Caravan vs Motorhome – How to Choose Which is Best for You

We’ve put this post together to help you understand the differences between a caravan vs motorhome to determine which is best for your next road adventures!

There are a few things that you should know before embarking on this road life journey. But before you start, you need to answer one important question – Should I buy a caravan or a motorhome?

What are the differences between each and the pros and cons? If you’re wondering which is right for you, you’ve come to the right place.

We are here to help answer all those questions you may have and let you know some pros and cons for both types of travel vehicles.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the age-old question splitting apart van lifers around the world – Caravan vs Motorhome, which is better, and why?

Caravan vs Motorhome
Caravan vs motorhome. Which is best for you?

Caravan vs Motorhome – Which is Right for You?

Let’s start from the top with what each type of vehicle is and what you should know about each one when shopping for a motorhome vs caravan.

What is a caravan?

A caravan is a small trailer that you tow behind your car or truck. It has a number of sets of wheels (depending on size), like a trailer, to balance the weight and make it easier to tow.

You do need a reasonably sized vehicle to tow a caravan, like a truck or a ute. When you have found a spot to camp for the night, you unhook the caravan from your vehicle and you can drive away.

In your caravan, you have everything you need for camping like a kitchen, shower room, etc. A caravan can come in different sizes from a small 2 person to a 5 person and can come in different styles.

couple with caravan
A caravan has more room, but are you comfortable towing it behind your vehicle?

Caravans come in two categories: the pop-top and the full caravan. The pop-top caravan’s roof pops up and down when you are stationary. Usually, the pop-tops will go down to the size of half of what the caravan is when it is open and popped up.

The pop-top material is usually a good quality canvas. It was designed this way back in the 70s to reduce wind resistance, therefore, reducing the amount of fuel you use.

Having a pop-top caravan means there is a little bit of preparation when you arrive at your campsite. It does not take that much time though.

While the full caravan has solid walls all around that provide a more traditional style. One advantage of owning a full caravan over a smaller car or camper van is you don’t need to set up at your campsite before entering it. Just reverse in and unlock!

A key feature with these types of cabins lies within their overhead cabinets. You will have storage cabinets all the way around your full caravan where you will not have them in the pop-top style. This makes everything feel bigger and gives you more room to store your camping essentials.

You can get 4×4 off-road caravans for adventures, but these cost more money. These are great for people wanting to go on off-roading adventures and not worry about their caravan. But do take it easy as things may still brake.

Both types of caravans are comfortable and have everything you need for camping.

Lot of caravnas
Caravans are great for families and people who would like more room.

What is a motorhome?

A motorhome is a self-contained vehicle that has everything you need for travelling the open road. It has two axles and four large wheels, or sometimes 6 wheels, depending on the size.

With the motorhome or campervan, you are one compartment. Meaning the driver and passenger are in the same compartment as the living area. You are not towing anything. This is a positive for many people who do not like towing a caravan.

When you’ve found your camping spot, you pull up and you are ready. There’s no unhitching necessary.

And when you are ready to leave, you drive away, there is nothing else needed. It’s like having a house on wheels.

A motorhome may not be as spacious as a caravan but you still have everything you need like a bed, seating area, a kitchen and a bathroom (if spacious enough).

Motorhomes come in so many different sizes and sometimes they are put into different categories based on their size and on what vehicle chassis they are built – such as motorhomes and campervans.

Small campervan
Motorhomes or campervans come in all sizes.

If you own a small simple van like a Toyota Hiace or Volkswagen Transporter, these are usually called a campervan.

When you start looking at a Fiat Ducato, Icevo Daily and Mercedes Sprinter these are in the middle and some call them a motorhome or a campervan depending on how they are designed inside.

Then you go into the large motorhomes like the Winnebago Vista or the Jayco Alante. Now, these are definitely classified as motorhomes and harder to navigate on the road.

At the end of the day buying the right type of motorhome for you depends on what you are going to use it for, how many people will be using it and your budget.

You can get 4×4 motorhomes, but they are not as easy to come across and will be small. They can also be way more expensive.

If you are into off-roading adventures and don’t want to tow anything this is an option to look at.

motorhome in the woods
You do not need to tow your accommodation. It is all in one.

Pros and Cons of Having a Caravan or Motorhome

Caravans and motorhomes have their own sets of pros and cons. However, both can provide comfort for those who need it when travelling for a weekend or for full-time living.

We are going to break it down so you can compare each one and see what your needs and wants are. Here is our list of the pros and cons for caravan vs motorhome.

