Are Caravans and Motorhomes converging?
Friday, 16, Dec 2016 03:18
by Dan Cartwright
In the past motorhomes and caravans were seen as very different vehicles
Bought by very different customers and whilst used for very similar objectives there was almost an animosity between caravaners and motorhomers. Today this has changed with caravan owners swapping to motorhomes, motorhome owners swapping to caravans and new people entering the market undecided between which one to buy.
If you are young or just starting in the motorhome / caravan world this might seem strange, they are both leisure vehicles that people use to get away and have fun.. but let me tell you, go back 10 to 15 years and the two worlds not only had little interaction but they were like the Mods and Rockers of the camping world. Behaving much like the rocker of the 70's who would strenuously deny they even found the clash palatable, a caravan or motorhome owner on site would claim they are completely different pastimes for different people who do different things, even when parked on a site next to the other for a weeks holiday.
Worth noting here, we love all equally at CaravanTimes much like if you have two dogs they're never the same but each one is great. In the new year we will be bringing out some basic comparisons for new campers but for now, how has the gap between the two products and markets been bridged?
How Things Were
Going back a generation the majority (of the very small amount) of motorhomes sold in the UK were of European manufacture - OK swift Launched swift motorhomes in 1987 and bessecar in 1997 but apart from this and a few smaller bespoke manufacturers, the market was small in the UK with limited choice so we went further afield and bought vehicles from Europe, where there was much more choice from more suppliers to a bigger European market. This meant that the UK motorhomer of the 90's had either a specific need for a motorhome (towing a race car for example), a specific want for a motorhome, or a specific desire not to have a caravan! Prices were proportionally higher in comparison to caravans and this lead almost a class division and the motorhomer paying a lot of money to not be associated with caravaners.
Caravaners for their part were unimpressed by European specification on motorhomes. This was not a slight on European motorhomes or anything to do with how they were built, but the fact is that the European market has long hot summers (not everywhere but on the whole) and so they like to use their leisure vehicles as bases that they often cook outside of, they spend a lot more of the year in the sea and want separate garages and much like their houses they don't want carpets. The UK caravan market was (and still is) dominated by UK manufactured caravans which had evolved to UK wants a needs with plush soft furnishings, big fridges, effective heating systems (even in the early 90's) the kitchens included ovens and of course every model came with their very own carpets, basically a little home from home, perfect for those long rainy afternoons we're all used to. All this meant that the caravaner looking at a motorhome was seeing a price tag of about 3x that of a caravan and still making compromises with living space and none of the things they expect in their caravan. "Mad" is how my caravanning dad explained it when I suggested we swap the caravan for a motorhome at the age of 12.
What about now?
Whilst motorhome sales in the UK are still significantly lower than caravans, motorhome sales have been increasing proportionally higher. Keen to capitalise on this demand the UK caravan manufactures started making motorhomes some time ago. Now 5 of the 6 biggest UK caravan manufacturers make motorhomes and have been doing for more than 5 years. These manufactures make very UK specific motorhomes with all the bells, whistles, carpets and ovens we expect in the UK. Also European manufacturers have responded. Rather than ship a European motorhome to the UK they have started making UK specified motorhomes with things like doors on the correct side, ovens carpets and mood lighting.
Caravans have changed a lot over the last 10-15 years, the cold, white, damp box image of old has dwindled. Ok some are still white but some aren't. There have been many styling updates from beautiful skylights to sleek windows and graphics packages. Additionally caravans construction has changed drastically from all manufactures to make them better, warmer and lighter. There has been a specification explosion from fridges as big as your home to full programable wet central heating, LED lighting, satellite TV and even self levelling systems. If no one has been in a caravan for 10 years they might still have an image in their mind that couldn't be further from truth. Modern caravans are like sleek self catering apartments you can take anywhere.
These two significant changes mean that for people entering the leisure vehicle market in 2016 both motorhomes and caravans offer a lot of products the UK leisure vehicle owner wants with little compromise.
For the Motorhome owner in 2016 they can see sleek, modern caravans that are now lighter and easier to tow with so many aids to help with hooking up and pitching. Combine this with the living accommodation you get in caravan compared to a motorhome and some are choosing to trade motorhome for caravan.
For the Caravan owner in 2016 they are able to get a motorhome with all of the specification of their beloved little home from home caravan. Prices have also been converging with the typical motorhome costing 2.5x that of the equivalent caravan meaning some caravaners are swapping to motorhomes.
There are still some die hard caravan and motorhome enthusiasts who will never change their vehicle type but as the caravan manufacture owners clubs start accepting and encouraging motorhomers to join, we know times are changing! This for me is a fantastic thing, not because I want everyone to come together and hold hands, but because as the markets converge as too will design principles between the two vehicles, making even better and more exciting products in the future - could we see a motorhome with a detachable cab? who knows.