Campervans and motorhomes both offer the freedom and pleasure of travelling anywhere you like at the drop of a hat, but when you think of a campervan you imagine a very different picture to the lifestyle of owning a motorhome.
People tend to associate campervans with younger drivers who use it for road trips, festivals and surfing, whereas motorhomes tend to be owned more by families and retired couples who spend the summer travelling around Europe.
As specialist providers of both campervan insurance and motorhome insurance, we’ve put campervans and motorhomes head-to-head to see how they compare on cost, functionality and more to see which one comes out on top.
When looking at buying a campervan or a motorhome, you need to ask yourself these questions to understand what vehicle would best suit you:
- What is your budget?
- What kind of traveller are you?
- how many people will you be travelling with?
- Where will you be staying?
- Do you have access to other vehicles?
You may be surprised to find out that the cost of a brand-new campervan is very similar to the price of a new motorhome. In fact, a VW California brand new from Volkswagen starts from £46,000 which is almost the same price as a Swift Escape Compact which is a mid-range motorhome starting from £46,450.
However, when comparing the price of second-hand campervans, you can pick up an older VW T4 for as little as £3,000 on Autotrader.
A second-hand Fiat Ducato motorhome can be bought for the low cost of £5,000 but this is usually a much older model which may put some buyers off.
- MOT – You can expect to pay the same price as you would to have your car MOT carried out. Some companies such as ATS Euromaster require you to check the garage you’re visiting can accommodate larger vehicles.
- Service – To keep your campervan in tip-top condition you should get it serviced regularly which can cost up to £250 for a full service. Due to the size of some motorhomes, services can only be carried out at certain service centres. They also require more oil and other fluids which all add up to over £300.
- Habitation Service – It’s recommended you should get a habitation service every year and depending on the size of your campervan or motorhome, the cost can vary. As campervans are smaller than motorhomes, this service usually doesn’t take as long so is cheaper. To find a workshop near you, you can use the Approved Workshop Scheme which lists all the NCC (National Caravan Council) approved service centres.
- Fuel Economy – Campervans are much more fuel efficient than motorhomes due to having a smaller payload, so they can get up to 38mpg compared to a motorhome which can be anywhere from 20 to 30mpg.
A major difference between campervans and motorhomes is how they are stored when you’re not travelling. Many people who own campervans find it easier to store them and they can begin their holiday directly from their home, however, it’s the opposite for motorhome owners who normally have to pick up their motorhome from a storage location. Most insurers will not cover a motorhome for use as a daily vehicle which means you’ll need to have room to store your motorhome and if you don’t, you’ll need to pay for a secure storage location for when you’re not using the motorhome or during winter.
Some people choose to use their motorhome over winter and if you’re one of them then take a look at these top winter motorhome holidays.
For a campervan, as long as the weight is under 3,500kg then you should be able to drive it as long as you have passed your driving test. Always check you can legally drive the vehicle.
If you’re unsure on what vehicles you’re licensed to drive then make sure you check before you drive using the government website.
Due to the size of some motorhomes, you may need to take an additional driving test before you can drive them. If you passed your test before 1997 then you will already be licensed to drive category C1 vehicles. If you got your licence after 1997 then you’ll need to take an additional test which can cost upwards of £230.
The important factor in many campervan vs motorhome decisions is how much space do you need?
Campervans are compact with bare essentials like a bed and a small kitchenette area. For some this is perfect, and it allows them to focus on the simpler things in life. A lot of owners have come up with genius ways of making the most of the small amount of space they have, like the rock n roller bed.
They are literally a house on wheels with everything you could possibly need. It doesn’t require moving anything around to set up a bed and there’s plenty of space even if you’re tall.
Depending on the set up of a campervan you may or may not have a kitchen. If you’re not an avid chef and don’t mind BBQs, then the lack of a proper kitchen won’t affect you much.
kitchens can be quite big with all the usual appliances you’d have at home, so cooking up a tasty meal every night is easy and then you have a full-sized sink to do the washing up after. Some motorhomes even have a dishwasher to make life even easier.
Shower / Toilet
They usually don’t have showers unless they are separate from the campervan itself and attached to a side awning/tent. It can be a bit of a hassle to set it up and the water isn’t always going to be warm. Many campervan owners tend to visit campsites with shower and toilet facilities on site. Those who don’t set up a toilet tent with a portable toilet next to the awning, if they are camping rural.
You can easily find campsites with shower and toilet facilities using our free campsite finder tool.
Even older motorhomes have an electric shower with a fully working toilet. On some motorhomes, the toilet is emptied via a press of a button, meaning you don’t even have to get your hands dirty! This means you can truly relax whilst on holiday and not have to worry about running over to the campsite toilets in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm.
What kind of traveller are you?
If you’re the type of person who enjoys sleeping under the stars and being at one with nature, then a campervan is perfect for you. It removes the need for all the distractions of day to day life and helps you to concentrate on the simpler things’ life has to offer.
If you like to holiday in luxury and often travel abroad on all-inclusive holidays, then you’d much prefer a motorhome. You have your own private shower, toilet and full-sized bed which may sound basic but compared to a campervan, it’s the ultimate luxury.
What will you be using it for?
If you were going to attend festivals in your vehicle then you’d need to check which types of vehicle they allow. Some festivals will allow campervans, but they need to meet specific requirements, for example, Leeds Festival, Download festival and Glastonbury festival. If you’re ever wondering why you should take a campervan or motorhome to a music festival then read our blog: Why take a motorhome to a music festival?
Short weekend trips
If your main use for the vehicle will be short weekend trips to local campsites then you may find the campervan a better fit as you won’t need as much room to store things for the holiday and as we explained, campervans have limited room compared to motorhomes.
However, if you want to have a short weekend trip but with a little more luxury, you would love the benefits the motorhome offers.
Long holidays around Europe
In a campervan, longer trips can be more difficult if you’re driving with a fully loaded van. This would make It difficult to stop off for meals or sleep as you’d have to unpack everything before you can get down to business. If you take a campervan on long trips, then it’s best to plan and organise which campsites you’ll be staying at along the route. Use our free campsite finder tool to help you pick the perfect campsites.
For longs trips around the EU, a motorhome is perfect. You can pack up everything you need with plenty of space to store it all. You can take stop-offs along the way to prepare dinner or get a few hours of sleep before carrying on with the rest of your journey.
Things to check before you buy a campervan or motorhome
If you come to buy a motorhome then it’s important to carry out a thorough check to ensure you don’t get caught out with any expensive bills later on down the line. For advice on the things, you need to check, read our guide to buying a used motorhome.
If you already have a motorhome, check out our blog of things only motorhome owners understand!
If you’re still unsure on which you’d prefer, take a look at our previous blog: caravan vs motorhome to see the benefits of having a caravan instead of a motorhome.