Those of you that have followed us for some time will know we bought our first touring caravan in October 2017 at the NEC Show. It was delivered in April 2018 and off we went. We toured in it almost none stop until the pandemic brought lockdown in March 2020.
There may be some of you reading this who are currently pondering whether to buy a caravan or a motorhome, or change from one to the other. In this blog we will share our experience so far with a motorhome in the hope it may help you in your decision.
Why would you buy a Motorhome?
We enjoyed touring in our caravan, it gave us plenty of space and we experienced no problems with it during our ownership. What we did find was we tended to stay on a site for a longer period of time. This was due to the amount of time and effort it took to take it away. We would have to drive to the storage yard, remove the security, legs up, towing mirrors on, hitch up and after at least half an hour we were ready to go. Don’t get me wrong, it is all part of the ownership experience. But imagine it is pouring with rain, freezing cold or you have three children in the back seat asking if you’re there yet. Towing is enjoyable, we loved towing, but with an 8ft wide van it is essential you plan your route. A large caravan limits where you can geographically reach. Some sites you cannot stay at due to pitch size and access to the site itself.
Once you arrive the caravan needs to be set up. You unhitch, level, security on, legs down, electric on, fill the Aquaroll, sort the waste, fill the toilet flush…well you get the idea. After all that, there is the awning to put up. That is another 45 minutes at least. By now, a few hours of your arrival on site has been spent setting up. Once on site and set up it is pretty much plain sailing, apart from topping up the water and emptying the waste. The benefit now is you have your car and a base to explore from.
We always found that the penultimate day we were starting to think about packing up. We would spend at least and hour taking down the awning and planning our route back to storage or on to the next site. We would always hope for dry weather to pack up in too. Packing up to go home would again be at least an hours work, emptying water and waste, taking off security, legs up, towing cover on, hitch up and so on. Once back at the storage yard it would be the same again with legs and security.
I know this sounds quite negative but we have to be realistic about the reality of a caravan holiday, and this is it. This is the least enjoyable part of ownership and what was pushing us away from caravan and towards a motorhome.
How is a Motorhome different?
A very good question and I can tell you, it is very different. What we liked about motorhoming was there seemed less faffing all round. Having now had three trips away with the Adria Matrix 520 ST we can say it is much easier.
Our motorhome is kept on the drive as it is small enough to drive to our home, unlike our caravan. We have saved on storage costs and we can check on it when we like. To go away we plug the motorhome in to our household electric a few hours to cool the fridge, you can do this on gas too for ease. We put our clothes in the cupboard, the food in the cold fridge and if we are going somewhere with no water we put some water in the on-board tank. That is it, we remove the steering wheel lock and we are off on our holiday. A motorhome is easy to drive on the roads, especially a small one like the 520 ST. The only consideration is the height, which is just under three meters. Once you arrive on-site you may need to level, switch off the engine, plug in the electric if needed and turn off the ignition. That is as hard as it is and that is what we have enjoyed about the motorhome. Once set up we have found it easy to get out for the day, to visit places and find parking. Granted, it takes more planning than a car would. You have to check for height restrictions in car parks and pack away the kettle and washing up before you drive away. (Consider checking out our Motorhome accessory video here)
A motorhome makes it easier to move on after a night or two, you can easily empty your waste on site and fill your water tank too. You can fit a roll out canopy to your motorhome if you want shade or protection from a shower. We have found the wind out canopy a great deal easier than putting up an awning.
A motorhome takes the worry and stress out of packing up and towing home.
Can you go off grid?
Just like a caravan, you can go off grid with a motorhome. By off grid I mean without electric and am not referring to wild camping.
Two of our trips away have been to certified sites in Somerset and Devon. We arrived on both sites with fresh water in the on board tank and that was it. We used our Safefill gas to run the fridge and this has proven cost effective. We used the gas hob for boiling water in the kettle and for cooking on the Cadac. The lights, toilet flush, water pump and electric bed all run through the 12v systems of the leisure battery. We have a 140 watt solar panel on the 520 ST which has kept the battery topped up at around 96% full charge. If you are considering a motorhome or caravan and want to off grid then a solar panel is a good investment. Our 520 ST shows battery levels on the control panel so you can monitor them. If you are considering a pub stop with a motorhome this is easy too, just make sure you have some water in your tank and your toilet cassette is set up for use.
Emptying your waste water off grid should be straightforward too. Most sites will have a disposal point. We have used the Colapz Flexi Pipes to empty our waste water tank when there wasn’t a drive over facility.
The most important thing to stress is that where ever you stop, make sure you dispose of any waste in a safe and considerate manner. That might even mean emptying your toilet cassette at home.
We never stayed off grid in our caravan as we did not have a solar panel. We did not feel comfortable not having EHU (electric hook up) as we would have been worrying about the battery drain.
We have found the motorhome has given us more freedom about where we stop and how we tour.
Is there enough space in a motorhome?
Having gone from an 8ft wide caravan to a 6 metre long motorhome the answer to the question is Yes! We worried about space but having used this motorhome it actually provides a good living space. Obviously, this will vary between different lengths and layouts. We find we have plenty of living space with the swivel chairs and sofa area. Due to having a drop down bed it means all the space is devoted to living space. The kitchen is well equipped and a good size too, with more worktop space than we have in the caravan. The storage space seems better planned too.
The compromise we have found is in the bathroom. The shower is within the toilet and washroom and the sink folds down. The bathroom has been the only part we have not liked in comparison to our caravan bathroom. A great benefit of many of the European motorhomes is that they have garages. Even our small 520 ST has an ample garage to store our Isabella table and chairs, Cadac, Colapz items, bottled water, dog food, tinned drinks and toilet rolls.
On an evening the drop down bed is easy to operate, there is floor space to get changed for bed too. The consideration of this layout though is with the bed in its lowest setting there is no where to sit for anyone not wanting to go to bed. In a morning it is one up all up but being early birds we have had no issue with this. A motorhome with a fixed bed or an A-Class with a cab bed would mean this was not an issue.
Is it right for you?
Only you know the answer to this question and it may be wise to rent a motorhome to try it. Motorhomes are expensive, if we were to buy one it would replace our main car due to the cost.
We have enjoyed motorhoming so far. It has given us the freedom our caravan couldn’t and it is much easier to get away. We have been fortunate to have a small motorhome which is easy to park and be accommodated where we have visited. If you had a larger motorhome I suspect it would take a bit more planning and I can see why people then take a small car. The small car is a whole different topic and one I won’t be going in to.
The motorhome is much easier to drive off in for a few nights. It is easy to set up and pack away and in bad weather it wins hands down.
Our time with the motorhome will tell us if it is right for us and how this drop down bed layout works compared to a fixed bed.
Another benefit of the motorhome is how easy it is for a lady on her own. Don’t get me wrong, many ladies solo caravan. Speaking as a lady, I would be confident and happy to set off in a motorhome like the 520 ST. The tasks with the caravan that would have put me off are eliminated with the motorhome. This is something else to consider if you are a solo traveller.
If you are unsure about a motorhome or a caravan then hire is a good way to make sure you don’t make a costly mistake. Ask yourself how often you plan to get away. A caravan can be left sat for a few months at a time in storage between trips. A motorhome won’t benefit from that, just like a car. A motorhome will incur costs such as vehicle excise licence, servicing and MOT, and the insurance may be more too.
The best leisure vehicle for you is the one that meets your needs. Hopefully this blog may have offered an in sight in to our first motorhome experience and the comparison we have made so far.