Types of Motorhomes
One of the most common questions asked by first time motorhome buyers is, ‘What type of motorhome should I buy?’. Once you’ve made the exciting decision to buy a motorhome, even a quick bit of research will reveal that they come in all different sizes and shapes. With so much choice out there, we know how difficult it can be to make a decision on which type of motorhome to buy, never mind which brand or model.
We’ve put together this simple guide to take you through the different types of motorhome you might come across.
Traditionally the most luxurious motorhomes, A-Class motorhomes tend to be the most expensive. They are often imported from Europe or even further afield. Having said this, the number of more affordable options is growing and becoming increasingly available as their popularity grows. They can be distinguished from other motorhomes by the fact that they have no separate cab.
The main advantage of these motorhomes is their size. The interiors tend to be more spacious due to their construction. A motorhome company will usually take a chassis unit from a large commercial vehicle manufacturer and construct the entire body, including the driving compartment. This means that the cab can become part of the accommodation and many have pull-down beds offering more flexibility. They also tend to have more garage space, with some of the larger models having enough room to accommodate a small car.
Many A-Class motorhomes are also the ‘flagship’ model for manufacturers, meaning they are fully kitted out with spectacular furnishings and specification levels, also with improved insulation.
However, these motorhomes also come with a few cons. Firstly, as they are often the top of the range models, they can come with a hefty price tag. They can also be quite costly if you ever need to repair them. For example, if you need to replace a windscreen it can be extremely expensive to source one that large.
The other main con is their size. While fantastic parked up, offering you a whole range of home comforts, they can be more difficult to manage while on the road. They tend to be very wide, making it difficult to explore far from main roads and can weigh more than 3.4 tonnes. Check your driving licence before you consider buying a large A-Class to make sure you’re entitled to drive one and go for a long test drive to make sure you’re comfortable behind the wheel.
This is the type that is most likely to come to mind when you first think of motorhomes. They are constructed using the chassis and the cab of a base vehicle and then the motorhome manufacturer will build the body onto the back of this.
Coachbuilt motorhomes usually fall into one of two categories:
- The traditional coachbuilt motorhome with an ‘over-head’ cab. This is often used as storage or space for an extra bed. It’s sometimes referred to as a ‘Luton’ after the town where they were constructed by the Bedford commercial vehicle plant.
- Alternatively, you might prefer a ‘low-profile’ coachbuilt motorhome. These motorhomes have a much smaller over-head cab which some motorhome owners find more practical. These cannot be used for beds, however.
Coachbuilt motorhomes tend to be a great option for most motorhome buyers, being smaller and less pricey than A-Class models, yet still spacious enough to offer plenty of home comforts. If you’re looking for a coachbuilt motorhome and intend to use the over-head cab as a sleeping area for adults, make sure you’re comfortable as head room can sometimes be quite limited.
Campervans are also very popular with motorhome enthusiasts, from the classic beloved old Volkswagen models to the modern panel-van conversions. Some of these vehicles are small enough that they can easily double as the family car when not being used as a camper.
Van conversions: Panel van conversions are where a manufacturer has used the body of a standard panel van and modified the windows, interior and sometimes the roof to create a campervan. This can be a great option for those who don’t have the space to store a larger motorhome or want to use the vehicle as a car as well as a camper.
There are three types of van conversion; fixed roof, pop-top and high top.
- Fixed Roof: With this type of conversion, no changes are made to the body of the van. The advantage of this is that you’re more likely to get into car parks with height restrictions. However, it does mean that you’ll have less space while parked up and moving around the living space of the van.
- Pop-Top (sometimes referred to as an ‘elevating’ or ‘rising’ roof): With these vans, the manufacturer will cut away the roof of the base vehicle and replace it with a roof section (usually made of fiberglass). This section can be raised when the vehicle is stationary to create some additional headroom. This is often used as bed space. This type of van conversion has the practicality of a high top conversion with the flexibility of a fixed roof.
- High Top: These van conversions have a roof that’s been raised but is a permanent fixture.
These types of motorhomes tend to be less common in the UK, however, they can often be a practical solution if your car is in the style of a pick-up truck, offering a compromise between a car and a motorhome. They are essentially a motorhome body that fits on the bed of a pick-up truck. This means you can ‘demount’ the body when not in use or at campsites, enabling you to use the pick-up as a regular vehicle. They also have the advantage of not being as large as the average size coachbuilt motorhome and are easier to store when not in use.
Questions to ask yourself when deciding which type of motorhome is best for you:
1. What are you going to use the motorhome for?
Think about whether you’ll be using the motorhome for long holidays or primarily for long weekends. If you’re going to be spending more time in the motorhome for long periods, something like a coachbuilt motorhome might be the best option. However, if you’re likely to be going for shorter trips, you might want to look at campers and van conversions.
2. What is your budget?
Budget is a big factor when it comes to deciding which type of motorhome to buy. For example, A-Class motorhomes with all the bells and whistles tend to be very expensive, whereas you will usually be able to find a used coachbuilt motorhome for a much more reasonable price.
3. Where will you be taking the motorhome?
Think about what sorts of roads you’ll be travelling on and where you’ll be parking up. Larger coachbuilt motorhomes and A-Class motorhomes might struggle if you’re planning to go a little further off the beaten track. If winding, single-lane countryside roads with less than optimal surfaces are likely to be a regular occurrence on your journeys, a camper or a panel van conversion will be much easier to drive than a coachbuilt motorhome.
4. How many people are likely to be travelling with you?
Make sure you’re looking at models that have enough sleeping space and enough belted travelling seats to accommodate everyone who’ll be coming with you. If you’re looking to bring the whole family along, a small camper might not have the space for more than two belted seats, whereas larger panel vans and coachbuilt motorhomes often have belted seats behind the main cab.
5. Is space important?
Do you want to have a lot of living space available to you, or will you be spending most of your time out and about? Are you likely to take a lot of kit like sports equipment with you and need space to store it?
Even if you need a lot of space, don’t discount campervans and panel vans straight away. Some of them have clever storage solutions which means you can easily fit bulky items in spaces, such as under beds.