If you can’t tell the difference between a campervan and a caravan you may need to pop to a well-known high street optician for an eye test. Put simply, a caravan doesn't have an engine and you tow it behind your car, while a campervan does have an engine and is an 'all-in-one' vehicle you can drive and live in.
The real question is: what is the difference when it comes to holidaying in them and, of course, which is best? If you’ve decided to invest in a vehicle that will be the basis of family holidays for years to come, you want to make sure it’s the right one. That’s why we’ve decided to weigh up the pros and cons of two of the available options. It’s campervan versus caravan. Let the fight begin…
Why a campervan is better than a caravan
In the red corner we have the campervan. Cool, compact and cosy, a campervan is both your mode of transport and your bed for the night. Whether you go for a vintage Volkswagen or a modern model, there’s something undeniably awesome about packing everything into a vehicle that takes up little more space than a family car and hitting the road. The only problem is you might need to sell the family car to afford it. For a top-of-the-range, fresh-from-the-factory campervan, prices can be sky high. Likewise if you want a beautifully-restored 1960s VW. Of course, other campervans for alternative budgets are available but, in general, a campervan will set you back more than a caravan.
The compact size of campervans means getting to your destination is relatively easy. If you can drive; you can drive a campervan. It’ll fit into most parking spaces, is accepted on more campsites than a caravan, and is a lot easier to get around tight corners and along country lanes. For that reason, campervans are often accepted at smaller campsites, places that sometimes do not allow caravans and larger motorhomes. Size can also be an issue when it comes to storage when you’re not on holiday. A campervan is easily parked kerbside and is unlikely to cause problems with the neighbours while a caravan is best stored off road – which can, depending on whether you have a drive or a garage, mean an extra cost too. With the campervan parked up at home ready to go at all times, it has the edge when it comes to spontaneous trips. If the weather is looking good when you finish work on a Friday, you can jump in the van and head off on a mini holiday. And if you need to stop at the supermarket to get supplies; no problem. That’s not so easy with a caravan, but there are plenty of other advantages so it’s still in with a fighting chance...
Why a caravan is better than a campervan
In the white corner we have the caravan. Let’s be honest, unless you have a vintage caravan, it lacks the cool factor of the campervan. But what it lacks in cool, it makes up for with convenience. Towing a caravan behind you is like towing your bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. Once you get to a campsite, there’s next-to-no Transformer-style jiggery pokery necessary before you start relaxing. While folk in campervans will be popping tops and swivelling seats, you can be sitting back and enjoying the view as caravans are usually pretty much ready to go. The space inside a caravan is likely to be larger too. You’ll probably be able to stand up without stooping and you’re more likely to have full-size beds and kitchen appliances – not to mention your own loo.
If you’re staying at the same campsite for a while and heading out on day trips, the caravan comes out tops again. You can simply leave the living space behind by unhitching your caravan and then drive away unencumbered. When you return, things will be just as you left them, while any pals in campervans will have to go through the rigmarole of packing everything away and then unpacking it again each time they want to head out. But having said all this is ignoring the elephant in the room: the towing itself. Towing a caravan can take a bit of getting used to and the extra length means that you’ll probably want to go straight from home to your campsite without any diversions en route. Spontaneous detours down country lanes and stopping off in tiny towns are not easy options when you’ve got a caravan attached.
Campervan vs Caravan: The verdict
Caravans are cheaper to buy and, once you’re in situ, they are easier to live in and leave behind when you want to pop out. Campervans are more expensive, particularly the most well-known brands like the modern VWs, but they tend to hold their value so may represent a better investment. They are easier to drive but more hassle to convert from driving to living space.
In conclusion: we’ll be sitting on the fence. The truth is if you go on longer holidays where you park up at a campsite for a week or two, a caravan is probably the better option. Towing a caravan to Cornwall might take a while, but once you’re there you’ll have plenty of space and, if you need to drive anywhere (out on day trips or to get supplies) you don’t need to disturb the set up – or the rest of the family. If, on the other hand, you prefer weekends away, spontaneous trips and holidays on the move, a campervan will be right up your street and the best way to get on the road.