Understanding the basics in motorhome terminology and lingo

Learning the basics of motorhome lingo can be challenging especially when you're researching. One person will tell you why WOF is so much better than COF, and throw in the benefits of a low GVM, all while you're thinking GV.... WHAT? 

Here at TrailLite, it's all about teaching you what you don't know and gearing you up to make the right choice for you because you are well informed and understand the benefits and terminology so often thrown about. You'll often hear our Product Specialists say "you don't know what you don't know", which is so true and can be so costly when it comes to motorhome ownership. 

Terminology  Description 

GVM stands for Gross Vehicle Mass, or Gross Vehicle Weight which is what the manufacturer defines as the maximum weight the motorhome can carry.  



Means Gross Combined Mass i.e your vehicle and what you are towing combined. If your GVM and the weight of what you are towing goes over, the car license category (5995kg GVM) and you will be required to have a class 2 license (explained below). For example, if your motorhome was 5000kg GVM and you hooked up a small car that weighed 1450kg, then your GCM would be 6450kg meaning that a class 2 license is required. 


Tare in NZ is the weight of the motorhome with a full tank of fuel, but no person or water on the weigh bridge. This can differ on imported motorhomes so it's important to find out and understand what your tare weight would be in NZ standard. Be aware that as you add options to the motorhome (awning, bike rack, extras), these will add to the tare weight of your motorhome and reduce the payload.



Often called carrying capacity. This is the difference between the legal Tare weight and the GVM of a motorhome. It refers to what the total weight of everything you put in the motorhome, including people, is legally allowed to be. Think water, food, equipment. It is illegal and unsafe to be on the road when overweight, and could result in fines or worse -  you not being able to stop safely. 



Warrant of fitness is required for all motorhomes 3,500kg GVM and under. For this category, it is the same as a WOF on your car, required in most cases every 12 months. All new vehicles that have never previously been registered will come with a WOF valid for three years. More details here 



Certificate of fitness is required for all motorhomes over 3500kg GVM and is a similar check to a WOF, however is required every six months.  For more click here 


Class One License

Class one drivers license is a standard car license. In New Zealand a motorhome can be driven on a standard car license when it has a GVM of less than 5995kg. 


Class Two License

Class two drivers license is a medium rigid vehicle license. A class two license is obtainable by completing an additional driving and written test. Any motorhome from 5995kg GVM - 8500kg GVM requires a class two license and there are many benefits to obtaining your class 2 in order to drive a vehicle with a higher GVM. This includes the required weight to store and carry extra equipment. If your GCM goes over the car licence weight (motorhome and vehicle you are towing) you will also be required to have a class 2 licence even if your motorhomes weight is under the required GVM.

More information on this can be found in you guide "the essential need to know before purchasing a motorhome or caravan"

Download the buyers guide

Water Capacity 

The average motorhome couple consumes 50L of water per day so, adequate fresh and grey water capacity is important to ensure that you are not filling up your tanks every couple of days. 


Fresh Water

This refers to you water tank dedicated to fresh and drinkable water - used for the shower, taps, washing dishes etc. 


Grey Water

This refers to your 'dirty' water - anything that goes down the kitchen or bathroom drain (excluding the toilet). Your grey water, in most scenarios, is slightly less than your fresh water to equate for that which is drunk, used or stored in the toilet cassette. 


Solar Capacity 

Solar capacity is the power output of solar panels you have on the roof of your motorhome available to charge the batteries also stored in your motorhome. The more solar doesn't necessarily mean more power unless you couple that with adequate battery capacity. 


Gas Compliance 

This certification is important on all motorhomes and caravans including imported ones as it deems that all gas installations and appliances comply with national safety requirements. The certifier must be a valid and authorised supplier. All imported and NZ manufactured motorhomes are subject to this legislation and require a legal gas compliance.  

It is really important that any new or second hand motorhome you purchase complies with this legislation - people have been fined for installing refrigerators and gas pipes into motorhomes without the valid licences. Read more here


Electrical Compliance (Warrant of Electrical Compliance)

This certification means that all electrical work designed and completed on a motorhome is electrically safe. 


Certified freedom self-containment 

Certified freedom self containment is the certificate which allows motorhome users to "freedom" camp in NZ. The NZMCA is one of the providers of the certification. This certification qualifies that your motorhome meets the minimum requirements required to freedom camp. 


North/South Bed

This terminology is often used to describe the direction of the bed within the motorhome. A North/South bed will run the direction of the length of the motorhome. It varies whether your head is facing the front or back when laying in bed.  A North/South bed floor plan in a TrailLite is the Oakura model 


East/West Bed

An East/West bed will run the direction of the width of the motorhome. It varies whether your head is facing the left or the right of the motorhome. A East/West bed floor plan is a TrailLite is the Wanaka model 


Island Bed

An island bed means a bed which is accessible from both sides including, in most cases, from the foot of the bed. The head is likely to be against a wall. 


French Bed

A french bed is when only one side is accessible while the other side, including the head, is against a wall. The person sleeping on the inside would need to get out at the end of the bed or climb over anyone sleeping on the outside. 


