A coachbuilt Hymer motorhome

A motorhome is a type of self-propelled recreational vehicle or RV which offers living accommodation combined with a vehicle engine. The term motorhome is most commonly used in the UK, US, Canada. In the UK the term Campervan was also commonly used when early examples were more basic van conversions.




A motorhome comprises of sleeping accommodation for between 2 and 8 people. Each sleeping place is called a berth. Each berth is either fixed or converts from another part of the motorhome's interior. A kitchenette area will contain cooking equipment. The type of equipment included differs depending on the motorhome make and model, but generally a kitchenette has an oven, grill, hob and sink. More luxury models may also provide a microwave. A separate washroom will be housed in the motorhome. Each washroom will have a flushing cassette toilet, shower and basin. The cassette toilet sometimes swivels to provide extra room and can be accessed from outside the motorhome for easy emptying. [1] More recent motorhomes will have a separate shower cubicle.

A motorhome will also have a cab area with a driver and passenger seat. These seats often swivel to become part of the living space. A dinette area provides a table and seating space typically used for eating meals. A lounge may also be included, consisting of either a u-shaped sofa located in the rear of the motorhome or a side lounge.

Ambiguity with RV and campervanEdit

Motorhomes can be easily confused with American RVs and campervans. Their term Recreational Vehicle also refers to trailers and other types of leisure vehicle which can be towed or driven.

Campervans are typically smaller than motorhomes and are constructed differently. Whilst campervans are focussed with mobility and low cost, motorhomes have more emphasis on comfort.[2] For example, campervans generally lack built-in toilets and showers, or a divide between the living compartment and the cab.[3] Volkswagen Westfalia Campers are typical campervans.


The motorhome dates back to the 1920s, although there were allegedly earlier homemade versions that predate this time. The Jennings company mounted a motorhome body onto a car chassis in 1938. Production was brought to a standstill in 1939, perhaps due to World War II. The war set back the progress of motorhome manufacturing, but it picked up again in the 1950s. The big names in the early days were Dormobile, Paralanian and Westfalia.[4]

Motorhome history can best be charted by looking at the origins of some of today’s biggest manufacturers.


Thor Motor Coach

International manufacturer of motorhomes Thor Motor Coach a subsidiary of Thor Industries. Thor Motor Coach manufacturers Class A Gas and Diesel, Class A SURV(Toy Hauler), Class C and Class B+ Gas and diesel coaches. Thor Motor Coach Brands: Hurricane, Daybreak, Windsport, Challenger, Outlaw, Serrano, Avanti, Astoria, Tuscany, Four Winds, Four Winds Citation, Four Winds Citation Sprinter, Chateau, Chateau Citation, Chateau Citation/Sprinter. Thor Motor Coach is the top motorhome producer in the United States and Canada as of June 2010[5].


By 1958 the first custom caravan way made by Burstner, and by 1985 it had become Europe’s largest manufacturer, producing 17,000 units.


Dethleffs is one of the longest running leisure vehicle manufacturers, dating back to 1832. Their slogan: “A Friend of the Family” represents the desire to appeal to the family motorhome market and brand themselves as having a strong sense of social responsibility.

Founded by Artist Dethleff after building his first mobile home for use by his family, the fist caravans were built to order in 1936. After many years of successful production and technological innovation, the mobile homes became motorised in 1983. After an integrated Mercedes-based motorhome was prototyped in 1977, commercial production was carried out 6 years later and Dethleffs released their first overcab model range, the “Pirat”. In 1986, Dethleffs used glass fibre reinforced plastic on the outer motorhome walls with was a revolutionary step in design and production technology and is still employed today.[6]


Hymer first began producing caravans in the 1930’s and motorhomes in 1972 and has a rich history as one of the most important names in the motorhome industry.

The first motorhome or “Caravano” was prototyped in 1961 and featured an integrated toilet and washroom. By 1971 the first “Hymermobil” was developed and was marketed as a “dream on wheels”. By 1973 the term “Hymermobil” was introduced and became a colloquial term for the motorhome for many consumers and members of the public. This is reflected when the word was affirmed as a standard part of the German language in 2003. Again, leading the way with technical innovation, Hymer developed the PUAL superstructure system in 1978 making their motorhomes and caravans highly strong and stable.[7]

Niesmann + Bischoff

Dating back to 1955 Niesmann + Bischoff began as a motorhome sales business which moved into importing on the 1970’s by bringing US motorhomes to the German market. By the 1980’s Niesmann + Bischoff had begun designing motorhomes and produced the first Clou - the coachbuilt model 570E.[8]


CI, or Caravans International as it is also known, began in 1976 as a caravan manufacturer known for producing green caravans nicknamed as “mint drops”. Not long after in 1981 CI began manufacturing motorhomes or motorcaravans.[9]


Elddis is a well respected brand and a central power in the British caravan and motorhome market. Dating back to 1964 Elddis has developed an established and loyal following. Elddis is based in County Durham in the North East of the UK. New and used Elddis motorhomes can easily be found across the UK in dealerships and garages. All touring caravans and motorhomes are made in the UK and showcase British workmanship and tradition. As a result all Elddis products carry the National Caravan Council (NCC) Approved badge of quality.[10]