Pros of having a caravan

  • You don’t have to unhitch anything
  • You can have more space
  • You have compartments to close off, like the bedroom to the living area
  • Your driving vehicle (when detached) is much smaller than that of a motorhome
  • You have a main vehicle and can leave the caravan where it is to get supplies or groceries in the nearest town
  • Ability to detach your car from your caravan and explore tourist sights without being burdened with excess weight or size
  • A caravan can be cheaper to buy than a motorhome, depending what country you are in.
  • Roads where “Large vehicles are not allowed,” you can unhitch at your campground and just take your car
  • If your tow vehicle needs repair, at least you can unhook the caravan and you still can live in it until the repair is done.
Vehicle towing a caravan
You don’t have to unhitch your vehicle from your caravan and use the vehicle to explore the area.

Cons for having a caravan

  • You have to unhitch everything every time you park up for the night
  • Caravans can be more of a target for thieves, especially if separated from the tow vehicle. This is rare but it does happen.
  • Parking can be challenging as you are long and there are not many long parking bays.
  • You miss places and attractions as stopping and parking can be limited or non existent for long vehicles
  • Towing in weather can be dangerous, especially when wet or in extreme winds. Be careful overtaking other vehicles.
  • Reversing may take a while to learn
  • You have to pay insurance for the caravan individually. So you are paying 2 sets of insurances for the tow vehicle and the caravan.
  • Fuel consumption can be more as your vehicle is towing and is working much harder.
  • You can not tow anything behind the caravan
  • You need to make sure the weight is even in your caravan as it can damage your caravan and tow vehicle and the driving control of the tow vehicle.
  • You need to make sure your tow vehicle is suitable for towing a caravan as the size you want. Being overweight can cost your a fine and if you have an accident the insurance company will not cover you.
Old school caravan
Parking can be annoying as you are long and there are not many long parking bays.
But not in this field.

Pros for a Motorhome/Campervan

  • You do not have to unhitch anything.
  • You can park much easier and go to places and tourist attractions
  • You will only have to pay for 1 set of insurance
  • Gets better fuel consumption on highways
  • Motorhome is a single rigid vehicle so easier to drive in bad weather and much easier to reverse
  • Some motorhomes can be way more comfortable than a caravan, especial the high ends.
  • You can tow something if you want, like a small or a boat or a storage trailer.
Motorhome at night
Some motorhomes can be way more comfortable than a caravan, especial the high ends.

Cons for a Motorhome/Campervan

  • This is your only vehicle. If you need to go into town you need to pack everything up and use this vehicle
  • Your driving vehicle is much larger so you will need to drive slower and parking sometimes can be difficult. It can be a little intimidating for some people with driving and parking because of the size
  • Sometimes you are limited to where you can drive. Some roads say “no large vehicles,” therefore you can not go this way or maybe not see any attraction because of this.
  • Sometimes a motorhome can be more expensive than a caravan, especially the high end ones.
  • If the motorhome’s engine needs repairs, the whole vehicle has to go into the shop, potentially leaving you with extra expensive as you may need to get a hotel room.
  • If you converted the inside yourself or professional, make sure it is under the weight of your GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass). If you are over and have an accident, your insurance company will not pay.
  • Maintenance costs can be a lot more in the long run

READ MORE: Check out this post on why we love campervans and why this kind of motorhome may be best for you!

Motorhome with beautiful landscape
This is your only vehicle. If you need to go into town you need to pack everything up
and use this vehicle.

Conclusion – Should I Buy a Motorhome or Caravan?

After reading all the pros and cons for a caravan and a motorhome, it’s all down to your needs for this type of vehicle, your experience towing, how comfortable you want to be and your budget. Will a caravan or motorhome best fit into your plans?

Here are some questions to ask yourself

  • Are you travelling single, as a couple or a family?
  • Why do you prefer your chosen vehicle?
  • Are you comfortable towing something?
  • What size vehicle are you comfortable driving?
  • Will you be exploring off the beaten track? Will you need a 4×4?
  • How much storage and space do you need?
  • How long will you be going on a trip?
  • Where will you store it when you are not travelling?
  • Do you want a vehicle to detach so you can explore?
  • Have you owned both types of vehicles and found one to be notably better or worse than the other?
  • Would you do anything differently if you were to purchase a van or motorhome again?
  • What is the best piece of advice for those looking to purchase a caravan or motorhome?

The best way is to rent one first and see if you like it. Look at this as a test run. There are websites like Camplify, where you can rent someone else’s caravan or motorhome for the weekend.

Or you rent a motorhome from a rental company. Maybe rent different sizes and see which will suit your driving skills better.

About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd - Van Life Theory

Hi! We're Alesha and Jarryd, the founders of Van Life Theory! We're currently travelling around Australia in our 2008 Mercedes Sprinter campervan and sharing our best experiences, stories, reviews and adventures as we go along. Make sure you follow along on our Instagram and YouTube!

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