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).

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.

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?

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.

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.

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:

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

4 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.

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