What is the difference between motorhomes built overseas and in New Zealand?
Author: Your RV Good Guide Date Posted: 15 January 2022
There are also a number of options from European countries such as Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Slovenia and Spain, as well as some from Australia.
- Le Voyageur
- Niesmann & Bishchoff
- Roller Team
It’s safe to say the decision of which motorhome to choose can be tricky, especially if you are unsure what the difference is between each model.
In this guide we’re breaking down the difference between New Zealand and European motorhomes to help you with making the best choice.
Base vehicles and how they differ
The main difference when it comes to cab chassis between European and New Zealand motorhome manufacturers is that those built in New Zealand and Australia often have a higher gross vehicle mass (GVM) and a heavier weight.
Some of the motorhome brands, particularly those from Europe, also look different to those built in the southern hemisphere.
With the exception of North American motorhomes, few of which are available in New Zealand, just about every manufacturer uses Fiat (Ducato), Ford (Transit), Iveco (Daily) Mercedes-Benz (Sprinter) or Volkswagen (Crafter) for the base vehicles.
Slightly less common are Renault (Master) and Peugeot (Boxer) but they are all well known European brands, particularly the Fiat Ducato which does have the lion’s share of the European motorhome market.
Additionally, those European motorhomes with Fiat Ducato underpinnings often have lower-powered 130hp/96kW turbo diesels, whereas the New Zealand and Australian manufacturers often use the more powerful 180hp/130kw engines. At RVSC we are able to buy in multiple HP levels across all brands to get the right one for you.
Generally European built motorhomes on Fiat and Renaut chassis have a lower ground clearance, more designed for the open highways of europe, rather than the undulating terrains New Zealand Provides.
Some do large van conversions but the only mid to large size A class motorhomes currently readily available in New Zealand are built in Europe.
Internal layout differences
In terms of interior layout and size, New Zealand-built motorhomes tend to have a more open style layout, particularly in the smaller motorhomes. This is also the case for Australian built ones.
By contrast, European motorhomes have more of a compact feel inside — often because they are slightly narrower in width.
That is not necessarily a bad thing; all the European manufacturers are masters in the use of space and frequently build in items that are multifunctional.
Drop-down beds, either electrically or hand operated are quite common in European built motorhomes and are a practical space saver.
For most people, the overall layout really is a personal preference and the best layout is the one that works for them! One of our buying tips is to always take your time exploring the options and thinking about what will work for you.
When inspecting any prospective motorhome purchase, take a seat inside the motorhome and use that time to go through all the motions of living in your mind — cooking, eating, sleeping, using the bathroom (within reason) and just sitting around. You might be surprised what comes to mind as you move inside the RV.
Motorhome kitchen appliances such as hobs, fridges and microwave ovens are usually the same for all manufacturers, although those fitted into European-built motorhomes may be slightly smaller. 3 way fridges are becoming more common in european motorhomes, while in NZ the build tends to rely on 12v/240v fridge set ups.
Though they are often designed in Europe, the appliances are commonly built in China or other Asian countries.
Electricals in a motorhome
A benefit of buying a motorhome that arrives from Europe or Australia, unlike North America, is that they use a similar mains voltage (220V – 240VAC) so there is no need to make any wiring changes.
Only the powerpoints need to be changed to suit New Zealand or Australian three pin plugs.
Of course, those built in New Zealand are purpose-built for travel in their home country, so you’ll save fussing around with any changes.
Construction techniques vary between manufacturers for coach-built motorhomes. Some use a frame with external cladding but most use a frameless fibreglass or aluminium composite wall structure.
A typical build example for a NZ manufacturer is the KEA motorhomes that come out of the ACTION factory.
ACTION manufactures its own lightweight strong composite panel, branded as Omnipanel for the roof and walls, and Omnifloor for the floor system.
Omnipanel is a combination of a high UV-resistant easy-to-repair fibreglass outer skin, and a thinner durable fibreglass inner skin, over a closed cell foam.
According to the ACTION team, the outer skins are much thicker than those used by European manufacturers. The Omnifloor system is similar but with the addition of aircraft grade alloy framing and marine grade ply.
Both the floor and wall systems are all vacuum bonded together using a very high strength two-part adhesive, rather than the more commonly used hot melt glues.
How to decide what’s right for you
When deciding between New Zealand made and models built overseas, it’s a good idea to keep the following in mind:
You should have a think about whether you would like to be able to get in-country support from the manufacturer of the motorhome. For example, if you buy New Zealand made, you will be able to easily touch base with the manufacturer and communicate without any problems. That said, mechanical coverage is similar throughout brands as all are European based businesses. The only consideration is warranty assistance, as Fiat is covered by a private entity in NZ rather than Fiat themselves.
As mentioned in this blog, some motorhomes have a more compact design, and others are more spacious. Have a think about how you and your family might like to live in your motorhome with regards to storage and living space.
Where you will be travelling to
As some motorhomes are made with a more powerful engine, you should consider whether that’s relevant to you, for example if you plan to drive in rough terrain..
It’s also important to think about the conditions the motorhome will be in, for example if it will be exposed to high temperatures and UV, the outer shell may need to be made of something stronger.
Additional cost for changes
If you are buying an overseas built model of motorhome and personally importing, you should take into consideration the cost of changing powerpoints to the New Zealand plug. This is unlikely to be relevant if you are buying an imported model, as the importer must convert power to comply with NZ standards.