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Campervan vs caravan

10/07/2020

Your essential guide to buying a house on wheels.

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If you’re a born traveller keen to see every nook and cranny of Australia, road-tripping in comfort with a mobile home is a great way to do it.

And as restrictions ease, exploring your own backyard in a camper trailer, caravan, campervan or motorhome makes sense. But should you choose a cheaper option you tow behind your car, or go for a motorhome with all the bells and whistles?

We explore some of the options available so you can consider what might be best for you or your family.

The different types of homes on wheels

There’s actually a fair bit of difference between a camper trailer, caravan, campervan or motorhome. Here’s the basics.

A camper trailer This pop-top home on wheels is a lightweight, convenient option that you tow behind your car. It’s the cheapest option and a step up from basic camping.

A caravan… is a self-contained travelling home with sleeping quarters, lounge, kitchen and bathroom that you hitch to the back of your car and tow wherever you’re going.

A campervan… is a motorised vehicle or van that’s equipped with basic living quarters.

A motorhome… is the largest and most luxe type of motorised home available. There’s usually a separation between the cab and living quarters.

Pros, cons and costs

Which type of home on wheels you choose really depends on your lifestyle, where you’ll be taking it and what you plan to do on holiday. Here are some pros and cons of a camper trailer, caravan, campervan or motorhome.

Camper trailer

The pros Most are off-road ready, have a kitchen or cooking facilities of some kind, sleeping quarters and a tented roof. At the most basic, you could expect to pay around $10-15,000.

The cons You may have to cart quite a bit of stuff with you, compared to a home-on-wheels that is self-contained. Set-up can be a pain, especially if you’re arriving at your destination at night or in the rain, and they don’t have many of the mod cons you might want or need.

Caravan

The pros of a caravan is that they can be a cheaper option. They’re also super convenient: simply unhitch your caravan when you reach your destination, and you’re free to nip down to the shops or on day trips in your car. You can also go off-road with a caravan and the bed, lounge and kitchen areas are set up so it’s easy living. Expect to pay anything from $10,000 for a second-hand model, up to $100,000 for all the additional features.

The cons There can be a learning curve involved with towing a caravan, parking it and getting used to hitching and unhitching it. You may need to hook up electricity, water and a waste pipe. And while the caravan might be cheaper to buy, you’ll need a powerful car to tow it so that’s something to consider in your budget, too.

Campervan

The pros of a campervan is the get-up-and-go – they’re essentially a motorised van and great for solo travellers or couples. They’re compact, easy to manoeuvre and park, so you’re spending less time setting up and more time holidaying. Some models are 4WD and have off-road capability, too. Prices can vary from anywhere between $70,000 to $100,000+ for a new one, or less for a second-hand vehicle.

The cons of a campervan are that they can be quite small inside. Kitchens can be tiny, and most don’t have showers and toilets, so you might need to cart your toiletry bag to the communal shower block or set up an outdoor shower or loo ‘tent’.

Motorhome

The pros of a motorhome are numerous – they’re motorised so no need for a car, more spacious than a campervan and usually equipped with more luxurious interiors and every mod con you could possibly want. They can be so comfortable that it’s not unheard of to live in one full-time. Expect to pay anywhere from $120,000 to $150,000 for a new model.

The cons Motorhomes are a more expensive investment and because they’re chunkier on the road, you want to be a confident and competent driver. Another downside is that you always have to take your home with you – even if you just want to duck to the shops for supplies. You’ll also have to consider where you’re going to store or park it when you’re not on holiday.

In conclusion

Deciding on the type of home-on-wheels you want to buy can be a tricky decision if you haven’t had much experience – and it’s really important to factor in price, size, convenience, resale value and of course your lifestyle and family needs.

Hiring different models and trying them out on an actual holiday is a great way of getting a sense of what works for you and what doesn’t, and can help inform your purchasing decisions.

And because your home-on-wheels will be key to many happy family holidays for years to come, you want to make sure you’ve done all the groundwork before you buy.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. This information has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication.

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