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Types of campervan and motorhome

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Most people who think about buying a campervan are thinking of a Volkswagen. VW vans have been the most popular models for campervan owners for more than 50 years. The popular bull-nosed vans from the 1960s are iconic motor homes and, although there is plenty of purpose-built and custom-built vans on the market today, VWs still lead the field.

A campervan is at basics a high-side panel van that is converted to create living space inside. The most popular panel vans for conversion today are the VW T6 and the Ford Transit, although there are many companies that make suitable vehicles.

The living space is created by incorporating beds, cookers, sinks, chairs, tables and so on in various layouts. Vans can be converted using set layouts or can be tailored to specific needs or tastes.

As the internal space of a panel van is relatively small, only a limited number of layouts is possible but there is still room for variety.

With a good understanding of the different types of campervan and motorhome available on the market, you are much more likely to make the right decision about the vehicle that works for you.

Standard campervans

These are the choice of those who plan to use their van both as a normal vehicle and as for occasional drive-away holidays. Often based on standard panel vans like VW Transporters they offer a number of advantages over larger vans. At roughly 5 metres long and 2 metres in height and width, they can easily be parked on a normal driveway, fit into most parking bays and are unhampered by height restrictions. They are also easy to drive, much like a car, and you don't need a special licence to operate one. There is usually a wide selection of models to choose from, with petrol and diesel models readily available and electric E-vans and hybrid versions rapidly being developed. VW, for example, has zero-emission electric versions of its popular Transporter and Crafter models and new all-electric Buzz Cargo commercial van now on the market

Pop-top campervans

Another popular choice for the occasional holiday camper is the pop-top campervan. These are basic panel vans that sport a rising roof. It provides extra headroom when parked up, can accommodate beds for children and extra storage if needed. Roofs can be raised electrically or by hand and they give the advantage of a low profile when on the move, handy access into height restricted places when needed but extra height space when parked.

High top campervans

These vans are great for those who want a little extra space. They are basic panel cans with a fixed higher roofline and popular vans for conversion are the VW Crafter, Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter. These often come in various lengths and long-wheelbase models offer the chance of extra seating while the higher roof space means more storage. The greater internal dimensions bring more variety in layouts and more facilities. Be aware though that the extra height can be a problem for height restriction barriers on some car parks.

Standard motorhomes

Unlike campervans, motorhome are not panel-van conversions but are built on a bus or lorry chassis. Motorhomes are larger than campervans with much more interior space. Standard motorhomes vary in length from 5 to 8 metres and up to 2.5 metres wide. Drive licence rules can be complicated but generally depend on the maximum weight of the vehicle. If it is over 3,500kg fully laden you will probably need a special licence.

Overcab motorhomes

These are motorhome with a bulbous extension at the front that sits above the driver cab. The extension offers enough room for a permanent double bed, leaving lots more room inside for more sophisticated living space layouts. Sleeping quarters can feel tight and perhaps a little claustrophobic for some but they are great for children, so overcabs can be a popular option for families with children. These motorhomes are often bigger and heavier than normal vehicles so you may need a special licence to drive one.

A-class motorhomes

Purpose-built A-class motorhomes are the ultimate in vehicle design for a mobile home. They have plenty of space, usually include a drop-down bed and have plenty of seating. They almost certainly require a special driving licence and can be more difficult to drive due to their size. Beds can be full-size and many have a dining area as well as good kitchen and washroom facilities.

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