Does escaping city life to traverse wide open spaces, hike wilderness paths and swim at unspoiled beaches give you itchy feet? If the idea of packing only the things you need and hitting the open road sounds like the journey you’re after, then maybe a motorhome or campervan is calling your name.
Where do you begin though? If you’ve never looked into owning a recreational vehicle before the choices may seem a little daunting. Which is the most suitable, a campervan or a motorhome? What’s the difference? Do you need a special licence to drive them, or do they each require separate licences? What exactly is an RV? Is it different from a campervan? Can you live in both or are there restrictions?
Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed. While the two differ, they have a few things in common; they’re designed to be a mobile home, sleep multiple people, are larger than standard cars and both require specialist motorhome or campervan insurance.
To make the difference between the two clearer, let’s take a closer look at each.
What is a motorhome?
Motorhomes are often portrayed in films as gargantuan homes on wheels where the whole family travel, including grandma, grandpa and all the pets are in tow. Perhaps this isn’t quite what you had in mind, but you do want something comfortable for all those travels you have planned. Is a motorhome the right choice for you?
Motorhomes fall under three categories alcove, semi-integrated and integrated. Alcove models have a bed above the cab, which is great for families or groups as they tend to have 5-6 berths, or provide a more luxurious option for two travellers with the rear beds and alcove bed being used as additional storage spaces.
Semi-integrated and integrated models are determined by whether they have a separate driving cab from the living quarters. Smaller model motorhomes often feature a wall to split the spaces separating the cab from the living quarters, whereas A-Class models offer integrated living and driving spaces, whereby the front seats can be swivelled around when the vehicle is stopped to increase seating in the living and dining area.
Motorhomes usually include a toilet and shower/wet room, which proves particularly convenient when free camping without access to amenities that are provided at most campsites. They also feature larger kitchen facilities often with the room for a larger fridge and cooktops, allowing a more suitably self-contained lifestyle.
Motorhomes usually provide more protection from the elements, too, due to more insulation than campervans, a luxury of the extra space. This means you’ll stay cooler in the heat and warmer through the winter.
Pros of motorhomes
Things to consider when choosing a motorhome over a campervan for life on the road:
- More spacious for improved comfort levels
- More storage capacity for a less minimalist lifestyle
- Smaller models are easy to drive, park and don’t require digging holes at campsites
- Better for families that require additional beds
- Include toilets/shower wet rooms
- Everything you need is available in one place
- Additional modcons for a more luxurious experience including larger beds, full-sized fridges and TVs for some of those creature comforts
Cons of motorhomes
While a motorhome sounds like a supreme choice for a mobile home, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when making your decision:
- Larger vehicle to drive and park, they feel wide on the road and don’t fit in standard parking spaces
- Increased costs to use and maintain
- Depending on vehicle size you may need a larger than a standard campsite, which can be another cost to consider as it will add up over time
- Lower fuel efficiency, in turn, creating further costs
What is a campervan?
The word campervan usually invokes images of classic VWs cruising along highways on the sun-kissed roads of California, windows down and music blasting from the windows. While this might well be exactly how you plan on spending your life on the road, there is so much more to a campervan than a bed in the back of a van.
Designed primarily as a mode of transport that offers simple accommodation, campervans offer a certain level of flexibility that motorhomes don’t. They’re often smaller, with pop-tops or expanding roofs to allow for increased space for beds or standing room, or fixed raised roofs. This generally means campervans look and feel more like vehicles than a house on wheels, and they offer basic amenities for sleeping, cooking and in slightly larger or more luxurious campervans, a shower/wet room.
As campervans have less space, they most often have a bed at one end of the vehicle, rear and/or side door, a small window and offer limited storage capacity. The driver's cab is also rarely separated from the accommodation quarters. To create more space, retractable awnings can be attached to the side of the van for more comfortable living and dining situations.
You might be wondering ‘is a campervan an RV?’ The simple answer is yes. RV tends to be an American term, meaning Recreational Vehicle, and encompasses most forms of motorhomes and campervans, although American-built models tend to be much larger for improved comfort and storage.
There are a number of campervan manufacturers with some of the most popular models being produced by VW, Ford, Fiat and Toyota. You may also consider a campervan if you already own a van that you are looking to convert. You will need to ensure your vehicle meets all requirements as set out by the DVLA for a conversion.
