I’m often asked — which is better? A caravan or a motorhome? The short answer is: it depends on what you want out of it. There are many things to consider, and many myths and confusions to clear up.
That’s what this guide is for. So let’s jump right in:
This question confuses people more than you might realise. It probably has something to do with the fact that the legal term for a motorhome is also a ‘motorcaravan’.
So a motorhome and a motorcaravan are the same things. Basically, a unit that combines a car and a caravan into one vehicle. There are lots of different types, but you can normally move from the cab (driving area) to the lounge and sleeping area without ever having to go outside.
For these reasons, campervans also count as motorhomes. Even though the differences in size are quite stark. For example, motorhomes tend to be large, built more like a bus or lorry more than anything else. Where campervans are typically a lot smaller, more compact, more like a conventional van, and have fewer living space arrangements.
Campervans are designed only for short stays in mind, as they have limited equipment and facilities. Whereas a motorhome is built so that you can be quite comfortable inside for extended periods of time.
Here is a picture of a typical C-class motorhome:
Find out more about the different types of motorhomes — including campervans — in our how to buy a motorhome for the first time guide.
A ‘caravan’ is different. A caravan is:
With a caravan, the idea is to arrive at a campsite or destination and unhitch it from the car you drove to tow it there. The caravan then serves as a base for the remainder of the holiday. You can drive around freely in your car, returning to rest and sleep in the caravan at the end of the day.
There are many different types of caravan and motorhome. Almost all of them — but not all (such as campervans) — tend to come with their own washrooms and kitchens, and a variety of living space set-ups.
Caravans designed to be towed and moved on a regular basis are not to be confused with ‘static’ caravans. Static caravans are semi-permanent holiday homes. They are built on prefabricated structures and aren’t really designed to be moved about much.
To distinguish the two, towed caravans are sometimes referred to as ‘touring caravans’.
Here is a picture of a typical touring caravan:
Caravans are very flexible. Once you’ve finally set them up and unhitched, you can then whizz about sightseeing in your car. This is much easier and quicker than having to drive everywhere in a big motorhome, and you’ll be able to find parking and to drive down tight lanes much easier. This is perfect if you’re planning on settling down in one space for an extended period of time.
The downside is that caravans are very un-flexible when it comes to wild camping. (I discuss that in more detail below.)
Motorhomes have many benefits, but they are not the ideal sightseeing vehicle. You will struggle to find parking in towns and cities, and you’ll have to pack everything up and inside just to go somewhere. So you could say, in this sense, that motorhomes aren’t all that flexible.
Metre-by-metre, a caravan trumps a motorhome every time. That’s because, in a 7-metre motorhome, a good part is taken up by the cab and space for the engine and so on. Whereas a 7-metre caravan will essentially just be a hollowed-out living space.
But remember a 7-metre caravan will have to be towed by a vehicle. So in all your ‘convoy’ will be bigger.
You can make even more space with a caravan by doing the following:
You can’t really ‘create’ new space like this in a motorhome. What you see is what you get. You CAN get an awning for the motorhome like you could with a caravan. But setting them up is often more effort than it’s worth — and they kind of defeat the point of having a motorhome as they make it harder to ‘up and go’.
But if you want to treat your motorhome like a caravan for a week or two then an awning could make your holiday more comfortable.
Answer these statements with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Be sure to write down your answers and number them.
If you answered mostly ‘yes’ to the odd-numbered statements, then you’ll probably be better off with a motorhome. But if you answered mostly ‘yes’ to the even statements then it might be the caravan lifestyle you’re after.
If you answered mostly ‘yes’ all-around then it sounds like you’re in love with both aspects of the motorhome and caravan lifestyle and will have to make a difficult choice.
I won’t put any dressing on it — driving a motorhome is much easier and more pleasurable than towing a caravan.
Towing a caravan can be tricky and takes practice, but practice makes perfect. There are a number of caravan towing courses out there for reasonable prices if you want to give your confidence a jump-start.
And while I think driving a motorhome is easier, it can still be intimidating to drive such a large vehicle — especially if you’re not used to it. But once you get used to the “feel” of the motorhome’s size and dimensions, it’s not all that different to driving a car. In fact, motorhomes have a third axle at the rear which can make them feel more stable and even easier than cars to steer along the motorways at high speeds.
There are also motorhome manoeuvring courses that you can take, to help you get a feel for the road.
There are 1000s of accidents that involve towing every year, according to the UK Department for Transport and ‘behaviour or inexperience’ is one of the contributory factors.
If you feel nervous about your driving, there really is no harm in booking a few lessons or having a few practices before you hit the road.
You can tow a vehicle with your motorhome if you want or need to. Meaning that towing is not just limited to drivers and their touring caravans. There are just a few things to check beforehand:
If the kids are young then a caravan might be better. A caravan will give you the freedom to return to a bigger living space at the end of the day, with more room for the teddies, toys, tablets and other forms of child entertainment. This more ‘grounded’ experience might be more relaxing for parents with younger children.
