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Torn between motorhome and car/motel - please help!

Kuala Lumpur
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Torn between motorhome and car/motel - please help!

Hi everyone,

We're a group of five guys in our 20s doing a short tour of the South Island for 10 days in mid-September. We've basically narrowed down our transport/accomodation options to either of these options:

1) 6-berth motorhome, staying at holiday parks every night

2) Self-contained motels

After including rental, insurance, fuel and accomodation, the cost for either option is pretty much identical. If we were travelling in the high season it would be a different story (motorhome rentals go up by as much as 3x in the summer), but in September the cost is basically the same. We also plan to cook most of our meals - either option above affords us this without issue.

Let me describe why it's so hard to make a decision:

The big reason why we want the motorhome: For the novelty and experience. The whole group are really good friends, and none of us have done a motorhome holiday before. The idea of holing up in a motorhome together leads us to believe we will have a huge amount of fun (simply by virtue of being in a motorhome) and create lots of interesting memories. E.g. emptying the toilet cassette may not be pleasant, but it adds "character" to one's holiday!

The reasons why we might think twice:

1) Comfort levels while sleeping and lack of personal space. We're not princesses, but as none of us have ever travelled this way before, we're not sure whether we will seriously regret it three days in. The photos and videos online don't convey how much space there is really for five guys in a large motorhome.

2) Travelling times will be longer than a car. Can anyone estimate how much longer? If a car takes 3 hours to get from Christchurch to Tekapo, how long will a large motorhome take, assuming same number of stops etc?

3) A car will have no problem in car parks, going up to ski fields etc. Whereas for a motorhome, we're just not sure. With a car we can hop into town as and when, with a motorhome we need to bring the whole truck. And I'm thinking if parking in town is difficult for a motorhome, then how do we get from the holiday parks to town and the various attractions?

Would appreciate if anyone could weigh in on the above.



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1. Re: Torn between motorhome and car/motel - please help!

You have thought this out well, as far as pros and cons. As far as how fast you can travel, on the straightaways a campervan has plenty enough power to travel as fast as a car would. But on the twisty-turny roads, you have to slow down more because of the weight distribution (a campervan is top heavy). The experts here advise tacking on 20% for drive times. But it will really depend on the road.

As for parking, often the grocery has a large enough parking lot you can find a place in the back with plenty of space. Or there will be a side street to park on. It might mean you have to walk a bit further. Activities will often pick you up at the holiday park, so you can leave your campervan there and not worry about it.

I think you should consider what the 5 of you would want to do after the sun goes down. Will you be content to fix a meal, clean up the dishes, and play cards until you're tired? You'll probably have a TV in the van, but the screen is pretty small. If you are planning stays in cities like Queenstown, I would think you'd want to go into town and see what goes on there after dark. If that's the case, you'd have to rely on public transportation.

Would you only be renting one car for the 5 of you? That's 3 sitting across the back and all your luggage in the boot.

Personally, I think you'd have a blast in the campervan. But I don't know the dynamics of your group.

Ballina, Australia
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2. Re: Torn between motorhome and car/motel - please help!

I agree with dec2259 but I think the sleeping arrangements and lack of personal space may bring you undone. In a six berth motorhome you will have two double beds so four of you are going to have to share and one of those beds will be the table that will have to be made up every night. With five adults in the van there will be no personal space. If you can put up with these inconveniences then you will have a fun trip

Queenstown, New...
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3. Re: Torn between motorhome and car/motel - please help!

I would hire a Previa which gives you lots of space for luggage etc and stay in Motels.

Even if it was a whole family it would get to you after a short time. As passengers you don't see a lot when seated in the mobile home. Some might even get motion sickness.

Dunedin, New Zealand
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4. Re: Torn between motorhome and car/motel - please help!

If you don't get the motorhome, you'll always have that "what if..." question. I think you can see going in that there are risks that it might not work out, but that's true of every new experience - and even if it doesn't work out, it will still be an experience (so long as your group can handle the idea that there might be moments you'll get a bit tired of each other without it breaking the group). Of course, being in motor camps will mean there's room to spread out, as they all have kitchens and social areas. The one thing to think very carefully about is how you're going to distribute the sleeping spaces - sure, there are six berths, but maybe four of them are for couples i.e. double beds. Have a plan for sharing that space so that everyone is happy.

Kuala Lumpur
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5. Re: Torn between motorhome and car/motel - please help!

Thanks everyone for your replies. What NZBarry said resonated with me most:

"If you don't get the motorhome, you'll always have that "what if..." question. I think you can see going in that there are risks that it might not work out, but that's true of every new experience - and even if it doesn't work out, it will still be an experience."

I really couldn't agree more. We might regret it, but so what, we will have fun anyway. The motorhome it is!

Ballina, Australia
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6. Re: Torn between motorhome and car/motel - please help!

Good for you. Enjoy your holiday

Nelson, New Zealand
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7. Re: Torn between motorhome and car/motel - please help!

if worst comes to worst you can always take a break and spend a couple of nights at a motel.

What is it about the motorhome that you think you might like?

If you are staying at camping grounds and cooking and showering there is there any reason to have a motorhome?

