No, you have not read that wrong! In weighing up the benefits of owning a caravan or motorhome, the Motorhome Voyager has been caravanning – not once, but twice! Remember that the “Voyager” is an all year round camper. Consequently, it is important to test the caravan concept in winter. In order to bring a true like for like, we are staying at the Camping and Caravanning Club, Delamere for this “test report” – a location that has previously featured a winter retreat in the Kon-tiki motorhome.
So, first of all, for our caravan or motorhome feature, a little bit about the caravan. It’s an Elddis Avante 505, five berth model featuring a front lounge, centre kitchen, centre shower and rear dining area. The dining area easily makes into a fixed double and there is a bunk bed above. The layout is fairly similar to the previously owned Kontiki 679, assuming the rear dinette to be a “fixed, transverse bed”.
Internal storage is good with around a dozen overhead lockers. Lower level storage is provided mostly by space under the seating area. There is a small cupboard sandwiched between the fridge and cooker and this also houses a cutlery drawer. Work top space is poor, but benefits from a pull out section and a flip down worktop extender. I particularly like the sink with a built in drainer – whilst this may be old fashioned – it blooming well works! A full size cooker completes chef’s quarters!
Truma provides a gas and electric powered water heater and also a C3002 gas/electric heating system, with blown air.
It’s fair to say, we are comparing a fairly basic caravan to the top of the range Kon-tiki motorhome, but in terms of interior space and square footage, the caravan is not that much less overall than the motorhome. Remember – the motorhome overall length of 28 1/2 feet includes the cab area.
Caravan or motorhome – towing
The first main difference between a motorhome and a caravan is simple – you need a car to tow the caravan whilst the motorhome does both jobs. We tow with a Vokswagen Transporter – these are commercial vehicles. As a result, we can tow pretty much any caravan available, so pulling the 1550kg Elddis, the VW “plays with it”. Evidence of this can be demonstrated when travelling along the M62 from Rochdale towards Huddersfield. This four lane section of the motorway is one of the steepest motorway inclines in the country – the M62 features the highest motorway summit in England. Notwithstanding this, the “62” plate VW marched on like a trooper maintaining the maximum legal speed all the way to the top, and held sixth gear! The choice of tow car may of course limit the choice of caravan for many.
Caravan or motorhome – the benefits of the car and caravan
- More flexibility when on site – pitch the caravan and go off in the tow car
- Lower overall cost – a new, twin axle caravan, plus a decent tow car will cost far less than the motorhome of similar size and spec
- More space – when comparing like for like in terms of “budget” and “lead in” models, the caravan offers more space
- Although the “outfit” is longer than any motorhome, it is easier to drive and manoeuvre due to having a bend in the middle!
- Fuel economy – appeared to be around 40 mpg when towing. Usually, the Kontiki returned around 28 mpg. Worth mentioning though that the smaller motorhomes should in theory yield better MPG
- More “stable” on site – having at least six points on the ground, there was no rocking in the caravan (!) whilst a motorhome often has movement – particularly in windy weather. (We have had a motorhome with corner steadies and there were as effective as he proverbial teapot made of chocolate!)
- Very wide range of awnings, in theory doubling living space
Caravan or motorhome – the draw backs of the caravan
- Pay load – our calculations suggest that on a two week holiday, our clothes alone would take most of the payload. Loading and then unloading the tow car becomes a bind. We did however pack most things into the tow car for this “tester weekend” even though in theory, the caravan could have held everything for the trip
- The weather – in very strong winds, would we tow? Probably not. We have gone out in all weathers in the motorhome
- Water set up – a fresh water barrel outside a caravan in sub zero temperatures lead to a frozen pipe! Noteworthy of a mention, there are caravans with a small (30-40 litres) on board tank. Motorhomes have an on board tank as standard, often around 100+ litres
- Waste water – tripping about on site to empty the waste hog. Three times in a weekend – the motorhome waste tank would have held this. Not so much an issue in warmer weather but more so in winter
- Ferries – much more expensive for a caravan and caravan than a motorhome
- Tolls – as per item (5)
- Two lots of insurance
- Time taken to set up on arrival on site. Reverse on to the pitch, uncouple, legs down etc. Not great in the dark in January, and of course when raining!
- Limitations of routes when travelling – mountain passes in a caravan…..possibly, but unlikely!
- Free places to stay – particularly overseas. Many European town offer free stop over places for motorhomes, knowing the revenue the ‘vanner will bring. In the UK there are a few examples, with St Annes upon Sea being a good one. Using official camper stops can transform a holiday overseas from “costing a fortune” to being almost free!
So what’s it to be for the Motorhome Voyager? Caravan Voyager? Well, not yet, another couple of trips in the Elddis before any firm decisions.