Whether you are a free spirit wanting to roam this fair country or you just want reasonably priced holidays for you and the kids, deciding on a caravan vs motorhome is something to really think about. Here we take a look at some of the pros and cons of both and see if we can help you see which is best for you.
One of the first considerations is, what do you want to do with your caravan or motorhome? If you want to go and stay on a campsite for a fortnight, then a caravan will work well. You can leave the caravan where it is and take your car to explore the local area. This is great if you have children; they can get to know other families and learn the best beaches to play on, form friendships and generally have a good time. You can rest assured that you have a place to come home to at the end of the day, knowing it has your sheets, pillows and the food that you and your kids enjoy.
Caravans are accepted in more places than motorhomes, too. They take a while to set up, you will need to connect to the local electricity (easily done at most campsites) but then you are good to go and enjoy your holiday.
If you are the sort of person who likes to travel around and stop wherever you want, if you like to just be a bit more spontaneous, then a motorhome might suit you better. With a motorhome, you can drive to a spot, stay a few days, drive to another spot and enjoy that one, too. There is less to set up, you just find a place to park. It’s worth knowing that all Asda car parks in the UK welcome motorhomes, so if you fail to find anywhere else, you can always park there, no charge. Asda knows that you will want to go in and buy stuff in the morning so they benefit from your being there anyway.
Which is safer?
For the safety conscious among us, this is a serious consideration. Actually, much depends on where you park. If you park in a proper caravan site, then you can introduce yourself to the neighbours, who then know who is supposed to be around your vehicle. If you are free camping or have just parked your motorhome up, there is obviously less security and you are at greater risk of vandalism and theft. Basically, you are never going to be 100% risk-free, but you can help yourself with security measures for both caravans and motorhomes.
What about bikes?
If you want to go on a biking holiday or just want the kids to have bikes, then you need to consider this in relation to your decision. If you have a motorhome then you need to be aware of the length if you are thinking about adding a bike rack. Lots of pitches or hardstanding have size limitations so it’s worth checking if you are going to a site. With a motorhome you can also put the bikes inside the home, there are usually places at the back where bikes will fit.
Caravans are a lot trickier; you need to consider the weight of a caravan and how it balances when you tow it. Also, a prime consideration is the back panel of your caravan – will it take the weight of a bike rack and bikes? You can check with the manufacturer as some caravans have reinforced back panels to take the weight. Don’t take a chance though, you could ruin your caravan. Check with the manufacturers to be sure.
Of course, there is one easy workaround, just put the bike rack on top of your car. If you have a caravan one benefit is that you do have a car to help carry things like bikes. Do remember though, there is a weight limit of 75 kgs for cars, make sure the rack and bikes are less than that.
Which is best for kids?
This depends on the kids really. If your kids are young then probably a caravan would be better. Of course, Mum and Dad will have to set up the caravan and take care of the kids, so that might be a problem. But once it is set up, then you know you have a “home” to come back to. It means that you can leave your stuff and go and enjoy yourself during the day. It means if it starts to rain then you can come back and spend some time together in the caravan. You can stock it with favourite toys and teddies and make it a place that is special for your kids and there are definitely fewer worries when going on a holiday.
While the same holds true of motorhomes that are in parked up at sites, it isn’t the same for people who want the freedom to roam. Will younger kids understand that there is a huge amount of driving involved? That if you drive all day to get “there”, and it rains, then you have to stay put in the motorhome for even longer? Particularly if “there” doesn’t have a kid’s club, a pub or a play centre? For people who have older children while they undoubtedly won’t like it, at least they can understand why they are going to different places and the risk that it might rain but that’s ok. Usually, because they have an iPad or tablet or phone they can use!
What about the dog?
One of the best things about holidaying in the UK is how easy it is to take our dogs with us. Whether you have a motorhome or a caravan you can usually take your dog with you. Of course, if you do take your dog, then you need to be aware of the rules around dogs on the campsite you park up at. Most require dogs to be kept on leads and kept under control. That’s pretty standard for most dog owners anyway.
