Caravans Vs Motorhomes: Which To Buy

Author: Your RV Good Guide   Date Posted: 8 October 2023


If you’ve been looking at motorhomes or caravans for sale in NZ, you’ll be familiar with the excitement of hunting out the perfect RV. But with so many motorhomes and caravans to search through, you may also be feeling a bit overwhelmed in deciding which is best. After all, your future home-on-wheels is more than a vehicle; it's your ticket to freedom, adventure, and unforgettable memories.

In this helpful guide, we delve into the nuances of both options. We’ll help you answer the question, ‘Is it better to have a motorhome or a caravan?’ Whether you're searching for used motorhomes for sale in NZ, or eyeing those enticing caravans for sale, this guide will provide essential insights to consider before making the purchase of a lifetime. So, let's get rolling on the right path to finding your dream RV.


What is a motorhome? 



A motorhome is considered by many as the epitome of freedom, convenience, and mobility. It’s an integrated, self-contained, mobile home-on-wheels that harmoniously combines living accommodation with motorised transportation. From compact to lavish, the variations are endless, but most modern motorhomes typically feature a kitchen, a bathroom, beds, and a living area.


What is a caravan? 



A caravan is fundamentally a travel trailer. It’s towed by a separate vehicle, often a robust truck or SUV, that can haul it effortlessly. Unlike motorhomes, a caravan provides living accommodation separate from the driving vehicle. The diversity in caravan styles is vast, from compact pop-ups to fully self-contained apartments-on-wheels.


Pros of Buying a Caravan 

Choosing to purchase a caravan for your New Zealand adventures also comes with its unique set of perks. These advantages range from cost efficiency to increased mobility, which we’ll explore in this section.


Cheaper in Some Cases 

Caravans tend to be cheaper than motorhomes of a similar size, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious travellers. However, don't forget to factor in the cost of a suitable tow vehicle if you don't already have one.


Benefits of a Separate Vehicle 

A key advantage of owning a caravan is the convenience provided by the separate tow vehicle. Park your caravan at the campsite, unhitch, and you're ready to explore in your vehicle. This allows you the freedom to sightsee or run errands without disrupting your camp setup.


Save Money on Maintenance 

With no engine or drivetrain, caravans typically require less upkeep than motorhomes.


Downsides of Buying a Caravan

While there are several appealing aspects to owning a caravan, it’s important to also consider the potential drawbacks. They include factors like set-up time and dependence on a tow vehicle, which we will elaborate on below.


Time-Consuming to Set Up and Pack Down 

One of the more significant differences between owning a motorhome and a caravan is the setup process. With caravans, a fair amount of time and effort is required to set up your temporary home each time you relocate. This includes levelling the vehicle, hitching and unhitching, and unloading your tow vehicle. This setup time can make it less convenient to move frequently from site to site.


You Need to Rely on a Tow Vehicle 

When deciding between a motorhome or caravan, consider the necessity of a tow vehicle. Not only do you need to maintain and fuel a separate vehicle, but you also have to account for the practicality of owning one. For example, if you're retired and don't require a second vehicle, having a tow vehicle might feel unnecessary and inconvenient.


More Difficult to Find a Parking Spot 

Parking is another point of contention in the motorhome versus caravan debate. Given that caravans are towed behind your vehicle, they can make manoeuvring and parking more challenging. Finding a suitable parking spot for your caravan and tow vehicle isn't always easy either, particularly for quick pit stops en route to your next New Zealand adventure spot. This can sometimes limit the spontaneity of your journeys.


Pros of buying a motorhome 

There are many great benefits to buying a motorhome. Let's delve into just a few.


Easy to drive 

Despite their size, modern motorhomes are surprisingly simple to drive. In fact, many are comparable to your everyday car. This ease of navigation extends to parking, especially if you're one for spontaneous stops. Just find a safe, legal spot and you're good to stop and park up. You can explore the open roads of New Zealand with the peace of mind that operating and parking your motorhome won't be a hurdle.


