When we first looked for a mobile home we were trying to decide between a motorhome or a caravan.
Just to be clear with any readers from the US a caravan would be known as an RV trailer.
A motorhome has its own engine and is basically a home on wheels carrying its own water, waste and power. A caravan is towed and generally needs to be hooked up to power, water and usually, has an external grey waste tank.
Although a caravan can be a good bit cheaper than a motorhome we found that a motorhome offered more flexibility for us than a caravan. The decision is completely dependant on how you want to camp.
While both options offer the potential of some great camping trips with your family there are a few differences between a caravan and motorhome that can make a big difference.
If you just want to go to campsites and will never see yourself wanting to camp anywhere else then a caravan would be the best option. You can go to a campsite and you can travel in your car to see any local sites that you may want to visit.
If you want to go to places that are a bit wilder you are going to need a motorhome for the additional flexibility they offer for camping out with a site.
Motorhome Vs Caravan Costs
The initial outlay for a caravan is relatively low and they are quite cheap to purchase for a round figure of £10000 you can buy a decent sized caravan under ten-years-old. We paid about the same for a 30-year-old motorhome. So there is a difference in the initial outlay.
This is why it’s a good idea to have a very clear picture of the type of camping that you want to do. Having a clear picture can save you a fortune.
Caravans are relatively cheap to maintain. They are not that different from a motorhome in that they have to be kept waterproof but they don’t have an engine to maintain and the running gear is minimal. With a motorhome, you have all the problems of owning a vehicle and a caravan.
Caravan Vs Motorhome Equipment
Both the motorhome and caravan come with very good levels of equipment. the motorhome and the caravan will come with good heating systems hot water and nice cooker a fridge possibly with a freezer and all the comforts of home.
The main difference between them both is that the motorhome is more designed for being off the grid. They have waste tanks and their own power from leisure batteries, usually with solar back up
A caravan is more for use on a campsite. This means the caravan will be on electric hook-up most of the time and if you are on a campsite there is no need to build in waste water tanks or have large leisure batteries.
Being on a campsite all the time has advantages in that a caravan does not require a large water tank or heavy batteries. It can get away with minimal built-in facilities like tanks and power.
Caravans also have the advantage of being able to use relatively power-hungry equipment that runs off the mains. All this helps to keep the costs of purchase and cost of maintenance down.
If you want to go wild camping you need a lot more equipment to allow you to do that in the form of an inverter, power generation an being able to store a lot of power. This is costly both in weight, space and cash.
So both have a good level of comfort and equipment and are very similar in that respect just the motorhome is more self-contained which adds to the cost.
Off-Grid or Campsite
With a Caravan, you are pretty much stuck with a campsite or a piece of private land to camp at night. You can’t leave the caravan on the road as it may get stolen, they are not difficult to tow if you have a towbar.
Its a bit of a grey area if you can actually camp on a public road legally. The laws seem to come under local bylaws so depending on where you are will determine if you can park your caravan and stay in it. You may get moved on which can be a hassle in a caravan.
The main reason for not wild camping in a caravan would be to access facilities such as water and power, especially if there are a few of you camping in the caravan. A campsite just makes things so much easier and for about £25 per night lets you get on with your holiday with access to all the power and water you could want.
A Motorhome can pretty much be a self-contained unit needing only emptied or filled every 3 or 4 days. With the addition of solar panels, the motorhome can also be powered without electric hook-up. This means that you can camp in places where it might be tricky to take a caravan.
With a motorhome, you are not tied to a campsite. A motorhome can park pretty much anywhere as long as you are following the parking laws and not causing an obstruction. Its a taxed and MOTd vehicle and can use the public highways.
This said I am not a huge fan of ‘wild camping’ or its real name – free parking. I quite like the security of the campsite and the facilities – showers and toilets. We always have a few bikes and once you are parked up you don’t really have to worry too much about your motorhome getting stolen or broken into.
Sometimes when you are parked – wild camping, you are worried about what’s happening to the motorhome while you are away exploring. Campsites give a piece of mind for not too much money.
One of the downsides of having a motorhome when you are on a campsite is that when your tanks become full or your water tank becomes empty you have to drive to the motorhome waste disposal point to get rid of the wastewater from your grey water tank.
The toilet, like a caravan, has a cassette that needs to be emptied but this can be taken straight from the motorhome and emptied at an appropriate point.
A caravan has separate tanks for water and grey waste and these can be emptied relatively easily by rolling them to a filling point or emptying point. You don’t have to move the whole caravan to get more or get rid of water.
Exploring the Local Area
Once you have filled up your motorhome or caravan and arrived at your destination, set everything up, its time to go exploring. This is where a caravan is good. Why? You have your car with you.
So you can drop off your caravan and campsite set it all up and then use your car to explore the local area. Generally, you can travel around with ease and see a lot of sites in a short space of time.
There is no doubt in my mind exploring an area is much easier in a car than trying to do that in a motorhome. A motorhome can be a bit of a pain to drive in a small village or up narrow streets. For us, this is not a problem we tend to put the bikes on the back of the Motorhome and stop at a campsite.
We just cycle to the towns of villages and get any shopping with bikes, it’s never been a real problem. Sometimes when it’s raining it can be a bit of a pain but all the exercise helps to keep us fit. The bikes do, to some extent, restrict the area you can explore but we have found they open up other areas where a car couldn’t take you. So far we have not missed having a car.
We quite enjoy the outdoor lifestyle and so the bikes make complete sense for us but if you don’t enjoy that sort of thing then maybe a caravan is best suited to your needs.
Why Choose a Motorhome?
The main difference for us with a caravan and a motorhome is the fact that a caravan really has to be on a site all the time. A motorhome, on the other hand, can pull over anywhere and I can go and have a cup of tea or a meal without any problems so long as you are legally parked and not obstructing anything obvious.
This allows greater freedom with the Motorhome and where you can use it compared to a caravan and this is the very thing that made us choose a motorhome. Being able to have lunch somewhere beautiful easily, or stop somewhere if we don’t quite make it to our destination is what sold it for us.
So although a caravan is initially cheaper to purchase and to run you sacrifice some freedom, in my opinion of course. I have never owned a caravan so I am not clear on the intricacies of owning one and maybe somebody with a caravan can give a bit more information here, but having had the motorhome for a while it has been great to have that freedom to stop wherever we want even just setting up briefly for lunch. This makes a big difference to us.
To be clear I don’t think a motorhome is better than a caravan or the caravan is better than a motorhome I think the choice between a motorhome and a caravan is a very personal thing and relates to your lifestyle and what you want from a holiday. It is completely dependent on what you want to do and where you want to spend your time. So before you make your decision be completely clear about the sort of holidays you want and sort of places you want to be.
If you have kids a caravan can be great. You can set up in a campsite. Most campsites are completely safe for kids and actually great places to meet other kids and have a good time for however long you want to be there. This means that you can relax while the kids go and play. Isn’t that what we want from a holiday fun for the kids’ relaxation for adults?
So basically if you do not want to be tied to campsites all the time when you’re away then I motorhome would be for you. If you don’t mind being in a campsite and that suits you then I caravan is probably the way you want to go. Whatever you choose both of these mobile homes offer a fantastic fun holiday for you and the family and, for me, a great investment.