What's the Difference Between a Campervan and a Motorhome?

Updated: Nov 10

Renting a camper van and making your way around the Ring Road is the ultimate Iceland road trip for many. It’s just you, your home on four wheels, your travel companions, and the open road. The feelings of freedom and adventure are the stuff our best memories are made of. When I talk about campervans, a lot of people picture motorhomes. They don’t realize that there is a difference between the two types of vehicles. While both are RVs, they are actually quite different. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s go further in-depth to look at the differences between campervans and motorhomes.

What is a Campervan?

When looking into camper rental in Iceland, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting. Because people tend to use the terms “camper” and “motorhome” interchangeably, let’s clear up that confusion right now.

A campervan, simply put, is like a smaller, stripped-down version of a motorhome. It’s usually some sort of tiny van that has been refurbished with a sleeping area, cooking area, and a heating system like a Webasto heater. The cooking and sleeping area are generally not used at the same time, as space is precious. Instead, there’s a small kitchen in the back of the vehicle, usually with a hot plate or gas stove, a little sink with running water, and somewhere to cool or refrigerate your perishable items. There’s a small couch-like structure where you can sit to eat and many times there is storage underneath.

This couch/seating is actually your bed in disguise! When you’ve pulled into the campsite and are ready to rest your head, it’s time to convert this semi-futon into your sleeping arrangements for the night. The bed usually stretches across the length of the back of the camper and is bordered by the sink and mini stove.

It’s all very convenient having everything all in one place.

4x4 Camper Rental in Iceland

One of the biggest differences between campervans and motorhomes, other than size, is that motorhomes very rarely have 4WD. If you’re looking to explore Iceland’s Highlands and backcountry and drive on F-roads in Iceland, you’ll need to get a 4x4 camper rental in Iceland. This is perhaps one of the biggest advantages of Iceland camper rental. When you hire a 4x4 vehicle like the VW California or the Mercedes Marco Polo, you’re able to explore those backroads and tackle Iceland road conditions that a motorhome maybe not be suitable for. Iceland driving is different and has its own special set of challenges. As a result, one type of RV may or may not be right for your journey.

Iceland Campervan Back Doors

What is a Motorhome?

So if campervans are the scaled-down, stripped-down versions of motorhomes, then what are motorhomes? Well, I like to think of them as the larger, more luxurious big brother to the campervan. Whereas campers usually fit two to three people, motorhomes can sleep up to six. These RVs are massive, and for good reason. They’ve got not only a full bathroom with a shower, hot and cold water, and toilet, but also a full kitchen with storage and a food prep area. You can cook while standing up even if the vehicle is in motion (although I don’t recommend this). There’s also a separate area with a dining table and places to sit. Not to mention the zone where the beds are. And the best part is, none of it requires converting or changing any of the common areas for use.

Of course, all of this comes at a price. Motorhome rental in Iceland is much more expensive than camper rental, which makes campervans such an appealing option for thrifty and budget-savvy travelers.

Motorhome Rental in Iceland

An important point to keep in mind is that you can’t rent motorhomes all year round in Iceland. Outside of the warmer months, it’s simply too dangerous to drive a large, hulking motorhome around Iceland’s slick, icy roads. It’s a recipe for disaster, so if you find a company willing to rent you a motorhome in November, December, January, or February, it’s likely that they only have profit in mind and don’t care at all about your safety. The most common motorhome rentals in Iceland you’ll find during the off-season or low season are small ones designed for only two to four people. And even those ones are only available up to October or March. Beware anything that’s not within the confines of these “safe” months.

Campervan in Iceland with Snowy Mountains

Access during winter is no longer an issue with a camper rental in Iceland. Because the vehicles are smaller and more compact than motorhomes, they are much easier to steer and control. Driving in Iceland with a camper or 4x4 camper rental is much closer to driving a car. This is why camper rental companies and car rental companies in Iceland make their vehicles available all year long.

What's the Difference Between a Campervan and a Motorhome?

I hope this has cleared things up a bit. Motorhomes are larger, more luxurious, have more features and amenities, and are therefore more expensive. Campers are their smaller, scrappier cousins. Traveling around Iceland with your campervan rental is a no-frills experience but it’s also fun to get back to basics and be free to roam. It’s up to you which you prefer.