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Caravan or Motorhome: the Pros and Cons of Vehicular Accommodation

  • 5th Jun 2018

caravan-motorhome

The first campsite opened over 100 years ago in 1894, on the Isle of Man, and since then, camping has grown into one of the most popular British pastimes. In particular, camping became popular during the 1920s and 30s when city folk wanting to escape the over-industrialised cities headed to the countryside for their holidays. However, it's only within the past two decades or so that caravans and motorhomes have seen a rise in popularity, particularly with the introduction of glamping.

Recent research suggests that more Brits are choosing to have a staycation over expensive travel abroad. In addition, people are choosing shorter breaks, with one in four adults taking an average of three short breaks a year instead of the traditional two-week holiday.

An estimated 3.5 million campers visit more than 300 UK caravan and camping sites every year, a number which continues to grow consistently. As campsite fees tend to be more affordable compared to hotel stays, this rising popularity of camping can cause havoc with booking your holiday. If you regularly holiday in the UK, choosing a staycation over travelling abroad, it may be worth investing in a motorhome or caravan.

A caravan can be defined as "a vehicle designed or adapted for living in, which can be moved from one place to another" and is typically towed by a car. Conversely, a motorhome or "motor caravan" as the UK legislative term, is a self-propelled vehicle that offers additional living accommodation. Additionally, caravans are divided into touring and static - touring caravans can be towed behind a suitable vehicle while static caravans require special moving trucks and typically aren't moved after siting.

There are many different options for motorhomes and caravans depending on your requirements and each one brings their own unique set of pros and cons. In general, vehicular camping can be a better experience over traditional tent camping as it provides greater comfort and isn't restricted by weather or the season. It also offers access to home comforts such as a kitchen, bathroom and lounge area.

Pros of Owning a Caravan vs Motorhome

Caravan or motorhome - which is best? The answer to this question will largely depend on the type of holiday you prefer to go on, however, they each have their distinct strengths. Below are several benefits of owning a caravan as opposed to owning a motorhome.

Static Caravans

  • While the need to site a static caravan can seem like a negative, campsites are usually well secured, with maintenance teams on site should anything need repair
  • Static caravans are much larger than traditional towed caravans and campervans so you've got more space for a full-size kitchen, bath and shower
  • It is easy to hire out your static caravan as holiday accommodation with many campsites offering to manage bookings - if you have a preferred campsite, there is often the potential to buy a pre-sited caravan
  • Access to a holiday home for whenever you'd like to travel

Towed Caravans

  • Once you have unhitched your caravan and have it settled and set up, you can explore the area in your tow vehicle at ease, without needing to secure all your belongings as you would in a motorhome
  • Travelling with a towed (or static) caravan is quieter and less distracting for the driver, without fittings and fixings rattling around as they would in a motorhome

Cons of Owning a Caravan

While the thought of owning a caravan is exciting, it might not be suitable for everyone. We break down some of the points that should be more carefully considered before making a purchase.

Static Caravans

  • Campsites have costs which vary depending on the types of amenities and activities available but often include site rental and management fees
  • Most campsites do not open all year round so there will be some winter months where you cannot access your caravan at all
  • There is a high initial cost - static caravans are considered a luxury caravan. It certainly reflects in the added space and comfortable design, but the price of a decent quality static caravan can often start around £40,000 and will very quickly climb when adding extra bedrooms and conveniences like central heating
  • Even though they are built with wheels, the static caravan cannot be towed by law and must be transported on a special moving truck. This can make moving campsites complicated and overly expensive

Touring Caravans

  • Increased fuel consumption - you might have a good idea of how far a tank of petrol can you take you in your car, but adding extra weight (like an 800kg small caravan) can drastically reduce distance
  • Adding extra weight also affects the handling and speed of your vehicle as you travel so it's best to practice (or seek out a short caravan driving course) before making long journeys
  • Towing a caravan will increase charges abroad, such as taking the ferry, toll roads and the Eurotunnel
  • Some roads cannot be traversed with a caravan, for the safety of yourself, your passengers and other drivers
  • Storage might pose a problem if you have invested in a caravan larger than the average single garage and have little to no drive space - if in doubt, it's best to check with your local council on the rules for storing caravans on your property

Pros of Owning a Motorhome vs Caravan

Motorhomes are considered the "get up and go" of vehicular accommodation and are more suited to travellers who like to destination hop on their holiday. Further benefits of owning a motorhome when compared to owning a caravan include:

  • Motorhomes hold their value exceedingly well; this is great for trade-ins should you wish to update or upgrade your motorhome in the future
  • No unhitching, having to fill tanks or hunt for electric hookups - motorhomes are designed for quick set up, able to travel with small amounts of stored water and have an onboard battery for small electrical items
  • Easier driving - motorhomes can be compared to a large car or van with fewer restrictions on roads
  • It's easier to travel to several destinations across one trip with a motorhome
  • There's no restriction on when you use a motorhome - make the decision on Friday morning to have a weekend break away without needing to make expensive last-minute bookings

Cons of Owning a Motorhome

Motorhomes, recreational vehicles (RVs) and campervans can offer an excellent investment but like any large purchase, there are a few points to consider.

  • Motorhomes are big vehicles, typically much bigger than a touring caravan, so you must ensure that you've got the space and check with your local council if you can store your motorhome on your property
  • Expensive - motorhomes are road vehicles and need all the documents cars do, tax, MOT, insurance - it can all add up
  • Motorhomes offer convenience but at the cost of space - for example, you're unlikely to get a full-size kitchen in a motorhome

In summary, the type of vehicular accommodation you choose depends on a combination of budget, space and the types of holidays you prefer, whether it's frequently stopping off at multiple destinations or choosing longer stays in one place. Once you've made your purchase, you just need to choose your next holiday destination!

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