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Caravans, campervans and motorhomes: a beginner’s guide

Class C Motorhome driving
Class C Motorhome

Not all homes-on-wheels are made equal. 

In a place like Australia, there’s nothing better than hitting the road to discover its eclectic towns and natural riches.

To fully immerse yourself in Australia’s changing sceneries, embark on a road trip with comfort and convenience at the forefront. Caravans, campervans, and motorhomes are excellent choices to get around without sacrificing homely creature comforts. But how do you know which one will suit your needs out on the road? Here, we break down the difference between all three to help guide you on your next Tour de Oz road-trip adventure.

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Caravans

Caravanning is one of the most popular ways of long-term travelling around Australia. Caravans are a great choice as a mobile home with one or three axles, towed behind a vehicle and fitted with household comforts. Think of it as a moving house, where you can change your postcode whenever you see fit: simply pull up, unlatch, and your camp set-up is done. 

Depending on the design, caravans are fitted with a bedroom, kitchen, and lounge, and most contain a shower/toilet area, so you don’t have to bid adios to modern luxuries.

Caravans vary in size, usually between three metres (11 feet) and seven metres (24 feet) in length and up to 2.5 metres wide (eight feet).

Caravans come in three categories:

  • Regular ‘full bodied’ caravans feature solid walls and a traditional high roof.
  • Pop-up caravans include a lifting roof section that will give you headroom. 
  • Expander or pop-out caravans feature pop-out compartments at each side of the caravan that allows you to store extra bedding. These are great for large families and allow for more space and extra storage.

Pros of caravans

  • Effortless camp set-up after you have parked and unhitched your regular caravan. (A pop-up caravan just takes a little bit longer to prop up the roof!)
  • Home comforts of a proper bed, kitchen, lounge and shower/toilet.
  • Great in any weather.
  • Decent storage space.
  • Off-road caravans are available.
  • Pop-up caravans are easier to store.
  • Travelling with a pop-up/pop-out caravan is an eco-friendlier way to travel with the design reducing wind resistance.
  • Caravans can also come as a ‘fifth wheel’, meaning the caravan is attached to the vehicle. This way, it allows for manoeuvring to be a much easier task and increases the stability as the weight is on the back of the vehicle.

Cons of caravans

  • Hitching and unhitching the caravan may take some time.
  • Depending on its size, parking and reversing the caravan may be an issue.
  • The longer and heavier your caravan is, the harder it is to tow. This will also affect your car’s fuel consumption.
  • Greater fuel costs.
  • Registration, insurance and maintenance items charges are doubled.

Caravans are suited to

Caravans are suited to long-term travellers. Those who want to have a comfortable space to call home and freely explore the destination once arriving without having the weight of a caravan right behind them.

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Caravan prices

Caravan prices can range from $12,000 to $210,000, depending on inclusions and size.

Campervans

Campervan interior
Campervan interior

We see #vanlife trending all over the ‘gram, and there’s a good reason for it – they’re accessible and a cost-effective way to get around. 

Consider it the smaller cousin to the motorhome. With campervans, there tends to be no divide between the cab and the self-contained home, and they include nifty conversions such as a bed at the back, which turns into a small lounge or dining area. Facilities are generally basic such as a shower/toilet (if there is one) or a kitchen which is usually placed behind the driver’s and passenger’s seats.

Campervans are usually between five metres (eight feet) to seven metres (24 feet).

Pros of campervans

  • A much more affordable and accessible option than the other mobile accommodations listed.
  • Ease of parking.
  • No set up required.
  • Great on fuel costs.
  • No need to pay twice on registration, insurance and maintenance items. 

Cons of campervans

  • Minimal storage space.
  • Cosy.
  • Basic facilities.
  • Small kitchen that is not as equipped as motorhomes or caravans.
  • Small toilet or shower (if it has one.)
  • No proper dining or lounge area.

Campervans are suited to

Van life is suited to solo travellers or couples/friends who don’t mind being in intimate spaces over long periods. 

Campervan prices

Campervan prices can start from $17,000.

Class A Motorhomes

Class A Motorhome interior

Consider the Class A Motorhome, the Holy Grail, for living life out on the road.

The truck or bus-chassis motorhome is a mansion on wheels intended to be a spacious self-contained home, usually with a divide between the cab and living area of the Class A motorhome. There is room for multiple beds, bathrooms, large lounge areas, and a fully equipped kitchen in its living quarters, which would have you thinking if you ever left home in the first place!

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Class A Motorhome’s are the biggest RVs ranging from nine – 13 metres (29 – 45 feet) in length, roughly 2.4 metres wide (eight feet) and are built on a single frame that may have more than two axles.

Pros of Class A Motorhomes

  • It’s a home on wheels with multiple beds, lounge and dining areas, and an extensive kitchen and bathroom.
  • It can fit more than just two people.
  • Find easy respite from bad weather.
  • A full rear-view camera and large multi-angle side mirrors.
  • Good turning circle when compared to a caravan. 
  • No need to double-up on registration, insurance and maintenance items. 

Cons of Class A Motorhomes

  • It will restrict you from embarking on any off-road adventures.
  • Going sightseeing or running a quick errand may become problematic when it comes to parking.
  • Motorhomes are generally taller than caravans and may become an issue if travelling under bridges.
  • Miss the opportunity to really immerse yourself in your surroundings due to the mobile home’s solid exterior.
  • Expensive.

Class A Motorhomes are suited to

These mansions on wheels are suited to those who want to live in luxury and don’t want to sacrifice home comforts out on the road.   

Class A Motorhomes prices

Prices can range from $25,000 to $899,000.

Class C Motorhomes

Class C Motorhome

Home really is where the heart is when it comes to a Class C motor home. It’s the perfect duo being both a caravan and car and will excite those who like the thought of minimal to no pack up effort required. Simply pull up wherever you want and call it a night. Easy.

Typically, Class C Motorhomes are roughly around six – 13 metres (21 – 24 feet) in length. Inside this grandeur mode of mobile accommodation, expect to find similar comforts to that of a caravan. Think proper kitchen, taps with water, shower, toilet, and a comfortable large bed. Some even with a few extra luxuries like having a laundry! 

Pros of Class C Motorhomes

  • Better fuel efficiency than towing a caravan.
  • Self-sufficient.
  • Easier to park than the Class A models.
  • Don’t have the hassles of towing.
  • No need to pay for registration, insurance and maintenance items twice.

Cons of Class C Motorhomes

  • To run a quick errand or go exploring means you have to pack up your set-up.
  • It can restrict you from embarking on any off-road adventures.
  • It may become problematic to park due to height.
  • Miss the opportunity to really immerse yourself in your natural surroundings due to a more solid exterior.

Class C Motorhomes are suited to

This mid-range option is suited to those who don’t want to sacrifice home comforts out on the road.

Class C Motorhome prices

Prices can range from $25,000 to $400,000.

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