Some of the best trips I've done in my youth were our teams soccer trips. Renting a van and staying in cheap motels/ camping grounds.

You get to travel together with enough room for gear and then there's plenty of room to spread out at the motel.

If you don't intend to freedom camp I dont see the point in going by motorhome and being squished up.

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8. Re: Torn between motorhome and car/motel - please help!

It sounds like you and your mates have recently seen the old movie “Summer Holiday” with Cliff Richard? Sorry to “burst your bubble” but life/reality isn’t like the movies! ;-(

BTW are you or your friends experienced at driving a truck? How old are you all? Most rental companies charge a premium for drivers under thirty and rarely rent to those under twenty five at any price. Dodgy Bros slightly used mobile chicanes and rent-a-wrecks excluded!

My answers to the specifics of your questions are:

1. To get a feel for the space and sleeping arrangements simply add an additional five beds to your bedroom at home and have your friends move in for the length of your trip. What you can’t fit another five beds in your bedroom? There’s your answer.

2. Add 20% or 30% and heaps for fitting chains if required.

3. One of the joys of life is seeing a Motor Home stuck in the entry to a multi level car park, jammed under the awning of a drive through or searching for a parking spot in Queenstown.

Other issues are self explanatory but here are some:

For some time I have been replying to those seeking information on a motor home holiday in OZ and NZ. I’ve taken the time to prepare my thoughts, beliefs and feelings on the subject. So here goes.

Motor home “holidays” are for those who enjoy the experience, in the same vein as there are those who enjoy self flagellation, solo round the world yachting and competing in ultra marathons. To each their own I say so long as they don’t interfere with me. Unfortunately driving a motor home does interfere with me if I’m amongst the unfortunates stuck behind one on a narrow twisty road and obviously their increased carbon footprint affects us all. The saving grace is when you see one stuck in the entry to a multilevel car park, broken down at the side of the road, broken into by the local crims when parked in a “free parking area”, or filling up at the servo.

Motor homes are more expensive than a rental car holiday and accommodation in motels/B&Bs/Hotels/on site cabins/hotels and even some resorts in Australia and NZ once the true costs are taken into account.

These direct costs include but are not limited to:

1. Rental.

2. Insurance.

3. Fuel (remember this is a truck with the aerodynamics of a house brick).

4. Site Fees.

5. Possible divorce proceeding for married or de-facto couples.

The human costs include but are not limited to:

1. The joy of truck driving, often in a foreign land on the “wrong side of the road”.

2. The wonders of living, travelling and sleeping in a space smaller than most kitchens.

3. The amenity of carrying your excrement with you.

4. The challenge of emptying the cassette containing the excrement.

5. The lottery of renting a motor home where not only the mechanicals are working (the bits that let you go, stop and steer) but also the peripherals such as heating, toilets, showers, cookers, fridges etc. The probability of having all of these disparate bits working at the same time fly in the face of both Murphy’s and Sod’s laws.

6. Point 5. from direct costs above.

7. The triumph of measuring the success of your trip by the length of the caterpillar train of happy motorists held up behind the mobile chicane you are driving.

8. In Alpine conditions fitting snow chains to dual wheels if you have a real behemoth.


Greymouth, New...
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for South Island
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9. Re: Torn between motorhome and car/motel - please help!

there is the convienince of being able to pull over anywhere andhave a break, have lunch etc. driving time / speeds, work on an average speed of 70 kph. open road speed and up hills is not a lot different to cars but cornering etc is at a much lower speed..

beds are often used for seating, so making beds each evening or packing them up each day you may need to consider.

car and motels have advantages too such as nice warm beds at motels along with good TV reception and possibly wifi. good hot showers in the comfort of the same unit (motor home showers dont quite cut it)

with a car you can stop anywhere or sample Late' s and compare, there are many coffee outlets

Sunshine Coast, Qld
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10. Re: Torn between motorhome and car/motel - please help!

Hi, I've travelled the South Island twice - the first time in a campervan and the second time using the car/hotel option. Admittedly I was with my own husband and sons so privacy wasn't such an issue....here's what I thought...

The campervan pros were that we only had to unpack once....we put our gear into the cupboards and left our baggage at the hire place. During the day there is a lot of space to move around and everyone gets a fabulous window seat with wide views. It was fun but challenging...the pros....space! We had a 6 berth for the 5 of us and it was crowded. We had to make up beds every night and pack them up each morning which was hard work. Once the beds are down there is no room to move. The beds are small...you will be up close and personal, no one wanted to sleep above the cabin after one night...it's squishy up there. The bathroom was too small and was only used as a storage cupboard after the first day.

The hire car/hotel option - pros, everything. Loved zipping from place to place and having a warm made bed and shower waiting for us...cons....nothing. I guess lugging luggage in and out could be a pain, but hey, I had my husband for that!

In summary, if you want a bit more of an adventure, chose the campervan. I can guarantee you it will be all the things that go wrong that you will talk about fondly when you get home. You will meet other people in the kitchens at the camp grounds which might be more social for your age group. If you want a holiday that is more about the destination than the journey, chose the latter. Either way I can assure you, you will love it.