What is a Campervan?

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We have heard people asking

  • "What is a campervan?"
  • "How is a campervan different from a motorhome?"
  • "What is an RV?"
  • "What is a self-contained campervan / motorhome?"

On this site, the following are all terms used synonymously with campervan:

  • motorhome - particularly used if the chassis is a bus or the vehicle is the principle dwelling
  • mobile home - as above
  • camper van - often used with budget vehicles
  • recreational vehicle - an American term for campervan
  • rv - an abbreviation of recreational vehicle

Campervans and Motorhomes vary tremendously in specification.

Overland Camping VehicleOverland Camping Vehicle
  • At one end of the spectrum, you have 12m long motorhomes (built on a bus chassis) that have slide outs, bathrooms, permanent bedrooms, full kitchens, washing machines and can carry smaller vehicles such as quad bikes. These are self-contained vehicles.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, there are the camper vans that have somewhere to sleep, rudimentary cooking equipment (that may be more like a barbecue than a cooker) and a chiller box rather than a fridge, but with no washing facility.
  • And there are campervans with specifications in between these.

What is a Self-Contained Campervan?

A self-contained motorhome or campervan is one that completely meets the ablutionary and sanitary needs of the occupants for a minimum of 3 days. This generally means, they have a:

  • Water supply (12 litres/person per day minimum)
  • Sink
  • Toilet (3 litre sewage tank capacity per person)
  • Holding tank (same or larger volume than fresh water)
  • Evacuation hose
  • Approved waste tank treatments
  • Sealable refuse container (with lid)

What is the advantage of a Self-Contained Campervan / Motorhome?

Self-contained motorhomes and campervans can enjoy freedom camping whereas camper vans that don't have self-contained facilities cannot. Many districts allow overnight parking on public land as long as the campervan / motorhome is self-contained. This means you can find a beautiful spot and park up for the night at no cost. To read more about freedom camping (or free camping), click here.

Some of the most spectacular campsites are those on DOC (Department of Conservation) land. They often have beautiful views but only basic facilities, such as toilets and cold showers. Being self-contained means you can take advantage of these sites without having to "rough it", as you will have your own hot water.


Motorhome towing carMotorhome towing car