Leisure vehicles aren’t all one of the same (even though they kind of look the same). Caravans, camper trailers, motorhomes, fifth wheelers, and campervans are all distinctly different leisure vehicles that offer unique advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the right one depends on your lifestyle needs.
Before we get into the different types of leisure vehicles, let’s get the definition of RVs out of the way. What’s an RV, exactly? These recreational vehicles cover pretty much all motorised living or camping vehicles. If you can live in it as well as drive it, you’re technically in an RV of some sort like motorhomes and campervans.
On the other hand, leisure caravans, camper trailers, and fifth wheelers are not classified as RVs because they’re attached to another vehicle. These cannot be driven and are towed from place to place. The difference between the three is the features and amenities they provide.
In this article, we give you a quick rundown of where these different vehicles fall in the broad spectrum of leisure vehicles.
A motorhome is a large vehicle that includes bedding and cooking facilities. It fits many other home-style comforts such as a dining area, bedroom, and bathroom in a compact vehicle. Motorhomes are built on a long wheelbase, but most can be driven in Australia on a regular open licence.
It’s ideal for those who want to move from place to place without worrying about the amenities. If you like long cross-country road trips, a motorhome will be a great fit. Motorhomes are easier to maneuver, drive, and set up compared to a caravan too. These leisure vehicles are popular for long road trips, family holidays, and any travellers not wanting to bother with a hitch.
Pros of motorhomes
- Easy to set up. Setting up a motorhome takes around 10 to 15 minutes. It’s relatively quick and easy to pack everything up too. All you really need to do is park the motorhome, plug it in, and you’re good to go.
- Save lots of time and effort. Because everything is part of one vehicle once you stop, you can turn in for the night, and once you’re ready to go, all you have to do is start the engine and drive on.
- Attached water tanks. Most motorhomes usually have large fresh and waste water tanks so you don’t have to worry about making too many pitstops.
- More dedicated storage compartments. The problem with bringing your own accommodations while you travel is the lack of storage. A motorhome has more than enough specialised storage compartments, so you don’t have to sit there with your luggage or gear.
- Great market for second-hand motorhomes. Whether you’re looking for a used motorhome or thinking of selling yours, there’s a strong market for it in Australia.
Cons of motorhomes
- Smaller space. Motorhomes aren’t the largest leisure vehicles out there. It may have smaller interiors compared to a caravan and can accommodate fewer people.
- Not the best suited for off-roading activities. If you’re into the more rugged side of nature activities, a motorhome may not be up to scratch. Most motorhomes may not be equipped to handle off-road camping areas.
- Pricier than other leisure vehicle options. On average, a new motorhome may cost around $415,000 while a used one could cost about $150,000.
Types of motorhomes
- Class A Motorhome – The largest type of motorhome that can fit six to eight people. It has most of the amenities you can expect in a small apartment.
- Class B Motorhome – The smaller motorhome out there. They’re easy to park and drive because of their size. They offer less space and amenities because of their size.
- Class B+ Motorhome – This motorhome is a mix between class B and C. It’s small and compact like class B but has more amenities similar to class C.
- Class C Motorhome – The class C motorhome is a happy compromise between classes A and B. It’s not as large as class A, but it’s still bigger compared to class B. Its amenities reflect its bigger size.
A campervan is a van that’s been modified and custom fitted to function as a small motorhome. It’s usually smaller compared to other recreational vehicles. Campervans can still include bedding, small cooktops, and even bathroom facilities depending on the layout of the van.
Because campervans are more compact, they’re easy to maneuver compared to full-sized motorhomes. These vehicles are also more affordable and fuel-efficient because of their size. Campervans are great for younger travellers, backpackers, or those more concerned about the destination than where they’re sleeping.
Pros of campervans
- Park with ease. Since campervans are smaller than motorhomes, it’s much easier to find parking for campervans. Finding a camping site that has affordable parking fees is easy with such a compact leisure vehicle.
- A more cost-effective way to travel. If you want to go on a long holiday without raking up too many fees, a campervan might just be the solution. It's more fuel-efficient compared to other leisure vehicles and requires less maintenance.
- Gives travellers much-needed convenience. You can move campsites or locations quickly and efficiently. Simply start the engine and drive away—no fuss!
Cons of campervans
- More time spent on pitstops. Campervans may not always have key amenities. If your campervan isn’t equipped with bathroom facilities or a kitchenette, you’ll have to spend a chunk of your travel plotting out your pitstops.
- Tight on space. If you’re travelling with a group in a campervan, you may find it a bit too cramped. Usually, campervans are made to fit two adults, so any more than that could be uncomfortable.