Pros of campervans
There are a few perks to choosing a smaller vehicle such as a campervan for life on the road:
- More aerodynamic than larger motorhomes
- Usually cost less to purchase
- More fuel efficient than larger vehicles
- Cheaper to maintain and use, including parts, ferry, toll charges and campervan insurance
- Easier to drive and park
Cons of campervans
While there are plenty of benefits of choosing a campervan, there are a few things to consider, too:
- Space is limited, and generally not comfortable for more than two adults
- Minimal storage capacity
- Rarely include a toilet/shower room unless they are top-of-the-range models
- Cooking can be less comfortable in wet weather when leaving doors and windows wide open isn’t practical
What is the difference between A, B and C-class RVs?
Recreational vehicles, inclusive of all campervans and motorhomes, fall under one of three vehicle classes. To help you on your quest for your new investment, we’ve put together a quick guide below of the features that define each class to you narrow your search.
These models are instantly recognisable as mobile homes due to their shape, size and the difference in the style of the front of the vehicle. They can reach up to 40 feet in length, are plentiful when it comes to space and sit at a higher price point when it comes to motorhomes. Their motor is positioned at the rear and they sleep up to eight people making them a great choice for those who plan to live on the road long term or are travelling in larger groups. These models generally ooze luxury.
The smallest of all motorhome classes available, they are generally built on the frames of vans or trucks and don’t exceed 25 feet in length. Their size restricts inclusions such as toilets and/or shower wet rooms, but what they lack in space they make up for in the freedom they provide travellers. They are cheaper to run, more fuel efficient and more agile on smaller roads giving travellers more choice about their destinations. They can sleep up to four people but usually cater for two.
This is your mid-range model, generally up to 30 feet long, so smaller than A-Class but larger than B-Class models. Like the B-Class, they are built on chassis but provide more space and additional facilities than what the B-Class can cater for. Popular models for families, they commonly sleep six people and can include bathroom amenities. The driving space looks much like a van, and alcove models with a bed over the cab usually fall into this category.
Difference in prices: Motorhomes vs campervans
Your budget may have a heavy influence on which route you proceed with when selecting your campervan or motorhome and can vary greatly depending on whether you opt for a secondhand or new model, the size, brand and what features it includes.
The newer and bigger the vehicle, the higher your price point will be. Secondhand campervans can average as low as around the £7,000 mark for a simple set up, right through to £30,000+ for a brand new kitted-out model.
If you’re looking at a larger B-Class or A-Class motorhome, you’ll be needing to set aside anywhere from £10,000 - £12,000 for a secondhand unit, right through £45,000+ for the latest models.
Before purchasing, consider how often you will be using your camper or motorhome. If it’s for use a few weeks of the year or just for weekend getaways, a secondhand vehicle might be the most suitable option to get the best value for money. If you plan on making this your new home away from home for a good portion of the year, then a brand new model with no miles clocked up might be more appropriate.
Licensing requirements to drive motorhomes and campervans
You’ve chosen your preferred mobile home, made sure it’s specced out with everything you need to kick off your adventures, but what about a licence to drive it to all those faraway places? To drive a campervan or motorhome in the UK, you will need to be licensed to drive in one of two categories. The type of licence you require is based on your age and the maximum authorised mass (MAM) as outlined by the DVLA.
- 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
How much should it cost to insure a motorhome?
Motorhome or camper purchased? Check. Licensed? Check. One more thing, and most importantly, you need to purchase the right motorhome or campervan insurance to ensure you’re covered no matter where your travels take you. There are different options available depending on the value of your vehicle, its size, when and where you will be travelling with it and don’t forget to think about protecting your contents, too.
Most comprehensive campervan insurance plans now offer year-round cover across the UK and countries within the European Union (EU). Many of those policies also cover personal belongings and if you’ve decided to buy a van that you want to give the DIY conversion treatment, some will even cover a period for self-conversion.
The cost of your campervan insurance policy will vary from vehicle to vehicle, taking into account whether it is brand new or secondhand, the facilities included, the model class falls under, what contents you want to be covered and where you intend to travel. It’s important to talk to your insurance provider to find a policy that reflects your needs.
Which is the one for me?
At the end of the day whether you choose a motorhome or a campervan comes down to personal choice. Do you need a lot of space for family or additional amenities, or do you want the freedom of being able to take your mobile home just about anywhere? The best way to find the most suitable option for you is to hire one for a getaway. Try before you buy and see whether you like the smaller solution that isn’t too different to driving a car but gives you a place to stay on the road, or whether you want all the modern cons in your home away from home. Just remember to enjoy the journey.
No matter which vehicle you choose, it’s important to ensure your campervan or motorhome and its contents is covered with suitable campervan insurance. Get a quote today from Motorhome Protect so you can get out and about as soon as possible.