RV vs Camper: the Ultimate Comparison
Updated: Feb 14
Go big or go home, or maybe go big or go camper. The RV vs camper debate has been raging on ever since the campervan got a second revival a few years back. Knowing which one is the best will be up to each one of us, but knowing how to decide is key.
Still don't know if you want to go with large and luxurious, or ninja-camping in the suburbs? Well, knowing which side you’re on in the RV vs camper debate all boils down to your personal preferences.
What is an RV?
The big, bulky, and classic motorhome in Iceland is the RV or Recreational Vehicle as it is properly named. These are often portrayed as either a full house on wheels or that classic oval-shaped trailer you can tow behind your car. Both are technically correct, but the latter is often referred to as a pop-up camper, caravan, or trailer, and the former is often what we see in movies.
Class A, B, and C
The motorhomes come in these different classifications that are standardized in the industry. An RV of class A is the stereotypical large house on wheels that we would see in movies. This is as large as you can go before you will literally have to start towing a house. These go up to 14 meters long and are incredibly difficult to move unless you have the experience.
Class B is, unintuitively enough, the smallest of the RVs and is often just a little bit larger than a campervan. In the RV vs camper debate, this might be the golden middle ground for those who are not quite ready to give up an actual RV. These are normally between 5,5 and 8 meters long.
Class C is the mid-sized RV model that will offer a good compromise in size, price, and maneuverability when it comes to RVs. They will have some of the luxurious parts of the larger RVs but will be easier to move around. Class C will typically be somewhere between 7 and 12 meters long.
Pop-Up, Caravan, and Trailer styles
This is often seen as the camping equivalent of a magician’s hat. These types of trailers and pop-ups are the ones you tow behind your car and “fold up” when you arrive at your destination. They often require a tough vehicle to tow and can be quite bulky to maneuver. They are, however, a good option if you want to stay at one camping site for a longer time and use the car to explore the surrounding area.
What is a Camper?
When people are talking about a “camper” it’s not always easy to know what they’re on about. Some will refer to their tent as a camper and others will refer to a camper trailer. Many others will refer to these wonderful, remade campervans in Iceland as a van. The latter has become increasingly popular these last few years.
In the 50s, the classic campervan was the VW bus that is so often portrayed as the main means of transportation for hippies in the US. As the stigma around this disappeared, more people began to convert various cars and vans to campervans. Today, the demand for these has grown so large that there are specialized shops that will custom-build them for customers.
You can build a campervan out of almost any type of larger car. It all depends on how much space you want. In a camper, you can pretty much decide what you want to have and either build, rent, or buy accordingly. Most vans will have enough room for all the essentials except a toilet and shower. These things you can normally find at camping sites (if you go rural) or at the local gyms, public pools, and other similar places (if you go urban).
Pros and Cons
When it comes to RV vs camper, there are many different aspects to consider. When driving in Iceland, there are 5 things you need to know when driving a camper that doesn’t really affect your choice of vehicle. Below, we have gathered the information needed to choose a side in the RV vs camper debate.
The main argument for both sides of the RV vs camper debate is size. Campers are way more compact compared to the typical RV. Campervan fans will always claim that the compact size is nothing but a positive aspect. Meanwhile, RV fans will use luxury and comfort as the main reason to rather get a larger camping vehicle.
The truth is that both have their advantages. Still, if you’re not hellbent on spending a lot of time inside your camping vehicle, choosing a camper will likely be the better option. If you are a larger company of only adults, campers will likely be the choice to go for. You will be able to drive your own “houses” separately and have your own privacy.
However, that need for privacy might not be there if you’re traveling with kids. In that case, the RV will likely have the edge in an RV vs camper comparison. One of the things to look out for is if you have a driver’s license to drive a motorhome in Iceland.
Squeezing a toilet into a camper is easier said than done. Most campervans won’t have these types of amenities, but will rather rely on simply offering the basics. This includes limited packing space, a small kitchen, and a bed. Toilets and showers are rarely part of the design and will more often than not only fit in the larger-sized campers.
To have a toilet in an RV is more or less standard. Many will also have the luxury of a shower, but these things come with the need for large water and wastewater tanks. Alas, they will not only take up space but also require that you empty the waste and fill the water quite often. This demands planning, time, effort, and money to do properly.
When it comes to RV vs camper, the RV will often look like a very thirsty option when it comes to any fuel consumption. Both electricity and gas are likely to be used a lot more, which comes with higher running costs and less money for fun.
A camper will be the more fuel-efficient option. Finding a spot to fill up a camper is also going to be easier, as the RV tends to be larger, regardless of which class you choose.
Even though the year of manufacturing, vehicle weight, engine type, etc., plays a big role in fuel consumption, it will be hard to find an RV that is more fuel-efficient than a campervan.
Moving around a large vehicle is never easy, but with the right experience, it is as easy as pie. For those of us who are not that familiar with driving large vehicles, a campervan is going to be the better option. If you are comfortable moving around more than 6-meter-long vehicles, an RV might be a good option in this case.
In the RV vs camper discussion, a camper will be great for any holidays that require you to maneuver any city streets, narrow passages, or smaller tunnels. An RV might be better suited if you’re taking long trips on open roads and sticking to the rural side of things rather than the urban holiday.
Having the option of going into the cities is one of many advantages of having a campervan in Iceland.
Even though camping in Iceland is harmless and crime rates are very low in the country, it’s nice to know that you are not flaunting your tourism when you’re out and about. An RV is hard to blend into any spot other than an RV rental place.
The campervan can be parked more or less anywhere and still blend in somewhat good in both an urban and rural environment. This means that you can park your campervan and go on excursions, hikes, or simple city walks.
Costs are always a hot topic when discussing RV vs camper. An RV will be more expensive, both to rent and run, while a campervan is likely to be cheaper, but offer less. The whole debate boils down to how much bang you get for your buck and how much you are willing to spend on the holiday.
For the one with the wanderlust and spontaneous mindset, the campervan will be the most cost-effective choice. On the other hand, the luxury camper will likely want to go for an RV.
With that said, if you are willing to put an extra buck into your holiday, there are plenty of larger campervans in luxury models. These, will give you a little bit extra space, more storage, and maybe even a toilet! Other things you can add on that are almost unheard of are off-road campervans, like our 4x4 campervans in Iceland.
Which One is the Best?
Considering the aspects above, you need to decide on several factors. How much space you need, how much you are ready to spend on the rig, how much you value an in-house WC, and the type of camping you want to do.
If you are a small company with a tight budget, the campervan stands as the winner in the RV vs camper debate. Even if you want to add some luxuries when you go, the campervan is going to be a great go-to option.
The RV is really only good for the larger companies involving kids. All other shortcomings on the campervan side of things can be dealt with for any adult company.
So, what are you waiting for? Rent you campervan in Reykjavik and start your Iceland road trip adventure today!