Types of campervans
- High top campervan – A high top campervan has a higher roof and more vertical space. In this campervan, you won’t have to worry about bumping into the top of the vehicle. These campervans can fit more people and offer more amenities.
- Low top campervan – A low top campervan has a lower roof and is typically more affordable compared to a high top campervan because it offers fewer features.
A caravan, also known as a mobile home, is an unpowered trailer. It needs a powered vehicle to move from one place to another. Although unpowered, caravans can be plugged into power outlets. These leisure vehicles have a battery pack or a small generator to power lights, fridges, and some kitchen appliances.
Caravans also have basic bedding, seating, and bench space. Some caravans also have a toilet and shower depending on the make and model.
Even though you can tow caravans with a powered vehicle, they’re not the easiest to transport. Because of their limited mobility, these leisure vehicles are best for extended camping or holiday trips or a permanent holiday home.
Pros of caravans
- A more affordable option. Caravans are typically easier and cheaper to maintain because it doesn’t have an engine. Caravans are also much less expensive compared to a motorhome or campervan.
- More flexibility. Easily detach the caravan from one vehicle to another. You can choose what vehicle you want to bring to your holiday. Plus, caravans are typically longer than a motorhome or campervan, so you’ll have more space inside to do what you want.
- Good off-road capabilities. There are caravans designed for off-road driving. You can have access to more campgrounds or camping sites that can’t be reached by motorhomes or caravans.
Cons of caravans
- Less manoeuvrability. Since caravans are detachable, it might make it harder for drivers to weave in and out of traffic. Setting up the leisure vehicle also takes more time because you need to attach and detach the caravan.
- Waste removal can be a chore. Most caravans require you to manually dump the external waste storage compartment. This can be quite bothersome especially if you’re on a week-long holiday.
- Lack of extra storage space. Caravans don’t have nearly as much specialised storage space as a motorhome. If you’re bringing large bulky equipment, it may make the caravan more crowded and less comfortable.
Types of caravans
- Conventional or classic caravan – This is usually what comes to mind when people think of caravans. It has four walls and a high roof. It's also equipped with a range of amenities. It comes in various lengths and sizes and has either one or two axles.
- Tent trailer – This is a compact caravan that can be towed by almost any car. It has a fold-down that comes in different shapes and sizes. The living area of a tent trailer is spacious and great for those with big families.
- Pop-top caravan – Similar to the classic caravan but has extra vertical space with the pop-top. The pop-top makes the caravan easier to store in a garage.
- Pop-out caravan – As the name suggests, a pop-out caravan has pop-out sections to extend the caravan’s size. You can have more space for beds or larger living areas if you’re travelling with a big group.
A camper trailer is a tent put on a trailer bed you can tow around with a powered vehicle. It has pegs that go into the ground when setting up. Inside, it offers a sleeping space for travellers and holidaymakers. It can be towed by a two-wheel drive or a four-wheel drive, if you’re going off-road.
Camper trailers do come in different makes and models, but the most basic ones offer a place to sleep and some storage space for your belongings. It’s ideal for people who just want a place to sleep and aren’t too concerned about luxuries. This is great for those who don’t need a lot when camping or are on a tight travel budget.
Pros of camper trailers
- A much cheaper travel alternative. A camper trailer is a much more affordable option compared to a caravan or motorhome. If just want a place to crash while camping, then camper trailers are a good choice.
- Easy to set up compared to big tents. A camper trailer is relatively easy to set up especially when you compare it to conventional tents of the same size. With a camper trailer, you don’t need to do much aside from propping it up.
- Easy to tow and maneuver. Because camper trailers are smaller, they’re easier to tow and drive around. You can access more places too because size won’t be an issue.
- Ability to expand the sleeping space. Add an awning to your camper trailer and instantly increase the living space available.
Cons of camper trailers
- It’s not a pack-and-go situation. Unlike a caravan or a motorhome, you won’t be able to simply drive away to the next destination. There’s still some set up required before you can move from place to place.
- Less storage space. You’re going to have fewer places to store your equipment. You either have to keep your things in your powered vehicle or sleep next to your gear.
- Thin walls and not great for high wind or rain. The canvas walls are quite thin compared to a caravan, campervan, or motorhome. This means less privacy and it might not hold up in case the weather gets bad.
Types of camper trailers
- Soft floor camper trailer – A soft floor camper trailer is a lightweight option that requires a lot more set up. The great thing about this type of camper trailer is the extra space they offer and they’re light to tow.
- Hard floor camper trailer – This type of trailer is quick to set up, sturdier compared to a soft floor camper, and can handle different types of terrain. A hard floor camper trailer is heavier to tow and offers less storage space.
