Trying to choose between a motorhome or a caravan? In this post, you'll find pros vs cons of each and help deciding which is better for YOU!
Caravan or Motorhome- which is better? It's an excellent question and one we get asked all the time.
My husband was brought up with caravans and his formative years were spent playing in a field while his parents set up EVERYTHING they had bought- (yes, his mum used to bring the kitchen sink- literally.)
Still, when we were doing our search for a leisure vehicle, we didn't look at caravans (and I'll tell you why below.
Firstly, let's cover some basic differences between owning and using the two…
Caravan vs. Motorhome – What is the difference ?
Simply put, a caravan is:
- towed behind another vehicle
- doesn't have any engine of its own
- normally has a static living space; ie- you don't have to raise sides/ top (trailer tent)
Conversely, a motorhome is like a car and a caravan combined into one unit, so you can normally get from the driver seats to the living/ sleeping area without having to go outside. To add to the confusion, the legal term for a motorhome is ‘Motor Caravan'!!
Pros of a Caravan
There are some distinct advantages in having a caravan instead of a motorhome. Some of the biggest pros include:
- Having a car with you so you can explore easily
- Being able to use your normal car- not paying to run/ maintain a second vehicle
- Caravans are MUCH cheaper than motorhomes for a similar length, PLUS the running costs are cheaper
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Pros of a motorhome
Similarly, there are some big advantages to having a motorhome instead of a caravan. These pros are:
- Can use Aires and approved overnight spots across Europe (many places ban caravans)
- Can tow with a motorhome – can't tow anything if you have a caravan (this was a dealbreaker for us as we wanted to tow our motorbikes
- It's easier and safer when wild parking.
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Is a Motorhome more expensive than a caravan?
The short answer is yes- and that's one of the downsides of motorhomes over caravans. A 6.5m motorhome will cost you more than a 6.5m caravan. It will probably cost more than a 6.5m caravan plus a nice car to pull it with! 🙂
Obviously, this is entirely dependant on the motorhome and the caravan/ car but, if you're looking to save money, a caravan might be a better option. You will also save money on MOT, vehicle tax, tolls, insurance and potentially storage, although again this is subjective.
How much does a motorhome cost?
Buying a motorhome is a lot like buying a car- there are HUNDREDS of different makes, models and price points.
There isn't ONE best motorhome, and there isn't ONE price for them. I'm reluctant to put any price down because the market changes so rapidly and there will always be a reader who managed to get an incredible deal and disagrees with everything I say!
But you can get some great deals, especially for older models with higher mileage- it definitely pays to shop around, although beware of buying privately and deals that sound ‘too good to be true!'
Are motorhomes in Europe cheaper?
Not anymore sadly. For our second van, we debated whether we should go for a left hand drive motorhome instead of RHD and we were shocked to find they were actually more expensive (and well outside our price range).
Again, you might well be able to find a decent deal somewhere, but in general, buying a motorhome in the UK is cheaper… especially at the current exchange rate!
How much does a caravan cost?
A new caravan often costs as little as a used, old motorhome. So if having something brand new is important to you, that might be a better option.
Remember, if you're only going to use this vehicle for a couple of weeks each year, a caravan will probably be cheaper in the long-run. If you're planning to do long trips, you'll definitely get your money's worth with a motorhome.
Caravan or Motorhome, which is better for UK camping?
Sadly, as the UK lacks decent aires/ motorhome parking spaces (except for Scotland!), it makes very little difference whether you choose a caravan or motorhome as you will spend most of your time on a campsite or CL site anyway.
So, if you're planning to stay entirely within the UK, the choice is all yours when deciding on a caravan vs a motorhome- there aren't big advantages or disadvantages. If you like staying in one place for a week and exploring the local area, you may prefer a caravan and use the car for exploring.
If you like moving around frequently, staying ‘off-grid' and being self-sufficient, you might find a motorhome is better for you.
Is a caravan or motorhome better for touring Europe?
You can tour Europe with either a caravan or motorhome and many people do just that. However, if you plan to wild camp, or use aires across Europe, you'll find many are suitable only for Motorhomes. Indeed, sometimes caravans are banned. For this reason, a motorhome was our final choice when deciding between a motorhome or caravan.
Can you wild camp with a caravan?
I guess you can and I know laws about wild camping in places like the UK can vary. But, you need to think seriously about the safety aspect. I'm not sure I'd want to leave my car unattended in the middle of nowhere whilst I'm in a different vehicle!
Obviously, any form of wild or free camping has to be carried it within the law- you can find out more about that and how to find places HERE
Is a Motorhome the same as an RV?
Sort of. In America, there are 3 classes of RV- A, B and C. I believe UK motorhomes are similar to a class C. (Class B is sort of like a large campervan and Class A is enormous!!)
Can you tow with a motorhome?
If you want to tow another vehicle with a motorhome, you need to:
- get a motorhome which is capable of having a tow-bar fitted. Surprisingly, not ALL models are.
- Check you are allowed to drive the motorhome (on its own) and also that you are allowed to tow the weight of the motorhome/ potential vehicle. The rules changed in 2013- you can check what you are allowed to drive on the gov website here.
- Will the total weight of the Motorhome and tow exceed the Gross Train Weight for the MH (marked on the plate in the vehicle)
You also want to consider the fact that a longer vehicle is harder to park, both on campsites, in supermarkets and whilst wild camping. We often have to avoid pretty parking areas and many aires because we are just too long.
We also accept that our MPG will be less whilst we're towing and tunnel or ferry fees will be more expensive. When we went to Norway, we paid a LOT more in ferry fees because we had the bikes on a trailer (Totally worth it- we rode them down Trollstigen road and it was EPIC!)
So how do I CHOOSE between a motorhome vs caravan??
Ask yourself the following easy questions to choose your perfect motorhome or caravan:
- How do you want to spend time in your vehicle?
- Do you want to be mainly on campsites, or out in the wilds motorhome wild camping?
- How many people do you need to sit? (Many motorhomes only seat 6 max- any more and you'll need a car)
- Do you want to stay in one place for a week and explore by car, or move more frequently?
- What's your budget buying a motorhome vs. a caravan?
- How long do you travel for?
- Do you want to just arrive and be ‘set-up' within minutes, or are you happy taking the time with something longer? (Motorhome are much quicker to set up than caravans)
- Can you drive whichever vehicle you want to buy?
How did we choose between a caravan and a motorhome?
For us, we knew we wanted to tow the motorbikes. We also knew we wanted to explore with the motorhome, and we wanted to avoid campsites as much as possible. We didn't want anything too long, but we needed space for 3 of us to spread out and not drive each other crazy. Our teenager needed a separate space and we also wanted a dinette area so we had a proper table.
Our first motorhome was utterly wrong for us in nearly every way- except for the fact that it was a motorhome! We knew that was the right choice for us. Even without the motorbikes, we'd still pick motorhoming- we enjoy the freedom and flexibility it offers.
If you're not sure, I strongly recommend hiring one of each and seeing which lifestyle you prefer!
How about you? Do you have a caravan or a motorhome? Which would you like to have?
If you'd like some more help figuring out what vehicle to get (and how to buy the RIGHT one for you), grab a copy of our Complete Beginners guide to Motorhome Buying here– a course of videos, downloadable eBook and worksheets to help you make the BEST decision for YOU!
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