In the camping world, there is always one big question: what is better, a campervan or a caravan?
Caravans are better than campervans in price, space, depreciation, and flexibility at the campsite. Having a separate car at a holiday destination is a big pro of a caravan. Campervans are better than caravans in mobility, set-up, and maneuvering. Spontaneous adventures make a campervan better than a caravan.
It can be hard to choose between these two. And having traveled with both caravans and campervans extensively, I will share everything you need to know in this article. I highlight both pros and cons so you can make an informed decision about which is best for you: caravan or campervan. So let’s get started!
Campervan vs. Caravan: What Is The Difference?
First, we must look closely at the differences between campervans and caravans to understand their function. This will help you see which vehicle is more suitable for you – here’s a table summarizing their biggest differences:
|Smaller in size
|Larger in size
|It cannot be detached as it is a vehicle that provides accommodation
|It can be detached as it needs to be connected to a towing car in front
Generally, campervans are a house on wheels. These vehicles are self-propelled, as they have an engine of their own, and provide more ease of movement when you don’t want to stay in one place for long. Perfect for spontaneous trips and adventures.
Moreover, a caravan, just like campervans, is also a house on wheels. However, unlike campervans, a caravan lacks an engine of its own and needs a towing vehicle to move around. Nonetheless, caravans are special vehicles perfect for travelers who want to enjoy the comfort of home while on the road. They provide all the facilities a house does while also being more spacious than a campervan. And having a separate car for grocery shopping, sightseeing, etc.
Campervan: Pros & Cons
Let’s talk about the advantages that a campervan has over a caravan. If these advantages suit your requirements, then you’ll know that a campervan is perfect for you!
9 Advantages Of A Campervan
1) No Towing
Towing is carrying or pulling a vehicle behind your car. Many avoid towing because they are afraid of it or have never tried it before, as it can be difficult to connect a large trailer to your car and then drive it.
Hence, it’s significantly less stressful for first-time travelers to use a campervan because they won’t have to tow it at all. Campervans have their own engines and do not need to be connected to another vehicle to move. It’s just like driving a gigantic car through different states! Depending on the size of your campervan, it is much easier to drive.
2) Wild Adventures
Most off-grid wild camping requires traveling to regions that are farther away and have more narrow roadways. Since a caravan is big, you might have difficulty driving it with other vehicles on the narrow road.
You might also have to reverse the caravan at one point on the already narrow road. This can be challenging as caravans are heavy and may not move when you reverse your car. Generally, it is very tricky to reverse a caravan with your tow vehicle as it requires you to move the steering wheel in the opposite direction to the one you want your caravan to go.
Therefore, to avoid this hassle, you can use campervans which are not only easier to reverse (as they are not connected to another vehicle) but are also smaller in size, fitting most roads, which makes them perfect for traveling and exploring places more spontaneously. And often you can get to places where a caravan can’t.
3) No Parking Issues & Storage
A campervan is often smaller than a caravan; you can easily park it in your driveway or in front of your residence. You don’t need to worry about an extra storage space in winter when you’re not traveling. And also, you can easily park anywhere else you go while traveling, such as cities, car parks, etc., compared to a towing car with a caravan.
4) Allowed At Smaller Campsites
Campervans are smaller in size than caravans and most RVs. Hence, they are easily allowed at smaller campsites where they occasionally forbid big vehicles such as caravans. In other words, smaller vehicles mean that the management can easily cater to them, and the campsite does not become too crowded.
5) Quicker Set-up
Setting up a campervan at a campsite involves the least amount of work. Getting everything set up should take not take more than 10 to 15 minutes. Just pull up and plug in. There is no concern with securing or releasing vehicles. This is especially helpful if you suddenly need to stop and spend the night someplace.
Being able to pack up and go within a couple of minutes makes you a lot more mobile traveling in a campervan. Go whenever, wherever, is a lot easier with a campervan. And if you want to see a lot of sights in a short time, a campervan is often your best transportation because of its easy mobility.
7) Cheaper On Toll Roads
Driving a campervan and using toll roads and ferries can be cheaper than a caravan. With a campervan, you only pay for one vehicle, and with a car-caravan combination, you often pay for two vehicles.
8) Enjoying The Roadtrip
A campervan gives you more of a road trip experience than driving and towing a caravan. Often the journey and the adventure start when you start the campervan engine. With a caravan, you want to go from point A to B as quickly and stress-free as possible, so the actual journey and holiday start much later.
9) Fridge Nearby
Hungry or thirsty? The cold fridge is just behind your driver’s seat, so you’ll have everything you need in one space without having to stop the car.
