What’s The Difference Between a Campervan and a Motorhome?

What’s The Difference Between a Campervan and a Motorhome?

There are several key differences between a campervan and a motorhome, in this article, we take a look at some of the more subtle differences too.

The key differences between a campervan and motorhome are the size and the lack of a division between the cab and living quarters. A campervan is usually smaller than a motorhome and has no divide. A motorhome typically is built on a truck or bus chassis and has a separate driving or cab area.

That’s the technical answer to the difference between a campervan and a motorhome, but there is a little more to it than just size and a division in driving and recreational space, what are the advantages and disadvantages to each, driving license considerations, how many people are going to be using it, etc. We take a look below at all of these questions and more.

The main differences between a campervan and a motorhome

As we discussed above whilst there are some key technical differences, including size and division between areas of the vehicle, there is also a lot more to what makes a campervan a campervan and a motorhome a motorhome.

One of the issues you face when trying to uncover the difference between the two is that the terms do get used interchangeably, along with RV and Winnebago if we look across the pond to America. People start discussing caravans and camper trailers too. Below I have listed a bit of a definition of each of these so that we can be clear from the off.

Motorhome – A motorhome (typically) is build on a bus or truck chassis so is much larger than a campervan, it is purpose built and coach worked as a motorhome, unlike a campervan that a lot of the time started out as a van. A motorhome usually has a division between the driving section or cab and the rear living accommodation. Due to its size motorhomes also usually provide much more luxury and are considered more of a home from home due to the amenities that you can fit inside of them.

Campervan – The idea of a campervan, sometimes referred to as a day van is that you either buy a fully converted campervan or convert your own van into a campervan. This is typically done with a Volkswagen Transporter because of the iconic looks, but people have converted Vauxhall Vivaros, Mercedes Sprinters, Renault Trafics and much more. Due to the lack of size, the campervan tends to have no divide between driving and living quarters as is intended more as a base when you are on the road or a luxurious way of camping. They make clever use of the space available with fold out beds from sofas, basic cooking and washing facilities and are the perfect place to stay if you take them for what they are.

RV – This is a term used more in America than the UK and stands for Recreational Vehicle, this is a bit of a catch-all term that covers all the different types of vehicles we are discussing here.

Winnebago – Whilst this is a brand name, it is synonymous with the style of vehicle they make. These are huge coach sized vehicles, seen rarely in the UK, but when they are they are a site to be seen! They fold out when parked to provide the ultimate in luxury when it comes to staying away from home. They take a motorhome to the next level and often have more luxury than some peoples houses.

Caravan – In the sense, we are discussing in this article, we are referring to a caravan as in a touring model, whilst much bigger static ones are seen on campsites, we mean one that can be towed. A caravan doesn’t have an engine and has to be towed by another vehicle, some people tow them with a campervan providing even more living space. Depending on the size of them they provide most things one would find in a home and have the added benefit of space thanks to not having to have room for a cab, engine, fuel tank, etc.

Camper Trailer – This is something that is again towed by a vehicle, but much smaller in footprint and height than a caravan. Once you get to the campsite this folds out into a tent but makes use of the trailer as a floor section. These are great things to tow with a campervan giving more space for extra people upon arrival.

Now that we have looked at the main differences and looked at some of the other things that get thrown into the mix when trying to decide on the correct terminology. Let’s look at some other considerations, costs and benefits of campervans and motorhomes.

Motorhome Costs

Campervan and Motorhome Costs

Cost is an important consideration for most of it when it comes to any decision in life. Purchasing a campervan or motorhome or even self-building a campervan costs money and running one also costs money. So which is best depending on your budget?

Starting with the initial purchase price obviously, there is a lot of difference if you are purchasing new vs used. But if buying new you are at a start price of around £50,000 which can dramatically increase for a motorhome. A campervan is typically slightly cheaper starting around £40,000. The difference comes when you start looking at size difference and specification difference. With a campervan they are a pretty standard size, apart from the long and short wheelbase, they do have some expensive specification options to choose from. But with a motorhome, you can be adding metres to the length, extra rooms, furniture etc, that can take the price well over £100,000.

If you decided to purchase either of these second hand there are significant savings to be had and whilst the prices of the campervans stay strong as they hold their value well, the motorhomes then fall a little more in line price wise as they have further to fall.

By far the cheapest way of doing this without going for a model that is 30 years old and isn’t fit for sleeping in, is to self build a campervan. That is the main topic of this website and we show someone with very little DIY skills how they can turn a used commercial van into a campervan with everything they need for very little money. Done on a sensible budget you are looking at the cost of a used van plus £3000-£5000 to convert it. Again as with the above, you can spend much more on doing this, but if your budget is tight this is the way to do it!

Running costs are also a consideration when choosing whether to choose from a motorhome or campervan. Depending on the amount of furniture you put in the vehicle and the number of passengers you have travelling will affect the vehicles economy. But typically fuel consumption is significantly higher in a motorhome due to the size and weight of the vehicle.

Motorhome MPG

A standard sized motorhome is likely to achieve between 25mpg and 35mpg.

