Campfire Magazine readers Diane and John have been wanting a campervan for ages. They took the first step by going to their début camping show. And they came home wanting a caravan!
Find out what changed their minds and take our extremely scientific test to work out whether you should buy a caravan or a campervan.
Latest update: April 2020
Should we buy a campervan or a caravan for our escape?
“We’ve always camped with the family, but the children are now nearly all grown-up and don’t want to come along any more,” says Diane, a teacher from West Yorkshire.
“We’ve always said we’ll buy a campervan when we retire and travel around the UK and Europe. Recently, though, we’ve been thinking we shouldn’t wait. We could get away for weekends and longer breaks before then. We decided to visit the NEC show to begin the process of choosing a van.”
A couple of weeks before the show, though, the couple spent a night camping in the Lake District. Although they admit they wouldn’t usually camp before May, they liked the idea of trying a Pod. They took a futon, rather than a blow-up bed and had heating and an electric light.
“We loved it. It was great and real luxury compared to tenting! I remember saying jokingly that I wanted a Pod on wheels,” says Diane.
The plan was still to buy a campervan, so off they went to the NEC
“We were quite surprised by the high prices, but also by the uniformity and blandness. There were different vans and fitters but nothing stood out. I personally couldn’t see why anyone would pay so much for a van with a kitchen, table and bed. After all, when camping, I don’t want to sit, cook or eat inside,” says Diane.
“All I really need is transport, somewhere to put a bed that doesn’t involve tent pegs, canvas and poles, and a cooker and table for outdoors,” she adds. “So, I came up with the plan to buy a second-hand transit van or similar and pop my futon in the back. Maybe a slight conversion to add a few cupboards for storage, plus an awning.”
A camping pod on wheels?
Diane and John began to think about practicalities, such as the extra costs of running a third vehicle while they still needed two cars for work.
So, more thinking about the ‘Pod’ on wheels and they came to the unexpected conclusion that it had to be…a caravan.
“It needs to be small and easily towed and certainly not filled to the brim with high tech facilities. Just very basic,” adds Diane.
“I’m imagining I’ll get the best of both tent and campervan experiences, as a caravan is nearly as mobile as both, more roomy than a campervan, nearly as quick to pack and set up as a van and cheaper to buy and run.”
Now it’s your turn to decide
To take the test below, just choose the answer that best fits your thinking for each of the eight questions. The number in brackets after each answer is the score. Tot up the scores for your choices to give you a total of between nine and 24. Read the conclusion for your total.
And, if you want a bit more information on a campervan option that doesn’t mean eating inside, have a look at Ditchin’ the kitchen…why we chose a Beach.
Take the test
How do you feel about having another vehicle?
- We have two cars already, so a campervan would be a third. We’d have to use it a lot to make that justifiable. (1)
- I have a car, but a second vehicle might be useful. It’d be extra insurance, road tax and maintenance, though. (2)
- I’d sell my car and use only the campervan. That way, it’d never be sitting on the driveway unused and making me feel guilty. (3)
What kind of driving do you like to en route to your holiday spot?
- I like to explore up tracks, pop into little villages and stop now and then for a quick pull-in. (3)
- I plan my route and go directly to where I want to be by the easiest route. (1)
- If I can, I’ll explore en route. If not, I’ll just explore the area once we get to the site. (2)
What’s your budget?
- Up to £5,000. (1)
- Up to £20,000. (2)
- Over £20,000. (3)
How long do you camp in one spot?
- We stay put for a number of days, a week or more. We like to set up camp and then go off exploring. (1)
- We rarely stop for more than a night or three on a site. (3)
- We do a mixture of long stays and short trips. (2)
What sort of sites do you like best?
- I love wild camping, or at least spontaneous camping on wildish sites. (3)
- I prefer big sites with lots of facilities. (1)
- I like a mixture of campsites – small and interesting and well-equipped ones. (2)
Which of these worries you most?
- Theft. (2)
- Breakdown. (2)
- Driving safety. (3)
How spontaneous are you in your travelling?
- I like to get off at the drop of a hat and have everything ready to go. Just jump in and drive. (3)
- I usually plan ahead, but it’d be nice not to have to lug lots of equipment down to the vehicle. (2)
- I’m not too bothered. I’m happy to spend a bit of time hitching up and sorting out equipment. I’m sure I could get it down to pitstop timings! (1)
A strange last question, but there’s gut feeling as well as ‘science’! Close your eyes and imagine yourself at your favourite site. Now – without thinking about it – choose…
- Campervan (3)
- Caravan (1)
- Tent (2)
A score of between 9 and 14
You’re on your way to buying a caravan. You know there’ll be some hitching up to do and some setting up once on site, but you’ll get used to that. Same with driving – you’re pretty sure you’ll get the hang of towing and driving safely. You’re prepared to make adjustments to your route to gain the advantage of using your own car the rest of the time. And you love the idea of being able to pop out for the day from a site without having to take down your camp every time. Have a look at our favourite compact caravans.
A score of between 15 and 18
You’re still on the fence and we haven’t been able to help you very much! If you’re at the high end of the scale, you’re tending towards a campervan, but it’d make sense to hire one to see how it feels in reality. At the lower end of the scale, you’re more in caravan territory. Trying one isn’t so easy unless you already have a towbar and can hire. Instead, speak to owners and have a good look at caravans on sites and at camping shows. Bang in the middle? Stick with an easy-to-pitch tent and take the test again in a year!
A score of between 19 and 24
It looks like a campervan’s for you. You like the idea of having everything set up and ready to go. You’re prepared to pay a bit more (or a lot more!) so that you don’t need to worry about reversing, parking and manoeuvring down narrow roads. And you’d like to be able to camp more spontaneously on small sites and even on the occasional lay-by. You’re not too worried about packing up the van if you want to go off for the day from a campsite, and you can always take bikes for local exploring. You’ll see our favourites here, and have a look at our guide to the kitchenless Beach.