Caravan versus motorhome – which one should you buy?

Caravan with annexed picnic area and bikes attached to towbar parked in caravan park.

Caravans give you the ability to unhitch and explore the surrounding area by car.

Ford or Holden. Liberal or Labor. NRL or AFL. B1 or B2. There are some things that really polarise us Aussies.

You can add another category to that list: caravan or motorhome. This is a duo that divides a nation, resulting in fervent debate on discussion forums, around water coolers, and in pub front bars.

If you’re deciding between purchasing a caravan or a motorhome, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the passionate arguments put forward by those in the corner of Team Caravan or Team Motorhome.

While these comments are mostly helpful, it’s best to back up the truck (or caravan or motorhome) and begin at the beginning. Let’s consider the key points when looking to purchase each mode of transport and allow the journey to take its course from there.

1. Convenience

When asking yourself ‘should I buy a caravan or a motorhome?’ it helps if you have an idea about how it will be used. Picture yourself on the road with a caravan and then a motorhome, bearing in mind the type of traveller you are and how this purchase would impact on your regular holiday routine.

For example, when holidaying with a caravan you need to contemplate the following factors:

  • Repeated hitching and unhitching of the van.
  • A longer set-up and pack-up routine than if travelling with a motorhome.
  • A greater challenge of parking the damn thing (although our reversing a caravan video helps with that process).

Frequent stops V extended stays...

If you are a traveller who makes frequent stops, these factors will have a noticeable impact; and a motorhome becomes a more attractive option. Yet if your typical break consists of spending a couple of weeks at a time in the same holiday park, these challenges are minimal.

On the flipside, if you are likely to use your BIG4 accommodation as a base for exploring the wider area on day trips, a caravan is a more convenient vehicle choice. Why?

  • It’s easier and quicker to get about in your tow vehicle than it is to lug the motorhome around.
  • You can travel off road in your tow vehicle, whereas you can’t in a motorhome.
  • Even a short trip to the shops can be a bit of a mission in a motorhome, including finding a suitable parking space.

WHICH ONE GETS YOUR VOTE? LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW

It all depends on what type of break or breaks you anticipate taking. How important is it to you to have the convenience of a smaller vehicle?

If choosing between a caravan and motorhome for purchase, another key point to consider is the on-site convenience of each vehicle. While both options take care of your accommodation, a motorhome often goes that extra mile to make you feel like you’re at home thanks to added conveniences such as a shower and toilet.

Top tip: If you’re hesitant about making the big purchase, consider a trial first. Caravan and motorhome hire is readily available, so experience for yourself which mode of transport best suits you and your needs.

Smiling parents holding their daughters stand outside their motorhome next to orange deckchairs.

Motorhomes give you the ability to quickly pack up and go. Ideal for shorter stop-offs.

2. Costs

That’s right – costs with an S. Plural. More than one. Aside from making the initial purchase, you’ll need to give thought to other factors such as on-road costs and any repairs.

Inquiring about how much it costs to buy a caravan or motorhome is akin to asking the length of a piece of string. Generally, motorhomes are more expensive to buy than caravans but the price of either vehicle depends on several factors, including its size.

And while your caravan might be a cheaper purchase, it pays to note that the cost will balloon if you need to buy a more powerful car to tow it.

However, keep in mind that caravans are usually cheaper to run and maintain than motorhomes when accounting for such factors as:

  • Registration.
  • Insurance.
  • Fuel consumption.
Caravan is towed down road in caravan park past pitched tents and gazebo.

Cost is a huge factor to consider. Don't forget to add on-road costs to the equation.

3. General

Other aspects to keep in mind in the caravan versus motorhome debate include:

Are you travelling as a single or couple/group? For example, a motorhome is much better suited to a single traveller, because it eliminates the challenges of setting up, packing up, and parking a caravan.

Where will the vehicle be stored when you are not travelling? Will it be exposed to the elements? A marked difference in height and length means it’s easier to park a caravan undercover than it is a motorhome.

As you can see, both caravans and motorhomes have their pros and cons and there is a lot to consider. Choosing one over the other is not a matter of right or wrong. The decision depends on your budget, preference, and travelling needs.

View of ocean waves crashing in the sun partially obscured by parked motorhome vehicle.

Your budget and travel preferences will ultimately determine which option is best for you.

What do you prefer?

If you’re a caravan or motorhome owner, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. In particular:

  • Why do you prefer your chosen vehicle?
  • Have you owned both types of vehicles and found one to be notably better or worse than the other?
  • Would you do anything differently if you were to purchase a van or motorhome again?
  • What is the best piece of advice for those looking to purchase a caravan or motorhome?

Please leave a comment below. Meanwhile, if you think you've come to a decision and are ready to start shopping around, you'll want to read these essential tips for purchasing a new caravan and buying a used caravan.

