If you’ve settled on the decision to explore the open road with the freedom granted by travelling by campervan there are so many options available to you.
Holidaying by motorhome or campervan can be a liberating experience.
You gain so much control over your travels, from stopping wherever you choose and selecting a layout that meets your needs to tailoring your adventures with the flexibility that flight schedules and hotel bookings can rarely offer.
RVs, motorhomes, campervans, house trailers or caravans – whatever you call them, they’re likely to invoke images of sun-soaked days, remote landscapes and enjoying your morning cuppa overlooking vast stretches of beach.
As ideal as these scenarios sound, there are a few things you need to consider before you can dive into your next adventure.
For someone new to the world of campervans and motorhomes, the plethora of models, sizes, shapes and price ranges can be a little bewildering.
You probably have a lot of questions like ‘What size do you need?’, ‘How much do they cost?’, ‘What are the different classes and what do they mean?, and ‘How is each one different?’.
You may also ask yourself if there are any restrictions or limitations for driving a campervan or motorhome. It’s no surprise all that choice can be a little overwhelming when you first begin your search.
Most of us are fairly familiar with the difference between a hatchback, estate and SUV, but when it comes to mobile homes many of us would struggle to define how they vary.
To help break down the jargon and clarify how they all differ, we’ve put together a guide to the various classes of campervans to make your decision a little easier.
What are the different types of campervan or motorhome classes?
Campervans or motorhomes tend to fall under one of three categories: Class A, B or C. Whilst some people use the various terms for different recreational vehicles interchangeably, there are some key differences that determine their class and whether they are defined as a motorhome or campervan.
Recreational vehicle, or RV, is a term most commonly used in America and tends to either be a catch-all phrase for mobile homes, or refer more specifically to what are classed as motorhomes in the UK.
When referring to motorhomes in the UK, they are separated by classes defined by a set of parameters that specify what each class must possess to meet the class requirements.
Here in the UK, motorhomes fall under the categories A and C, while campervans comprise the Class B group.
Certain classes may require specialised licenses to allow you to drive them, so along with some other key differences, it’s worth looking at these in detail to help you decide which class of campervan or motorhome is best suited to you, your travel plans and who you will be travelling with.
The best way to do this is to consider the characteristics of each class along with the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision before you commit to investing in your new home on wheels.
What is a Class A campervan?
Class A vehicles are not actually classified at campervans, but rather motorhomes.
They are the most prestigious of the motorhome family and have been affectionately coined ‘King of the campground’.
These vehicles typically ooze luxury, have plenty of space and are the largest of the motorhome range.
In Europe, Class A motorhomes are generally up to 25 feet in length but can reach up to as much as 40 feet, although those on the larger end of the scale are more typical in the USA.
Due to their large size, Class A motorhomes have a wealth of amenities due to the luxury of extra space that isn’t afforded by other recreational vehicle classes.
Fridges, self-contained bathrooms, televisions, entertaining and living spaces are all commonplace in these extravagant mobile homes, as well as mod cons like heating and air conditioning.
All this extra space makes for incredibly comfortable living and is ideal for holidaying with large groups or families, with some sleeping up to eight people.
Passengers can also move around the vehicle while travelling in these larger motorhomes, as the cab is integrated with the living space.
When we consider the mechanical specifications of Class A vehicles, they are usually built on a truck or bus chassis and their engines are generally found at the rear of the vehicle.
What about price? As you might expect, being the largest and most luxurious motorhome they come with a price tag to match.
Brand new, a Class A motorhome could start at around £45,000, though you may find a good quality, second-hand model for less.
- Improved comfort levels due to increased living space
- Include bathrooms/toilets for fully self-contained travel
- Better suited to larger groups or families
- Ideal for travel to fewer places for longer periods of time
- Increased storage space for better long-term travel and catering
- Better insulation for increased comfort
- Integrated cab for more living space
- Lower fuel efficiency
- Higher running costs
- Larger to park and drive, limiting options especially as they do not fit in regular parking spaces
- Increased costs for tolls, ferries and maintenance/parts
- May not be accepted on all campsites
- Feel wide when driving and can limit accessibility to some rural areas with narrow roads
- A second smaller vehicle may be required for exploring beyond your base
What is a Class C campervan?
We’ve skipped over Class B for now (we’ll come back to that shortly) because Class C is more closely aligned to Class A, so it makes sense to talk about these next.
Class C are also motorhomes and not campervans. Unlike their gigantic cousins, they are more compact and offer slightly more limited levels of luxury, but are still comfortable for travelling short or long term.
Class C motorhomes are more commonly purchased by those entering the recreational vehicle market and looking for plenty of comfort without the huge price tag of a Class A motorhome.
They are usually kitted out with many of the same mod cons that accompany Class A vehicles such as fridges, heating and air conditioning, bathrooms and hobs.
