Buying a campervan or motorhome - instead of a caravan
If you're undecided about buying a campervan or a caravan, there's no right or wrong answer - it’s a matter of personal choice.
You may have reservations about towing a caravan rather than driving a single unit. You may not have room enough to park both car and caravan off-street, or it could come down to the type of touring you want to do. If you prefer a series of one-night stops you probably don’t want the faff of disconnecting/connecting the caravan to the car.
What’s the difference between buying a motorhome and campervan?
It’s the difference between a ship and a boat - size and performance. Motorhomes, generally, are larger and offer more facilities – a bathroom/shower and toilet, better equipped kitchen facilities and more sleeping accommodation, and the driver’s compartment separate from the living area.
The camper van is more ‘back to basics’, but their owners, especially VW fans, are fiercely loyal. And this is not to say that camper vans are necessarily always the poor neighbour.
If there are just a couple of you then buying a camper van may be a better option. For longer, two/three generational family-focused travelling then a motorhome would be the more comfortable option.
Five ways to get the most out of your motorhome
What should I expect to pay?
A new 4-berth motorhome, a Fiat Tribute, say, would start around the £38,000 mark, while a 2000 version can be had for around £14,000. A new VW T2 camper van based on the original classic design is in the region of £34,000, while a 1974 T2 could set you back £15,000, but remember you’re talking about a classic and they are very much in demand.
And new camper vans can go even higher with the new-to-the-market Horizon Mercedes-Benz Vito. £47,000 will buy you a high-end luxury, light years removed from what you might have seen on the hippy trail to Katmandu.
What’s the depreciation?
If you’re buying a new campervan then you can immediately wave goodbye to the VAT outlay, so there is a lot to be said about buying secondhand. Obviously it depends on the model, use and condition, but judging by used motorhome prices they hold their value pretty well.
Eight ways to save on a campervan holiday
How comfortable are motorhomes?
Motorhomes and camper vans are not the TARDIS. A T2 camper van is perfect for two people, or one or two more if you don’t mind pitching a tent van-side at night. It’s never a bad idea to go by the ‘tent-size guide’ – a two-man tent is ideal for one, a three-man tent for two, etc.
How fuel efficient are they?
Obviously age, make and model and road type are the determining factors. You can probably get around 35mpg out of a smaller camper van while gas-guzzlers (big RVs) can have you staring at the fuel gauge in horror.
How to control your petrol costs
Obviously these will vary but do ensure that your cover includes awning damage, camping equipment and personal items. Engine immobilisers will often lower your premiums.
Where can you park a motorhome?
This is a major consideration. Look into this before you buy – you don’t want to be stuck with a motorhome or camper van with nowhere to park it. Offstreet parking for your car may not be suitable for the motorhome. It sounds obvious but measure your offstreet space before buying your new home from home.
It is against the law to sleep in your motorhome/camper van when parked on the street. Before you buy your motorhome or camper van check with your local council (town or county) as to whether there are any local restrictions to where you may park.
There may well be caveats in your insurance policy regarding on and off-street parking. There could be issues with neighbours regarding light restriction or the fact that your MH is in line with their window. And take parking into consideration when you’re on your travels. Does the nearest supermarket to your pitch have a height/width restrictions?
Do you need a special driving licence?
If you passed your driving test before Jan 1997 you can drive a motorhome/campervan up to 7.5 tonnes. If you passed after that date you’re limited to 3.5 tonnes. If you have your eye on a big American RV (recreation vehicle) then you’ll need to pass pass an LGV driving test.
How much does servicing cost?
Look to pay around £250 for an annual maintenance. It will be a bit more than the charge for a caravan, but bear in mind that a caravan owner also needs to have the tow car MOT’d, too.
Informative, in-depth and in the know: get the latest news, interviews and reviews with Saga Magazine.