Whats The Difference Between a Campervan and a Motorhome?

Whether youre booking a getaway and looking to rent a vehicle or planning to buy one for yourself, you might be wondering whether a camper van or motorhome is best. 

You might also be wondering if there is any real difference between the two. After all, they are both designed to help you enjoy life on the road whilst giving you sleeping quarters, so are they not essentially the same thing? Well, the only way to determine what these vehicles do differently, and which is better suited to your needs is to better understand the key differences between the two.

That is why we are going to look at the differences between a campervan and a motorhome in the guide below.

They are different types of vehicles:

From a mechanical perspective, these are both larger vehicles with a lot of the same parts. However, a campervan is usually built using an existing panel-van body, and camping facilities are added to the inside.

On the other hand, a motorhome is not based around a panel-van vehicle. Instead, it uses a chassis and running gear from a large van or truck, but the inside of the vehicle is completely custom-made to be similar to a caravan.

Campervans are typically smaller:

When you picture a campervan, its likely that you think of the classic VW or maybe even a Sprinter. But when you picture a motorhome, what do you see? Usually, a bigger vehicle like a Hymer or Auto Sleeper. 

The key difference between the two is that campervans tend to be smaller than motorhomes, with the exception of some custom-made campers.

Motorhomes, therefore, tend to be bigger with a longer wheelbase because they typically contain more living facilities. But well look at this in more detail later. 

Whats more, the driving cab of a motorhome is often separate from the living quarters, unlike in many campervans where the two are easily connected with a gap behind the seats or even swivel chairs.

Motorhomes have bathrooms:

As motorhomes are bigger, these will typically have a bedroom area, kitchen and separate bathroom with a toilet and shower. Because campervans are smaller many with a pop roof or no room to stand fully, they tend not to have toilets or showers. Not built-in ones, anyway.

Some will have a portable camping toilet that they use inside the van, but this will very much depend on space and preference.

And again, custom-converted campervans can be an exception to this rule, but only if the owner has bought a larger van and made the creative effort to add a bathroom or toilet to the design. The same applies to a shower.

It’s easier to live in a motorhome:

For many of the reasons we’ve discussed above, as well as a few others, living in a motorhome is often easier than living in a campervan. This is because you have more space and usually more facilities built in.

Most motorhomes will come with a built-in kitchen and fridge, a ready-made bed and a toilet. This makes it much easier to just hop in the back when you need to and make a cup of tea or take a lie down. There is also more space to sit and relax, and everything is just a bit more convenient.

This can be tricker in campervans that have less space, lower roofs or no bathroom facilities. You might end up relying more heavily on campsites and service stops than those travelling and living in a motorhome.

Driving a campervan is easier:

All that being said, driving a campervan is often easier than a motorhome as these are smaller vehicles. Anyone can drive a camper, whereas larger motorhomes over 3.5 tonnes might require a slightly different license in the UK.

What’s more, it can be harder to park motorhomes as they are much bigger. You might find yourself restricted by height barriers and smaller parking spaces. Whereas in a campervan, you can typically fit in most average parking spaces and under many height barriers, making it easier to get around.

Prices can hugely vary:

The prices of these vehicles can vary quite a lot. As campervans are smaller and contain fewer facilities, they are typically cheaper than motorhomes. This can be particularly true for van conversions.

That being said, if you want a vintage van like a VW, these can be far more expensive as they are now classics and collector’s items. In this case, you might find that some of the more basic motorhome models are actually more cost-effective.

It’s also important to take fuel into account, and because of the larger size of motorhomes, they often require more fuel and are therefore more expensive to run than smaller campervans.

Campervans can be stealthier:

If you want to do a bit of free camping, often, campervans can be stealthier and draw far less attention, particularly converted vans that just look like everyday vehicles.

On the other hand, it’s very obvious what a motorhome is and what the occupants are doing. This can be tricky if you want to free camp in areas where you’re hoping to fly under the radar.

Some sites are selective about campervans and motorhomes:

The final difference on our list is that you might not be welcome everywhere as a motorhome. Some of the smaller independent campsites might not have the hard-standing pitches to allow for bigger vehicles like this.

In these cases, they may only accept tents and smaller campervans. It’s therefore worth thinking about where you like to holiday and if this is going to be the case.

A quick recap:

So, before we finish, let’s just have a quick recap on the key differences between these two camping vehicles:

  • Motorhomes are bigger and offer you more space to relax and enjoy your holiday
  • Campervans are smaller, making them easier to drive and access more places
  • Motorhomes have more facilities, including a toilet, whereas many campervans do not. This can make living in a motorhome easier
  • Campervans can be cheaper to buy and run than larger motorhomes
  • Free camping can be easier in campervans as they are stealthier and are often accepted onto more sites and spaces

Keeping all of this in mind, you can weigh up the pros and cons of each type of vehicle to determine which is going to better suit your holiday needs and style.