Roof Top Tent Or Campervan/Camper? - A Side By Side Comparison

Campervan VS Roof Tent

You may be trying to decide whether to get a camper or a roof tent for your camping adventures! Both are good options and offer their own benefits over each other. We'll be discussing some of these advantages in this article!

 

Roof Tent VS Camper Van

Roof Top Tent Advantages:

1. Upfront Cost Significantly Less

Roof tents vary in price between £850 - £3,300 ($900 - $4,000 or €900 - €3,500), which is significantly lower than what you would pay for your typical camper. Good campervans can go for 10-20 times this price just for the upfront cost, so it’s easy to see how this could get out of most people’s budget pretty fast!

2. Don't Breakdown And Rarely Need Repairs

Roof top tents don’t breakdown or need repairing unlike campervans and in particular older/cheaper campers. This can be both costly and annoying- Especially if your camper decides to breakdown on your way to your next destination in the middle of the night and when the weather isn’t quite what you would have wished for! You also have an annual MOT Test in the UK that you will need to pay for and pass every year to add to the one off repairs that occur.

3. Cheaper And Easier To Store

Campervans need storing in a facility if you don’t have the space to keep them on your drive with your other vehicles or on your street, which can add up to quite a large cost over the years. Whereas roof tents take up far less room, so you can store them either in your garage, shed or leave them on your vehicle roof all year round if you’d prefer!

4. Better Views

The views in your roof top tent are improved due to them being elevated off the ground on top of your vehicle. Also with roof tents that have two windows and two doors you get 360 views from wherever you are in the roof top tent, which you don’t experience to the same level with your typical campervan!

5. No Need To Spend Time And Money On Renovating Them

Most cheaper campers require lots of time and money invested in them before they’re good enough to go on your adventures with. The average full van conversion costs around £6,000 ($7,500 or €6,700) if you do it yourself and takes about 300 hours of labour to get done if you’re starting pretty much from scratch. These costs will go up significantly though if you’re employing people to do the work for you or if you aren’t very strict with your budget. If you’re just renovating an already decent looking campervan, then it won’t cost you as much or take as much time, but then the upfront cost of these vehicles is often significantly higher than what you would pay for the average roof tent, so either way it will probably be far more expensive.

6. No Van Insurance Costs

With campervans you’ll need to get van insurance to drive them, which is another ongoing cost that you’ll need to factor in. This should be on average about an extra £400 a year ($500 or €450) depending on your age and no claims bonus. Roof top tents obviously don’t require this as you’d be paying your car insurance whether you owned one or not.

7. No Road Tax Costs

The 2020 road tax laws in the UK/EU means that campervans will be taxed based on their CO2 emissions like cars are, so depending on the emissions of your vehicle this will most likely be on average an extra £700 a year ($870 or €780). Roof tents obviously won’t have this extra cost as it will be charged anyway on your vehicle with or without a roof top tent. In the USA, annual vehicle registration fees and road taxes vary from state to state, so you’ll need to check what the extra fees you may have to pay are and again factor that into the total cost of having a camper.

 

Campervan VS Roof Tent

Campervan/Camper Advantages:

1. Have Built In Appliances

Expensive campers have built in cookers and sinks, which makes cooking and cleaning easier. Although there’s no denying this a definite advantage campervans have over roof tents, you can still get gas stoves and BBQs for roof top tent camping, which are decent replacements for having them in your vehicle. Plus if you're feeling really adventurous you can just use a camping shower setup with a water basin and table to do the dishes.

2. Have Toilets In Them

You can sometimes have a built in toilet in a campervan, which means you don’t have to go to the toilet block at night if you’re on a campsite or do it in the bushes if you’re in the wilderness! You can buy a portable toilet for quite cheap on Amazon if this is a problem though, along with a toilet/shower tent to give you extra privacy too.

3. Have Plugs And Electrical Goods

High end campervans have plugs giving you the option of charging your phone or adding any other accessories that require electricity to run. A good solution to this if you have a roof tent is to get a power station that charges using either your car’s battery, a mains plug or by solar power and use that for any electrical goods. You can use a solar kit to give it electricity or use the solar kit to charge your electrical goods directly. Alternatively you can charge your phone using a mini power bank or opt for travel accessories that require batteries.

4. Have A Table Set Inside

Lots of campers are fitted with a table and chairs inside, which makes meal times more comfortable than either eating it with a plate on your lap or having to battle the bad weather outside on a cold and rainy night. There are some things you can add to your roof tent setup if you don’t get as lucky as you would have wished with the weather to solve this though. You can buy an annex awning tent add on for roof tents, so you can avoid the rain/wind when needed. We are looking at adding one of these to our product range soon. You can also buy a good picnic table and chair set to go in the awning too, so eating can be as comfortable and enjoyable as possible!

5. Have Heating

Most campers have heating in them when bought and can easily be fitted with heating, which makes things extra cosy when camping in the Winter. Although hard shell roof tents do keep heat in quite well anyway due to less heat escaping through the fibreglass/ABS shell roof, having heating fitted is obviously better. That's why we are launching a thermal insulator soon to help keep you warm. Additionally there are accessories that can be added for extra warmth too such as getting electric blankets and electrical/petrol powered heaters at a decent price.

6. Have Showers In Them

Some high end campers have showers built into them, which even though they don’t offer as nice of a shower as you may be used to at home, they’re still better than nothing. If you don’t feel the built in showers in most campervans are the best or you’re camping without one, then there are places you can stop off to shower at such as gyms, public toilets and campsite showers. You can also get a portable shower for camping if you want the convenience of having a shower on your doorstep when in a roof tent!

 

Conclusion:

Overall we would say if money is no object, then getting a high end campervan with all the latest gadgets and gizmos would probably be a better option than a roof top tent. You are looking at around 10-20 times the cost for a good campervan plus every other cost that we’ve outlined here though, so you’ll have to decide whether you feel it’s worth it or not. We do feel that roof top tents are a good alternative to cheaper campervans, as they have many benefits over them and can have accessories added to them to make up for any shortcomings for far less money. In our opinion budget campervans don’t offer much more considering the difference in price and can also come with far more headaches than they’re worth when they frequently break down! So if you somehow find yourself with so much money that you don’t know what to do with it, then buy a high end campervan, but if you’re looking for a good alternative that gives you value for money we feel roof top tents could just be what you’re looking for!

Of course it doesn’t necessarily have to be a choice between a campervan or a roof tent. Roof tents can also be used as a cheaper alternative to getting a pop top roof for your campervan, so you can have extra sleeping space and allow more living space in the van. This might just come in handy if you have an ever expanding family that are also eager to get exploring!