A UK on-line community and information
resource for European motorcaravanners.

 
   
 
The Basics - Motorhome types

 
 

Autosleepers Hightop on TransitHightop:  A panel van (delivery van) often elegantly converted with a special high fixed roof.  The 'wheelbase' of the van chassis has a strong influence on available space since the internal width is more or less fixed.  Long wheelbase chassis give the most space but can be unwieldy to drive.  Medium wheelbase has been quite popular but MWB is not available on all vehicles.  Often known as a 'camper' or 'campervan' or sometimes Dormobile after an original manufacturer or even the very old-fashioned "caravanette".

Rising roof:  A variant of the above with a 'folding roof' to lower the overall profile.  Also known as a 'pop-top'.  Has obvious advantages when driving but there are some problems with insulation and water ingress for all year round use.  

Coachbuilt / C-Class:  Dethleffs C-classAn extended chassis on a van cab with a coachbuilt living space,  rather like having a high spec caravan on the back.  The wider 'caravan' body allows designers to cleverly incorporate almost everything you could need into a quite small space - even cross-body beds big enough for a six footer. Frequently called a 'motorcaravan'. Also known as a C-Class in the UK.  Many have overcab beds in the 'Luton' but there are also 'low-profile' versions of these motorcaravans without the Luton over-cab space and sometimes with a lower roofline, these vans are much more economical on motorways due to their improved aerodynamics. Sleeping arrangements include fixed and composite beds and range from 2-6 berth or more. Do note that the number of berths and travel seats don't always match up!  Garage models like the one pictured left have a storage area under fixed a rear bed; please note that carrying scooters or small cars in a motorcaravan can mean it is reclassified for test purposes and may require an annual HGV Plating test from new. See base vehicles.

Hymer A-classA-Class or Integrated:  A medium or largish 'van completely coachbuilt - i.e. with nothing of the original van bodywork or cab exterior.  Potentially the best design since almost everything is based on the needs of motorcaravanners but they are usually rather expensive and historically not that popular in the UK though this is changing.  These days they are about 2.2 metres wide like the c-class coachbuilts and often have a transverse 'drop-down' double bed stored in the roof over the cab seats offering much more bed-headroom than the Luton bed in a c-class.  Often only 3 berth but models up to 6 berths are available.  Definitely the posh end of the market and usually referred to as a 'motorhome'. Garage models; please note that carrying scooters or small cars in a motorhome may mean it is reclassified for test purposes and may now require an annual HGV Plating test from new. See base vehicles.

RVs:  American motorhomes built in the style that only the Americans do!  Often very large with all mod cons including multiple air conditioning, on-board freezers and generators and with huge diesel or petrol engines that are very expensive to run in Europe - although many petrol versions have been converted to run on LPG.  Base vehicles are frequently coach type bodies but full A-Class versions exist too. 

Expedition Vehicles:  Monsters with survival at heart. The pinnacle is probably the Desert Challenger, 12 metres long with eight wheel drive, multiple body slide outs and weighing in at 30 tonnes, it takes 2400 litres of fuel, 2000 litres of water and cost a cool £1M - or thereabouts!

What's in a name?  Motorcaravan, Motor Caravan, Motorhome, Camper, Camping-car, RV, even Mo'van - what is the difference between them all?  The answer is none, they are all interchangeable - even if some groups prefer to use one or the other.  But I rather doubt that many A-Class owners would refer to their pride and joy as a 'camper'!  European names might confuse the issue still further since many use their own versions of 'fully integrated' and 'semi-integrated' for A & C Class 'vans. Not surprisingly then some foreign manufacturers adopt terms like 'B Klasse' and 'S Class' as names for their own model ranges - both these being called A-Class designs in the UK.  The Spanish and Italians differentiate the vehicle construction with names like Autocaravanna for the classic C-Class motorcaravan with a caravan body built onto a chassis cab, while the French usually go for Profilé for their low profile C-Class.  The only universally accepted European name seems to be camping-car and Europeans usually translate that to 'camper' in English but we don't seem to accept that name here - all very confusing!  Worse still is a new trend based on the German 'Reisemobil' being translated as 'mobile home'!  Despite the efforts of many of us this seems almost unstoppable with both our UK trend away from mobile homes towards the more upmarket term 'park homes' plus the great importance of German companies within the motorhome market. Put it all down to the evolution of language maybe?!

Search Terms    We used to use the term motorcaravan almost exclusively on this site but motorhome now seems to be more fashionable so in the interests of being found more in web searches we will use motorhome more too.


Terminology

First - don't get bogged down by the terminology. All these names are just that, names like wallflower, veronica and aster.

Pros & Cons

Why choose one over another? Well the rather obvious 'size matters' illustrates the issue well. Small vans are ideal for driving but large 'vans are better for living. This is typical of the whole motorcaravanning scene where compromise is king.

A lot can be achieved in smaller vehicles by clever design to make each fitting perform more than one task like the dining area that turns into a bed. In contrast a larger 'van can offer a full size shower, separate toilet compartment and a fixed bed and enough beds for a family too.

The real point here is that it's up to you to decide. We're all different and our holiday styles, parking spaces and budgets are all different too so you 'pays your money and takes your choice'!

 


 
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