A campervan is not a motorhome is not an RV – or is it?

Motorhome in the sunset

For many people, a campervan is a motorhome. For others, it is no more than a van with a bed in it. The confusion comes from the common usage of “campervan” to describe VW campers (often called a “splitty” or a “bay”). With their cool retro design, VW campers have made a comeback in recent years and they have been used not only as holiday vehicles but also for weddings.

These vehicles are small, however, built on large car chassis, whereas a motorhome is built on the chassis of a small buss and generally contains all mod cons. You can’t, for example, take a shower or go to the toilet in a VW camper, but in a motorhome you can, and you generally get more storage space, more gadgets and more living room in a motorhome.

Across the Atlantic, though, you can go one better, with a recreational vehicle (or RV), which will most likely be larger again, with more compartments. Here’s a quick guide to different types of recreational-camper-type motorhomes.


A small vehicle that offers sleeping accommodation and some living functionality. See, for example, the Vanilla Splits range of VW campers. Also known as a doormobile or (in some other countries) a kombi.

VW camper from Vanilla Splits
VW camper from Vanilla Splits.


Also known by some as a campervan, this is a larger vehicle that includes all mod cons, sleeping up to six people and sometimes including separate accommodation for up to two dogs.

A motorhome parked

RV (or Winnebago)

The name Winnebago is a brand name but it is used synonymously with RV just as many people say “Hoover” when they mean any vacuum cleaner. An RV is basically a motorhome but because the term RV is largely used in te USA, and because motorhomes in the USA are generally a lot larger than in Europe, an RV is generally a very large motorhome. See Silverstream American Motorhome Hire for examples – they don’t offer self drive though.

RV from Stingray.com

How to decide whether to hire a campervan, motorhome or American-style RV

If you are looking for a holiday where you can take yourself wherever you like and sleep where you park, deciding between vehicle types depends on your tastes as well as your pocket. In the peak month of August a campervan will cost you between £400 and £900 for a week, whereas motorhome hire will cost around £900 for a week in a large Roverhome (which means you don’t need to put your dog in a kennel). An RV will cost from £1200 for a four-berth.

The other factor is space and functionality. A VW camper will mean you still need to park somewhere near toilet and shower facilities and if there are several people in your party, you’ll be short on things to do if you park up in the rain, whereas a big RV, with its two TVs and lots of space to move about, means you could just sip Champagne while the kids play on the Xbox and you look at people trying to walk to the toilets in the wind and rain.

Where to hire a motorhome or camper


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