Motorhome or caravan - how do I decide what works for me?

We got talking to a couple over the weekend who during our one or so hour conversation tossed back and forth between a motorhome or caravan as the right option for them. So welcome to the inspiration for this blog- how do you decide whether a motorhome or caravan is more suited to your lifestyle? 

Deciding whether to buy a motorhome or caravan can be confusing and at times overwhelming. Especially for those who aren't sure which one is going to best achieve their vision. Rest assured not everyone is 100% sure when they come and visit us, or even when they visit product pages on our website. 

Go through the following steps to get clear on what option might suit your needs better. Try and take some time to get a needs assessment consultation with a TrailLite Product Specialist. They will help put some of this information into practice when it comes to your unique situation and ultimately, help you decide. 

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Think of the lifestyle

Start by thinking about what your lifestyle and adventure is going to look like. How do you picture yourselves on the road (minus the motorhome or caravan) -  are you out fishing? Riding electric bikes to the markets? Or, are you sitting back on a sun lounger reading a book while the kids play around the campground?

Everyone has a different vision and thus, not every motorhome, caravan, or tent is going to suit your needs. On top of that not every motorhome, caravan or tent is going to offer an easy experience. Take a 5m Hiace van with a bed in the back - yes you most certainly could head away in that for a "camping" experience, but exactly how easy is that going to be? And, will you ever do it again?

When you think of what adventure you are trying to fulfil with the purchase of a motorhome or caravan, you will be better placed to determine what specification and therefore brand (motorhome or caravan) is going to be most suitable. 

Smiling biker couple cycling on the countryside road.jpeg


It isn't just the upfront investment that you need to think about but also your annual maintenance and servicing costs. Check out our blog what are the costs or motorhoming or caravanning for more exact details. The general consensus is that a good quality motorhome is going to be more expensive upfront, and a little more expensive to maintain.  Some of the costs to consider are: 

  • WOF/COF on a motorhome vs a caravan
  • Annual vehicle servicing required on a motorhome. This is not necessary for a caravan but will be required for tow vehicle 
  • Servicing of the motorhome or caravan (required for both) 
  • Fuel costs (required for both)
  • Depreciation and overall cost of ownership - what might you get back for the motorhome or caravan when it comes time to sell it. 


You can get motorhomes with loads of storage meaning you can take everything with you you're going to need for an adventure. With a caravan, you'll gain storage in the tow vehicle but may not have dedicated external storage in the caravan for large items like surfboards, a small boat or perhaps the fishing rods. 

 Self-contained camping 

The experience of self-contained camping in a motorhome vs caravan is quite different. Most motorhomes will exceed the basic self-containment criteria set our by the NZMCA. So, not only will they comply, but they'll offer a comfortable environment to go self-contained camping (there are obviously big differences in the comfort levels and the length you can be off the grid for, depending on the motorhome you choose and its specification). On the other hand, a caravan is more likely to have simple 40L fresh water and grey water roll away tanks unless of course, you are looking at the Bailey Rangefinder range.

Self-contained camping detail  Motorhome Caravan
Setting up camp  It's pretty easy to roll into a location, park up, roll out the awning and get exploring.  It can be a little more cumbersome to set up camp, you'll need to back in, more than likely unhitch your tow vehicle, find somewhere to put that, get your stabiliser legs down and get anything you've stored in the car set up in the camper. Overtime however you'll get quicker at it, giving you more time to head to the beach and start having fun! 
Freedom  With a motorhome it's very easy to freedom camp, move around the country, stop along the way for the evening, even stopping at a supermarket carpark if permitted. With a caravan you are more restricted on your travel choices, places to stay and there are also some roads that are not as suitable for towing.
Safety while freedom camping  While self-contained camping is very safe, there may be scenarios where you need to move in the night. If for example, any hooligans turn up or the weather changes and it becomes undesirable to stay where you are. It's very easy in a motorhome to just jump in the front seat and move to another location. In a caravan you have to hop out of the caravan get outside in the weather or undesirable situation and hook up your car to tow away - it may also be more challenging in the night to find somewhere more suitable to stay. 

happy young family have fun on beach run and jump  at sunset.jpeg 

Caravans are great for: 

There are some scenarios that are much more suited to a caravan then a motorhome: 

  1. Permanent siting either while you build a house, or to secure a year round spot at a holiday hot spot 
  2. Great as a cost-effective upgrade for families from all of those tenting holidays 
  3. Setting up for a week at your favourite campsite or camping location 
  4. Using on your holiday section for overflow accommodation 

Motorhomes are great for:

Just like a caravan, there are scenarios that may be more suitable to a motorhome: 

  1. Extensive travelling - Motorhomes are great for people looking to move around frequently and travel the country
  2. Not having to tow or all potential drivers not being confident backing a trailer/caravan- motorhomes are easy to drive and easy to back. All potential users (minus the grandkids of course) could become very confident backing and driving a motorhome. 
  3. Following an events circuit, for example one of the NZMCA motorhome friendly events.  While these are still suitable for caravanners, some locations might be limited to space and it might be more challenging to get a caravan into place. 
  4. Living full-time on the road - people who are looking to move around a lot, find jobs in different towns and live full-time are usually better suited to a motorhome with larger specifications (water, solar, heating, batteries, cooking facilities). 

 View our motorhome or caravan flow chart if you need more assistance! 

The big thing we notice with one's decision to purchase a motorhome or caravan is usually personal preference. That personal preference is determined, almost all of the time, by the lifestyle and how the users see themselves enjoying their time on the road. Try to stop thinking about what the product looks like -  don't get caught up in the bling of it all and focus on the lifestyle you are hoping to have. From there you are better positioned to determine which option is going to have the right form and functionality required to achieve your goal. Team with a product consultant and they can match that dream with a product that has the specification and features you are going to need to turn that dream into a reality. 

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