There is a bewildering array of terms used to classify different types of motorhomes – in some cases there are alternative references that, essentially, mean the same thing. So here’s a quick guide to the A, B, Cs of motorhome nomenclature.
‘Campervans’ is often used to cover all classifications of motorhomes, but it technically refers to the smallest vehicles available and is quite explicit – a van used for camping. In short, campervans are a converted van, mostly with a pop-top roof in a variety of forms.
In Australia, the base vans of choice are the Toyota Hiace and the Volkswagen Transporter, the current model being the T6. Bedford, Ford, Mitsubishi and Nissan vans have been used, but Hiace and VW have been the main stayers.
Most campervans don’t have a fixed onboard toilet or a shower (though some are fitted with an external shower).
Campervans offer the advantage of a compact size, relatively low price and manoeuvrability. The disadvantages include a lack of internal living space and a bed that has to be made up every night.
LARGE VAN CONVERSIONS
This is almost a sub category, but one that has grown in the last 10 years. Some people might call large van conversions B Class motorhomes, and a few years ago at least one manufacturer called them ‘motorcampers’, which I believe it an apt description.
What separates them from the A, B and C Class motorhomes (discussed below) is that they are a van conversion, not a motorhome body built on a chassis. They are, however, much larger than the campervan class discussed above, and usually include an onboard bathroom (with shower and toilet).
A number of manufacturers supply the original bodies and currently all are European. The Fiat Ducato, Mercedes Benz Sprinter and Iveco Daily are the current favourites. Until a few years ago, Ford supplied its Transit and VW did the same with their Crafter, to the Australian market. Both are expected to return with new bodies, although the Transit suffers from the lack of an automatic transmission.
Large van conversions have many advantages. They are generally the smallest motorhomes available that are also self-contained, they are ideal for single travellers, and some layouts can have fixed beds. All are relatively easy in the manoeuvring department.
There aren’t too many disadvantages, but one that comes to mind is the fact the width of the van’s body restricts the length of the bed, since the bed usually runs widthways (east-west).
Of all the cab-chassis motorhomes (that is, a coach-built motorhome on a chassis complete with a cab), these are the most easily identifiable because they have a so-called Luton peak (a sleeping compartment above the driver’s cab). These are a particular favourite of motorhome rental operators and for many years in Australia they were the only cab-chassis style of motorhome available.
These days, they are less common because of the emergence of fixed beds in the main body of the motorhome. They remain, however, popular with families. The body construction usually comprises a frame with fibreglass exterior panelling or, in some cases, just an entire fibreglass composite body.
The base vehicles used for C Class motorhomes include the Fiat Ducato, Mercedes Benz Sprinter, Iveco Daily and Isuzu NPR.
A sub class here are motorhomes based on smaller vehicles such as the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. They have the disadvantage of a small interior space but for offroad enthusiasts, they offer a relatively cheap way of owning an offroad motorhome.
These are very similar to C Class motorhomes except that they have a much more streamlined body above the driver’s cab (i.e., no Luton peak bed is fitted).
When compared to C Class motorhomes, the most obvious disadvantage is a less flexible sleeping arrangement.
Differing from B and C Class motorhomes, this category generally refers to a motorhome built on a light commercial vehicle/truck chassis. In this class, the driver’s cab is completely integrated into the body of the motorhome – a distinct advantage. In smaller lengths, A Class units are not common in Australia and many people associate them with large, US-style motorhomes. However, the European manufacturers do build relatively small A Class motorhomes, which we may yet see in Australia, if local manufacturers do not build them in numbers soon.
In this category, there are a couple of sub classes: bus and coach bodies that have been converted into motorhomes; and converted mini buses, such as the Toyota Coaster.
There are, of course, motorhomes that fall outside of the above categories, but these are very much in the minority. There are also alternative names for these categories. For instance, some European manufacturers use ‘semi-integrated’ to refer to B and C Class motorhomes, and ‘fully-integrated’ to refer to A class motorhomes. In Australia, one manufacturer has started using the term ‘low profile peak’ to describe B Class motorhomes, and the very descriptive ‘sleeper peak’ for rigs in the C Class.