Campervan vs Motorhome: What's Best for an Iceland Road Trip?

Campervan vs Motorhome rental

blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

    When planning an Iceland road trip, there are several factors to take into consideration before you travel. Probably the first and biggest decision is what type of vehicle to rent for your adventure, campervan or motorhome? This will depend on the size of your group, your Iceland holiday budget and where and when you want to travel. When camping in Iceland not all recreational vehicles are created equal.

    There are some pretty big differences between camper rental and motorhome rental. Each mode of transport has its pros and cons, so let’s take a closer look at the campervan vs motorhome question. In this article we will be covering the following:

    • The difference between a campervan and motorhome
    • Advantages of camper rental in Iceland 
    • Disadvantages of camper rental in Iceland 
    • Advantages of motorhome rental in Iceland
    • Disadvantages of motorhome rental in Iceland
    • Tent camping in Iceland pros and cons in brief 
    • Summing up whether a campervan or motorhome is right for you

    Campervan  motorhomes parked

    What’s the difference between a campervan and a motorhome?

    This is a question that comes up surprisingly often. Many people use the two terms interchangeably, but campervans and motorhomes are actually quite different beasts. While both are essentially mini homes on four wheels, the difference in the features each one possesses is quite significant.

    Motorhomes features 

    Motorhomes are the larger, more luxurious way to travel around Iceland’s Ring Road. They have a reasonably spacious kitchen with full cooking equipment and a sink and fridge. They have a good deal of storage space for crockery, utensils and even a store cupboard for your ingredients. You can also add several RV gadgets thay will make your experience smoother.

    On space and convenience, a motorhome vs campervan will win every time. Motorhomes also have a full bathroom as well as a dining/recreation area, and beds that you can use at any time. Everything is divided into various sections of the motorhome. So, it’s almost like a very bijou flat with separate spaces for different uses.

    Campervan features 

    Campervans, on the other hand, are much smaller and have just one area where everything happens. The sleeping area doubles as the cooking area, plus as the hang out and dining area. The beds are generally fold-down to maximize space. Camper vans are usually only big enough for two, or three people at a push, to stay comfortably.

    Campervans also don’t have a bathroom, so you need to rely on campsite facilities instead. Often, but not always, the kitchen equipment will need to be set up outside, perhaps under an awning. But if there is an indoor kitchen area it will be bijou. And the storage space is smaller, so you’ll need to be extra organised if staying in a camper.

    Campervan vs motorhome rental utensils

    Whilst we’re on the subject we’ll answer another common question. What is the difference between a motorhome and a RV rental in Iceland? Basically, they are pretty much the same thing. An RV is the term used in the US to describe a motorhome. They are similar but generally much bigger than your average motorhome found elsewhere in the world.

    Advantages of Camper Rental in Iceland

      There are several advantages to renting a camper in Iceland:

    1. the price is significantly lower than for motorhomes. They usually cost around 40-50% less, so it really is a significant saving. You’ll already be saving money by camping in Iceland rather than staying in hotels. But driving around in Iceland by campervan is by far the most economical way to visit the country.
    2. Another big plus point is size and maneuverability. Because Iceland camper rentals are smaller than motorhomes, you’ll be able to access more places with a campervan. They are much easier to drive and park than the more cumbersome motorhome too
    3. 4x4 camper rentals in Iceland allow you to drive on F-roads and visit Iceland’s Highlands. This just isn’t possible in a motorhome. 

    Campervans are basically large vans that have been repurposed and refitted with sleeping quarters and a kitchenette. They will also have an in-built heating system such as a Webasto heater. They are reasonably basic and compact but they still have everything you need for a comfortable road trip. If you still wish to upgrade your camper experience, you can add the essential extras for every campervan adventure.

    Some models, including the VW California or the Mercedes Marco Polo were designed specifically for camping. These are the modern versions and they come with an ingenious expandable roof tent for providing extra space. Once you’re parked up you can simply open and expand the roof giving you extra ceiling height to work with.

    California Camper in Iceland

    Disadvantages of Camper Rental in Iceland

    While size is one of the camper van’s big advantages, it is also one of its disadvantages. You might feel a little bit cramped in an area that’s only designed for two or three people to sleep in. If you have lots of luggage it can easily get out of hand, so you need to be organized. Fold things away after using them and try to keep tabs on everyone’s stuff.