Campervan MPG

A modern VW Transporter is likely to achieve between 50mpg and 60mpg.

Benefits to a Motorhome

The benefits of choosing a motorhome are primarily due to its sheer size. Whilst a larger vehicle can be a negative, it can also be a huge plus.

If you are going to be holidaying in your vehicle a motorhome could be the way forward. The huge amount of space that they bring allows for beds that are permanently made up, proper rooms, home luxuries such as a full size TV, bathroom with shower and fixed toilet and much more.

If you are looking for a home from home while you are on the road, a motorhome may be the way forward. If I was planning on going on holiday for a week or 2 traveling around, the luxury and comfort that a motorhome brings is a big benefit.

Benefits to a Campervan

By contrast to a motorhome, a campervan is much smaller and more compact. Whilst this doesn’t allow for full size furniture, dedicated rooms and headroom to stand up off the bat, there are a lot of positives.

Firstly, in my opinion, a campervan is much more fun, they look better if designed right can be a quirky, fun place to be and the ingenious use of space makes them something to marvel at!

The main benefit of a campervan being small is they are more agile, they can fit down regular country roads with no difficulty and also into a standard car park without considering height restrictions. They are also a lot simpler to pack away and head out for the day in, unlike their bigger cousin the motorhome.

It’s not all about being small and cramped though, with the option to add a popup roof, a bolt on tent on the back and a side awning you really can transform the size and space into a spacious pad.

What you would typically find in a motorhome

A motorhome due to it’s size allows for a lot more full size items and you would tend to find more in it than a campervan. Below you will see some of the things you would expect to find in a motorhome.

  • Dedicated kitchen
  • Dedicated bathroom with shower and toilet
  • Dedicated living area with sofa
  • Dedicated bedroom and sleeping facilities for a family
  • Full-size appliances, such as a cooker, TV, etc
  • Much more storage space and lockers

What you would typically find in a camper van

Whilst a campervan is a compact place to be, they make very good use of the space, so whilst you might not get dedicated rooms or as much storage space as a motorhome. What you do have is clever and compact.

  • Sink, hob and fridge/cooler box
  • Pull down TV
  • Sofa that provides travel space for 2 adults and turns into a double bed
  • Portable toilet
  • Shared living, sleeping and cooking space

Considerations for choosing between a campervan and a motorhome

So, what are the key considerations when deciding whether you should go for a motorhome or a campervan? There are many things to consider and hopefully we have covered the majority of them in this article, but a few final things to consider are below.

Fuel efficiency

If fuel efficiency is a consideration then the campervan wins hands down, looking at the figures above you are looking at about a 20mpg increase over a motorhome. If you are planning short trips around the UK then it shouldn’t really be too much of an issue. Obviously, you have to way up the advantage of having something much bigger over the cost.

If you are planning to drive long distance including abroad then the fuel costs could really be an added expense you could do without! Just be mindful of them and maybe do a quick calculation based on current fuel prices and the MPG returned by some of the models you are considering before purchasing.

Driving license and parking issues

When did you get your driving license? If you passed your test before January 1997 then your license has what are commonly known as grandfather rights. These rights allow you to drive up to a 7.5 tonne vehicle on a standard license and also allow you to tow a vehicle.

Some people who purchase a motorhome also tow a small car such as a smart car or Toyota IQ for driving around locally when they get to their destination.

If you don’t have grandfather rights on your license, you will need to consider doing an additional driving qualification for the right to drive a vehicle over 3.5 tonne and also for towing if you so wish.

If you opt for a campervan, even when it has two passengers and all your furniture and items inside, it should weigh less than 3.5 tonnes. It is important to check this though to ensure you stay on the right side of the law. You can check at a local weigh bridge, usually at a scrap metal merchant or commercial tip.

Parking can be a bit of an issue in a motorhome due to the length and height of it, some car parks don’t allow a motorhome to park overnight or at all on them. Most campervans can be parked on a pub car park in the corner, without causing too much hassle. It is worth checking with the owner of the land first.

Number of passengers

If you are traveling in a motorhome there is ample space for passengers, relaxing in the daytime and sleeping at night. When it comes to a campervan, whilst there are typically 3 seats in the front and with a rock n roll bed an additional 2 in the back. Taking 4-5 passengers who intend to use the campervan in the day and sleep in their at night really isn’t ideal.

If you have one child you can purchase a hammock that goes over the cab area for sleeping, but 4-5 adults even with a pop top roof and additional double bed really isn’t idea.

I would weigh up if you are thinking of taking a family of 4 on holiday whether it may be worth considering a motorhome over a campervan.

Related Questions

What is the difference between a day van and a camper van?

A day van is a vehicle that appears visually like a camper van, it has seating and cooking facilities but doesn’t usually have sleeping facilities. The term is however used interchangeably with the term camper van.

What is a motor caravan?

Whilst motorhome is the term used widely in the UK and worldwide to describe a vehicle that has a cab is and living area that is divided up. The correct legislative term for a motorhome in the UK is a motor caravan.