Dual Wheels 

Dual wheels is when there are two tyres that sit side by side at the rear of the motorhome. In general the main reason for dual wheels is to carry more weight. While it can mean you'll have a slightly bigger footprint giving more traction, you need it when looking to carry more weight. Dual wheels are suitable for vehicles with a bigger GVM.


Super Single Wheels 

Super single wheels are single tyres on each side of the motorhome where the rear tyres are bigger than a standard front tyre. Traction is better but, as with dual wheels, it needs to be because they are designed to offer more weight carrying capacity.


Rear Wheel Drive 

Rear wheel drive is when the power and drive is at the back axle. Most of the weight is on the rear axle, assisting with traction. It means your front wheels will be pushed on by your rear wheels offering better traction, meaning they will work harder when getting out of sticky situations. A rear wheel drive is particularly useful for steep gradient and gravel roads. All TrailLite built motorhomes are on rear wheel drive motorhomes

More information available in our buyers guide 

Download the buyers guide

Front Wheel Drive 

Front wheel drive is when the power or drive is at the front, and the rear wheels are pulled along by the front wheels. All Fiat Ducato models are front wheel drive and this category represents most of the imported motorhomes on the market in NZ. You will need to consider where you will be traveling and the conditions of the roads and camping spots. From there, you can decide if a front wheel drive is an option for you. 



This is when all wheels are driving and powering. With the Mercedes Benz 4WD option the change is selectable between 2WD and 4WD by the push of a button. 


Combined Shower & Toilet

This is when the toilet and the shower are in the same unit or over top of one another. It usually means that after a shower you'll need to wipe down most of the bathroom including the toilet to dry it off for future use. 


Separate Shower & Toilet 

This is when the toilet and shower are two completely separate units. The shower can be shut off from the toilet and technically speaking someone could be using the toilet while another showers. All of the new motorhomes on TrailLites yard have a separate shower and toilet because it's so important for most kiwis. 


Heater Duct in Bathroom 

This is a vent in the bathroom connected to the heating system throughout the motorhome. It can be great for keeping bathroom towels dry and for any drying racks in the bathroom. 


Cassette Toilet

Is a built in toilet with a removable waste-holding tank. You will need to empty the toilet cassette at a registered dump station.  Each cassette holds 17L. So a spare cassette can be a good idea for those wanting to get off the grid for long periods. 


Black Tank Toilet 

A black tank collects waste from your motorhome toilet. They can range in size and are a non-standard extra in motorhomes, but can be very helpful for people spending long stints on the road. The sizing varies but has significantly more capacity than a cassette -  approx 100-120L depending on the motorhome and size. Black tanks are available in some motorhomes dependent on motorhome chassis and design.  


Automatic Satellite Dish 

An automatic satellite dish automatically winds up and searches for TV reception. They allow you to get crystal clear TV reception anywhere in the country easily and without any effort.


Manual Satellite Dish

A manual dish is controlled and searches manually. You will wind up the dish and rotate it to find reception using a compass setting. While this may initially seem challenging when you learn how to do it's not that hard. During your handover these instructions will get explained in detail. 



An invertor is used to convert 12V to 230V which then allows you to use your 230V appliances in a motorhome e.g. coffee machine, hairdryer etc. As a result of using an invertor, you need more power. This is because power is used to complete the conversion, plus the appliances you are using ar normally more power hungry. Having an awareness about your battery capacity and solar will be important when considering whether to get an invertor. 

There are different sized invertors. For example, you may need a small invertor to run a CPAP machine or a larger invertor to run a hairdryer, microwave or coffee machine. It could become an expensive way to dry your hair!



When freedom camping, most of your motorhome features will run off 12V power. 



You can plug into 230V at campgrounds and, when plugged into mains, all your 3-point power points will become live. 



Storage is an important non-negotiable for most kiwis. However, a tip is to make sure when comparing motorhomes that you check the capacity or weight limitation of the storage unit. Bigger is not always better, and garages on motorhomes are not all created equal. Refer back to our payload description as well. 


Diesel Heating 

Diesel heating is described as a heating system run by diesel. The benefits are that you can run diesel heating while you are traveling, keeping your motorhome at a constant temperature. They are also much quieter for running over night. 


Gas Heating 

Gas heating can be a combi option which runs off gas or electric. Gas heating is a great option but something to keep in mind is that you will need a reasonable gas capacity to run a heater when the gas is already being used to fuel your hobs and fridge. 


Fully Automatic 3- Way Fridge 

A fully automatic 3-way fridge means it can operate on mains power, gas or 12V, automatically switching between them as required, 


Draw lock system 

When traveling in a motorhome, it's important that there is a drawer locking system so your draws don't fly open when you go around a corner. These can either be a manual click system underneath the handle or an electronic system managed from your motorhomes control panel. 


Mechanical Roadside Assistance 

Roadside assistance is included in some insurance policies, such as Campercare, and can be purchased as an additional policy with Covi. It can offer peace of mind while on the road 24/7.


This information is intended to be used as guidance purposes only. It is not suitable as a substitute for understanding and complying with legislation and standards. We recommend everyone does their own research and has a thorough understanding of all terminology and specification. 

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