Pilote is a French motorhome manufacturer and company which originated in 1962 when they produced their first caravan. In 1978, inspired by a trip to the US, Pilote produced the first prototype for a coachbuilt motorhome based on a Bedford chassis. In 1983 Pilote is the leading French motorhome manufacturer and devises the first low profile motorhome and launches the R300 model. By 1988 Pilote has moved into the production of A-class motorhomes and succeeds in the export market across Europe. Pilote buys back the German manufacturer Frankia in 1990 and these acquisitions continue into the 21st century as Le Voyager is purchased by the group in 2000 and RMB is bought in 2001. Pilote launched Mooveo in 2006 as a well-equipped yet highly affordable motorhome brand.[11]


Rapido is a French motorhome manufacturer which began in 1960 after Mr Constant Rousseau built the first folding caravan. By 1990 the brand had evolved and a new phase of development began and Rapido’s products were revised in terms of their interior and exterior appearance and adornment. By 1992 Rapido released a new range of products to become part of the dominant motorhome industry and became market leader for “low-slung” vehicles. During the rest of the 1990’s Rapido continued to improve and develop its motorhomes, making developments such as increasing the capacity of clean water tanks, on-road heating and slatted bed bases.[12]


The Swift Group was founded in 1965 and has since become one of the world’s leading caravan and motorhome manufacturers. Swift motorhomes was launched in 1986 and subsequently the Swift Group has grown rapidly with the launch of Bessacarr Motorhomes in 1997, Ace Motorhomes in 2001 and Escape Motorhomes in 2009.[13]


Trigano originated in France and dates all the way back to 1935 when the Trigano family sold textiles under then family name. In 1936 French residents were able to go on paid holidays for the first time and the Trigano company supplied the first tent canvases. After ten years the Trigano company expanded to distribute specialist camping and sporting goods and by 1971 it had become a full fledged caravan business.[14]

Eura Mobil

Eura Mobil is a German motorhome manufacturer which began in 1959. Eura Mobil began motorhome construction in 1983 as the market began to gather pace. In 1996 Eura Mobil began to construct integrated motorhomes (also known as A-class vehicles). Eura Mobil became part of the Trigano Group in 2005.[15]

Most motorhome manufacturers are based in Europe. The other popular names are: Ace, Adria, Bessacarr, Carado, Compass, Concorde, Chausson, Dethleffs, Elnagh, Globecar, Hobby, Home-Car, IH, Knaus, Laika, LMC, McLouis, Mobilvetta, Moovéo, and Rimor. [16]


Motorhomes can be roughly categorized into 3 categories:

  • Alcove

Dethleffs Alcove Motorhome

Alcove motorhomes are also known as coachbuilt or C-class motorhomes. They usually provide a double berth over the driving cab. An alcove motorhome has a caravan-style body which is mounted onto a chassis. Ford and Fiat manufacture the majority of alcove motorhome chassis in Europe.

  • Semi-integrated

A semi-integrated motorhome is also referred to as a low profile motorhome. They are built in the same way as an alcove motorhome, except no berths are provided over the cab area. As a result, the overall height of a semi-integrated motorhome is lower than an alcove motorhome. This type of motorhome usually has a fixed double bed in rear of the vehicle and is particularly popular with couples.

  • Integrated

An integrated motorhome is also known as an A-class motorhome and often has a reputation for being the most luxurious and expensive vehicles. An integrated motorhome has a solid body with the driving area built into the standard living accommodation. An integrated motorhome will have a large and expensive front window which offers a good view of the road and surrounding landscape. Berths will convert from lounge or dinette areas, there is also usually a double bed which lowers over the driving area at the touch of a button.


There are many different motorhome layouts available with each manufacturer offering a range of options.



Other termsEdit

The word motorhome is commonly used in the UK. On occasion, other synonyms are used, such as motor home and motor caravan.

In Germany, a motorhome is referred to as a "Wohnmobil". In France, a motorhome is called "camping-car". In Italy, the term "Camper" is used to mean motorhome. "Auto Caravano" or "Auto-Caravano" is used in Spain and Portugal. In Sweden, the term "Husbil" means motorhome.

References / sources Edit

  1. "Motorhome Glossary". Motorhome Group.
  2. <"Campervans and motorhomes". Campervan Adventures.
  3. "What are the Differences Between a Campervan and a Motorhome?". Discovery Homes New Zealand.
  4. "The History of Campers and Motorhomes". Retrieved on 2010-12-09.
  5. Statistical Serveys - June 2010
  6. "Dethleffs". Retrieved on 2010-12-09.
  7. "HYMER :: Caravan and Motorhomes manufacturers - - EN". (2010-07-26). Retrieved on 2010-12-09.
  8. "Niesmann + Bischoff: Home". Retrieved on 2010-12-09.
  9. "Caravans International". Retrieved on 2010-12-09.
  10. "Home of Xplore, Avante, Odyssey, Crusader Touring Caravans, Autoquest and Aspire Motorhomes". Elddis (2010-09-30). Retrieved on 2010-12-09.
  11. "Pilote - Motorhome". Retrieved on 2010-12-09.
  12. "Rapido Camping-cars". Retrieved on 2010-12-09.
  13. United Kingdom. "Swift Home Page :: Swift Group". Retrieved on 2010-12-09.
  14. "Trigano". Retrieved on 2010-12-09.
  15. "Eura Mobil". Retrieved on 2010-12-09.
  16. "Motorhome Hire Manufacturers Make and Model". Retrieved on 2010-12-09.

Further readingEdit

  • Batten-Hill, David (2009). Motorhomes: The Complete Guide. Robert Hale Ltd Professional. ISBN 978-0709084051. 

External links Edit

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