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

24 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.

  13. Richie

    1 January 2018 at 7:04 am

    Interestingly not any comment on Motorhomes towing a small 4wd ( obvious 3k cost aside to leagalize A-frame hitch ). Saw several with Boat / Quad etc combo on road happy with choice.

  14. Barry

    6 February 2018 at 9:28 pm

    We have just purchased a 9.5 m Longrech looked around for years also rented we can tow a 4 wheel drive easy wouldnt know it was there do mostly free camping so can leave motorhome at free camp site and use 4wd to get around no need to go and pay for csrav6 parks tried towing a caravan motorhome larger easier to mamoovet

  15. Mark Dekker

    6 March 2018 at 7:23 am

    I wonder how many coach conversions could be accommodated at caravan parks due to their length?

  16. Jennifer

    21 March 2018 at 12:54 pm

    We recently decided to purchase a Slideon for the back of our tray ute that we already own.. Best of both worlds.  We can leave the van behind and go sight seeing or shopping if we wish.  The ute can still be used for everyday use when we are not on holidays.  No registration for the van.  Also we can tow the boat trailer on the back of the ute if we desire.

  17. John Jaap

    1 May 2018 at 10:36 pm

    On a holiday in the USA we hired a motorhome and had a great time but we were on a road trip. We stopped at a different place every night and it was convenient for that type of holiday. I recently bought a caravan for holidaying here in Australia because we want to stop at different places for a week or two and explore that area. We felt the caravan was more suited to that style of holiday, as we could drive the car around and leave the caravan in the park. We have only done a couple of trips but found the caravan easy to tow and park and set up, so for us the caravan was the way to go.

  18. Karl

    13 May 2018 at 7:21 am

    Over the last 25 years we have taken our kids away in a tent, windsor wind up, and 2 larger caravans. My landcruiser is now a little tired and the kids do their own thing so we bought a new lowline B class motorhome with all the extras just for us. I am currently looking at a smallish light weight motorbike to go on the hayman & Reece tow bar for those bread and milk runs and trips into town. Our good travelling friends have gone with a caravan and it will be good to see how we fare around Aussie. At the end of the day it will be fun times as always im sure

  19. Glenda Smith

    16 June 2018 at 8:34 pm

    Rent a motorhome and then a caravan. It’s the cheapest way to making a decision on what works for you. Each have their own advantages. You may end not liking either option. Image how much you have just saved yourself.

  20. Wayne

    8 July 2018 at 11:01 am

    Some very interested comments on different people’s thoughts,caravans are a easy set up when you if dont unhook same as motorhomes,i bit longer when you unhook. Has anyone tried to park in or near a shopping center when traveling with a car and caravan,or get fuel in some service stations.l haven’t seen anyone talk about 2 regos and 2 insurance compared to only 1 with a motorhome.yes i own a car and caravan looking to buy a motorhome now, but it dont matter it comes down to how much people have to spend and what they wont to do and see.as long as we are out and seeing our great country it dont matter.

  21. Gaylene Norton

    9 August 2018 at 5:41 pm

    I’ve hired 2 different sized motorhomes for 2 week travels “dawdling” around exploring different States in Australia and love the 4 berth one better than the 6 berth one. Roominess inside is handy for wet, windy days. I’ve tent camped and also caravanned - but my preference is motorhome. Yes, you can’t easily get into supermarket car parks but preparation of basic items is easy before travel and how hard is it usually to walk about 10 minutes TO the supermarket from a roadside park space a block or two away. No trouble packing up - everything goes back each time it’s cleaned/used so that saves time.  Being able to pull up near a river or cliff and have a snack or meal - use the toilet that travels with you smile - and toddle off again. Ah, bliss.

  22. Leanne

    10 August 2018 at 9:28 am

    I own a m/home 6 berth with ensuite, seat belts to carry 5 passengers.Heaps of storage internal and external,fitted generator,solarpower.12v and 240volts.The convenience of drive,park and step out the door your ready to adventure straight away.Without the hassles of towing a c/van,reversing and setting up and levelling placing the support stands down,unhitching the vehicle.everything tends to get pulled out then it all has to be packed away and for some reason it never fits back into its place.Security of a motorhome windows are up high,Alarm system,the door is stronger to the cabin.Of couse therir is no just drive off in a hurry,internally everything has to be stored away and locked nothing to be left on the bench tops,t,v has to be locked in,fridge door,cover to hotplace down.gas bottle turned off and you do have to walk outside to do that.Their is no need to use support stands or levelling devices or connecting to towball,and if the m/home is towing a vehicle again a different setup of towing depends on what device is used.

  23. Ken & Patrice

    16 August 2018 at 7:06 pm

    Our decision to purchase a second hand caravan was influenced firstly by cost and also due to uncertainty about living up close and personal in the confines of a small home. After having done a trip to Darwin and Kakadu in 2017 and 3 months 10 days around Australia this year we are hooked on caravan travel. We enjoy the convenience of being able to park up and head off in our 4WD vehicle to discover what our beautiful country has to offer. My husband enjoys watching football and I dont so an additional portable television which plugs in under the awning keeps us both happy. A lot of van parks now offer drive through sites for overnight stops where you can stay hooked up and get an early start next day. Team work also makes hooking up power, water and reversing into a site much quicker. We pack everything in containers or specific places so it doesnt move in transit and each of us has our set tasks to make setting up and packing up quicker. We met people with a motor home who tow a vehicle behind them and are now planning to buy a caravan as they advised there is still a fair amount of setting up involved in their rig. It is up to personal taste but either way, we are so glad to be able to see our beautiful country at a minimal cost on a caravan site in the safe environment of a caravan park in remote areas where safety and security is a concern. We enjoy having everything we need in our mini home. We also do trips at Easter time and attend rock concerts held at a Big 4 in a city near us with 3 other couples who have purchssed vans. We have met some fabulous people on our travels and will head off on another adventure in early 2019.

  24. Lyn Eden

    13 September 2018 at 12:46 pm

    We prefer a caravan.  Over the last 9 years we have travelled around Australia with our 4x4 and caravan.  Unhitching and leaving the caravan in the safety of a caravan park and exploring off road without worrying that the van will get damaged is the way to go for us.  When we have wanted to explore further afield we just leave the caravan either in storage or connected to power in the caravan park, and rented accommodation at the other end.  (eg Cape Leveque WA).

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