    Remember you’ll also be cooking here, so you’ll need to keep the back of the camper van open to air things out, even if you’re just boiling pasta. And the kitchenette doesn’t have the fancy layout of a full motorhome kitchen. It usually has a gas stove and a small sink, so both space and facilities are limited.  Having said that this could also feel like an advantage for some people.

    There can be something quite liberating about getting back to basics and taking cooking, and life, more simply for a while. So, campervan vs motorhome? As long as you’re fine with the idea of keeping things simple, a camper rental in Iceland will work well.  

    Advantages of Motorhome Rental in Iceland

    Let’s consider the advantages of a motorhome rental:

    1. The biggest advantage to motorhome rental in Iceland is the fact you have so much space and such wonderful facilities. You really will want for nothing, whether it’s taking a nice, hot shower, whipping up a tasty meal, or just stopping for a nap en route around the Diamond Circle. If you are travelling as a larger group of four or more then you should opt for a motorhome
    2. A motorhome is bliss in bad weather. The Iceland weather is known to be fickle. Storms blow in regularly and it’s easy to get caught out by a rain shower. On bad weather days a motorhome really comes into its own. Giving you all somewhere warm and dry to relax and wait for the weather to pass.
    3. A motorhome simply offers more comfort. They are a good idea in summer for large groups, but they are a great idea during rainier shoulder seasons for everyone. 

    If you do decide to splurge on a motorhome rental in Iceland, you won’t be disappointed. These Kings of the Road will take you around Iceland’s Ring Road in style. You’ll have a much more luxe experience overall and be able to kick back with a good amount of space and comfort

    Campervan vs Motorhome

    Disadvantages of Motorhome Rental in Iceland

    Just like the size of a campervan could be considered an advantage or a disadvantage, the same can be said for motorhomes. A motorhome will be more costly to rent, especially if you go for a larger one. Fueling up a large vehicle will obviously cost quite a bit more too. You will need to calculate how long it takes to drive around the Ring Road and the fuel cost of a motorhome vs a camper for a proper cost-benefit analysis.

    One good piece of advice if you’re concerned about fuel costs and usage is to move around less. Now this might sound counterintuitive, but there are lots of advantages to slow travel. By spending less time on the road you’ll actually be exploring more. You’ll spend time out and about in the fresh air seeing the sights and getting to know each area. By lingering a little longer you’ll find that you relax more and perhaps discover more too.

    Another downside of hiring a motorhome is that they can be more challenging to drive if you’re not used to it. If you’re not accustomed to maneuvering and parking a large RV it can be tricky. The smaller more nimble campervan is much easier to handle. If you’re nervous, then perhaps a smaller vehicle would suit you better.   Due to their size motorhomes can’t go to all of the places that are more easily accessible in a camper. And you won’t be able to rent a standard motorhome in Iceland if you are planning your trip during the winter. Road conditions can simply be too dangerous for such a large vehicle, so rental companies don’t make them available.

    Tent camping in Iceland pros and cons in brief 

    There is another option for camping in Iceland and that’s hiring a car and tent camping. This is certainly a viable choice for short trips in high summer and it is the most economical option of all. Though only marginally so, as hiring a campervan instead of a car is not a huge amount more.

    The tricky part about tent camping is all the gear that you will need to bring. If you hire a campervan it comes already equipped for sleeping and cooking. Whereas if you are tent camping you’ll need, well, a tent, plus sleeping mats and sleeping bags and cooking equipment. It is possible to hire these in the gear shops in Reykjavik. But the extra cost is something to consider.

    The other downside to tent camping in Iceland is the often-wild weather conditions. Iceland can get pretty windy, and this can be problematic for a light tent. In a campervan you can get away from any gales that blow in more easily. Plus, you don’t need to worry about putting up a tent in bad weather conditions.   Tent camping has its place and is great fun, but it does take more time and effort. The simplicity of a camper van wins for us every time in Iceland. This is especially true if you are road tripping and moving on every day or two. That could be a lot of time spent putting up and packing away your tent.

    Tent camping Iceland  

    Campervan vs Motorhome Rental For My Iceland Road Trip?

    Whether you choose a camper rental in Iceland or a motorhome, you’re sure to have a great time. Taking a road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road is a once in a lifetime adventure that you won’t soon forget. Each mode of transport has its upsides and its drawbacks. It’s up to you to decide which one is right for you based on your travel style and preferences.

    If you have any questions about our campervan and motorhome models, please feel free to contact us. We’d love to hear from you and help you plan your road trip around Iceland.



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