And whether you like to roam in the motorhome or you’re a fan of the caravan, isn’t it time you hit the road again? Road-trip adventures begin with BIG4.

Find & book your holiday accommodation with BIG4

12 comments on “Caravan versus motorhome – which one should you buy?”

  1. Marie Watson

    15 June 2016 at 9:55 am

    Thanks for putting some tips together for choosing between a caravan and a motor home.  You make a good point about how you need to consider things like cost and convenience.  I would think that there is a lot you would need to prepare for when purchasing a caravan or a mobile home.  You also make a good point about how you should think about which you would prefer.  I like the idea of using a caravan and hitching it to our car.

  2. Jeff Harris

    11 February 2017 at 10:34 am

    Caravan is the way to go! It is a Stupid remark that campervans ets have toilets and showers and caravans don’t! Back in 1968 when my Dad bought a 30 foot Caravan it had a shower and toilet in it !!! If your camper van breaks down your SHOT!!! where is your place to stay! Caravans are easy to tow now you just need to be trained by someone who knows! So easy to put your van in a Park or where ever and then go and do the things you normally do, try getting a 25 foot mobile home through the drivethrough at a fastfood outlet or even trying to park it to get shopping!

  3. BIG4 Holiday Parks

    13 February 2017 at 9:50 am

    Hi Jeff, thanks for your feedback! Everyone has different requirements when it comes to choosing a vehicle, and it’s great to hear you’ve found an option that works for you.

  4. Sarah Jane

    22 March 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Feature wise they are similar. If you have a slick 4WD then a caravan is the way to go. If you don’t have a 4WD or a vehicle that can tow a caravan then a motorhome is the way to go. You can rent out your motorhome when it’s not in use on ride sharing sites fairly easily too for some extra coin, that’s what I would do.

  5. RUssell Smith

    23 June 2017 at 2:50 pm

    We did a trip in the states with a motor home and that made our decision easy to buy a fifth wheeler.
    We have the stability in towing, can easily park where others with caravans have trouble. Easy to unhitch and we have the vehicle to run about in, van is spacious and pleasure to stay in.
    Cost wise was less than a motor home but a little more than a large van and a car to pull it.
    All in all the fifth wheeler is good for us and surprised that there are not more on the road.

  6. Chris Butcher

    5 July 2017 at 5:56 pm

    As the article states all depends on your travel requirements.  We opted for a smaller campervan, it is an ideal second vehicle just not suitable for underground parking areas under 2.0 metres.  Our travel mode is longer road trips with short stops, unsealed roads and logging trails are no problem, we carry an en-suite tent with toilet and shower in a cargo box at the rear.  In this vehicle we have been able to access some beautiful locations around Australia not accessable to caravans or larger motor homes

  7. George Smith

    13 August 2017 at 6:02 am

    If you decide to get a caravan, aim for one with toilet facilities. Also, you should definitely consider the towing aspect of it. If you have a small car or even an underpowered truck, it can seriously damage the caravan experience. If you are in that situation, get a motor home (or if money is no problem for you, get a new vehicle to tow a caravan). Obviously where you go is also a factor, and the length of stay, and ultimately there is an element of personal preference. Just get the one you enjoy more and that suits your needs.

  8. Valerie

    30 August 2017 at 9:37 am

    We love the ease of our motor home. It’s very easy to set up at a campsite, just the hoses and power to plug in and we can park easily at most shopping centres. We always have a giggle when we’re asked the familiar ‘but what do you do when you run out of milk?’  The answer is that we usually don’t. We have a good sized fridge and do a big shop each time. If we want to go shopping, we just unplug the power and the cords, leave them on the site and drive away. Easy then to plug in when we return.  If we decide to swim in the ocean, we park and change in the motor home, we can make a cuppa or a meal whenever we’re out for the day. Our motor home costs about the same to run as our small family car.

  9. Packers and movers pune

    16 September 2017 at 9:51 pm

    If I have to buy then obviously motorhome.

  10. Bailey Strempel

    23 September 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Very well clarified the difference between the two. Most people are confused which one to prefer during the family traveling. Hope this will definitely guide them.

  11. keith

    28 September 2017 at 2:34 pm

    I just brought a 23ft caravan with toilet shower and everything that you need. I was thinking about a motor home but if you go into town or a day trip you have to pack up ever thing inside so it doesn’t spill or slide everywhere and when you get back you have to set it all up again and parking can be a nightmare were a caravan you leave in the park and away you go. As for hitching up its not that much hassle because with reversing cameras on your vehicle these days there’s no hassle but everyone is to there own

  12. Howard Cowling

    6 November 2017 at 11:19 pm

    I beg to differ Keith. Have been motorhoming fir 10 years and my wife and I can move with less than two minutes warning. Nothing slides. Nothing spills. Easy convenient and safe.

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