They are the mid-size option between Class A and Class B vehicles, generally ranging between 20 - 33 feet in length, ensuring there is still plenty of space in the living quarters.
While they can sometimes sleep up to eight people, they are more comfortable accommodation for four to six adults when using the additional space for storage.
Beyond the interior fit out, Class C motorhomes are built on a truck chassis. The cab is usually a space on its own, with the living area laid out separately behind.
A more budget-friendly option than a Class A, Class C motorhomes range from around £10,000 second hand up to £35,000 for a brand new model.
- A smaller, more compact option that makes parking and driving easier than Class A
- More affordable price point
- A variety of layouts and sizes suitable for a range of passengers and travel styles
- More fuel efficient than Class A motorhomes
- Good insulation for comfortable internal temperatures
- Most luxuries and mod cons of a Class A vehicle
- Less fuel efficient than Class B campervans
- There can be sealing issues between the cab and living area
- Larger Class C vehicles may require larger than standard campsites leading to increased costs
- Depending on size, there may be higher toll and ferry costs
- Higher repair and maintenance costs than Class B vehicles
What is a Class B campervan?
If you’re also asking, ‘What is a Class B motorhome?’ you’ve come to the right place, although it’s important to understand that Class B vehicles are campervans rather than motorhomes.
Class B vehicles are the only true campervan and can include purpose built or van conversions.
They are the smallest of the family of recreational vehicles and are highly popular with younger travels looking to experience ‘van life’.
These vehicles have limited living space and operate more as a van with sleeping space than a home on wheels.
Most include a small kitchen and dining space, a double or two single beds and limited storage. In some larger models or self-converted vans there may be a toilet or wet room facility, too.
Campervans are best suited to those who want to travel and explore, spending limited time inside the vehicle when not driving.
They are simple, and often resemble standard vehicles more than the other classes of recreational vehicles. While there are purpose-built campervans available, it is very common for people to undertake their own conversion project.
The beauty of this is that you can almost entirely choose every aspect of your camper to suit your taste and needs, allowing you to complete a rewarding DIY project.
It’s important to note that there are certain requirements that must be met, as outlined by the DVLA, before your converted van can be registered as a campervan.
You will also need the right campervan insurance during your conversion in case anything goes wrong.
Built on a van chassis, the Class B’s smaller stature makes them more nimble and easier to get around in, providing the flexibility to visit more remote destinations and away from the main tourist trails.
Being the smallest of three classes of vehicle, usually no longer than 25 feet, they are the most fuel efficient, cost less for maintenance and repairs and provide the most freedom for campsite selection and exploring.
Their size also makes them the most affordable mobile home, with prices starting as low as £4,000 for a small second hand model and up to £30,000 for a brand new top-of-the-range vehicle.
Due to their affordability, they’ve become increasingly popular with younger travellers who choose to road trip around locations such as Europe, North America and Australia or New Zealand.
- Most fuel-efficient class
- Smallest size, making them easier to drive and park as well as to explore hard-to-reach locations
- More economic to maintain and use
- Lower upfront costs and easier to break into the recreational vehicle market
- Limited amenities
- Short on space
- Limited storage space
- May not offer shower/toilet facilities on board
- Cooking can be less comfortable in wet weather due to more confined space
How do the various classes differ?
The most notable differences are the type of chassis the various classes of recreational vehicles are built on, as well as their size and the level of luxury they offer.
Classes A and C fall within the motorhome category, while Class B pertains to campervans.
When you’re trying to decide which class of recreational vehicle is most suitable for your travel plans, using the ‘try before you buy’ method might be the best option.
Hiring a campervan or motorhome will enable you to determine how much space you need or feel comfortable with, what size you are comfortable driving and what amenities you feel are essential.
Do I need a special licence to drive a Class A motorhome?
You will need to be licensed to drive in one of two categories if you plan to drive a motorhome or campervan in the UK.
Your age and the maximum authorised mass (MAM) as outlined by the DVLA will determine the type of licence you require.
- If your vehicle has a MAM of 3.5 to 7.5 tonnes, you will require a C1 category licence
- For vehicles with a MAM over 7.5 tonnes, a category C licence is required
Class A will always require a category C licence, while Class C vehicles could fall under either of the above categories.
Most Class B models will be suitable for C1 category licence holders, although it’s important to always check before you take your motorhome or campervan on the road.
Why specialised campervan insurance matters
Getting away in your campervan is one of the best experiences you can have in life.
However, before you set off, it’s important to make sure you’re covered with specialised campervan insurance that protects you if things go a little pear-shaped.
That’s why Motorhome Protect offers a range of policies for UK campervan owners that cover you both in the UK and abroad, offering cover up to £3,500 worth of personal belongings and even include up to six-months cover for a self-build conversion.
Get in touch with Motorhome Protect for a campervan insurance quote today.