A word of caution though – leads that extend and don’t quickly retract are dangerous, not just for dogs but for people around them. Dogs on extended leads can run around people and this can lead to burns on the skin, particularly if you have a nylon lead. You could find yourself in legal bother if the person affected wants to involve the police. Also, unless the lead very quickly retracts you could find your dog in an altercation with another dog and not be able to pull him or her out of the situation. None of this will go down well on a caravan site! It’s not the thing that will help you make friends with your caravanning neighbours!
When driving with your dog be aware of the latest rules. In the UK, the highway code states in rule 57: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you stop quickly.” Not only is there a fine of £2,500 but your insurance will be invalid, so you will be liable for any repairs yourself.
It’s worth buying a harness (RAC sell a harness which is purpose-built for restraining your dog in a car) for your dog and spending time getting them used to the feel of it, before you plan any trips with your caravan or motorhome. Put the harness on the dog for a short amount of time, followed by lots of praise and a reward. They will soon associate the two and then you will be able to put the dog in the car and harness him in. Again, short drives in the car with lots of praise and treats will help them to acclimatise to the car and the way they are being carried. If you have a big enough car then, by all means, keep them in a cage that is secured to the car, and cannot move. Always praise your dog for good behaviour wherever you put them in the car.
But, what if you have a motorhome? Where to put the dog then? Well if your dog is used to going into the cabin, you can put a harness on him and you will be fine. If your dog likes being in the back, then you can get him used to a cage and keep him in that. The cage could then be attached to the seat, making sure it won’t slip forward and crash when you brake hard. A dog loose in a motorhome, if there is an accident, will damage itself and possibly other people.
If your dog is the sort that likes its freedom and you plan on staying in your motorhome for a while, it might be worth investing in a gate that can go in front of your door. The last thing you need is the dog running off and getting into trouble or getting run over. In the UK it became law for all dogs to be micro-chipped but sadly some microchips disappear inside the dog. They don’t show when a dog is scanned so before you travel it is worth checking with your vets to see if the microchip is still functioning properly. At least then there is a greater chance of getting your dog back if anything terrible did happen.
It’s not especially easy to compare motorhomes with caravans for regular yearly costs because caravans can last four years or twenty-four years. It’s very important to do your research on the type of caravan you get. Motorhomes have a standard life of around 20 years or about 200,000 miles, whichever is sooner.
Motorhomes cost more than caravans – you are getting more because you are getting a caravan and a car in one. Your initial outlay will be greater. A top-notch caravan would cost about £34,000, brand new. For £32,000 you could buy a 9-year-old motorhome that has done 13,000 miles. Both are beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still buying new vs buying second hand.
Motorhomes require taxing, MOTing and servicing each year. The yearly costs for this, including repairs, will easily cost you £2,500. A caravan will cost much less than that, it won’t need taxing and MOTing, obviously, but you will need to insure it.
Some caravans will last just a few years then need replacing, particularly if the dreaded damp presents itself. Many experienced caravanners feel the older caravans were built more robustly than the newer models. If you are taking the caravan route. which is undeniably cheaper, then really take a long time to investigate which caravans present the best value for money. Never, ever buy a caravan with a hint of damp. Always go and check out a caravan before you buy, you need to take your nose along because if there is damp you will sniff it out.
Motorhomes – Pros and Cons
- More freedom
- More flexibility of travel
- Last longer than caravans
- Better for families with older children
- Great retirement projects
- Can travel anywhere
- Easier to drive compared to towing a caravan
- Expensive to buy
- Greater outlay year on year
Caravans – Pros and Cons
- Perfect for families with younger kids
- More economical than motorhomes
- Can use them with dogs, kids and bikes
- Difficult to know you have a good one
- Prone to damp
- Not as flexible as a motorhome
- Difficult if you want to travel to many places on one holiday
Ultimately it is all about what you want out of a holiday vehicle that will make you decide on a motorhome or a caravan. That, and cost. If it were me, I would consider starting off with a caravan (especially if I had a young family) and seeing how I felt about the camping/caravanning lifestyle. If both you and the kids take to it well, then consider moving up to a motorhome when they get older. If you are retired and can possibly afford it, get a motorhome, and give yourself the freedom of the open road.
If you have definitely decided that a caravan is for you then check out our guide on how to buy a new caravan.