Ah, the age old debate – should I buy a caravan or a motorhome?
If you are thinking about buying a holiday home it’s important to really consider your options before you part with your cash.
If you have managed to narrow it down to either a motorhome (have you considered a campervan?) or a caravan, then it’s clear you value the freedom of the open road.
Side note: if you are undecided, buying a static caravan is also an option!
Caravan or Motorhome – The Showdown
We’d like to give you a straightforward answer, but the reality is, it depends. There are so many variables to consider; what is suitable for one person is not right for the next.
It’s not unusual for owners to switch between 1 or 2 different types before settling on their ‘forever holiday home.’ This is why it’s worth taking a few holidays in each type of accommodation to make your mind up before buying.
In this article, we hope to give you some pointers to at least consider.
And of course, if you want to get in touch with us at any point to ask anything, you are welcome.
For the purpose of this article, we are discussing touring caravans (rather than static!) and standard tourers rather than any other types of caravans.
With an estimated 550,000 touring caravans currently in use in the UK, it’s fair to say our love affair with them is significant!
The caravan has evolved from humble beginnings to transport goods from the 15th century onwards to the thriving and rapidly developing sector of the travel and leisure industry we know today.
The first ‘luxury’ caravan ‘The Wanderer’, was developed by Dr William Stables in 1885. Made of mahogany and maple wood was 5.5 metres long, and on its first trip from Berkshire to Inverness, it transported a bookcase, a china cabinet and a piano.
Pros and Cons of Touring Caravans
- You need to tow a caravan – there’s a lot to learn and adjust to in towing, but for many caravanners, it soon becomes second nature. A caravan is trickier to manoeuvre than a motorhome and you need to make sure you have the best car for towing. If you don’t already have a suitable one, this will be an additional investment. However, on the flip side, when you arrive at your destination you will have the use of a car to get about in.
- A touring caravan is cheaper – of course, there will be exceptions, but as a general rule, caravans are cheaper to buy than a motorhome. However, if you don’t already have a suiting towing vehicle, this will be an additional investment (see point above!)
- A caravan provides more living space than a motorhome – a portion of a motorhome is taken up with the engine and drivers area. However, in some motorhomes, you will have an overcab where a fixed double bed will be.
- Running costs are cheaper – although it is not a legal requirement to insure your tourer it is worth paying the often low price to cover yourself for theft or accidental damage. You also don’t need to tax or MOT a caravan – but it is worth getting it regularly serviced to increase its longevity and safety on the road. You will of course still have the costs associated with your towing car, but it would be assumed that you would have these regardless of your tourer.
- You can’t carry as much weight – although you will have space in your towing car for luggage, a motorhome will likely have more space for bulkier and heavier items such as bikes and any other leisure items you might want to take. It’s vital that you don’t overload your touring caravan (see our article on towing a caravan for more details).
- You need to hitch and unhitch a caravan – unlike a motorhome when you arrive at a site or holiday park, you need to deal with setting the caravan up. Depending on the age and style of your caravan this might be straightforward or require a bit of work. You can buy things such as motor movers and stabilisers to help. It is also important that you understand how to properly couple the caravan to your car before setting off on any journey – ask the dealership to show this to you during the purchasing stage.
Motorhomes and Campervans
For the purpose of this comparison we are including both motorhomes and campervans – of course, there are significant differences between both of these vehicle types, but that is a debate for another day!
Pros and Cons of Motorhomes
- You can carry more with a motorhome – due to the more robust design of a motorhome over a touring caravan you are able to carry more weight on board.
- A motorhome feels more secure – due to the build of a motorhome, you will find that they are made from tougher and sturdier materials, as well as the windows being placed higher up.
- Motorhomes are generally more expensive to purchase, and cost more to run – this will of course depend on the age and specifications of your vehicle, but owing to the engine, a motorhome will naturally incur more costs than a tourer. Primarily they will be the ongoing expense of fuel costs, insurance and maintenance. Some motorhomes are notorious gas guzzlers; doing your research on the most economical options is critical.
- Restricted transport options when on-site – again, this will be very much motorhome size-dependent, but most vehicles will restrict you in some way from getting about once you reach your destination. With a tourer, once you have unhitched and set up, you then have a car to get about in. With a motorhome, unless you have towed a car with it, your motorhome will be your transport. With this comes the need to pack up each time you want to go somewhere, and you need to consider if the place you are going to is suitable for a motorhome (think about parking, narrow roads etc). If you feel your motorhome is too large to use for your transport on location you can think about taking bikes with you to get about, electric bikes are a popular option if you want to cover a lot of distance! You can also consider camping sites that are close to public transport links. They do exist!
- More flexibility with your travel plans – conversely, a motorhome can also provide you with more flexibility than a tourer. Think about times when you want to stop for a quick cuppa or toilet break – with a motorhome it is a simple as pulling into a suitable spot – not so with a tourer. A motorhome is also much more flexible for longer journeys that you might want to break up with a quick one-night stopover. In most cases, you merely need to park up, switch off the engine and retire for the night. There is no need to faff about with unhitching and stabilising.
- More places to stay – always double-check the rules of the place you are going to, they vary so much, but in some areas, you can stay for free overnight in your motorhome. This is particularly true in France where you can stay on one of the many French Aires for free.
- Check your driving license – depending on when you passed your test, you might need a difference drivers license for some motorhomes. Check the latest information on the UK Government website.
- Easier driving than towing a caravan – motorhomes can be compared to a large car or van with fewer roads restrictions.
- There are thriving communities and cultures in both caravanning and motorhoming, making it one of the most popular, friendly holiday choices.
- Flexibility and independence – no problem if it’s raining in Wales. You can hook up your caravan, or start your motorhome engine, and drive down to Devon. Go where the road calls you whenever you want to. Of course, this is more possible outside of peak holiday times!
- Experiences and memories – whichever option you go with, there is no doubt that both caravanning and motorhoming enable wonderful memories to be made.