Disadvantages Of A Campervan
A campervan is more expensive than a caravan in most cases. This makes the initial purchase more costly than a caravan.
2) Maintenance Costs
Insurance for campers and motorhomes is costly, especially if the vehicle is worth more than $70,000. If you’re considering a campervan in this price range, it would be worthwhile to obtain a few estimates to have an idea of the price of the insurance before making a decision, especially if you want to travel full-time. On average, the insurance for a campervan is $800 to $1000 per year.
Furthermore, you must get full-time vehicle insurance if you decide to live in a campervan, which will drain your pockets even more! Additionally, you must pay vehicle tax and have your RV inspected annually, raising the total cost of ownership.
3) Less Flexible
Utilizing your vehicle as a camping ground isn’t always the case. Sometimes, you might want a lightly packed trip where you can quickly reach your destination. Unfortunately, such flexibility isn’t an option with campervans since they’re complete vehicles with their own engine and can’t be detached from your car like a caravan.
For example, you arrive at the campsite and set up and notice you forgot a couple of groceries. With a campervan, you need to unplug and take your whole home with you to the grocery store or go sightseeing. Especially when you stay longer at a certain place, a campervan has a disadvantage over a caravan. In my opinion, this is the biggest con of a campervan.
I’ve met many couples and families with a campervan on the road who bumped into this. If you’re traveling for a long period of time, it can be exhausting to constantly be on the move and move locations every one or two days. After a while, you want to stay at a certain place a bit longer, and then you don’t have a separate car to move around. Either you use the campervan for short trips, rent an extra car or go by Uber.
Advantages Of A Caravan
Now that we have analyzed the pros and cons of a campervan, it is time to evaluate a caravan. Here are the advantages of a caravan:
1) More Space
You do not have to worry about space with a caravan. A caravan will give you significantly greater accommodation and storage space when compared to a typical campervan. Due to the extra room, there will be fewer sacrifices in how you use the living area, also allowing you to host more visitors.
And also extra storage space to pack up much more than in a campervan. You can even bring bicycles or other bigger objects in a caravan.
2) Better Insulation
Although a campervan will give you a warm living area accessible no matter where you are, it won’t retain that heat as effectively as a caravan since they tend to have wider walls for better insulation.
On the other hand, campervans typically have less room for insulation, which causes them to lose heat more quickly. While you can counteract this by getting a heater, remember that it will cost both money and gas or electricity. In most cases, a caravan is more suitable for the winter season.
3) Cheaper Insurance
Unlike campervans, it is not legally compulsory for you to get caravan insurance. However, if you choose to do so, caravan insurance is not costly, with the average cost being $500 per year. A caravan also does not need to be MOT’d or taxed, saving you money on annual operating expenses. However, you will have to get insurance for the car needed to tow your caravan.
4) Less Depreciation
In general, caravans lose value more slowly than campervans, often because caravans travel far less distance and are more sedentary than campervans. As a result, a caravan’s worth is more influenced by its age than its miles. Additionally, there are always methods to increase the value of older models by renovating a caravan.
But you can’t beat the classic VW campervan, which will always keep its value because of its popularity.
5) More Flexibility
From the standpoint of camping, the flexibility of a caravan is quite high. You can tow it to a campground, uncouple your car, and drive around to go sightseeing, have dinner at a nice restaurant, or go grocery shopping with just your car.
The flexibility to divide the two is quite practical as you won’t have to take your caravan with you while sightseeing. In contrast, unless you bring extra vehicles, campervans leave you stranded at a campground, or you must take them everywhere you go.
When you plan to travel more slowly and stay longer at most places, the benefits of having a caravan and a separate car are extremely high.
A caravan is often a lot more affordable to purchase than a campervan. If you already have a great car that can tow any caravan, the purchase of a caravan is a lot cheaper than buying a separate campervan.
7) Cheaper To Maintain
A caravan is relatively cheaper to maintain than a campervan. If a campervan breaks down, you must have it repaired before going anywhere. Often these maintenance tasks are more expensive than anything on a caravan unless you crash your caravan. A caravan can still function as a nice holiday home even when some parts are broken. You can still tow it anywhere you want to go and fix repairs along the way.
When you want to explore a city or anywhere else, you park your car and leave your most valuable gear safely in your caravan at a gated campsite. In a campervan, you take everything you own with you, including your most valuable things. The chances this gets stolen are a bit higher with a campervan than a caravan.
