Types of motorhomes - how to choose a campervan

The Campervan – Types of Motorhome – Part 2

Following on from Part 1, this article looks at the variations within different types of campervan.

When you’re new to a hobby it’s hard to know exactly what your requirements are. Sometimes you won’t know exactly what you need until you’ve spent a considerable amount of time doing said hobby .

Motorhoming is no exception. Motorhomes are expensive so it’s well worth giving serious consideration to what you need from your vehicle. I’ve often seen mistakes made whilst first time purchasers are caught up in the excitement of purchasing their new toy.

Its no bad thing to be impulsive, quite often your gut instinct is right. Even if you don’t get your perfect vehicle first time round, it’ll get you going and you’ll know exactly what you’d do differently next time. Campervans hold their value very well so a trade in with a dealer or a private sell and purchase may not mean much of or any loss at all.

Your Requirements

What are your needs from the campervan? Are you planning to use it all year round? Will you be staying at campsites or will you wild camp? Will you ever have guests to stay? Think of all likely scenarios how your vehicle will be used and if the campervan you’re considering will suit them.

campervan will you use it all year round?
Winter camping anyone?

Types of Campervan

As described in part 1, campervans are panel van conversions. However, there are several variations.

Wheelbase / Length

Do you specifically need a very compact campervan? You may need to fit your new vehicle on your drive or in a garage and this will dictate the length of van. You may not have driven anything longer than a car and the thought of manoeuvring anything bigger is daunting.

Van conversions come in many different shapes and sizes. Short wheel base small vans like the VW transporter, Mercedes Vito and Vauxhall Vivaro are all under five meters long. At the other end of the scale is the likes of long wheelbased Fiat Ducato, Citroen Relay and Mercedes Sprinter at almost seven meters. There’s plenty of choice with different size base models and each model usually offers several wheelbase options. You’ll be able to find the dimensions that suit your needs best.

fixed high roof Transit Leisuredrive Oasis campervan is a small but spacious motorhome for all year round camping
Small but Tall!

It’s amazing how well thought out these leisure vehicles are. Even small panel vans can appear quite spacious. You’ll need to consider the vehicle in all of its forms. Check your requirements with the bed out as well as when it’s folded in to a seat position.

Consider the gear that you’ll want to bring with you. A spacious layout can suddenly feel crammed once a weeks worth of holidays essentials are on board.

Where will the dog go when you’re travelling? Where will the dog sleep once your beds out? Are there enough seat belts for all your passengers.

A campervan will always be a compromise on space but by choosing the right vehicle will make for a comfortable living space.

Campervan Roof Types

This is probably the most important factor when choosing your camper. The right roof type can make a small van feel much bigger improving practicality and comfort levels.

Standard Low Roof Line

This is the lowest and most compact variant of roof. It’s great if you want to get under low barriers or you want to put your campervan away in a garage. However, you’ll need to be comfortable doing everything from a sitting position.

Personally I couldn’t think of anything worse than crawling about to cook and get dressed but if you’re only looking for somewhere to sleep, it may suit you.

Campervan by Volkswagen with standard low roof
Standard Low Roof

Elevating Roofs and Pop Tops

A very popular choice for van conversions. Some consider this roof top the perfect solution.

In the closed position the roof edges sit slightly higher than a standard low roof line so the vehicle remains compact. With the roof elevated the occupants can stand and move around freely around the vans floor space. The lower end of the roof is usually positioned over the bed/seat.

However, are you planning to use your campervan through the winter? If so the tent-like material sides of the elevating roof make it very cold.

Campervan by Volswagen with a pop top roof
Pop Top

Fixed High Roofs

Ok, so you’ll need to avoid low barriers  and the fuel economy won’t be quite as good but this fixed roof offers all year round full height comfort.

The fixed high top on our short wheelbase transit makes this small van feel much bigger. The roof vent and high level windows make for a bright and airy space. At six foot one I have a clear twelve inches above me.

The solid fibreglass construction allows the ceiling to be insulated and covered. This roof arrangement combined with our diesel heater is perfect for the van to be used all year round.

Campervan by Volkswagen with fixed high top roof
Fixed High Roof

As with some pop tops, some fixed high roofs will allow a high level bed fitment. On our Transit a sheet of ply pulls out from the bulkhead over the cab forming another bed. This is a short length bed but it’s perfect for two kids. It’s amazing that this short wheelbase can accommodate a family of four. It’s the high roof that makes our van so versatile.

Campervan Layout

Most converters of smaller campervans stick to a tried and tested layout based around a ‘rock and roll’ bed/seat. Storage cupboards and kitchen area usually run along one side with more storage, water and gas supplies accessed from the rear door/s.

campervan - small - interior with rock and roll bed

Long wheelbase models allow more freedom for layout design and can vary significantly. Some will have fixed beds, others stick to folding. Transverse bed arrangements are possible where the bed stretches length-ways across the width of the van. Longer base models may have a washroom fitted to one side or at the rear of the vehicle.

Campervan with side washroom division and corner kitchen

Bigger vans can afford bigger and better equipped kitchens with ovens and almost full size fridges. There’s galley style kitchens with worktop and appliances being split on either side, in other layouts you’ll find kitchens that run partly along one side as well as across the rear of the vehicle.

End washroom and galley kitchen in this motorhome

Washroom and Toilet

This maybe an important factor for you. Where do you plan to stay? Will you only pitch on campsites that have toilet and shower blocks? If so, is a washroom necessary? The full height division of a washroom takes up valuable room and can make a vans interior feel crammed. If you plan to wild camp, use ‘certified locations’ or ‘Britstops’ then a toilet and shower maybe considered essential.

Give adequate thought to what you need from your campervan. Getting the right van will allow you to get the very best from your mobile adventures and will keep the inevitable upgrade envy at bay for longer. You can then concentrate on drooling over all the accessories to fill it with!

Campervans by Romahome, with pop tops and fixed high roofs


Leave a Comment