Motorhomes: Conversion or Coachbuilt?
There are two ways motorhome manufacturers build their vehicles. They convert an existing van, such as the Ford Transit or VW T6, leaving the exterior largely untouched and refitting the inside; or they start with the chassis and cab from, say, a Fiat Ducato, and then design and build an entirely new body to the rear.
Which is best for you depends on the type of camping experience you’re looking for: who’s going to use it, where you’ll be going, and what you’ll be doing when you get there.
Both coachbuilt and converted campervans offer many stylish and practical solutions. So how do you decide which one’s for you?
Side by side: conversions and coachbuilt
The VW California is a great example of a modern conversion. It looks like a standard Transporter based on the T6 van, but it’s packed with motorhome features. A pop-up aluminium roof provides space for an upper bed, and there’s a folding bench for two further berths, so it’s a viable option for a couple with two small children. There’s also a kitchen unit with a two-burner stove, cupboard space and cold food storage, and a folding table.
Many other manufacturers have gone their own route in converting the T6. For instance, Auto Sleepers offers two berths in its Topaz VW model, along with a toilet and shower. Great for two people looking for a few more home comforts.
Based on vans from VW, Ford, Mercedes Benz, Peugeot, and Fiat, many manufacturers have conversion options. Often, they prioritise certain areas, such as sleeping capacity, cooking or washing facilities, or storage; so you need to focus on conversions that best meet your priorities.
In contrast, a coachbuilt model is instantly recognisable as a motorhome. A fibreglass body sits around and over the cab and chassis, so it’s usually taller, wider, and often longer than a conversion for a roomier feel. Inside, there’s usually a seating area that converts into a double bed at the rear, a washroom and shower, wardrobe space, enclosed WC, galley kitchen in the centre, and a table and chair set-up at the front. Coachbuilt models are ideal for those who want the comfort and space of a touring caravan, without having to tow it.
Coachbuilt or conversion, you can usually choose from a menu of possible features when buying new. And when it comes to insurance, it’s worth looking for a specialist who understands the market. That way, you can ensure that you are covered for the true value of the van, including any enhancements you have chosen to add.
The right motorhome for you?
Family holidays and larger groups
Bailey’s Advance shows you how a coachbuilt motorhome can accommodate a larger family in comfort. It includes an automatically-operated double bed over the cab, plus slide-out bed boxes for the front table and at the rear seating area, sleeping six in total.
Even though smaller in terms of accommodation, a campervan conversion also has benefits for families. You can use it not just on holiday, but also in everyday life, like the school run or your supermarket shop as long as it isn't too tall. With an awning, you can boost the living space when you’re on holiday, providing handy eating, dressing or even sleeping space.
Couples and longer-distance trippers
There are plenty of two-berth options in both the conversion and coachbuilt classes; you just need to consider what you want your motorhome for.
If you’re planning a road trip in Europe, for example, a stylish panel van conversion can easily handle city streets and unfamiliar country lanes. But also bear in mind where you’ll be staying; if you prefer sites with basic facilities, having a coachbuilt with a fitted shower can be especially welcome. And on longer holidays, the more generous galley storage space in a coachbuilt can prove useful.
The choice is yours!
There’s no simple answer regarding coachbuilt or conversion – it really does depend on who you are, where you’re going and what you like to do. Once you are clear how many sleeping berths you require, you could explore all coachbuilt and conversion models that meet this basic requirement. It’s then a case of opting for whichever model fits the bill in terms of layout, overall size, and features.
Check out our insurance options for more information.