Young children might struggle with the long driving journeys that motorhome enthusiasts often put up with. It’s also worth keeping in mind that many semi-permanent caravan sites will often have some entertainment opportunities for kids — which you might not always find waiting for you at the end of a journey in a free-to-roam motorhome.
But as your children grow older (I’d say about 11+), the chances are they will come to find more excitement in the free-roaming motorhome lifestyle. So I’d recommend having a good think about this — especially if you want the motorhome/caravan lifestyle to be an important part of fun family time.
A caravan is probably better for dogs. Caravans tend to be more spacious than motorhomes and will give your dog more room to move around in and stretch out. And if the weather is looking bad, you can always let the dog rest and run around under the awning without bringing the mud inside. With a caravan, you can keep an eye on your dog and give it a bit more space which might be easier.
But to be honest, it’s pretty easy to take your dog along with you either way. If you’ve got a motorhome and the dog is used to riding about in the cabin, put a harness on the dog and it’ll be fine. You could also put your dog in a travel crate if need be.
I wouldn’t let the issue of “is it easier with a dog” sway your decision.
Motorhomes are much easier to park than caravans. All of the most beautiful spots in the UK have both caravan and motorhome sites. But just getting to some of them can be challenging in a caravan.
Towing a caravan through narrow, winding country roads can be intimidating for even experienced drivers. And it can be tricky to reverse a caravan in some spots.
In comparison, motorhomes are much easier and are not much different to driving a car once you get used to the extra dimensions.
The trade-off is that, yes, it’s easier to park a motorhome on a camping site. But caravan owners will likely have an easier time exploring the surrounding areas in their regular-sized towing vehicles — once they’ve settled down and unhitched their caravans at the campsite of course.
You can tour the UK quite easily in both a motorhome or a caravan. There are plenty of campsites all over the country with varying facilities to accommodate both and also to suit the type of holiday you’re looking for.
Campsites vary from the very largest with pubs, clubs and theme parks, to those with water and electrical hook-ups, cheaper off-grid parks and small secluded sites with a communal water supply.
This is a contentious debate — but I am leaning towards motorhomes. A motorhome is unbeatable for free-roaming, and for travelling to and viewing landscapes of outstanding natural beauty. Both up and down the country and on the European continent.
But caravan enthusiasts will argue that they have it better because they can unhitch their caravan on a site and then explore more freely in the towing vehicle.
I understand both sides of the argument. If you’re planning on exploring cities and towns then it’s probably much easier to nip around in a car. After all, many of Europe’s ancient roads and towns and parking areas weren’t built with motorhomes in mind. And you wouldn’t have to pack everything up and away just to shoot out for the day — which you would if you were in a motorhome because you’d be taking the whole living space along for the ride.
But there is no getting away from the fact that caravans are “grounded” on sites. Whereas in a motorhome you’re free to explore multiple places of interest on a single journey and stay overnight wherever you want if you fancy a bit longer.
Yes, travelling into towns and cities may be an issue in a motorhome. But most locations in the UK now have “park and ride” schemes — where you can easily and conveniently park the motorhome up outside of the town. I did this in Cambridge recently and the buses were very frequent. It was no trouble at all getting in, exploring and then getting out. And to be honest it was much less stressful because I could simply drive straight on to an A-road and away at the end of the day.
A motorhome. With a motorhome you’re free to travel around and be relatively spontaneous. You don’t have to unhitch and mess about setting everything up like with a caravan — you just drive and go. All you really have to do is find a place to park.
Motorhomes. If you’re planning to travel around the Continent you will find that most European countries are very accommodating to motorhomes in terms of the facilities that they provide. Western Europe is arguably even more motorhome-friendly than the UK, where it can sometimes be challenging to find services off-site.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for caravans. Although there are still great facilities and opportunities to be had in a caravan, you will probably encounter many sites where motorhomes are welcome, but caravans won’t be. Towing a caravan through the Eurotunnel, on ferries and over toll roads will also rack up extra costs.
Finally, if you are looking to wild camp, then the motorhome is the clear winner. There are LOADS of service points that you can use without even having to step foot on a campsite. Plenty of supermarkets and garages will have stations where you can dump waste and fill up on water, all for a few euros.
If you’re a fan of wild camping then a campervan is likely to be the better option. You might also find it easier to go further afield in a campervan, especially around Europe where the roads might be smaller, winding, and unfamiliar.
But if you’re planning to set up for a considerable period of time then a caravan might be the better option.
So, caravan or campervan? The reality is, almost anywhere you go will be well-suited to a campervan.
In Europe, the answer is clear: motorhomes. There are more facilities at your beck and call (and in some places like France caravans are sometimes discouraged).
But in the UK there isn’t really a clear winner. Most of the time — motorhome or caravan or not — most of the time you’ll end up on a campsite that accommodates both anyway.