- Forward fold camper trailer – A forward fold camper trailer offers travellers a well-organised, segmented living space while on campgrounds. This camper trailer opens from a front hinge and has a bed, communal space, and lounge.
- Rear fold camper trailer – This camper trailer is a mix of forward fold and soft floor camper trailers. A rear fold camper trailer is easy to set up with storage underneath the bed. Finding a campsite that can fit a rear fold at its full length can be a challenge.
- Double fold camper trailer – A double fold caravan is like a caravan with a spacious internal living area and plenty of storage. If you want something that’s easy to tow but doesn’t scrimp on the amenities, this type of camper trailer is ideal.
Fifth Wheelers have all the features and amenities of an RV, but they’re designed to be towed by trucks or utilities. They’re much larger than the conventional caravan and have the towing connection mounted on the tray of the tow vehicle and a gooseneck hitch.
This leisure vehicle is great for those travelling in big groups. It can accommodate several people at once without feeling crowded. Usually, fifth wheelers have lofted sleeping areas with extra living or sleeping space.
Pros of fifth wheelers
- Plenty of room for amenities. A fifth wheeler doesn’t need space for engines or driver cabs. This extra room means you can fit amenities like a kitchen, roomier bathroom facilities, more living space, and so on.
- Much safer to tow. Compared to other tow-behind trailers, fifth wheelers are safer because of the gooseneck hitch. It makes the fifth wheeler more stable and easier to move around.
- More spacious and has lots of storage. Usually, fifth wheelers offer a lofted sleeping space above the truck bed and have slide-out beds too. This means it can fit more people comfortably. No need to worry about the space feeling too cramped.
- Less maintenance required. A fifth wheeler requires very little maintenance compared to RVs. You don’t have to worry about engine trouble, oil changes, or general vehicle upkeep. For fifth wheelers, all you have to worry about is keeping the living space clean and the moving parts working.
Cons of fifth wheelers
- Requires a powerful towing vehicle. When getting a fifth wheeler, you need to make sure you have a vehicle that can tow it. A regular sedan isn’t capable of towing such a large unpowered vehicle. If you don’t own the right vehicle, renting one for your holiday may cost a lot.
- Separate driving space and living space. Unlike an RV, a fifth wheeler is a separate vehicle. You can’t move freely between the cab and the living area. You’d have to exit the fifth wheeler to move it around which can be inconvenient.
- Needs a garage that can fit a large vehicle. Fifth wheelers are quite large, so you’d need a garage big enough to fit them. This can also be a problem when finding good campsites as not all places may be able to accommodate it.
Which leisure vehicle is best for you?
It depends on what you need. If you like travelling with the whole family with all the amenities of home, a motorhome or a fifth wheeler may be the best option. For those who want something more compact and easier to travel with, a caravan or a camper trailer could be the ideal leisure vehicle. Figure out your needs first and budget to see which one best suits you.
Here’s a quick comparison table to help you decide.
|Type of Leisure Vehicle||Features||Benefits||Costs|
||$31,900 to $179,000 (depending on the size)|
||$20,000 to $40,000|
||$112,000 to $1M (depending on the size and amenities)|
||$50,000 to $150,000|
||$85,000 to $200,000|
Need to buy a leisure vehicle?
Get in touch with Aussie Leisure Loans today! We can help you find loans for RVs, caravans, camper trailers, and fifth wheelers. Contact us by calling 1300 889 669 or get a quick quote online.
What is the difference between a caravan and a camper trailer?
A caravan is an unpowered trailer equipped with basic amenities such as a bed, kitchenette, and bathroom facilities. A camper trailer, on the other hand, is a tent that folds out from a trailer bed. It’s where camping gear and living equipment are packed.
What is the difference between a motorhome and a campervan?
A motorhome has all the amenities you would expect from a home or apartment. It has a built-in shower, toilet, and a kitchen. Meanwhile, a camper van is used more as a sleeping space. Some amenities like a kitchenette or bathroom facilities can be found in a camper van but it’s not as big or extensive as a motorhome.
What is a fifth wheeler?
A fifth wheeler is a detached trailer similar to a caravan but is typically bigger and designed to be towed by a truck.
Which type of RV is best for families?
RVs like motorhomes are great for families because they’re spacious with all the amenities families would need. With a motorhome, you’ll have more beds, a bathroom, and a kitchen so you won’t have to worry about all of that while on the road or on holiday.
Can you drive a motorhome with a regular driver's licence?
Most motorhomes can be driven with a regular driver’s licence.