversion. The main difference: less space but much more flexibility.
What you choose really comes down to your specific needs, where you want to travel, the size of your budget, and of course, personal choice.
When Should You Buy a Campervan Over a Motorhome?
- If only going on a camping holiday for a couple of weeks during the year
- When your budget is limited
- If you want to customize it to your own needs without breaking the bank
- If you want to avoid worrying about restrictions in car parks or height barriers
- Great for short road trips or weekend getaways
- For staying at campsites where there are on-site toilet facilities
- A good option for couples if there is no need for a lot of room
When Should You Buy a Motorhome Over Campervan?
- If you want to camp regularly or live in the vehicle
- When you have an unlimited budget
- If you want extra luxury and comforts
- When you want to not depend on outside toilets/facilities
- If you need room to accommodate more than two adults and children
Possibly the best advice is to consider hiring a motorhome or campervan for a short holiday and enjoy the freedom of the open road. A short-term hire will give you a chance to get a feel for both vehicles before you make a final purchase decision.
If you look on Google for information about a campervan or motorhome, the terms tend to be interchangeable. However, after reading this post, you can now appreciate that there are some subtle differences. Before coming to a decision about whether to buy a campervan or motorhome, consider your needs.