So for the UK at least there are no huge advantages or disadvantages. It all comes down to that fundamental issue I’ve talked about all throughout this article. Are you looking to stay in one place for a week, or do you want to explore up and down the country?
The answer is: it again depends on how long you want to stay put for. If you want to stay in one area for a while, then a caravan is the better solution.
But motorhomes are better designed for a freer camping experience and they are certainly more relaxing to drive. Also, motorhomes have wastewater tanks. So that you can go when nature calls, without having to clean the toilet out daily — unlike with a caravan.
Yes, you can technically wild camp in a caravan. But it wouldn’t be easy manoeuvring both a towing vehicle and a caravan. I know plenty of people who’ve struggled to manoeuvre into a desirable position with a decent view — so it might sound more appealing than it actually is. And if you have to leave quickly, that might not always be possible in a caravan.
Motorhome wild camping, on the other hand, is much easier and better suited to the task.
Wild camping and off-grid living go hand-in-hand. Find out more about living off-grid in a motorhome in our guide here.
Caravans are almost always cheaper than motorhomes because they do not contain engines (and all of the running costs associated with them). But you must remember that you’ll need an appropriate towing vehicle to pull a caravan. If you have to fork out on a towing vehicle, then it might end up being almost as expensive as buying a motorhome.
Caravans also tend to be cheaper because:
BUT a caravan will depreciate in value faster than a motorhome. At approximately around 15% every year. (In comparison motorhomes depreciate at around 5% a year, providing you keep the mileage down.)
Towing a caravan with a weight of around 3,500kg will burn fuel at around the same rate as driving a motorhome that’s just as heavy. This is estimated at around 20-30 miles per gallon — though really it depends on the make and the model, and how heavily loaded both are.
It’s no secret that motorhomes can be pricey. Even campervans — which might seem on the surface to be like the cheaper option — are often more expensive than even the middle-of-the-road motorhome models.
A top of the range motorhome can cost anywhere from £100,000 to £200,000. A mid-tier one may even cost upwards of £45,000. Though you can get great second-hand deals at much cheaper prices.
To put this in perspective, you can buy a top of the range, truly beautiful caravan for £35,000. But if you shop wisely, you can buy a beautiful 9-year-old motorhome with low mileage for even cheaper. But that’s comparing a brand new caravan with a nearly decade-old motorhome.
Price tag aside, it’s also important to think of your motorhome or caravan as an investment. And to know how much return you will get on your investment once you’ve done with it.
So how long will your caravan or motorhome last? Here are some things to keep in mind:
The important thing to remember is that motorhomes tend not to depreciate all that much because they aren’t always used a lot. Motorhomes aren’t driven daily, only on weekends and in the right seasons.
So for that fact alone, an ”old” motorhome — even a decade old one — might still be in a newish condition, with minimal wear and tear and low mileage.
Motorhome insurance will at least be twice as expensive as caravan insurance. After all, it has an engine that can break down, and your more like to be on the road more and to do more miles in a motorhome.
Motorhomes are also more expensive than caravans, which will only further put the price up. Especially if that price tag climbs higher than £65,000.
If you’re planning on living in a motorhome full-time, then you’ll need a special type of full-time insurance which in turn will increase the cost of your regular motorhome insurance.
Not to mention that you’ll need to fork out for onboard amenities for your motorhome. Including engine components, the fuel tank, and for interior controls and more.
This might all seem to make the motorhome far more expensive. But for reasons we have discussed above, it’s all about finding the balance. Motorhomes depreciate far slower and have other benefits that could make it more worthwhile for you.
Unfortunately no, sadly. In fact the opposite seems to be true. It may have been the case that a bargain was to be had on the Continent a few years ago. But now they’re likely to be at least the same price or even more expensive.
Hopefully, this guide has cleared a lot of things up and answered all of your questions. Perhaps you have even decided now that you are thinking of selling up. If that’s the case, then we’ll buy your motorhome from you quickly and hassle-free.
And because we operate within a large network of buyers, we’re able to offer great value prices to our customers. Just check out our five-star Trustpilot reviews.
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There are no call-out fees or hidden charges. And unlike private Internet listings, you won’t have to pay for advert listings or worry about dodgy buyers, time-wasters, or inconvenient viewing times.
All you’ll have to do is give us a few quick details on the condition of your motorhome so that we’ll know what to expect. It’ll only take a minute — and we’ll get back to you ASAP.
Either way, I hope you found the information in this article useful. Thank you for reading.
In the last 10 years, we’ve helped hundreds of happy customers to sell up their motorhome quickly, without a fuss and no matter what the condition — for a great price in return.
So if you want to simply sell your motorhome and move on, or are looking to upgrade to a newer model or caravan — we’re here to make you happy and keep you satisfied. Your opinions matter to us. Just check out our five-star TrustPilot reviews!