Should I Buy a Caravan or a Motorhome?

If you’re thinking about buying your first leisure vehicle, you might be stuck on the question of whether to go for a caravan or a motorhome. It’s an important decision to get right as a leisure vehicle is a big investment and the decision is likely to have an impact on your holidays for years to come. There are pros and cons to both and no universal ‘best’ out of the two options. The type of vehicle you go for will ultimately depend on your own needs and preferences. Here are some tips to help you make your decision.

What’s the difference between a caravan and a motorhome?

Firstly it’s important to understand what you’re looking at. Caravans and motorhomes are completely different types of leisure vehicles in that a caravan is essentially a trailer which is towed by another vehicle while a motorhome is a self-contained vehicle with it’s own engine. They both contain living spaces which come in a wide range of layouts and level of specification. This also means that they can vary in price significantly.

Pros of Caravans 

  • Price: As touring caravans are designed to be towed and don’t have an engine, they are cheaper to buy than the same standard of motorhome. You get a lot more living space for your money and the running costs are generally lower. Insurance is generally cheaper too. Of course, this could be a different story if you need to invest in a tow car as well.

  • Flexibility: When you’re on a trip with your caravan, you always have the option of unhitching from your tow car at a campsite and going off to explore in the car. This can be a real bonus if you want to visit cities and big towns that aren’t very motorhome or caravan friendly. It can even make a simple trip to the supermarket to pick up supplies a lot easier. 

  • Lower fuel consumption: Caravans tend to be lighter than motorhomes and it takes less fuel to tow them. You might also be leaving the caravan behind at campsites to go on day trips, saving a considerable amount of fuel in comparison to driving a motorhome. 

  • More space: You’ll generally get a larger living area if you go for a caravan as there isn’t a cab. Especially if you’re comparing caravans and motorhomes of similar prices.

Cons of Caravans 

  • Handling: Caravans need to be towed by a car and this can be difficult to get used to. They immediately make your vehicle much longer and can change the dynamics of driving your car hugely. While modern caravans are excellent on the roads and the risk of losing control is small, less confident drivers will certainly want to take this into consideration. It can sometimes be a good idea to go on a course to help get to grips with it with some professional guidance.

  • Manoeuvrability: They can also be trickier to manoeuvre than motorhomes, particularly when it comes to reversing which can sometimes make getting into pitches a bit of a hassle. You might want to invest in a motor mover to make this process easier. 

Pros of Motorhomes 

  • Handling: While it can still be challenging to get used to driving a large motorhome, it’s generally easier than towing a caravan. Once you get used to the feel of the larger vehicle, it’s similar to driving a car. Again, courses are available to help you get used to driving a motorhome if you’re not feeling confident getting behind the wheel.

  • Robust design: Caravans tend to have a lightweight design which is helpful on the road but means they can’t carry so much weight. Motorhomes tend to be sturdier and can therefore take more weight and you’ll be able to attach bicycles to the rear or roof of the motorhome or even things like motorised scooters.

  • Security: Motorhomes also tend to be more secure than caravans. Widows are placed higher up and they are usually made of a tougher material so potential burglars will have more trouble seeing inside the vehicle and breaking into it. 

  • Can be used as a tow vehicle: Many people go for a motorhome as some models can be used as tow vehicles themselves. This means you can bring equipment like motorbikes, bulky marine equipment or even a small car along too.

Cons of Motorhomes

  • Price: When compared to caravans, new motorhomes can come with a large price tag. The good news is that, just like with cars, values depreciate quickly over the first few years and you can usually pick up a bargain with a vehicle only a few years old. 

  • Space: Unless you’re going for a huge A-class motorhome, don’t expect to have as much living space as you would in a caravan. 

What to ask yourself when choosing between a caravan and a motorhome

  1. How much time will you be spending in your leisure vehicle?

Take into account the amount of living space you need to be available to you. Remember that a 7m caravan will have far more living space than a 7m motorhome as they don’t need to accommodate a cab.

  1. How many people will be travelling with you?

If you’re looking to buy a motorhome, remember to look at how many belted travelling seats the models you’re considering have. Are there enough seats for everyone? While the average size car can usually accommodate up to five people, many motorhomes only have two or four designated travelling seats.

  1. Will you be pitching up and staying put? Or exploring more?

Caravans require a bit more time and energy when pitching up. There’s a bit more of a faff when manoeuvring into the pitch and getting everything set up. Whereas with a motorhome, you can usually just park up and you’re pretty much done and dusted. If you’re planning a trip where you’ll want to move around to a different site every few days, a motorhome might be the easier option.

  1. How long will you be travelling for?

If you’re going on longer trips, you might really feel the benefit of the extra bit of living space a caravan provides, especially if there are more than two of you inhabiting the vehicle. 

  1. Do you have everything you need to drive either type of leisure vehicle?

If you decide to go for a caravan, make sure you take a tow car into consideration. Not all cars are suitable for all caravans so you’ll need to check what your car is capable of towing before you start browsing models.

If you’re looking at motorhomes, you’ll also need to check that your driver’s licence allows you to drive a vehicle of that size. 

As you can see, there are plenty of advantages to both caravans and motorhomes, each suited to slightly different travelling options. For example, if you’re mostly off for two week family holidays to a campsite by the sea where you’ll largely be staying put, a caravan is probably your best option. Everyone will have more space and you’ll be able to get a slightly more luxurious interior for your budget. 

If you’re more likely to be doing road-trips around national parks, a motorhome might be the better option. You’ll be able to move from site to site without so much faff and you’ll have an easier time driving on smaller roads. 

Ultimately, the decision will come down to two main things. The first thing is simply the budget you have to play with. The second is what you want to get out of a holiday with a leisure vehicle. Think about your priorities, the types of holidays you like to go on and try to match this up with the pros and cons above. Take your time with your research, don’t rush the decision and you’ll end up with the perfect leisure vehicle for you and your family.