Reach more remote locations 

One of the great things about travelling by motorhome is the fun of exploring those ‘off the beaten path’ locations that tend to be off-limits in a caravan.

And when you’re exploring New Zealand, a country brimming with picturesque, remote areas, you really don’t want to be restricted on where you can travel.



Good external storage 

Motorhomes also tend to offer substantial external storage capacity. Some models include large 'garages' for transporting bulky equipment like surfboards and outdoor gear. This bonus storage space allows you to carry all the must-haves (and wants!) for a memorable outdoor adventure.


Slower depreciation

Motorhomes tend to retain their value for longer than caravans, which is beneficial if you plan to sell it in the future. Remember to keep up to date with a regular maintenance and service schedule to keep your motorhome in tip-top condition.


Immediate access to amenities 

One of the joys of owning a motorhome is the easy access to all amenities. Having your vehicle and accommodation sharing the same roof makes life super convenient. Craving a snack on the road? Simply stop and open your fully stocked fridge. Need a quick restroom break during your journey? It's right there in your motorhome. If you're in bed and remember your phone charger is in the cab, you can retrieve it without stepping outside. This ease of accessibility in a motorhome makes for a comfortable and seamless journey.


Downsides of buying a motorhome 

Despite the myriad advantages, purchasing a motorhome isn't without its share of considerations.


Higher initial outlay cost in some cases 

Compared to a caravan, motorhomes, particularly new ones, typically have a higher initial cost. However, most would agree that the comfort, convenience, and overall functionality that a motorhome offers make it a worthwhile investment. It's a matter of assessing your budget and determining if the initial outlay matches the benefits you'll reap.


More maintenance 



A crucial aspect to factor in when considering motorhome ownership is the maintenance involved. Motorhomes, given their integrated engine and driving gear, generally require more upkeep than a caravan. This might include regular servicing, topping up fluid levels, and ensuring all parts are functioning optimally. However, the joy of driving your home-on-wheels and the convenience it provides can tend to outweigh this maintenance factor.

Read everything you need to know about motorhome engines


Inconvenience to explore for some travellers 

For certain travellers, the practicality of a motorhome might not be as appealing as a caravan. One common reason revolves around exploring your destination. With a caravan, you can detach your towing vehicle and venture out, while your living quarters remain securely parked at the campsite. However, with a motorhome, everything moves as one unit. For spontaneous adventurers who like to travel light for day trips, this may be an issue. Having said that, many RV travellers are discovering the convenience and fun of exploring by e-bike which can also be transported on a motorhome.


Making the best choice for you 

Choosing between a motorhome and a caravan for your adventures around New Zealand is a decision that hinges on various factors. Each option has its own unique benefits and potential drawbacks. A motorhome offers immediate access to amenities, easier driving, and more storage, but can have a higher initial cost and requires more maintenance. Conversely, a caravan might be less expensive and offer the convenience of a separate vehicle, but it can be time-consuming to set up and may restrict the destinations you can travel to.

The best choice will depend on your specific preferences, travel style, and budget. Regardless of which route you decide to take, one thing is clear: the freedom and flexibility that come with owning an RV is an unrivalled way to explore the breathtaking beauty of New Zealand.


Try before you buy 



A great way to get a feel for which motorhome is right for you is to try one out. Nothing beats first-hand experience in a motorhome or campervan. RV Super Centre is part of thl who own and operate the popular maui, Britz, Mighty, Apollo, and Cheapa Camper motorhome rentals across New Zealand. This means RV Super Centre can offer a great ‘try before you buy’ option. Rent from thl and if you buy a motorhome within three months of your hire, we'll give you up to $1,500 of your rental cost back (terms and conditions apply).


Want more information on buying a motorhome? 

At RV Super Centre, we offer a wide range of motorhomes and campervans to suit every traveller's needs. Our knowledgeable team is on hand to answer all your questions and help you find the perfect vehicle for your adventures. Start your New Zealand journey with us today – visit your local RV Super Centre for the best RV buying experience.

Need more advice on buying a motorhome? Download our comprehensive buyer’s guide or check out these helpful blogs:

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