CALL OF THE WILD – CARAVAN OR CAMPERVAN?
By Kay Hill
The kids are old enough to fend for themselves or have flown the nest, so weekend adventures await! But should you opt for a caravan or a campervan?
Caravans range from small and simple through to positively palatial. The size you can pull depends on both your driving licence and your car. If you passed your test before January 1997 you can drive a towing vehicle and caravan with a weight of up to 8.25 tonnes, while those who passed after 1997 can only pull a 750kg trailer, or larger trailer if the combination of car and trailer weighs less than 3.5 tonnes. The caravan must also be within the legal towing limit of the car (found in the handbook).
Most comprehensive motor insurance policies cover you for third party risks when towing a caravan (double check), but if you need to fit a tow-bar you must inform your insurer as it may be counted as a modification and incur a charge. You don’t legally have to have caravan insurance, but if you want to be protected against fire, theft and damage to your caravan while driving you will need this, averaging anywhere from £100 to £300 depending on value. You don’t need an MOT for caravans, but they must be legally roadworthy (tyre tread, brakes, lights etc) and you should have an annual service, especially if it has gas heating.
When you are on a campsite you can leave your “home” behind, keeping your pitch secure and leaving you with an ordinary vehicle to explore the area with.
The purchase cost and running costs are much lower than a campervan. New caravans cost from £15,000, with reasonable secondhand models sub-£5,000, as opposed to £35,000+ for even the most modest new campervan.
They are more comfortable and spacious inside for longer holidays, with all but the smallest “pod” caravans having a toilet, shower and a decent kitchen
A campervan needs motor insurance, road tax (which can be very expensive on new vehicles) and an MOT, and is subject to London’s Low Emission Zone/ULEZ charges.
Anyone with a full car licence can drive a motorhome of up to 3.5 tonnes, and if you passed your test before 1997 you can drive up to 7.5 tonnes (although you will need a medical certificate to keep this higher limit when you renew your licence aged 70). If you fancy a massive American-style RV you will need a class C (rigid HGV) licence, plus CE (class 1 HGV) if you want to tow a car behind it.
Campervans are better for touring holidays as they are quicker to pitch and can make use of laybys. In France, facilities are provided for touring campervans in towns and tourist area, but caravans must find a site. Ferries are cheaper than for caravans as space is charged by the metre.
Campervans are far simpler to manoeuvre than caravans, which can take a great deal of skill to park.
Storage: With both types of vehicle you will need to think about where to keep it. Lack of space (or restrictive covenants on new estates), plus the fact that campers and newer caravans are very tempting to thieves, means that secure storage (roughly £350-£800 a year, depending on the size of vehicle and security of location) may be essential.