Disadvantages Of A Caravan
Just like a campervan, a caravan has its own cons. Here is a list of the leading cons of a caravan so you know what you’re getting into:
1) Longer Set-up Time
When you arrive at or go away from a campsite, setting up and taking down a caravan typically takes the longest. This is due to their legs needing to be wound down for steadiness and leveling. And when you leave, you must distribute your luggage evenly and hook the caravan up to the towbar or your car. In all honesty, it’s not a really difficult process, but it’s tedious when your campervan pals are already sitting in their chairs sipping some cold drinks.
2) Needs Towing
Since caravans are heavier than campervans, they need to be towed. You will need a separate car that is able to tow the caravan. And you need to be able to drive a car with a caravan. Some people need an extra license to be allowed to drive a car with a caravan. And others might find it very stressful and difficult to maneuver.
It takes practice to reverse a caravan in the right way and usually requires a motor mover to park at the right side of the camping spot or carry it on a steep slope. Most times, you need an extra person who can help you with a caravan’s towing and parking adventure.
3) Less Mobile
Usually, the holiday begins once the caravan is parked at the campsite. The journey or road trip is often not part of the adventure, which is a big con compared to a campervan. Hitting the road is part of the travel trip.
With a caravan, you’re less mobile to explore unknown places spontaneously or go off-grid. You often start exploring after you park the caravan. An adventurous type of person who loves to go from place to place and move around every day will find a caravan too much of a hassle to travel with. A caravan is better suited for staying at a place for multiple days or weeks on end. That is where the advantage of a caravan vs. a campervan comes in.
How To Choose Between Campervan and Caravan?
You must look at your requirements before choosing between a campervan and a caravan and then decide which vehicle would fulfill them best. And to help you with this purchasing decision, the following list contains essential factors that you should consider:
Traveling is all about relaxing. So, if you’re looking for convenience, a campervan will be better for you as it does not need to be towed and is easier to drive, especially when you want to relocate each day or two.
With a caravan, you will have to purchase a motor mover to help park your caravan in campgrounds, especially when they are densely packed during the holidays. Plus, all campsites allow campervans, whereas small campsites usually don’t allow caravans due to their size.
A caravan will have a greater living space, and you may utilize your car to store things as well. You can even extend your caravan’s living space by attaching an awning. This will allow you to host more guests, have a comfortable outside/ inside area when it rains, and have extra guests that are able to sleep comfortably.
In contrast, a campervan’s space is non-negotiable. Thus, if you’re looking for a bigger space, you should invest in a caravan.
Campervans are ideal if you have been saving and have a high budget since they come in at around $35,000 and can go to $150,000 or more if you want a vehicle with all the luxuries. That said, a decent campervan should cost you, on average, around $60,000.
Alternatively, caravans are the way to go if you’re looking for a cheaper option since they only come in new at a starting price of $15,000. But even much cheaper if secondhand. But keep in mind that your car can tow the caravan because buying a touring caravan may actually not be worth it at all if you have to end up having to change your car as well, which makes the entire process more costly.
Also, the more luxurious the caravan is, with different options like air conditioning, floor heating, a hot water boiler, and a caravan awning, the more expensive it gets.
Best Caravan & Camping Equipment
There is always a need for new products when it comes to camping. Either to maintain your caravan or to make your camping setup more comfortable. As digital nomads, we are on the road a lot. We tried out many different online camping stores.
However, we feel that Amazon still offers the best value for money, quick and easy delivery, and easy returns when necessary. We really like that we can use Amazon at almost every location in the world! You can find the best caravan & camping equipment on this page (links you to Amazon).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Below we answer some of the more commonly-asked questions related to campervans and caravans:
Is it necessary to purchase a caravan motor mover with it?
It is not necessary to purchase a caravan motor mover, but it is very convenient and recommended. Most conventional caravans weigh around 1400 kg, and moving them with your car can be incredibly difficult. In addition, caravans are also hard to carry on a steep slope. Plus, most people complain about reversing a caravan, so it is better to get a motor mover. This way, you can easily park your caravan in any spot you want with just the push of a button.
Are campervans allowed in all campsites?
Yes, as their name suggests, campervans are made for camping and allowed by all campsites. Plus, they are also small in size, ensuring that their site won’t get crowded. In comparison, caravans aren’t allowed in smaller campsites as they’re bigger in size.
Is a caravan easier to park than a campervan?
No, a caravan is attached to a car, making it difficult to park. Parking a caravan usually requires someone standing outside and guiding the driver as two vehicles are attached together. A campervan is smaller and isn’t connected to anything, making it easier to park.
In conclusion, campervans are great if you’re looking for a mobile vehicle that is easy to drive. On the other hand, if you don’t move your camping vehicle a lot, a caravan will be perfect for you, plus they offer a spacious interior and easy living. Ultimately, the decision boils down to your own personal requirements!